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Monday, April 30, 2012

Tips of the Trade

It's here! This is the week of The 2012 {Inter}National Cupcake Kids sale!

Last week I posted on facebook that I've been simply overwhelmed by watching all of The Cupcake Kids activity that's taking place from coast-to-coast and even internationally. It's hard to believe that it all started with the idea of one little girl...

That's my Madeline on her first day of Kindergarten 2008. The same year she conceived the idea for The Cupcake Kids.

Since that time, Madeline and I have witnessed dozens of Cupcake Kids stands, both in person and through pictures, spring up all over the world. We've seen Cupcake Kids sales that have done well. We've seen sales that have done really, really well. And we've seen sales that have absolutely knocked our socks off.

So for those of you preparing for your own Cupcake Kids stand this weekend, the following is a list of our best practices and favorite tips of the trade...

Best of the Best: Tips for The Cupcake Kids

1. Pray with Your Children Beforehand: In the days and weeks leading up to your Cupcake Kids stand, pray together as a family. Pray for good weather, pray for a great turn-out and pray especially that the Lord would use your family to bring hope and restoration to imprisoned children in Africa.

2. Dress for Success: If possible, purchase Cupcake Kids t-shirts from the SixtyFeet store for your entire team, including the adults.

3. Be Prepared to Share about SixtyFeet: Spend time on the SixtyFeet site and get familiar with our work and mission. Help your children understand what they're doing and specifically, what they're raising money for. The more passionate they are about the cause, the more funds and awareness they'll raise. Also, be prepared to educate others on the ministry of SixtyFeet and send your customers to our website for more information or to make online donations.

4. Let Your Kids Take Charge: After all, it's The Cupcake Kids. Not The Cupcake Moms. Put them to work in the kitchen -- baking and decorating the cupcakes and cleaning up afterwards. On the day of your sale, let them do the selling.

5. Don't Price Your Cupcakes: The stands that offer their cupcakes for "free with any donation to SixtyFeet" fare much better than those who put a specific price on their items.

6. Offer Curbside Service: Seriously... people love it.

7. Sell Virtual Cupcakes Before AND After Your Sale: Everyone who signs up to host a Cupcake Kids stand is given a personal fundraising page. You can send your link, for your specific Cupcake stand, out to friends, family and anyone who cannot physically attend your sale and give them the opportunity to purchase a "virtual cupcake" from you. You can promote the link to your stand both before and after your sale date -- using blogs, facebook or email. This is a GREAT way to increase your total sales and to spread the word about SixtyFeet. Check out my family's personal site for an example.

8. Dress Up Your Table: Cupcakes make any table look fancy, but adding some height and variety to your table adds interest.

9. Hang Bright, Cheerful Signage: Making signs is another great way to put your kids to work!

10. Delight in the Work You're Doing! Rejoice in knowing that, through your efforts, you and your children are making a real and lasting difference for imprisoned children in Africa. Cupcakes are no small matter to SixtyFeet. The Cupcake Kids is the fundraising arm of our ministry and every penny of the money raised through these stands immediately goes to work on the ground in Uganda. We are thankful for you!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones -- the ones at home."
-- Mother Teresa

In the day-to-day of messy rooms, dirty laundry, runny noses and to-do lists, I sometimes find it hard to believe that I'm really doing eternally significant work by raising my children.

Surely I could spend my time doing more important things...

I could fight more fiercely against injustice and poverty.

I could spend more time working for SixtyFeet.

I could attend more weekend conferences to share our message.

I could lead more Bible studies.

I could volunteer more of my time to worthy organizations.

But I'm fully convinced that this is the most important mission field I'll ever serve in...

Thanks, Griffin Gibson, for family pictures as beautiful as last year's.

It's true what they say... the days are long but the years are short. And another year has passed in the blink of an eye.

As much as I love the work Dan and I do in Uganda and in the inner city of Atlanta and with our little church plant, the work I do at home is the most important of all.

I am blessed.
Sunday, April 22, 2012

How Was Your Weekend?

We spent ours helping with a 3-day Cupcake Kids sale:

We celebrated this little dude's birthday:

We sent our Daddy off to Africa:

And we had a house showing for a prospective buyer.

So... not much going on around here.

I need to ask y'all to please pray for Dan and his time in Africa this week. More and more, we're learning that the mission field is also a battlefield. It's rough out there. And for us, the last several months have been marked by trials, testing and persecution like we've never experienced before.

Ministry work can be deflating and discouraging. It can be depressing and it can be downright ugly. And sometimes I can't help but wonder why? Why must it all be so hard? If Dan and I are walking in the Lord's will for our lives and faithfully serving Him with all our hearts... shouldn't He be blessing us?

Not necessarily. In fact, the opposite is usually true.

This weekend, Dan and I watched a powerful sermon by Ligon Duncan, a pastor in Jackson, MS. It's a full length sermon so plan to watch it when you have a spare 58 minutes. But it's worth every second.

Duncan's message is for anyone who is faithfully serving God while simultaneously experiencing hardship, discouragement and disappointment. The two are not mutually exclusive -- they often go hand in hand. And with a walk through 1 Kings 19, Duncan beautifully explains why.

I honestly think this is one of the most impactful messages I've ever heard and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Have a great week, friends. If you watch the sermon, please come back and tell me what you think.
Sunday, April 15, 2012

Craftiness for the Creatively Challenged

Today is the 6th birthday of a very, very special girl...

Thank you, Griffin Gibson, for the beautiful pic!

Many, many months ago, Hannah declared that she wanted a rainbow party for her 6th birthday. Remembering that my dear friend Andrea hosted a little-girl rainbow party last year, I went and reviewed her old post on that topic.

I read Andrea's post and checked out all of her beautiful, crafty ideas. And, immediately, this thought came to mind: "Oh crap."

Y'all, I'm not crafty. I'm just not. I was born without a creativity gene. I am also slightly unorganized, rather impatient and completely non-detail oriented... all qualities that do not lend themselves well to craftiness.

And yet, my daughter wanted a rainbow party.

We celebrated Hannah and Joseph's birthdays last April with a huge party. The event was great fun and also doubled as their homecoming party...

But honestly, I'm not sure that either child completely grasped what was going on. At the time, neither of them were speaking much English and they'd never celebrated a birthday before. Also, while all the party attendees were family and dear friends, Hannah and Joseph didn't know any of them very well. It honestly makes me a little sad looking back on it.

But this year, they know what's up. This was Hannah's first real birthday celebration -- and I was determined that it would be all she wanted it to be.

So here's what this non-crafty momma came up with...

This is dry white rice, dyed with food coloring. It's so super easy that even Baby Charlotte was able to help. Simply dump a few cups of dry rice into a gallon sized ziplock bag. Stir a couple tablespoons of water mixed with food coloring and pour into the bag. Zip up the bag (make sure it's zipped WELL -- I learned that the hard way) and hand to a child to squish around until the color is evenly distributed. Pour into a container or onto a paper towel to dry.

Purchase some inexpensive glass containers and voilà! You have a fun rainbow craft which also doubles as a take-home/keepsake piece... thus freeing you from the obligation of goodie bags. Which I hate.

We also did this stuff...

Rainbow M & M's, by Madeline and Davis.

Rainbow shaped fruit tray by Yours Truly.

Rainbow colored egg hunt. What's that? You're wondering if I only did the egg hunt to rid my home of left-over Easter candy? I can't believe you'd suggest such a thing. I'd never pawn off unwanted items to unsuspecting guests. Not unless it was for a really good cause.

My crowning crafty achievement was for each girl to create a tutu, using strips of tule and soft headbands from Target.

I cut the strips of tule ahead of time and the girls simply tied the pieces onto the headband. This activity took up a good 20-30 minutes and when complete, they were a huge HIT!

So there you have it -- my one crafty post of the year. I knew from the beginning that adoption would call me out of my comfort zone... but I had no idea that it would require CRAFTINESS. Geesh. The things we do for our kids...

Happy Birthday, precious Hannah. You are loved and treasured.
Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lighten Up

My last couple of posts have been rather heavy. The clip below has nothing to do with anything... but I decided it's time to {momentarily} lighten up.

This is only one minute long but trust me... it'll make your whole stinkin' night.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Suffering Well In America

In my last post, I raised the issue of “suffering well” in America.

Suffering, not prosperity, is the mark of a vibrant and healthy Christian life. It's the tool God uses to refine us, teach us, soften us towards others and to help us understand our complete dependence upon Him.

C.S. Lewis said this: "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains."

But let’s face it. America can be a hard place to suffer. This is the land of opportunity and the wealthiest country in the world. We live in a place of affluence, comfort and excess. Even the poorest Americans are wealthy by the world's standards. Don't believe me? Check out this global wealth calculator. 

What in the world does it even look like to suffer in America?

Before I go on, let me say that I know there are people in America who do suffer. Even in my own little cirlce of family and friends, there are people dealing with loss, tragedy, sickness, financial insecurity and more, even at this very moment. There is suffering here.

For those of us who encounter such trials, there is much opportunity to use them for the glory of Christ. There is perhaps no greater testimony to the power of the Gospel than to suffer with grace, hope and the "peace that surpasses all understanding."

But what about the rest of us? Those of us who are generally healthy, gainfully employed and who are not dealing with significant loss or other such trials. We're rich Americans. How could we possibly suffer for the cause of Christ?

I think I can sum it up in four little words…

Choose to LIVE SIMPLY.

That’s it. Make intentional choices that cause you make less of yourself and make more of Christ. Instead of striving to keep up with the Joneses, live quietly, simply and sacrificially.

For some that might mean choosing to live in a modest home, far below your means. For others it could mean driving an inexpensive car or owning no car at all. It could mean no jewelry. It could mean second-hand clothing. It could mean all of the above or something else altogether.

The application may look different for all of us but the principle remains the same. For a more eloquent explanation of this idea, check out what the Piper has to say:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sharing in His Sufferings

Our family was pounded last week with the stomach bug. And in a family with five young children, the stomach bug is never good news. But it’s especially rotten news when it arrives several days before vacation.

Dan and I sat with the kids last week, night after night, and prayed for healing. We prayed for the “yucky germs” to leave our home and that the Lord would restore us all to perfect health… because you know, we had a vacation planned.

And the Lord did provide the health we needed to make the trip. He also provided some awesome Chattanooga travel tips through Marcie H, a precious blog reader.

We made it through every day of the trip without even a hint of the stomach bug. It was a complete miracle and a precious couple of days together. Aaaaaaaand then Davis threw up in the car on the way home.

I guess next time I should pray more specifically that the Lord would provide health for our vacation… and for the entire drive home.

I thought about hitting the “publish” button and ending this post right here. A sweet family vacation. A couple cute pictures. A little puke on the way home. And {mostly} all is well with the Owens Family.

But I’d be doing y’all a terrible disservice -- because that’s not the end of my story. And if you know me well, you know those aren’t the types of blog posts I write anyways.

Here’s the truth that’s burdening me: I spent the last week fervently praying for and encouraging my children to pray for… a vacation. And frankly, that’s pretty lame.

Yes, we’re called to bring our prayers and petitions before the Lord. It’s true that He numbers even the hairs on our heads and cares deeply about the details in our lives. And a family vacation seems innocent and wholesome enough for a prayer topic.

But let’s get some perspective.

I know many mommas who live in the third world. And in third world countries, women don’t pray for their children to get well so they can go on vacation. Those women pray for their children to get well so they can live.

The rich pray for things like vacations, parking spots, faster internet access and enough money to make private school tuition. While the poor pray for things like food, water and basic life necessities.

On Tuesday (whilst on my much-prayed-for vacation) I read this quote from Jen Hatmaker: “The poor world is begging for mercy like Bartimaus, while the rich world is asking for more favor like James and John.”

And then it hit me right between the eyes. That’s me. That’s what I’m doing. I’m constantly asking God for more favor, more blessing, more good stuff in my already way over-blessed life.  With every breath of most of my prayers on most days, I’m begging the Lord for ease. For comfort. For fun. For a complete lack of suffering in any capacity.

Paul Billheimer says this: “It is not unusual that the greatest saints, those who have made the greatest contribution to the kingdom on earth, are those who have suffered the most… we never learn anything new about God except by suffering.”

But how on Earth does one suffer in an affluent culture such as America? Sure, there are those of us who suffer due to a loss, tragedy or other situation. But what about the rest of us? Those of us just shuffling through life, comfortable as pie, with no real clue what the word suffering really even means?

My next post will deal with that topic specifically: how to suffer well in America. But for now, I'll get on my knees and pray this prayer for me, for you and or for anyone who identifies with the words I've written here.

Lord, this Easter may we not desire what’s easy. May we not pray for what’s selfish. May we desire, above all, to share in your sufferings and to truly know you and the power of your resurrection. And through our sufferings and refinement may You make us into your likeness and use us for your glory.

Happy Easter, dear friends. Rejoice for He is Risen!
Sunday, April 1, 2012

When There's "Nothing" You Can Do

Have you ever had a really, really big problem? I have. Frankly, it seems like Dan and I deal with them all the time.

We have two adopted children. They came to us from unbelievably harsh circumstances and have many demons in their closets. There are days that I fear they'll never fully recover... and there's really "nothing" I can do about it.

Our ministry serves imprisoned children. Imprisoned. Children. It's a problem so big and so complicated that there's really "nothing" I can do about it.

Really big problems tend to make me feel... really helpless. Can you relate? Have you ever faced a mountain so big that you knew you couldn't scale it? Or perhaps you've heard these words from a doctor... "I'm sorry. There's 'nothing' we can do."

This week, I was blessed and encouraged by these words from my morning Bible study...

"There is rarely nothing you can do.
Being still and knowing He is God a long shot from nothing.
Trusting in a God you cannot see is a long shot from nothing.
Holding your tongue is a long shot from nothing.
Counting it all joy is a long shot from nothing.
Submitting is a long shot from nothing.
Confessing sin is a long shot from nothing.
Resting in Christ is a long shot from nothing.
And hear this one really loudly: praying is a long shot from nothing."

-- Beth Moore, Mercy Triumphs

No matter how bleak the circumstances, no matter how high the walls... we serve a God who's bigger than all of our problems combined. There's rarely "nothing" we can do. And I will rejoice and rest in that.