Join Conagra Foods for Child Hunger Ends Here


**Thanks to TheMotherhood for this opportunity. I will be receiving compensation for my involvement in posting on my blog and on social media streams.**

Did you know that almost 16 million children in the U.S. don't know where there next meal is coming from? Imagine how that impacts their life in terms of health and education. Imagine how that impacts their mind.

Now, imagine that there are very simple ways for YOU to make sure meals are provided for these children.

Conagra Foods has joined forces with P&G to provide up to 7 million meals through the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign!! Yes, YOU get to be a part of all this giving.

Just look for the red pushpin on the participating Conagra Foods and P&G products and find the {8 digit} code to enter at starting now and going through August of 2014. Every time you enter a code, the monetary equivalent of one meal will be donated to Feeding America! I know I'm going to be looking out for this on the Crest toothpaste we use and the Orville Redenbacher's popcorn we enjoy for our family movie nights.

What's shopping without a good deal, right? Kroger has the following deals available to help save you money while you feed your family and help give to those who need it most. {Please see the full list of participating items linked above. These deals only reflect a small portion of that list}.

  • Chef Boyardee Can (14.5 oz) or Microwave (7.5 oz): Buy 5, Save $1 from 3/23 to 4/13
  • Snack Pack:                                                                   Buy 3, Save $0.50 from 3/23 to 4/13
  • Hunt’s Tomatoes & Sauce:                                           Buy 5, Save $1 from 3/23 to 4/12
  • Wolf Brand Chili with beans (15 oz):                           Buy 5, Save $1 from 3/23 to 4/12
  • Hunt's Pasta Sauce:                                                      Buy 3, Save $0.50 from 3/23 to 4/12
  • Manwich:                                                                       Buy 3, Save $0.50 from 3/23 to 4/12
  • Van Camp's Baked Beans:                                           Buy 2, Save $0.50 from 3/23 to 4/12
  • Ro*Tel (10 oz):                                                              Buy 5, Save $1 from 3/23 to 4/12
  • Dennison's Chili (15 oz):                                              Buy 3, Save $0.50 from 3/23 to 4/12
  • Rosarita:                                                                         Buy 3, Save $0.50 from 3/23 to 4/12

And if none of those products make it onto your shopping list {or you'd just like to help in another way}, check this out. Child Hunger Ends Here is the presenting sponsor for Hunter Hayes' "We're Not Invisible" Tour. As such, they're donating the monetary equivalent of one meal {up to 1 million meals} to Feeding America for every iTunes download of the single "Invisible" by Hunter Hayes.

It's important that we take the time to be intentional about investing in the children who can't provide for themselves. All it takes is a quick minute to enter a code and you'll have taken care of one meal for one child. Let's link arms and be givers!

Keep up with Child Hunger Ends Here on Facebook. Also, follow along on Twitter or Instagram at @ChildHungerEnds and/or follow the hashtag #ChildHunger

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Five Minute Friday ~ Willing


Five Minute Friday

Today, I'm joining with some crazy, brave and inspiring women at the blog of Lisa Jo Baker. Each Friday she gives a prompt and with that prompt, writers write for 5 minutes with no second-guessing. Just writing what comes to them. Then, they share and encourage each other. What a great {and scary} idea. 

I'm joining in and challenging you to do the same! Today's prompt is "willing".

Ready? Go!

I'm a "slow to warm up" kind of person around strangers. I'm a silent introvert. And the pains of wanting to be hidden away as an introvert began to wear on me when I said "yes" as God nudged my heart to sing as part of the worship team at my church.

It hurt, the way people would come up to me out of nowhere and ask me who I was after I had finished singing. It hurt when my leader would tell me of people asking him the same question some Sundays. And I don't know how to explain the hurt except to say, I wished I could be faithful to my "yes" answer and not be seen. 

I thought I had to hide beneath something. I thought if someone gave me a compliment, I must have been standing in their way to having time with God. I kept asking God to make me smaller until my prayer sounded more like "make me invisible".

But here's how he answered me; in a flash, I was part of a big group of women all gearing up for the same thing...except, I had no idea where I would be and what I would be doing while everyone else was excited with the details. I cried. I felt so invisible. And here is where God met me with whispers.

"So now you feel invisible, Amy. Is this what you meant when you prayed that? I didn't call you to be invisible. Humility is one thing but your prayer turned to pride when all you could think about was how uncomfortable you felt. YOU. You sing your praise to me and give me your time and energy to do these things I have asked of you but don't you see? I need YOU. I need you to be OK with being seen or even being known. I need you to be who you are. Be fully you and move fully in my leading ~ whether they see you or not ~ whether they know who you are or not . Will you be mine? Are you willing to let me shine through you and be a living testimony to others? Will you set your heart on me and set your hands to the work I've asked and let the rest of this go?
Daughter, don't be invisible. Be seen wearing my name. Be seen as my bride."

Friend? That changed me. It changed my posture toward other people. It changed the way I worship. It changed me into someone who is WILLING to step out of my comfort zone again and again so I don't miss the opportunities He has for me or a chance to help someone else.

How about you? What is it He's asking you to be willing to do?

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Porgy And Bess Bring Gershwin to Detroit {review}


**Thanks to Broadway in Detroit and its PR firm, who supplied complimentary tickets to facilitate this review. I wasn't compensated in any way. In this post I share my thoughts and opinions. Others may have a different experience or opinion.**

detroit mom blog

The other night, I had the great privilege of seeing the musical, Porgy and Bess at Detroit Opera House. As a child, I heard some of the songs from the play because my mom would always sing them. As it turns out, the songs were played in her home while she was growing up too.

Porgy and Bess offers its audience a trip back in time to watch a love story between an unlikely pair play out. I was quickly drawn in to the story line and began to cheer on my favorite characters. I found the people I met in this story to be so relatable while I learned not all of them are trustworthy. Audiences with love the "good guys" and hate the "bad guys".

detroit mom blog
Photo: M.J. Lutch

Clara {played by Sumayya Ali} and Jake {played by David Hughey}have perfect chemistry as they share about their life as new parents and Jake's fishing career. These two stood out as a favorite couple to watch during the play, as I'm sure others would agree. I loved laughing and crying with them as a couple.

And there's no way I could leave out Porgy {Nathaniel Stampley}. His is a character that I loved immediately but I grew to love even more when he smiled his big smile and sang "I Got Plenty of Nothing".  He is positively magnetic and will steal your heart.

detroit mom blog
Photo: M.J. Lutch
Make sure to see this beautiful and breathtaking show while it's in town {March 4th-9th} at Detroit Opera House. Buy your tickets online at Ticketmaster or Broadway in Detroit, in person at the Fisher Theatre box office and at the Detroit Opera House box office. You want to see this play. It is an absolute "do not miss"!

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Your Place At The Roots


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Big conferences gather together groups of "big bloggers" to teach bloggers who wish to be "big" or wish to be known by the "big". I see this thing happen every single time there's a blogging conference {yes, I'm referring to the Christian ones for this post}. Twitter blows up with "OMG" moments and instagram pics and facebook status updates and "wish you were here" quotes and "where's my girls who had to sit this one out?" gatherings. But in the hush that comes after the conference, when the groups of bloggers have gone home and none of the "big bloggers" named you her new BFF, what then?

Let me be real honest with you about something. I used to wish some big name blogger would come along and just love my heart enough to make me relevant. I know...sad stuff, right? Because in the seeking of being relevant, I was missing my chance to be relevant. In looking to {insert big name blogger here} to link arms with me and tag me "in", I was missing my chance to link arms with God's call for me and be all in on the plan He's designed.

This is the chord that was playing in me at the end of last year. I had this uncomfortable, unsteady chord singing in my heart and I couldn't hear it for its music until I allowed myself to lay down with my ear to the ground asking "I'm listening. Play it again?". That one tune from that one chord has broken my heart and has been slowly shaking me awake, from the inside out. Each strum of that one chord breaks away more and more of my own ideal and reveals more and more of the path He chooses.

For me? It starts in the small.

Saying "yes" to lifting my voice in worship looks like being an active part of the worship ministry in my church. Saying "yes" to community looks like stopping to talk to people around me and being bold enough to speak up about the things on my heart for building that community in my church. {It also looks like saying "yes" to being asked to speak at another church to their women's ministry. *gulp*} Saying "yes" to using my past for His glory looks like stepping out in faith in local projects and also in being a positive influence in the lives of young people I see as a result of being a homeschooling mom and active member of my church.

There may not be any spotlights here, y'all. I may not get a phone call from that big blogger asking me to be a part of this or that. Those conferences may never see me fit to be on a panel. I may not get snail mail from friends who are writing books or doing other big things. My life may be just here. It could be that I'm supposed to be faithful here, at the roots of community around me. Wouldn't God want us all to begin just where we are?

Look around you, friend. Where is the place He has you right now?  What is He asking to do right within your own zip code?  Who's are the faces He has placed in your life and are you even paying attention to them? Can you see the place He has you more than the place you wish you were? 

Where I am? Friend, I am ecstatic to be here. I may not gain any benefits or benchmarks from here but I can make.HIM.famous.  My life can be the VIP room, where I can just be with people and invite Christ to be right there in that conversation. My home could be the next "tour stop" where HE comes and just hangs out with my friend and I as we drink coffee & sort out what our everyday lives are meant to be in His kingdom. My Instagram feed could be the place where I point to Him as the one who sets people free as I work to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking. This place He's created for me is full of purpose and must not be overlooked or made into a stepping stone to get to the place I think would be better.

If my life is focused on Him and His design, I'm exactly where I should be, come what may...or may not.

Check this out. I Peter 5:4-7 {The Message} says: 
 When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for—
God has had it with the proud,But takes delight in just plain people. 
So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

Today, I challenge you to see the beauty of being plain. Yes, your no makeup face, no mom of the year accolades, everyday, mundane, plain place is something He delights in. HE DELIGHTS "in just plain people".

The place we find ourselves in today - right this second - is totally on purpose and for a purpose even if we're doing nothing at all in comparison to someone who is flown all over the country for her popularity. Embrace it. Love the place you're in and ask God what you can do for Him there. He delights in you and He is careful with you. He knows the big picture and has something unique for you.  Amen?

I'm praying for you as I type these words. I'm praying that a stirring will happen where more and more people begin to embrace where they are and live fully and faithfully there. He can do big things with plain people!!

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A Parable of Trust


It was one of those days. Once again she found herself frustrated that things weren't working out her way or in her favor. She had lost control and that could only mean that she would be hurt...or at least, that's what she believed...

She huffed, clenched her fists and stormed off to her room. Inevitably, the house shook as thunder let go from the door she slammed.

She cleans when she's angry. She likes everything just this room, she had control. She busily got to work with a fury that kept her brow furled as her hands constantly moved, shuffling things into piles - places for the mess to stay put. Then she heard it.

There were soft footsteps coming straight toward her room. She rolled her eyes in disgust and slammed another stack of papers down. "There. Stay right there." The footsteps were not a sound she could control and that made her skin crawl. Then...

*Knock, knock, knock*  He tenderly thumped the knuckle of his index finger on the door as he gently whispered her name.

"GO AWAY!" She cut him off. "I don't want you in here. You can't come in here! Just leave me alone!"

He exhaled on the other side of her door. "Can't I just come in? I...I just want to talk."

"Dad, no! GO.AWAY!"

"Sweetheart," he pleaded, "will you just open the door?".

"No." She replied. Only this time she started to cry and knew she could say no more. She also knew he would never open that door unless she said it was OK. For now, she was safe and feeling in control but her heart ached.

But do you know that feeling that comes of being confined in a room for a long time? Do you know the weariness you feel after the sun goes down and you've missed dinner but you're just too stubborn to open the door? She felt all of that and decided to lay on her bed.

He really only wanted to help her from the beginning but she didn't like his answer so she darted off. But while she sat in seclusion, she thought it may be wrong to keep him out altogether. She knew he loved her so she began to move her organized stacks away from one corner where there was a chair. Then she waited for the next time he would try to talk to her.

*Knock, knock, knock* The tender tapping returned after dinner. He missed her. "Sweetie? Can I please come in and talk to you?"

She hesitated but answered. "Yes, I've cleared a spot." She opened the door and pointed toward the chair in the corner. She couldn't look him in the eyes, so she stared at the floor and said "Just sit...sit over there. But DON'T..." She quickly moved to make sure he didn't bump her organized stacks of books and papers and other random things she was cleaning up. "Just don't knock these over."

She slumped on her bed and asked, "What? What do you want, Dad?".

"I just wanted to tell you I love you and I know things aren't going how you thought they would."

He paused.

"You know? It kills me to see you like this. What are you doing in here anyway? You seem a little uneasy. Can I help you with this?"

"No, Dad. You can't. I don't want you to help me. ...I don't even need her to be my friend..." She picked up a card someone once sent her. "I don't even really want to be in that group anymore. Who needs them? They don't appreciate me for who I am and I don't care if I never see them again."

"Dear one..." He tried to reason with her.

"Dad, that's it. I love you but don't get involved. I'm done with all of this!" Then she mumbled under her breath, "I want my control."

With that, the room began to get smaller, pushing that chair in the corner closer to her stacks. Her dad calmly stood up and asked again, "You're sure I can't take care of some of this for you?". And the tears began to flow from her eyes as she clenched her jaw and tried to make them stop. The pain she felt was real but she felt isolation was now the only way she could protect herself.

"Dad. No. Would you just listen to me? I don't want your help. Just leave me alone. Stop trying to fix it."

Again the walls pressed in and the father placed his hand on her shoulder. "I'll be right in the hallway if you decide you'll let me help you. I would do anything for you because I love you, daughter. I love you and I'm staying right here. When you're ready for me to help you sort through this, I'd love to spend time in that chair and talk more."

In her choosing isolation, she didn't realize she would squeeze The Father out of the picture. In her choosing control, she didn't understand that she was sacrificing real relationship with Him and with the community she once had.

My friend, if you're teetering on the edge of trying to do life alone, or if you've already chosen in so many steps to push away community {church gatherings, or friendships, or small groups, etc}, YOU are the one on my heart this moment and YOU are the one I'm praying for.

This life is full of flesh and bad decisions. Humans can only be humans and that means life gets messy. And I know there are times when we just need a rest, a quiet room to find peace in, but we can't stay there forever. And we certainly won't find peace if we decide to navigate life from that place. Life is great in size and God is one who cannot be held within the walls we build. And because of those truths, we can't handle life like a DIY project.

Just like the father in the story, our heavenly father waits at the door of your heart. Inviting Him in means handing over the stacks of stuff. It means letting Him take the burden and the weight of all you carry from you. And believe me when I say He's never going to do that and then tell you He wished He hadn't or hold it over your head as a way to control or manipulate you.

In relinquishing control, we find freedom. In attending a church, we find a group of humans who are no better than we are individually, but can spiritually be an encouragement and a hand to hold in prayer. In not giving up on that group of people or that one person who offended us either intentionally or not, we admit that life and people and feelings are messy but they are the very blessings on earth that can make our lives rich if we allow them too.

Don't withdraw. Don't sing out that story or tell about that scar like an anthem. Let God take those things, add His personal touch to them, and use them to bring you healing and encourage others around you.

He's never going to leave that place outside the door of isolation but He will never be subjected to the control we feel we need to have. We simply can't contain Him. The beautiful part? His wild dance that we don't understand or know enough to join in without tripping over our own two feet? He is waiting with eagerness to hold your hands in His...your freed hands in He leads you and teaches you to laugh at the trip-ups and just keep dancing.

Won't you just open up the door?

Psalm 34:8 "Oh, taste and see that The Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" {ESV}

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A Note To Every Woman - Who You Are Matters


I feel like I grew up in 2 different worlds that ran parallel to each other. There was the good world with my family where I grew up in church and there was the dark one, where a girl as young as 5 learned the evil of man and lost innocence while she was the only one who knew. Because of the trauma of my experience, I have limited memories of my own childhood but what I do remember may show you how important you are.

Yes, you.

I know I didn't know you then...or maybe I did? Either way, I have something to share.

It took years for me to figure out what was going on in the "dark world" side of my life. And after I knew what it was, it took a little more than 20 years before I would talk about it...all the while I was acting out in crazy ways and aligning myself with dangerous men over and over again. In my awakening, though, God showed me all the times He smiled on me in my youth. He helped me remember the positive I had in my life for all the negative that was robbing me of sleep and peace.

This gift of positive memories? It met me in the form of the faces of women I knew. My mom had some pretty neat friends when I was little. They were all creative and beautiful and fun to be around. Each of them talked to me like I was an individual who deserved attention rather than the girl in hiding I wanted to be. I imagine I was probably a little awkward as a child or maybe a little clingy? These women, I can see each of their smiles and I adore the grace of God to give me an image of right for all the lessons of wrong I was being given.

Ms. Pat: She knew me since I was a preschooler, I think. I grew up with her kids but never got very close to them (I can say that for about 90% of the kids I grew up with. I was always close to one or two people at a time.). Ms. Pat was my Sunday school teacher. She and her husband would teach us all about Jesus. She played her guitar and smiled and told us how happy Jesus made her. She encouraged me to use my gifts and talents. She challenged me to take the steps in my own faith that made me afraid. She spoke directly into my heart when it came down to it and believed better for me when I didn't believe anything good.

The day I tried to kill myself in my adolescence, she was the one who came to save me from myself. Being with her was being with Jesus and she didn't need to say a word to me if she didn't want to. We knew each other well enough that just her being there spoke volumes to me.

I still see her now and then and have had the opportunity to work with her at the summer camp I volunteer at for foster children.

Sandy: This woman was a best friend to my mom. Again, I grew up with her kids and even carpooled with her to school. Sandy is a Godly woman who showed me the beauty of femininity. Several times I went with her and my mom on shopping trips where she taught me about things like Dooney & Bourke and how to look like a million dollars while shopping at the thrift store.  She also taught me to speak up for myself...the little girl who kept big secrets needed this more than I could ever tell her.
{PS Owning a D&B bag is on my bucket list - not for the name brand, but for the good memories it brings me.}

There are so many more women I watched. Sue taught me the beauty of worshipping from my heart. Beth taught me I'm OK just the way I am and the power of letting go of past hurts. Ms. Moe taught me that sometimes it's OK to say it how it is. Carrie taught me the powerful role joy can play in my life. Debbie taught me how to have a warm heart and make people feel welcome...the art of being a friend and a safe place. And still I could go on.

My challenge to you? Look around you when you're at church or the next playdate or the next co-op meeting or at a friend's home... Look around you for the little ones who are watching you. Yes, they're watching and wondering and maybe even looking to you to show them what is right with the world. Please don't get this wrong; I am not trying to challenge you to be anxious that you're doing everything right when you're around children - I want you to be confident in who you are even with your flaws.

The women I mentioned had no idea what was going on with me or what sort of influence I needed. They didn't know how much I treasured extra hugs. They had no idea what it meant for me to hear that THEY thought I was beautiful without expecting anything from me in return. They simply lived out their day-to-day and changed my life while doing that.

Who you are in your heart is what will show more than the flaws or the bad hair days or the wishes to lose a few pounds.

Who you are - unique, beautiful, redeemed - matters. You are someone's hero. Those little ones around you may need to look back in life to see some good - some promise that God really was with them - and it may be you they see when they search their memories. So maybe that means you hand out a few extra hugs. Maybe that means you become a little more of a giver and go the extra mile to put a smile on a little kiddo's face. Maybe that means you stop for a few more minutes to listen to the words of a child...even if they say the same thing over and over again. Or maybe you choose to see the treasure of you and that you do matter and you are making a difference.

Yes. You're making a difference while driving the carpool, while spending time with your friends, while leading at church, while offering a simple smile...the smallest things may be captured in someones heart right now. Just be who you are but be encouraged. Who you are matters...and...who you are is enough. You are enough to be a life saver, a rainbow painter, a beautiful beacon of good, and the smile on someone else's face. You are amazing...just as you are.

I am ever grateful for the glimpses I see of God at work in my life, even when I believed I would never trust anyone fully and I would always have something to fear. My jewels, my memories, show me the light He left for me in the darkness. My prayer is that I can be that for someone else...

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