Archive of ‘faith’ category

Letter to Myself

Letter to Myself - Five things I want to focus on during this season in my life.

Dear Self,

I thought about writing a letter to your younger self, but she has already lived those days so what’s the point of going back? Life is too short for regrets and today is too important to worry about the future, so let’s focus on this present day. These beautiful, golden days that you wake up to every single morning.

Here are five things I want you to focus on during this season of your life:

1. Enjoy this free time. I am not even going to pretend like your life is busy because it’s not. You have a lot of free time. Continue to fill up your free time with J. He is really funny and makes you happy. Go on trips together and get to know your city. It’s a pretty place. Try new things and learn as much as you can. Don’t bother spending time doing things you don’t enjoy – you don’t have that much time. Figure out what makes you come alive and spend your time celebrating that.

2. Invest in girlfriends. You have some pretty awesome friends. Keep them, and keep making them a priority. Text them when they pop into your mind and have them over when your house is really messy. I have a feeling these relationships are going to be pretty important in the years to come. Don’t be afraid to make new friends, either. Kindred spirits are just a hello away.

3. Make church a priority. Do you remember how long it took you to find this church? And do you remember all of the mediocre ones you went to before? This one is a gem, and you are so lucky. Continue to attend and sing and soak in the wisdom. Smile at the people in the hallway, because attending a new church is scary. And say yes when you are asked to help in the nursery. Those kids may be your babysitters one day.

4. Improve your inner beauty. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror so much. Continue to make healthy choices, because it makes you feel good, but don’t be consumed with it. Attraction is 90% personality and 10% looks, so focus on making your personality beautiful. Be kind and wise and helpful. Speak up against injustices and fight for what you believe in. Listen more than you speak, and when you feel like giving others advice, give them a hug instead.

5. Don’t worry about the future. Do you remember years ago when you were worried about college and grades? God provided and you went to a great school. Do you remember crying ugly tears, worried you would remain single forever? God provided and you get to do life with a great guy. Do you remember when you were worried about moving to DC? God provided and you met some great friends and started a wonderful career. Do you remember when you were worried about money after paying for a wedding and replacing both cars in the first two months of marriage? God provided and you were able to save enough to buy a house in the next two years. Whatever you are worried about, just stop. God is going to provide.

The days are long but the years are short, and being content with today is hard. One day you are going to be so nostalgic for this time in your life, so try your very best to savor every single moment of it while you are in it.

I’m not sure how to end a letter to yourself, so we will just leave it at that.

- Ginna

PS – Photo above from Death to the Stock Photo

Help for a Haitian Orphanage

On our last day before we left, we visited an orphanage near where we were staying in Titanyen. The orphanage is run by a couple, Yvon and his wife, who care for 46 children ranging from 1 to 15 years old in their very small home.

Haiti is a dangerous country, especially for children, as kidnapping, child sacrifice and trafficking are very common. Over 350,000 orphans were created after the earthquake, and Yvon and his wife saw a need to care for these abandoned children. They started bringing a few of them into their home at a time, and over the last few years it has grown to a large orphanage of 46 children living in very small quarters.

The folks at Global Outreach work closely with this orphanage, and it was a true privilege to meet Yvon and see how he loves these children dearly. While we were there, the children sang us two songs, recited scripture, and showed us around their small, humble home. They were so darling.

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We brought the kids some Easter candy. :)

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Pictured above is their kitchen, and below is where they wash their clothes. I didn’t get a good picture of their bedrooms because they were so dark. There are two small rooms packed with bunk beds, one for girls and one for guys. The older kids get to sleep in the beds, while the little ones sleep on cots on the floor. 

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Funding for the orphanage comes from churches and non-profits, but many sources have decreased and they are suffering to stay afloat. There are no public schools in Haiti, so if you go to school you have to pay tuition, buy uniforms, books, supplies, etc., and the few that were in school had to be removed to help pay for food, etc. They have a deficit of $4,418.

My team members and I started a t-shirt campaign for the next two weeks to get this orphanage out of debt and hopefully get kids back in school: https://www.booster.com/haiti-orphanage-fundraiser.

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I know, another t-shirt campaign and another request for money! But as someone who met these children and know the hearts of the ministry we worked with, I have complete confidence that all of the donations will be used for good and none of it will not return void.

All of the profits from these t-shirts will go directly to help this orphanage. The more t-shirts are sold, the greater percentage of profits go to the children. For example, if 50 are sold, $11 or every t-shirt cost will go to Global Outreach, whereas if 500 are sold, $14 of every t-shirt will be donated. If you feel led, there is an option to give above and beyond the t-shirt cost.

Please consider buying a t-shirt, sharing the campaign with your friends or followers, and praying for these kids. Thank you so much for your support!

Global Outreach’s Work in Haiti, and How We Helped

Before I went to Haiti I knew very little about the ministry we were going to help and the work we were going to do. Well now, as someone who has spent a week with this organization, I seriously cannot say enough good things about Global Outreach, the people that run their mission, and the work that they are doing in Haiti. It is absolutely incredible, and I’m so honored to be a teeny, tiny part of the beautiful story God is weaving in that area.

Dinnertime quickly became the favorite time of day. The food was fantastic, of course, but also because of the great conversation. Each evening the full time missionaries would eat with us and share their story of how God moved in their lives, brought them to Haiti, the work they are doing here and their vision for growing the ministry. Hearing their stories was like listening to characters in the Bible — there were so many amazing tales of protection and visions and incredible ways God is moving in this country. There are two older couples with kids back in the states, one family of six, one family of four, one older single lady, and one younger single girl.

IMG_9637 copyHere is one of our beautiful cooks. They made the best food!

Every time I was overwhelmed by the poverty or hurt in Haiti, I was immediately encouraged to see a way in which Global Outreach are meeting those needs. Here is a very quick overview of their programs, how we helped, and a few photos. :)

Burn Clinic
My initial question when I heard there was a burn clinic was — why is there a clinic just for burns? That was until I realized that everyone cooks their food over an open fire, so there are a lot more accidents and burns. They care for other ailments, but the majority of their help is for burn wounds. The clinic opens every morning at 7:30, and the ladies got a chance to help assist wherever was needed. One of the major ways we helped was by loading our suitcases with donations. There is a huge issue with importing anything into the country and it can take months for things to go through customs, so they rely heavily on short term trips to bring as many donations as possible.

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Feeding Program
About 60 elderly people (or their kids/grandkids if they can’t make it) come to the gates of Global Outreach every Monday to get a weekly supply of food. We passed out beans, rice, oils and spices while we were there.

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If you don’t have water, you don’t have life. And many Haitians (a lot of them children), will walk miles to bring water back to their families. Global Outreach has drilled over 300 wells in the area, and we drove by a few in the community. On our last day a few of the men in our group helped repair one while we were there.

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Schools
Global Outreach partners with a school in Titanyen by providing supplies and assisting the teachers. We brought a ton of school supplies with us, and a few of the guys built three desks which will seat 12 kids. We visited the school, but the kids weren’t in school since it was Easter week and they were out on break. Although a few kids were there helping their mom/aunt. :)

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Church partnerships
They are very involved in the local churches in the area and help by preaching and offering support when necessary. Teaching and training the Haitians to lead is important for the missionaries. A few of the churches in the area are in the middle of building a large building, and we were able to tour the structure. It’s going to be beautiful!

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Orphanage partnerships
They also partner with a few orphanages in the area. Those kids deserve their own post, so more to come on that. :)

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Conference center, camps and facilities
The land and facilities that Global Outreach has is pretty impressive and used year-round for Haitian school teachers, pastors, health care workers, project directors and kids. There are enough accommodations to feed and sleep hundreds at a time. They host camps each summer for Haitian kids, and it is one of the few places in the area with running water and electricity, so it’s like a vacation! They also provide housing for other organizations and groups. There are so many non-profits and NGOs in the area, so missionaries, relief organizations, adopting parents and many others are welcome to stay on their property. Samaritan’s Purse used their land for three years doing disaster relief after the earthquake. Our group painted the outside of three homes at the edge of the property to be used by future missionaries and intern groups.

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We also got to hear about their vision for expanding and bringing kids across the country for soccer programs and ministry growth. They have some seriously awesome plans for helping people and creating a haven in the midst of such a painful country. I loved every minute working alongside with them, and am so thankful for the generosity and influence I see them having in the country.

Contentment Challenge

I mentioned in my 2014 goals that I’m going on a spending fast for three months — today I’m going to share a little more on why and what it’s going to entail.

Actually, as a sidenote, if you look at my monthly goals, this year is starting off pretty LAME-O. I started a Paleo diet on Monday and am announcing today to fast from shopping for three months. What in the world am I thinking? On bad days, what will comfort me when I can’t eat bread or shop in Target?! I guess we’ll find out. But both cleanses are much-needed, and like I’ve said before — it’s good to take advantage of January. Everyone else is watching their wallet and their waists, so I’m in good company.

On to the spending fast….

Well, you see, for the past four months I have been on a spending spree. Buying things for the house, decorations, clothes, gadgets, you name it. I spent all summer pinching pennies for our house down payment, and as soon as we bought the house I was like a kid in a candy store. If I wanted it, I found a way to buy it.

Now, before you send the Debt Police on me — yes, there is a Debt Police and his name is Dave — I haven’t gone over budget or gone into credit card debt for these expenses. But on the other hand I have been creating that budget and making more room in the discretionary expense category than probably should be.

Here’s the truth: I love buying new things. It makes me happy. I love all the things that we bought. I love walking the aisle of Target and grabbing a cute picture frame on my way to pick up groceries. I love walking into Anthropologie and dreaming of how I can incorporate all of their kitchen stuff into my house. I love trying things on in J.Crew and envisioning where I can wear it next. I love walking the large aisle of Home Depot looking for ways to improve our home.

Part of me justifies my spending these past months:
- I need new clothes for work!
- Our house is so empty!
- I still don’t spend nearly as much as some people do!
- I have spent years getting out of debt, paying for our wedding, and saving for a house… isn’t it time to enjoy our money now?!
- We are still giving away money, isn’t it okay to get ourselves a little something? 

All of those excuses are justified, and I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending money on yourself. Please don’t hear me say that. I’m just feeling a little unsettled about it all. It’s not a money thing, but my heart. And lately my heart has become greedy and ungrateful. Not so pretty.

So I’m deciding to go on a spending fast to get back to what’s important – relationships and giving and being content with the things I have now, not constantly being consumed with what I don’t have. I want to be content in any and every situation.

I follow Nancy Ray and Lara Casey’s blogs, and they recently went on a Contentment Challenge last year, taking a fast from shopping for a few months, which has inspired this whole project.

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I’m going preface the rules with words from Lara Casey (she said it best):

This is not about rules.  It’s about doing what God has been urging me to do.  If He puts it on my heart to buy something for a good reason, I will do just that. Like Jesus healing people on the Sabbath, this is not about following guidelines just for the sake of guidelines.  God is bigger than rules.  It’s about fasting from something that I feel is keeping me from a deeper relationship and understanding of God’s heart.

My Guidelines (modified from Nancy’s and Lara’s just slightly):

  • Prepare your heart and organize your closet. During the week of Christmas and New Years I went through my closet and got rid of old clothes and accessories I never wear or use. This is only one of five closets I want to tackle in the next few months. If I don’t wear it, use it, or find it beautiful, it’s getting donated. (Also part of my goal to simplify and make my home meaningful and purposeful).
  • Make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months or plan for them. I have a list of things I will allow during the challenge. These include gray or khaki pants for work (I have a $50 giftcard to Gap I’m hoping will cover this) and new tennis shoes (I still haven’t replaced mine since running the marathon — ack!). Also, I am planning to put up a gallery wall behind my TV in the next month or so, but will only use frames I have at home or shop at thrift stores instead of buying them new.
  • I am fasting from buying new clothes, household items, craft supplies, accessories and general stuff. If I want to read a new book, I will borrow it from a friend or the library. The biggest tempting place will be Target, especially with their new Cartwheel App. Yes it saves so much money (download it if you shop there often!), but I also buy more things I don’t need just because I don’t want to miss out on a good deal. Food, gifts, items for basic living and experiences are not a part of this fast for me. For example, if I am making a craft with my friends (an experience) or crocheting something for a baby shower (gift), then buying craft supplies are fine. But buying crafts just to buy them or because I’m bored is off-limits. (Michael’s is another trap for me.:)
  • Focusing on giving during this time. I’d like to give something away every day. Whether something physical, a prayer or encouragement. Just something that is given to someone else. (Carrie from the Caroline G shop has a lot of ideas on little ways to encourage others. I highly recommend following her Instagram account!)
  • I am hoping to do this until April 8th. My goal isn’t to be legalistic, but to cultivate a heart of contentment and satisfaction. I may decide to end it sooner or extend it longer, but my goal is not to buy anything frivolous until our anniversary.
  • Choose something to read during this time. I read Seven over the holidays and am in the middle of reading Radical. I plan to read Whispers of Hope, 1000 Gifts and the Bible. (If you have any other book recommendations, please let me know!)
  • Gifts are okay! I have lots of birthdays and baby showers in the next few months, so I am absolutely still buying gifts. And if someone gives me something, I will receive it graciously.
  • Necessities are okay! If I break my glasses, I will buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. Ex: “I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”
  • Actively pursue something good that helps to replace your tendency to buy stuff as a source of comfort. Let’s go ahead and nix food from that list. ;) Something that points you back to what matters most. For me it may be prayer, running, painting, gardening, taking walks, making memories, or finding an organization to get involved with.

Philippians 4:12

Immediately after setting this goal, a whole host of doubts and questions pop in my head:
- But what about all of the great sales after Christmas?
- How will I rebuild my wardrobe when I am not buying any clothes?
- What about decorating my house? There are still so many things I need to furnish and decorate this place!

Then I tried to think of the people who had some of the things I wanted – beautiful clothes or a gorgeous house or the newest, nicest gadgets – and asked myself, “Do I like them for their stuff or for them?” Absolutely, without hesitation, 100% for them, not their things. So why do I want to be the kind of person with so many things? Why are we so consumed with stuff?

A while ago J and I made a list of really big money dreams we have for our future. All were focused on becoming financially secure enough to give generously and live to the fullest. None of these things included having the perfectly decorated house or stylish clothing. They are financial goals that would put us in a stable position, but all so we can live a simple life that gives generously and loves great.

My goal for this challenge is that my spending afterwards will be more thoughtful and less impulsive, that I will choose quality over quantity, and that I can bless others through my saved time and money.

So that’s what I’ll be up to for the next few months. :) We will see how it goes! I plan to touch base every couple of weeks to give update on the challenge, what’s been difficult and what I am learning.

Do you want to join me on this journey? No pressure at all. But if so, use the #contentmentchallenge hashtag to join Nancy and others.



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