Friday, March 30, 2012

Where We're Going: Swaziland, Part 1



Some friends recently went to exactly where we're going in Swaziland (we'll spend most of our time at the Gege CarePoint).
Over the next few days I'll repost here, with permission, Glenn Packiam's thoughts on his experience.
To read all four posts at once, you can go to Glenn's blog
To read more about our family going and different ways that you can help us get there, go here.
If you go to New Life and would like to sponsor a child at our CarePoints, click the Ask Angela link on the side and email me for more information. (I'm the sponsorship coordinator.)



Part One: "The Real Heroes in the Kingdom"

[NOTE: This series of blogs is a compilation of reflections from our NewLifeSundayNight trip to Swaziland in March, 2012. A separate absolute monarchy surrounded by South Africa, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. 60% of its population lives on less than USD$1.25 a day. Our church is partnering with Children's Hope Chest to "sponsor" two communities where orphans and vulnerable children abound. I will say more on this partnership and how the model works in Part 4 of this blog series. My goal in writing this blog series is primarly to help our church understand the nature of this partnership, and to find ways of getting involved.]


IMG_0983We pulled into the CarePoint in the Gege community, only we couldn't see the CarePoint. The first buildings in sight were part of an abandoned hospital, though calling it a hospital is like calling a lemonade stand a restaurant. We walked around the series of abandoned concrete buildings. Our host was taking us to the slightly elevated cement hole so we could use the bathroom before the children arrived. I kept looking at the abandoned hospital buildings wondering which one was where Pastor Ronald, the local pastor, a Zambian native who had moved here in obedience to God's call, lived.

IMG_0985We were taken into a small, rectangular concrete building where we could hear from the Pastor Ronald and from Pastor Sam, the "senior pastor," a man who was the leader of all the AG churches in southern Africa. He shared his vision for the network of churches in Swaziland to each plant ten churches over the next ten years so that they could be "incarnational" in their mission. Then the local pastor, Pastor Ronald, shared his dream for the Gege community: a new church building, with a house so he and his wife could take in some of the orphaned children; then a maize farm to supply the food for their CarePoint; then a pig farm so the community could begin to generate income and become self-sustaining.

The more time we spent with these pastors, the more we saw their compassion. As we visited women and children in their mud huts over the next few days, Pastor Ronald kept saying to me, "You see, pastor, this is the real Africa." And all I kept thinking was, "You are the real pastor."

These leaders aren't on Twitter. They don't blog. They're not worried about how many followers they have, or if they'll write a book, or if their songs will be song in churches on played on the radio. Were I to mention my so-called credentials-- my degrees or the books I've published or songs I've written-- they would not care. They have no grid for it. All they know is that I'm a pastor, that our team is from a church in America, and that we've come to help them help the children. The children-- that's why Pastor Ronald moved his family from Zambia to live in an abandoned building in a remote part of Swaziland, that's why he walks miles each day-- just to visit these women and children.

Yes, this is the real Africa and these are the real heroes in the Kingdom. 



Share this:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Random Outfit Post




Wore this a few weeks back, which seems to be the deal with nearly every outfit I'm posting lately.




pulling it all together...
tee: Target. Old. A fav. (also seen here)
skirt: American Apparel, a recent gilt.com find. SO flowy and comfy!
lace cardi: Target, major clearance last year
leggings: I think also Target (theme?)
boots: Thrifted
scarf: H&M
same leather bracelets... and I can't even tell/remember what earrings I was wearing
hair: Washed two days before, slept on, round-brushed out the top.


I adore this skirt. The color is perfect. It's so flowy. AND I can do THIS in it...


AND it makes me feel very lady-like...



Last week I layered it over a black skirt that I have, and that was such fun, too.
You can kind of tell in this Instagram photo, which was about the boots, but people commented on the skirt(s) anyway.  =^)
(What a lovely, clean mirror I have!)



I've have this tee for SO long, and it just gets better with age! A little more stretched out... a little softer.
Perfect.


How fun to mix and match and twirl and curtsey. Why do we limit ourselves with styles?
Why do we say, "Oh, I could never wear something like that?"
Life is too full and too wonderful and there are too many fun textures to limit ourselves so.



Share this:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Women of Faith 2012: COME WITH US... again!



Last year we went and laughed so hard...



...we cried (a lot)...
(no one wants to showcase pictures of themselves crying right here *wink*)

...we worshipped our hearts out...



...lives were changed, hearts were healed, souls were recharged.






And this year?
THIS YEAR???
We're going to do it AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!


If you've read this blog for any length of time you know I am passionate about women getting together (yes, even if you "hate" women's events), sharing life, getting past the "stuff," and diving deeper.
(This will be my 13th in a row.)




At Women of Faith, the speakers are amazing, but it doesn't just have to do with the speakers.
The worship is so needed, but it doesn't just have to do with the worship.
The girl time is a blast, but it doesn't just have to do with the girl time.
The getting-away-from-daily-life is a gift, but it doesn't just have to do with getting away.

Going to a Women of Faith conference is about something more than all of that, something truly indescribable...
something you won't fully realize you've needed until you're sitting in your seats in the arena surrounded by women who are facing the same things as you, looking for encouragement like you, needing to breathe... like you.


Women of Faith is about setting aside time to hear God speak to your heart...
and then responding.


So, we're going again.


And this year???
Oh, girlfriends. Girl... friends.
We have THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!

(Look at me with my cute Mom! She flew out just to come with me last year!)

If you were with me 'till the end of the conference last year in the Pepsi Center, you know we were singing our hearts out and dancing in those stadium seats!!!
On the drive back, God whispered to my heart, "What if the whole arena could see the joy and freedom that the women in this group have found?"
I saw it in my mind, and it was beautiful. Something stirred in me.
When I got home and called to register for the 2012 conference, I had a number on my heart.
"You know what?" my awesome group leader coordinator, Dawn, said, "There's only one place in the arena where we have that number of seats available together."
*me pausing for effect*
"The floor."


And, BAM, God confirms it.


So this year, 
on September 28th & 29th,
(Friday night and all day Saturday)
our group is going to be partying on the floor of the Pepsi Center, right smack dab in front of the stage!
GIRLS!!!!!!!!
Easy in, easy out, freedom to move...
and dance.


Because of our incredible seats, tickets this year are $101.
(Only $10 more than last year, with a little $2 arena fee.)
That's super easy to pay either all at once or in a few installments.
That covers your seat in the arena and party time with the girls!!!

My ticket deadline is mid-July, so if you want to be with this INCREDIBLY FUN GROUP your ticket needs to be taken care of BEFORE then!
Just think, if you pay $25 a month in April, May, June & July... there's your ticket! 
(...yes, I realize I just left out a dollar. You can add it in somewhere.)

And, just like last year, we're going to caravan up and split hotel rooms to keep the overall cost as minimal as possible.
Shopping and dinner in Downtown Denver! Woo-HOO!!!
(Details on that will follow as people register and we get closer.)

A deposit of $20 reserves your ticket!
(And, truly, we drop $20 so easily nowadays. Invest in something with a HUGE return and reserve your amazing seat now.)
Last year I heard from SO many women who were at first concerned about the price, but worked it out anyway and at the conference realized what they had gained in the weekend was worth far more than any dollar amount. 


The testimonies have been amazing:

"I didn't know how much I needed it until I was there and found I was finally breathing deeply."

"I've always hated women's events, but something in me wanted to trust you about this. So, I went... and I loved it! I'm going back next year for sure."

"For the first time in so long I was actually able to sit... and hear... and think about what God was saying to me."


There is truly something for everyone at this event.
EV.ER.Y.ONE.
We'll hear from Lisa Harper (love this hilarious girl), Sheila Walsh (a mentor-from-afar for me for years),
Selah (*sigh*), Angie Smith (have you read her awesome blog), and more!


So get your seat NOW.
Get it marked off on your calendar, set this time aside for YOU, and come!
Talk to your girlfriends and tell them to come WITH us!
Don't know anyone? Want to join a fun group and GET to know people?
Come with us!!!

To reserve you ticket you can either:

*Give your payment directly to me, either in full or part,

OR

*Go HERE and sign up for my online Women of Faith group!
Registration is super easy... I'll approve you... and then you can pay online with your credit card.
(If you already signed up last year, you're good. Simply log in and make your payment!)


I'm going to put a permanent page on my blog, with the link at the top, so you'll be able to access this info easily at any time!
Send your friends a link (http://www.stilettosandgrace.com) and tell them to click Women of Faith 2012 at the top and sign up, too!



Make the commitment.
Come.
Get away.
You'll be SO glad you did.


Besides, you just never know what adventures you're going to have...



...or what new, amazing friends you're going to make.



Women of Faith 2012
COME WITH US!!!!!

Disclaimer: I am not on staff with Women of Faith. I don't get paid to do any of this.
God told me to be a group leader so other women could find what I'VE found at these conferences over the years.
I... AM... PASSIONATE... ABOUT... YOU!
That's why I do this.




Share this:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Today.



Today is a sunny Thursday morning here in Colorado Springs... which really isn't anything significant because most mornings are sunny here in Colorado Springs.


Today I'm sitting here with a stack of letters to my left, envelopes and stamps in front of me, and I'm excited to share with friends and family the adventure God is leading us into.


Today my dining room table is covered with tulle and scissors and measuring tape and ribbon and elastic.
Each chair has a carefully crafted tutu hanging from it, and more are calling out to be made.
Price tags wait to be attached and a display waits to be assembled.


Today we have two of our first big fundraisers. One for our Swazi team and one for our Uganda team. I'm preparing what I've made to sell, gathering music to strum in the corner of Marco's Pizza and making a dessert to take to the choir concert.
I'm trying to arrange in my head what kids need to be where with what athletic uniforms at what time, and hoping nothing runs late so the rest of the shuttle schedule in the midst of two fundraisers can run on time.


Today there are emails that won't get returned, calls that won't get made and text messages that will have to wait until tomorrow.


And it can feel like a mountain... of things I need to get to, I won't get to, I have to get to, I want to get to.
But I stare at Pike's Peak out my kitchen window and breathe and realize how thankful I am that God is the One who orders my days.
He is the One who directs my steps.
Breathe in, breathe out. "What now, God?"
Breathe in, breathe out. "What do you have for me in this moment, Lord?"
And the small steps that I take are the pebbles and stones and rocks and boulders that make up the mountain of what I stand for... the mountain that the world around me sees so clearly.


Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.
Proverbs 31:25

Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.
Luke 1:45


And I move forward with today, smiling at the future.
And I will move forward with tomorrow, smiling at the future... knowing He provides for what He calls us into as we're obedient to walk where He leads...
thankful for the firm foundation this mountain stands on.











Share this:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Random Outfit Post




I wore this the other week. Absolutely loving my DIY cardigan.





pulling it all together...
cardigan: Gap Maternity, via Goodwill, then DIY'd. (see details here)
red denim: H&M, free at XS Threadz
white tee: Mossimo, 70% off at Target, absolute new fav, wear way too often
gray layering tank under: $5 at French Quarter Boutique in SLO, get your own here
boots, necklace: thrifted from fav store on the Air Force Academy
simple gold hoops and ring
hair: braided, fringe clipped back.


I got ready in a hurry this particular morning and remember that I wanted to wear this cardi AND my red jeans!
I love pairing the bright red with the more muted browns/creams/whites. So often we get in a rut of pairing red with black. Why? So this just felt a little more fresh, a little more unexpected to me... while still being totally laid back.


Ian came out while I was taking the pictures.








We've been trying to get a half-way decent family photo to send out with our Africa support letters. That afternoon I told the family, "WE... ARE... DOING... THIS!!!"
It was chilly, but still daylight.
And it happened.
(Yes, Ian's lips are really red because he sucks on then sometimes. We're a real family living real life. What more can I say?)


Share this:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tutu:28




I've been talking about it... I've been hinting about it on facebook and twitter...
and now (drum roll... drum roll, please)

...I am officially launching... 












Tutu:28 has been established to fund our family's upcoming trips to Swaziland, Uganda and Wales. We know this is just the beginning of our travels. Tutu:28 is something that will exist long after these initial trips are funded and be able to support future ventures.

Why tutus? Because they're awesome... and no girl is ever too old for a tutu.
Why 28? Because we're commissioned. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

God has called us to go. We are going. Tutu:28 is helping us do that.


I've created a new page at the top of this blog that will showcase our current inventory and detail custom order options.
Go check out what we have available... or get your creativity going and order a custom tutu!
You will find pictures, pricing, sizing and order details on that page.


Tutu:28 is just getting started, so keep checking back for more styles, more one-of-a-kind tutus, more everything.


And know that 100% of the proceeds of each tutu go to send our family to the world, bearing with us the hope and life that is found in Jesus!






Share this:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ridiculously Easy Cardigan DIY (& outfit post)



I say ridiculously easy because... well... there's seriously nothing to this.

Backstory: I found this cozy striped sweater at Goodwill a few weeks back.
It was a turtleneck.
And it was maternity.
And it was XL.
But it was just so great! Oatmeal and brown stripes. Comfy, cozy knit material.
I tried it on anyway, and staring in the dressing room mirror had the revelation, "THIS would make a GREAT cardigan!"
It was priced at $4, so I figured it was worth a try.


The process:


I laid it out on the kitchen table, trying to line up all the seams.




See? I was serious.




I first cut off the turtleneck part so I could see more clearly what kind of neckline/shape I was dealing with. And, yes, I also cut out the label following my thought process of, "If I happen to take the sweater off while in public and toss it somewhere and someone sees the 'maternity' label and starts to wonder..."
I just figured it would be easier if I removed any possibility of all that.




Now, here's the really super scientific part.
I eyeballed it and... cut down the middle.




Then I trimmed the neck to be a little deeper so it wouldn't reach up and try to choke me when I'm wearing it.
I think I've actually cut it back and smoothed out that corner even more since this photo.




And then... brace yourself... I wore it.
We had a full day, so I remembered to take these pictures in my filthy bathroom mirror before changing into sweats that evening.
Seriously, this DIY cardi is so comfy and cozy and snuggly and everything in-between.
If the whole mutilating-it-into-this project hadn't worked I was going to try and cut the sleeves off.
But it did. 
Maybe I'll go find another sweater to try and turn into a vest. Then it would be a sweater... vest. =^)



pulling it all together...
tee: Target, ancient, love. (also seen here)
denim: Joe's, $8 at a boutique. I'm not joking.
shoes: sale years back. I'm too lazy to go look at the label right now, but I love them SO much that you can see the purple is wearing off of the toes... which almost makes them cooler. Although, the soles are also wearing off. Hmmm...
scarf: gifted from Jake the Most Awesome (also seen here)
gold earrings: from Kenya (also seen here and here)
gold ring: Forever 21
same leather bracelets I always wear.


Just LOOK at those clothes piled along the you-can't-see-it bathtub. Hey, when I say this is a real blog for real women living real life, I mean it.






Share this:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Silliness



Because we JUST went through trying to get a halfway decent family photo to send out with our Africa support letters,
this seems to be even more hilarious that it already was.

(And it was already nearly pee-my-pants hilarious.)




Share this:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Seasons



God often can't move us into the new season He's calling us to until we've let go of the season we've been in.
There's only so much room on our plate...
and in our hearts.


I've watched people both fail miserably and succeed gloriously at this.
Either way there's pain and heartache, but only one path comes accompanied by growth.


We know God may be calling us to let go of a season, to move on to a new phase of life. Things start to stir, routines that used to be normal and comfortable suddenly seem ill-fitting. We'll say things like, "I don't know..." and, "I'm just not sure what this feeling is..."
Now, sometimes we're creating those things out of selfishness or unfaithfulness... a pursuit of something God does NOT have for us. We're looking for something new when He's saying stay put and be faithful.
But, if we're in tune with God and walking where He leads... with His Spirit and what He's doing in us, we'll recognize what's going on when we're supposed to move on to something else.
That's when we need to buckle down and pray.
For direction.
For whispers.
For confirmation.
And God is always so faithful to bring those. It may only be a slight nudge, but that's why we need to be paying attention to what He's doing... so we'll recognize the nudge for what it is.
(If we're not paying attention, we'll wait longer than we should, and then it could be a very abrupt push... which is also effective, but I think He tries to get our attention with a nudge first. *wink*)


I've watched people be stirred to let go of a season they've been walking through.
I've sat back and observed the process, knowing God is calling them into something new, something amazing.
I've watched them not give up the current season.
They hold on... and hold on... and wonder why things feel ill-fitting. They may suspect they're supposed to give it up, but it's been comfortable for so long. So, they keep holding on.
They inevitably try to push and create a newness in an old season. With a flurry of activity they rouse everything up and hope to re-stir something that should have already been put to rest.
They're not ever content. They're restless. It affects those around them.
And there is pain. And there is heartache.


Some of these people I've watched finally let go, and even though it took longer than it should have, they finally enter into a new season. They breathe a sigh of relief, realizing that what they thought were joys in the old season had actually become burdens because they held on longer than they should have.
And the growth comes much later than it could have.


I've also watched some hang on so long that even when they do finally let go, they're bitter and discontent. They blame everyone else for feeling unfulfilled, for things not working...
when it was simply that they had held on far too long.
And there is pain. And there is heartache.
And there is no growth.


Then there are still others I've watched walk through the stirs, walk through the suddenly ill-fitting awkwardness.
I've heard them voice the wonderings, watch for indications.
Then I've seen them let go.
Let go of what has been a wonderful season.
Let go of the hopes that more glory would come in that season... and walk into a new season.
Embracing the unknown with the hope of well-discerned whispers.
Standing confidently on the faithfulness of their God, and holding dear the stories of the old season to bolster that faith for the new season.
And there is pain. And there is heartache.
And the growth is beyond anything they had imagined.


I will wear my winter coat now, because it's Winter. And it is wonderful and completely how it should be for this season.
But if I move into Spring and Summer in that winter coat, it's going to be ill-fitting and awkward.
Even if I say, "This is how it should be. It's right to wear the coat." and I get up everyday and put it on, everyone around me will obviously recognize that I shouldn't be wearing the coat.
And if mid-Summer, after much heat and discomfort, I finally do take off the winter coat, I'll feel so relieved! And I'll probably wonder why in the world I didn't take it off sooner.
But, if I keep that winter coat on all through the Spring, all through the Summer, thinking, "See? It's fine! It's going to be the right season again." Then come Winter, I'll still be wearing it. 
But it will be worn and tattered, and what I've held onto thinking, "This will be right. I will persevere until it is how I feel it should be!" actually never is.
Everyone around me has seen me continue to wear the coat, and knows that it is worn and tattered.
But, I refuse to see it... because that would mean I didn't take it off way back when I should have.


It's never too late to take off the now ill-fitting coat.
It's never too late to let go of what you knew you should have a long time ago.
But, hopefully... and hopefully first... we'll be listening for the whispers and nudges and recognize the changing of the seasons for what they are, so we don't find ourselves wearing a heavy, burdensome, ill-fitting coat mid-Summer.
And there will be some pain. And there will be some heartache.
And there will be some discomfort.
But there will be growth.





Share this: