10 Days for M’Dai: Restoring the Joy of Motherhood

Big J will be eight next month and I still remember the day he was born like it was yesterday.

Big J birth_opt

I had gone in the day before for my regular OB appointment where they determined my blood pressure was higher than they would like. A phone call was made to the hospital to let them know we would e coming over for an induction. This was the day before he was due anyway, so we felt as prepared as first-time parents could be and gathered up our hospital bags to go meet our firstborn son.

I was placed on one form of drug to induce in the early evening and another later in the night while also being hooked up to monitoring devices. Other than feeling somewhat crampy and nauseous most of the night, no contractions ever really kicked in, and by the time the doctor came to check on us for the second time the next day, it was decided he would break my water to get things moving.

Now, we had planned on as natural a birth as possible, but I wasn’t prepared for going from no contractions to strong, piggy bank contractions and within in an hour I was begging for an epidural. Well, Big J wasn’t going to allow for that to happen because, as I shifted position in the hospital bed in an attempt to get more comfortable, his heart rate suddenly dropped. We tried to move me back to where I had been to help him out, but within a few minutes I was being raced down the hallway to the operating room for an emergency c-section. Big J was out of me and in the care of great doctors with his daddy’s watchful eye in no time at all. And, although he was a little blue when he first came out, he was otherwise perfectly healthy. We all sighed with relief and went about our lives as new parents.

I shudder to think of what could have been with Big J had we not been under the care of such skilled doctors and nurses. While any number of factors could have resulted in his low heart rate, had I not been hooked up to a monitor we may not have know he was in distress. Had we not been at a hospital with a doctor who could perform an emergency c-section at a moment’s notice…I don’t even want to think about it.

But I AM thinking about, this week in particular, as I’m learning the stories of mothers around the world losing babies or even their own lives during childbirth because they lack adequate obstetric care and the basic knowledge and needs that should accompany motherhood.

In Cambodia, 1.7 million people lost their lives at the hands of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. While this may seem like a long time ago, the effects of this genocide are still staggering. The closest to my heart are the mothers. They are women who grew up with no older women to teach them the ways of a healthy pregnancy. They are women who had no health professionals to monitor their bodies and babies because the Khmer Rouge killed all the doctors and educated people they could find. No role models existed to teach them about nutrition and personal hygiene.

The cycle has continued since then, and this cycle has resulted in a fear of childbirth and motherhood among the women of Cambodia, especially in the remote villages where no aid has been provided, no relief offered, no cycle broken. A pregnant woman in the Kratie province of Cambodia is 10 times more likely to die in childbirth than in the United States. Babies in their first month of life have the highest mortality rate in the country. One out of every 12 children doesn’t even make it to the fifth birthday.

The likelihood Big J would have survived birth in these conditions is very small. Like I said, I can’t even think about that.

But we need to think about it and we can think about this because there is hope, provided in the form of help from Samaritan’s Purse and 10 Days for M’Dai.

1406CB Maternal Child Health Cambodia

M’dai is mother is the Khmer language

Samaritan’s Purse started a Maternal and Child Health program in Cambodia’s remote Kratie province in 2013. The goal is to reduce the mortality of mothers and their young children by improving obstetric care, teaching essential nutrition practices, and increasing access to quality healthcare.

1406CB Maternal Child Health Cambodia

In the first year of the program, 5,745 people in 20 villages were reached, 255 health volunteers were trained, and 40 local pastors were equipped to reach out to their communities.

1406CB Maternal Child Health Cambodia

Women are being taught the importance of holding their babies. Nutrition classes and cooking demonstrations are training women to properly nourish themselves and their families. Churches are coming alongside these women to offer support and the hope of our Savior.

For these 10 Days for M’Dai – March 16-25 – you can be a part of restoring the joy of motherhood to the women of the Kratie province of Cambodia by praying and giving in the following ways:

  • $12 provides a healthy cooking demonstration for a village.
  • $64 equips a local church leader to reach out to a community with practical help and spiritual counseling.
  • $76 trains and equips a volunteer to perform maternal and child health promotional activities.

Moms, we know the challenges of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children…and we do it all in safe, healthy conditions. Let’s take the fear out of motherhood for the women of Kratie and join hands to restore the joy.

He gently leads those that have young. ~Isaiah 40:11

 

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A Heart For Africa

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

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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Growing Vegetables + Children

This is where I usually tell you that today is another Five Minute Friday, where Lisa-Jo gives us a prompt and invites us to write for FIVE MINUTES ONLY, no editing, no rethinking, no shame.

But this isn’t just any Five-Minute Friday. Yes, it IS Friday. Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, but the kind of love we’re sharing here today goes beyond a one day holiday. You’ll see…

Today’s prompt: Garden.

*****

And go…

The gardening analogies were lost on me until we bought a house with landscaping that needed to be kept up. I had always said I had a black thumb but that wasn’t really the issue – the issue was my own lack of persistence, patience, diligence.

Garden Kids

There is no garden quite like motherhood, where I am toiling to produce the fruit of Christ in my children and He is working to produce the fruit of the Spirit in me. There is daily planting, daily digging, daily weed-pulling, and if I don’t remember His call to not grow weary in doing good, it might all just be too much.

My mama soul has been turned over and over again just like the dirt. Every part of me feels the joy and pain, the lift and weight of the toil of parenting, and I live in a place where everything I could ever need is in reach for me without physical labor.

God is working on my heart, pulling up the weeds of selfishness, bringing forth new growth of love and service, showing me beauty and joy in swept floors and folded laundry.

Garden LisaJo

The work of beautiful women around the world, literally planting and harvesting to nourish their families, body and soul, is finding root in my heart, giving me a vision for true service to my family.

Garden Women

They grow vegetables AND children, even children who aren’t their own, loving them as if they were. And while I haven’t latched on to the whole vegetable garden in my own backyard, I am a mother who is growing children and, as Lisa-Jo says, “There is nothing ordinary about being a mom.”

Stop.

*****

Today a bunch of not-so-ordinary moms are linking arms and running forward in love to show the world LOVE is a VERB. It goes out and does crazy stuff like build a center for a community in South Africa in need of a safe place for sustainable food, child care, economic empowerment, job skills trainings, a gathering place for church, classrooms for HIV/Aids education, and a playground for their kids. THAT is love and we can show it today.

It all starts today with a garden. A vegetable garden. And that’s just Phase One.

You can donate through the project on Pure Charity. And you can also purchase a gorgeous necklace through one of my favorites, KraftyKash, from her “Fall in Love With the World Next Door” line and $12 from each sale will help fund the Maubane Community Center in South Africa.

I’m just giddy and teary and overwhelmed by so many coming together to love on these kids, this community. Love IS a verb. Let’s do this.

 

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VITALITY in Ministry

I’m using the word “ministry” very loosely here, but it was the only word I could think to describe my writing/speaking/online world!

This is not a life I ever envisioned for myself, but slowly, surely, I’m embracing the small voice that says, “This is what I made you to do. Right here. Right now.”

My education and experience are as an elementary music teacher, a job I adored completely. But when one little boy, then another joined our family, the call on my life was to come home. And I started a little old blog to keep our family and friends up-to-date.

I had no clue I would fall in love with writing, and very reluctantly, today call myself a writer. Sure, I wrote “chapter books” with my girlfriends all night at sleepovers in fifth grade. And yes, I wrote for my high school newspaper. But still… I was unaware I would enjoy so much encouraging women through writing and speaking. I didn’t know God would use writing as a processing and learning and growing tool for MYSELF.

This is the first full year I’m really embracing these roles of writer and speaker He has placed in my life. And to be a good steward of these roles, I’ve set a few goals for this year step out of timidity and into vitality…

Vitality in Ministry

write unashamed

There are so many posts I haven’t published – or never even wrote – because I wasn’t sure they would be “good enough.” That ends this year. The words God speaks are always good enough and even if they are just for me, they need to be written.

spread joy and encouragement

I was never an actual cheerleader, but I was always one of the most enthusiastic fans in the stands. Yes, I was even awarded “Fan of the Game” once, complete with a crown, sash, and a couch to sit on during the game. I want to be that person again for you. I want to be your biggest fan and encourager. I want this rediscovered joy and vitality to be evident in every word I write and speak, even when sharing about the tough stuff. That picture above? That’s what I’m talking about :)

serve + love others well

I have been so inspired by the women at {in}courage and The Influence Network to use my words and this blog and the social media world to love others well. You don’t have to live next door to someone to serve them or love them. Words have a lot of power and I’ll be asking a lot more this year how I can bless you and others through this space. And you can always email me at homewiththeboys at gmail dot com if you have questions or prayer requests – I won’t always respond right away because three children and homeschool and ALL THE THINGS, but I will always read your words and pray for you!

glorify Him

Not everything I write is about God, but I want every part of me to glorify Him, including writing and speaking. I’m letting go of the burden that comes with keeping track of pageviews and retweets and asking God that with each post or speaking engagement, His name is glorified. My prayer is that those who need to hear that message or read that post are the ones reached, whether it is one person or one thousand. All for Him. Not for me. There is so much life to be found in doing all things through Him and for Him!

Wow. It felt really good to write all of that out. And in this first month of 2014, it’s felt really good to writing with these things in mind. I look forward to a year full of rich, joyful experiences on this unexpected path from God!

What unexpected places has God taken you in ministry? What does vitality look like for you there?

 

Read more about my goals for vitality…

The VITALITY Series

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Divine Service

My focus has been off lately. My heart has not been in the right place.

Each time I sit down to have some time with the Lord, I feel it heavy in my heart. But each time I also hear specifically from Him about how to turn it all around.

And He did so again last night, after a morning of power struggles with a child and an afternoon of trying to clean up the full cup of coffee that spilled all over the presents and tree skirt and carpet…

For three days in a row, I had written in my journal something on the matter of focus.

Focus matters.

Where is your focus, Erin?

The focus of my heart is not on Him…

The day-to-day, the little disasters and pitfalls, the crazy of this season had narrowed my focus on to only me. And, if there is one thing I’ve learned, when I focus on ME ME ME, I am NEVER happy. Or at least, not for long.

This especially goes for my views on motherhood and homemaking. With my heart in the wrong place, the children and chores are annoyances and interruptions to my day. And as I threw a pity party over these very things yesterday, God interrupted ME with these words from Charles Spurgeon…

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We’ve always had the verse before this in Colossians posted in our homeschool room:

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. ~Colossians 3:23

I have not been modeling this well for our children, working more for what I want or to please other people, not wholeheartedly giving myself to the work God has give me to do.

And it feels horrible. And stressful. And not at all what He intended for me.

The Morning + Evening devotion I was reading concluded with this…

“Divine service” is not a thing of a few hours and a few places—but all of life becomes holiness unto the Lord; and every place and thing, becomes as consecrated as the tabernacle and its golden candlestick!

I found so much hope, so much beauty in these words. The laundry room is just as holy as the church sanctuary when I consider the work I am doing as unto the Lord. Changing diapers and washing dishes are acts of divine service, not to be met with disdain, but embraced with joy.

Each and every hour of my day is holy when approached as divine service. Each and every place I set my foot in the perspective of divine service in motherhood and homemaking and marriage and writing is holy. And to do each of these things to glorify and serve God is joy.

My heart wants more focus, but not just any kind. Jesus, joy, and divine service are the path He has set me on and I will keep my focus there.

Where is your focus right now? What divine service has He called you to?

 

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Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Party!

Did you know it’s Operation Christmas Child collection week?! And it’s not too late for you to pack and ship a box! In fact, we just had our very own Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing party today and it was a blast!

Each family brought their own boxes, the things they had bought to pack them, and a snack to share. I put on some Christmas music and provided some fun crafts for the kids to do and add to their boxes! The older kids also filled out sheets about themselves to put in the boxes.

When we were done packing, the kids watched the newest Veggie Tales Christmas movie, Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas. I had my computer on the Operation Christmas Child site so each mom could pay for the shipping for the boxes and sign up to track them! The boys and I will be taking the boxes to a collection site tomorrow!

16 kids, 7 moms, and a whole lot of shoebox packing fun!

OCC Party1 OCC Party2 OCC Party3 OCC Party4 OCC Party5 OCC Party6 OCC Party7 OCC Party8 OCC Party9 OCC Party10 OCC Party11 OCC Party12 OCC Party13 OCC Party14 OCC Party15 OCC Party16 OCC Party17 OCC Party18 OCC Party19 OCC Party20

You can still pack boxes and take them to a local collection site! Find the one nearest to you here. And if you don’t have time to shop, you can also pack a box online!

Did you pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child this year?

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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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I Can’t Make My Kids Care

I want to teach my kids to be compassionate.

I’ve said it before but I’m not sure I totally agree with this statement anymore, since what I used to mean when I said that was…

I want to make my kids be compassionate.

You see, I’ve come to realize that I can’t MAKE my kids care about something.

Just like I can’t MAKE them like broccoli or MAKE them love that old movie I adore.

I Can't Make My Kids Care

{No, I did not MAKE them hug for this picture! Pure moment of brotherly love for the win!}

This realization was REALLY frustrating to me at first:

I’m the parent, right?! I can’t MAKE them feel love or mercy or compassion for someone else?!

After a few times trying to force them to get on board with charity projects I wanted to do, I have learned to take a different approach to this whole “teach them compassion” thing.

What I CAN do is two-fold:

  • Show them that I care.
  • Give them the tools to jump into action when they DO care!

This has taken a LOT of pressure off of me and actually created more opportunities for the boys to grow in compassion!

So, what does this look like?

Show them that I care.

There is great power in a parent’s example. I remember trying over and over to “teach” Double J {our youngest} to clap and he wanted nothing to do with being forced to do it. Fast forward a few weeks and he notice one of us clapping at something and joined in! He didn’t want to be made to do anything, but he did want to mimic what Daddy and Mommy were doing!

When we decided to sponsor a child through Compassion, I actually didn’t involve the boys in the process of picking a child. At the time, they were still young and the details were not important to them. So I picked a child I felt drawn to – his precious face and March 17th birthday the same year as Big J told me he was ours right away

When Samson’s picture arrived, I told the boys about him and where he lived and tried to get them excited about writing to him. They didn’t “get” it yet. They drew something because I told them to, but I knew their hearts weren’t really in it.

At that point I decided I would keep his picture where we all could see it, pray for him when I prayed for the boys, write letters, and read his letters out loud when they came, but wait for them to gain interest in their own time.

And the boys did start to be interested in him. Big J would be working on his Scripture handwriting sheets and decide he wanted to send it Samson. Little J was making Christmas cards for grandparents and asked if he could make one for Samson, too. Their care and love for Samson didn’t come through forced activities. It developed over time as they saw The Hubby and I caring for him through our prayers and words.

As parents, our example of compassion, mercy, and love for those in need goes much further than anything we could MAKE our children do. It may take longer than you like, but genuine compassion is much better than forced compassion!

Give them the tools to jump into action when they DO care!

Eventually, there will be a cause or person in need that catches your child’s attention. For Big J, it was the children who didn’t have beds or safe places to sleep. When he brought it up, I was ready with the question:

“Would you like to try to help them?”

When he answered yes, I got on board with him and we found a way to do something for those kids!

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Keep your ears open for the things your children say that show they are wanting to help someone and be a ready to help them out!

Nickels for Nets flier

If they want to raise money for an organization, help rally friends and family to collect money like we did with Nickels for Nets, but let them do most of the asking, counting, etc. so they hold on to ownership of the project! I made the flier above on the computer, but Big J handed them out and told people what he was raising money for, as well as counting the money himself!

U-NEEKS - Thinking of You - Dweeber- 3 Premium Cards for Kids

If they notice a friend who needs some encouragement, have some cards ready they can use to write their friend a note! Dayspring has these totally awesome U-NEEK cards just for kids that include messages of encouragement, friendship, prayer, love, and more.

Be willing to search for charities or programs that help the people your child is interested in helping!

Let your children know you are willing to commit family resources – such as time and money – to support something about which they feel passionately!

Side note: I do think it is okay to require all family members to participate {with a good attitude} in a cause that one family member feels is important because it fosters the “team” atmosphere of the family, but it is also important to not get frustrated if the other family members don’t get all excited over that one person’s cause!

Taking the “model and equip” approach has produced greater results in the compassion and service area of our children’s hearts than anything we could have ever MADE them do!

What is your experience with kids and compassion? What causes have your children shown interest in? Which of these steps would you like to work on in your home this year?

 

*This post contains affiliate links.

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Links I Love & a Nickels for Nets Update!

 

We’re over halfway through the month, so I thought I would give you an update on how we are doing with our monthly mission raising Nickels for Nets!

I am so proud of Big J and how he has been committed to asking people for nickels and telling them about the mission of Sweet Sleep – at taekwondo, the library, church, and everywhere we go!

As of Friday, we had collected $21.20 and our neighboring city friends had gathered at least $30.50 for a total of $51.70! That means SIX NETS have been sponsored so far! Woohoo!!! Let’s keep it rolling for another 12 days! How is your collecting going?

Nickels for Nets Box

Now, for a few things I’ve loved around the Internet this week…

*Simple Mom’s posts on writing a bookThe Big Picture and The Nitty Gritty – bookmarking these for someday…

*4 Steps to Casting a Godly Vision for Your Son – Ooh, this is a good one from Heather, relevant for sons AND daughters. It’s had me thinking a LOT.

*Amanda’s Armor of God series is Totally. Awesome. I’m storing up these ideas to use with the boys after Lent and Easter!

Happy weekend everyone!

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Monthly Mission: Nickels for Nets!

He hears everything, so I wasn’t surprised when he asked about the children without clean, safe places to sleep they were talking about on the radio.

Kids without beds? Being bit by bugs while you sleep?

He was genuinely bothered by what he had just heard. He remembered a time they talked about something similar at church.

I asked him if he wanted to find a way to help. He said yes.

I was thrilled because this went along with one of the family ties I have been working on for my 31 days series: serve together.

Not long after this conversation, I traveled to another part of country for a moms’ conference and learned of a company called Sweet Sleep. It was just what we had been looking for – an organization committed to providing clean, healthy places for children to rest their heads.

And now, because of a brilliant challenge dreamed up by my dear friend Amanda, I get to share more about Sweet Sleep with you today!

monthly-missions-skinny-header

Monthly Missions are all about teaching our kiddos to do the “hard things.” Serving, giving, making a difference for those who are in need. You can read more about the whole shebang over in the introduction at Amanda’s awesome-sauce blog!

Nickels for Nets

The Monthly Mission for February is Nickels for Nets, an initiative from Sweet Sleep to help stop the spread of malaria.

Did you know 1 in 5 childhood deaths are due to malaria, with 90% of those deaths happening in Africa? I had NO clue it was that rampant and it BREAKS. MY. HEART.

Mosquito nets can save lives by preventing mosquito bites in the first place. Each net costs just $8.00, or 160 nickels!

Big J decided he wants to collect enough nickels to sponsor five nets. Five nets = $40 = 800 nickels!

**Update: A sweet real-life friend has offered to help collect nickels towards our goal in another city so we are changing our blog goal to TEN NETS sponsored! WOOHOO! So excited! Thanks R & E! Doing a little happy dance!

Here’s what we’re doing:

We are reading more about malaria and mosquito nets so the boys understand how we are helping these kids. It’s all part of the “do hard things” aspect – I want them to really know what they are a part of when they step out.

Nickels for Nets flier

We made up some fliers to hand out to people at places we frequent – church, the gym, the library, etc. – so they know he is collecting all month. I included contact information and our blog address in case they wanted to donate later or check on our progress!

Big J is taking his Nickels for Nets box everywhere he goes! You can use anything to collect the money – we just happened to have the box already! I am already seeing a boldness in him as he tells people about malaria and the program. My heart swells to see him taking on this challenge with such enthusiasm!

When the month is over, we will count all of our money and make our donation through the Sweet Sleep website!

I put a little thermometer over there in the sidebar so you can see how we’re doing with the goal! I’ll be sharing updates throughout the month on Instagram, and to wrap it all up, we’ll link up a final post over at Amanda’s site!

And that’s it! Want to join us?!

All you really need to do is help your kids understand the problem of malaria and be a part of the solution by collecting nickels to buy nets! HOW you go about doing all of this is up to you! Make it fun and make it fit your family!

So who’s in?! Who will accept the Nickels for Nets mission with us?! Can’t wait to follow everyone’s progress throughout the month!

join-the-monthly-mission

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