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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Home Sweet Home [for now]

Our house is on the market. We listed it several weeks ago. All the neighbors have been by to tell us that they’ll be sad to see us go but that they “understand.” We have a big family so obviously we need a bigger house. Right?

Wrong. We happen to like our little house and we’ve found lots of ways to make it work for us. We have our reasons for needing and wanting to move – but none of them are because we desire a bigger house.

Besides, the term “small house” is very relative. I’ve been to Africa and I’m perfectly aware that by the world’s standards, my three bedroom, 2 bathroom house is basically a palace.

I’m not against big houses and if you own one, I think that’s great. But what I am against is the way Dan and I often feel pressured to upgrade and “move on up” just because the world tells us it’s time.

So here’s how we make our small house work for us…

This is mission control.

It’s also known as the wire shelf in the laundry room. It’s where I keep our homeschool supplies, paper products, dry goods that won’t fit in the pantry (because my “pantry” is actually just another medium sized cabinet in our kitchen), art supplies, coupons and basically everything I might stuff into a basement or an extra bedroom if I had one.

This is my homeschool room.

It’s also known as the kitchen table. I have to admit that sometimes I see pictures of really amazing homeschool rooms and I get a little jealous. What I love about them the most is the idea of a separate place to stash all the books, papers, school supplies and other clutter that goes along with homeschooling. But at the same time, having our “homeschool room” right in the middle of my kitchen works well for multi-tasking. I can teach grammar while I unload the dishwasher. Or keep an eye on the math assignments while I bake bread. It’s often rather handy.

This is the playroom.

Adorable baby not for sale with house.

It’s also known as the garage. Seriously. We rolled out a foam pad and some cheapo carpet onto the concrete floor. We run a heater in the winter and a fan in the summer and… voila, a playroom! The “playroom” also functions as additional storage space and provides an extra spot for schoolwork when I need to split up the kids to help them focus. And my car just has to live outside and that’s too bad, so sad.

By the way… are you sensing a theme here? Very, very few places in my small house have a singular function. Nearly every space doubles as something else. The den also functions as the office. The top of Madeline’s closet also functions as the linen closet. Baby Charlotte’s dresser also functions as her changing table. We can’t afford to waste any space, so we don’t.

And speaking of doubling up… my kids don’t have their own rooms. (Gasp!) Hannah and Madeline share a room, Joseph and Davis share a room and Charlotte has a small nursery next to the master bedroom. All five kids share one, simple bathroom with a single sink. And while they’re grumbling and waiting in line at night to brush their teeth, Dan and I tell them it’ll build character.

We’re perfectly happy to host guests in our little home. Baby Charlotte sleeps in a queen sized bed with bedrails. When guests stay with us, her room becomes the guest room and she bunks with the big girls. And she loves every minute of it.

And finally, there are the perks. These are my two favorite perks to living in a small house:

First, limited space means limited stuff. We have two sets of sheets for each bed in the house. My kids have two pairs of pajamas each. I don’t decorate with cute knick-knacks for every holiday of the year. And we have so few toys that it would probably be shocking to most people. But I actually find this lack of stuff to be rather freeing – not the other way around.

Second, we spend a lot of time outside. A LOT. Dan and I would much prefer a small house with a big yard over a big house with a small yard. We love to sit on the porch and watch the kids run through our backyard, climb trees and dig in the dirt. We love for them to use toys powered by nothing but their own legs and their big imaginations. It's a beautiful thing.

So by this point you might be wondering -- if we love our little house so much, why are we moving? Well, that's a blog post for another day. Stay tuned...
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What You Need to Know

I’m sorry to say that this post will not be nearly as exciting as my last one.

But I’m happy to report that Dan and I have been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support since that post. I honestly had no idea I had so many friends. You guys are amazing and I am very, very touched.

And now, let’s get down to business. There are a couple of things that you need to know about…

First, are you doing a Cupcake Kids sale? If so, do you know that you don’t have to wait until the actual day of your sale to start fundraising? Everyone who registers their sale on The Cupcake Kids site will receive a link that will allow you to sell “virtual cupcakes” to out-of-town friends and family members ahead of time.

I mean, chances are if your grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins, etc live out of state, they're probably not going to attend your cupcake sale. But never fear! They can still contribute to your child’s stand by using the personalized link you received at registration. You could also promote your personal page on facebook or your own blog. It's rather handy.

For an example, here’s my family’s fundraising page. Nifty, huh? And if you feel like you need to go ahead and purchase a virtual cupcake to support our stand, it will not hurt my feelings.


Y’all know Colleen. At least you should. She used to be my bloggy BFF but now she’s one of my real life BFFs. Our families vacationed together last year. We traveled to Africa together last year.  And this year, we’ve already gotten to spend all kinds of time together, thanks to two Created for Care retreats and the SixtyFeet film premiere in February.

Colleen and her family are moving to Uganda to work for SixtyFeet. For five weeks, that is. Taking a family of six to east Africa for an extended period of time is not an inexpensive thing. So Colleen is fundraising. And I happen to have some very important insider information regarding this fundraising effort: there’s going to be a super fun, fundraising give-away on Colleen’s blog sometime very soon.

You really, really don’t want to miss it. If I were you, I’d hop over to the UglyCouch and get myself signed up as a follower right away. Do not delay.

Third, I’m going back to Africa in June. Have I told y’all that? Joy and I are leading a precious team of ladies on an 8-day trip to Uganda and we’re pretty stinkin’ excited about it. One of my other bloggy-turned-real-life BFFs will be joining us for this adventure…Lara, TheFarmer’s Wife.

And in order to fund her trip, Lara is selling fabulous hand-made jewelry. I’m not even kidding – it's gorgeous. And inexpensive! I wore a pair of her earrings at Created for Care last weekend and I was kicking myself for not bringing along extras to sell for SixtyFeet… I think I could’ve sold 100 pairs. They were a HIT!
You can find these and other awesome stuff in Lara's jewelry store.

And that’s the latest with me. Never a dull moment around here in Crazy Town!
Here's a pic just for fun. The kids and I did homeschool in our fort one day last week. It was not a productive school day -- but it did score me some much needed "cool mom" points. We're loving springtime!

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Thoughts on Slander, Scandal and "Truth"

"I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros."

--Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, regarding his recent decision to step down from public ministry to pursue another career.

I've been quiet on the blog circuit lately. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. On the contrary, I have quite a lot to say, but I haven’t been exactly sure how to say it. This blog world has seemed a rather ugly, unfriendly place lately. I’ve backed away over the last few weeks out of disgust, exhaustion and yes… fear.

The firestorm of hate and attack that Invisible Children is currently facing – I can relate. These last few weeks have been the darkest, hardest, most painful time I have ever experienced in ministry. Satan is clearly on the move. And if I’m feeling this kind of pressure, I can only imagine how the founders of Invisible Children, who run a much bigger and larger profile ministry, must feel.

On Friday afternoon, came the news of Jason Russell’s breakdown. And I literally wept tears of sadness for the wave of smug and unkind comments and harsh judgments that I knew would follow. I don’t know the Invisible Children people personally. But I do know that they’re my brothers and sisters in Christ. They’re real people with real families and real feelings.

I’m not saying what Jason Russell did is ok. But I am saying that I know for a fact that it’s hard to operate under intense pressure and scrutiny.

Unfortunately, I can speak on this subject with some degree of authority. Since starting SixtyFeet, our family, our ministry and even our personal characters have been slandered up and down the internet – almost exclusively by people who have never met us. False and truly despicable accusations have been made about us.

Here’s a critical piece of information about my husband and me…

Dan and I started SixtyFeet two years ago because we heard about a need in the world and we set out to do something about it. That’s it. We weren’t trying to save the world. We weren’t looking to become famous or rich or powerful. And if we were looking for those things, we have clearly failed miserably.

We rallied some friends to join with us in the SixtyFeet effort and here’s our board of directors today:

We’re a couple of stay at home moms, a pediatrician, an attorney, an insurance salesman, a nursing home developer and a software executive. We also employ several single moms and our pastor does some part-time work for us. Our volunteer staff includes a farmer, an airforce pilot and two homeschooling moms. Between us, we have almost 40 kids. Overall, we’re pretty benign and boring people.

Now brace yourself for this next statement because it’s a real shocker: Our team is made up of sinful, flawed people who are not perfect. Sometimes we even make mistakes. Scandalous, I know.

Like every person reading this blog, we’re unworthy sinners saved by grace. And we’re just doing the best we can to live out God’s call on our lives. To us, SixtyFeet is more than just a ministry. It’s become our whole lives and our passion. It’s our blood, sweat and tears. It’s our hard earned money and precious time away from our kids.

Ministry is hard and it's messy. It's often highly complicated and things are not always what they seem. Sometimes it's hard to know who to trust and how to trust. But I do know this: we're called to love and encourage one another.

I’m not naïve and I understand that anyone who runs a public ministry and or writes a public blog has opened themselves up to comment and criticism. I’m good with that. I believe that iron sharpens iron. I believe in complete transparency in ministry and that we’re called to hold one another accountable. I believe in speaking truth and exhortation.

I also believe in doing those things prayerfully, in love, with the benefit of first-hand information, and according to Matthew 18. And if you’re a believer in Christ, I pray you’ll stand up and stand with me on the tide against this. It's time for us Christians to unite, to give one another a break and to simply show some grace.

Comments are closed on this post because the last few weeks have provided me with enough online hate, slander and gossip to last a lifetime. But if you have something you’d like to discuss, please feel free to Matthew 18-it and email me directly.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's Open Season for CUPCAKES!!!

The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, the smell of spring is in the air. And at my house, that can only mean one thing...

Yep. It's that time again. The Cupcake Kids are back!!! This year's {Inter}National Sale is scheduled for May 5, 2012. Which also happens to be Cinco de Mayo. Margarita cupcake anyone?

If you're new around here and you don't know the amazing God story behind The Cupcake Kids, here's the skinny...

Shortly after forming SixtyFeet, my six year old daughter and four year son approached me with a question... “Mommy, what about us? Can we do something to help the children in Uganda?” I smiled and patted them on their little heads and I so appreciated their hearts and interest.

They were just little kids and I doubted they could do much -- but I decided to humor them and let them give it a shot. They wanted to sell cupcakes and lemonade on the street corner one Saturday afternoon. Like any good mommy, I gave them my blessing and even agreed to match everything they earned. Thinking, of course, that they’d earn $10 or $15.

That day they earned $260 for the children of Uganda.

After that, word spread quickly. Inquiries poured in from friends, relatives and strangers who wanted to host their own Cupcake Kids stands in their neighborhoods. We agreed to do a second sale and this time, with multiple locations.

That day they earned $10,000 for the children of Uganda. And “The Cupcake Kids” were born.

It took us a while, but the adults finally caught the vision for what God was doing through our children. We were stunned. Blessed. And very humbled. “And a little child will lead them ...” Isaiah 11:6.

Since that time, The Cupcake Kids have made many special appearances. Last year, they sold cupcakes and lemonade all over the continental United States and Alaska, as well as Canada, Indonesia, Singapore and Africa. 100% of the proceeds went directly to SixtyFeet and immediately went to work in Uganda.

The Cupcake Kids are little people with big hearts for God and the imprisoned children of Africa. Today, they are the fundraising arm of SixtyFeet.

If you have some little people with big hearts for God, we hope you’ll join us for this year’s National Cupcake Kids Sale on May 5, 2012. It’s a “sweet” way to get the whole family involved in orphan ministry.

You can register for a sale here. It’s quick, easy... and delicious.

And to my blogger/social media friends -- can you share this link? Or direct people to The Cupcake Kids site through facebook? We'd be so grateful for anything you can do to help spread the sweetness!!

Thanks so much to Missy and others who have already jumped on board to help lead the charge! If you're interested in guest posting on The Cupcake Kids site about your own SixtyFeet or Cupcake Kids experiences, please email me at shellyowens at sixtyfeet dot org.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

When Saving Becomes Hoarding

"Now listen you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you... You have hoarded wealth in the last days." (James 5:1,3b. emphasis mine)

Where do we cross the line between healthy, biblical saving practices and "hoarding," as James speaks about in the verse above? I strongly suspect that most of us, in the name of "wise spending," crossed that line long ago.

Several years ago, I was shocked to read the words below from Francis Chan. His sound biblical teachings caused Dan and I to re-evaluate our priorities and to make some serious changes to our saving and spending habits.

"Someone asked me recently why I don't save money for emergencies or retirement. My answer was how can I justify saving for myself 'just in case' something happens to me when something IS happening to so many already?  Today, 29,000 kids will die of preventable causes."

Watch this five-minute clip and hear it for yourself. Be forewarned, folks. This is convicting...