A Better Feeling Than Nothing

IMG_2092I don’t really remember the feeling I felt when Mr. M and I sponsored our first two children back in 2009. We sponsored a Roy, a young boy from Lebanon with the most vibrant blue eyes and Emelisa, a girl from Albania whose favorite subject was French. After Miss C was born I felt that it would be a good idea to sponsor, Adriana, a child her same age to help her learn about privilege and social responsibility.  When I met a woman in 2014 who talked about her sponsored children in such intimate detail, when I knew so little about the girls we sponsored, I felt ashamed and endevored to get to applologize for my inattentiveness and strive to get to know them better. In 2015, when Emelisa referred to us as her second parents, I felt humbled. When, after 5 years of sponsorship, I received a picture of Ariana smiling, I felt joy. When Alice, who we sponsor in Burundi, told me that the entire village gathers together to hear the social worker read the letters I send her, I felt shocked and inadequate in writing letters worthy an audience.

With all the feelings I’ve felt about sponsorship, I’d been curious about how it felt to be sponsored. While visiting a small, rural medical clinic surrounded by what felt like vacant space as far as the eye could see, I asked this question of mothers, who now grown are World Vision volunteers. They told me it made them feel happy to be sponsored, that someone who didn’t even know them would care enough to help them. They felt proud to have been chosen. They told me that they felt a desire to try harder.World Vision Nicaragua-3

We met with a teacher in a rural school who shared that having been sponsored as a child help him to gain confidence and fueled him to try to help others achieve their dreams. He spoke to us wearing a broad smile on his face and a small child on his hip. His evident care for the young boy led us all to believe him to be the boy’s father, but after further discussion we learned that he was a caring teacher, looking after a young student whose parents hadn’t yet arrived to take him home.World Vision Nicaragua-162

We met a civil engineer who, along with his sister, had been sponsored by a woman from New Zealand. She wrote to tell them that she felt that the best way to help the siblings have a better future was to fund the older brother’s college education so that he could get a job that would support them both. Now, he puts his skills to work as a World Vision staff member, helping to build a brighter future for all children in Nicaragua.

We met mothers who felt grateful that someone would be willing to invest in their child’s future. One felt thankful that she were able to give her children clean water to drink, that there was a stable roof over the one room home and that there was a stable latrine behind the home. Another felt happy for the education World Vision had done around breast feeding that had led to much healthier children in the area.World Vision Nicaragua-11

After personally meeting Valeria, the little girl we sponsor in Nicaragua, I felt grief at bidding her farewell. We both had tears in our eyes and quivering lips as I told her through out translator that I felt so very proud to be her friend. I also felt so very thankful for the opportunity to have gained such an up close look at the hope and possibility that World Vision weaves through all their projects. I feel know that Nicaragua has a brighter future as a result of ordinary people making the choice to share about $1 a day with someone they may never meet, may never hug, may never speak to face-to-face. BUT, I also know that child and that child’s mother will feel the love in that simple act and it may just be the spark that ignites something really big in that child’s life. I invite you to experience the feeling of changing a life today: cause.worldvision.org/salina If there’s one thing I’ve learned – doing something to try to make a difference sure feels a lot better than doing nothing.

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The Me I Never Wanted You to See, but Always Wanted You to Know

Recently, a new acquaintance told me that she had given up Facebook because it always made it seem as though others lives are so perfect and happy. As I reflect on this statement, and what it means related to my own posts and outward appearance, I have to wonder why we aren’t more honest about how we are really doing. Certainly, I don’t advocate that we only voice our fears, frustrations and struggles, but could we allow others, our friends, to uplift and encourage us more? At the end of the day, aren’t we all in the same boat – trying desperately to stay afloat?

She intends to read these books and send these packages.  One day.

Of course there is a side of me too that I never want you to see.  She is filled to the brim with insecurity and uncertainty.  Others act as though she has her act together, but this only shows her how little they actually know about her.  If they truly knew her, they would know that she has her act together Never.  Ever.  After hours of research, she’s that super mom who pulls onto the highway without buckling her children into their top-of-the-line car seats.  She posts a darling picture of her children on the beach, but she doesn’t tell you that this is a picture of an exasperated family who’ve been dressed in these same outfits and paraded to this same spot three days in a row so she could get just the right shot.  She looks super creative when you see the pictures of her children’s birthday parties, but don’t let her fool you – she’s spent hours on Pinterest to glean these ideas and didn’t start getting ready until the night before the party so she’s too tired and cranky to enjoy her daughter’s big day.  Others take her advice, but they don’t seem to know they are taking advice from the girl who once enlisted in the Army on a whim.  In her cheerleading uniform!  They call her poised and professional, but do they know that she enjoys reading YA books?  She has it together Never.

Don’t get me wrong, she tries everyday to be the best Christ-follower, wife, mom, worker, friend, woman she can be.  She asks God to help her overcome her short-comings and she puts on her brave, confident face when she meets you.  She’ll let you see her tidy kitchen, but don’t open the door upstairs and reveal the piles of laundry.  If you stop by unannounced, you will see dishes in the sink and dirt on the floor.  Don’t let her fool you if she ever looks like her life is always happy: there are moments of complete sadness, moments of utter loneliness, times when she knows she must be the world’s biggest failure as a wife, mother, friend.  But then, she allows her creator to speak truth into her life and He whispers into her despair,

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)  

She never wanted you to see her kitchen like this
She hoped you’d never see her kitchen like this

So she makes the choice to get back up when life knocks her down and she takes one more step towards the life she was called for.  Granted, she sometimes needs to set a timer and throw herself a fabulous little pity party, but she always makes the choice to get get back up on that horse.  And no, she isn’t perfect, but she knows that’s okay because God isn’t done with her yet, so she opens her heart to Him and asks Him to continue His work in her.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6


A Note From the World’s Worst Friend

friends2I have this theory: my friends are absolutely the best friends that a girl could encounter. No, really, they truly are. Of course the second part of my theory is that I am the worst friend a girl could ask for. My friends are the kind of friends who somehow sense that you’re down and show up at your house with ice cream on your birthday, totally lifting your spirits like angels sent from heaven. The kind of friends who drop the most thoughtful (and allergy friendly) treats on my side porch. My friends are the kind who img_4205seem to, despite loads of evidence to the contrary, think that I am somehow a sane-worthwhile-put-together-person. These are women to whom I texted a picture displaying the mismatched shoes I’d accidently worn to work and they come back with a list of plausible excuses as to why it isn’t my fault that I put my right foot into a shoe that clearly did not match the shoe into which I put my left foot before striding off to work for the day. Not only that, but none of them brought up the time that I forgot to even put on shoes at all before flying from Raleigh to Seattle. Changing terminals in Detroit, in the snow, was a bit chilly in my slippers and yet not one of them brought that up. I’m telling you, I have the most amazing friends.

I sometimes imagine my thoughts as dandelion seeds, blown by the wind to the North, South, East and West. Many of those thoughts are insignificant observations and are carried away by the wind of life without a second observation. Others find fertile ground, take root and over time grow into ‘something’. Some of the harvests of my thoughts are wonderful! Other thoughts, not so much. These thoughts remind me of the time that a friend, who happened by be an avid gardener, came over for dinner and stood in puzzlement wondering why we’d taken so much care to grow a giant weed in the middle of our garden. I had no idea what that plant was and truthfully, until his assessment, I was super proud of my gardening prowess – growing a plant was nearly as tall as I and as wide as the garden from which it has sprouted! Sure, it had pretty much ensured that no other plant had survived my gardening attempts, but I was certain that this giant plant was going to yield something fantastic. It did not. And it was horrible to try to dig out what should have been removed months earlier.

If you’re anything like me, it can be so easy to spend time watering and caring for those bitter harvests and neglecting the fruitful ones. Why is that? We’re so inclined to fuss about how much we believe someone doesn’t like us, but neglect sending a quick text to someone who has made every effort to show us how much we are valued. I harbor the memory of how she made me feel so devastated when she didn’t return the friendship I tried to extend and yet forget to pen a thank you note to the friend who brought ice cream on my birthday. Is it time to call in the professionals yet?

If this friendship were a plant, it would have died long ago.

A friend recently shared that the Holy Spirit had put on her heart that if a particular relationship in her life were a plant, it would have died long ago. Except it didn’t die – it jumped right up out of it’s pot and smacked me on the forehead. I am doing nothing to water my friendships! Nothing. Zip. Zlich. I show up to supper club, book club, potlucks and socials looking for friends to water me, and yet I come without a watering can in hand. It’s a wonder I have any friends at all, the way I neglect these relationship. I give myself the excuse that it’s hard: I am so busy, I have littles, I work (a lot, I such a hot mess that I NEED my Jesus time in the morning to ensure there is even a shred of sanity left in me by 10am. Not only that, but I am the Queen of Grand Gestures. When a simple card would do, I must organize an entire themed event. And when I’m too busy or too tired or too stressed or too homesick or just plain too empty to organize an entire gala to chat with a girlfriend, I do nothing at all.

Friends, let me tell you right now that while I seem to somehow be blessed by angels who continue to show up for me when I am unworthy of such friendship, it is only because they have watered the friendship that is has survived. An unwatered friendship will shrivel up and die. So now, I must take stock of my life: It is busy. I do have littles. I do work (a lot). I am a hot mess. Everyone else is in the same boat. It is time for me to see challenges not as tall building that must be gracefully leapt in order to pour into meaningful friendships, but rather as obstacles that are worth being navigated around.

Not only are the obstacles in my life worth being navigated around, they aren’t really that big when I reset my expectations. And let’s face it friends, who wants gala anymore? I shy away from galaesque friendships with every fiber of my being – give me yoga pant friendships any day! So if yoga pant friendships are what I crave, surely it isn’t too hard to find small bits of yoga pants friendship time throughout my month. Surely I can find time to have lunch with a friend who literally works across the street from my office. I really do mean literally. We park in the same parking garage and before this week had managed a single lunch together. In almost three years. I told you people: I am a pathetic friend. But, following my logic that this friendship is both worth making an effort for and that it needs to be watered to thrive, couldn’t I invest one lunch hour a month into this friendship? Can’t I find one evening a month to get together with another dear friend after our kids are in bed? We could even fold laundry together in our yoga pants and sweatshirts and talk about how glamorous our lives used to be. I can notice that the meal we’re making is too huge to be consumed by my family and I can try to find another family to share our table for the evening. All of the sudden, I begin to see the obstacles take a back seat to the opportunities to pour into relationships.

In our selfie-obsessed culture, it may be easy to wonder, ‘what’s in it for me’? Or even to be motivated to pour into relationships seeking to be poured back into by the other person. But is this what life is really about? Doing for another so that you will reap the benefits? I love the way Karen Ehman confronts this in her book, Listen, Love, Repeat:

If our perspective each day can be “I am in it for you” instead of “What is in it for me?” we will discover the joy of serving Jesus—without expecting anything in return and done only for an audience of One. We may show this kind of love to family or friends. Or we might demonstrate it in a random encounter with a stranger. Either way, the stage is set for us to showcase God’s love to a watching world.

For me, I think the moral of this story is that those who have what look like fun, effortless friendships are those who are willing to put forth the effort of prioritizing their relationships. This is my declaration to you, friends: I treasure you and I value our friendship. I vow to try harder to water our friendship. I want you to know that you have carried me through so much and I appreciate your every action. You are important and wanted in my life. I think you are amazing and I’m so glad God brought us together.

God Doesn’t Tweet

The other day, I was helping facilitate a conference call with about a hundred people on the line. In an effort to mute our line, I hung up on the entire group. Whoops! This was the same day that one of my best friends, teasing me, relayed to another co-worker that my texts are often (almost always) garbled and nonsensical. Are you beginning to get the picture that you should keep me far, far away from technology? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets can be great tools to connect and engage with friends near and far. I personally love being able to be a part of the lives of friends who are scattered all around the world. I do, however, firmly believe that we meet God in our stillness, when we give Him the first fruits of our day, when we sit at His feet in eager willingness to listen to His voice. He instructs us to ‘Be still and know that He is God’, not run around like a crazy person trying to discern who He is at a red light.

After spending years reading here and there through the Bible, I realized that I knew very little about it’s overall content. Like, shocking little. In His grace, I believe that God has allowed me to come to know Him in a way that I didn’t think was possible for someone who wasn’t a pastor or missionary. I firmly believe that this change would have never occurred without making the time and effort to spend time at God’s feet. I know that a verse a day would have never revealed God’s character to me. We are a culture of convenience, but in trying to microwave our faith, we are destroying all the nutrients. God has so much He wants to bless us with, but we’re too busy, too tired, too stressed and too over scheduled to be blessed.  I get it – working and caring for my children and taking care of my marriage and being a good friend and trying to save the world – it’s hard! But, I don’t run this race alone, and that makes all the difference in the universe.

The bottomline is this: God is not going to send you a tweet. If you want to really feel a peace you’ve never felt before, if you want to experience joy in the midst of sorrow, if you need love or reassurance or hope: sit down and open your Bible and spend time with the Lord in prayer. Don’t know where to begin?  Ask a trusted friend to help guide you – discipleship is an important part of our faith. You’d be doing them a favor in allowing them to pour into your life. Don’t have a Christian friend who can disciple you? Below are a couple suggestions of things that have worked well for me:

  1. Read a short devotional each morning to get you centered in God’s word before you begin to pray. I especially like the First5.org devotions and use their iPhone app to access them.
  2. Begin a prayer journal and use it to speak to God – everyday. I have a habit of journaling at least one page each day. Anything shorter and I’ve found that my prayers remain very self centered. By developing the habit of journaling more to the Father, you begin to ask Him what else you should be praying about: Our country? Refugees? Your church? Your children’s school? Difficult relationship? What God wants you to be doing or not doing?
  3. Download the Bible.com app on your phone and work through a Bible reading plan. I especially like the Chronological plan as it helps you understand the events in the order they happened, whereas reading the Bible from cover-to-cover will allow you to read like kind books together.
  4. Write what God teaches you in your Bible. What section spoke to you the most? What is the context of that section? How can you apply that to your own life? My Bible is so crazy marked up in places where I’ve really spent time that it looks like a marker factory exploded. Don’t worry about ‘messing up’ your Bible – it’s meant to be more of a handbook than a shelf warmer. Not sure which translation to buy? Try a couple different translations on your phone and see which is the easiest for you to understand. I personally found that the NLT was a great Bible to help me connect with and understand scripture in a whole new way, but others like the NIV, ESV, KJV or another translation. Here is my post on the NLT My Fair NLT – The Bible I Actually Understand

Whether you’ve been studying your Bible for years, or your pages are still very crackly, I hope this post will inspire you to ask God to reveal something new to you in how to connect with Him and grow closer to Him.


It Takes a Village

World Vision Nicaragua-47.jpgEach time World Vision enters a new community, they do so with the mindset of stabilizing that community in order to break the cycle of extreme poverty holding that community from reaching their full, God-given potential. Entrance always comes with an exit strategy, but it doesn’t come with an end to problems.  Today, I would like to tell you the story of the 582 World Vision volunteers in one of the three regions in which World Vision operates in Nicaragua. I met several of these volunteers last week when I was given an up close look at World Vision’s work in Nicaragua. Their selfless dedication to improving the lives of children allows World Vision to scale their work far beyond what other organizations can do.

Imagine if you were to transform a community and help it become self-sustaining for generations. On one hand, you could do all this for the community in a year or two: build wells, schools, clinics, and stores.  You could use sponsorship dollars to pay for books, uniforms and school fees to attract children to attend school. When you step away, some of this work will remain, but much will return back to the way things were before – the way people are accustomed to and equipped to handle things.

World Vision Nicaragua-8Alternatively, you could partner with community leaders, civic groups, local & national government, other NGOs, parents and youth, taking the time to train those who will remain, long after you have gone.  You could help to build schools, train teachers and help change the culture around education. When parents and civic leaders see the value in children attending school past elementary, when students become mentors who help struggling students learn to read and write, when sponsored children grow up and become teachers: we all win.

The later approach is that taken by World Vision and has been proven to be more effective in the long run because the community is vested in the decision process, they understand the why and they are passionate about helping to create change.  When you take time to develop a community and create opportunity, educated children they will grow to become parents, teachers and civic leaders who will help the next World Vision Nicaragua-162generation achieve even more.  I met some of these people while in Nicaragua who had been sponsored children in their younger years and now are creating a brighter future for the next generation.  They spoke with pride and dignity about the experience of having someone outside their community care about them; it spurred them on to work hard and now to give back to a program they felt gave them so much. Some of the volunteers are mothers of sponsored children and see the benefit of giving their children a better tomorrow. Others, with great gusto, told us that this was their community and they were there to do the hard work to make it better than ever.
Development work is hard work, costly World Vision Nicaragua-6work, slow work, but it pays dividends in transformed communities. By using a network of highly trained volunteers and teaming with other organizations, World Vision can scale their work far beyond what any NGO could do alone.  Volunteers, who have several years training and experience, meet with families and help monitor children for signs of preventable disease & malnutrition, to ensure they are in school and that they have access to needed social services.  When volunteers identify a gap, they work with World Vision to solve for the root cause of the problem. Examples range from providing bikes to children who are not in school because it is too far to walk, or engaging with the Ministry of Health to provide services if a child is ill.  When you sponsor a child, you join hands with thousands of others around the world to create a network of transformation, a network of greatness in the lives of those touched by this work.  Today, I reach my hand out to you and invite you to join this network for good. Will you be bold enough to reach back? cause.worldvision.org/salina And better yet, in addition to supporting this great work, will we allow these people to teach us about the power in working together to create positive outcomes in our own home communities?

Why the American Should Cross the Road

This last week, I had the extreme pleasure of accompanying a group of seven other World Vision volunteers to Nicaragua to get a better look at how World Vision conducts their development work.  What an experience! Today, I would like to tell you the story of one family we met along the way.

World Vision Nicaragua-61We had driven quite a ways down a bumpy, dusty dirt road surrounded by unfamiliar vegetation and homes that could easily fit onto my screened porch. Chickens, a scrawny dog and a pig greeted our arrival when the van finally stopped at our destination.  The grandparents, their seven sons and the son’s families, occupied smalls homes set in a row on the dusty property.  Between the seven sons were thirteen children and more, obviously on the way.

World Vision Nicaragua-91The family occupation is basket weaving, which consists of purchasing long sticks of bamboo from a local grower.  The sticks are transported back to the family’s home where they use a machete to separate the bamboo into the three layers needed to weave baskets. This step takes half of the day, but once it’s complete the weaving process, which takes about 20 minutes per basket, can begin. The finished product is loaded onto the same horse-drawn cart that delivered the bamboo sticks and finished baskets are carted to the market in Granada, a 45 minute drive by car.  The raw bamboo costs the family just over $7, from which they craft 7 baskets that they hope to sell, yielding $50 for their day’s labor. I don’t know about your family, but my family of four can easily spend $50 at lunch; this $50 must cover the expenses for the family of 29 people.

World Vision Nicaragua-85The children absolutely stole my heart. There was one boy in particular who was especially outgoing and soon held my attention in a great peek-a-boo game.  Within minutes, this game had turned into playing soccer and then tag.  Most of the children were barefoot and dust covered.  They thought our sunglasses strange and even more so, the Bandaid I applied the toe of my new friend, who received a cut chasing me across the separated bamboo.

World Vision Nicaragua-73For my part, the sight of the children taking a rest from our game to dip their cups into the large drums of clean water behind the house, the outdoor latrine and the chickens following the children into their homes were all foreign sights. When I’d guessed one of the older girls to be 7, I’d adjusting my expectations to account for the smaller statue of the Nicaraguan people. She was 10.

I asked one of our World Vision hosts if this was a typical living situation for sponsored children in Nicaragua and emphatically nodding, he stated that yes, living conditions in the area where we had visited were very good – as we had seen.  In the north, where the development work was in a much earlier phase and food scarcity was a bigger issue, living conditions would not be as good.World Vision Nicaragua-22 World Vision has helped establish community wells so that families can fill their water drums and cart those drums back to their homes without having to travel more than 1-2 kilometers. They have helped build and support schools so that all children, even those in rural areas, can have access to education.  When these children became malnourished, they worked with the mothers to help train them in nutrition and helped them get necessary staples. It was evident that sponsorship dollars were going far in Nicaragua – far in brining basic necessities, safety, security and opportunity. I appreciated the contentment the people we met with felt over having access to these necessities and felt a pang in envisioning my own life of abundance.

So, why should the American cross the road? To help someone to the other side. To help someone have access to BASIC necessities: water, enough food to keep from malnutrition, access to education, etc.  Sponsorship through World Vision is a partnership: we as sponsors work in partnership with governments, other NGOs, the teachers, parents, volunteers and World Vision staff to bring a better tomorrow to places that will never feel the burden of the abundance so many of us live in today. If you’re ready to join this network of good, click here: cause.worldvision.org/Salina

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A Roof Made of Tacky Christmas Cards


This year, our family went the ‘tacky’ route and emailed our Christmas card.  I created a card in PhotoShop rather than purchasing it, exported it as a PDF rather than having it printed and emailed it rather than paying for postage, which resulted in a savings of several hundred dollars.  So what made us decide to buck tradition this year?  I wanted to see if we could use that money to bring the Christmas spirit to even more people this year, so we sent our Christmas card money around the world as gifts to the girls we sponsor through World Vision.  I was so excited to receive a thank you note from Burundi, Africa with a picture of three year old Alice, wearing a new dress and holding the pieces of steel that will be used to replace her thatched roof.  I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the new sound her roof makes when it rains in her village!

So, friends, thank you for accepting our tacky Christmas card this year, which in turn allowed us to shine Christ’s love all the way to Albania, Burundi, Peru and Guatemala.

In Our Backyard: Sex Trafficking in the Midwest

Sex trafficking is NOT a far off problem in a far off land. It is here, in the US, and these are HUMANS who are being trafficked, folks.

SIUE Women's Studies Program

Today’s post comes from Criminal Justice professor Erin Heil. She began studying domestic human trafficking in 2008 and has since published numerous articles on the subject, as well as the book, Sex Slaves and Serfs: The Dynamics of Human Trafficking in a Small Florida Town.  She shares this post with us in anticipation of the upcoming panel, “Sex Trafficking and Exploitation,” co-sponsored by the SIUE Women’s Studies and Peace Studies Programs on Oct. 21 at 12:30 in the Morris University Center.  At this event Prof. Heil will be joined by Congressman John Shimkus, FBI Intelligence Analyst Derek Velazco, Rescue and Restore Coordinator Kristen Eng, and Covering House representatives Deidre Lhamon and Lindsay Ellis.  The event is free and open to the community.

“I was taken from my doorstep…I was sold for sex with men in exchange for money and drugs. I was forced to work out of motels, brothels, prostitution houses…

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Give Twice As Nice: 25 Gifts that Give Back

You’ve heard the adage: it’s better to give than to receive.  Wouldn’t it be great to make your giving twice as nice this year by choosing gifts that give back too?  I’ve often used my busy schedule as an excuse for not shopping with more of a social conscience.  If you find yourself in this same boat, you’ll enjoy the list I’ve rounded up of 25 gift ideas that also help make the world a better place!

  1. Spread Love for a Child: Millions of children around the world need help to break the never-ending cycle of poverty. Hunger weakens them. Unsafe drinking water makes them sick. Missing out on an education keeps them from reaching their potential.  As a sponsor, you will help provide a child with sustainable access to appropriate life-changing basics like nutritious food, clean water, healthcare, and education. Child sponsorship also helps families and communities lift themselves out of poverty by providing job training, business coaching, small loans, along with training to help poverty-affected farmers learn new ways to irrigate and grow crops.
  2. Hearts4Hearts-RahelGive a Doll with a Heart: Hearts For Hearts Girls® doll is inspired by real girls from real places around the world. Each doll has her own story to tell, with ideas about how to make life better for her family, community, country, and the world around her. When you buy a doll, a dollar of the purchase price is donated to World Vision to support children in that doll’s region.
  3. Adorn Your Walls with Prints from Sevenly: Each purchase of Sevenly merchandise, whether a campaign-specific shirt or print, results in a $7 donation to the featured charity of the week.  With nearly $4 million raised and counting, Sevenly strives to inspire a generation of generosity.
  4. Chomp_Personalized__15750.1411078231.215.215Cuddle up With Gifts for Kids from Everything Happy: You must see these darling, snuggly blankets, pillows and stuffed toys, as well as clothing.  Everything Happy is determined to bring smiles to every child – both locally and worldwide. For every Happy product purchased, another one is given to a child in need.  From orphanages to hospitals, to poverty-stricken communities, Everything Happy has touched the lives of thousands of children.BRONZEARROWBRACELET-10001499-6-218x153
  5. Accessorize at TOMS Marketplace: Since 2006, TOMS has been making a difference in the lives of the needy around the globe.  For every product sold, TOMS donates shoes, eye ware or clean water to help those in need.
  6. Give a Gift – Empower Women: Experience the world’s largest online selection of fair trade artisan products produced by women.  Shop all your favorite fashion, jewelry, and home decor treasures knowing that each purchase benefits a woman and her family.
  7. Goat_Plush_D4041423Give a Goat, Get a Goat: Goats nourish hungry children and families with healthy milk, cheese, and yogurt. Goats also give a much-needed income boost by providing offspring and extra dairy products to sell.  In addition to providing a goat, you’ll also receive Gertie the Plush Goat as a reminder of how you’ve helped change lives!cherry_bowery_grande
  8. Enjoy Your Favorite Tunes with Headphones or Earbuds from LSTN: For every purchase of reclaimed wood headphones are earbuds, LSTN gives to Starkey Hearing Foundation, to help restore hearing to a person in need.
  9. Wash your Hands of Inequality: Through sales of their hand soaps and sanitizers, Eve Echo makes low interest loans to women in challenged economies to start or expand businesses.  Eve Echo is on a mission to end gender inequalities and free women from oppression all over the world.
  10. Wear Love Beautifully: Connected in Hope works to empower women and families in Ethiopia to rise above poverty through sustainable income development, improved educational opportunities and increased access to basic health care.
  11. Raise a Glass to Ending Aids: 50% of the gross profits from the purchase of every Belvedere (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition Bottle will go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS.
  12. 253x253-45031Wear Fashion with a Conscience: Tea Features a beautiful collection of globally inspired, ethically sourced clothing and accessories from a company committed to advancing the dignity of children and youth around the world. Since 1997, the GFC has invested nearly $31 million in more than 575 grassroots organizations in 78 countries, helping transform the lives of 9 million of the world’s most vulnerable children.
  13. Hydrate and Save Lives: For every water bottle purchased, MiiR donates clean, safe water to one person.  The unfortunate reality of 2014 is that lack of access to clean water claims the lives of thousands every day.
  14. Adorn Yourself for Charity: You’ve seen Joan Hornig jewelry on the red carpet, but did you know that 100% of all proceeds are donated to the charity of your choice?
  15. Quinn-Plum_Flat-300x300Keep Warm with Krochet Kids: Give a gorgeous hat, scarf or sweater made by workers in Peru or Uganda who are being employed, educated, and mentored by the company’s programs.  Today, over 150 people in Uganda and Peru are working, receiving education, and being mentored toward a brighter future in creating gifts through a sustainable cycle of employment and empowerment.
  16. Break the Ongoing Orphan Crisis Cycle: Apparel, Jewelry and Accessories from 147 Million Orphans provide food, water, medicine and shelter to orphans in the name of Jesus Christ. The name of our company invokes discussion and brings awareness to the worldwide orphan crisis. Provision begins with the vulnerable child , but we also work to preserve families through sustainable income projects and community reconstruction.
  17. javanese-jewel-dishtowelsFurnish your home the Fair Trade Way: Did you know – If every American made just ONE Fair Trade purchase a year, it would lift ONE Million families out of poverty?  Seven Hopes United specializes in marketing stylish, handmade, fair trade and eco-friendly gifts from around the globe. Your purchase of fair trade products ensures that artisans are paid a living wage for their work, working conditions are safe, and no children are exploited. Seven Hopes strives to source products that use recycled and natural materials through a traditional handmade process.
  18. Show Your Genuine Care: Beautiful, genuine pearl jewelery offered by Pearls with Purpose, an organization passionate about adorning people with stylish but affordable pearl rings, bracelets, and necklaces while supporting micro-enterprise and job training for women in developing countries.
  19.  Grey-Three-QuarterSave Invisible Children with Style: All donations and purchases fund Invisible Children’s mission of civilian protection and rehabilitation of children abducted by the LRA. Protection and recovery programs focus on the futures of war-affected youth while  worldwide advocacy aims to establish long-term peace and prosperity.
  20. Stay Organized and Save Lives: Moleskin has teamed up with Project(RED) to offer you an exclusive notebook that in turn offers three days of life saving medicine to someone fighting Aids.
  21. Play Responsibly: Endeavor take the guesswork out of shopping for toys and games by only offering items that have been manufactured in countries that value human rights and civil liberties, are made with environmentally sustainable materials, are educational and are FUN!
  22. il_570xN.608756812_drwsShow Your Unique Style to Benefit Others: Many Etsy stores offer items to raise money for various charities.  You can find unique, handcrafted items at affordable price points while still making a difference in the lives of others.
  23. 6904060_1Ensure Our Cheer Doesn’t Harm Others: Millions are working under conditions of forced labor.  This holiday season, let’s stop exploiting human beings and make sure we decorate our homes with beautiful Fair Trade items created by people who have received a fair wage for their labor.
  24. Start with a Smile: Have you set your Amazon account to donate a portion of the proceeds from your spending to a charity of your choice?  Through Amazon Smile, I have mine set to reward World Vision for every purchase that shows up on my front door!
  25. Donate to Give, Donate to Receive: There are hundreds of great charities out there.  Instead of sending out your wish list this year, why not ask your loved ones to donate to your favorite charity in your name.  Or perhaps adopting a whale, or a sponsoring a child in your niece or nephews’ name would bring them more joy than the toy that will be broken by January . . .

As you can see, this list is very comprehensive and covers ideas for everyone on your list, but if you don’t see what you’re looking for on this list, don’t let that stop you from making a socially responsible choice.