When We Give

I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend! I know I am so thankful for all of you.

When we give, the advent season takes on an even more beautiful form.


Amidst holiday shopping, remember Giving Tuesday is tomorrow!

Many non-profits will match donations on Giving Tuesday.


One of my favorite holiday ideas is picking out a living gift from a gift catalog together. Look online or order a copy in the mail. Great options: World Renew, World Vision, Compassion International, Heifer International, International Justice Mission, OxFam, The Salvation Army.

In partnership with Pennies of Time Holiday Kindness Camp, I shared this past week about incorporating acts of kindness with Elf of the Shelf. Even if you don’t get into the elves, these ideas would work anytime during the holiday season.


Here are 25 Acts of Kindness for your Advent Season:

  • Read a book together from We Give Books that donates another to a child without access.
  • Make a card for veterans and servicemen and women through A Million Thanks.
  • Plan an evening of caroling with friends at a nursing home (call activities director ahead of time)
  • Make kindness coupons for two neighbors offering leaf raking or snow shoveling services.
  • Give of your excess, fill a bag, and deliver to a donation center.
  • Invite the children of a single parent friend to decorate Christmas cookies with you and give their Mom or Dad time to go shopping alone.
  • Pick out a toy to donate to Toys for Tots or a low-cost Santa shop.
  • Take a hike and log your miles for the free app Charity Miles.
  • Invite a friend with a disability and their siblings to a movie party. Allow their parents a time away
  • Make handwritten notes for someone who could use encouragement. Send them in the mail.
  • Donate coloring books and crayons to your local WIC office
  • Donate to your local animal shelter.
  • Deliver treats with a thank you note to a community helper in your town (ex. firefighters)
  • Write a letter for The World Needs More Love Letters.
  • Donate socks and underwear to your local homeless or women’s shelter, this is common need.
  • Donate laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, or personal care items to your local food bank- these are often high-need items.
  • Make a special call to a Great Grandpa or Grandma or special friend that lives far away. Share what you love to do!
  • Cook a meal together and make extra. Deliver the extra meal to someone in need of a pick me up.
  • Deliver a special cocoa, coffee, or tea to a hard-worker teacher, coach, or leader who blesses your family
  • Make treats together and deliver to neighbors.
  • Fill out coupons for jobs you can do for Grandpas and Grandmas throughout the year
  • Make teacher Christmas thank-you’s.
  • Take a photo and upload to the app Donate a Photo, choose the cause you would like to support.
  • Serve your kids with a special surprise.

What was the highlight of your Thanksgiving Weekend? What giving traditions do you practice with your family? 

We loved my Mom’s pie, cousins, deal-shopping with my Dad, and a sweet visit from my in-laws all the way from Iowa. My favorite tradition- trying hard to slow down and a remember why we celebrate Christmas.

I’m also excited about two upcoming playgroups. Kids Helping Kids with Kids Food Basket, and Blessing Not Burden, with the OSJ Campaign and Zeeland Christian School.

A Million Thanks


Happy Thanksgiving Week! I’m so very thankful for all of you.

This past week we participated in The Big Read, Holland Area in partnership with Herrick District Library and Hope College for a Give Back to Veterans Playgroup. We made cards for A Million Thanks and saw some things soldiers carried. The artwork of West Ottawa students blew me away.


Once again the playgroup surprised me. Our night ended up being cold and rainy and the turn out was not what had been expected. I was sharing that disappointment with my dear friend. Later that night I had to text her, you wouldn’t believe the artwork on these cards I told her. The messages inside were even more stunningly beautiful. It’s not about the numbers, it is about the heart that goes into it. You won’t see this girl giving up anytime soon.

I know everything around us is disappointing, disheartening, and even scary right now. We don’t all agree.

But, we can still love each other. That’s really all that matters. Let’s not give up on each other. Don’t for a minute give up on yourself either.

Someday, I’m going to have a story about setting up these playgroups with my Mom, and watching a handful trickle in, and sharing my insecurities with Julie… feeling not good enough. Maybe if the person leading them were a better version of me… God saying no, it is you I need. I’m just going to use them my way, not yours.

And I am thankful, because I know he redeems. He uses us, even when we feel un-usable.


I am thankful for you. You are all brave.

You are strong at the things that only you and you alone can do for God. That is beautiful.

Much love this holiday week.


#TalkJustice Together November Edition

#TalkJustice November

#TalkJustice Playgroups! Are you in the Holland Area?

Come out this Tuesday, November 17 from 7:00-8:30 at the Herrick District Library Auditorium for the Give Back to Veterans Playgroup. We will be reading a story, making cards through A Million Thanks, creating a poppy craft and seeing the things soldiers carried. We are partnering with the Holland Area Big Read.

In December we will support Kids Food Basket with Grace Episcopal Church. In January we will partner with Zeeland Christian Schools for a Blessing not Burden Playgroup supporting immigrants. Want to keep up-to-date on play group opportunities? Join the Service PlayGroups Facebook Page.



A beautiful family thanksgiving tree for inspiration from Caitlin Boersma.


In the midst of tragedy residents of Paris practiced #PorteOuverte offering an open door to those stranded or in need of safe shelter. A beautiful act of light where darkness tried to prevail. And a needful prayer from Ann Voskamp.

National Family Literacy Month

November is National Family Literacy Month. Log in some time at We Give Books and help provide books for kids that need access.


Encourage your creative kids to use their gifts. Watch the video of E-tracers ballet slippers that trace dancers movement.

Ethical Shopping Guide

In this season of gift-giving gather ideas from the Art of Simple’s Ethical Shopping Guide. There are many fair trade ideas.

Gift Catalogs 

Order a print version of a holiday gift catalog from any of these non-profits. Look through the options together and pick out a gift. Gathering around the photographs is guaranteed to open up conversation. Heifer International, World Vision, World Renew, OxFam, UNICEF, Compassion International, International Justice Mission. 


Audacious Prayer Guide

Join Micah Challenge and pray as a family for Sustainable Development Goals that address injustices families are facing around the world. Use the Audacious Prayer Guide here.

A Gutsy Girl

Alicia Bruxfort over at The Overflow shares her own gutsy girl. Your daughters will love to read her words.


Get ready for #GivingTuesday, this year on December 1, 2015. Talk about what organization or family you might like to support. Make plans ahead of time to be able to make it a reality on Dec. 1.

What Thanksgiving and Holiday giving practices does your family participate in?

I am so thankful for all of you. 


True Joy


I’ve been struggling to stay at peace this past week.

Being a Mom, working full time, writing at night… I just can’t find a balance that I can tie up in a neat bow and declare that I can have it all together. This is my third year navigating, and I think I finally realized the perfect balance will never come.

I think I have known all along, it was just the act of accepting it.

I don’t know what it is that makes us feel like perfection is so needful in our lives. Jesus was perfect, but no one else was or is or ever will be.


Ellie had a fluke fall on Sunday morning and fractured her wrist. As we passed hours in the emergency room, getting her fixed up, I realized why I could accept imperfection.

If what I am doing is caring for the people God has put in my life, it is enough.

And no where in the Bible did God tell us to do it perfectly.


The special needs students I work with at school, don’t need a perfect helper. They need one that loves them unconditionally, and is there when they need encouragement and love to keep growing.

My kids don’t need a perfect Mom, they need one who is present. Sometimes, that might mean moving my computer to the table and working together there. That might mean I leave the writing for that night and play soccer outside instead. Sometimes, it means saying no to a game and finishing something instead. They need independence and to see me doing things I love, so they can do the same.

Anyone who reads my writing, already knows I’m terribly imperfect. But if I am using it to care for God’s people, I can be assured that God will do what he wants with it, even if it does not always align with my ambitions.


If what I am doing is caring for God’s people, I’m going to be OK.

I can trust God with my life. I can be at peace that he will use what I give him in a way only he can.

Know that I am praying for your peace as well.

What can you trust God with this week? 



we belong to each other



We have arrived at November and enter into a glossy holiday season.

If you have one minute this week, I encourage you to watch this clip from A Path Appears, featuring Jennifer Gardner and Nicholas Kristof talking about the cycle of poverty through Save the Children in West Virginia.

The stress of extreme poverty changes the way your brain develops and grows.

Words we throw around like dependency, handouts, poverty, and inequality do not fit into little boxes. There is so much more going on.

I pray this holiday season we remember that we belong to each other in Christ~

Simple Giving

Comments 0JenniferSimpleGiving

Meet Jennifer Iacovelli, a fellow Global Team of 200 member, and writer of Simple Giving Lab and Philanthropy Friday’s. Jennifer encourages readers to give back by featuring organizations that make a difference and practical ways for readers to get involved. I appreciate the spirit of giving that she enfolds in her writing and all she does.

Her new book comes out this week, Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day


In her book, Jennifer outlines six models for giving from everyday acts of kindness to giving as a business model. She shows that we don’t have to put giving in a box of solely giving time or giving money. There are countless ways to shape our lives around generosity. Each chapter offers action steps and resources to encourage readers to grow in giving. She also shares the stories of many organizations and individuals.

My favorite story in the book shares Jennifer’s experience traveling with Mom Bloggers for Social Good to Nicaragua with WaterAid America. She didn’t let her experience end when she returned. An avid athlete, Jennifer trains with WolfPack Fitness. On the following World Water Day, she planned a fitness event where the workout revolved around water (pumping water, carrying water). Her group was able to raise money and awareness to support the program she visited in Nicaragua.

Take what you love and find a way to intertwine it with giving.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are at- Teddy Roosevelt


I have a copy of Simple Giving to give away! Comment for a chance to win.

What is your favorite and most simple way of giving back? 


Jennifer is a writer, speaker and consultant. She helps entrepreneurs, bloggers, and nonprofits tell their story. Her website is Another Jennifer Writing Lab. You can follow her at facebook and twitter. You can follow Simple Giving Lab at facebook and twitter. She is based in Brunswick, Maine.

#TalkJustice Together October Edition




This past Thursday, The Office of Social Justice had a launch party for the Immigrants are a Blessing not a Burden Campaign at the Holland Museum. Your family can join in too. Visit the website to Sign, Share and Wear! My family shared below, as you can see immigrants are very dear to us. Open up conversation with your kids. Immigrants are all around us deepening our lives and contributing to our communities.


Holiday Kindness Camp

What?! How is it mid-October already? The leave are beginning to change colors here, which is beautiful and also a little bit of a bittersweet feeling to me, because I know winter is lurking. If you look at a calendar you know holiday preparations and fun will be filling our weeks soon. Join the sequel to Kindness Summer Camp, Holiday Kindness Camp. We’ll be giving out great ideas to incorporate kindness for five weeks in November and December.

Fall #TalkJustice Playgroups

If you are local, don’t forget our upcoming fall #TalkJustice playgroups, a veterans playgroup in partnership with Herrick District Library and Hope College’s Big Read, and a playgroup benefitting Kids Food Basket in partnership with Grace Episcopal Church. Join the Facebook Event Page to get updates!

Creation Care

Sit down together and look through the images in the article What Humans are Really Doing to the Environment. Ask about their thoughts on the photographs.


Get ready for #GivingTuesday, this year on December 1, 2015. Talk about what organization or family you might like to support. Make plans ahead of time to be able to make it a reality on Dec. 1.

Global Education

Watch the movie trailer He Named Me Malala, the story of Malala Yousafzai shot by the Taliban for attending school, and later winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism. If you have read the book, you will also see reflected in the movie the strength of Malala’s Father. He broke conventional beliefs to make education for Malala and other girls a priority. As adults we make a difference when we talk about justice with young people.



My Teen Daughter Asked for 17,000 Pairs of Shoes: Why I said Yes about the foster care system and the basic needs of children. When we pause long enough to take statistics in; we realize how much we have, and how much we have to give.

Trick or Treat

Consider trick or treating for UNICEF! Or maybe matching the number of treats your kids collect to a family donation. $15 provides safe drinking water for a year to a child. $30 provides Measles protection to 100 kids. Just $5 provides five meals to a hungry child. I’m going to have Ant Man and Scarlet Witch this year!

October is Fair Trade Month 

Check out the Buy Fair Trade Fair website. See if you can substitute a product you use in your life with a fair trade equivalent.


The busiest times for food banks is around the holidays. Before you take a hands-on shopping trip to donate, try calling first and asking about high need items. When we did a justice playgroup for our local food pantry this summer, they really needed personal hygiene items. We were able to gather and meet their greatest need at that time. Here is a list of high-quality items that can benefit most food pantries.

What are you all up to this month?

Just Show Up


Just Show Up, written by the late Kara Tippetts and her friend Jill Lynn Buteyn.

Kara Tippetts wrote at Mundane Faithfulness and the blog has continued on by her close friends. She also wrote The Hardest Peace and the ebook Big Love. Kara lost her battle with terminal cancer in this past spring. Her writing is full of courage and grace only Jesus could inspire.


How do you walk through suffering together? The answer does not come easily, because sometimes life is really, really hard, like dying of cancer when you are a young mom of four. Just Show Up talks about friendship and the simple act of being there.

Showing up means opening ourselves to suffering and it takes courage.

Showing up also means a life lived beautifully for God, even when answers feel so far away.

Kara and Jill show us how to navigate suffering in all its messiness. They show us God’s faithfulness through friendship and community. They inspire us to show up for people in our lives, even when it’s hard.


The ministry of presence. 

We might not always do it perfectly. I know I have not. The most important thing is trying to show up because it means everything.

“It may be some of the best work we do in our lives.” Kara Tippetts.


This week I am going to be thinking about the ministry of presence.

What does that mean to you? 

(I’ll be giving away a copy of Just Show Up) 




Open Our Hands


I planned to share a new campaign from World Renew and the Office of Social Justice.

Immigrants are a Blessing Not a Burden.


I didn’t plan to share this-

At church this morning, a congregation member translated for a legal worker. He stood up in his pew, hand over his heart as she spoke. He picks blueberries at a local farm. His seventeen year old son embarked from Guatemala to join him. His paperwork was not done right, and he was detained in Arizona. Documentation to prove he is a minor was provided from Guatemala, but to be released to his Dad pending trial, he needs 7,000 dollars in bond money. A father in Michigan picking blueberries. A son in immigration detention in Arizona. These stories are told daily, because our system is outdated and broken.

What struck me most, was how small the father looked, standing there so still, his hand over his heart.

Like somehow, he could keep his boy safe that way.


In light of stories like these, and also the pictures of despair we have witnessed from Europe, we can take a few moments to enter in conversation, to make a difference. This is so, so important.

Immigrants are a Blessing Not a Burden Website. 

Follow updates on Facebook. Invite friends.

Unlearn here. Sign, Share, or Wear here. Sign up to be a social media ambassador here.


The last few weeks I have been guest posting at WholisticWoman.com about being intentional.

Being Intentional: Slowing Down 

Being Intentional: Pausing for Prayer 

Being Intentional: Consumption


This coming weekend, I will be at The Breathe Christian Writers Conference! I will be presenting a social media for writers workshop with Amy Sullivan. I would love for you to pray with me, because I will also be pitching a book proposal for Talk Justice Playgroups (our Fall Facebook Event Page is here). I can’t wait to gather new ideas to share with all of you, and meet new people to introduce you all too.

Sometimes, I feel so small. I want to grab everything from God’s hands and try to force it to where I want it to go. I’m so afraid to open my hands. He definitely calls us to be more. He asks us to do the harder thing, and trust him.

Dear God, please open our hands when we can make a difference. 

What is new in your life? How can we pray for you? 

Small Things


Sometimes when I run out of things to read, I reach for Where There is Love, There is God. It is a selection of Mother Teresa’s writings and talks to the Sisters of Charity. Her words never grow old or less impactful to me.

This past week was full of challenge. Leading me to a space where doubt and worry takes up residence. It culminated with a trip to Grand Rapids Art Prize Saturday. When we parked at my brothers house, in the gutter by the street, Ellie and Josiah stepped in dog poop. It somehow ended up on four shoes, two hands, clothing, and the interior of our car. I sat in the road scrubbing Ellie’s shoes with wet wipes and laughing until I cried. We’ve all been there, and what can you do but laugh? (The above piece is by Kelsey Montague and features interactive butterfly wings on the opposite side.)


I was reminded of some of my favorite words for this book.


dog poop.


really wanting to give up, but not.

discouragement that takes root deep inside you.

tears after basketball.

all the mundane.

You _______________ fill in the blank.


She also said,

we fear the future because we are wasting today. 


#whatliftsyou was the hashtag of that piece of art.

May what lifts you today be that you are not wasting one drop of anything.

Offer it all to God that it may become infinite. Beautiful. Small.