Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Thrift Shop

Last week I stole every one of my son’s clothes.

Fresh from the dryer, I secreted them away. Folded neatly and stacked in my closet, I hid as much of his wardrobe as I could lay hands on. Then I waited. I waited for the sweet words of “Mom, do you know where all my clothes are?”

You may think this is strange. But frankly, I was tired of it. I was tired of finding laundry mildewing in the washer after five days of forgotten-ness. I knew at almost 12 years old, he is fully capable of putting clothes in the washer, moving them to the dryer and putting them away. Yet it wasn’t happening.

Despite all my training and mentoring, my assistance and guidance, laundry wasn’t getting done. I knew I had to resort to covert operations to make my point.  So when the sweet words came up about missing laundry, I had my reply ready.

“My thrift shop is now open for business in my closet. You can buy back any item you want, $1 each,” I said. “Oh and by the way, anything not purchased by the end of the month is going to support my new project Garage Sale for Orphans to help the poor in Haiti with Help One Now’s organization.”

Cue the raging pre-teen music.

Now rewind the story back to January when I visited orphans in Haiti. Many children were wearing clothes that were two sizes too small, or that were hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs. I saw a boy wearing women’s shoes with his feet hanging off the back.  I knew it was because he had no other choice. Some children simply did not have clothes at all. In Tent City, where 20,000 survivors of the earthquake three years prior still live under tarps, there were kids wearing zero. I witnessed one pre-teen girl lavishly washing her shoes outside of a tent. Good shoes and nice clothes were a prized possession.

So when I saw that our material goods were creating more frustration than joy, I knew it was time for a teachable moment. If he didn’t learn that our things were gifts and that we had to be good stewards of them, he would never get it later in life. As Americans, we do have access to a lot of stuff. But I wanted him to know deeply that things are a privilege and more isn’t always better.

After he calmed down, he realized the Thrift Shop was a good idea. He began getting into the spirit of things by negotiating T-shirts as a two-for-one special. I knew he was starting to get the idea when he said, “Mom, here are some things that I don’t need and think you should sell for the orphans.”

Will my son now do laundry forever and ever? Who knows. But I do know that the Thrift Shop helped my son see that sometimes too much stuff gets in the way. To be reminded that life is about a balance of being good stewards and about caring for others too. Sometimes more joy can be found in giving things away. And sometimes doing your laundry.

If you want to find out how a simple thing like a Garage Sale for Orphans can make a difference -- Meet Naiderson and how generosity changed his life. Or visit

Friday, February 1, 2013

Winter Love

What do you love about winter?” a friend asked me recently.

It was such a simple question, but it truly altered my thinking. People don’t speak of love and winter in the same sentence. This is about the time of year we begin reading articles about beating the winter blahs, losing your winter weight, coping with the missing daylight by taking mass quantities of Vitamin D or planning a trip to Cancun. Nobody asks what you love about it.

With the question, my mind went about searching what there was to love about winter. Like an eccentric and difficult aunt, winter is hard to truly love. Yet, somehow when I was a kid growing up in Michigan, winter was a blast. We would ice skate on the roads (yes the roads!) and every weekend my parents would drop us off at a small skiing hill near our town for the entire day.

When things got too cold, we would take breaks with hot cocoa by the giant fire in the lodge. We would pack huge sandwiches tall with peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, honey and bananas (awesome) and ski literally all day and all night. My parents expected us to find a ride home and we always did. Thinking of that now makes me laugh – how simple and trustworthy life was then.

Now as a grown up, what’s to love about winter? Personally, I love the slower pace of winter. I love the extra time to read and enjoy the comforts of home. I treasure a meal in the slow cooker after a busy day, filled with comfort food of pot roast and slow cooked carrots. For me, winter usually affords an opportunity to “putter” – looking at old photos, journals of days gone by. I love winter’s quiet and wild weather – an excuse to stay inside, take care, be safe. There is a certain nurturing kindness about winter that makes it feel like a comfortable old friend.

Let’s face it – North Carolina has a lot of nice days. Before you know it, winter is a sweet memory. My aim is to look for things to love. Because when you look for things to love, you usually find them.

PS. Here’s a bit of winter love for you -- a fun winter walk activity to do with your kids that shares some “secrets of trees in the winter”…..there, now don’t you feel better about winter?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dreaming of Haiti

Last week I slept in the poorest country in the world.

I’m not sure how best to explain it. Meeting orphans, their small brown hands slowly folding into mine, their eyes looking at me expectantly, longingly, just wanting to be held. Being sung to by 32 parentless girls under the stars, no electricity and in complete darkness – yet experiencing a glow like no other.

Visiting “Tent City” where 20,000 earthquake refugees still live, despite three years after the event. I see a woman walking a cat on a leash – pet or dinner? I see children flying kites made of string and plastic grocery bags. I see sad eyes peering out at me from inside dark huts. I greet them with a “Bonswa” or “good afternoon” and they light up and smile knowing that I see them in friendship.

Later in the week, I slept in a girls’ orphanage high up in the country near the border of the Dominican Republic. I see a girl sleeping on the floor and I am crushed knowing she has given up her bed for me. Girls shift in the night, finishing chores, putting the little ones to bed. They walk quickly by tiny handheld candles and flashlights, making efficient steps of their work. Their glow casts an ethereal quality as it lights up the mosquito nets, shadowy hard walls. I wonder if I am dreaming or awake.

On our last day, we visited a large orphanage and arrive into a cabin to find a huge stainless steel rice bowl covered with a mosquito net. “Were we eating already?” I thought. But inside was tiny “Jeff” – a newborn whose mother died in birth. His father unknown. Starting his life without parents. So much hardship and so soon.

But despite this desperation, Haitian people are filled with a kind of hope that is hard to understand. In the midst of all this, still they are filled with an easy joy and a reliance on God like no other. I am jealous of how rich they are in their tenacity of faith. I see that they have nothing, and yet they have everything.

Coming home filled me with such a mixture of emotions. Why is it that I have so much and yet struggle to feel content? Why do they have so little and yet are joyful anyways?

I return filled with stories that I hope to tell over time. I feel like I have to try my best to explain it, even though it may not be understood. Even though I am now home, Haiti stays with me. It permeates my thoughts and heart. I can never forget those eyes, those hands, that desperation. My dreams are of Haiti and finding a way to help back here in a place that lacks nothing, yet possibly everything.

To learn more about making a difference in Haiti, visit Help One Now at

Friday, January 4, 2013

Going On An Adventure

My son and I went to watch the new “Hobbit” movie this week. After reading the book together this summer, we were thrilled to finally see it on the big screen. In the beginning of the movie, we see the serene, laid-back Bilbo Baggins transform into the racing and frenzied unlikely hero, running through the fields yelling “I’m going on an adventure!”

That is me. Well, sort of. It is true that I am going on an adventure. This time next week I will be in Haiti. Just like Bilbo felt, I too feel unprepared, ordinary, even small when thinking of the giant problems facing one of the poorest countries in the world. But I’m going.

I am travelling with a group called “Help One Now” who are people dedicated to using their gifts, talents and resources to help end extreme poverty, care for orphans, rescue slaves and see communities transformed. They sponsor kids, host garage sales, donate funds, take trips and much more.

Before you think I am Mother Teresa, know that I am not. I am an ordinary Jane. I am not a “super Christian” and I am travelling to a place where I don’t even speak the language. I really don’t have any special gifts, other than the fact that I happen to be a really good listener and I love a great story.

I’m going because I want a bigger tale to tell of my life. I want to put feet to my faith. I want to have adventures. This suburbanite mom wants to one day tell the story to her grandkids what it was like to discover a far away place that needed a good listener. To tell them about holding hands with orphans, hugging widows and providing a comfort to a country that doesn’t have much. Still, I don’t have much to offer, other than an open heart.  My hope is that is enough.

To learn more about Help One Now, visit If you are ordinary like me, check out their website to learn how you can sponsor and orphan or host a fundraiser with your community group.