give. shop. my birthday wishlist for others.

I enjoy a lot of things. Traditionally, my birthday has not been one of them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m immensely grateful for my parents who brought me into this world (and the amazing parties they have thrown for me), for every day I get to live and breathe, and especially for the abundant and eternal life God has given me.

My dislike of the birthday celebration boils down to two things.

1) I do not like to be the center of attention. This has been true since…well, even before that seemingly traumatic incident at Disney World when I was picked out of a crowd and serenaded. Oddly, I’m perfectly comfortable performing or teaching. Otherwise, please focus your attention elsewhere.

2) I just don’t like getting older. No, I’m not looking for the fountain of youth or hunting for hallows. It’s just that at age 6 I declared I was done growing up, and not much has changed. (I think I just loved life the way it was.) In recent years, I have learned to better cope with this fact of life (permission to hum a theme song granted). Still, I declare my spirit to be younger than I am in years.

Recently, I have decided that perhaps the best way to address these issues is by changing how I celebrate a birthday. With a new perspective, the focus can be shifted away from me and to leaving a legacy. 

I’m starting small. To celebrate this year, I have made a different kind of wish list. There are organizations to give to if you are the donating type and items to buy if you are the support-a-business type. What better way to celebrate life than to give or support these life-giving efforts.

Noonday Collection
My friend Paula is an ambassador for Noonday Collection. This past weekend I had an unexpected opportunity to hear from her about this business and see their products. What began as an adoption fundraiser for one family has grown to a fair trade business supporting artisans and their communities across the globe. If you like accessories of any kind, you can find something in this collection whether for yourself or as a gift.

My current favorites:
Brightly Wound Bracelet
On the Mark Necklace 

Video about Noonday Collection

Free Set
Freeset, another fair trade business, is committed to offering employment to those who have been enslaved by human traffickers and part of the sex trade industry in Calcutta, India. There story is best told on their website. Read their story and about their philosophy full of mercy and justice. 

My current favorites:
Teacup Tee
Farmhouse Bag  

Not Forgotten
Passion lights up a face like nothing else. Tyler, Allison, Kristen and any other who left a piece of their heart in Iquitos, Peru will light up like the sun when they talk about their boys. This began with a couple college kids keeping promises to some previously forgotten little boys and has grown into a non-profit currently building their first family-style bungalow for these kids where they will be loved and nurtured.

These guys periodically put on art and jewelry shows to raise funds (as they happen to be talented and have talented friends), but you can make a donation any time via the website. Don’t you want to be a part of breaking a cycle and building hope?

Video about Not Forgotten

Urban Purpose
Again, a couple people with a heart for sharing the life-changing power of God recognized a need and saw way to meet it. A few people partnered with them, volunteered with them, and ministered alongside them. Then a few more did the same. And a few more. Lives in need in the Birmingham area are being changed by the love and grace of God through faithful relationship building. Here is the idea.

Read more and watch the videos that tell their story. Urban Purpose is a non-profit supported by donations. Consider giving them a one-time gift or supporting them with an on-going monthly commitment.

Video about Urban Purpose

That’s the wish list for this year.
Happy Birthday to all!

P.S. If you decide to gift anything in celebration of my birthday this year, please leave a comment, send me an email, or let me know somehow. I want to be able to say thank you!


give. shop. fashionable’s birthday sale.

October is coming to a close all too quickly. While many are adding cobwebs to their décor, I’m dusting off the virtual ones here to share something important.

After watching The Impossible last fall, I wasn’t sure I would recover. The tsunami of Boxing Day 2004 might as well have happened that day and in my back yard. To say it was difficult to watch… well, it’s just too little to say. My every muscle was taut with the terror and pain. My every thought was of this story. And, as it gripped me for weeks, I continually came back to a single moment.

Maria has against all odds survived and found her oldest son. She is injured, barely putting one torn leg in front of the other. It is too much to bear, but by some miracle of body, mind, and spirit, they find themselves in the company of some other native survivors. The current and debris left their bodies tattered and torn, just like the little clothing they had left. Then, a single gesture of grace and compassion gives dignity and ushers in hope. Maria is wrapped in a shirt. There is no strength left and she falls into the arms of strangers with gratitude far greater than her whispered words: thank you.

I felt it then – relief in gift of dignity.

It may seem silly to you at first for me to liken this moment, based on a true story, to another in a completely different world, but bear with me.

He turned to go.

“Come Dobby. I said, come.”

But Dobby didn’t move. He was holding up Harry’s disgusting, slimy sock, and looking at it as though it were a priceless treasure.

“Master has given a sock,” said the elf in wonderment. “Master gave it to Dobby.”

“What’s that?” spat Mr. Malfoy. “What did you say?”

“Got a sock,” said Dobby in disbelief. “Master threw it, and Dobby caught it, and Dobby – Dobby is free.

“Harry Potter freed Dobby!” said the elf shrilly, gazing up at Harry, moonlight from the nearest window reflected in his orb-like eyes. “Harry Potter set Dobby free!”

“Least I could do, Dobby,” said Harry, grinning. “Just promise never to try and save my life again.”

The elf’s ugly brown face split suddenly into a wide, toothy smile.

At the conclusion of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, this house elf, a bottom-rung creature forced for years to do the bidding of any master that happened to own him, was set free by a piece of clothing.

And I felt it then – joy in the gift of dignity.

That same joy is visible on the faces of the women who work weaving scarves at fashionable.  You may remember I visited them last summer. The sweet smiles I saw and shared face-to-face told yet another story of how a piece of clothing gives dignity. In this case, it’s not the wearing that brings relief or the receiving that brings the joy. It is the employment, the contribution, and the provision that add worth to their day and shout into the lives of these women that they are worth so much more than they believed.

Take two minutes to watch this.

FashionABLE is celebrating its 3rd birthday this week! For 3 days (2 more) everything is 30% off! By purchasing a scarf or other accessory from them, you are helping to sustain this company and the life-altering, hope-giving opportunities it provides. Give your friends and family gifts from fashionABLE and you’ll be giving dignity.

Blog Post Banner

Spread the word. Share the video. Pick your favorite social media platform or hit them all. Just keep telling people about the gift of dignity.

Click here to start shopping and giving. 


read. my tale of two boxes.

I had the privilege of writing a lesson to be taught to students at my church this Christmas. I share a portion of it with you.

At this time of year, mystery seems to be all around. Wrapped packages hold secrets, tantalizing us with the mystery of what is inside. Many mysteries more just more readily accepted. How does Santa manage to do his job so well? Who was the anonymous donor? Who is your “Secret Santa”? Secrets, surprises, and mysteries just seem to be a part of the spirit of Christmas. In fact, Mystery is reason for the season.

I have always been drawn to mystery. My first favorite book was a mystery. Many of my favorite television shows and movies involve mystery.  The idea that something is beyond my understanding is somehow a comfort to me. But at the same time, that mystery actually compels me to try to understand. Mystery motivates me to know the unknowable.  J.J. Abrams, the creator of several of these mystery-themed shows I enjoy, gave a TED talk several years ago, and in it expressed many of these same ideas. He shares with the audience a mystery box he purchased in his childhood yet remains unopened. In asking himself why he has kept but never opened this box he answers, “… it represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential.” He also says, “mystery is the catalyst for imagination.”

So when Paul writes in Colossians 2:2-3 that he wants the believers there “to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” he is telling them and us that the unknown is knowable. He is inviting humanity not just to imagine but also to explore the mystery, which is Christ. The invitation was not a new one even to the church at Colossus. It was the invitation, the plan, God had from the beginning. He wanted his creation to know its Creator. And Jesus was the mystery wrapped in flesh.

That is the miracle we celebrate at Christmas and hopefully every day – that a mystery opened its own ethereal box and dressed in something familiar so we could understand as much as possible.

Now, I’d like to tell you about another box, one that taught me something special about Jesus.

Three years after spending a semester in London, I returned on a short visit and followed my feet to a few of my favorite spots. While wandering, I stumbled on to a beautiful thing. There, just outside St. Martin-in-the-Fields, was a large cube. I had no memory of it being there before. Of course, I was intrigued. From a few yards away, all I saw was this perfectly smooth box. I took a few more steps and realized that carved on the side, wrapping regally around in block letters were familiar words. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” I took a few more steps. I stopped. I was close enough now to see the roughly textured top of the otherwise perfectly smooth shape. At eye level, in the center of the rough terrain was a breathtakingly realistic carving of a baby boy. It was as if the top of this box had been broken off and at the center of the mystery was a newborn child who lay partially within the stone, the umbilical cord running in to the stone itself.  This sculpture taught me more in a momentary glance than reading or study ever had.

I later discovered the sculpture was commissioned for the millennium and put in place only days or weeks after I departed in 1999. The piece is by sculptor Mike Chapman who said,  “It seemed to me that a tiny life-size baby carved from stone in such an enormous environment would be the best way to remind us all of just whose birthday we were celebrating.” To me, it was more than a reminder of “the rock from which you were hewn.” (Isaiah 51:1) You can see a photo of a portion of the sculpture here or below, but I fear it will not do the experience justice. Because I experienced this on a level deeper than words, I cannot really convey the lesson to you with them.

photo credit: Brett Jordan

The words of John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the prologue of the Gospel cannot be bested. They convey, as best words can, the self-existence of God, the holy trinity, the nature of humanity, and the plan for the redemption of man.  They tell us about a mystery that loves us. They tell us about Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

(John 1:1-18 ESV)

If you want to know more about this story, about Jesus, click here.


visit. shop. give. fashionABLE.

I have a new scarf that smells like coffee and honey.

A few months back, I had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia on a vacation with family.  Our list of places to visit and things to do was composed primarily of historical landmarks and travel book recommendations, but there was one visit I hoped to make even though it would be off the tourist path.

FashionABLE, a non-profit I shared with you a year ago, aims to create sustainable business in Africa and job opportunities for women. These women happened to be working a mere taxi cab ride away from one stop on our vacation route.

I could not pass the opportunity up. Kiely, the fashionABLE communications liason on site at the time, was incredibly accommodating. A couple emails and a set of directions later, my mom and I were breaking away for a quick tour.

As we entered the small compound, I was struck by the bright colors. The buildings, the thread, and even the smiles seemed to glow in the sunlight, like hope and redemption had become visible. In light of that, I’ll let these images speak for me.

  1. Weaving, observed with the right eye, begins to look like a dance.
  2. Finishing off the ends of a scarf.
  3. Getting ahead by drying a good amount of dyed thread in the sun before rainy season begins.
  4. Kiely and me. Thanks Kiely for hosting us for a few minutes and allowing us the privilege of seeing this good work first hand.
  5. Look for this tag as you shop.
  6. This is the beautiful Feleku. You, too, can learn Feleku’s story. (By the way, Emily Maynard wore the scarf named for her this past season on The Bachelorette.)
  7. Scarves in the shop. You can buy items like these online.
  8. Spinning wheels.
  9. I’m fascinated by the looms and tools – shuttles, bobbins, and thread.

I enjoyed learning a bit about weaving and the business side of things, but I particularly enjoyed hearing more about Women At Risk, a partner organization of fashionABLE. Women At Risk is a rehabilitation program for former sex workers. The program provides these women with counseling, teaches them skills and trades, and helps them find employment.  After our tour, we shopped in the modest storefront where they were selling not only scarves, but other items made by women who have come through the Women at Risk program.  I selected a couple of bars of scented soap – milk and honey, and coffee – and a unique scarf made while teaching techniques.

In an effort to handle these items with care and get them safely home, I wrapped the soaps in the scarf. Yesterday, I pulled my scarf out of my closet and noticed the scents still linger.

The fashionABLE fall line was introduced today, and if you browse their lookbook (which I highly recommend) you may just see a few of the scarves on the looms in the photos above. I intend to order one myself.  Select one for yourself and order now! I doubt it will smell like coffee and honey upon arrival, but you can wear it knowing faces of the women’s life changed by this effort and your purchase.

Don’t forget to check out all things fashionABLE on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


watch. abide with me.

I need a forum to express something. Since I don’t have a soapbox to stand on in Speaker’s Corner, I am turning to this blog of mine that has been on accidental hiatus. At the moment, it comes in handy.

If you are just joining me here, please note that I have loved the Olympics for as long as I can remember the Olympics. This basically means that since the moment Mary Lou Retton vaulted a perfect 10, I’ve been hooked.  Or perhaps, it was even before that, when my family stood on a sidewalk in Birmingham, AL to cheer on the passing torch relay runner. And every 2 years (yes, I love the Winter and Summer events) I give 2 weeks or more to Team USA.

As with most events, sport or performing art or concert, my favorite moments are the first moments. Everyone is full of hope and expectation. I know. It’s entirely too diplomatic of me when the point of a competition is to discover the fastest, strongest, best. But as a spectator, I cannot help but sense the excitement of every competitor. I hope for them all. The Olympic Opening Ceremonies is the ultimate and literal parade of that anticipation.

I love the Opening Ceremony for more than its display of expectation. The host of the Games opens my eyes to a culture – familiar or foreign – and I learn something. Admittedly, the Ceremony can get long. To those who make this argument, feel free to get a snack or work on a project. This only happens once every couple of years; let us enjoy it.

On Friday, I signed off social media early in the afternoon to avoid spoilers. I turned down invitations to viewing parties, in part, to ensure I would hear the back-story of each flag-bearer from Bob Costas. And I watched the cast of volunteers display some of the contributions Great Britain has made to the world.  Giant Casper-like baby and my unrealized dream of an ensemble performance by Adele, Leona Lewis, Emeli Sandé, and more aside, I believe the show to have been a good one. It is the broadcast that bothered me and continues to with each passing day.

I am not so naïve to think that we could air this ceremony uninterrupted. In fact, I’m incredibly appreciative this week of the fact that sponsors have made it possible not only for the team to get to London but for me to watch the events practically around the clock. This is not my complaint.

I do not expect commentary to be perfect. I expect it to be informative most of the time and entertaining some of the time, yes. But not perfect. This is not my complaint.

I even extend grace to the producers who continually chose the tight shots of choreographed “Brunels” in top hats (see link to ceremony guide) over other pieces of the action, mid-range, or wide-angle shots of the show. Perhaps there were technical difficulties.

My disappointment is over what could be called a simple edit – a 6-minute piece following the message typed by Tim Berners-Lee, “This is for everyone” omitted from the NBC broadcast. “Abide With Me,” a hymn linked in history to the sinking Titanic and royal weddings and to sport in the UK, was beautifully sung a cappella by Emeli Sandé while dancers with choreographer Akram Khan performed a work depicting a struggle with mortality. The heartfelt lyrics, written in 1847 by Henry Lyte at the end of his life, ring so relevant.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;

shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Ironically, NBC decided this portion was not for everyone. In fact, it seems their only response to inquiries for a reason has been that it was tailored for and American audience. I beg, wholeheartedly, to differ.

Regardless of the direct, indirect, or accidental tribute this paid to the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London, this piece could have played an important part in the grieving process for the American audience that empathetically reacted to those attacks and most recently suffered great and inexplicable loss in Aurora, CO.  I learned long ago that mourning turns to dancing. “Abide With Me” was yet another example of how we grieve and celebrate, a reminder of how those who have gone before make us who we are now.

In my opinion, isolated and different though it may be, this was not a simple edit, but the denial of a gift for the American audience. I will not quit watching the games. I will still cry and cheer and laugh and cringe with Team USA and with NBC. I would just like to know the real answer to the question, “why?”

I’d like to thank BBC One and Deadspin.com for sharing this skipped segment of the show. Cheers!

Watch it HERE.

By the way, if you were completely baffled by elements of the Opening Ceremony, here is the official Opening Ceremony Guide, which explains in detail the significance of seemingly disparate ideas.

If you have read this far, thank you for tolerating me. Now you can continue your Olympic viewing schedule.


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