Miles for Mercy + My First Marathon

I haven’t mentioned it much around here, but I’m running my first marathon this year.

I started training in February, the race is in May, and I already have a million thoughts about the process. This weekend I ran 17 miles – my longest run yet – which meant I also had almost three hours by myself to think. That’s a lot of thoughts!

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I’m going to try to write more about the marathon training journey here each week because I don’t want to forget what all of it felt like, but I wanted to start with one of the things keeping me motivated and a way for you to join me in the journey!

Mercy House, a maternity home in Kenya, has been close to my heart since it first opened several years ago. I was a reader of Kristen’s (the founder) blog and, through her writing and photos, she took us along as girls were rescued, buildings were purchased, babies were born, and God showed up through it all. My heart is stirred each time we hear of a new girl in the house or a new baby being born. This is life and beauty out of a hard place, which makes it even more beautiful.

I’ve shared the story here before many times and now I want to take your involvement one step further! This marathon I will be running will not be just about me. I’m running for Mercy House and I need your donations!

#MilesForMercy

Here’s the deal:

I want to raise $10 for every mile of the marathon for a total of $262! I’m setting small goals along the way with my training, so let’s do the same with our fundraising goals!

I have signed up for several shorter races leading up to the Fargo Marathon on May 21. My first is a 10-mile race this weekend. I’m looking for TEN people to donate any amount before my race on Saturday morning! Will you be one of those TEN?! Just click below or head over to my fundraising page to get started!

Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise
When you donate, you are supporting the amazing work of Mercy House, but I want to help you get even more involved. As a donor, I will email you a specific prayer request for the ministry that I will also be praying for during my race. 26.2 miles means 27 different people and needs to pray for along the way!

So many others are taking on this #MilesforMercy challenge, as well. In fact, most of them have already finished their races and I’m feeling a little alone on the tail end of the challenge, so I need you with me cheering me on and making a difference for the women and children of Mercy House! Let’s do this together!

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Rhinestone Jesus + The American Dream

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I’ve been thinking about the American Dream a lot in the last year, even before I started reading Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch. In October, I did a whole series about our need to “have it all” and my rebellion against that idea. I have this uncomfortable feeling of Holy Spirit change going on inside of me that I’m not entirely sure what to do with, but I know it has do with a different kind of American Dream.

I don’t want us to make more money so we can have more stuff. I’m in the {really long} process of trying to get rid of stuff. I want to be able to GIVE more. My American Dream for our family is to be givers and have the means to give generously as led. To love others well with our time and resources. Like Bob Goff. Like the Welch family.

Even though I’ve only met Kristen once and we’re not neighbors or close friends, I feel like I’ve watched God grow and move in her family for years now. And there’s no way to see what He is doing with them and NOT be inspired to live a different kind of existence. Kristen’s blog, We Are THAT Family, has always been full of family and fun, but most importantly, it chronicles an honest faith and an incredible journey that knit their hearts with Kenya. I think I’ve mentioned Mercy House Kenya just a few times around here…

Now Kristen has released a book and it’s exactly what I’d expect from her writing, but also so much more. Rhinestone Jesus is about stepping out from safe faith. It’s about saying yes to God in the middle of our messes. It’s about knowing there is no such thing as a “just a mom” and God does big things with the little yes of a mom or dad or kid or anybody.

I’ve been trying to write this post about this book for weeks. It’s hard to put into words the MANY ways it impacted me, especially in one blog post, but here were my major takeaways:

Being an intentional mom IS a big yes to God.

The Kingdom of God is revealed in sacrifice and service in the small places, especially to our children.

Kristen tells her story about saying yes to God’s calling to do something about the poverty she saw in Kenya, but she also makes it clear that God isn’t calling all of us to do what she did. He is calling us to say yes to whatever He asks of us right now. And being an intentional, loving, Christ-following, servant’s heart mom is what He’s calling to all of us mamas, right?! Some people may read this book and say it’s about Mercy House Kenya, but to me it is about a family living in obedience to God because Mom + Dad led the way. I want to say YES to that.

The most significant thing I’ve done for Jesus is to love and serve my family. Motherhood becomes me, and God uses it daily to refine me and draw me closer to Him.

I really can do that thing God is calling me to do.

When we live for Him one yes at a time, He rewrites our story.

I appreciate immensely Kristen’s honesty in Rhinestone Jesus because it shows all the weaknesses she thought would get in the way of her fulfilling God’s call on her life. And it shows just how God filled those in with His strength. He doesn’t ask us to do big things because He wants us to fail, but because He wants us to trust Him and let Him carry us through for His glory.

Deep down I knew God was calling us to something radical. And even though radical terrified me, I was more afraid of not following God.

Family matters.

If Satan can convince us that we aren’t good enough as a family to leave a positive imprint on the world, then he wins. We cant let that happen.

I can’t get enough of the stories and posts Kristen shares about raising a family to love, honor, and respect one another, to do what Jesus asks not matter what our culture says, and to live in a generous way, leaving behind the entitlement that has overwhelmed all of us. The heart of this all is to make your family a priority, to find a mission you can all get behind, and to LIVE IT together.

I can try to create an amazing career or impact the world with a global nonprofit, but if I end up with a family who is ignored or resentful of my efforts, what have I gained? More than anything, I want to work alongside my husband and children because it’s in serving together that we are all changed.

And it all boils down to this…

Rhinestone Jesus Quote

 

Wherever you are on the dreaming scale – whether you’re chasing that God-sized dream, sitting on the couch thinking you’ll never be able to follow the dream He has for you, or you have no idea what that dream is – read Rhinestone Jesus. Be inspired to say yes in the middle of your mess to whatever He asks.

Do you have a “yes” you need to say to God right now, in the middle of your mess?

 

I received this book to review. I was not compensated in any way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

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A Heart For Africa

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I’m not one of those women who thought I would someday end up as a missionary, living amongst the people of a far-off, impoverished country, serving and loving them full time.

I always thought I would end up a mom, maybe a stay-at-home mom, and here I am.

But I didn’t always think God would get my heart all stirred up for the people of Africa the way He has over the past few years.

It started with sponsoring a Compassion child from Tanzania and blossomed from there. We’ve supported organizations like live FashionABLE, Mocha Club, The Root Collective, Johari Creations, AWANA, and more that are making a difference in the lives of people all over Africa. Every time I wear a shirt or scarf or piece of jewelry from these places, I am moved to pray for the hands that made, the hearts that are finding hope.

But my heart for Africa really took root when Kristen Welch and her family shared their idea of building a maternity home in Kenya…and it happened.

I remember reading and praying about every stage along the way as they raised money, found a location, welcomed girls and then babies, and it just gets more and more amazing all the time. He is at work at Mercy House Kenya.

Kristen and family recently introduced a new way to support the ever-growing vision for rescuing and supporting young, pregnant girls in Kenya and it was just perfect for the hands in our home!

Heart for Africa

The Love Mercy kits provide you the supplies to make some really easy bracelets that can be sold to raise money for Mercy House Kenya! For just $10 – no shipping – we received a package with supplies for 25 bracelets.

Heart for Africa Kit

Big J took on the task of cutting pre-marked slits on both sides of the printed cards…

Heart for Africa J Cutting

Little J tried his hand at threading the heart beads onto the twine…

Heart for Africa j bead

But that proved a little difficult so I took it over while he positioned the bracelets on the cards…

Heart for Africa j bracelet

We had a great assembly line going and finished our 25 bracelets in about 3o minutes!

Heart for Africa Finished

This activity tied in perfectly with school as Big J and I have been learning about Africa in geography! And we took some time to discuss the verse that drives the mission of Mercy House Kenya

Heart for Africa Micah

We have this verse on a beautiful print {also in support of Mercy House} in our living room, so the boys recognized it, but talking about WHILE helping others has quite a different impact…on all of us. I also really appreciated the included suggestions in the kit for explaining to children the ways Mercy House Kenya helps girls and babies.

I highly recommend this activity/service project for families or small groups or any group, especially parents and kids as it is easy and very meaningful!

And if you’re interested in buying one of these Love Mercy bracelets to support Mercy House Kenya, let us know! The boys would be more than happy to sell you one or more! We’ll have them available through Friday, March 28th or until they are gone!

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Mercy {Five Minute Friday}

Five Minute FridayIt’s Five Minute Friday with lovely Lisa-Jo!

Set a timer and just write. Don’t worry about making it just right or not.

For me? An exercise in letting go and letting words flow. Five minutes only. {yes, I do set a timer and it quacks like a duck at 5 minutes, which totally makes me smile}

Today’s prompt: Mercy.

*****

And go…

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The word mercy wasn’t on my radar much before Mercy House Kenya, but I think the founding of that amazing place came at just the time God wanted me to become really aware of mercy in my own life.

I still feel like I’m learning just what mercy is, but even with my vague understanding of it, I see God pointing it out to me over and over. As a mother, one of the verses I’ve come to lean on most often is…

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning. ~Lamentations 3:22-23

Very few days go by that I don’t feel like I’ve messed up or yelled too much or let someone down, but He always brings those verses to mind and, each morning, I know He has a new start for me. He doesn’t remember my transgressions from the previous day, and I am free to move forward in His mercy.

But how am I at showing mercy to those I love the most?

As my Bible study group started The Fitting Room this week, I asked each person which virtue they would like to grow in the most.

Mine: tenderhearted mercy. I want to know it more. I want to show it more.

Act justly, LOVE MERCY, walk humbly.

Stop.

*****

I wanted to let you know about an incredible opportunity to be a part of the work of Mercy House Kenya without ever leaving your home. A project is happening now as a partnership between Mercy House, {in}courage, and Pure Charity to raise $74,00 for the needs of the organization before Christmas. There are five different phases and you can read about Phase #1 right now at Pure Charity!

And don’t forget to read lots of lovely thoughts from the Five Minute Friday gang over at Lisa-Jo’s today!

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What I Wore: Mercy House Kenya

New awesome shirt. New fabulous bag. One great cause.

Love Mercy Full Love Mercy Me and Bag

My heart has been with Mercy House Kenya since Kristen and her family shared their vision a few years ago. The Mercy House is a maternity home that rescues pregnant girls who are without hope, and often without homes. There currently eight girls and their eight miracle babies living in the Rehema House. Following the Welch family’s vision come to life and seeing pregnant girls rescued one by one has brought tears to my eyes and hope to my soul more times than I can count.

The Mercy House shop is one of the ways the maternity home is supported. There are beautiful items handmade by the girls living in the home, as well as t-shirts and bags bearing the “Love Mercy” message, found in Micah 6:8.

I’m totally digging this new shirt…

Love Mercy Shirt

This Heart & Wings shirt is stinking cool. I love it so much, and I love the opportunity to people about Mercy House when I wear it! As an FYI, the ladies’ shirts run a little small – I usually wear a small in shirts and the medium is just right for me.

Being the Welch family is from Texas, I had to pull this outfit together with cowboy boots, of course!

Love Mercy Boots

Sorry, those aren’t from Mercy House. Just good ol’ Target. And so are the pants.

But this awesome Freeset bag is!

Love Mercy Bag

It has become my “writing night” bag to take with me to the coffee shop! Freeset bags are so sturdy and each one is handmade and unique!

These products and more, like jewelry and ornaments, are such wonderful ways to bless your friends and family AND support an amazing ministry at the same time! Great gift ideas for Easter, Mother’s Day, and more! Please go check out the site and store for more information and to get involved with the Mercy House!

Love Mercy Giveaway

For fun, we get to give away a t-shirt and bag set to one of you! Just enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Mercy House + Monarch + A Giveway

We are so excited to announce that Christian homeschool curriculum provider Alpha Omega Publications has teamed up with The Mercy House to provide quality education to young mothers in Kenya, Africa!

The Mercy House, founded by one of my favorites, the fabulous blogger Kristen Welch of We Are That Family, is a non-profit ministry in Kenya, Africa that desires to “provide a safe place…proper nutrition…Biblical teaching…,” life skills and so much more for pregnant young mothers in Kenya.  The house is a place to get them out of the streets, prevent them from having an abortion, and prevent their children from being subjected to extreme poverty and even worse conditions.

You can find the whole vision of The Mercy House here. I also wrote about The Mercy House back in September, and then had the chance to meet Kristen at the Relevant Conference – such an inspiration!

 

Alpha Omega Publications has donated enough of their online, homeschool curriculum, Monarch, to cover the first year of the residents’ education.  AOP has a true desire to “make a real difference for Christ in the world” and this seemed like a fantastic opportunity.

And, because AOP desires to be a help to the homeschool community here at home in the United States, AOP is also offering you the opportunity to win curriculum as well!

For the opportunity to win a 5-subject set of AOP’s Monarch curriculum head over to this sweepstakes page, fill out the entry form, like AOP on Facebook, and you’re done!

Alpha Omega Publications will be promoting The Mercy House on both their main homeschool Facebook page and Monarch Facebook page as well as on Twitter.  Also, be sure to head to the Facebook and Twitter pages of The Mercy House, and like and follow them as well to get a more inside look at what is going on with this great ministry.

 

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A Whiff of Nostalgia {Multitude Monday}

I REALLY need lotion in the winter.

Dry skin runs rampant in this cold climate, even when I do put on lotion, but even worse when I don’t.

Yesterday, I slathered on this before church…

And I was immediately transported back to the hospital.

Say what?!

When I was pregnant with Big J, our birthing class instructor suggested we bring items that comforted us – especially sounds and smells – to the hospital.

Country Apple lotion from Bath and Body Works {not a paid endorsement!} was my favorite scent, so it went in the hospital bag right away. It was also packed and used when Little J came along. It made me feel at home, at ease.

And now just a whiff of that smell – now called Winter Candy Apple – takes me back to that place and the feeling of comfort it brought me during that uncertain, but very exciting, time.

What a blessing…

What smells bring back good memories for you?

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Those comforting scents and thoughts are a blessing – one that pregnant girls in Kenya don’t often – or ever – experience. But thanks to Kristen’s family, the Mercy House Kenya is doing what they can to remedy to their bleak circumstances. It is amazing to watch this ministry build from a dream into a reality.

Today would be a great day for you to get involved!

All day today is Mercy House Benefit Day – an online silent auction with tons of great items – and every penny goes directly to the Mercy House Kenya! You can find more info about bidding, etc. in the intro post here, then browse through the items already posted and watch for new ones to be posted all day!

My heart just breaks at the thought of young rape victims giving birth in alleys…and even worse…but my heart SOARS at the thought of what the Mercy House will do for girls like this. Please consider joining this ministry!

*****

Among my other blessings this week…

121. Cozy snow days at home.

122. Home-baked goodness.

123. Grace. Over and over again.

124. Working in my son’s Sunday school classroom.

125. My son wanting to sit on my lap while I worked in his Sunday school classroom.

126. Unexpected sweet encouragement from friends.

127. A halfway deep-cleaned bedroom! (Surfaces and floors deep-cleaned, closets and drawers next!)

128. Dimples.

129. Free crochet patterns on the Internet!

130. A reminder to live in joy in everything. (James 1:2)

131. Fun chats about jeggings with her and her and her and her and her!

132. A “date” with the littlest man at Target.

133. Trader Joe’s Dried Pineapple Rings.

134. A desire to live healthier. (And hopefully the FOLLOW-THROUGH!)

135. A hubby who puts up with my crazy ideas 🙂

136. A hubby who encourages and challenges me to be the best me.

137. Craft projects that turn out even when they don’t go as planned!

138. A fabulous new bra. (I’m sorry, it had to be said. I just love it.)

139. The best blanket in the world to snuggle under.

140. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (Our Seeds Family Worship verse of the week!)



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Micah 6:8 in Action

I’ve written about how much I love this verse in the past.

But I love it even more when I see it in action.

As is the case with everything Kristen from We Are THAT Family does.

Especially her newest project. It is truly amazing, friends.

The Mercy House.

  • Annually, 26,000 women die from having an illegal, unsafe abortion in Kenya. (Center for Reproductive Rights)
  • Every 30 minutes, a woman is raped in Kenya. (Nairobi Women’s Hospital)
  • Mothers often force their daughters into trading sex for food in the slums (CNN)

information taken from The Mercy House website

These stats about pregnancies and abortions among young girls in Kenya is enough to make me crawl in a hole and cry – for a LONG time.

But that wouldn’t do any good.

Kristen and her family knew something needed to be done to affect this horrific climate and culture of rape and abortion in Kenya.

You MUST go read more about the journey and heart behind the Mercy House here and here.

And then hop over to the actual Mercy House site to keep up to date with all that is going on as they prepare this sanctuary for scared, pregnant young women and girls.

They need your support – prayers, donations, purchases from their fabulous shop – whatever you can do.

Just take action.

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

*****

And I couldn’t finish this post without adding this song – it will break and inspire you all at the same time. Shaun Groves is incredible.

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