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How You Can Make A Difference on International Women’s Day



Posted by on Mar 8, 2018 | 3 comments

I’m sitting at my kitchen table where the sun is piercing filthy windowpanes, a thing I notice in the morning but forget by noon’s shadow. A ladybug sits on the sill, I’m assuming dead. Our home is a death spiral for pretty bugs dressed in red with black polka dots, and I wonder why that happens at the end of every winter.

It’s International Women’s Day and I wish I could say I knew that on my own, but it’s the internet that tells me so. I’m stung by awareness of my comforts, my plenty, and my relative wealth, and it brings a sort of shame. Those things have cost me nothing, but in some places in this world even lesser things cost everything you have to give.

I’m reminded of a woman I encountered almost nine years ago.



She was striking to me, uncommonly beautiful, obviously haunting. The sun on her shoulders. Her expression, somber yet intense. Her shoes matched her saree. She carried a bucket, soap, cane, and, most important, her dignity.

In my trip to Kolkata where I met dozens and dozens of people, hers is a face I always remember first. Whatever her age, she had lived a long, and undoubtedly difficult life, and yet she’s endured.

She is not victim. She is an unnamed international woman I celebrate.

She lived in a village where Compassion International had a Child Survival Center, a place where mothers and babies receive goods, education, training, and services that contribute to their survival.

Shortly after my trip with Compassion Bloggers to India, the child I sponsored left the program. Her mother remarried after the death of her father, and they moved to a location where Compassion didn’t have a local presence. Though I wasn’t able to continue helping her family financially, I’ve never stopped praying for Pinki; meeting her carved permanent residence in my heart.


I often wonder what she looks like now – nine years older – and how she’s doing…how all the beautiful children served by Compassion are doing in India.

You see, about a year ago Compassion had to shutter its sponsorship program in India; it was heartbreaking for those involved. After decades of ministry, Compassion could no longer send funds into the country due to Indian government restrictions (read more here).

We’ve also sponsored a daughter from the Dominican Republic; this year will be our tenth! She’ll turn 16 in May, and our sponsorship began right after she turned six. It never occurred to me until this moment how long we’ve been blessing one another, and make no mistake: Isaura blesses me with every letter she writes and ever prayer she offers for me and my family.

Compassion currently operates in 25 countries and has touched millions of lives since beginning its work in the ’50s. Everything I learn about Compassion only reinforces its impact and value to our broken world.

Today (regardless of when you read this), in celebration of International Women’s Day, I’m asking you to make a generous contribution to Compassion International. Get your credit card or checkbook out and start here.


You can make a one-time gift or change a child’s life – and his/her family’s lives – by committing to a monthly sponsorship. It’s up to you. 

I know our churches need our money, and our communities need our support, but today to celebrate International Women’s Day, I’m asking for global consideration for a gift to our world. I trust Compassion completely, and I’ve witnessed first hand their impact in local communities.

Look at these precious faces I had the incredible honor of meeting almost ten years ago. They’re my inspiration for today’s bold ask, but I bet there are significant women in your life worthy of celebration. I hope you’ll want to make a gift just because you can.

This old world needs those who have financial means to remember those who have financial need. It’s really as simple as that.





Thank you.

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Honest Thoughts About #GivingTuesday



Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 | 2 comments


I love Holly Hunter. An Academy Award- and Emmy-winning actress, she seems to take any role and make it memorable; she dies to self while her characters come to life. I appreciate her talent, sure, but maybe tipping the scale for my fangirldom is the fact she’s Southern, born just up the road from me in Conyers, Georgia. Her accent makes me happy. Instead of sounding like some illiterate, backwoods miscreant – the way Southerners are too often played in film and television – her voice is comfort food to the ear. As Tammy Hemphill in 1993’s The Firm, she delivers one of my favorite movie lines of all time when convict Ray McDeere tells her he “loves her crooked little mouth.” She quips…

It’s not my best feature.

Gah–J’adore! (Shout out to my friend Lisa M. who jinxed me with this line!)

Anyway, that scene always comes to mind when one of my, say, “lesser qualities” rises to the surface. Like today. Today is known far and wide as Giving Tuesday. My first instinct is cynical.


My cynicism is birthed out of priority:

  1. Black Friday.
  2. Small Business Saturday.
  3. Sunday usually equals more of #1 and #2–retailers and e-tailers are smart that way even if Sunday doesn’t have an official name.
  4. Cyber Monday.

And with whatever you have leftover after all that manic spending, tip your favorite charity on Giving Tuesday.

See? Not my best feature.

Here’s the thing, though. While my first instinct is cynicism, it’s not where I land. I am a bargain shopper. I understand that this season sometimes offers the most savings of items you plan to buy anyway.

More than anything, I believe that giving is good.


And when there’s a global movement encouraging citizens of the world to give to organizations and causes who represent undeniable need, we should respond with great generosity.


#GivingTuesday reminds us giving isn’t only about dollars and cents–

…whether it’s some of your time, a donation, gift or the power of your voice in your local community….

but a financial gift is always an easy and immediate way to respond.


There is no dearth of non-profits to support, but three I’d very personally love for you to consider are:

  • CrossPurpose. 2½ years ago, freshly graduated and with a degree in community development, my daughter accepted an urban leadership development fellowship in Denver, CO. On the ground, working to eradicate poverty in their city, CrossPurpose in an incredible organization that teaches people how to fish for a lifetime instead of feeding them for a day. When her fellowship ended, Rachel accepted a full-time position with CrossPurpose. We’ve met those who serve and are served by this visionary organization. Your dollars here change lives, now and forever.
  • Compassion. Eight years ago I traveled to Kolkata (Calcutta) with Compassion International, and it’s still changing my life. Compassion is a world-wide organization that works by investing in local people and projects to do the work of caring for the least of these. I was privileged to observe first-hand what this looks like, and I’m convinced it’s the best, most reputable sponsor program out there.


  • Salvation Army. Ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive has become an annual tradition for me; it was fascinating to learn so much my first year (10 Things Salvation Army Bell Ringers Want You To Know is one of my most popular posts of all time). The Red Kettle Drive is a great example of every gift matters–whether pocket change or folding money, every donation thrills the bell ringer AND makes a difference in your community. Which goes the same for my online campaign: gifts of any size are welcome! (Please help me reach my humble goal?)
    Ringing Salvation Army Bell

Your support doesn’t have to end with the organizations I’ve mentioned here; I’m sure there are many near and dear to your heart. But I sincerely hope you join me AND THE ENTIRE WORLD in giving something today.

Because something is always better than nothing, yes?



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Opportunity Costs (Let’s be someone’s answer to prayer)



Posted by on Dec 1, 2015 | 1 comment

You are an answer to prayer - GivingTuesday

I often find myself thinking about opportunity cost within the context of people and time and not just economics.

Opportunity Cost defined

If I do this, then I can’t do that. This and that can mean a lot of different things.


  • If we spend the holidays with my in-laws, I miss seeing my side of the family.
  • If I attend an important family birthday party, I miss the leadership meeting at my church.
  • If we drive my daughter cross-country to her new home, I miss the only time my youngest comes home from college before Thanksgiving.

All recent, real-life examples where one choice affected the others. Too often decisions aren’t clearcut about how I choose my time or spend my resources. They’re between good and better choices. That aggravating distinction between better and best can be a matter of minuscule degree.

These days I’m thinking a lot about how I spend my time and money – a lot – and I suppose at least some of that is tied to what my daughter is doing.

She is living what I profess to believe.

That is not to say I am not also living what I believe, but let’s just say I recognize the difference between her choices and my own.

I’ve learned a lot about community development from Rachel, which makes sense since it was her college major. Mostly I’ve learned through conversation, the osmosis of family, but also through proofreading a few of her papers. Her 25-page SIP was fascinating to me; she insists that’s because I’m her mother, but I know better. She writes beautifully, yes, but substantive and provocative content anchored me to the next page, and then the next and the next. She also passed along her copy of Half the Sky to me – a book I can not recommend highly enough. Through one incredible story after another, Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn introduce you to people in need and people willing to help. I’m not talking about huge corporations or complex organizations, I’m talking about people like me, like you.

One person willing to do something, to get it out of their head or heart and into the world, will make a difference. And it doesn’t matter whether that difference is to the masses; if you make a difference for One, that can make ALL the difference for that One.

It’s why I wrote what I did the other day–

Better to give than to receive


I remember being so irritated with my husband years ago, when he challenged me on the notion of need versus want. It was in the context of selling our house in South Carolina; we had purchased a new home in Tennessee, with the assurance his company would ultimately buy our house if it didn’t sell after a period of time. It was an incredible perk, but those months with two mortgage payments weighed heavy. I felt the pressure.

We needed to sell our house.

But my husband the engineer, literalist, realist, concrete thinker corrected me. “We don’t need to sell our house; we want to sell our house.” His point was that we were able to cover the payments, and that we were not going without anything we needed. Maybe there wasn’t money for extras – new clothes or travel or whatever – but we had a roof over our head, two cars to drive, and more than enough food to eat. Our kids never had to worry about a next meal or what to wear. We were doing fine.

It infuriated me that he didn’t agree with me. 

But as much as I didn’t like it, he was right. We didn’t need to sell our house; selling our house would have simply given us more money to steward.

I love how the Lord has given me a daughter whose heart is to work with the poor. Certainly, we are givers; but rarely do we sacrifice. We have well beyond what we need.

This thing is a holy wrestle for me. I know when conviction pierces my heart, the Holy Spirit is at work to bring about a change, to redirect my thinking and doing, to produce new fruit.  I need to listen to that.


What I do not need to believe are the lies from an enemy who hisses condemnation. The bible tells me “…there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” If that’s what I’m sensing – gracious, if that’s what you’re hearing from me – it must be categorically rejected! Condemnation is not from God.

I shopped over the long weekend, taking advantage of seasonal bargains. No one should feel guilty about stewarding their resources well. I’m all about getting the max for the minimum.

Today is Giving Tuesday. Part of me wants to reject it. Honestly, I hate the timing of it. Seriously? After all the Black Friday hype, after Shop Local Saturday and Cyber Monday, after you’ve shopped til you dropped and spent all of your money on yourself, your family and friends, THEN give out of what’s left?

I hate the timing. And I hate giving being a big deal on one day, rather than a spirit of on-going generosity. 

But that’s the cynic and judge in me, not my better qualities.

I believe in giving generously; it’s one of the earliest lessons Mama taught me, “Those who have give to those who don’t.” I haven’t learned to give sacrificially yet, but I hope to learn.

I’ve given up a few indulgences in order to free up those dollars with the intention of giving that money away. I’ve found that giving up the luxuries was the easier part; following through on the giving away part is sometimes slow to follow. In other words, my intention is there, I’ve even taken a tangible step in that direction. But it’s important to give that money away on purpose.

Not using it for an indulgence of choice (i.e., Starbucks, pedicure, etc.) is not the same thing as giving it away. Imagine that.

Anyway, I’ve written a lot of words to introduce a few special organizations I hope you’ll consider supporting. Would you be willing to give up your favorite indulgence during the month of December for a year-end gift? Or, if you find yourself with a pile of money, feel free to share it with these groups. They’re special to me (I’ll be happy to tell you why), and you can trust your dollars will be stewarded well.

People in ministry pray for generous givers. They trust the Lord for provision.


Today would you join me in believing that you and I are the answer to someone’s prayer? If no one has come to mind as you’ve read, I’m asking you to consider a gift to the following groups I love, pray for, and support financial because I believe in their respective missions. All of them in some way are loving God by loving others in big and little ways.

  1. Cross Purpose. This is the organization my daughter is working for in a two-year Fellowship. It is incredible, tackling poverty in Denver by connecting with the people they serve. They’re living what Diedrich Bonhoeffer wrote about in Life Together. Just beautiful. (Note: Dollars are always in need for the organization itself, but if you’d like to give to Rachel specifically, please be sure to leave a note earmarking your contribution for her.)
  2. Compassion International. This child advocacy program is still my favorite; the work they’re doing in poor countries is astounding. My trip to India still affects me in unexpected ways. If you aren’t in a position to sponsor a child, click around their site and check out their Gift Catalog. There are FUN ways to give and your children will delight in choosing gifts for others in need.
  3. Salvation Army. I’ve linked here to my own online Red Kettle, but I’d encourage you to give locally, too. Their motto, “Doing the most good” their desire to serve their local communities well.
  4. Mercy House Kenya.  I’ve Kristen Welch’s idea for a maternity home for young girls in Kenya (victims of abuse) evolve from a dream to reality. It’s a hard, noble work, small scale in nature, and changing the trajectory of the girls’ lives it serves, and their babies. This is what the book Half the Sky talks about, and Kristen and her colleagues are inspirational.

Those are just a few places where I put my money where my mouth is. I’d love to hear where you’re giving your dollars and prayers and time–do share your favorite organizations in comments!

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Around/About: The “Compassion Bloggers” Edition



Posted by on Feb 21, 2015 | 2 comments

Had I not had a house seriously overflowing with family last weekend, this week’s Around/About would have been shared then. The beautiful thing about the internet is you can visit blog posts, well, forever, and the words I’m about to share are relevant whenever you read them.

A group of bloggers have just returned from the Dominican Republic, where they visited the local Compassion International field office and several of the local projects and families who benefit from its programs. I had the incredible privilege of traveling on a Compassion blogging trip to Calcutta five years ago, and I remain convinced it’s one of the best organization of its kind.


Sponsoring a child through Compassion is one of the most meaningful things you could ever do, especially if you involve your school-age children. Not only will they gain an international pen-pal, but they’ll see the world through an incredible lens – that of hope despite unimaginable poverty – and they’ll also be blessed as they bless another through their letters. It’s a beautiful way to teach them consideration of others not just in theory but in practice.

Here’s a link to Compassion Blogger highlights from the week, but I hope you’ll take time to visit the entire team. You’ll come away inspired, and I hope, ready to sponsor a child.


Bri McCoy, Compassion Blogger Trip Leader

“…We say yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand yeses. Wondering if it will unfold into some…something.

And then one day. A day that seemed like it would be just a day, breaks open like a piñata you’ve been swinging at for years.

Today was that day for me. I’ll never forget….”

From Not Just a Day || Read all Bri’s Compassion trip posts


Bonnie Gray, friend and author of Spiritual Whitespace and blogger at Faith Barista

“…A college educated man or woman in the Dominican Republic is not exempt from the poverty.

Corruption.  Luis tells me, looking into my eyes.  Government corruption. Political corruption. Jobs are paid for — by relationship.  Who you know determines whether poverty becomes your address….”

From Why Love is Not a Consolation But a Light   || Read all Bonnie’s Compassion trip posts


Lisa Leonard, friend and founder of Lisa Leonard Designs

“…When Steve and I asked Josefina to tell us how life is different now that Hilde has a sponsor through Compassion. Her response was, “Everything is different.”

So we pressed for more specifics.

“Can you give us specific examples of things she has now that she didn’t have before?”

This single mom with deep dimples and tired eyes, responded, “Now she has shoes. Now she has food to eat. Now she can go to school.”

Oh. Wow. We let it sink in….”

From The Lump In My Throat  ||  Read all Lisa’s Compassion trip posts


Holley Gerth, friend, incourage co-founder, blogger and author of a BUNCH of books

“…We all have the same mission: love. And yet how we fulfill it varies with each one of us. God will use your strengths, skills, gifts, experiences and resources to touch the lives of others in ways only you can….”

From There is Always a Way to Say “I Love You” || Read all Holley’s Compassion trip posts


Ruth Soukup, blogger and author of Living Well, Spending Less

“…I think sometimes we neglect to act because we wonder if what we have to offer could ever make a difference in a world full of so much need.  But this is your chance. I can’t tell you every family’s story, but I can tell this one.  You may not be able to save the world but you can make a difference in the life of one family….”

From Breaking the Cycle of Poverty  || Read all Ruth’s Compassion trip posts

Amazing trip photography by Mike Varel, Digital Storytelling (all images in the above collage from their Flickr pool).



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The incredible gift everyone – EVERYONE – wants (and probably needs)



Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 | 5 comments

Your soul sparkles - Celebrating You

My sister gave me a gift last week and it made me so happy I screamed.


We were alone in my house sitting on my youngest son’s bed, for a reason I can’t recall now. She handed me a package neatly ribboned and wrapped in the brown paper sack from the gift shop explaining, “I’ve had this forever but kept forgetting to give you.”

I clawed off the paper and grinned, already judging this book by its cover.

Celebrating You book - image by Robin Dance

My sister thought she was giving me an 8″x8″ gift book;  but as STINKIN’ DARLING as it is, the book itself wasn’t exactly the biggest part of her gift.  No…planted among its pages was a magical treasure, undetectable by eye, discernible only by the heart.

Her gift was in seeing and knowing me in the deepest ways I long to be seen and known.


I shrieked lunatic-crazy after every single page–think “wolf howling at the moon” and you’ll get a close approximation. Ask her if you think I’m kidding.




Counting each double page as a single (one illustration with a companion sentence), there are just 27 pages (aka 27 screams). Thankfully, or the neighbors might’ve called the police.

Possibility - Celebrating You

We’re just 16 months apart but she’s always been the boss of me. I think she felt this was her God-given right and responsibility when we lost our mother so young. Or maybe it’s a first-born thing. Whatever it is, I’ve always accepted it and at times even appreciated it.

(It just occurred to me that she has known me longer than anyone else alive. Whoa…I’ve never thought about that before this very minute.)

One of my best childhood memories is sitting across from one another in her bathroom – her, on the toilet (lid down), me on the edge of the tub. She was my eager audience of one and I delighted in entertaining her…Edith Ann and Jimmy Carter impersonations (my Georgia roots showing), and I don’t know who else.

Her laughter was my paycheck, her approval, a bonus.


Quote for the best gift to give - Robin Dance

Even though sometimes she is maddening, she’s always been my biggest cheerleader.

Adventure - Celebrating YouLike when I was an upcoming high school freshman trying out for cheerleading and I suffered a major groin injury doing a split but not sufficiently warmed up (red hot knife searing pain that left me in a puddle in front of the judges). Back in the coach’s office, my sister gave me a “pep” talk:  inches from my face she screeched GETCHUR ASS BACK OUT THERE AND FINISH YOUR TRYOUT!

I thought she was cool to say “ass” in front of grown-ups. Bad to the bone.

I hobbled back to the gym, finished my tryout, and made the squad. Thanks to her.

While we’ve had our differences through the years, she’s still my cheerleader and champion. I suppose it’s not that difficult to understand how she could see me and know me so well, what with our history and sheer amount of life together.

And then she sings it back to me by way of a gift in a gift.

The pages in this little book spoke life and love and affirmation and beauty.

She told me I already am who I long to be.

Strong - Celebrating YouAnd though I know we are intimately known and loved by the God of the universe, sometimes a girl needs it in human form. On the very best of days He is gracious to find the perfect person to deliver the message.

My husband knows me and loves me in a way that she never can, but it’s she who has spent my entire lift knowing me in a way he never can–her blood runs through my veins.

It is wired in our DNA, this desire to be known and loved. And I believe each one of us has the capacity to give this gift to someone in our lives who so desperately needs to receive it.

Will you take a moment to consider the people in your life who might thrill to your notice?  Will you follow through and find a way to express it to them?

I don’t know if Celebrating You will be a conduit you can use to encourage another, but for less than ten bucks, if you know someone whose love language, like mine, is words of encouragement, it might be perfect.

I’m curious now…what makes you feel well known and most loved? I guess it centers around your love language.  If you’re willing to share, I’d really like to know what could turn you into a howling wolf…:).


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Affiliate link used for Celebrating You.

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Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 | 3 comments

Kristen Welch Quote on seeing need

It’s always, always, a surprise when someone I know tells me they read my blog.

It’s one thing for our lives to have crossed in the virtual world first, and wholly another for us to know each other in the space where I can shake your hand or hug you neck, and for celebrations or sympathy, bring you dinner.

I wonder, really wonder, what each of you thinks when I bring you inside my heart and head through a conduit of words.  Unless you comment, email or tell me, it’s a lop-sided form of communication–and, is it even communication if I’m the only one talking?

Can you tell when I’m almost desperate for you to hear?

I’m an advocate for Compassion International.

I became an advocate for Compassion International after reading the personal accounts of bloggers I already read and trusted back in 2008, and then investigating further on my own.

In 2009, I had the privilege of traveling with Compassion International to India with a team of bloggers, to write and share the stories of Compassion’s work in Calcutta.  This not only confirmed what I already believed, it changed the way I viewed myself, my faith, my family…even my country.  It pretty much affected how I look at all of life from that point future.

And here’s the thing:  Today, I’m sitting here surrounded by the comfort of home, never having gone hungry or without a roof over my head or fresh clothes on my back or healthcare or free education.  When I “have” to go shopping, my pantry has enough dry goods to last two months, I bet.  Maybe longer.  When I buy a new outfit, it is never out of real need, it’s birthed in want.  And more than any of that, I have never had to worry about these things for my children.

I’m sitting here comfortable, warm, fed and happy, surrounded by more than I could ever need, except for this:

I’m longing to find all the right words that would move you to action, to sponsor a child

Because the truth is, most anyone who reads this…can.

It’s $38/month, $456/year to rescue a child from poverty.

It’s important to support local cause, it is, and I’d wager you already are.  But there’s a singular beauty in reaching your arms halfway around the globe to help someone who barely stands a chance in this life.  Compassion International extends that chance, that grace, that rescue.

There’s a pivotal scene at the end of John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, that has always haunted me.  In the movie adaptation it’s spoken by Jake Brigance, the lawyer for Carl Lee Hailey, a black man on trial for the murder of his 10-year-old daughter’s two vicious, white attackers (in the novel, it’s actually spoken by one of the jurors behind closed doors).  Turning to an all-white jury in their violently racist town, Brigance asks:

Can you see her? [speaking of Carl Lee’s daughter] Her raped, beaten, broken body soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood, left to die. Can you see her? I want you to picture that little girl.

Now imagine she’s white.

Jurors envisioning this child as one who could be their own is what earns Carl Lee acquittal by reason of temporary insanity.

It might be a stretch, but I sense a parallel here:

If our world was turned upside-down, and WE were the ones sitting in a house made of straw, unable to earn a living wage, and we had no idea where our next meal was coming from – or when it would come…that it was my child who had two shirts to wear and no shoes or doctor or dentist and such few prospects for rescue…

that someone from around the world might hear our plight and extend their hand, and do with a little less themselves, to help me.  My babies.

If we saw these impoverished children who have next to nothing as our own, how would it change what we do next?


And, I promise, the LAST thing I’m trying to do is heap a pile a guilt on anyone’s shoulders!  May it never be!  If anything I’m frustrated with myself for not being able to artfully, gracefully present this beautiful opportunity with the hope and dignity is deserves.

Would you play along with me for just a minute?  Click this link to visit Compassion International.  Look into the faces of these Real Children who are waiting for sponsors.  (Go…do it now.  Then pop back over here.)

A team of Compassion bloggers just returned from Uganda and their stories are incredible, inspiring and affecting.   Their truth-telling allows you to see through their eyes and walk in their steps, and powerfully so.

The goal for child sponsorships for this trip was 400.  Not 400 sponsorships, but 400 children sponsored.  Help them reach this goal?

So, yes, I wonder.  What you’re thinking as you read this plea, thankful that you’ve taken time to do so, and even more grateful if you share this post with your friends.  If you aren’t in a position to sponsor monthly, you can click the yellow tab on the top right of this page and make a one-time donation.


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