…But I Can Do Something

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

When I started my fundraising campaign for Amina’s family–Syrian refugees living in Lebanon–on Ash Wednesday, I did not know what to expect.  Would people care?  Would they think this too political of an issue?  Would I be questioned about why I was helping there and not here?  Would anyone even give?

The results have been humbling and inspiring.  Thirty different people have made monetary donations to our campaign and we’ve raised $2,100.  These folks include business owners, retirees, and young families.  They live in Texas, New Mexico, Canada, and include some folks who I do not even know.  They are Methodist and Catholic and Baptist and some have likely never set foot in a church.  Donations ranged from $5 to $200 per person.  And every single one of them helped to accomplish our task.

What have we been able to do with this money?  Let me show you.

On our last Skype call, the father (Metheb) asked if we could use a portion of the funds to allow them to purchase sheep.  In true “teach a man to fish” fashion, he explained that doing this would allow them to start a business and support themselves long term, rather than relying on donations.  Of course, I had to laugh.  What he didn’t know is that my family raises sheep here in the states.  When I told him we could, indeed, help him start his flock, he teared up and told me that we were changing his family’s life.  The sheep were purchased at market this week.

lebanon sheep

A washing machine was delivered just today and a fridge is coming next week.  We’ve also sent money so that their daughter, Bailsan, can see a dentist about an infected tooth she’s suffering with.

washing machine

In addition, there have been over 10 “Go Delivery” orders sent directly to the family.  From children’s toys to food to clothing to toilet paper to cell phones to blankets to formula and diapers, we have helped to feed and clothe this family without ever leaving the comfort of our own homes.

We’ve still got about $500 and I’m planning on Skyping with the family tomorrow to see what else they need at this point.

The world is a hard place.  It is easy to look at the hatred and violence, the hungry children and war-torn nations, and just feel negative and dejected.  For over a year, I felt God tugging at my heart about the situation in Syria, but I also felt paralyzed and unable to know where to start or what to do that would really make a difference.

These photos make clear to me that we’ve made a real difference for Amina and her family.  And who knows, maybe God will use this project and the others like it to make a major difference in the world. Could something like this help to end terrorism or anti-American sentiment in the Middle East?  Could it help to stop religious hatred between some Muslims and some Christians?  Could it really change the world?  I don’t know…but I have to believe it is a start.  I’ve got to think that there is one family in a refugee camp in Lebanon who will not think evil things when America is mentioned.  Instead, they will think of the white-as-day Christian family in Texas who rallied their friends and bought sheep and food and washing machines for people they did not even know.  Maybe we’ll change the world, or maybe we’ll just change it for this one little family in a tent in Lebanon.  Either way, I’m happy to be a part of it.

Remember, in the end, we are more alike than we are different.  The two photos below–one taken last week in America and one taken last week in Lebanon seem to illustrate that pretty well.

What we have done for this family, it gives me hope.  It restores my faith in loving our neighbors–even when they may not live nearby or look the same or even pray to the same God.  It makes me remember that there are good people who are always willing to help others.    Thank you for being His hands and feet here on earth.

I am inspired and humbled and honored to be a part of this effort.  Thank you all for doing something.

 

We are still taking donations through the Go Delivery page (click here) and the fundraising website (click here).  Please feel free to share with your friends if they might want to help.  If you’d like to adopt your own family, just go here (and feel free to contact me if you have questions or need any help!)

Minding Our Business

Mr. Stevens,
I was greatly disappointed to read your editorial addressing “the James neighbors” and suggesting they “mind their own business” with regard to the proposed borehole project. Not only was the content frustrating, but the tone was rude and unprofessional. I would expect more from an editor of multiple newspapers.

First, I think it very unfair to paint a picture that in order to be concerned about the borehole project (and the deceitful actions of the company proposing said project), one has to be anti-the James family. I love the James clan and have, gosh, my entire life. I went to the prom and on countless ski trips with their youngest son. I have gotten great advice on mothering from their daughter. I have never seen Mrs. James and not been greeted with a hug. I will absolutely guarantee you, if I saw her tomorrow, borehole or not, the same would be true. Let me be very clear: I am not now, nor will I ever be, against that family. Nor are the vast majority of concerned citizens.

Second, my family owns a farm in Quay County and my children will be the fourth generation to work the soil that their great grandparents purchased nearly 60 years ago. And you better believe that protecting that land, environment, and water is not only my business, but my responsibility. And one that my family and I take very seriously, as do so many other Quay County residents. Voicing questions and concerns over a proposed drilling project is doing just that.


Finally, before attacking one side involved in this, please consider the number of inconsistent statements made by Enercon, the company proposing the project. Numerous times, they have been caught speaking out of both sides of their mouths, being inconsistent (at best), and misconstruing statements and positions of others. Regardless of the nature of their project, their actions would raise concern from me, period.

I believe you owe the residents of Quay County an apology, Mr. Stevens. Because in seeking to protect their land, their water, their families, and their livelihood, I would say they are “minding their business” quite well.

Tiffany D. Lashmet

People in Our Path

This week was crap.  I was just over it by the time Friday rolled around.  Stress and exhaustion and ridiculous issues and bickering and travel…it was just crap. 

So when I crawled into the cab at the airport in San Antonio, I just wanted to get to my hotel, have a drink and some guacamole and go to bed.  I had zero desire to be friendly.

But, I have this thing about talking to cab drivers.  I think that it is easy for people to be so caught up in their own lives and ignore the people driving them around and that bothers me.  The idea that we don’t see other people in our paths is something I just cannot handle.  I mean, I could lose sleep over it.  And, as a result, I have just met the coolest people and heard the best stories in the back seat of yellow cars over the years. {I adore this song about this topic.}


Anyway, because of this little belief of mine, I struck up a conversation with Jesse.  And, as I feel like God does so often, he slapped me with a big ol’ dose of perspective. 

Jesse is from Algeria.  He says most people some knownthat is in Northern Africa. And no, he is not black, he stayed out of the sun, he likes to joke. He has lived in Paris and London and New Jersey and San Antonio.  He put himself through community college recently while driving a cab and got a degree in IT.  

He has had a couple of contract jobs, but recently one ended and he is now having to re-group and is back in the cab in the meantime.  He almost got a job with the government, but they wanted him to give up his Algerian passport.   Which he could not do. 

Because he has a wife and a little boy in Algeria.  He has to be able to travel back to see them.  His little boy is 3 and may have a mild form of Autism. And the prettiest curly, black hair.  Jesse is trying to get approved to sponsor them to come to the United States, but last year he only made $23,000 and it is required that a person make $25,000 to be a sponsor.  He will keep trying.

He lives in a one bedroom apartment, but dreams of being in a small town and having land and goats.  He is well-read and told me about some really interesting natural remedies that he has seen work in his country. Camel’s milk, for one.

After telling me his life story, he said, “What about you? I am so sorry to just be talking about me, but usually people don’t ask.”  I told him I was from Amarillo, and God Bless him, he broke out in Amarillo by Morning, my absolute favorite song. 

I told him we lived in a tiny town and had a few cows and my family owns a farm. I showed him pictures of my kiddos. 

He responded with, “I am so jealous.  That is just what I want.  You are living my dream.”

All week, I have been ungrateful. But you know what? I live in the same country as my husband and kids.  My children are healthy.  We have a little house and some land.  We have good, stable jobs.  We are in a position to help others in various ways, and doing that is important to us both.  We have cows and dogs and sheep and a cute little yellow cat.  

We are living the dream.  And shame on me for pouting about a rough week.  I am vowing now to be more intentional with my gratefulness.  How dare I not be.  Mercy. 

Hey, do me a favor.  Say a little prayer for Jesse and his family.  I probably won’t ever see him again, but I sure hope he get his family to the states and a little place to raise his goats one day. 

And the next time you are in a cab, strike up a conversation with the driver.  You’ll never regret taking the time to really see people in your path. 

World Down’s Syndrome Day

In 2015, I got the phone call while I was in the Dallas airport, on my way to Minnesota.  I remember feeling like the wind was knocked out of me and tears immediately started running down my face.  “Your baby screened positive for Down’s Syndrome.  But a lot of times people get false positives, so you will need to come back in for another test.”

ultrasound

And while my world seemed to be spinning out of control, everyone around me continued their day.  They are their ice cream and pulled along their suitcases and boarded their flights.  The world just goes on, even when we fell like it has stopped.

After a tear filled call to my husband, I boarded the plane to Minnesota in a fog.  And I took the first aisle seat I found. When I took a minute to look up, I realized it was next to a father and his little girl…who had Down’s Syndrome.

Ok, God.  Well played.  I watched that father be so sweet to his little girl and as we got off that flight, I slipped him a little note telling him about what was going on in my life at that moment and thanking him for being an unknowing inspiration to a scared, pregnant mama on that airplane.

By the time I got home and took the second blood test, I had researched more than you can imagine.  In fact, my doctor said I knew more about the details of the screening than he did and he has never seen a patient who had researched like this.  I don’t really think he meant it as a compliment, but if you say that type of thing to a Type A lawyer, it’s taken as one.

The next two weeks were filled with a lot of praying and impatiently waiting. Novenas to the Infant of Prague.  Prayers for strength, regardless of the outcome.  The sweetest words my husband has ever said: “If he has it, then we will have a baby with Down’s and we will love him and he will have a good life with us.” Amen.

In the end, it was a false positive and our son did not have Down’s.  That experience, though, forever changed my heart. My faith grew in those two weeks more than I could have ever imagined.  It causes me to have a strong interest in people with Down’s, their lives, their rights, and their stories.  It led me to learn that it is estimated that 90 percent–90 percent–of babies who are diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome in the womb are aborted.  A statistic that gives me nightmares.  It made me so, so grateful that I had a doctor who never once suggested that was an option, and was so encouraging about the baby we would have, regardless of his chromosomes.  It imprinted this cause on my heart, and while I don’t know where that will lead, for now, maybe all I can do is write and love and pray.

And, maybe somehow, God will use my words.  Because I just think he uses every hard experience for good.  And  I have to think He is still at play in all this, because yesterday, the day before World Down’s Syndrome Day and almost 2 years to the day after I got that call in the airport, I boarded another flight.  And the first aisle seat I saw? Next to a young man…with Down’s Syndrome.

God bless all of the people living with Down’s Syndrome and their brave parents who said yes to God’s important call on their lives.

Recipe Card: Salisbury Steak

As with most of my favorite recipes, this one comes to us via the Pioneer Woman, but with a few modifications I have incorporated.

Salisbury Steak and Noodles

–Steaks

1 pound ground beef

1/2 C crushed saltine crackers

1T ketchup

2T dried mustard

4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 cube beef bouillon (crumbled)

Salt and pepper to taste

1T butter

1T olive oil

–Gravy

1 bell pepper, sliced

2C beef broth

1T ketchup

4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1T cornstarch

Salt and pepper

Combine all steak ingredients except for butter and oil.  Form into patties or meatballs.  Place in skillet with butter and oil and brown on both sides until cooked through.  Set meat aside and pour grease out of skillet.

For the gravy, saute bell pepper until soft.  Then add all ingredients except for 1/4C broth and the corn starch.  Stir and let reduce for 3 minutes.  Make a slurry with remaining broth and corn starch. Stir in and let thicken.

Return meat to the pan and cover with gravy.

Serve over egg noodles.

Look for the Helpers

Years ago, I heard a quote by Mr. Rogers.  He said that when tragedy strikes and everything seems so dark, you should look for the helpers. The firemen running into burning buildings. The people opening their homes to strangers. The folks offering anything they can to help lighten the load.  It makes things a little less scary when you see people helping others cope with the unthinkable. 

When wildfires roared through the Texas Panhandle on Monday, it didn’t take long to see the helpers arrive.  People began organizing to get food for firefighters, hay for ranchers, money for grieving families, materials to rebuild fences, tooth brushes and clothes for people who lost their houses.  Cowboys offering to help round up cattle and women offering casseroles and communities gathering up any donation that people can give. The helpers are everywhere!


My own sweet husband spent his afternoon delivering hay from a donation point to a rancher who lost all but 300 of his 10,000 acres to the fire.  When he arrived, the rancher broke down and was so grateful. 

Listen up world, you need to take a look at what Texas is doing.  Because we are getting it right. 

Absolute strangers are coming along side people in their darkest hour.  Money, time, labor, prayers are all being given freely. And although none of us are able to give enough to solve every problem, everyone can give something and together, we can make a huge difference. 

And you know what? No one asked about political parties or what church the person in need attends or what their position is on the freakin’ bathroom debate in Congress.  There are people who are hurting and that’s all we need to know.   

Thank God for the helpers. And please continue praying for everyone affected by these terrible fires. 

If Jamie Ivey Interviewed Me…

Y’all.  I am obsessed with my girl Jamie Ivey and her podcast, The Happy Hour.  She lives in Austin.  I’m not even kidding when I say if anyone knows her and can get me the hook up, I will love you forever.  I am probably not cool enough to be on her show, but maybe I can like buy her tacos in Austin one day or something.  So, that said, hook me up if you have a contact.  FOR REAL.

Anyway, she does a podcast called “Happy Half Hour” where she asks her guests a list of questions each time.  I’ve been thinking about how I’d answer the same questions and decided that I’d just write them down.  Here we go.

HHJI
If you don’t listen to this podcast, it will change your life.  Seriously.  Here’s a link to her page!

 

What is something that you’ve read or watched lately that you cannot stop recommending to people?

Okay, I’m still raving about the book “Love That Boy” that I read last year.  I wrote about it here and, seriously, I  feel like it’s a must-read for parents.  I also really loved “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker.  (Who, by the way, Jen is real life friends with Jamie and the thought of having tacos with them both one day in Austin is basically my dream in life right now.  I’d probably be so excited, I’d faint.)

On the tv front, I’m still such a huge Chicago Fire fan.  It’s about the only show that I keep up with these days.

How do you recharge?

The gym.  I’m telling you, I am just a better person when I get 30 minutes of exercise.  I don’t know if it’s the sweat or the endorphin or what, but something flips a switch in me when I’m done running and it cures me.  I’m hoping that as the weather gets nicer, I can get outside and run maybe even with the kids in our double stroller some!

race

If you could go back and tell your 20 year old self something, what would you tell her?

Lighten up and enjoy the journey.  Looking back now, man, my 20’s were the life.  I could sleep in on Saturdays and watch whatever I wanted on tv and travel to wherever and eat Wheat Thins for dinner….it was good times.  I think that sometimes we are so caught up on looking for the next chapter–the husband or babies or kids in school or new job or whatever–that we miss the chance to really enjoy the journey and embrace the great parts of the now.italy

What do you want your legacy to be when you’re gone?

I think I want people to say that I loved well.  In the end, I really feel like that’s what really matters.  Loving my family.  Loving other people.  Loving Jesus.  I just think all of the other stuff is just….stuff.  So I hope that I can spend my time loving well.

What equals success to you?

I think this is the hardest question that she asks.  I thought about this one for a long time, but I think for me, success is when I am able to help someone else.  Whether that be me helping someone through a legal issue at work, or offering advice to a kid who thinks they might want to go to law school, or somehow having become the person that other moms with new babies call with questions when they just don’t know what to do…I feel successful when I am able to help someone else.

What’s a pet peeve that you have?

Okay, a lot of people on the show say they can’t come up with anything for this  question…Shoot, I bet I have 15.  For now, I’m going with cupcakes that look like other food, you know how they make a cupcake that looks like a hamburger or a corn cob or something.  I know this is a popular thing, but I hate it.  HATE it.  I want my cupcakes to look like cupcakes and my hamburgers to look like hamburgers.

If you could live anywhere for the next year, where would it be and why?

San Francisco.  It’s my absolute favorite city.  I worked there for a summer in law school and it was just life-changing for me.  I had a job offer there when I finished school and ended up turning it down and taking another path, so having the opportunity to live for a year in San Francisco would almost be like seeing what things would have been like had I chosen the road not taken.

trolley

What is a goal that you have for yourself this next year?

I’ve got a “10 in ’17 list” of goals that I previously published on the blog here.  The two key ones for me are getting Uncle Buddy’s book published (deadline to have it to the publisher is March 31!) and running a race.  This post-partum running thing is no freakin’ joke and I’m really hoping to get myself in shape well enough to at least do a 5K and hopefully a half marathon this year.

 

 

Update on Amina

On Monday, I sat in my office with a headset on in front of my computer waiting for a Skype call to occur.  I’ve done this probably 100 times before, but this time, it was different.  I was waiting to talk to Amina, the mother of the Syrian Refugee family for whom I am leading a fundraising campaign.

What would she look like?  Would she want to chat or be shy?  Would she care that I am Christian and she is Muslim?  Gosh, what will I say if that comes up?  I wonder if she’s had her baby yet.

And then, the computer began to ring and when I answered, there sat a beautiful girl in a gorgeous black and gold hijab.  She was smiling from ear to ear and holding a 2 week old baby boy, Ahmed, who was bundled up and sleeping away.

Amina.jpg

I got a bit more of her story.  She grew up in Syria, one of 6 children.  She married very young and now has three babies at the age of 21.  She lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon with her husband, three children, and her brother and his family of four.  She is happy to be with her brother, as the remainder of her family is still in Syria and she has no way to contact them or know if they are okay.  She and her husband hope to get their own tent in the camp, and are saving money to purchase mattresses, carpet, a fridge, and a washing machine.  They also have an outstanding bill at the grocery store that they want to pay off.

As I sat there and looked into the eyes of a girl who is so different than me in so many ways, I couldn’t help but be really struck by the ways in which we are the same.  And while our lives are vastly different because she lives there and I live here, we are both people.  Both mothers.  Both just trying to do the very best we can by our little families.

And you know what did not matter?  The fact that when we both promised to pray for each other, those prayers would be directed at different Gods.  The fact that she wore a hijab and I wore a red tunic.  Any political discussion of refugees or immigration or terror threats.  What mattered is that we were two people, on opposite sides of the world, doing our best to show love to our families and to each other.  We’re more alike than we are different.

I pray that one day, you will take the opportunity to look into the eyes of someone so vastly different than you and see, really see, the humanity there.  Because, I predict that when that happens, you will forever be changed.  And, maybe, the world would forever be changed as well.


If you want to help Amina’s family with a monetary donation, please click here.  Any amount is so welcomed and will make such a difference for Amina and her family.  She is so grateful for our help.  If you are interested in having a Skype call with Amina, that is something that Humanwire sets up for anyone who donates $45.  All you need is a computer with Skype, and Humanwire will get you all set up with a translator in Lebanon.

Helping a Refugee Family

The Syrian Refugee crisis absolutely breaks my heart.  I am not exaggerating when I say I have lost sleep and shed tears numerous times thinking about the absolute hell these people are going through.  I know that somehow, this issue has become political, and frankly I think most of the rhetoric going around is inaccurate.  In my mind, politics aside, we have to take the time to really see the suffering of the poor people in the Middle East.  Here are a couple of articles that have really shaped my thoughts on this issue and have been instrumental in placing this calling on my heart.

Love in a Time of Refugees “You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

Dear Children of Aleppo “The world can’t afford to lose you, Children of Aleppo.  We can’t afford to lose the music only you can make, the ideas only you have, the inventions and dreams and hope the world can only be if we do whatever it takes to keep you with us here and from the relentless hound of death and its screaming bombs.”

Jamie Ivey podcast with Ann Voskamp  Listen to the last 15 minutes or so of this podcast, where Ann shares about her family helping a refugee family settle in Canada.  It’s life-changing and a good reminder of what kindness can do.

Honestly, if my life looked different in this season, I’d probably want to be on a plane to Syria to do something.  I’ve been looking for an opportunity to help, and I’m excited about the one I have found.

There is an organization, based in Colorado, called Humanwire.  It is set up to pair refugee families fleeing Syria with “hosts” who help lead campaigns to raise money and get them items that they need.  Additionally, if folks are interested in helping this family–even with small donations–there is an opportunity to have direct contact with the family.  We can talk with them on the phone and mail items directly to them.  I have signed up to host a precious family (more about them below) and am going to be soliciting monetary donations and useful items for them.

———————————————————————

Now….the family for whom I have volunteered to serve as the host.

syrian-kids

This sweet family of four (almost 5) are from Syria.  The father is 26 years old, the mother is 21, their two sweet kids are 3 (a girl) and 2 (a boy), and they have a baby on the way.  They lived in the Syrian countryside, but when bombing started in their hometown, and their children were terrified and constantly crying, the parents fled to Lebanon, where they now live in a refugee camp.  Eventually, they want to return to their home in Syria, if the war ever ends.

Right now, they have some very basic needs.  Medical treatment for the pregnancy, a refrigerator for their tent, carpet for their tent, clothing for the children, a washing machine, and a doll for their daughter.

Don’t miss this here…this is a family living in a plastic tent in a country that is not their own.  They are raising two little ones and shortly will be having a baby in a plastic tent.  They want carpet.  They want clothing for their kids.  They want prenatal treatment.

And I am going to do my best to be sure they get these things.

I need your help.

There are basically three options to help.

(1) You can make a monetary donation. The money will be given to them to purchase their needs like the carpet and fridge and washing machine.  Please view the Humanwire page   here.

(2)  If you want to pay for items to be directly delivered to them (rather than boxing them up and shipping them yourself, click here. They have a lot of options like food and clothing, and the great part about this is it gets there fast and you don’t pay shipping.

(3)  You can gather up some stuff and send them directly to the family.  Let me know if you need the info for how to do it!  This is good for stuff that’s not on the online store.  I just went and got a doll and stuffed animal, some warm hats, and some socks to send them.

 If you don’t want to do a credit card there or can’t figure it out, contact me in the comments below, text me, email me…and I will be sure we can get your help to them.

Stitch Fix Report: Box #19

I hadn’t done a fix in almost a year, but when they offered to waive my $20 styling fee, I figured, what the heck! I wouldn’t lose any money even if I didn’t keep anything.  

If you’ve not heard of Stitch Fix, they send you a box with 5 clothing items. You pay $20. If you like any item, you keep it and pay the cost for that item (less the $20 fee) and if you don’t like them, you just put them back in the envelope they send and drop it in the mailbox. 

If you want to give it a try, use this link and I will get a little referral credit.

Now, let’s get to the report from Box #19:

1. Level 99 Sandy Bootcut Jean (Navy)


These jeans….I don’t know. They fit fine and were comfy.  But they were too pricey for me and I really couldn’t tell what color they were–tag says Navy but they almost look sort of grayish/black.  

Verdict: Return.

2. Brixton Ivy Kalu Lace Sleeve Blouse (Cobalt)


I struggled with this.  I love the color.  I think the sleeves are cute. But, in the end, I decided against it. I have a couple other shirts this color, it was at the top end of my price range, and I liked another item better. 

Verdict: Return.

3. Market & Spruce Jermaine Flannel Cotton Top (Red)


I hated this.  Second worst thing I have gotten from Stitch Fix.  It looks like a lumberjack.  Even worse, it was super thick flannel. No, no, no. 

Verdict: Return.

4. Papermoon Bastille Tulip Sleeve Blouse (Green)


I had pinned a similar shirt, so I was excited to see this.  I love the color.  It is so comfy.  And it was priced right for my budget.  I have already worn it with my suit and thought it was perfect.  I now want it in more colors!


Verdict: Keep.

5.  41Hawthorne Carryn Jersey Faux Wrap Dress (Black)


I usually like wrap dresses. They are comfy, don’t wrinkle, and make me look thinner.  But I just couldn’t get excited about the pattern on this one. If it was a solid color, I might have kept it. 

Verdict: Return.

So…I ended up keeping 1/5, but I absolutely love that one!  I paid $38 total for the shirt and sent the rest back.  Not too shabby!