make a difference

don’t look away

My friend Amy Sullivan just released her third book in the Gutsy Girls series Fanny Crosby.

You might know that she wrote over 1,000 hymns, many under pseudonym, all without her sight. What you might not know about this extraordinary woman was her servant’s heart. Among the endless lists of ways she served, including giving away most of her money, she choose to live in one of the poorest tenements in New York City. My favorite part of the book is the picture of the crowded building she called home. She lived in proximity to those in need.

In Amy’s books she shares the definition of gutsy: showing determination when your heart beats fast, your hands grow sweaty, and you fear failure. Brave. Courageous. Daring.

Right now it feels a little hard to be festive for the Christmas season when the hearts of children and families in Syria are so threatened right now. The images shred at your heart. You think, they are so far away. There is no proximity. This is the time to put yourself in proximity to their suffering. The death, destruction, displacement.

There was a video earlier this fall of a little boy put in the seat of the ambulance, his head bleeding. He reaches up and touches his forehead, looks at the blood and tries to wipe it off on the seat. It makes my Dad cry anytime someone mentions it. Another video in the hallway of a medical center after a bombing, it’s inhabitants covered in dust, a teenager cradling the dead body of his baby brother, a women with no children left, two siblings looking for their mother. A group of orphaned children implore help to escape. The days are growing cold as winter settles into Syria and families are desperately trying to escape.

We can’t travel there and scoop them up and rescue, but we get up as close as we can in proximity. We can cry out for them to be rescued and we can help.

  1. Preemptive Love Coalition
  2. Welcome refugees- make way for their families. They are a Blessing not a Burden to our country and our lives.
  3. World Renew Response to Syria
  4. International Rescue Committee
  5. The White Helmets– 2,900 volunteers from all walks of life saving lives in Syria.

Say a prayer with your family this evening… every evening.

Dear Jesus, we pray for families in Syria.

We pray they can stay together. 

We pray they can stay warm and have shelter. 

We pray they can have the food and water they need to survive. 

We pray they can get to places that are safe. 

We pray they can know that we love them. 

We pray we can help and not forgot. Amen

 

Be Gutsy. Be in proximity like Fanny Crosby. Have courage to not look away.

Talk Justice Together November Edition

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How can you talk justice to close out the month of November?

Happy Giving Tuesday! Remember to give to your favorite make a difference organization today. Make sure your kids know about Giving Tuesday right along with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

Hunger: A farm to school program that tailors its lunch menu to tribal communities. Bison or Buffalo anyone?

Creation Care: Talk to your kids about the Standing Rock Conflict. What do they think?

Pray for Syria together: Half a million children under siege. Below is a photograph of “Land of Childhood” an underground playground in Syria.

On 17 September 2016, two girls play at the 'Land of Childhood' underground playground in a besieged town in in the Syrian Arab Republic. "My friends and I come here because it's the last theme park that is still working [...] the one we used to go to was attacked and is not working anymore," one of the children said. A group of volunteers, led by a fourth-year former architecture student, links two basements with a tunnel and turns them into an underground playground to provide children with a relatively safe place to play and have fun together.

@UNICEF 9-17-16  http://weshare.unicef.org/archive/-2AMZIFPDSVB.html

Play: Check out these repurposed play spaces for families, including one in a laundromat. What do you think? What ideas do these give you?

Labor: Attached to technology? An intensive look at cobalt mining for lithium ion batteries. Did you know?

Human Trafficking: Ten Ways you Can Make a Difference in the Fight Against Modern Slavery. What could your family do?

Refugees: Photographs of the The Refugee Crisis from Doctors Without Borders.

What is your family talking about this holiday season? 

Your Voices

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I have piles of books, paper flying, ideas moving, so many prayers.

We have a Kids Talk Justice book coming! I’m so excited and terrified. I’m longing for Jesus to be close.

I know we feel that closeness most acutely in the voices of our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. I can’t wait to include those voices in the book! They are fantastically brilliant at this stuff and I want to hear from them as the pages take shape!

I will include their voices as sidebars throughout the book

and also in social media that encourages. 

 

Everyone who participates will be entered to win a $25.00 gift card to Barnes and Noble. Any parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher or friend who recruits and helps a young person with the questionnaire will be entered to win a $25.00 Starbucks gift card. I’m looking for ages three through eighteen.

I will deliver, send to you via email with attached PDF, or mail with return envelop. Just let me know your preference for recieving the questionnaire! aboutproximity@gmail.com

Beyond your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews etc… do you have a small group, classroom, or team that might like to contribute? We love all voices!

Thank you so much for being a part of this work.

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Kids are Talking Justice!

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On Monday evening we celebrated ACTS! A local ministry led by Jaime Blom who opens her home to kids of the Westcore neighborhood for meals, art, and a giant doses of love. This is the beautiful artwork they brought along to share.

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We read the story The Dot about how we all have something beautiful to offer.

The kids made watercolor hearts to remember to love each other.

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They also completed a collaborative art project by making a home. The homes were put all together by my friend Janyre. Then we gave the project to ACTS so they can remember it takes a village of love and that we care about them.

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Next up: This coming Monday, June 27 at Kollen Park from 6:30-7:30. We will supporting Hope Pkgs which provides first night bags to kids in foster care. We hope to see you there!

TJ Hope Pkgs

#TalkJustice Together May Edition

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Happy May! I have a son turning nine years old this month. My daughter and I completed three days of sixth grade camp- I had sore legs and a happy heart. Our niece will graduate high school in Northwest Iowa. School will continue on until June 14- so we have to be a little patient yet for summer break…

Ready to talk about justice with your family?

Education: Big kids inspiring little ones. There is something so beautiful in the simplicity of this story.

Homelessness: An innovative idea to help those that are homeless. The Sleepbus. What does your family think?

Hunger: A Fresh Food Grocery Bus for areas where there is no access to healthy choices.

Refugees: What was inside the first ever care package? Can you send hope as a family?

Refugees: Short, but powerful video about the evolution of American Public Opinion toward refugees. Watch with your family- has much changed?

Clean Water: Take a home water audit quiz with your family! Then learn some new tips for conserving water.

Innovation: Plastic turned into 3D printer ink. What could you dream up?

Education: Girl coders from Mumbai making a difference with technology.

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Summer Fun! Virtual Kindness Summer Camp! Sign up for six-weeks of amazing ideas to fill your summer with kindness opportunities and ideas from five writers, including us, About Proximity.

Learn about our Summer 2016 #TalkJustice Events in Holland, Michigan supporting ACTS, Hope Pkgs, Kids’ Food Basket, Holland Rescue Mission, and The Flint Water Fund.

What does May bring for you? What articles did your family explore? 

 

 

 

#TalkJustice April Edition

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Happy April! Spring! We love its arrival in Michigan.

#TalkJustice with your family this month. Here are some great resources and discussion starters to use.

 

Spring Cleaning: Don’t forget that your donations to Goodwill or other non-profits create jobs! April 2, Uber and Goodwill partnered in some cities to pick up donations. What other organizations would you love to see work together?  

Mental Health: The public library often offers a haven to homeless populations. Learn how the San Francisco Public Library is offering mental health services on-site.

Prison System: A jail where inmates and abandoned animals find a second-chance. I bet kids would have some wonderful insights after looking at the photographs.

Refugees: Greek residents of the island of Lesbos are being recognized for their efforts to help refugees. I love their straight forward quotes on the issue. “we are monsters if we don’t do this– why should we be given a prize for being human beings?”

Disability: From Christianity Today how her son’s autism changed one Mom’s church. How can we extend welcome?

Hunger: Food goes to waste while people are hungry. Some countries are trying to change that. What do you think?

Thinking outside the box: A laundromat owner washed the clothing and bedding of families at a homeless shelter during Easter week. A small gift that saved money, time, and offered dignity to families.

Sports and Development: Read about how sports can be a powerful development tool. Ask your kids what they have learned on sports teams or playing games with friends. I am looking forward to the world coming together for the Olympics this summer.

Global Education: Preschool teacher Davinia James raises money for Girl Rising and global education by collecting pennies. Even the smallest offering can make a huge difference!

Earth Day, April 22, 2016: In honor of Earth Day pick a short movie from the Story of Stuff to watch with your family.

Finally, I am so excited to reveal some great #TalkJustice events coming this summer. Check back next week to see how we can partner together to make a difference!

What did your family talk about? 

#TalkJustice March Edition

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March! The month of the long goodbye to winter.

While you are waiting for spring to arrive #TalkJustice together!

March Madness: Fill out a charity bracket with your family! Win up to 100,000 for the charity of your choice. Such a fun idea!
12482154935_ca10226573_zShelterbox: Learn about ShelterBox together. What started out as a Rotary Project for disaster relief in England has expanded globally. Each ShelterBox includes a relief tent, thermal blankets, groundsheet, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic toolkit, mosquito nets, and a children’s activity pack.

@ShelterBox, Photographer: Rebecca Novell

 

Sacrifice: Read this article about a couple who foregoes their dream boat to pay for the college tuition of an entire kindergarten class. Talk about the difference between needs and a wants. What could your family sacrifice that might make a difference to someone else?

Dignity: A soup kitchen disguised like a restaurant offers dignity to the homeless in Kansas City. Read the article and talk about how they are building community, treating others with dignity, and offering hope.

Clean Water: 10 things women and girls could be doing instead of collecting clean water from ONE.

Breaking Down Myths: SNAP benefits are not always enough to keep families in need fed. 1/3 of families using SNAP still have to visit food pantries to bridge gaps. Talk about hunger and stereotypes to accepting assistance.

Food Waste: Sign a pledge as a family to curb food waste with Feeding America.

Pray for refugees: A new prayer is posted everyday.

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What’s new in your corner of the world?

 

 

 

#TalkJustice Together

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Women from Around the World

Photographer Michaela Noroc continues her quest to photograph women from every country in the world. She documents through The Atlas of Beauty.

The Flint Water Crisis

A piece by Nicholas Kristof shedding light on the lead poisoning of water in Flint, and also the elevated levels of lead in impoverished cities across America. Talk about why this might still happen in a developed nation like the United States.

Be The Bridge

Women around the country gathered for IF:Gathering this past weekend. Be sure to check out Tasha Morrison of Be The Bridge, building racial unity in the church. Follow Be The Bridge on social media and sign up for the newsletter. Also a great article about what everyone needs to know about racial reconciliation from Relevant Magazine. Talk about how your family could be involved.

Shrink Your Waste

Work together to Shrink Your Waste! Take Part shares many ideas about how less if often more.

Sustainable Development Goals 

Choose one of seventeen sustainable development goals, find practical ways to make a difference and graphics to share.

Goodwill Pop Up Shop

Pop up shops, restaurants, and even weddings have grown to a billion dollar industry. What do you think of this Goodwill Pop Up Shop? Talk about creativity and make a difference with your family.

Show Up 

This past month I have been continually reminded of this one truth. Show up.

When we show up in the smallest moments that is our most profound.

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God use me.

Don’t let me give up.

Help me be faithful in all the hard,

not glamorous, 

difficult, even ugly 

moments that make up real life. 

You are there. Loving us. 

 

 

True Joy

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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

 

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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~