the look around

as you might be able to confirm after this week, we’re totally into giving. we always want it be a large part of our lives. we want to trust God for his provision, and we want to give more than we’re always comfortable with. 
this week has been a great reminder for me to give even more. [for example, i’ll confess that while we decided to give monthly to exodus cry, i didn’t actually do it until i sat down to write the blog about it.] it was encouraging to see so many comments and so much excitement about giving. i truly hope i’ve encouraged you to think more about how you can contribute to causes that you find worthy.
but this week, i was challenged to write about one of the pitfalls i fall into when it comes to money. 
sometimes, it’s really easy to just write a check and wash your hands. 
being generous is a discipline in a lot of ways, and i think bryan and i have become pretty disciplined about it. and in that way, i have this tendency to think very logically about giving money, rather than being heartfelt and moved. does that make sense?
i guess what i’m saying is that there are often times when needs arise, and my first tendency is to say, well, let’s write a check. it’s not to pray for the person in need. it’s not to bring them dinner and see how they are doing. it’s not to seek to understand why they are in need. my solution is cold hard cash and often, that’s exactly what it is: cold. removed. even haughty. 
that’s one reason why i love compassion. they make it virtually impossible to just give money. they practically shove it down my throat that i should be praying for and writing letters to the child we support. it’s not just money that she needs, it’s love and support and letters and jesus. 
so my challenge for you today, but mostly for myself, is to do “the look around.” what are the needs around you? the needs that might be a little messy and emotional and hard to meet? the needs that may take more money, more time, more stress than you’re willing to give? 
how can you contribute?
maybe it’s helping the homeless in your area. maybe it’s visiting someone you don’t even know in the hospital because she has no one else visiting her. maybe it’s letting someone borrow your car. maybe it’s buying someone lunch and listening to where they’re at. maybe it’s serving someone who doesn’t deserve it. maybe it’s helping someone with their finances. maybe it’s making a meal for someone without a real support system. maybe it’s organizing all of your friends to make a big difference to a women’s shelter. 
it could be a lot of things. today, i’m going to do the look around here in iowa city and find out. 
this week, i’m giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa! 
and i’ve saved the best for last. this cute little thing is a reusable coffee cup sleeve! instead of using the paper ones that come around your cup at the coffee shop, slide this thing on and you’re good to go! 

simply leave a comment on this post if you’d like to win this coffee sleeve!

i’ll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!

missions & relief projects


do you want to know something really shocking about me?

i thought so.

i don’t have any desire to move overseas. if i’m truly honest with myself, i don’t. and it’s not for lack of trying either. i’ve taken perspectives (an amazing and life-changing class!) twice. i do my best to keep updated on what is going on in the world. we are blessed to attend a mission-focused church. but i still don’t want to move overseas. i like america.

you can start booing now.

let me clarify by saying that i would move overseas. in a heartbeat. i understand that God loves the world and it’s people way more than i love america. and i’m all about following God wherever he leads me. we moved to iowa city in faith, and that was a great step for me. if God wants us overseas, we’ll know and we’ll go.

but i don’t know if we’ll ever move overseas, honestly. this is quite possibly the reason why i love those who are passionate about missions and relief work. because i’m frankly not passionate about going myself. but if someone else is, i get so excited.

we are blessed to have many people in our lives who are passionate about many different people groups. i’m so thankful for them-they make me fall in love with the world. they help me see the world the way God sees it.

bryan and i have become eager to help fuel these passions financially, especially since we don’t have a specific goal for ourselves when it comes to missions.

how can you contribute?
  • compassion international has organized some swift and trustworthy relief efforts. consider making a one-time donation to meet critical needs.
  • support your friends or family who are going.
  • consider taking perspectives in your area and evaluate your role in world missions.
  • support a missionary through gospel for asia.
  • pick up a copy of operation world and pray for nations.

this week, i’m giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa!

simply leave a comment on this post if you’d like to win these hairpins!
i’ll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!

exodus cry


a little over a month ago, a student organization here at the university of iowa called Students Abolishing Slavery held a viewing of this movie. Nefarious was a powerful film in more ways than one. it plainly described the tragedy of the sex trade in our present world in an artful way.

despite it’s horrific focus and against all odds, the film ended with a hopeful spirit. this organization seeks to raise awareness of modern day slavery and the sex trade, rescue women by setting up lighthouses, and reach and change the hearts of men. but it was clear at the film’s end that only true healing can come from the power of Jesus Christ. this is the message they carry with them.

it was not a difficult decision to choose to give Exodus Cry monthly support. i talked to bryan about it and we decided to add it to our budget.

how can you contribute?

this week, i’m giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa!

simply leave a comment on this post if you’d like to win these awesome earrings.
i’m probably going to have to get a pair for myself!
i’ll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!

compassion international


have you heard of compassion international? you likely have. it’s a cause that has gained wild popularity. and unlike the bachelorette, their popularity is well-deserved.

this is a multi-faceted organization who has found an incredible balance when it comes to the job of supporting impoverished children and families. i’ve listed just a few things they provide:

  • a monthly financial support program that connects the able to children in need of clothing, food, and education in impoverished areas of the world
  • a deeper connection between the sponsor and sponsored by allowing for pictures, updates and correspondance along with the financial contribution
  • amazing compassion-run programs for the children that allow the gospel to be delivered while also meeting the physical needs of those in need

bryan and i support an almost 11-year-old girl from the dominican republic. i love receiving her letters and hanging her cute drawings on my fridge. she has truly become a part of our family.

how can you contribute?

this week, i’m giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa!

simply leave a comment on this post if you’d like to win this adorable pin.
my sister-in-law put a lullabies pin on her winter coat-i must say, it’s pretty cute!

i’ll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!

lullabies for africa

this week, i’m sharing five different opportunities to give. i’ve shared several times now on why my husband and i find giving to be an essential part of life. i thought it would be fun to help promote the causes that we are most passionate about. 
today, i’m sharing about a wonderful cause. Lullabies for Africa is something i’ve been really excited about these past few months. 
haleigh is a friend of ours from ames. bryan played for the anthem band while she was also in the band-this girl has pipes! i was so excited to get a support letter from her and hear that she was going to kenya for three weeks this winter. it was so evident that God had moved in haleigh’s life and given her new eyes to see all of the orphans in need. thus, the Lullabies for Africa album was born-some of our good friends both in Ames and in Iowa City contributed to this album, which is also fun! as usual, God had a bigger vision than even she had for this project. 
on top of the cd, haleigh (and some other awesome people) have been hand-crafting a bunch of cute goods and selling them with the promise that 100% of the proceeds goes to help orphans in africa! 
watching haleigh be transformed by God’s vision and love for the world has totally gripped my heart. i’ve told her several times that i’m just so excited about what God is doing in and through her! 
how can you contribute? 
  • consider making a donation to the Lullabies for Africa cause.
    “The money collected will go towards traveling costs and fees. Any donations that exceed the $3500 mark will go to help families adopt from Africa.”
  • check out the adorable handmade goods in the lullabies etsy shop.
  • purchase the cd as a gift or for your own children, it’s a beautiful collection of lullabies!

this week, i’m giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa!
simply leave a comment on this post if you’d like to win this adorable hair clip. 
i’ll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!

Support Compassion International!


all you have to do is change your homepage to for two days. click on this link over at Money Saving Mom to read all about it (you’ll have it go through her link in order for it to work).

bryan and i have supported a child in the domican republic for over 4 years, we love compassion international and really believe in the work they are accomplishing in many ways and in many countries.

by changing your homepage to yahoo, you are contributing to yahoo’s contribution of up to $10,000.00 to compassion. is also contributing $1 per person who changes their homepage and comments on her blog.

hurry, because this only goes through tomorrow!

the wedding budget

calculating kids

bryan got a great deal on my engagement ring. he ordered it the day after valentine’s day so it was on sale. it’s beautiful. a simple white gold band with a round cut diamond in a six-prong setting. the diamond is color e, and you can’t see any imperfection with the naked eye, which they tell me is a good thing.

i loved the ring, i loved him and loved that he got a great deal on it. that’s my kind-of man. : )

that’s how our financial journey as an engaged couple started.

with the excitement of starting a new life with bryan and being the nerdy financially-minded person i was, my mind began to reel with budgets, paying off debt, and planning for the future. for some reason, the fact that i was going to be married made it much more important. but we had a different budget to be worried about: the wedding budget.

and so begins the story of one of the greatest acts of generosity we’ve ever received.

first of all, my dad was so generous and gave me a figure to work with. we were engaged for 13 months so he gave me the money in small increments as he could. i booked the cheapest, biggest reception hall i could find, booked the church, bought the dress and found cheap photography. i spent very little money on the save-the-dates, invitations, and other things like programs and decorations. we borrowed a lot of things from friends.

i didn’t really budget as much as i purchased everything cheaply. our wedding was near and i had spent about half of the original figure. that was pretty good considering all we had left to pay for was food for everyone!

we had already found a great and incredibly cheap caterer and had booked her for the day. she ran a very small catering company so she didn’t even require a deposit! which was good news when we found out the bad news:

my dad was layed-off from his job. 

just like many other dads and workers, he was one of those affected by the economy slump a couple years ago. that was it. there was no more wedding money to be had. 

at first i was angry. then i was sad. then i resolved to make it work. i told my parents that we would just do cake. our guests would understand. the invitations had been sent, so should we send postcards so they know there won’t be a meal? how do you politely say: sorry, you won’t be getting a free meal, even though you were expecting to?

and then.

my mom called me and said, “someone just called me and asked if they could pay for all of the catering.” yes. you read that right. someone wanted to pay for about 1/2 of my wedding. who the heck loves me that much?

i was immediately in tears. so was my mom. we were so happy, but so confused. should we accept such a huge gift? i wasn’t so sure. but the giver insisted and my mom accepted on both of our behalves. they wanted to be kept anonymous and my mom has kept a huge secret from me and everyone else ever since. and she’s not good at keeping secrets. so that’s a big deal too.

it’s still crazy to me. i mean, it’s just a wedding. it’s just food for our guests. but it was important to me that our guests felt loved by us in that way. a simple meal can say a lot. and whoever gave us all that money knew how important it was to me.

that act of generosity has shaped bryan and i so much and will continue to inspire us to give of our money freely. when we are asked to give, i think of all i have been given. and the ways that God has blessed us through anonymous givers or our parents or friends. i [literally] can’t thank the giver enough. it wasn’t just money or food. it was love, it was God’s work, and it will affect our lives for a long time.

click here to start at the beginning of this series!