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“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set my free.  The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me” Psalm 118:5-7

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Facts are facts until there is a face, name and story to them.  I’ve experienced this first hand the past few years as God has opened our eyes to see hurting people all over the world.  There are hurting people in our neighborhood, in our churches, and in the third world country I’m currently visiting.  We all have a story to tell, and everyone’s story is important.  It doesn’t matter if we were born in Waco, Texas or Kigali, Rwanda.  You matter, we matter.  Your story and your life matters and your story is just waiting to be told.  I’ve seen so much brokenness and pain the past few days, but I’ve also seen the other side of that pain – I’ve seen hope!  Getting to know our Noonday seamstresses and IJM clients, I’ve seen restoration in progress, and I’ve seen the broken parts of peoples lives being turned into something beautiful.  It’s my prayer that this week, you can see too. Even if you never get the opportunity to visit beautiful Rwanda, that you could see it through my lens.  

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This week, my heart has been stirred towards eradicating the everyday violence that is relentlessly threatening the poor.   Everyday violence can mean anything from rape, trafficking, to police violence.  As Gary Haugen writes in his latest book, The Locust Effect, “everyday violence is devastating the developing world and and undermining our efforts to end poverty.”  This is a new concept that I am just starting to understand, and it’s blowing my mind y’all.  Y’all know how passionate Stephen and I have become to bring clean water to people who have no access all over the world, and our desire to see every child who has no opportunity to get the education they deserve.  But everyday violence is threatening those efforts!  Education for girls is so important, but sexual assault in schools and as they walk on the way to school is one of the main barriers keeping girls from getting an education. If we give widows a micro loan to grow crops, but stronger people can take her land by force, that micro loan investment is made useless.  Ending everyday violence is foundational to supporting other good investments like water, education and micro loans.   

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IJM‘s vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible.  They are not only transforming lives (which they are!), but transforming entire justice systems.  Their staff on the ground is 95%  local leaders–leaders in their own countries making the justice system work for the weak and vulnerable around them (and they are amazing, yall!).  My friend Jen did such a fabulous job explaining why these developing countries need a group like International Justice Mission and I’ld love it if you read her words here: http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2014/07/17/are-you-taking-my-message

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This week we had the opportunity to meet with a client of IJM, we’ll call her Jamie.  Jamie’s story is one of great pain but truly she has risen from the ashes with the help of IJM.  As she spoke of her after care workers at IJM around the lunch table, she said she “loved Bridgett and Barakka like she loves her parents”.  Their work was not in vain.  All in the same night, Jamie was sexually assaulted, locked in a house that was caught on fire, and in return lost both of her legs, and was outcasted from her community.  NOW she is walking in freedom in her new prosthetic legs and has been received back into her family.   The counseling she’s received from IJM, and personal relationships she’s formed with her after care workers have changed the trajectory of her life.  

We don’t share Jamie’s story with you to exploit her, we share it so the work of IJM can continue.  After a traditional Rwandan meal with Jamie, she wanted to make sure we are going to spread her message.  It’s a joy and honor to share her message of raising from the ashes of everyday violence into a life of hope and freedom! Her message to you?  She sends greetings, she wants you to know she is praying for you, and she is proud to be doing well in school and walking.  This young girl now has hope of a bright future.  She’s not a fact.  She’s a real person, with a face, a name and a story.  I tell you this story so you can see firsthand what the work of IJM is doing in Rwanda and in their 20 communities they work in across the world.  

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This is where I get excited, are you ready?  Maybe because I’m a former non-profit fundraiser, but I love knowing ways that we can TANGIBLY get involved and help.  Quite honestly, I thought because I don’t have thousands of dollars to give each month, I wouldn’t be of much support to IJM, but yesterday I learned about the easiest most amazing way for me and my family to get involved for the fight of justice.  For a month gift of $24, IJM can show up 24 hours a day to bring rescue where it’s most urgently needed.  Twenty four dollars, for the twenty four hours in a day.  The exciting thing is, there is a conversation happening to bring good in the developing world through child sponsorship, medic an care and clean water efforts.  The scary thing is, everyday violence is undermining all of these efforts.  The good news is, justice can become a part of this global conversation – and it starts with becoming a freedom partner. 

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Our family personally, is on fire with the idea and grateful to have a way to be a part of the groundbreaking work of IJM all over the world.  $24 might not sound like much, but IJM needs the investment to keep making change.  It says to the millions of people suffering from everyday violence in developing countries across the world, “you matter!  I see you.  I care about you.  YOU are not forgotten.”  

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what the heck are you waiting for? 

thanks to Laura, for this guest post.  I personally needed to hear this…enjoy!

I’m realizing that maybe the most precious part of my day, my mama-daily-grind, is wrapped up in 30 minutes.

30 minutes of intentionality.

30 minutes of out-of-sight iphone.

30 minutes of presence.

Life is hectic, too hectic frequently, am I right?

Some days I’m not sure whether I’m coming or going. In a whirlwind that is my life: sticky-snack messes, laundry, cooking, ministry, exercising, emails…the important things can get lost.

My little loves

My little loves

Misplaced in the shuffle.

I am a task-oriented person. And as much as I adore people and relationships, the task is my default.

What can I do, accomplish, conquer? How?awesome can be today?

And while productivity can be a good thing, it can often leave myself and my family in a sad, lonely state.

I mean, if an extra load of laundry is separating me from memories made and tighter bonds formed with my 4 loves, it’s all for nothing.

So, in my recovering rules-bent/legalistic self, I am reminding myself to live out a guideline, a goal if-you-will.

Spend 10 intentional, glorious minutes fully-focused, fully-present on each child, everyday.

And yes, I know what you might be thinking. 10 minutes isn’t really that long of a time frame, Laura. I get it. And I totally agree.

But if I can aim for that 10 minutes, it is my starting point, my recovering addict-of-merit beginning.

I remember when Landon (our oldest) was a baby and toddler. I would spent hours upon hours with him. Gushing at his cuteness, peering over his crib. Stacking blocks and knocking them down with ensuing precious baby giggles in his room. We’d go for walks, read books…nearly all of my time was for him and with him.

Now that sweet boy is nearly 5, Charlotte is 3 and Aiden turned 1 at the end of March. I’m a busy mama.

Landon loves playing Lego’s or Playmobile guys right now. His creativity and desire to engage in conversation and the “big boy” world just blesses my heart.

Charlotte prefers her princess castle. Ariel and Sleeping Beauty often have lunch, discussing what pie to bake or their latest princess dress. She is my girlie-girl?to the core.

Aiden, as a typical 1-year-old, is a wildcard. We can read books (okay, one book at time), build a block tower or play peek-a-boo. He’s my easy-going love.

I try to engage with the kids where they’re at, in whatever activity they want Mama to play.

Life has it’s ebbs and flows, and this season is a bit nutty. Beautiful, but nutty.

We all have to start somewhere. And after taking inventory, this is my somewhere.

In what areas of your life are you sensing the need to be more intentional?

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

you can find Laura on her blog, Facebooktwitter, and instagram.

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was it all a dream?

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting in the corner leather chair of our local Starbucks, trying to wrap my mind around all I just experienced last week in Rwanda.  For some reason, the re-entry this time has been really hard.  Maybe because I’ve highly anticipated this surprise dream trip since the very beginning of 2014?  Maybe because it’s summer, and coming home meant being thrown back into full time mom mode?  Maybe because unlike the last few trips I’ve taken, I don’t have another one on the calendar just yet?  Maybe because that trip was unlike any trip I’ll probably ever take….

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I don’t know what it is, but it’s hard.  I’ve been re-reading my posts, and instagrams, and reading through all of your comments this morning.  trying to take it all in…

I loved getting to share on the blog about Grace and how she has empowered me and given me purpose in my work as a Noonday ambassador.

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I loved getting to share about Baraka and the work that IJM is doing in the field and how like her, we can all be advocates.  We can all sing a song of empowerment and justice together – think of what could happen when we all just play our note?  Together we make a beautiful song.

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I have another post I can’t wait to share with you this week about International Justice Mission and how we can all join hands and be part of their work of bringing justice to the poor.  I am fired up about this organization, y’all – they are the real deal.  and I can’t wait to share that passion with you.

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Are you doing the She Reads Truth justice plan right now?  it’s not too late to start – I’ve loved studying and learning more about biblical justice and what we, as believers, are called to.  Download their new app for free on the app store, or follow along on their website here.

this feels more like a public service announcement.  but y’all, I still don’t have the words.  I pray that as I get a little bit of time here and there alone to process, that I’ll continue to share stories with you here.  As my bestie Brynn told me before the trip, “I don’t feel like you will fully process what this trip means until long after you’ve returned”.  So true, Brynn.  I’m diving into an ocean here, and there’s a lot to swim through.

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finally, I’m clearing out some samples to make room for my fall Noonday samples – and having an AUCTION style 36 hour shin dig over on my personal Facebook page starting Monday morning at 8am CST.  Starting tomorrow at 8am CST, even if we aren’t Facebook friends you should be able to access the album. You can find it here.

well friends, that’s about all I can muster today.  I just had to pop in and tell you a little bit about where my heart is.  I would appreciate any prayers you want to offer up on my behalf.  Enjoy your Sunday.

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Baraka.

Her name means blessing, and a blessing she is.  Baraka never liked her name, but once her pastor father told her the meaning, she wouldn’t dare change it. Her name gave her identity, it brought freedom and empowered her, as she says, to bless people and be a blessing. 

Baraka is the client care team leader for the IJM field office in Kigali, Rwanda and she is my hero. As we sat around the table, leaned in, and sipped our coffee this week we learned about the ridiculously hard but worthy work that IJM is doing around the world to transform lives and entire justice systems.  My friend Jen wrote a fantastic post yesterday explaining the importance of the work that IJM does in developing countries, and I urge you to go read her post (here).  Can we go back to my friend Baraka?  Good, because I like talking about her.  Baraka is the woman who makes IJM’s clients feel safe.  She accompanies them to their interviews, facilitates counseling for them and more than that she gets to know them.  It’s all about relationship with Baraka, and once she establishes that trust, her clients feel safe with her.  Her goal, as a client care worker is to help her clients reach a level where they can freely share.  

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Rwanda has a young justice system, and counselors + client care for abused girls is still a developing program, yall.  Baraka is paving the way and going before so many.  I’m confident she’ll watch this country continue to raise from the ashes.  In her words, “When God creates you with a purpose, he gives you the energy and passion you will need.  Knowing God and knowing it’s not my work but Gods work through me.”  If that doesn’t make you want to pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee with her, then well.  

Baraka is the new face of advocacy in this country.  She is rising up, building relationships and giving her life away for others.  

fighter.  campaigner.  promoter.  spokeswoman.  ADVOCATE

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photo cred: Kelle Hampton

the same words could be used to describe every single one of our 600+ Noonday ambassadors around the country, and most definitely our leader + founder, and my good friend Jessica Honegger.  

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We too are advocates!  We too are all about building relationships.  This is a new way – and while it’s an idea that might be hard to grasp at first, please hear me out on this.  

The reason why we advocate for and are able to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable in 10 countries around the world?  

It’s our artisans.  

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The passion in our hearts is to empower them to create their own sustainable business.  We aren’t giving them a hand out, but a hand up.  We don’t believe giving these artisans a “hand out “is a sustainable long-term solution to poverty.  Instead, we come alongside of them.  We cheer for them, we are spokeswomen for them, we promote their work by creating a marketplace for them.  We are creating dignified work for them.  

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Our desire is not only to advocate and empower them, but to watch them grow.  We are delighted in the beauty of their work, and when they grow, we grow.  We work together, the artisans and us.  We are women, and they are women.  Neither is better.  We are growing and learning from each other along the way.  

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I learned so much this week from our seamstresses about hard work.  I watched as Grace + Esperanze designed their first item all by themselves.  I watched as they kept their cool working with material they hadn’t worked with much before.  I watched their strength to press forward, to not give up, and to be proud of their work. 

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With all the #StyleForJustice team, 25 Noonday ambassadors and 13 seamstresses gathered today, Charlotte declared that our ambassadors give them more zeal to work knowing that their are women in America representing them.  

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With tears in her yes, Jessica told our group today that together we are “singing a song of empowerment, a song of justice” and I love the picture that we are each singing our notes and together creating a more beautiful world.  

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For me personally, becoming a part of our ambassador family has allowed me to be an advocate and voice for our artisans in vulnerable places all over world.  The relationships I’ve built within the ambassador family and several of our artisan groups in east Africa are irreplaceable.  These are my people, and I’m honored to use my voice and advocate for our artisans alongside of the ambassador family.  

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photo cred: Kelle Hampton

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I’d love it if you would think about how you could use your voice and advocate as a Noonday ambassador.  Why not?

  • Becca - Hi! I just found your blog after seeing a post on Pinterest. I’m going on a Guatemala service trip in March with my school and I love your posts about your trips & experiences! I myself am not religious but I love how devoted you are to advocacy and being a good person. I hope to make helping others as big of a part of my life as you have in yours. Best wishes!ReplyCancel

  • where my heart is. » Gloriously Ruined - […] loved getting to share about Baraka and the work that IJM is doing in the field and how like her, we can all be advocates.  We can all sing a song of empowerment and justice together – think of what could happen […]ReplyCancel

because of you

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because of you I am empowered.  because of you I have purpose and passion in my work.  because of you I can help support my family.

because of you I have the courage to travel half way across the world to tell you how proud I am of you, and how much I delight in your work.

you, sweet Grace, have changed my life. 

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from the outside this scenario might appear backwards.  but don’t be fooled.  When you sat next to me at lunch today, and told me that you have the skills you have because of me, I cried.  

I cried because you have no idea what your strength, my friend has done for me.  

your story is one of deep loss, and heartache, but you have overcome.

when the world would have told you to give up after you lost your father, aunts, and older brother in the genocide and were forced to flee your village at 5 years old holding tightly your mothers hand…you didn’t give up .

you overcame.  

you believed in yourself, and you had hope.  

even when the world laughed and mocked you for not being able to your education, you instead pursued an opportunity to go to sewing school.

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When I came to Rwanda 3 years ago as a new ambassador, and heard of the opportunity to partner with Grace to send her to sewing school, I had no idea that all these years later I would actually be getting to design and sew with her!  I couldn’t have imagined on a Sunday afternoon in October that a friendship would be formed between 22 year old Grace and I.  Her’s is the story I will be telling at all of my trunk shows this fall.

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I meant it when I said today that you (and all of our Noonday artisans!) give me purpose.  you give me something to believe in, a way to spend my life for the poor and the oppressed from my small town in west Texas.  

It’s not just me, I know I speak for the group of 600+ ambassadors who are back at home right now advocating on your behalf.  We are championing you in living rooms all across America and are so proud to have the opportunity to share your stories with the world.  

You inspire us, bring us hope, and encourage us with your joy and courage.  You all are my heros! [ and I can't wait to show off the amazing #styleforjustice line to my friends on August 7th!!]

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we work together, you and I.  

like a cord that is not easily broken, we need each other, to stand back-to-back and conquer. 

we can’t do it on our own.  two are better than one. 

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“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.  But how can one be warm alone?  A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.  Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 

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Today I sat on the floor at the co-op and watched Kelle and Esperanza braid a 3 cord strand of fabric and as Kelle held one end, and Esperanza held the other I got this great picture of the importance of partnership.  That fabric would not have been completed had one of those women been braiding alone.  It took both of them, working together, harnessing their gifts and in the end creating something beautiful together.

Noonday Collection is committed to partnering with artisan groups all over the world, not just with our sewing co-op in Rwanda, but also with our growing artisan group in Uganda, our new partnership  in Haiti and fabulous groups in 7 other countries!

Noonday is bringing hope, dignity and economic opportunity to vunerable people all over the world, and it makes my heart so giddy to know that we are a part of that movement.  the great and amazing thing is – YOU can be a part too!  Sign up to be an ambassador – or if you want to get your feet wet, concider being a part of our first ever #nationwidetrunkshow on August 7th by connecting with a local ambassador and opening up your home to host!

Be sure you visit our #styleforjustice trip page to get more information on IJM + Noonday Collection and sign up for exclusive updates from our trip!

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     photos by Kelle Hampton + Paige Knusden