30.9.11

Sometimes I realize I have too little faith.



Three weeks ago I just thought I had set my expectations too high.
The economy is too bad. People have many other choices for where they'll give. You guys are all tired of hearing about the orphanage and the need and you have moved onto other things. The $5000 we have already raised is a lot. Let's just be thankful for what we have and try something else.
This is what was running through my head.

I don't know why I always forget that this isn't really my project after all. I always get into the trap of believing that I'm the one doing this, and that it's all limited by my power.

If that were the case most of what has happened the past 3 years wouldn't have happened at all.

That Sunday at church 2 weeks ago when I was listening for what to spend the week praying for the first thing running through my mind was, "We still need $5000 dollars, I'm out of ideas, I don't know what else to do to raise that money. That's what I should pray about."

But that wasn't what I felt that God wanted me to pray about. It was all off you. (Which, by the way, was my favorite blogging experiment ever because I got to know some of you so much better, and I may need to make it a regular monthly practice.)

So I prayed for you guys. Which isn't to say that I didn't pray about the money we still needed to raise, but it's not what I used my early morning time for. The kids and I mentioned it in our start of the school day prayer time.

(We mentioned a bunch of other silly things, like flower girl dresses for Aaron's brother's wedding on our reduced budget that were supplied too. It's been a good week for prayer.)



Anyway, all this to say that donations just kept coming in, though I was doing less to try and help them than I had before. All those pesky responsibilities like teaching my children and feeding them and maybe, sort of, cleaning up around here once in a while kept interfering.

I should learn to trust more.

Today I totaled it all, everything that has come in the past week, plus everything from before.

You ready?

You might want to sit down for this.

$10,856.50

Seriously.

What felt impossible a few weeks ago has happened and it's thanks to all of you. You did it. You told our story. You gave what you could. You just built an orphanage you guys!

This is the land we will build it on.
 (Ok, we still have to, like, actually build it, but in terms of funding it's done. I feel really silly for doubting now.)

My favorite part this week was an email that one of you sent me that had this phrase "I am beginning to feel "involved"... wanting the best for these precious souls."

That means so much to me. Because you are involved. You are the reason this is working. I could never do this by myself. But together... now that's powerful.

I'm overwhelmed and I don't know truly how to convey the relief, the gratitude, the feeling of being swept along in a tide of something that started so small and is now grown beyond anything I could imagine at the time and is bigger now than any of us.

Though it feels very inadequate the only words I have are thank-you. Thank you so very much.



You are saving lives.

ps. You could still enter to win the iPod or other prizes until midnight tonight if you want to. :)

26.9.11

Letters from my Grandmother

I took photos of some of my favorite things at grandma's house.

I received a letter from my grandmother in the mail recently. Grandma may be the only person I actually write letters to any more. On paper that is. They are still trying to figure out how to use their newfangled CD player after all. I don't believe my grandparents will ever own a computer, much less figure out how to send an email.

I love this about them, actually. I love to get Grandma's letters. There is something timeless about them, something that sounds just like home to me. Just like her house stays exactly the same, no matter how long it is since I last returned. She finally changed out the curtains that had been in her kitchen windows my entire life after I gave her some lace curtains to replace them.



She always wanted lace curtains. Ever since Grandpa took her to England. Grandpa always thought she was being ridiculous. I may have taken matters into my own hands and sewn her some.

Everyone should get letters like hers, full of the same everyday goings on of a life lived in one place, settled and content. I love her handwriting, tidy, well shaped script. My children will learn to read cursive just so they can read the letters my grandmother writes to them. A few years ago it occurred to me to save all of them. I don't know how much more time my over 80 year old grandmother has left to write her grandchildren letters and putter in her garden, and I think I'll want to have these to look at once she's gone.



Here's an excerpt.

We are fine but have had lots of rain. It has showered the last two nights. Our garden is wet, when we dig up the potatoes they are muddy so we need to take the hose and wash them. They are always growing and do taste good. We are also picking raspberries and a few strawberries. So have made some jam and jelly.


I want to share this wonderful gift with all of you. I thought, "I'll start a Letters from Grandmother series. I'll publish my letter to her and her response and everyone can see how wonderful my grandmother is, and what a blessing it is to be able to still write my granmother. I'll ask her about child rearing and house work and ... It would probably be better to get her permission before I do such a thing..."



So I imagined how that conversation would go.

Me-"Grandma, I wondered if you would mind if I showed your letters to some friends of mine."

Grandma- "Oh my, well I don't know why you would want to do that, they aren't very interesting."

Me- "Well, I really like to get them and I think my friends would get something out of them too."

Grandma - "I suppose if it were only a few friends...."

Me- Well... it would be more than a few... you see, I would post them on my blog?"

Grandma - "I don't know what that is."

Me - "Well, it's sort of like a website... an online publication of sorts where I publish things I write."

Grandma - "Oh really, like on the computer."

Me - "Yes, exactly."

Grandma - "Bryan's boy Brendan is quite good at computers I hear, he even has a job working on them somehow."

Me - "Yes grandma, he's a web developer."

Grandma - "Do you get paid to do your writing?"

Me - "Not usually... It's more just for fun."

Grandma - "Oh, so you just write for fun on the computer?"

Me - "Yes."

Grandma "Are there are lot of people who read it?"

Me - "Actually yes, quite a few."

Grandma - "My goodness. You don't say? I can't imagine wanting to read something on the computer when you could just pick up a book."

Me - "You have a point."

...

Grandma - "Do you know any of the people who read your writing?"

me - "Some, but not most of them, not in real life. But if they blog then I get to kind of fell like I know them because then I read what they wrote and they read what I wrote and we leave comments and have conversations and it feels like we're very good friends. Sometimes I even meet them in real life an then they are usually very good friends very quickly because we have so much in common already."

Grandma - "You don't say!"

me - "Yes well, it's a really great community and I can meet people without ever leaving the house and feel connected to other moms out there because you know how lonely it can be to be raising little ones, you know with your 11 children that you raised on a farm... Anyway, what do you think? Could I publish your letters to me for other people to read?"

Grandma - "?"

Well that's just the thing. I don't know what she would say. Though I have a feeling she wouldn't say yes.

Shall I ask her?

Here is the way she signs off on her last letter.

I am glad that you are getting help with your meals and cleaning up by the children they need to help with the work. I must close for now. Enjoy your day. Thank you again for writing; with our love. Grandmother

23.9.11

How do you hold things lightly and yet steward them well?

Wow you guys, I'm shocked. I had to go back and reread yesterday's post because you all had me wondering if I wrote what I thought I wrote.

I seriously thought you were all going to tell me I ought to get over myself and let the Boy give away the garage I was getting so emotional over.

Thank you for your good advice and ideas.

I had already explained to the Boy at the end of our conversation why I was conflicted. I told him about buying toys for him, as the oldest, with an eye to what would last for many children to come. I explained the cost of replacing things like that and told him honestly that I wasn't sure if it was a useful thing to give away. (Bridge of Hope, is a non-profit run by a friend at our church that provides furniture and household goods for free to refugee families in City Heights, San Diego, among many other things. I forgot to link yesterday. The kids have gone to their Thanksgiving dinners and played with these kids. They have all purchased and wrapped toys for them to get for Christmas as part of our St. Nicholas Day celebration.)

"I could build Bam Bam a garage to play with. I could use my tools and make him one. It would be really cool with a lot of different levels." This was his solution to my dilemma.

Then I placed my hands on both of his cheeks and said, "Hey, I really like you Boy. I like your heart and who you are becoming. Let me just have a while to pray about this and figure out how to answer you ok?"

"Ok," he answered, that sideways smile creeping over his face the way it does when he's trying to be guarded about letting me see just how much what I said means to him.

I'm going to let him build a new garage for his baby brother. Thanks to Aaron's work in finish carpentry we have scraps of teak just laying in the woodpile. If he manages to build a toy out of it it would be really cool, way cooler than what we have now.

But, I'm not going to let him give away the garage until he's built it's replacement.

He's already set aside a little case with a starter Lego kit for Bam Bam. I'll let him give the rest away.

Man, this parenting thing is hard you guys. I want him to be able to hold things lightly, to not let them rule him. I also want him to learn to steward well what he's given and use it wisely.

Heck, I want to learn that myself.

How do you do that?

********
Well, I hit publish on this and then my friend Connie, who is one of the best most generous people I know added her comment.

I think he should be able to give them away.  Bam Bam is too young to play with them now; he will have birthday and Christmas gifts to come.

I feel so strongly about this but I'm having a hard time putting my feelings and thoughts into words(I'm not a writer.). Matthew 17 - 19 sums it up.  The lesson of giving unselfishly and trusting in God to provide for your needs, wow!  We can all learn this lesson again and again.
Can I change my answer? 'Cause I kinda think she's right.

21.9.11

Maybe I AM a Hypocrite

He makes me wonder these days if I'm a hypocrite. We're standing there in the dining room, his face flushed and his voice urgent, "But mom, didn't you say that there are kids who don't have any toys that would be happy to have these?"

For years I have fed this, unaware of this possibility. I give them 30 minutes to clean their room. I tell them that if they have more toys and clothes than they can manage to put away in 30 minutes they have too many, and anything still on the floor after that will be put in a bag and given away. I follow through.

They have given many, many toys to charity this way. (Or the trash can if they aren't worth re-gifting.)

He came out of his room with the wooden toy garage and the collection of cars. "I want to give these away mommy, maybe not to the orphanage because that many kids might fight over it but maybe a boy at Bridge of Hope would like it. And I want to give my Legos away too."

"I don't know," I say. "I always thought those toys would be passed on to Bam Bam. Those toys are the kind that are sturdy and last a long time. I bought them expecting to have them for all of you kids to play with."

"But the Legos are mine." he said, "They were my birthday presents. So I can give them away if I want to."

"Don't you want to give them to your baby brother?" I wonder, "He'll want to play with them in a year or two."

"No", he says, "I want to give them to a kid who doesn't have anything to play with."

"But then I'm going to end up spending more money to buy him toys in a few years instead of him just using these ones."

I'm not confident his motives are actually altruistic. I suspect that he is just trying to avoid having to clean up these toys anymore. It's not like they are his favorites. He's not making any deep personal sacrifices giving these away, not that I can see. I am the one who will miss them, and Bam Bam when he's got nothing left but hand me down My Little Ponies to play with.

"What if we just put them away in a box in the closet until he's old enough to play with them?"

This is when he calls me out, asks me if any of the words I say are true and if I mean them.

"But mom, didn't you say that there are kids who don't have any toys that would be happy to have these? I want to give these away to those kids!"

I fight back tears, but not for the reason you are imagining. I'm thinking of the belt tightening that I've needed to do the past few weeks, the season of straightened finances that we are in. I'm thinking of how much fun Bam Bam has when the Boy lets him into his room to play with the cars. I'm thinking of how I don't know how long it will be before we can afford to just buy a sturdy, high quality toy again, without scrimping and saving and scheming for it. Isn't it enough that I give every spare minute and dollar to The Charis Project and helping Thai orphans? Do I have to give up this too?

Some of it's self pity, you see.

But there's more to it than that. I wonder if it is in good enough condition to give as a gift when so many now want only brand new toys to give away. Will anyone love it as well as we have?

I remember buying that little garage, justifying the expense with the thought of how long it would last. It's the kind of toy I would keep for grandchildren to play with. I loved going to my grandparents house as a child and playing over and over with the sturdy toys they kept in their basement, the kind that 11 children and dozens of grandchildren couldn't break, with timeless appeal.

I had plans for that garage. I bought it with legacy in mind.

My impassioned 9 year old is making his case for why he should be permitted to give this thing away, tears forming in his eyes as well, as I look at him and wrestle with my own heart in this moment.

For there is a legacy forming here, a memory and a tradition, only it's leaping and racing far beyond my control and out of my comfort zone. I'm faced with the choice of what kind it will be?

Do I say no to this child who is asking me to demonstrate that my words are true by letting him bless someone else with his old toys, and hold on to my little plans for it? Or do I say yes to what is growing in him, beyond all my control, and no to myself and my little idea of what this family could be? What kind of legacy really matters anyway?

Well, now that I've put it in such terms the answer seems obvious, though I asked him to give me a while to think about it.

What would you do?

Featured on BlogHer.com

19.9.11

One Thousand Gifts



I have this little superstition when Aaron is away. I wait to delete any of his phone messages until after he's walked in the front door and I can see he's safely home.

My reasoning is that if something were to happen to him before he gets home, such that he never actually walks in that door I will want to hear his voice again. Out of all the regrets, big an small that I would have, deleting the last recording of his voice seems like one I can control.

I do this when he's away on a long trip. I also do this on messages he leaves in the middle of a regular day before he drives home that night. It's just what I do.

But he is home again, safe and sound, from his business trip. It is a gift to have him near again.

Other gifts I counting this day.

The way Bam Bam giggles when he walks round a corner and finds me.

How much easier the day is when the children do their chores.

So many clothes to wear we have to give some away.

A pantry stocked to bursting.

The way the Boy is no longer a little kid and grown so tall and sturdy right in fron tof me.

Kisses from Little.

Uncles and aunties and "big sisters" who plan to be present and do fun things with teh kids while their daddy is away.

The beach in September, when the crowds leave, the birds flock and the waves swell high.

Argyle patterns in the sand painted by the ceaseless lapping of the waves.

The Boy practicing a new song on the piano for hours and hours, getting better each time.

Cooler days and favorite jeans are back again.

Wedding plans for my BIL.

Pelicans on the dock and seals playing in the water.

Weeding.


Yesterday at church we were talking about prayer. It ended with a time of listening to see what God would have us pray about this week.

One of the things I thought of was you, dear readers.

You have been such a support the past little while, to me, to The Charis Project. I'm so thankful for all of you. I'd like to pray for you this week.

Leave me a comment, either just telling me you'd like me to pray or a little bit of what about, either way. I'll spend some time praying just for you.

16.9.11

Chantelle


When we were in 3rd grade we used to huddle together in her big walk in closet with the little bookshelf packed full of Bobsey Twins books trying to read the exact same book together. She is the only person I've met who is a faster reader than me, and she never waited for me at the end of the page so all the books I read with her were missing sentences here and there. But i kept going back to read together with her.

In high school it was magazines and her room moved to the basement on the other side of the space with the TV and all the old couches where we played Mario Brothers and Sonic th Hedgehog. I lost every time. She still read faster than me too.

We grew up together, within a few blocks of each others houses and her parents house is as much a childhood fixture for me as mine was. She returned from a year in France and taught me about real chocolate and good wine and good salad dressing.

She dragged me along on countless adventures, camping, hiking, rock climbing and I remember the day she quietly said, "You know, your dad isn't all that bad."

She was always planning something, organizing, checking maps, and heading somewhere. She was the adventurer to my homebody bookish tendencies. She was the glue in the friendships we shared.

She is still my best friend. There are 3 of us, Chantelle, Teresa and me. Chuck, Cheese and Smiley forever. Chantelle, of course, was Lady Smiley.

When she planned to move to Africa she actually budgeted to come and visit me in San Diego for a final visit. I'm so glad she did, because I haven't seen her in person since.

But I've been following her work. Here's what she's doing in Niger. Niger Vocational Training School. Be sure to click through just for the gorgeous photos she's taken alone.

 I'm just so proud of her. Also, it's her birthday.

Happy birthday dear friend. I miss you. I'm proud of you. I hope to see you again someday soon.

Announcing the Giveaway Winners

I have a sort of default setting when it comes to spread sheets that is probably irrational. In other words, I avoid them if at all possible. It is this I blame for the elaborate high jinks that I have undertaken to bring to you the results of this giveaway.

Rather than just do the easy thing, like enter everyone into a spreadsheet to keep it sorted, that's me kicking myself, I decided to go for drama, creativity, something else. Which is why last night I gave myself carpal tunnel syndrome cutting hundreds of strips of paper after printing out all of the donations lists and the tweets organized by hashtag, and the facebook comments, etc. I have a giant bowl full of them now.

(What exactly I was thinking I don't know. I've been solo parenting this week. I've fallen into bed exhausted, some times fully clothed several nights in a row. I rented a movie on Monday night thinking I would need it to keep me company when Aaron was out of town and I still haven't had a night when I felt sufficiently finished with work to put it in. Who needs a husband to keep you company when you have a giant to do list. ps. I do, he makes me go to bed on time.)

I thought I would take pictures, maybe video, have the kids pull them out, make an occasion out of it.  But then I would have to find the cord, or the missing card reader, transfer those pictures to my laptop, resize, upload, and since it's already been several days I think that if I make you all wait for me to find time to do all that that this will never happen.

So instead I just pulled the strips of paper out and announced them at our facebook page, go over there to find out if you won.

Don't forget that we have yet another giveaway going on up until September 30 to help raise the rest.

After a twitter conversation tonight about a shared love for the movie Strictly Ballroom I am including it as a prize. Because we all could use a good show that makes us laugh and feel good. If that was the one I had rented I would probably have watched it by now. Aaron, being a notorious hater of dancing shows and chick flicks may not ever sit and watch this with me, which makes me issue this challenge. If we do reach our goal of $10,000 he promises to watch Strictly Ballroom with me and perhaps live tweet it. You know you want this to happen, right?

Seriously, you guys are awesome. There are so many names in this little bowl beside me that I recognize. I know you guys, we have history, and I'm just so thankful that of all the people that I could end up knowing in the world it's people like, who really, really care. I'm very, very blessed.

I wish I could give each and everyone of you a prize.

12.9.11

So many changes (You can come back now.)

The 2 week long fundraising drive is over, and I've very pleased to announce that we raised $5236.50.

That's a little more than half of what we need, and we have a few more prizes donated as well. So after I announce the winners of all the prizes here and at Voices of Charis The Charis Project's blog, I will start another brief fundraising drive over there. You see, the money matters section of blogher has featured me and this post this week, which is amazing, and hopefully will help us reach our goal.

In the meantime, several important things have happened in the past 2 weeks that we should catch up on.

Aaron switched careers. No seriously, he totally switched. Instead of carpentry he's going to be selling fine colored gemstones for a living. His employer is one of The Charis Project's  long time supporters and regularly gives his customers the option of matching his donation to the The Charis Project. He's asked Aaron before to join him in business but the travel required has always been an obstacle.

This time, with it being so in line with the other work we're doing for the non-profit, developing similar skills, networks, etc, and as we're adapting more and more to Aaron traveling to Thailand to oversee the Charis Home, oh, and that carpentry work has dried up for the moment, he said yes.

It's cool, except for the long absences. If you pray, keep me and the kids in yours, please. We're going to find it challenging I think.

Oh, and he started a blog, In Search of a Shameless Gospel.

Labor day weekend Brenda and Bug came to visit us for beach time and a backyard camp out. She tells the story here. You want to check out her pictures, especially if you want to see some of Aaron's handy work. (The whole kitchen at his parent's house for instance.) Also, now there are people asking us to invite them to come and visit. I would love that, consider yourselves all invited.

little





I want an earring that looks like this. (I should pierce my ears first I suppose.)



Aaron's brother Emmet came home from Africa, took one look at the baby formerly knwon as Jellybean and dubbed him Bam Bam. I love it.

I was never really happy with Jellybean after he got past teeny tiny newborn, but I couldn't figure out a good replacement. Bam Bam is a perfect nickname for him, so Bam Bam he is.

Bam Bam figured out how to walk this past week. He was timid at first, only taking a few steps before getting down to crawl. But then Little gave him his magic feather in the form of a jump rope handle. She held the other end for him and he believed she was holding him up by it and toddled all over the house after her. I got some of it on tape, I mean on video, I mean, recorded in some sort of digital format, but I can't find the card reader right now, so I'll try and get it up tomorrow.

Oh, and also, Aaron's dad finally started a blog. He's kind of a big deal in certain circles, his books are in their 25 or 26th reprint, he gets asked to speak all over the world, and people have been bugging him for years to put up a decent website and blog. He always said he wouldn't, but my MIL built it for him, and here he is, blogging.

All these years of writing stuff here have come in handy. I'm finally the family expert at something and have been helping all these guys set up their blogs. There should be a new adage, "The family that blogs together... had sure better link to each other or it would be awkward at dinner?" I dunno. I'll work on it.

8.9.11

Good News to the Poor Gemstone Giveaway - Building a Self Sustaining Orphanage


We come to the last prize of this whole giveaway fundraising event. There are only 2 days left in the giveaway.

Our goal was $10,000, we've so far raised just over $3000. In a way, that's fantastic. That's more than we had, and yet, if you could help us push through, tell this story as many times as you can in the next 2 days we still have a chance of reaching our goal. We just need to reach more people. If 700 people give just $10 each we can make our goal. How many of you have at least that many friends on facebook or followers on Twitter?

The good news is, we have so many great prizes, your odds of winning something are actually incredible right now. Don't let that stop you from telling your friends though since every tweet or share gives you yet another entry.

Today's prize is one of the best, actually, there are 2.

The first might just actually save your life and the lives of people around you. Of all the prizes we've offered this week this on may have the most long term value.

Good News to the Poor is the ministry started by Ken Blue, who happens to be Aaron's dad. When we were just starting out they were the parent non-profit for The Charis Project.

We have to offer today as our first prize the a package of teaching materials developed my Ken over his several years of ministry. They include a cd set of his teaching series titled Welcome Home and 2 books, Authority to Heal, and Healing Spiritual Abuse-How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences. These best selling books have been reprinted dozens of times in at least as many languages. They could change your life.

The second prize has also been donated by Good News to the Poor.

The winner will receive their choice of 1 of these gemstones or pendant. These gemstones are high quality, fair traded and the cutting of them employees family in Thailand who are being trained in business management by ClearCut Incorporated. For the first time they are learning the whole business of gem cutting, rather than just one single aspect in an assembly line that they repeat over and over again for their entire lives.

You can choose one of the loose stones or pairs, to have set yourself, or the silver pendant with the giant amethyst hanging off of it. They range in value from $50 - $70.

topaz

Citrine

Amethyst

Amethyst Pendant

Topaz

 Garnet

Golden Beryl

All donors are eligible to win the gemstone prize. Even if all you can afford is $5-10 that still counts. One hundred people donating $10 works out to way more in the end than 1 in 100 donating $50. (If I had a dollar for all of my page views last month I wouldn't need to hold this fundraiser. hint hint. :)








All donors and everyone spreading the word on twitter through the hashtag #thecharisproject, or sharing on facebook by tagging The Charis Project are eligible to win the books and CD set.

Winners will be chosen at random from all entries after the contest closes shortly before midnight on Saturday, September 10, 2011.



To find out that we're legit check our Guidestar Profile, or, come with us to Thailand. If you don't like paypal you can donate through our causes page.

7.9.11

Easy Canvas Prints Giveaway - Building a Self Sustaining Orphaange

One of the perks of being a blogger is that sometimes people offer you free stuff. I don't have that happen very often but I was so excited when Megan from Easy Canvas Prints offered me a free canvas print to try.

Have you heard of these? Take a photo, any photo at all, and turn it into fine art for your wall. Maybe it's a favorite spot you saw on vacation, maybe it's that perfect candid shot of one of your kids. I have wanted to try this since I first found out about it.


I knew exactly what photo I would print to canvas. It's one Aaron took of the Girl on a hill with the setting sun lighting all the bushes and her hair on fire. I planned to hang it over our mantel where we have some ugly media outlets to cover up.

But then when I was planning this fundraiser I realized what a great prize this would be for someone and so I asked Megan if I could give it away instead. This was a great personal sacrifice on my part, just so you know.

She graciously said yes, and so now I have one 11x14 custom canvas print to offer to you as one of our prizes.

Awesome right?

Here's how you win.

As you know, we need to raise $10,000 to finish building an orphanage by September 30. Why we need to build an orphanage.

We need your help.

Please help us tell our story to more and more people. Every tweet using the hash tag #thecharisproject with a link to one of these posts, or share of our facebook page, or cause is eligible to win one of these cool prizes. So is every donation. Please don't think that just because you only have a couple of dollars to spare it doesn't matter. If one person in 100 gives $50 that's a whole lot less than the $500 that come from each person giving just $5. So please, give if you can.







Winners will be chosen at random from all entries after the contest closes shortly before midnight on Saturday, September 10, 2011.

To find out that we're legit check our Guidestar Profile, or, come with us to Thailand. If you don't like paypal you can donate through our causes page.

5.9.11

Win an Ipod Nano - 8G - Help Build a Self Sustaining Orphanage

You know those kind of family friends who have been friends so long that you don't really remember the start of the friendship but your history is so intertwined that they show up in all your stories?

The donors of this prize are just that sort of family friend. We actually stayed with their grandma on our honeymoon, that's how far back it goes.



A few years back they bought a property with the cutest little guest cottage that they rent out as a vacation rental. Blue Fern Cottage has everything you could want, a little home away from home, and easy driving distance to the beach, Legoland, Seaworld, the zoo, wild animal park, etc. You know, all the things people head to San Diego to see. They have had guests stay from all over the world.



When we let it be known that we were looking for prizes to help make this fundraiser fun they at first thought of offering a few nights stay at their cottage. But since that's not something everyone can use they decided to donate an ipod nano instead.



Unless you've been living under a rock the past 5 years you know what an iPod is and why you want one. So compact, so cool. I would totally use this for working out, to listen to books on tape around the house, to bring along our favorite tunes in the car.

If you came here today just looking for a free iPod, cool. Let me tell you the story of why this is happening today and what we're fundraising for.



A few years ago we started The Charis Project, a non-profit that supports an orphanage in Thailand. The regular readers here at this blog are amazing. They rallied and provided the funds we need to get 40 refugee orphan kids enough food to eat and school uniforms and a safe place to live. They were practically starving when we first met them and the person who was trying to care for them had no resources.



We got them past the crisis and then we settled down to look at the long term. How were we going to take care of all these kids until they grew up? What happened when they were adults? What about all the other kids who needed help in that area? What could we do about the social and economic factors that lead to these children being orphaned or abandoned?



The traditional way this is done had us staring down a long road of never ending dependance on donations, perpetuating the culture of dependance that foreign aid so often inadvertently fosters, spending lots of money to do one good thing, help these kids in particular, but doing very little to change anything in the larger scheme of things.

So we tried to figure out a better approach and the idea of a self-sustaining orphanage was born. For the whole plan download our executive summary here.

Purchasing land to live on and farm is an important step toward financial independence for this orphanage. It's also a step forward in aiding the entire community as well as we get closer to implementing socially conscious businesses that will provide jobs, and essential resources such as clean water, clean energy, microfinance, and education to an impoverished tribal village.



That's where you come in. We really don't plan to be doing this forever but right now we're asking for your help to buy this land. If we don't finish paying it off this year we forfeit on our agreement and lose all the money invested last year as well as a place for the children to live.

The land as it currently stands.


We still have to raise $8225 to reach our goal.

To be eligible to win this iPod you need to make a donation. Yeah, I know, you give in lots of places, you don't have a lot of money, there's a recession on, and it seems draconian to insist that you donate to win. Me too.

Think about it this way. If one hundred people see this and one of them can afford to donate $50 that's awesome, that's more than we had before. But if each of those 100 people all donated just 5 dollars, we would have $500. Which do you think is better in the long run?

The point, after all, is to help these kids that no one wants and who have no one. They will continue to have no one unless each one of you reading this steps up and chooses to do one small thing that will have a ripple effect for years and generations to come.



And if the thought of your $5 today, or whatever you can afford, being part of changing the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of kids weren't enough of an incentive, you are also eligible for all of the other great prizes we are giving away too.









After donating, you get a second chance to win if you support our friends at Blue Fern Cottage who donated this prize and leave a comment on their facebook page saying, "I donated to The Charis Project". You get a 3rd chance to win if, after donating, you go ahead and tweet this contest using the hashtag #thecharisproject.

Winners will be chosen at random from all entries after the contest closes shortly before midnight on Saturday, September 10, 2011.

(If you already donated, thank-you so much. You are already eligible.)



To find out that we're legit check our Guidestar Profile, or, come with us to Thailand. If you don't like paypal you can donate through our causes page.

Birthing Paths Childbirth Classes Giveaway - Building a sustainable orphanage


This is my friend Teresa's baby. Everyone say awww!

(Full disclosure, I have been friends with this woman for most of my life. She's doing this giveaway because she is a very good and generous friend. I hope you all have a friend like this in your life. She feeds my soul in the very best ways.)

Ok, parenthetical gushing aside. You are all going to wish you lived in Canada for this one.

Teresa is a certified Bradley Method Instructor. Her 2 children were birthed at home with midwives in attendance. She is strong and gentle and wise and you would be very, very lucky to be in her class if you were having a baby for the first time.


In her own words.

Preparation is the key to a safe and treasured birth. I offer small, personal, interactive childbirth classes that are about educating parents, supporting moms and helping dads as they journey on this path of birthing a child. The 12 weekly classes focus on nutrition, relaxation, exercise and education, ensuring ample time to ask questions and put into practice all that is learned. Birth is so much more than a physical act, it demands all of a mom's emotional and mental resources. Whom she chooses to support her in this will be drawn into the journey of exploring life in a new way. I am glad to be a small part of helping you have the best experience you can.
I teach in Calgary and Red Deer, Alberta.
Teresa has donated tuition to one of her classes. The value of this gift is $375.

The bummer is that you have to live in either Red Deer or Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

But I know a lot of you do live there, or know someone who does. This prize is transferable.  So you can win it for someone else you know. Do you know anyone in Calgary or Red Deer who is expecting right now? Enter to win and give it to her.

How do you enter?

As you know, we need to raise $10,000 to finish building an orphanage by September 30. Why we need to build an orphanage.

We need your help.

Please help us tell our story to more and more people. Every tweet using the hash tag #thecharisproject with a link to one of these posts, or share of our facebook page, or cause is eligible to win one of these cool prizes. So is every donation.









Winners will be chosen at random from all entries after the contest closes shortly before midnight on Saturday, September 10, 2011.

Because the prize is regional, we're going to run this giveaway a little differently. You need to either leave a comment on her facebook page saying "I tweeted about/donated to/shared on facebook The Charis Project." Obviously you shoudl do on of those things first. She will choose a winner from that group. It must be a comment, not a like.

You are still eligible to win all the other prizes as well as this one.

To find out that we're legit check our Guidestar Profile, or, come with us to Thailand. If you don't like paypal you can donate through our causes page.

3.9.11

Secret Agent Josephine's ABC's -Building a Self Sustaining Orphanage



If you've been around blogging for a while you've probably run into Secret Agent Josephine, the blog authored by Brenda Ponnay. Your kids have probably looked over your shoulder at all the pictures of happy children doing colorful art projects and asked, "Why aren't you like that lady mom? We want to live with her. She's fun!"

She's kind too. This is not the first time she has helped The Charis Project out with a donation.

Brenda shares her crafty and artistic design ideas for parents and kids in many places online. We've made a lot of them here at our house. Especially popular have been the alphabet cards she designed for her own daughter, bug, when she was learning the alphabet. Every drawing is special, you will love them all.

Just this summer she released the book - Secret Agent Josephine's ABC's based on the cards she designed.



Look, even Jellybean loves it. There he is with Brenda at blogher11 reading along. He's so advanced. I on the other hand am chewing, totally classy.

Photo credit to Heather of OMSH
You could win a copy of Secret Agent Josephine's ABC's, here's how.


As you know, we need to raise $10,000 to finish building an orphanage by September 30. Why we need to build an orphanage.

We need your help.

Please help us tell our story to more and more people. Every tweet using the hash tag #thecharisproject with a link to one of these posts, or share of our facebook page, or cause is eligible to win one of these cool prizes. So is every donation.








Winners will be chosen at random from all entries after the contest closes shortly before midnight on Saturday, September 10, 2011.

To find out that we're legit check our Guidestar Profile, or, come with us to Thailand. If you don't like paypal you can donate through our causes page.

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