Monday, March 31, 2014

Yes You Can -- Dress A Girl Around the World

We dreamed of a world where every girl has at least one dress! 
We want girls to know that they are worthy of love and respect. 
That God loves them! 
~ from the Dress a Girl Around the World website

I attended a fashion show the other evening and these children were the models. Each was wearing a handmade outfit sewn by a volunteer with Dress a Girl Around the World, to be hand delivered to a child in an area of the world that most children have never owned anything new.

When this program began in 2009, the dresses were made from pillow cases. Cute and easy to make, they won the hearts of the children who received them. Over the years the selection of patterns has expanded so that different styles of dresses and even skirts and tops are now being made by volunteers from the US, Canada and a number of countries around the world.

The supplies are donated, including much of this fabric which came from a woman who was closing down her sewing business. The dresses are made in various sizes and are often the only gift the girl will ever receive.

This dress with the crocheted top and the matching headband would delight any girl!

The seamstresses are encouraged to add a pocket to the dress, so the child can keep her special things there. And below the pocket or along the hemline is added the Dress A Girl label. Village pastors have told the Dress A Girl team that "a new dress raises [a girl's] dignity as well as how she is viewed by others. They also say that our label on the 'outside' of the dress indicates to predators that this girl is under the care of an organization."

We were invited to sponsor a dress for $15 and write a note to the girl who will receive it, including our names on the notes. Alice Matthewson will be delivering 50 pounds of dresses (we were told that is at least 100 dresses) when she returns to central Africa this summer and she'll see that the dresses are given out. When a girl reaches into the pocket of her new dress she will see the note, and the sponsor of the dress will receive a picture of her girl in her new dress!

I asked about boys -- do they do anything for boys? Yes, actually they do provide some clothing for boys, but their emphasis is on the girls as they have such a low status in so many countries. The boy above actually helped his grandma make the shorts that he has on. She purchased the t-shirt to go with the shorts. And the shorts and shirt below were both made by this little guy's grandma.

Although they don't spend too much time sewing clothes for little boys (I was told that there are organizations for whom providing boyss' clothing is the main focus) they do pick up bargains on boys'  clothes from time to time. Evy, who along with Marlene is the Washington State North Ambassador for Dress A Girl, told us that she uses Kohl's Bucks to purchase boys' clothes, like this cute little shirt below. You can see that she got a great sale price, and then using Kohl's Bucks her price was even less.

So here's my challenge. Do you have a sewing machine and a little bit of time? Then go to the Dress A Girl website and find out how you can get started on a project. Don't sew? Maybe you can get your hands on some supplies that you can donate -- fabric, lace, trim, elastic, thread, wide double-fold bias tape. Or maybe you can find a few gals who'd like to start a group and make beautiful dresses that will provide dignity and joy to girls around the world.

If this little cutie modeling the dress is so happy to have it on, just think of what it could do for the girl who receives it as her own!

To see if there is an Ambassador near you, go here and scroll down the page. Marlene and Evy, Ambassadors from Washington State North, are the last ones listed on the page. They would be thrilled to hear from you, as would any of the Ambassadors from Dress A Girl Around the World.

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(Yes You Can is a monthly feature that tells the story of someone who has had a dream, followed their dream, and made a difference in their world because of it.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bread Baking, Bread Breaking Part 2

Today I'm wrapping up my photos and comments from our weekend at Hains House, where Pat Hains hosts a Bed and Breakfast and teaches a monthly class in baking artisan bread. Tom was enrolled in the March class, along with two young women. They baked from 3:00 Friday till 3:00 Sunday, with time off to eat and sleep, so they had time to make lots of marvelous breads. You can find more about our memorable weekend here, in Part 1.

If you are going to bake artisan bread, you need the right equipment. A wood-fired oven is certainly an advantage, but not everyone will be able to have one. Fortunately Pat Hains does. And there's Skip, keeping the fire going.

Timers and tape measures, two essential tools. You want those pretzels to roll out to 21 inches, and you'd better mind the timer when it goes off. Pat stressed the importance of following the recipe. This is not the time to be creative! Don't estimate, don't guess. Use the listed amount of each ingredient and let the bread rise and bake at the stated time. (You may find that the recipe needs adjustments for your oven, but you'll never know if you don't follow the recipe.)

If you've got a scale, get it out; if not, you will want to have one on hand. It is the best way to accurately measure your ingredients and will make a difference in your final product.

Pat stretches the pizza dough, being careful not to tear it

Pizza veggies, roasted in the wood oven. Yum!

Pizza ingredients, waiting for the crusts so we could build our pizzas

My gluten-free pizza with vegan cheese, baking 

The best pizza I have ever had!

Focaccia ready to bake


A pretzel, scored and sprinkled and ready to bake

Now these are fine pretzels!

A pull-apart with gooey cinnamon and sugar on the bottom

The tired but happy class on Sunday afternoon

I was shopping in Stanwood one afternoon during the winter and went into Jungle Luv, a florist. I found this cute, tiny bicycle (just 2 inches high and 3 inches long) carrying a tiny French baguette. It made the perfect graduation gift for Tom! I asked the woman at the shop about the bread. She told me that when she was on a flight home from France she was served a snack -- a little bag of tiny baguettes! She collected all the snack bags she could and has found the perfect way to use them!

Happy graduation, Tom! Here's to a long and happy life of baking bread and breaking bread together!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Baking Bread, Breaking Bread Part 1

It's Monday and I'm back to my normal life after an amazing weekend. We drove to Olympia on Friday so that Tom could cash in on his Christmas gift -- a three-day artisan bread baking class at Hains House. Pat Hains, who operates the bed and breakfast, has studied bread baking in Germany and Italy and offers classes of her own one weekend a month. Finally, after a three-month wait, it was Tom's time to attend Pat's class.

We pulled in at 3:00 Friday afternoon. Jen was just getting out of her car. She'd flown in from Illinois earlier in the day, dropped her sister off in Seattle, and had found her way to Hains House. Last fall she helped build her own wood-fired brick oven and she wanted to perfect her skills as a baker so she'd be ready when the oven is delivered.

Jen, wearing goggles as she prepares to dip bagels in a lye solution before baking

A short time later, Julie arrived. As a birthday gift her husband had registered her for the class. He handed her a piece of paper and told her to drive from their Portland home to this address in Olympia and he'd join her later in the evening. He did tell her it was a class on baking bread, but that's about all she knew. I was impressed with her ability to go with the flow.

Julie, preparing her husband's pizza

Just the three students in the class -- Tom, Jen, and Julie. And then there was the instructor, Pat. I'd gotten to know Pat a bit over the phone, so opening her back door and stepping into her kitchen seemed like stopping by to visit a friend. That sense of being friends just grew stronger over the weekend. She showed us to our room and, while I settled in, Tom and the others went to work in Pat's classroom.

Pat's baking shoes

Pat was wearing her favorite shoes, the ones she's worn as she's worked in several bakeries in Europe.  She's laid back, welcoming, a put-you-at-ease kind of gal. The breads baked in class got incorporated into the meals. So did a lot of vegetables, whether they appeared on the wood-fired pizzas we had for dinner Friday or the tasty roasted vegetables we had for dinner Saturday which got  pureed and turned into fabulous soup for Sunday's lunch.  While we sat at dinner that first night her phone rang. "I'd better take this," she said. "It's an international call." She left the room and came back later, laughing. "It was the rug seller I met in Turkey years ago! He has friends coming to Seattle and he wondered if I or any of my friends would like to buy a rug!"

I spent a lot of time in the classroom and running to the outdoor oven, camera in hand. The afternoon light in the classroom is perfect, warming the room, enhancing the joy of learning new techniques, and allowing for some nice photos.

Just steps from the outside door is the oven that Pat got from a company in California. Pat's longtime friend, Skip, went with her to learn how to use the oven, and he tends the fire. He's always on the lookout for ways to serve in the kitchen, too. Not only did he grind and make my decaf coffee both mornings, he also roasted the beans for me!

Skip, tender of the fire and all-around great guy

For three days the house was filled with the aroma of fresh bread. We kind of lost track, but we think the class made twelve different kinds of bread over the weekend. The tables in the living room held nothing when we arrived but were both laden with varieties of beautiful breads by the time we left at 3:30 Sunday afternoon.

Tom brought home several bags of bread -- bagels, pretzels, focaccia, whole wheat bread, German pumpkin seed rolls, brioche, cranberry walnut chewy rolls. I thought if the traffic on I-5 came to a standstill we could jump out of the car and sell bread to other drivers, like I've seen kids do in the Philippines. We could have gone home rich! Instead, we stopped by to see my sister's family and my parents. Mom made up some soup and Tom sliced up some bread. This morning he's sharing a couple of loaves with his co-worers, and there's still lots left at home!

I didn't bake, but I threw caution to the wind and, with the aid of half a bottle of digestive enzymes, ate my fill of breads. Each bite was so rich and tasty, whether spread with some cream cheese or with olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled on it. Today I am completely back to wheat-free, dairy-free eating but, oh, were these three days a delight.

You can tell a lot about a B&B host by reading the guest book. What I learned about Pat simply confirmed what we discovered as we spent the weekend with her. She takes you as you are. She loves you and serves you. Her heart for her family and friends is deep. She's a great teacher. Once she's in your life, she's there to stay. And it's all about bread. Of  course I mean the process of making a quality product but it's a lot more than that.

It's about the joy of sharing bread with others, the process of making a place around your table for fellowship. We were there to learn about baking bread. Pat took it a step further by sharing her gift of breaking bread.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear Future Mom

In our world where it is possible to dispose of an unborn child whose prospects are uncertain and whose quality of life cannot be guaranteed, one whose family will face great challenges and extraordianary expenses, one born into a world in which we can lose sight of a child's worth when we spend too much time considering our own, this video provides an answer to the question, "What will my child [born with Down Syndrome] be like?"

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day. Here's their website. Plan to attend one of the scheduled events, read people's stories, get your questions about life with Down Syndrome answered there.

When Christ Shows Up

"Christ can show up anywhere. In anything. There is an opportunity to hear his voice in every mundane moment of our lives. Sure, it helps when we're looking for it. But even when we're not -- he 
still surprises." 
(Joshua DuBois, The President's Devotional)

We have a friend whose ministry is to people in crisis. With each prayer letter we receive a glimpse into the lives of the people he has encountered and are continually amazed by the way Christ has shown up in their lives, drawing them to himself. Here are a few examples of the people with whom our friend has shared Christ, taken from his last prayer letter and used with permission:
- A businessman from Jewish background, a cocaine addict who told him he is seeking God.
- A young lady who is a singer and actress and told him, "I'm spiritual, but not religious."
- A Palestinian Muslim.
- A girl who said, "I was raised in church, but I don't have much of a relationship with God. Maybe that's why I'm having these problems."
- A dear woman whose son was shot and killed on Thanksgiving Day. She told him, "They took half my heart away."
- A young man from Bangladesh.
- A Buddhist woman from Laos.
- Three young people (24 years of age and younger) with no spiritual background watching their mother in the final hours of her life.
- A Hare Krishna devotee who attended the worship service he held.
- A fellow from Kenya who admitted, "I consider myself a Christian. But I'm not a practicing Christian."
- A young man in paganism and spiritism. He told my friend that he wants to return to his Christian roots.
- A Muslim girl from Bosnia who said, "I'm not a Christian. But I feel drawn to Jesus."
- A woman who said, "I feel so guilty about how I treated my parents before they died." 
Each of these people welcomed the Bibles, scripture portions or books that he offered. Many allowed him to pray with them. Whatever their background or beliefs, Christ found them where they were and surprised them with the truth. We can pray that they will pursue the Lord and will put their trust in him.

Let's not miss Christ in the crises of our lives, nor in the mundane moments. Let him call your name in the night. Listen for his voice as you face decisions. Look for him in the displays of nature's beauty around you. Be alert for his surprises. He offers life and grace to all who will receive it. Don't miss him when he shows up.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The Great Commission is not just a command. It's a promise!

Promise from HistoryMakers on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Be Merciful to Those Who Doubt

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the doxology that Jude includes in the very brief letter that bears his name:

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy -- to the only God our Savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Jude 24-25).

There is a lot packed in this tiny book, warnings against the false teachers who had secretly slipped in among the believers to whom Jude was writing, clear descriptions of who they were and how they operated, and admonitions to contend for the faith and build yourselves up in you most holy faith. As his doxology affirms, Jude is convinced that our joyous victory is possible through the Lord Jesus Christ, even as strong forces in our midst are working agains the gospel.

Do you know who Jude was? He doesn't give us much to go on. He calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. What he doesn't say is that this same James is a half-brother of Jesus, making Jude (sometimes referred to as Judas), also, a half-brother of Jesus! He and his brothers are identified by name in Matthew 13:55-56.

Once, when Mary and Jesus' brothers came to see him, someone in the crowd let him know. Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my bother and sister and mother" (Matt 12: 46-50; see also Mark 3:31-32, Luke 8:19-20). Evidently Mary and his siblings did not exactly meet his definition of family.

In fact, we are told outright that his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5).

So what happened to change Jude from a doubter to a believer? How is it that he now says of his brother Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! It was the resurrection! Jesus, the brother they couldn't figure out, the one who changed everything up and created scenes in public -- had conquered death!

No wonder Jude included this exhortation in his letter: Be merciful to those who doubt (22). He, of all people, would know that doubting need not be terminal. Doubters abound, but so does God's power to get our attention. For some, doubt will turn to faith when the doubter is convinced intellectually of the validity of the gospel through a book maybe, or a presentation, or a discussion. But for others, the love and gentleness of a child of God will be the proof the doubter needs to turn to Christ.

We don't know what goes on in other people's minds, and we don't know what God will use to turn doubters into believers. But we know that he loves doubters and wants them to respond to the truth of the gospel. Do not despise doubters; do not lose hope that they will ever come to faith. Bring them in prayer to Jesus, who lived with a houseful of doubters. Let his resurrection power shine through your life as you live before them. Be merciful, as God has been merciful to you.

Who knows how the Lord plans to use the one who struggles with doubt before taking hold of faith, but if Jude is any indication, I'd say we have every reason for hope!