Archive | advent + christmas

8 Fair Trade Stocking Stuffers

8 Fair Trade Stocking Stuffers

“Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.”

O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure

Christmas is a time to celebrate and be joyous, but that leaves no excuse for trampling anyone, despite what Black Friday shoppers seem to think. During this season of Advent, we should be particularly conscious of the needs of others. ‘Tis a season of giving, not grabbing. This year, many people will spend Christmas on the farm or in the factory where they are enslaved. They will have no time off for the holiday and no Christmas bonus. Remember these people as you celebrate with your friends and family and think of them when you do your shopping.

Fair trade purchases ensure that the money you spend goes back to the laborers, helping them to support themselves and their families. What better way to show your kids or friends that Jesus is really the reason for the season than by giving them gifts that seem to say, “truly He taught us to love one another”? What better way to give back this year than by being a part of breaking the chains of our slave brothers and sisters?

That is why I’ve come up with 8 Fair Trade Stocking Stuffers. I hope you enjoy this list of ideas!

1. Theo Holiday Chocolate Bars

These cute and tasty fair-trade treats are available at Kroger in the organic section, on Amazon and at theochocolate.com. The chocolate industry is a huge battle ground of modern-day slavery and buying products that use ethically produced cocoa is important.

2. Justin’s Chocolate Hazel Nut Spread

Justin’s products are not certified fair trade, but I believe they use fair trade cocoa. Stuff a stocking with these easy-squeezy packets of Nutella-alternative or a whole jar for that crazy fanatic! Justin’s various delicacies are available Kroger, on Amazon and at justins.com

3. Gorgeous earrings from Noonday Collection

Noonday Collection is a huge fair trade company with lots of beautiful products, but their earrings strike me as a particularly nice thing to pull out of one’s stocking. Gift these to a sister or friend and they’ll be impressed with your excellent taste. ;)

4. Ornaments 4 Orphans

Pink-Circles-Elephant-400x400

To quote part of their mission statement, Ornaments 4 Orphans stands to: “empower indigenous artisans through the fair-trade purchase of their products, invest in the holistic care of orphaned children with our profits and provide customers with a seasonal opportunity to purchase items that bless others.” We bought one of their glass beaded stars this year. Really lovely!

5. Wood Block Stamps from Connected Goods

wood-block-stamp-hummingbird

I had a really hard time deciding what to share from Connected Goods. They have a huge selection of beautiful products. However, these stamps struck me as unique and special stocking stuffers, so I’m displaying the hummingbird stamp. I also love the goldfish!

6. Toys from Come Together Trading

Come Together Trading started right here in Texas! They have products from all of the world in their Tyler store and also sell online. One thing I love from them is their toys. The wooden toy tractor, the miniature animals and the finger puppet nativities are all adorable. I gave my mom a set of their bird chimes last year…very cute.

wooden-toy-tractor-5

7. Fair Trade “Reese’s” Alternatives

I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about the combination of peanut butter and chocolate that brightens my day. We are no longer buying our beloved Reese’s because they are likely made with unethically produced cocoa, but we’ve found some delicious alternatives. Try Newman’s Own (they’re not just for salad dressing anymore) or Justin’s. Buy them in the organic section your grocery store or online.

8. Punjammies!

PRIYA Capri Front

I really can’t say enough about Punjammies. Adorable pajamas made by women who have been rescued out of forced prostitution in India…well, I wrote a whole review of them for Adornabelle! The girls in my family love these. I would not be opposed to pulling another pair of these out of my stocking on Christmas morning!

How about you? Have you found ethical stocking stuffers this year? Please share!

Other Resources:

“All’s Fair” (my Pinterest board for all things fairly traded!)

Gifts that Give Back shopping guide at rageagainsttheminivan.com

Ethical Shopping Guide at theartofsimple.net

Products Everly Loves

2

gather up the fragments

all that is ever ours

This post is the second in a series. Read part one here.

Some of you know better than others that the past couple of years have had some really painful chapters for me. My little sister moved out under less than ideal circumstances, I wrote a book and faced rejection, I lost some dear friends to various enemies and even called off a relationship I planned on keeping forever. The golden light has spilled out of all these holes and I have seen God glorified, my heart has grown wiser and the lose ends are tying new knots, stronger than old ones. And yet, I still cry myself to sleep sometimes, just missing someone (or wondering what I’m missing.) I still have letters I’ll never be able to read again sitting in a box under my bed. I still skip certain songs.

Something that I’ve learned over and over again for the past few, bumpy years is that God wastes absolutely nothing. He wastes nothing and especially not our pain. Pain is perhaps what, in the end, bears the greatest fruit.

I couldn’t agree more with C.S. Lewis who said,

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 

Isn’t that just the undeniable truth? When do we cry out to the Lord? When we see a beautiful sunset? At most that makes us say a short prayer of praise. When do we cry out to God? When we realize that we can’t live with the pain that only He can relieve.

Sometimes I think that I’ve wasted a lot of my life worrying about petty things, but I find comfort in the fact that I’m not sovereign and that the God who is wastes nothing. I can learn from those years and grow out of them and I can see reasons for everything that has happened to me. I don’t have the option of becoming a victim because I’ve been a willing character in an epic story.
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The term, “gather up the fragments” comes from a story of Jesus’ ministry that has recently mesmerized me. Matthew 14 tells us about Jesus speaking to well over 5,000 people when they become hungry. The disciples urge Him to send them away to find their own food, but He said, “They need not depart.” Bewildered by this, the disciples reminded Jesus that they only had five loaves and two fishes, but He seemed to think that this was enough. Then, as the King James Version reads, “…he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”
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gather up the fragments
But the miracle is in this line: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.”
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God multiplies what we offer to Him and uses it to fill us. I love how John notes:  “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”
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Just as God wastes nothing and allows nothing to return void, Jesus refuses to waste  the food that He’s just produced by miracle. At first, it seems kind of odd. After all, if that bread and fish was left on the grass and went bad, couldn’t He just make some more when they needed it? Why doesn’t He just “bless and brake” again?

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Because, for some reason (probably propelled by the same incomprehensible love that sent Him to this earth in the first place,) every creature and part of creation matters to Him. There are lots of babies, but every one is a miracle (as Marilla Cuthbert says) and there are lots of moms and lots of singles and lots of retirees but you are unique to God. You will never be created again. Your children may be like you but they can’t be you. You were handcrafted, one-of-a-kind. I can’t help but think that it would please God if we adopted a similar code for creation. Creation is under our feet, for our use and pleasure, but it is also His creation. My mother just joyfully shared this G.K. Chesterton quote with us at the dinner table:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

You may look just like your Aunt Monique, but you couldn’t be more unique and when God created you, He thought, “Aha! I have made something completely knew and I love it.” 1 Corinthians 3:22-23 says: “…whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Because when everything belongs to your father, it comes to you in the form of an inheritance. In a way, all is ours, but in a greater way, all is God’s and so when He says that we must “gather up the fragments that nothing be lost” and when He reminds us that He used knitting needles, not factory machines and conveyer belts to create us, we have a new perspective on creation. It is ours, but it’s also His and we must care for it as if every blade of grass, every cricket, every sunset is unique. To God, it’s personal.

If Jesus ate leftovers and God wastes nothing, if everything is handcrafted and unique to The Creator, perhaps recycling isn’t just for hippies and reducing waste isn’t just for Earth Day. Perhaps that is another reflection of The Gospel and our commitment to our father, just like adoption and fidelity and evangelism and generosity.

As Christians, we never actually lose anything. Like the loaves and the fishes, the small things we offer up are always multiplied by our miracle-working God. Just like the eco-friendly folks say, there is no “away” that we can throw things too. The same goes for this whole universe. When we give something to God, it is truly safe. Amy Carmichael said,

“All that is ever ours is ours forever.”

When Jesus was anointed at Bethany, His disciples had a pretty good point. After all, the expensive perfume in the woman’s alabaster case could never be sopped up again and that money could have gone to the poor. But was it wasted? Jesus replied:

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

For someone who felt strongly about caring for the poor, Jesus gave this “extravagant” woman high praise, much like he did for His friend Martha who was “wasting” her sister’s precious time.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays upon us and all of the pressures and stressors of ordinary life, I hope to be like Martha who chose “the one thing that will not be taken from her.”

7

table talk and a new series

fall colors

The meal was a simple one of eggs, bacon and fried potatoes but the preparation had been almost strenuous. My dad had fried the bacon on a skillet on our grill, my mother had fried the chunks of red potatoes one little batch at a time at the stove and I had scrambled eighteen eggs (which barely landed a pile on each plate.) The meal had been gobbled, glasses of milk and pomegranate juice guzzled and coffee sipped. My mom leaned her face on her palm.

“Does anyone have any ideas for Thanksgiving this year? I know we’re all thinking about Christmas already, but we need to remember to be thankful first.”

We glanced at each other over sticky forks. Jubilee started off on a rabbit trail about what she wants to get everyone for Christmas. “You did say something about Christmas, didn’t you?”

Eventually we circled back around and began to open up. Jubilee ran and grabbed a few leaves off of our thanksgiving tree and we read the verses aloud. My dad begins to speak and soon we were all sharing things we are thankful for: warm clothes, warm water. A homeschool football team. Unusual fall colors (thanks to our Autumnal rainfall!) The benefits of living in a large college town. It’s amazing how a good conversation is sometimes just a question, or a paper leaf, away.

thanksgiving tree

Soon the talk turned to those “less fortunate” and how we might help them by sharing what we’ve been given. Earlier my dad had to told us about the little girl he’d seen in the ER the night before. She suffered a head injury and may never wake from her coma. He tells us her mother is beside herself. We talk about aging out of foster care, about homelessness and abuse. We mention human trafficking, abortion, hunger and jiggers. We talk about slave children on cocoa farms and how every single purchase really does make a difference to somebody.

I begin to share about the lady I’d met just that morning who doesn’t have a sink in her bathroom, and how she told me she was going to spend Thanksgiving at a place where they serve meals to the needy and I how I thought she was going there for a meal, but she is going there to serve. My voice snags at the thought and I stop talking and just wipe away the tears. We are so blessed.

The children ask questions and we travel from Haiti to Latvia to Bryan, Texas in our conversation and we are trying to hammer it into them that, around the corner, down the road, Jesus’ feet need to be walking and His hands need to be healing and that’s us. I tell them about Ann’s talk at Allume and the part where she told us that we’re all Queen Esther-s inside of the palace walls. We’re the only people that can help those begging at the gate.

thanksgiving tree 2

The dishes cease to clank and our stomaches are heavy with (too much) good food. We collect the plates but there are no “fragments to gather” because we’ve licked the platter clean. We cheerfully help each other rinse the grease off under purified water and load the glasses into the shiny dishwasher and pour Mommy’s homemade detergent into the door.

I make my way upstairs in a hurry and open my lap top. There’s this series I’ve been dying to write here but I’ve just been floating down the river of thought gathering things from this bank and that but now I’m tipping over the waterfall and I have to write.

(Would you join me in a short and likely scattered blog series on the idea of “gathering up the fragments”? Thoughts on gratitude and giving? Reflections on Emmanuel and why He came to us?)

Last night as I breathed under my covers, I looked out the big window I’ve stubbornly kept uncovered and marvel at the audacity of the Christmas story. I wonder how many folks going to Christmas parties this year with their cross necklaces and cheery nativity sets and chocolate Advent calendars actually believe the story. Have you thought about it lately?

I mean, God the creator, ruler of the universe, all-knowing and all-powerful, chose to be conceived in the womb of a poor virgin girl, born among livestock and manure in a stable room, raised by a carpenter, rejected, betrayed, tortured and finally butchered naked on a cross at the age of thirty-three.

He who knew no sin knew our sin intimately at that moment. Every evil act, every creepy motive, every cruel word. Every moment of hatred and bloodshed. Every desecration and rebellion. He bore that sin and became it and then gave up His spirit. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and then returned to His dead body after three days to clarify things for us one more time before ascending into Heaven and promising to return for us.

This is not Frosty the Snowman singing, “I’ll be back again someday.” This is The King of Kings promising to return for us. We who refused Him room at the inn. We who started an infanticide in hopes of ending His life. We who called Him crazy. We who betrayed and denied Him. We who pulled out His beard and spit in His face. We who doubted, and doubt still…

The moon has gone behind a cloud and I can hear raindrops plinking on my balcony furniture. I roll over. There’s nothing to see out in the dark and my mind is back at that stable. I’m somewhere between the piglets and the llama, kneeling in the grimy hay. I’m staring at a seemingly ordinary baby and my jaw is dropping in utter confusion. “Why, Jesus? Why would you come for us?”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

2

thanks on tuesday



1048. watching “Anne of Green Gables” with Jubilee (her first time.) Watching her eyes light up in the romantic scenes and hearing her predictions…priceless.


1049. the smell of clean laundry as I pull it out of the washer


1050. being caught UP on laundry 


1051. taking a drive to the grocery store for some solitary moments. Finding what I need. Getting discounts.


1052. Quick, easy dinners


1053. leaving my kitchen-cleaning days behind me. For the most part. For now.


1054. last night of Advent, candles every where. Sweet time.


1055. looking back with my mother and being able to say that we successfully simplified the holiday season and kept it true to the meaning.


1056. a phone call to a friend


1057. post-Christmas mark-downs


1058. finally taping up that package to take to the post office


1059. the books I got for Christmas…I’m dying to read them. DYING.


1060. A rainy Christmas weekend


1061. sunshine today


1062. my special little cousin receiving a service dog for Christmas


1063. everything I had to celebrate this year


1064. the clean start that is New Years


1065. getting to help my dad with the gift he made for Mommy (pictures to come, perchance.)


Everly

0

“How shall I know this?”

{photo credit}

I’m tucked under a throw on my bed when Birdie comes through on her way to her own room. I don’t notice her sizing me up until she says, “Are you doing that mouth thing?”


And it is true. I am doing the mouth thing. 


I think it comes from a medley of being tired and overwhelmed, usually by information exchange. It also comes with bouts of mild depression. Really, I just get in moods where I feel very serious. I crawl inside my mind and sit quietly, all-the-while listening to much. 


And then the mouth thing starts. I get in moods where I don’t want to talk…at all. No deep conversation, no light conversation, no words. I just want to keep my mouth shut. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to open my mouth at all…for any reason. I find myself going through the day nodding and shaking my head, shrugging my shoulders when need be. It’s quite ridiculous, this “mouth thing.”


But as silly as it sounds, it isn’t a very healthy state. I often find myself talking (mentally) only to myself for long periods of time. Introversion can become egotistical quickly. I also rarely find that these conversations I have with myself are of positive light. I usually end up discussing far-off things of life and death or, more recently, of faith and doubt.



I sit with my lips pursed and ask myself questions, but very rarely do I give an answer. And the questions are too big for one girl. Questions of God and truth and purpose. But then the really bad questions start…the questions that aren’t really questions at all, but just lies with a little question mark?


Satan said to the woman:

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Women are known for being manipulative and persuasive…is it any wonder Satan is depicted as a woman in The Passion of the Christ? He is even more manipulative than Woman and he loves to twist God’s words around and add an innocent-looking question mark to the end of God’s truth.


But that question mark is far from innocent. As a matter of fact, it is so potent, it can decay the soul. It’s called doubt and I suffer chronically.



I am no priest, and I can’t say that I walk blamelessly, but Zechariah and I must have a few things in common. He was a good person, seen as faithful and holy to his community. I’m a Christian girl who works at a church. Outsiders think I have a clean record of being holy and good. I fail, but you don’t always see it on Facebook. 


He is so good, as a matter of fact, that God decides to give he and his elderly wife John The Baptist as a son, saying that John will bring Zechariah and his wife “much joy and gladness” and that he will be filled with The Holy Spirit even from birth, growing up to lead many back to the Lord. 


And yet, this good man…this Zechariah of Aaron’s line, this holy man, he falls down in fear and says


“How shall I know this?”

“How shall I know this? How can I know that what you’re saying is true? How can I be sure that God is trust-worthy? How is this even possible?”


And Gabriel must have been a little offended, because (after a short pause, I imagine,) he says, “I am Gabriel.” (Must he go on?!) “I stand in the presence of God and I was sent to speak to you and bring you the good news.”


And this doubt…this questioning of God, you know what it got Zechariah? I shut-up mouth. No voice until the birth of John. That’s a long time to have “the mouth thing”.


And that’s kind of what happens to me. I doubt, I question and I flip outside-in. I take these questions that I should never be asking in the first place and make them like a pingpong ball inside my brain, always bouncing back and forth, never resting.


It’s not healthy and it’s not for God. It’s about listening to lies and asking all the wrong questions. And the irony is, who am I to question Him at all?


Nobody. Nobody at all. So why listen to myself? Why not just open up my mouth and say,


“Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

everly


15 Things About Faith

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