October 2, 2015

Feed MORE Tummies. {let's do this}.

Because of the generosity of each supporter of Feed Their Tummies, these beautiful and precious children have food. Life's most basic necessity. The money Mwangaza International had budgeted for this vital resource can be reallocated toward other life-giving work: education, healthcare, Bible teachings, counseling, orphan prevention, family reunification (particularly for the girls rescued out of trafficking), community empowerment.

I have personally been blessed beyond measure watching as friends, family and complete strangers have joined us in this work. The outpouring of love for these children around the globe has been remarkable.

I've said it before: I know how the needs of this world can be overwhelming, paralyzing us into thinking that we can't make a difference or feeling like our small contribution toward change is insignificant. Let me be clear: that is a flat-out LIE. 

Our something may feel small. 
Our something may feel insignificant. 
But, God.  God is big.
He will use what we offer up to Him.

Humbly, I come to you today asking you to consider joining us in this work.

When Dave visited a couple of weeks ago, he learned that orphanages all over the capital city of Kinshasa have been shutting down due to the halt of international adoption.

Children move to the streets when an orphanage closes its doors.

There is no backup plan.

Government assistance does not exist.

Our partners at Mwangaza International have taken in some of these children off the streets. The number of children in our largest orphanage has grown by SIXTY children in two months. 200 children in one orphanage. That is NOT okay.

Please know our heart in this: our number one goal is to preserve families. To prevent orphans. That's it. That's the ideal. And we do have amazing plans for new ways to work in the DR Congo that will empower local churches and transform communities with the ultimate goal of preventing children from living on the streets or in an orphanage. I can't wait to share all of the details with you all soon.

Yet, we can't keep our eyes focused on the goal and ignore the urgency of the need right here, right now.

For now, I am coming to you to say that we need help. It costs $29 per child for a full month's worth of food (three meals a day) and the sudden rise of the number of children has caused us to come up short on funds in order to feed every child, every day.

I need you to consider partnering with us to do this work.

The two most important ways to do so are:
  1. Prayer. {We need prayer partners! Please do not undervalue the importance of this type of partnership}.
  2. Giving. {This can be either a one-time or monthly gift. All gifts are tax-deductible}. Click HERE to partner with us now. 
And, you guys. Purchasing power. We have two awesome opportunities for you to purchase gifts that will benefit our work! 

>> Shirts! {Kids & Adult T-Shirts! Adult Baseball Tees! Adult Sweatshirts!}
Our adorable adult & children shirts and sweatshirts can be purchased HERE. 

>> Superhero capes

Oh my goodness. These capes are ADORABLE and so well made. My own kiddos love these and they are my favorite go-to gift idea for little ones. You can even use this as an education opportunity for your children - they are being a superhero to a child in need just by wearing their cape! A friend has generously offered to donate a portion of the proceeds from these capes for the next two weeks to Feed Their Tummies. (!!)

If you would like to order a cape, email me your preference at jenny@feedtheirtummies.com.

We are all a small part of this incredible story God is writing. I ask that you join us in changing the story for these children. Changing the story from hungry to full. From despair to Hope


And, much love to you, sweet friends. 

September 25, 2015

Friday Favorites

I had to share a few things that are currently making me very happy.

1. Daddy's home!

First and foremost - Dave came home after two full weeks in Africa (Congo, South Africa & Zimbabwe). I'll share more about his incredible trip in another post. For now, we are all soaking in the joy that comes with having daddy back HOME.

He surprised the boys at school. TEARS. Y'all. These boys were over the moon.

2. Stitch Fix. 

You guys. I had heard about Stitch Fix for months and months but never took the plunge. And, then, I did and I will forever sing it's praises.

A few of my favorite knits for fall... 
Oh my word. I never have time to shop for myself...by myself. So, this amazing style service does it for me. LOVE.

A few tips:
1. Create a Pinterest board of style ideas that you love and share with your Fix Stylist,
2. Make your age younger (if you're over 30) to get cuter styles (thanks Kelly for this tip!),
3. Share very detailed feedback with your stylist after you receive your items.

3.  Schmidts Natural Deodorant.  *

I've been looking for a natural deodorant that ACTUALLY works for years with no luck. Until now. This little jar is free of aluminum, propylene glycol, parabens and phthalates and keeps you dry. It is slightly more work to apply - you have to scoop it out with this cute little spatula and then apply by hand - but the little hassle is worth it for the results.

4. My most favorite app of ALL TIMEArtKive. *

You take a photo of your little's artwork, file it by child by age and then print a cute book when you're ready. Ta-da!

Now, I no longer feel guilty when I throw away the 50 trillion pieces of artwork that come home from school or are created on any given day by my little artists. I recently printed a book from the boys' preschool years and now plan to do one each school year. Seriously, this is genius. And the quality of the book is amazing. I can't stop raving about it.

5. The Bentonville Sessions. 

We launched a new season this past Sunday. If you are local to NW Arkansas, please join us each month. I wrote more about The Sessions HERE. The best part of all ... proceeds go directly to our feeding program with Feed Their Tummies.

Oh, did I mention that we launched The Sessions exactly one year ago today? AND, our very first artist was the incredibly talented Barrett Baber. Did you see his auditon on The Voice?!? FOUR CHAIRS! We are so proud of him. Be sure to watch and support him this season!

6. Feed Their Tummies sweatshirts. **

These are THE most comfortable sweatshirts of all time. I am currently pretending that the weather actually coincides with the date on the calendar by turning the AC way down and snuggling up in this cozy shirt while I type and drink my hot cinnamon tea.

I hope this was helpful! Have an awesome weekend, friends.

*Disclaimer: I'm getting no compensation for this post - these guys don't even know I exist. I just love this stuff and had to share with you all. :) 
** All proceeds from the sweatshirt go toward feeding the children in our feeding program in DR Congo. 

September 16, 2015

soothing fear.

Dave traveling to Congo has understandably been hard on Sylvie.

Several months ago, Dave went to Haiti with Help One Now to learn from and listen to the local leaders there. We struggled through that time apart, yet it was more of the typical managing-four-littles-alone-and-exhausted type of struggle.

This trip, however, has been entirely different. Behaviors have resurfaced that we haven't seen in nearly a year. She has cried daily, and not the get-attention-semi-fake-cry, but a real, deep weeping cry. She has been having a really hard time sleeping (she is typically an AMAZING sleeper, praise God). She wakes up screaming, "daddy! daddy!" in the night. She is fearful and separation anxiety kicks in when I leave her side.

Kiddos with a history of trauma have a hard time dealing with change, especially changes to routine. The familiarity of routine and constant caregivers are comforting. Trusted caregivers leaving on an airplane? Anxiety inducing. Big time.

Sylvie asks no less than 500 times a day when daddy will be home. She asks if daddy is eating breakfast while she eats breakfast. She asks if daddy is eating lunch while she eats lunch... repeat, repeat, all. day. long. I have been practicing the art of patience with the even more than usual (and the usual is A LOT) onslaught of questions.

Jen Hatmaker's recent post, Preparing Teachers for our Adopted Kiddos, was spot on:

"She asks so very many questions, mainly relating to time and calendaring and schedules. ... Her life has been hard, and one of her issues is needing to constantly know what is going on and when and for how long. It is one area she can control, so her questions are endless."

Sylvie is very close to her daddy so it is hard to be apart from him. Yet, his going to Congo is a whole thing in itself. It is confusing and scary. I have no idea what's going on in her little mind. Does she think he is going there to bring home another child? Does she think he is going and not coming back? Is she simply grieving the trauma of leaving her birth country?  

Y'all, this adoptive parenting thing is not for the faint of heart.

Conversations with other adoptive mamas have sparked my desire to share what's working for us while he is away. I most definitely do not have all of the answers here, yet, I thought I would list a few practical tips (oh my word, I need practical approaches that actually work) that have been helpful. Many of these were developed while brainstorming with Sylvie's (amazing) play therapist. (I'll share more on our experience with play therapy in another post... I've had several questions about this and I could go on and on.)

Here you go, a few practical ideas to soothe fear in your adoptive child during times of change:

1. Lotion, baby powder, shaving cream.  Stock up. When she is unable to calm down, I gently apply lotion on her hands and model deep breaths for her as I do. Then, I ask her to apply the lotion to my hands and we take deep breaths together. Baby powder is an instant calming agent for her, as well. She actually lights up when I bring the baby powder out. We sit outside on the steps and just go to town. She rubs it in her hands and then on her legs. Sometimes she applies to my hands and legs and arms and feet.. I let her lead. Same with the shaving cream. She can sit in the bathtub with a pile of shaving cream for a good chunk of time. It is soothing and calming for her and appeals to her sensory seeking needs.

2. Wear daddy's shirts. When she is sad, I grab one his shirts and allow her to wear it. The fact that she can barely walk in it makes her laugh in and of itself. Because they're so big on her, she doesn't wear it to bed (but my boys do and love it), so we cover a pillow with the shirt and she keeps it with her through the night to wrap her arms around.

3. Use the word "safe" a LOT. You are safe. Daddy is safe. It's mommy's job to keep you safe. Safe. Safe. Safe. 

4. Children's books with a message. A couple of our absolute favorites are "The Invisible String" ("reminds children that they are never truly alone") and "It Will Be Okay" ("trusting God through fear and change"). 

5. Develop a new bedtime routine. Dave is very involved in Sylvie's bedtime routine. So we had to create a special one for when daddy is away. Thankfully, my parents have been able to help with the other kiddos while Sylvie and I rock and sing songs and apply her lotion. When she first came home, we used a bottle at bedtime to encourage bonding. She hasn't used one in many months. I decided to try one the other night and it instantly soothed her. There is something special that comes from allowing her to settle into the role of an infant, for just a little while, in order to release control and simply rest in her mama's arms.

6. Take a break.  I met dear friends for a late dinner the other night after the kiddos were in bed. You guys. It was exactly what I needed. Laughter + good food + good wine = a happy mama. The end.

And, the biggest of all: PRAYER. I often forget to just stop and pray. That first night after Dave left, I texted a few prayer warrior friends after several hours of attempting to soothe my hysterical little girl. The peace that settled into her heart and mine was undeniable. She finally was able to rest. The power of prayer is REAL.

What about you? I'd love to hear what works for your family during times of change or stress.

September 11, 2015

When He asks you to move, you move.

Photo credit: Jason Lloyd

Many times over the course of the past several years, Dave and I have found ourselves trusting God to work out the details as we blindly placed one foot in front of the other in faith. Often, we had no clue what He was up to, only that the call on our lives was undeniable.

When He asks you to move, you move.

You may have doubts and be afraid of failing. You may think that you are silly for thinking little-ole'-me can make any difference at all. You may stall. But, eventually you pull up your big girl pants, put your head down, and DO THE WORK. {Let me be clear: it is work. You can't just walk into His calling on your life without a hefty dose of hard work}.

Feed Their Tummies was founded with a step forward into the unknown. That first food delivery was simply a response to an urgent need for food. Nothing more. It was not strategic, there were no marketing plans in place or long-term goals established. Yet, in that response, He was working. He was revealing His heart - an abundant well of love for His children.

As the details came together- the non-profit status, the partners on the ground, the provision - we learned that God has graciously invited us into this work. None of this was happening because of us, our efforts were valuable yet not essential. Therefore, when we find ourselves caught up in striving or allowing exhausting ambition to creep in, we mercifully fall back on this freeing truth: He is more than able to do this without us. We can open our hands and release it all to Him.

He's got this.

When doubt was at an all-time high last year, God clearly revealed His desire for us to keep stepping forward. As we earnestly prayed for discernment, JD, a stranger at the time, was preparing to launch a concert series in our town and asked if Feed Their Tummies would accept the proceeds. JD was entirely unaware of our pleas for provision and wisdom, of our asking "should we keep doing this?"

God's answer was a resounding, "yes, keep pressing on."

His plans are bigger than we could have imagined at the time. Now, in large part because of that little concert series {since named The Bentonville Sessions}, we are feeding nearly 200 children three nutritous meals a day, every single day. That stranger and his sweet wife, Julia, are now dear friends who work alongside us each month to raise funds and advocate for these children across the globe.

As I type, JD is traveling with Dave across the Atlantic in order to finally meet the children this work benefits.

Also along on this trip is Lamar Stockton. Lamar serves as the International Operations Director for Help One Now, an organization Dave and I greatly admire. Lamar and Chris Marlow, Help One Now's founder, have become valued mentors and friends. Over the course of this past year, long discussions concerning how to care well for the vulnerable, how to empower local leaders and how to transform communities have taken place.

These discussions have laid the foundation for this trip. Feed Their Tummies and Help One Now have dreamt and planned together about joining forces to do good in Congo.

You guys. The depth of answered prayers here are beyond my ability to articulate.

When we first stepped foot on that Congolese soil together, Dave and I knew our lives were forever changed. We knew we would make it our life's work to serve the people of this beautiful country, particularly her children.

We absolutely believe the impact of our work will be far greater by doing this together with the Help One Now team. And, we are so fortunate to already be working with a strong and capable local Congolese partner, Mwangaza International. This trip is the first step into understanding what it is that we are all being called to do together.

Although this is not easy and the unknowns can easily evoke fear (we really have NO idea where any of this will lead), this work is worth it.

It is worth all of the sacrifices.

It is worth the headaches.

It is worth facing fear in the face and telling it to stand down.

Simply because they are worth it. The precious ones we serve. The ones I see each time I look into the eyes of my daughter. She too was once abandoned and alone, shared beginnings, rooted in the deep ache of this broken world.

We can't look away.

We have to step into the hard, we have to move forward in our small role, desiring restoration and hope.

Follow along on this journey as we share stories of hope, struggle and progress...

Follow Lamar on Instagram HERE.
Follow me on Instagram HERE (Dave doesn't "do" social media, I'll be sharing his images and stories as he sends them my way).
Follow Feed Their Tummies on Facebook HERE.

Join us in praying for their time in country. Prayers for the Holy Spirit's guidance and protection are very much appreciated. If you could also pray for the hearts of my babies, I would be so very grateful. Sylvie, in particular, is having a hard time understanding this trip. Her little heart is aching...she is missing her daddy and this trip to "Africa" has evoked strong emotions of confusion and fear and grief in her little heart.

I am so expectant of what God is up to. Good things are in store, friends. I can't wait to share more.

September 8, 2015

a space for guests. {farmhouse tour}.

Our lil' farmhouse barely contains the six of us, much less room for guests. When we moved in, we added a double bed to the playroom loft space and crammed my parents up there whenever they visited. Needless to say, a guest room was fairly high on our wish list. 

When we added a garage to the house last fall, we included an apartment above for guests. 

My parents are currently driving here (!!) and will be calling this little space home for a bit. In honor of our house guests being en route, I figured I'd give y'all a tour of our guest space...

I love the antique dresser in this bathroom. It was painted and restored by the very talented Maegan at Audrey Mae's Farmhouse.

I'm so, so glad we have hydrangeas in our yard. They are my favorite.  

Apparently, Charlotte did not want Nathan on the freshly made bed. :)
The living room still leaves much to be desired... I need curtains and accent chairs and such. Yet, for the most part, I've used furniture we already have and I just haven't had a chance to shop around for additional furniture for this space. I like to take my time and find the perfect piece instead of just throwing something in there to fill the room. It works just fine for now.

The chickadees love the little play nook...

That's it! Thanks for coming along for a tour. Have a great week!

September 4, 2015

La Dolce Vita!

You guys. Dave has this reward program set up with his lumber supplier (point of clarification: he builds homes) and the offerings are completely random and somewhat all encompassing. We actually "bought" the computer I'm typing on with rewards. Anyhoo, on a crazy-off-the-wall-whackado chance, I sent a "special request" for flights to Italy.

Oh my gosh. Who does that?

While we're at it, who goes for a walk with their chickadees and gets a call from the reward travel agent and BOOKS A FLIGHT TO ITALY as they just push a stroller casually along?!?

This girl. 
That's who.

Italy is quite possibly my favorite place on earth. Yes, the entire country.


We had dreamt of going for our 10th anniversary, but, babies. So, the 11th it is!

Look at those crazy kids! They BELONG in Italia...

I am already searching through the piles in my closet to dust off my old Rosetta Stone Italian disks so that I can {terribly} pretend to speak the gorgeous language. I am obnoxious right now. I have called Dave no less than 25 times in the past hour to remind him that we are actually going back to ITALY. As my friend Chandra would say, bless his bones. He is going to have to deal with my insanity for the next 7ish months.

Eeee! So, I had to share this fun news because I CANNOT. CONTAIN. MY. EXCITEMENT.

Be warned: an onslaught of obnoxious trip planning posts are surely to come.

Happy Labor day weekend, friends! Rest, jump in the lake, laugh and sit around the table with your people. Soak it up. {Oh. And, Fall? Bring it. I'm ready}.

August 31, 2015

real community.

Sunday nights have been set aside. We have stumbled through two years of finding sitters, preparing meals, and rushing {the Marrs' are perpetually running late, it's our thing} to show up by 5 o'clock.

Each week, one of us opens our home and the others arrive bearing salad or bread or brownies. The kitchen becomes a flurry of activity and lighthearted chatter as we work around one another reaching for plates, stirring pots of soup, or pouring drinks. We share a meal while catching up on the new home or the teething baby or the teen going off to college in a few weeks.

These evenings have become sacred. We have walked through the storms of life together, we have celebrated together, we have prayed mightily for one another. Within the safety of four walls and these people, tender stories have been shared. We have laughed and cried and sang and rejoiced. These evenings can't be manufactured. The deep well of friendship that exists among these people, my people, is as real as anything I've ever experienced.

This is a portion of a guest post written for AWB. Hop on over to the Arkansas Women Bloggers' site in order to read this post in it's entirely.