Monday, June 9, 2014

Introducing Parker Clay

by Allie Marie Smith

I'm so excited to introduce my dear friends Brittany and Ian's new venture to you girls: Parker ClayBack in 2008 Parker Clay founders, Ian and Brittany Bentley, were moved by number of orphans living in the world. Some statistics place the numbers at 163 million orphans worldwide. While those statistics are alarming, Ian and Brittany looked at these numbers and said, “What if that was Parker or Clayton” their two biological children. From that moment, the journey to Ethiopia started and in 2011 the Bentley’s brought home their newest addition, Selah who was 5 months old at the time. While in Ethiopia the Bentley’s spent time with a number of organizations looking for ways to address some of the root causes to poverty and the disruption of family. It was soon after this that the Bentley’s packed up their lives and moved to Ethiopia to help with development work centered around job creation and capacity development with vulnerable women. 

About the products
While living and working in Ethiopia, they founded Parker Clay, a beautiful line of Ethiopian made leather goods. Each product is individually numbered to make each purchase unique and at the end of each series we will be sending funds back to Ethiopia to go towards addressing a specific need.  This means you will be 1 of 300 to help provide urgent medial care, job training, or start-up capital to a person in Ethiopia.  This way every time you see your edition number you can be reminded that you're part of a global community committed to helping lift a specific person out of a cycle of desperation and poverty.

Their first partnership is with Woman at Risk here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and they will be funding women to go through the rehabilitation program as well as contributing to a prevention program of high school and college students.  They will also be contributing to the employment of 100's around Ethiopia, mostly women, because of the products they are producing.  From farmers, to factory workers, these products will make a lasting impact on the economy of Ethiopia and while creating world class products.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Beautiful Reminder

"For You created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14

The last few months, I have been thinking about this concept a lot. That we are all made in God's image and made perfectly because we were made by our perfect creator. If sin had not entered the world, we would all truly be perfect. There wouldn't be any sickness or crying or suffering or death. But, because of the fall and sin there is. Because we listened to the tempter and deceiver instead of our Savior, sin entered the world. And with sin came heartache, and death. BUT GOD, sent His son to redeem us from fear and sorrow of death. (For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. -Romans 6:23) Through His son, we can have eternal life. What an incredible promise, that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!! (1 John 1:9)

Now, back to my first point, that we were all created perfectly in the image of our creator. (Genesis 1:27) God did not make a mistake when he created my mom knowing she would have lymphoma. He did not take a nap when he created me with my autoimmune disease and osteoarthritis. He knit me together in my mother's womb. He created me fearfully and wonderfully. He did not make a mistake, he did not mess up. He created us each with our unique "problems" and hardships, but they aren't mistakes. He created me this way and He created my mom this way so that He would get the ultimate amount of glory and praise on this earth. I wouldn't want anything less!!! What a blessing it is to know that I was uniquely thought of and perfectly made. You are too! We were all knit together PERFECTLY in our mother's wombs. God does not make mistakes.

So when you are discouraged or feeling anything less than perfectly made, remember that you are FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made. God made you with a purpose and HE will get the GLORY from your life. I love reciting this back to myself when I am sitting with mom watching her suffer through some nasty illness. That God loves her and He created her exactly how He needed her to be. I also relate this to some of the children I have the privilege of working with. God created them PERFECT. He loves them just the way they are and He created them in HIS image. It helps me to love them unconditionally when I know that I see my Savior in their eyes. He is getting so MUCH glory through their lives and that is an awesome awesome thing.

This is not always an easy thing for me to remember, especially when I have flare ups with my Crohns disease. However, I know that James says to  "Count it all joy brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-3)

What a beautiful day it will be in HEAVEN when we can enjoy the GLORY of the Lord with NO MORE pain, heartache, sickness, cancer, fear, or death. But until then, we will endure and we will rest on the promises of our Savior.

I praise my God today that because of Him we know these promises to be true:

You are loved.
You are unique.
You are beautiful.
You are needed.
You are worthy.
You are made for so much more.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Your Breath of Spring Air

Every spring, I find myself taking a giant deep breath. Almost like I'm letting out all of the secret frustration and stress built up over a long, long winter. It's like my body can finally relax, take a sip of fresh air and physically feel the air fill my lungs. It's restorative. Brilliant. One of nature's greatest "coming home" sensations. One of God's greatest gifts to his people. 

The flowers come out again.
People come to life.
Interactions are more positive, upbeat.
Everyone's just happier.

Winter was tough this year. I found myself in a new city, six months into a new job that was challenging me mentally and physically to the core, testing my limits and teaching me so much in such a short amount of time. Every morning, it felt like all I could do was drag my body out of bed, and just hope that I could make it another day without collapsing under a figurative layer of snow. Or a real layer, for that matter. At the same time, I was training for my first half marathon, thinking big picture about life and love and relationships, and it just seemed like the sun would set before I ever made any real progress.

And then came April... A few surprising days where the sun would shine, and hope would resurface. And I'd realize how important it was to take a step back. To put away the screen, to just listen. Listen to my body, to the people in my life, to the sounds of nature and the whispers of God that were trying to get me to slow down. To breathe in, out, in, out. And to realize that I simply can't handle it all on my own. And I'm not supposed to. God is there in the midst of a hard winter, and he's always going to be there, to guide us. To uphold us when it feels like the entire universe is crashing down. He's there to lift us up, to remind us to breathe, to focus on life. To restore our soul when it feels like everything is freezing over.

I've been stuck in the book of Isaiah for what seems like an eternity. But fittingly so, it feels like God's been promising me spring for a very long time. A spring that doesn't just mean a change in season, but a change in heart, in pace of life. And so when I stumbled on these verses, I couldn't help but smile. And breathe a little deeper. And focus on feeling that deep sense of spring gratitude that comes every year, when you finally see the first round of flowers erupt from the earth again.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
 Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God.
 With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.”
And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
    and unplug the ears of the deaf.
 The lame will leap like a deer,
    and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,
    and streams will water the wasteland.
The parched ground will become a pool,
    and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.
Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish
    where desert jackals once lived.

Isaiah 35: 1-7

What I love about these verses is the beautiful way in which God's promise is compared to the return of spring. The way they compare God's love and hope for his people to quenching of the thirsty, strength for the weak and tired. A flourish of hope to restore our souls. So today, this is your reminder to take a deep breath, love. You've earned it. You may just need it. And remember that God's always there to remind you when you need to take a step back. And just breathe.

Happy, happy, happy spring.
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