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I know I haven’t posted yet exactly what we’re up to with the non-profit and Peter’s trip.  I thought I’d get the time to finish writing this post days ago — but I forgot that I would actually be MORE busy with him away because of helping with the business and having the kiddos 24/7.   Anyway, here’s the nutshell version. There’s more, but I wanted to give at least an overview while Peter’s still in Liberia.

Our desire to get more involved in this area started with our passion to see less kids become orphans. As awesome as adoption is, it would be better in a lot of cases if biological parents were able to raise their children. But for so many parents in struggling countries, extreme poverty forces them to relinquish their kids just so their kids will survive. While this is sacrificial and often saves children’s lives, it really grieves our hearts to think about parents being in such a hard place that they are forced to make a decision like this. We started thinking about ways we could make a difference soon after we made the decision to begin our adoption process two years ago, and that’s how we initially started thinking about this stuff.

For the last year or so, we’ve been talking specifically about helping small businesses and ground-level economics in developing countries.  We know first-hand how difficult it is to start a business here in the US where there are ample opportunities to find investors and mentors.   In many struggling countries, it’s almost impossible even for highly motivated and skilled people to start their own businesses or improve their struggling ones. We’ve been very interested in micro-loans and micro-grants, but also have been brainstorming other ways to help.  When we were in Liberia in November we were so impressed by the level of craftsmanship and artistry evident in the sidewalk vendors and the markets.   We talked to men and women who were struggling to make a living selling their items.  They were barely making it.  Literally, barely making enough to feed their families — no extra to send their kids to school or pay for medication if someone got sick.  And they certainly didn’t have the resources to expand/improve their businesses in order to do these things. 

We brought some items home with us as gifts and we were overwhelmed by the response from our friends and family.  Everyone was as impressed as we had been with the quality and artistry and we began to think about the possibility of providing an outlet for these talented and hardworking people to sell their items.  We have always been interested in fair trade and strongly agree with the underlying principles of paying people decently and fairly for their labor or products; thereby insuring both their success and their ability to sow back into the local economy.  As we’ve studied it more the last six months, supporting fair trade has become a strong conviction and we are really excited about this opportunity to help on a relational level.

Eventually we’d like to offer micro-loans and/or micro-grants for small business ventures, but there is a lot that goes into loans.  For now, we are going to be working with a few small business owners that Peter met with to set up a grant program, not for money but for tools that would help take their business to a level where they can employ more people and/or afford to send their kids to school, etc.  We also want to eventually work on some sort of apprenticeship/vocational training program that would benefit both the mentor and the apprentice. 

So actually, this vision of ours has two parts.  The non-profit part which will fund the vocational training and apprenticeships and the micro-loans and grants. And also the import/commerce side that will fund artisans in developing countries and then donate any additional “profits” to the non-profit to sow back into the country through the organizations we partner with — to help build orphanages, schools, churches, and drill wells, etc. 

Right now, we are working on getting the website going for the commerce side.  Peter has been meeting with a lot of different artisans and he has been arranging for shipping, etc.  We’d like to get into a couple stores in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene with our items, as well as start wholesaling to other stores around the country that carry fairly-traded global items. One of the fundamentals of fair trade is that all goods are purchased in full from the artisans or farmers in developing countries so there is no confusion later (or exploitation.)  This is what Peter has been doing.  We’re hoping to pursue an ongoing relationship with a lot of the artisans in the future, but this way we are free to sell their items without the pressure of needing to pay them later for time and materials that they’ve already used. 

I want to end by saying that we didn’t want to start something ourselves just for the sake of starting something.  (Certainly not!  We know what goes into running a corporation — profit or non!)  We see the benefits to partnering with other organizations and working together for optimum results.  But sometimes it makes sense to pioneer and begin something — especially when it’s a need that’s not being filled. As far as we know from researching and talking to a lot of different people, this is a fairly new outlet for Liberia, although common in other African countries. We’re starting in Liberia, but we’d like to expand to other countries as well. We’re going to be listing smaller quantities of the bracelets from Threads of Hope (Philippines) since you can only order larger batches for fund-raising on their website. We’re praying about other possible countries that we have connections in as well.  So, we’ll see.  For now we’re just really excited about this trip and this door and can’t wait to get the website fully operational!

The kids and I drove home last night from my parent’s house in Spokane where we’ve been staying the last week since Peter flew out.  I had to drive the business truck and trailer home (Peter was on an install right before he left.)  Definitely not my favorite thing to do — it’s such a long truck and trailer.  But we made it without knocking any telephone poles over and it’s nice to be home.  Henry, especially, seemed so happy and relieved to be back in his own room and in his own bed.  I think he’s been having a hard time with Peter gone and while we were snuggling last night before bed he smiled sleepily and asked hopefully, “Daddy — shop?”  (This is what he asks me when Peter is working late at the shop and I am putting him to bed.)  I didn’t say anything in response;  I just let him keep his little illusion.  He must have felt better thinking that Daddy was just across the road rather than in some faraway place because he actually slept well last night — a rarity this week. 

We did come home to the lovely surprise of bird poop all over the house… I guess the back door was left open and Donna said that she discovered and freed two birds flapping at the windows inside my house at two separate times.  Nice.  The insides of the windows and the window sills were just nasty — and there was evidence on the floor and the tables and the couch.  Eh… JUST what I wanted to come home to!  Oh well, you roll with it.  At least Sophie (our boxer/lab) hadn’t chewed anything important while we were gone this time. 

I talked to Peter again this afternoon before he went to bed.  He had a great day with Matt of ORR.  They went to several of the orphanages that ORR works with and then ended with a tour and dinner on the Mercy Ship.  Peter also met with someone from LEAD and another organization today.  He sounds tired but still really stoked.  Several times when I’ve spoken with him in the last couple days, he’s been outside playing ball or some other game with a whole crew of local kids.  They’ve been teaching him to drum, too.  Peter is in his element with kids and I know he is glad to take the time to just play with them. 

Yesterday on the phone we were laughing because there was a squirrel playing across the street from me as I sat on my parent’s front porch and there was a monkey playing right across the street from Peter. 🙂  The day before he told me about Ahmad gunning the little car they rented across an almost-knee-deep moat blocking the driveway.  It’s the rainy season and Peter said he’s never seen it rain like it rains in Liberia.  I love hearing all the little stories from his trip.  I’ll try to get him to do a guest post with pictures when he gets back! 

Mostly, though, I just love hearing about the people he’s met that we are going to be able to help.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to know that even just once, we will be making a difference in people’s lives — and hopefully on an ongoing basis with some of them.  I love hearing him talk about the widow making baskets on her back porch with her six kids and about the tailor who is apprenticing three young men… and the wood-carver who is supporting his extended family through his carvings.  Everyone that Peter has met with has been so excited about the possibilities… from the artisans themselves to the people he’s met from various organizations working in Liberia.  There is a lot of work to be done still, but we are seeing how this could work and really make a difference.  I am so excited about Peter coming home to share more about his trip and where he sees things going.  He’d better be taking good notes!!!

… I figured I would miss Peter — but I didn’t expect to be so jealous!  Oh, how I would love to be in Africa with him!!!  We got the chance to talk for a little while this afternoon and it sounds like his first day in Liberia was very full.  He’s already connected with several of the people he was hoping to meet while over there — Matt of ORR, the Gjerstads, and another man who runs a micro-loan program in Buchanan (another city in Liberia.)   He sounded tired, but completely stoked.   He’s been taking a ton of video and has a bunch of pictures to email me of the artisans that he’s met and some of their work.  Tomorrow he is going to spend some time with Joe Callaghan (a great guy that we met in Liberia last November) and he’s also planning on traveling into the interior to meet with some artisans in a several small villages. 

Hearing him talk about Ahmad and all the people he’s connected with and hearing the unmistakable Liberian noises in the background while we were on the phone made me really, really wish I was there.  Our trip to Liberia last November was so brief and I came home wanting to go back for a longer period of time.  I can’t even explain the feeling.  I know many of you probably think we’re nuts.  It’s okay.  I guess we are nuts in a lot of ways!  But some of you understand the feeling of being changed by a single walk down a dusty road in a strange country — staring openly at the stark reality of inequality and pain reflected in people’s eyes — but also a strange, almost incomprehensible hope there, too.  We couldn’t look away.  We couldn’t.  And I want to be there again working with Peter on this project hands on.  I don’t want to forget the rawness of it and I don’t want to settle into “we’re doing all we can” because none of us can afford to settle there.  It’s not true.  Every time we wake up in the morning we have the opportunity that day to give more freely and serve more selflessly and love more intensely than the day before.  No matter where we are in the world and no matter who is hurting around us or what the needs are.  I know that God puts different burdens on different people’s hearts — and not everyone is going to have the same burden.  But everyone should let their hearts break and should reach out to touch others lives.  Because life ain’t about us.  And I guess that’s one of the reasons why I want to be with Peter right now — because I don’t want this endeavor of ours to be about us.  And even with the best intentions, I know how easy it is to start feeling good about what you’re doing and let that good feeling become sort of a shallow, earthly reward that lets you off the hook… lets you settle for “I’m doing all I can.”  

Okay… There’s a little honesty and internal conversation for you… you guys all like honesty, right?

Next time I’ll go.  And, actually, since only one of us could go, I am glad it was Peter.  He is such a rockin’ guy.  I love that we are a team.  I love that God put the same things in both our hearts.  I don’t exactly know where we’ll go from here, or what we’ll do in our lives, but I am ever-so grateful to know that the guy I am doing life with is passionate about these things too.

Okay, so back to our phone conversation…

Peter said that his flight to Liberia was smooth and uneventful.  He sat next to a woman who was traveling to Liberia to bring her adopted son home (through AoH)  They had a good visit and he was able to help her at the airport.  Peter said that Ahmad was SOOO excited to see him.  I am really glad that Peter is with Ahmad and his family.  What a huge, huge blessing to have that relationship.  Ahmad and Peter built a strong friendship while he lived with us —  “Brothers forever” Ahmad told Peter right before he left our place in December.  Who would have thought when we agreed to let a total stranger live with us last fall that things would unfold the way they have?  It’s part of the mystery of giving.  It comes back… not always in the ways we think or in the time frames we imagine — but always in the end.  In all honesty, I was so scared last fall when the circumstances happened the way they did and this strange Liberian man was basically on our doorstep without a home unless we opened ours.  Aaahhhh!  But after taking a deep breath and trusting that God was opening the door, it really turned out to be an incredible season and now it’s even more obvious that it’s a long term blessing. 

That’s pretty much it.  I will post updates as I can.  Peter was going to blog about his trip himself, but I don’t think he’ll get internet access very often (if at all…)  So you’ll have to put up with my interpretation — and I’ll try to leave the rambling commentary out of it next time… 🙂

So, Peter’s off!  His plane left Spokane early this morning and he called me this afternoon from New York after the first leg of the trip.  He won’t call from Brussels, so the next time we talk he’ll be in Africa.  It seems so strange that a person can wake up in one corner of the world and only a day or two later be in another corner… It makes the world seem so much more reachable when you think about it this way.  At any given moment we are all just a few plane rides away from the other end of the earth.

I was so tired today.  Peter and I stayed up through the night because by the time we finally finished packing and rearranging his bags and were ready for bed, we had under an hour until we had to leave for the airport (combination of getting a late start from home; Peter having to put in a few hours on a job down here; having to make a couple last minute trips to the store… and a very, very early departure time.)  And who wants to go to bed for only an hour?  It was actually fun staying up together.  We haven’t pulled an all-nighter together in a long time and I loved talking and laughing into the wee hours of the morning… it made me realize how much I’m going to miss him.  Even though I am used to him being away from home often on 2-3 day business trips, there have only been a handful of times in the last fifteen years of our friendship that we’ve been apart this long.  Yeah, I know it’s not a long trip and I’m not complaining… (well, let it just be said here and now that I would have LOVED to have gone too!!!) …I think part of it is knowing that he is at least 24 hours of travel time away. 

You should have seen his bags!  They were bursting at the seams with donations for various orphanages and gifts for Ahmad’s family and items for some of the missionary families Peter contacted.  I was so surprised that we only had to remove about ten pounds total to bring them down to the max weight limit.  We loved getting the chance to fill the luggage almost completely with donations and were blessed by friends stopping by with stuff to add.  What an amazing thing it is to give.  Right now I am ready to give away everything we own.  (I’m not saying I’m always like this!  I struggle with holding on to things as much as the next person… but right now on the heels of Peter leaving with his bags full, I just want to pack up all the stuff that we don’t use and don’t need and give it to people who honest-to-goodness really, really need it.  Heck, I’m ready to give it ALL away — even the stuff we think we need…  ‘Cause in the grand scheme of things, how much do we really, truly need?  I feel God lovingly convicting me more and more in this area and the words “…freely give” are deeply embedded upon my internal conversation right now.  More thoughts on this later…)

Anyway, thankfully I got a little sleep today while my mom watched Jo and Henry — but I am going to make this brief so I can get to bed at a decent hour tonight.  The kids and I are going to stay with my parents for a few days before heading home, and hopefully I can catch up on all the things that have been pushed to the side the last few weeks as we’ve been getting ready for Peter’s trip… like finishing the post about the non-profit… and working on the RLC mall… and catching up on phone calls… and… and… :0)

I wanted to post some pictures from Henry’s birthday party Friday evening.  He had a double birthday party with our friends (Ross and Tessa’s) daughter, Chloe, who turned a year old on August first.  It was a very laid-back affair.  My family didn’t celebrate holidays or birthdays when I was a kid, and I think that’s the reason why I am TERRIBLE at planning birthday parties.  Friday night was so nice.  We just invited close friends and family to come hang out at the beach with us and eat cake and play in the water and celebrate two sweet little lives.  There was hardly any prep work and zero stress — and I hit the photo-opportunistic jackpot with amazing lighting and adorable kiddos everywhere!  What a great party.  :0)  Maybe I’ll go big for his third birthday.  And then again, maybe not… 

I’m sure these photos are destined to be developed and subsequently stashed in the “if I ever decide to start scrapbooking, these would make a great page!” pile on my desk…  Terrible, I know.  Hey, at least I’m blogging the pictures, right?  It’s a stab at preserving them for posterity!

Our kids love the river.  Being the laid-back (read: forgetful) parent that I am, I completely spaced the swimsuits.  Oh, well.  Thankfully I DID pack a spare change of clothes because Jo waded in up to her waist trying to catch minnows with the cousins.  (I was secretly delighted by her new-found bravery!) 

Chasing after minuscule fish is apparently BIG TIME fun!

Henry’s trying to figure out where all the minnows in his bucket went!! 🙂

Here’s the birthday girl, Chloe, with her dad.  She was very gracious to share her first birthday party with a boy.  However, she didn’t give me one. single. smile all night!  Too overwhelmed by kids, sun and sand, I think.

Okay, this next shot has to be one of my all-time favorite pictures of my nephew, Hunter.  You’d have to know Hunter to appreciate it.  He is SUCH a lovable, mischievous character!  He was goofing around sticking his face down near the water and a big ol’ wave surprised him and splashed water up his nose. 

Hunter, we love you.

I snapped a shot of Ryan and Peter taking a break from all the birthday-ness to solve a few of the world’s problems…

…and here’s my beautiful (preggers) best friend enjoying the sun.

Tessa made a cake for each of the kids and they approached the task at hand from two different angles…

Henry obliged Peter with one bite of his cake sans silverware, and then waited patiently for a utensil.  “C’mon, Dad, I’m not a baby anymore!!!”

“THAT’s more like it!!”

Chloe, on the other hand, was all about the fingers.

Such cuteness…  

Okay, okay… I know this is getting long.  Only a couple more, I promise!  🙂  I love this shot of Joanna because she deliberately took her cake over to this spot to eat overlooking the water.  It made me feel very, very old to have a kid mature enough to enjoy sitting and watching the waves contemplatively while eating dessert. 

And finally, the gorgeous sunset that set the lake on fire.  The picture doesn’t do it justice — it was amazing. 

Happy birthday, Henry Isaiah! 

Yesterday we celebrated your second birthday.  You’ve been on this earth for two full years and the world is blessed by your presence.  You are an amazing kid and I can’t even begin to put into words how much I love you and how you’ve changed me. 

You are so many things: funny, mischievous, adorable, tenderhearted, tenacious, smart and incredibly linguistic for your age.  You have a great sense of humor and you keep us constantly entertained with your antics and “jokes.”  You are full of life and laughter and you love to make others laugh, too.  But you also have such a soft, tender side.  You are a little lover.  I have never known such an affectionate child.  Your spontaneous hugs and kisses melt my heart — as does your little voice telling me “love ya, Mamalove ya SOOOO much, Mama.” 

You are adventurous and attempt everything you see other kids doing.  There isn’t anything you won’t try.  And there isn’t much you can’t do.  You’re a fighter and an overcomer in the best sense of the words.  I’m so proud of WHO you are and I’m so proud of the way you tackle life.

I can’t imagine our family without you — things would be so quiet and empty without your shrieks and uncontrollable giggles.  We’d miss your funny little conversations and the way you sing silly made-up songs at the top of your lungs. 

I love you, son.  I’m so grateful that our lives are forever entwined.  It’s a privilege to be your mama.  You are a gift, Henry — a gift beyond comprehension.  Happy 2nd birthday!!! 

A little about me…

Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Student. Adventure-lover. Photo-taker. Book-reader. Organic gardener. Granola-maker. Green smoothie drinker. Snowboarder. Soccer-player. Aspiring rock-climber. Sometime health nut. Passionate about justice and mercy. Adoption advocate. Business owner and jewelry designer. Wild at heart. Crazy-blessed to live out in the country with my awesome family.

Photography Website:

Contact Me:

sunfreckled@gmail.com
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do." {Helen Keller}

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