Welcome to our final week in the reLentless Love series and Make a Difference Monday link-up! If you missed the first six weeks of reLentless Love, we shared about Access to Medical CareOrphan CareSingle MomsHuman Trafficking, Hunger and Clean Water. Today, we're highlighting the needs of kids in our communities and ways we can all help.

We can hardly believe this is our last post in this year's Lent series. We have enjoyed once again being able to highlight needs around the world, spend time in prayer for others, and partner with some great organizations. For our last week we wanted to focus on the needs of kids in our communities and our very own Julie Fisk is highlighting a nationwide organization that is dear to her heart; that has been helping communities, families, and children around the country for many years. Here's her story:

Uff da. I awoke this morning with a scratchy throat – the third and final physical sign that my body, that amazing creation that made no complaints as it dug deep and pushed me through a really tough month -- has decided it is finally safe to fall apart.  My body and I have done life together for so long that I’ve come to know its idiosyncrasies, including how it handles stress. 

Image by Stefano Corso via Flickr
I knew I was going to be okay when a cold sore showed up a week and a half ago.  I always awake to that first tiny tingling sensation on my lip just as the stress ebbs, and it is always the first physical sign that I’ve pushed through something hard.  The next to arrive was a back that seized and creaked and ached.  And just as I’ve dealt with those two first companions, my scratchy throat early this morning signals that a cold has settled in as the final act.

Strange as it sounds, it’s a relief, really.  I’ve come to recognize and accept these physical manifestations as verification that a significant storm has passed and that there is smoother sailing just ahead.

And that’s just the thing – storms happen. Just as we watch on grainy, wobbling video as tornadoes and hurricanes whip through the land, uprooting trees, overturning cars and smashing homes into smithereens, they happen in our lives with the same varying levels of intensity and destruction. Some storms are creatures of our own making – a colliding of choices and words and actions, but many storms are random, unpredictable and suddenly hit us between the eyes with no words, no actions, no nothing that we can or could or should have done to stop it, avoid it, or make it go away.

Welcome to our reLentless Love series and Make a Difference Monday link-up! If you missed the first five weeks of reLentless Love, we shared about Access to Medical Care, Orphan Care, Single Moms, Human Trafficking, and Hunger. Today, we're highlighting the need for clean drinking water around the world and ways we can all help.

Ben and Amy Savage, along with their son Tariku, have had an amazing impact when it comes to raising awareness about the impact of cleaning water and their efforts to build water wells in Ethiopia via charity:water. When I asked Amy more about why they're so passionate about the issue of clean drinking water, I was humbled by how much we take for granted in the U.S. and what a privilege it is to be able to do something to change the lives of others around the globe through the efforts of organizations like charity:water and others.

Why are you passionate about this issue? What sparked your interest? 

When we went to Ethiopia to adopt our son, Tariku, we learned his story more fully. He had lived for four years or so with his birth father and stepmother. They collected their water from a small, dirty pond that was contaminated with God-knows-what. His family had no other choice. They needed water and that was the water they had to use. Tariku's little brother became very sick and had severe diarrhea from the water. At the age of one, he died. From dirty water.

Disney's Cinderella
I took my daughter Jasmine to the new Disney Cinderella movie this past weekend. While I’ve seen the original many times as a child, I was excited to see this new spin on an old story.

What I did not realize was that although it included the traditional love story between a girl and a prince, there was an overwhelming theme of courage and kindness throughout the entire story.

Through scene after scene, the movie portrays Cinderella as showing kindness to others: to workers, mice, even her cruel stepmother. Even at the height of her distress, after being left behind from the ball and in tears, she shows kindness -- when an old woman asks for a glass of milk or something to eat, she sets aside her own problems to help someone in need. And her kindness is rewarded as she is soon after swept off and on her way to the ball.

Welcome to our reLentless Love series and Make a Difference Monday link-up! If you missed the first four weeks of reLentless Love, we shared about Access to Medical CareOrphan Care, Single Moms and Human Rrafficking. Today, we're highlighting hunger around the world and ways we can all help.

Hunger is such a large issue, one that impacts people all over the world. The statistics on food instability, especially in developing countries, is staggering. The World Food Programme reports:
  • Some 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth. 
  • Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five -- 3.1 million children each year.
  • 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.
Although hunger is a very serious issue around the world, the United States is no exception. People in our local communities, neighborhoods and schools are going hungry every day.

Facing my five-year-old, I see her vibrating with rage. 

Her continued disobedience had spiraled into a situation where rather than the five books she usually gets to look at quietly during bedtime, she was now down to two books and precariously close to losing another. 

Gripping the Twilight Sparkle book tightly in her small hands, she lashes out at me, arms pinwheeling. Flinching a little, expecting a blow that thankfully never comes, I grab her arms and pin them to her sides. 

“Stop! Just stop,” I say, composure fraying. My husband, reading to our 3-year-old from the sidelines, adds his own stern warning as he steps in to intervene. 

“Go on out,” he tells me, part of our tag-team parenting when things get rough.

I exit the room, tears welling as I open the door to the master bedroom, knees cracking as I kneel to pull out my essential oils reference book. Turning to the entry on “anger,” I grab the oils and head back into my girls’ room. 
Image by Alyssa Miller via Flickr
Welcome to our reLentless Love series and Make a Difference Monday link-up! If you missed the first three weeks of reLentless Love, we shared about Access to Medical Care, Orphan Care and Single Moms! Today, we're highlighting trafficking and are looking at what is happening in our own backyard in Central Minnesota.

This week we interviewed CeCe Terlouw, Executive Director of Heartland Girls Ranch, about her passion to help girls caught in trafficking and what her amazing organization is doing.

TRE: Why are you passionate about the issue of trafficking?

My heart and passion for doing this work is really rooted in what God's heart is and what the
word says. This is illustrated in Isaiah 61:1-3:

The spirit of the Lord is on me because the Lord has
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lords favor
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
To bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
Instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord
For the display of his splendor.

When girls come to us they are often broken and locked inside themselves unable to see their gifts and talents.  

They remind me of an acorn with a hard shell on the outside and no roots to ground them.

My passion is in watching God begin to change and nurture them into the beautiful young women they were designed to be. With the love and support they receive at the Ranch, they begin to blossom, grow roots and become the "oak of righteousness and glory of his splendor". They discover the beauty that's inside them, their value in who they are and the impactthey can have on others.  

Image via Jackie on Flickr
The Easter Bunny and I have a love/hate relationship.

As a mother of young children, I’ve struggled with how much swimming I should be doing against the cultural tide of Easter as a pastel-colored, candy holiday.

I’ve wrestled with whether I"m potentially diminishing Christ and the work he did on the cross when I allow a few plastic eggs and some fake grass to cross my home’s threshold.

And while every family has to pray through this issue on their own, my husband and I have made peace with the concept of the Easter Bunny and provide a space in our Easter celebration to partake in the cheesy fun of an egg hunt, hidden baskets, and rainbow-hued, hard-boiled eggs.

In exchange for allowing eggs and chocolates to be a part of the celebration, my husband and I are very intentional about our approach to Easter.

The Easter books found on my children's bookshelves talk of Jesus, not of bunnies.

We have age-appropriate conversations about the cross - what it means, what it did, why it matters so very much to our lives today.

And, as unpopular as it might be, my children know that the Easter Bunny isn’t real and that daddy is the one who is figuratively hopping around the back yard, hiding eggs in tree branches.  (Although we do what we can to make sure they do not share that information with their classmates, as that is a decision for other families to make).

Because if I do not show my children how to carefully discern those things in our culture that are merely fun from those things that hold sacred significance, then I leave them vulnerable to the whisperings of others. 

There will come a time when others will tell my children that Jesus is a myth, a fable, a story just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and I need them to understand the difference between a fun activity and authentic faith. 

If you are looking for ways to incorporate more Jesus and less bunny into your own Easter celebrations, check out the following ideas:

Photo collage from Single Moms Retreat Diva Boutique 2013
Welcome to our reLentless Love series and Make a Difference Monday link-up! If you missed the first two weeks of reLentless Love, we shared about Access to Medical Care and Orphan Care! Today, we're highlighting single moms and a retreat that is near and dear to each of us.

Three years ago the girls of TRE agreed to help out with a Single Moms Retreat in our area. At the time, we collected clothes for the Diva Boutique and raise awareness for the retreat. Since then our passion to help single moms has only grown. Every year since we've committed to raise funds and donations for the retreat that will hopefully be a blessing to the few hundred single moms who attend each year. 

The May 2015 retreat is no different. We feel a bond with our single mama friends and believe it is time that we as women step up to support one another. Statistics show that a third of all single moms live below the poverty line (even though they work very hard), causing financial and housing hardships and food insecurity. Through both the Single Moms Retreat and our friends who are single mothers, we've seen what amazing courage and drive they have to provide for themselves and their kids. We are humbled and honored to call such women our friends.