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Change The World, Look Good Doing It #FTFClub

For some light summer reading (#sarcasmfont), I decided to finally tackle 7 by Jen Hatmaker. I can’t tell you how long I have had this book intending to read it, but absolutely terrified to do so. And I discovered that was for good reason. I cannot continue the same as before. Stupid convicting books.

One of the areas that hit home the hardest was fashion. I have never tried to deny that I have loved clothes for as long as I can remember. Honestly I still vividly remember a few of my favorite outfits from Kindergarten (sweater with little whales on it and jeans with rhinestones on the pocket-sigh). I had a jobs in retail in high school and college and I bought more clothes with my paychecks than anyone should ever admit in public. The trend continues to this day.

I justify it up and down, but I rarely stop to think about how much the money could be doing allocated in different ways (because I typically stay within budget, I can justify anything). I also rarely think about the truths behind my cheap fashion. Someone else is paying a very high price so that I can look cute. Sad.

ChangeLives (1)

 

image courtesy of Fair Trade Friday

Well. What if I could use my love of fashion and do good? You guys!!! I CAN!!!!

Fair Trade Friday is the brilliant idea of one of my sweet blogging friends, Kristen of We Are That Family fame. If you don’t know her full story you should really read her book Rhinestone Jesus or read her blog which will make you laugh and cry on a daily basis or check out her amazing ministry, Mercy House (well her OTHER amazing ministry). Clearly you need to know her. But anyway, she felt God calling her to help empower women all over the world and Fair Trade Friday was born.

Fair Trade Friday is a monthly membership club different than most others. It delivers a box of high quality items to your door by the first Friday of the month. The items in the box are fairly traded and provide employment to women all over the world. 100% of the proceeds from each box goes to the empowerment of impoverished women as an avenue to introduce them to the Gospel. Currently they are working with 19 countries and helping over 1000 woman find employment, dignity and hope. Just one box employs an average of 7 women from around the globe!

I have been a member for several months (even before I was asked to be part of the blogging team) and I have loved knowing that the adorable earrings, bracelets and purses I wear are making a difference in someone’s life. Everything isn’t always my style but I simply pass on things to people I know will love them. And it isn’t always clothes in my subscription box either. I have received coffee, potholders, journals, notecards and more.

Fair Trade Friday

 

 

Listen to these amazing words from one of the many women who provide their wares for your boxes:

“Probably one of the most profound moments for me was in a mud home in Kenya talking with a woman we were buying paper bead bracelets from for a Fair Trade Friday box. She grabbed my hands and squeezed them tight. She looked me straight in the eyes and said,‘Tell the women in America that we need them to keep buying what we make. Tell them it is feeding my son and two daughters. Tell them not to forget us.’ I will spend the rest of my life reminding these marginalized women they are not forgotten.” – Kristen Welch, MercyHouse Co-Founder

Old Navy isn’t going to do that for anyone. In fact, it is most likely doing more harm than good (this is not a guilt trip, I am learning right along with you and possibly still buying from Old Navy just this week….. #keepingitreal). My favorite part is that each item in my box comes with a tag that tells me where the artisan lives and often times even her name. And just for a moment, I am part of her story. And part of God’s big old giant redemption story for us all.

FTF-Change-the-World

 

image courtesy of Fair Trade Friday

Is it possible my love of fashion can change the world? Fair Trade Friday thinks so. They like to say, “Change the World, Look Good Doing It.” And even if I didn’t get a single item that makes me “look good”, I can think of a million other really stupid ways to blow $30 that doesn’t help a woman across the world put food in her child’s belly.

If you too want to be a part of making a difference, please consider becoming a part of Fair Trade Friday, either by getting on the waiting list for the original box subscription, by ordering a one-time box, or by joining the Earring of the Month Club. Or consider shopping other fair trade items in the Mercy Shop to benefit Mercy House. You really can’t lose.

I received a one-time box as part of the Fair Trade Friday Blogging Team in exchange for telling you about this service. I was a subscriber long before that and love the chance to get to share about such a great organization. 

On Sabbaticals, Fighting Hunger and ONE REPUBLIC GIVEAWAYS!!

*gingerly steps up to the mic*

*tap, tap*

Is this thing on?

Sorry I disappeared off the face of the earth. Blogging just hasn’t been high on the radar this summer. You know what has been? Sleeping in, hours at the pool, relaxing vacations, family time, lying around in the hammock, etc, etc, etc. I swear to you I have opened the computer less than ten times since school let out. It has been lovely and weird all at the same time.

So I think I am unofficially taking the summer off blogging. It clearly wasn’t a well thought out plan. But it seems to be going that way. EXCEPT.

I have a few commitments this month and next that I am popping back on to share with you. So this week and probably a few times in August I will dust off the old blog and see if anyone is reading anymore. And it just so happens if you are, there might be some great things in store for you (cough, giveaways, cough).

Let’s start with a BIG one right out of the gate.

I’m not sure if anyone remembers, but last summer I had the chance to check out a few events when the Meijer LPGA Classic was in town. I was excited when they reached out to me again and next week I will be heading out to a few things. I would love to have you join me if you are local. There is a 5K walk/run, jr. golf clinics, a celebrity chef cook off and a community concert to choose from. Those and of course, the main event, the LPGA Classic.

Now I gotta be honest with you. I don’t golf. I don’t watch golf. I don’t follow golf. But there are two things happening here that I can totally get behind.

One, as a mom of daughters, I am all about showing my girls women who kick butt in sports, especially ones that are typically male dominated. You better believe we gathered around watching the US women take the world cup and I love showing my girls the dedication and hard work these golfers put into their sport to come out on top. It is inspiring and I want them there on the sidelines with me seeing these ladies get er done. Last year we truly did end up loving it.

Two, for the second year in a row, thanks to Meijer’s title sponsorship, the mission of the tournament is feeding the hungry and improving the quality of life within this place I call home. If you have read this blog for more than a second, you know this is a cause we support time and time again. And once again, the tournament will coincide with the Meijer’s Simply Give program, which has raised nearly $14 million for food pantries across the Midwest since its inception in November 2008. So just like last year, proceeds from the tournament, and each of the week’s festivities including the community concert, will benefit the Simply Give program. Last year $600,000 was raised.

Sometimes giving is made just a little bit more awesome when you get something amazing in exchange for your gift. I mean giving completely selflessly is awesome, but giving and getting to see one of you favorite bands play some of your favorite songs is straight up amazing.

Community Concert

This year’s community concert is ONE REPUBLIC. We are huge fans and I was beyond excited when Meijer contacted me to participate AND give away two tickets to another couple of fans. Of course you must be able to attend the concert July 25th in Grand Rapids to enter. But we can be singing and dancing with each other!!! If you don’t win, please consider grabbing a ticket and supporting local food pantries with your purchase. It doesn’t get more win-win than that!! (This is a quick contest so don’t delay!!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is 40

Today is the day. I am officially in my 40s.

I get that some people dread birthdays. For me I never really have. I know some people might consider 40 old, but I guess it comes down to how you feel and I feel the best I ever have. Truly. 40s are a time of being secure in who you are, knowing what you want out of life (and what you don’t), and living for the things that are truly important. Never have I felt more sure of who I am and who I am supposed to be.

The 20s seemed like such an insecure time. A ridiculous amount of fun was had as a single and newly married girl living in the big city. No kids, little responsibility (outside of paying obnoxious amounts of rent). But it is also such a time of doubt about who you are, where your life is going, am I doing it right and how the heck am I supposed to do this adult thing??!! So much insecurity. No thank you. Goodbye 20s.

The 30s seemed like a bit of a blur. Three kids (plus a 4th through foster care). I don’t think I slept enough the whole 10 years. So much new responsibility it felt crushing at times. Still a ton of joy raising a family and starting an official, full blown, “grown up” life. But still a lot of insecurities about friendships, self-worth, body image (yowza body post kids) and all the ways I was likely messing my kids up. The 30s were very, very good to me, but I am happy to wave them goodbye as well.

40 feels so fabulous to me. My kids are at such awesome ages and I feel like I am pretty confident in my parenting abilities (talk to me again when I have full-blown teenagers). I know the things that make me happy and the things that drain me. I am done with toxic friendships and instead chose to invest in healthy people who love me for me. At the same time I find myself becoming much more generous with myself and my time, looking around for ways to bless others because I have been so blessed in life. After spending my 30s hunkering down and getting er done with little kids, I am finally looking outward again and it feels so freeing.

I was talking to Ryan the other day about this life we have created and how much joy it brings me. I love that we live life large and try to consume every day to the fullest. I totally recognize that my life seems overwhelming to many people. We stay busy, love to travel, take in as many theater and concerts and festivals and local events as we can. Nothing makes me get twitchy more than a blank calendar. I like it full.

I am done apologizing for it. I know living life on such a grand scale isn’t for everyone but I want to live a life of no regrets and for me that means saying yes to as many experiences as possible while making sure we are being responsible with our finances and not burning ourselves out. We don’t always get it right, but I also know I’m not happy still for too long. I think my 40s are going to be a grown up, responsible decade of YOLO (can you say YOLO when you are 40?).

So for those of you who have blazed the 40 trail ahead of me, thank you so much for showing me age is just a number and nothing to fear. I think because I have so many older and wiser friends in my life I look forward to every birthday knowing that it fully has the potential to be better than the last. You gals are definitely making 40 look pretty amazing.

And to those of you who are behind me in your 20s and 30s. Don’t waste a moment wishing for what was behind you or aching to get ahead. I know I have wished away years before and it is such wasted energy. Soak up every moment of every day as the blessing that it is. Stop apologizing for who you are, but always strive to end each day a little closer to the person God wants you to be. And most of all remember, life is way too short to be spent worrying. Grab yourself a square (or two) of chocolate, pour yourself a glass (or two) of red, look life square in the eye and say “I’ve got this.” It just keeps getting better. Cheers.

How Get The Most Out Of Cedar Point (no matter your age or thrill level)

It has been 3 years since we last went to Cedar Point. Which is approximately 3 years too long according to my family. But thankfully last week we rectified the situation by surprising the kiddos on their last day of school and heading to Sandusky. My super hero status has been reinstated.

Wicked Twister Midway

In my family we have 3 thrill seekers, one who lives for anything that spins and one who prefers to sit on the sideline taking pictures and people watching (guess who I am….). We also have three kids who meet different height requirements. All of this could make for an amusement park day filled with frustrations, but at Cedar Point there wasn’t a single whine or complaint. Nobody felt left out and everyone had a blast. #winning

Here’s why:

  • Camp Snoopy, Planet Snoopy and Kiddy Kingdom: While some of the rides in the kid’s areas have a maximum height requirement of 54′ leaving out Lily, most of the rides were ones all the kids could enjoy together. With three different sections for the little ones, your kids will not quickly get bored or feel left out of the action. There are even a few roller coasters and some bumper cars. Silas and I spent much of our days in these three sections of the park while the bigs did some crazy rides. We had crazy amounts of fun.

Rougarou First Hill

  • Parent Swap: Let’s say you come from a family where BOTH parents love to do insane roller coasters (a clearly crazy family). But you also have a little one who can’t go on the huge rides. One parent waits in line to a coaster or other height-restricted ride. After riding, they give their Parent Swap pass to the ride operator, and the other parent/guardian, who’s been taking care of the little ones, can walk up the exit to get right on the ride. You can get your authorization slip at several locations throughout the park. Easy-peasy.
  • Live Shows: There are tons of fun live shows spread throughout the park. Perfect for when the kiddos are getting a big exhausted and need a break (or for when you just want some air conditioning to escape the heat). There is no age or height restrictions for shows (obviously) so they are perfect for the whole family to enjoy. Of course you should always end the day with Luminosity: Ignite the Night- a music and light show that ends in fireworks. Every day should end with fireworks don’t ya think?
  • Food: You want your elephant ears, corn dogs, ice cream and other standard amusement park food? You can find it. But you can also find a Chick Fil A (SQUEE!!), Chickies and Petes, DQ Chill and Grill, and Johnny Rockets, plus tons of other dining options. If you venture out of the park a little bit (but still on Cedar Point property), you can find a Famous Daves, TGI Fridays and even some upscale dining (hibachi anyone?). You can purchase a dining plan to save a little bit of money as well.
  • HotelBreakersRoomInterior4Hotel Breakers: This was the first time we ever stayed on site while at Cedar Point. The Breakers has recently undergone a HUGE two-year renovation project and it is gorgeous!! It makes a day at the park a walk in the …… park. You literally walk into the park and HOUR earlier than everyone else. Walking up to some of the most popular rides with zero lines was pretty awesome (see super mom status). Getting to park our car for free also saved a lot of hassle and money. The hotel has 3 great pools, a beach on the shores of Lake Erie, tons of dining options and adorable rooms. With Cedar Point being a 4 hour drive from West Michigan it certainly helps to have a place to stay so we can enjoy the park to the fullest.

We had a blast at the perfect family vacation destination and can’t wait to go back. Hopefully it will become a yearly tradition.

What is your favorite amusement park?

Disclosure: We were provided with a free nights stay and free passes to Cedar Point in order to facilitate this review.  

 

Venus- Joy Williams 3.0

Anyone been reading long enough to remember back when I used to do weekly music reviews? It was back when I first started blogging and they are such silly posts I am not going to link to any. You can search it if you want a glance back at true old school blogging.

The truth is, I wrote them because music has been a HUGE part of my life for as long as I can remember. It is hard to pin down exactly what music I like because my tastes are so varied. Which makes me a perfect candidate to love Joy Williams music. She keeps reinventing herself in different styles and I have loved them all.

I first became acquainted with Joy back when she was doing Christian music. She was a singer’s singer and was putting out amazing music at just 17 years old (I love anyone I can belt along with on the radio). In fact, “Here With Us” remains one of my all time favorite Christmas songs. It is really stunning if you haven’t heard it before.

The secular world of music was first introduced to Joy when she was half of the duo The Civil Wars. I was late to the game in discovering them (when they came out I was knee-deep in Veggie Tales and 1000 versions of The Wheels on the Bus). But once I discovered them, I was blown away. Their music was haunting and powerful and just gorgeous. Of course just as I found them, they broke up and Joy disappeared again.

On June 29th, Joy Williams is back with a new album and once again is exploring a slightly different sound, but at the core is the Joy we have always loved. She is raw and vulnerable and clearly processing through all that she has been through by putting her pen to the page. Although she has always been known for her honest lyrics, this time she is laying it all out on the table and the brave result is Venus.

Joy’s own words regarding Venus:

For me, it’s my coming-of-age album, becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be. I think over the course of the last couple of years making this album, I finally felt that I stepped into my own skin. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be the best version of myself, and I’ve finally let myself just be me.

Woman (Oh Mama) looks to be her first single and I love the vibe of it. The words resonate with me as a woman and it is a fresh sound for Williams. It almost feels a bit like 90s Fiona Apple (who was my college JAM). Check it out below and pre-order Venus on iTunes or Amazon. I think Joy Williams is going to be around for a while, surprising us each time. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Disclosure: I participated in the Joy Williams Venus album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own. #JoyWilliams #O2O