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Archive for May, 2012

The poor will not always be with us.

We can end extreme poverty in this generation.

Crazy talk, right?

Wrong.

I have to admit that I was a little bit — okay maybe a lot — skeptical about Scott Todd’s book 58: Fast Living: How the church will end extreme poverty. End poverty? At least he dreams big.

But something happened as I read — I believed it was possible.

Todd issues a challenge to Christ’s church on earth based on Isaiah 58, calling American believers, in particular, to live and give on behalf of the extremely poor. Yes, he talks about money and giving, quoting shameful numbers regarding tithing in America which should make every one of us who call ourselves “Christian” examine our spending. But he doesn’t leave it at that. He challenges American consumers to shop smarter and support products and companies who promote a cause along with their business (like TOMS shoes), bear the fair-trade label (like Ten Thousand Villages) or offer fair wages to workers (like this company).

When we think about lifting people out of extreme poverty, “made in China” isn’t the first thing to come to mind, but Todd offers that our throwaway made-in-China products DO offer people a chance to make a living and take care of their families. (He doesn’t condone poor working conditions but reminds readers that countries like England and the U.S. have deplorable working conditions in their industry history. He encourages we work toward reform.)

If ending extreme poverty truly concerns us and becomes the cause we champion, then Todd says we need to let people know, including politicians. They need to know we care about extreme poverty.

FAVORITES: Todd doesn’t just tell you what you need to know. He offers real, practical solutions. I mean, when you title a chapter “How Mom Can End Extreme Poverty,” you’d better offer me something I can do between diaper changes and during nap time. To join the movement and get more ideas, visit Live58.org.

FAULTS: This book made me uncomfortable. And that’s a good thing! I’m not comfortable with my level of giving to the poor, my shopping habits or even my belief that poverty might actually be history some day.

IN A WORD: Persuasive. I am moved to do something about poverty after reading this book.

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BOOK WINNER: I didn’t forget! Thanks to all of you who entered to win a copy of Teasi Cannon’s My Big Bottom Blessing. Sadly, only one of you could win. Random.org picked Leigh Ingram! Congratulations, Leigh! I think I literally just tossed out a post-it that had your address on it, so e-mail me at lmbartelt[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll send it your way!

STILL TIME TO WIN:  And there’s still time to enter to win Unveiling Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs. Comment on the blog for a chance to win!

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Saturday marked our five-year anniversary. Not a major milestone as far as milestones are concerned but certainly something to celebrate.

I won’t tell you it’s been easy or perfect or blissful. It’s had its moments of those. It has also been hard, imperfect and disappointing.

And worth it.

It’s a huge act of grace that no one tells you the WHOLE truth about marriage before you get married. I fear no one ever would take the vow if they knew the truth. (Similarly, I’m thankful I never saw a birth video before I was pregnant and enrolled in childbirth classes.) Had I known how ugly, exhausting and challenging marriage could be, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to walk down the aisle. Or maybe I would have been too naive and lovestruck to believe it. (Note to self: I was too naive and lovestruck to believe it.)

Three days after Phil and I wed, we hiked a mountain.

Here we are on day 4 of married life, ready for a hearty breakfast before the descent.

When Phil first suggested this part of the trip — a daylong hike up a mountain to spend the night in a primitive cabin at the top — I didn’t hesitate to say, “Let’s do it.” Bear in mind that we are not now, nor were we then, in peak physical condition. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Looking back, our honeymoon prepared us for the next years of marriage in ways I would have never imagined.

We hiked a physical mountain …

… unaware of the mountains we would face in our marriage in the years to come.

 

We pledged to love each other, whether poor …

(our primitive cabin on the mountaintop)

… or rich

(we visited the Biltmore two days after we’d slept in the woods).

A lesson in contrast not easily forgotten.

We’ve had days when marriage feels like this …

And ones where it feels more like this …

We’ve learned that marriage requires sacrifice …

… sometimes even death (of self, of dreams, of expectations).

And it definitely takes patience, acceptance and love. I mean, those sound like no-brainers. They are easy to agree to. Much harder to live out day to day. Especially with a husband like this.

Truly, he makes the journey fun. (When I let him. I’m way more serious than I need to be.)

Five years of marriage feels a little like the morning we woke up on a mountain.

We were tired and achy from the previous day, but we’d seen some amazing views, breathtaking, really. We’d made some new friends. And it was time to move on. To head back down the mountain, continue our honeymoon and get on with our married life.

After five years of marriage, we know tired. And exhausted. And weary. We know beauty. And take-your-breath-away moments. We’re beat from the battles of two individual lives coming together to make one life yet we’re somehow stronger than we were when we started. We’ve reached a peak. And it’s time to move on.

To celebrate, Phil took me back to the woods for a combined anniversary/birthday/graduation/Mother’s Day present. (Wood is the traditional five-year anniversary gift. Isn’t he clever?)

We hiked again. 

Because we’re gluttons for punishment. And because we can’t help ourselves. I connect best with God in nature and solitude. My husband granted me both as a gift.

We found another mountain, different from the one from our honeymoon but not without its challenges.

The sign told us what to expect. “Very steep” is an accurate description.

We went ahead with it anyway. We could have backtracked and taken an easier path. “We’re not in a backtracking phase of life,” my husband reminded me, and up the mountain we went.

I sense another metaphor for our life and marriage.

I’d like to think that in the last five years, we’ve had all the trouble we’re going to have as a couple and a family. That we packed a lifetime’s worth of trials and tears into a short period so we could enjoy the rest of our married days without the hard stuff.

I’m not as naive as I once was. And I hope that doesn’t sound cynical.

We have a steep road ahead. More than one I’d imagine.

We’re going to sweat. And suffer bruises. (I got one on my hand on our latest hike. I have others on my heart.)

We will ache and hurt and moan and complain. (And NOT take anymore pictures of ourselves while hiking. Egad!)

And we will smile at the memories, even the times of not knowing how or when the hard time would end.

Because in the end, we will have seen something beautiful.

The pain will fade. The hurts will heal, if we let them.

And we will sigh in satisfaction, knowing we did something hard and survived.

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In lieu of the usual Saturday smiles post, I’m asking you to pray for this family.

My uncle Lewie was critically injured in a motorcycle accident on Thursday. His body is fighting to recover. His family is waiting for news. In the meantime, their youngest daughter, Abby (the one in the middle) is on dialysis and waiting for a kidney.

Hold them in prayer.

Updates are here.

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Here we are, the last Friday in May already. I have to admit, I’m kind of sad. Free Book Fridays have been fun! Maybe I’ll do it again sometime.

Without further delay, the winner of Kathi Macias’ People of the Book is Ladette Collins Kerr. Congratulations, Ladette! E-mail me at lmbartelt[at]gmail.com with your address so I can send the book your way!

Kathi has two more books coming out this year, and I’ve signed up to review them both. So stay tuned for those!

Now, on to the final book I’m giving away.

The first time I read a book by Liz Curtis Higgs, I knew I’d found a friend. Higgs is a captivating and creative storyteller who can take familiar Bible stories and transform them into modern tales that teach valuable lessons. Whether it’s fiction like this or children’s books or Bible studies, Higgs is a delight to read and learn from.

Years ago when Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code was popular, Mary Magdalene became a hot topic. Higgs’ book Unveiling Mary Magdalene sets the record straight about who Mary was (a woman freed from demons) and who she was not (Jesus’ romantic interest). In typical Higgs fashion, the book is part novel — telling the story of tortured soul Mary Margaret Delaney and her deliverance —  and part study, taking Biblical accounts of Mary Magdalene and applying what we can learn from her life as a passionate, delivered, transformed follower of Jesus to our lives as we seek to know Him more.

This book is a treasure! And it can be yours! (FYI, the cover of mine is different than what’s pictured here.)

HERE’S HOW: Leave a comment on this blog  about how you feel when you’re judged or how you’ve felt when you’ve judged someone wrongly. That’s ONE entry. For EXTRA chances to win: follow me on Twitter (ONE EXTRA CHANCE); retweet this giveaway (ONE EXTRA CHANCE); share this giveaway on Facebook (ONE EXTRA CHANCE); and/or subscribe to this blog via e-mail (ONE EXTRA CHANCE). Each time you earn an extra chance, leave another comment on the blog so I can enter you to win! I’ll pick a winner next Thursday, May 31 and announce the winner on Friday, June 1, when I start a new series of book reviews for the month of June.

Spread the word and the book love, my friends!

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I heard this song at McDonald’s last night. It’s not new, but I felt like I was hearing it for the first time. There’s a lot of truth in it. And a lot of what I’m feeling right now.

Looking over the lyrics encouraged me. Maybe the song will encourage you, too.

Hands

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Today, I’m pleased to feature another guest post. While Monday’s post challenged us to look around at our world for opportunities to help those in need, today’s post challenges us, especially women, to look at ourselves the way God sees us — no matter our perceived imperfections. Teasi Cannon has struggled with weight issues and self-esteem issues. She’s not what the world would call a perfect 10 but she’s learned that in God’s eyes, she is just as she should be and she can be thankful in all things, even for a big bottom.

I’m not making that last part up. She’s so secure in her standing with God, she wrote a book and called it My Big Bottom Blessing. This book is a joy from start to finish. Teasi’s story will make you laugh and cry and hurt in all the right ways. She is refreshingly honest about body image, diets and self-worth, and she’s passionate about the God who can silence the lies of self and society. At the end of each chapter, Teasi includes questions for self-reflection.  I’m eager to revisit the journaling sections to discover the roots of my own body image issues and how God can speak into those.

Read on and hear from Teasi herself, and check out a sample chapter from the book.

Also find out how you can win a copy!

Now, without further delay, here’s Teasi!

Thankful for a Big Rear
by Teasi Cannon

One day not long ago I was sweeping my kitchen floor in the near trance-like state of La La Land, when I was jolted to my senses by the precious voice of my 4-year-old nephew saying, “Aunt Teasi, you have a vahwee (very) big butt.” 

I set my broom aside, smoothed my shirt, and calmly turned to face him.  Bright-eyed and curly-haired, he stood – completely oblivious to the fact that he had said the words no woman ever wants to hear.  And then I let him have it.  I bent down, coming only inches away from his little round face, and said, “Why…thank you!”  Then I smiled big, stood to grab my broom, and returned unscathed to the task at hand.

A few years ago those innocently spoken words would have completely obliterated me, and rather than a thank you, might have actually incited an immature come-back such as: “Oh, yeah?  Well, you’re short and you talk funny.”

But now, to the glory of God, moments like that are reminders to me that the miraculous has happened: I no longer hate my body (especially my back side); in fact, it has become one of the biggest blessings in my life.

Like most women (really every woman I’ve ever met), I lived years literally disgusted with what I saw in the mirror.  The territory between my ears felt like nothing short of a war zone, with battles being fought everywhere: the bathroom, the grocery store, the bedroom, even church.  I could never silence the ambush-ready community of inner critics (those hurtful thoughts we all think) that called my head home.  And I missed out on so much: parties I refused to attend because my pants were too tight, dates with my husband because of a few gained pounds, quality time with my kids.  I know I’m not alone in this.

We women have been lied to for years.  We’ve been told that our value – our very right to be seen and celebrated – is determined by our waist-to-hip ratio or the proportions of our facial features, and that’s just not true.  Our value is determined by the only One who really knows it: our God.

After hitting my head hard on the floor of my personal pit of despair, I slowly began my journey toward believing that.  One inch at a time of healing, truth, and righteous anger led me to a life-saving realization: All those years I was desperate to change how I looked, God was desperate to change how I see.  And He did.

Truth is, if God can make a prostitute the great-grandmother of the Messiah, turn water into wine, and make blind men see; don’t you think He can turn a big bottom – or a big nose – or bird-thin legs – or whatever it is you hate – into a blessing.  He did it for me, and I’m so ridiculously happy about the journey that I wrote a book about it.

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TO READ A SAMPLE CHAPTER, click here.

WANT TO WIN YOUR OWN COPY? Leave me a comment here on the blog about why you’d like to read this book. I’ll announce the winner next Wednesday. For EXTRA chances to win, share this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter (and leave another comment here that you did that for up to two more extra entries), follow me on Twitter (and leave a comment that you did/do for another entry) and/or subscribe to or follow this blog (one total entry). So, that’s up five chances to win a great book!

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In exchange for this blog post, I received a free copy of the book.

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Today, I’m honored to have a guest blogger. Carol Cool (yes, that’s her real name, and yes, she lives up to it) is a speaker, editor, writer, pastor’s wife and dear friend. Carol has been a mentor, encourager and supporter to me in countless ways. She and her husband, Les, serve in the same denomination my husband and I are part of. Find out more about Carol and how you can be a superstar where you are here. And if you’re looking for a retreat or event speaker, she’s your woman!

Today, Carol writes about her and Les’s journey with adoption and informal foster care. May is National Foster Care Month. Check out Carol’s blog for more stories, stats and tips that are helpful in ministering to and supporting people working in and with foster care.

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“You and Les should do foster care,” said the guy sitting next to me at my brother’s wedding. He was the head of a children’s home, so he had a vested interest. Les happened to hear the comment and knew it would break my heart if I ever had to let a foster child go. So his reply was, “I’d have to have a personal message from God before I would ever let Carol do foster care.”

There was no personal message from God.

And yet over the years, Les and I have had 10 kids live in our home for periods of time, as well as two young adults and a single mom. Some were with us for only a few weeks, some a few months, the mom and her kids for almost a year, Joy forever. Not one came through a placement agency, government or private.

Les always says, “Some people bring home stray animals; Carol brings home stray people.” But I’m not the only one bringing them home; he’s brought his share. They’ve come as we’ve kept our eyes and ears and hearts open to how people are hurting. They’ve come as we’ve recognized a need we could fill. The family came through a thought God pressed on Les’s heart (so I guess there was a message from God).

Did my heart ever get broken? Multiple times. Eighteen-year-old Lori “left” before she even came, calling me before boarding a bus to head back to the mentally ill mother who had kicked her out at age 13, the mother who would attempt suicide two days after Lori arrived home. As she explained her rationale and the eagerness to be loved by her mother invaded her voice, I sat on the floor of our bedroom, hugging myself and sobbing. I was pretty sure this would end badly for Lori. I believed I would never heal.

Les and Carol Cool with Debby (green) and Joy (red)

When 14-year-old Debby and her 13-year-old sister Joy came into our home, we had known them for several years through our church and got along well. We were going to adopt them. The four of us were going to be a family. Some complications required us to get permanent custody first. The day the permanent custody papers came for us to sign—20 months after they moved in with us—Debby walked out, never to return to us. I was at work. Les called to say she had left in a fight over a candy bar (Joy can still tell you what kind it was). I thought they were joking. We all grieved. We all believed we would never heal.

Two years ago, our adopted granddaughter Ashlee came to live with us. She wasn’t adjusting well at home and had become a threat to her brother and Joy. She seemed to do well for the seven months she was here. She wanted to go home. Three weeks back she imploded and things got so bad the adoption was terminated. Again we grieve. It feels like our hearts will never heal.

They do heal, but there are always scars, tender spots that, when poked by a memory, produce pain. And yet . . .

Our lives have been enriched by the presence of each person. There’s the chunk of coal still in our front yard (moved 4 times) from Lauren. There’s the “Bedtime for Bonzolinas” song I made up for Max and Katie that still runs through my head. There’s the word “crookalized” that’s still in our vocabulary thanks to Joy (and her presence in our lives and hearts always). There’s memories of the Chinese tea ceremony at Leslie’s wedding. There are the funny stories of Hannah and Gloria whose Korean father thought it was fine to have his 12- and 13-year-old girls drive on I-95 on the way to Washington, DC. There’s the “Welcome Home, Mor More” sign from Ashlee hanging on my bulletin board. There’s a friendship with Cyndi that’s lasted 30 years, in which she still calls us Mom and Dad.

Yes, I’d do it again. (Why do people ask that? Do they ask that of people who had difficult times with their birth children?) Yes, I’d do things a bit differently. Yes, I’d ask God to help me be more patient with all of them. Yes, I’d try harder to get Lori to stay, to convince Debby to come back, to keep Ashlee here in Pennsylvania (although I don’t believe any of them would have).

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.” We didn’t set out to do that, but when you open your heart and your home, it’s scary. Things can break. It’s worth the risk to love as God loves (however imperfectly we manage it).

Open your eyes. There may be someone who needs the warmth of your love and, possibly, your home. Step out and take the risk—even if you don’t receive a personal message from God.

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