Last weekend while at one of our fabulous museums here in Denver, a woman struck up conversation as we watched our children take part in one of the exhibits. She saw how many kids we had and asked about them.

After telling her we had adopted them from Ethiopia, she looked completely bewildered.

“But WHY? Why would you do that?” she asked aloud.

Half trying to pay attention to our six kids running all over the place and half trying to explain to her the great need out there, I was frustrated. How can she be so shocked we did this?! How can this be such a foreign concept?!

I remember another woman, years ago who told me:

“Oh I could NEVER do that. We don’t have a big enough house for all the kids to have their own rooms!”

Really. REALLY? That is your reasoning?!

{for the record, every one of our kids is doubled up in their rooms}

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Now I TOOOOOTALLY get that not everyone is called to adopt. I don’t think it’s for every family.

. . . . . .

BUT…I certainly DO think we are all called to do SOMETHING for the poor, for the orphans, and for the widows.

I just finished reading an incredible book by the former CEO of World Vision and his wife, Richard & Renee Stearns, called He Walks Among Us.

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In it they share short stories of individuals they had met in their travels around the globe, how they’ve overcome struggles, and how God is working in the lives of the poorest of the poor.

It’s inspiring. {and the photography is breathtaking}

Toward the end of the book is a chapter titled Seven Steps to Poverty.

I wanted to share it with you. It certainly helped me understand a little more, what it would be like to live in the way that much of the world does.

REMEMBER…we CAN do something to help! We CAN make a difference.

Ready? Here we go…

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Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

{Leviticus 19:18}

I’d like to take you on a mental and emotional journey into poverty. Follow me as, one at a time, I take seven things away from you. And let yourself feel the pain of the poor.

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First, I will take away your clothes.

Don’t panic, I won’t take them all. You can keep the ones you’re wearing. Can you imagine wearing the same clothes every single day? You can wash them each night, but even this small takeaway is humiliating.

Next, I will take away electricity and power.

Imagine going home to a dark house each night. None of your appliances work: you can’t use your refrigerator, telephone, heater, air conditioner, dishwasher, television, computer, or stove.

Your showers are cold, and now you have to wash your clothes by hand. Inconvenient is an understatement. But you shouldn’t feel too bad; you are still better off than most of the world.

Takeaway number three is really tough: I’m taking away your clean water.

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Now none of your faucets, toilets, or showers work, and your only water source is a stagnant water hold about a mile away. You must walk hours each day to fetch the water your family needs, and because it is teeming with bacteria, you and your children are constantly sick.

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Making this situation even harder is the fact that none of your neighbors have been affected, and they don’t even seem to notice your suffering.

I’m afraid I now have to take away your home, so you have to live in a ten-by-twenty foot mud hut with a dirt floor, no beds, and little furniture. Your whole family will now sleep in the same room on the floor.

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Takeaway number five is devastating: food.

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Long ago your children lost their smiles; now they are so hungry that the gnawing pain won’t go away. You have to find what little food you can by picking through your neighbors’ garbage. Already sick from drinking dirty water, your children become malnourished, and their bodies can’t fight off diseases. Your four-year-old daughter seems to be slipping away.

Getting her to the doctor is urgent but, tragically, the sixth takeaway is health care.

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To your horror and disbelief, there is no doctor and you have no option except to watch powerlessly as your daughter, wracked with parasites and diarrhea, dies before your very eyes! How can this be happening?

So what else could I possibly take away?.

Your hope has died in the ashes of your poverty.

And you wonder why no one has stepped in to help you.

Do these seven takeaways make you feel compelled to do something about the hardships that billions of people endure each day?

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in him?

{I John 3:17}

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Please…PLEASE don’t think there’s nothing you can do from here.

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. . . . . .

These organizations, though largely African in focus…are some that we hold close to our hearts.

{water/wells} Water to Thrive

{mosquito nets to prevent malaria} Nothing but Nets

{building wells, schools, medical clinics} A Glimmer of Hope

{shoes/protecting feet of children from hookworm and more} Soles for Souls

{helping free women from sex trade/human rights} International Justice Mission

{sponsor a child} World Vision & Compassion International

{give the gift of an animal & more} World Vision

. . . . . .

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You CAN make a difference. It may seem small to you…but it’s life changing for them.

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coffee filter wreathEarlier in the week, I talked about the fun coffee filter wreath I just made…which inspired a little room-redo and mantle decorating {I love shopping our house}!

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Today, I thought I’d show you how to make your own…for about $5.

Crazy, I know.

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You can use any wreath base you like or have on hand. I chose this wire one, from the floral department our local craft store because it cost just over a dollar.

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I started off by getting out my glue gun and glueing filters to cover the wire and give myself more space to eventually cover.

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Folding the filters into fourths like this, and placing glue on the edge, I first worked on the outside layer.

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It began to look like this.

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I next did the inside circle in the same manner.

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Finally the fun part…the inside! I crinkled each filter like the above photo, again glueing at the bottom and pressing it in.

Be careful doing this part, I burned myself on the hot glue SO many times!

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Make sure you place the filters extremely close together for the fullest look.

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It took me two days because Ben was out of town and I was alone with our six Crazies…and I had to take lots of breaks for fort building, cookie making, and museum going.

BUT all in all, it probably took me an hour and a half or so. Not too bad.

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After just shy of 300 filters, I am so excited about how it turned out!

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I think it just may be the prettiest and least expensive wreath I’ve ever made.

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I hope you have as much fun making yours!

Send photos over to my Hugs & Punches Facebook Page! I’d love to see them!

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I love Christmas and all the decorations, but when the season is over and the tree is put away, I love the decor in our house to be simple. Streamlined. Clean.

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Today I worked on shopping our house and re-decorating our fireplace.

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It all started with this wreath I made this weekend {here’s the diy…so simple & fun}.

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The blanket and faux boxwood came from Homegoods. I love all the grays and blues.

If you want calm, these colors certainly give it. But, even if your taste calls for different ones, make sure you only use a couple colors. I’ve heard before that two colors + one accent is what’s needed for an appealing decor.

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Ben bought me this fun zebra chair from Nordstrom Home maybe seven years ago.

I still love it!

The column we use as a side table was from the garden center at the grocery store near my first apartment when I couldn’t afford something for beside my bed. This one was under $15. When we need more tabletop space, I’ll place a tray or large coffee table art book on top so there’s room for a few more items.

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{I love that mixing gold and silver is okay}

The globe is from Goodwill, the faux plant from Ikea.

The beautiful gold lanterns were from Thanksgiving dinner.

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But before that, they were 90% off at Hobby Lobby.

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However, not so much my taste.

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But…nothing a little spray paint can’t fix!

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A mixture of blue and cream bound books adds texture and interest, but without being too busy.

Google locations near you for secondhand books, Goodwill, or keep your eyes open at garage sales and church flea markets for beautifully worn ones.

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A large glass jar contains a bunch of candles from Ikea.

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What do you think? Serene without being boring?

I think maybe I love it.

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\\ Remember to check back later in the week for the diy on making this beautiful wreath! \\

No joke, I made it for about $5. And it’s made from coffee filters. So fun!

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{tutorials on making our chevron and chalkboard fireplace: 1, 2, 3 }

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{linked up to these fun parties!}

. the gunny sack . a bowl full of lemons . chef in training . the blackberry vine . growing home . cedar hill farmhouse . nap-time creations . vmv 206 . ladybug blessings . finding heaven today . a stroll through life . jaqs studio . sew much to do . seven thirty three . not just a housewife . we are that family . a wise woman builds her home .

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We’ve had Abreham home for almost six months now.

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As you’d expect, we’ve gone through highs and lows, and have had a dark shadow looming over our house at times, too.

Mostly though, it’s been a 14 year old boy learning to trust.

But how do you trust when you’ve been let down so many times? How do you put your life in a family’s hands whom you barely know and have a completely different way of doing things, when you’ve been on your own since a small child?

Today was a big day of trust for us, as Abreham finally agreed to get his teeth worked on. More than a decade without a toothbrush will do a lot of damage and the black in his molars isn’t chocolate, like he’s tried to convince us.

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A few weeks ago Abreham went to the doctor for some immunizations that his school nurse said must be done before he came back to school. Ben took him and because they went so late in the day, the doctor was running behind…really behind.

Ben said he could see Abreham, almost minute by minute, going more and more into his shell as they waited.

Ezekiel has told us before how many shots he’d get while he was in Ethiopia. “For everything”, he’d shared. “Headaches, stomach aches, whatever.” We know our sweet African boys are not strangers to being pierced by a needle and sit in the waiting room with dread and a nervous stomach every time.

Sadly on this day, by the time the nurse came back with a tray full of immunizations, he was done.

“No.” He said to the nurse sternly. “No shots.”

After much coaxing and convincing, they left…puncture free. And Abreham was in a very, VERY bad mood. He wouldn’t eat dinner that evening, nor would he speak to us. He simply put himself to bed early, knowing he was not allowed to go to school the next day…or any day, until he went back for his immunizations.

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That next day I woke him up at 6:30am, just as I do every morning. While sitting on the edge of his bed, I whispered that he needed to get up and take a shower.

“No wake up, mom. I no school today. No shots, remember?”

“Ah yes, my love. I remember. BUT no school does not mean a day to sleep and play. No drawing or Ethiopian YouTube videos, no playing outside or going for a run. Today, if you do not go to school and work, you will work at home. I have many jobs for you and have a workbook waiting downstairs for after breakfast.”

Oh shoot. He realized we were serious about this shot thing. The look on his face was priceless.

Upon coming downstairs after his shower and making his bed, he began making himself some scrambled eggs. “You want some, mom? How many eggs?” I love when he makes me breakfast, and honestly these days he does it most mornings.

As we ate together in the kitchen, me fixing us both some coffee, he looked me in the eye and apologized for the day before.

“I’m sorry no shots, mom. I’m sorry to dad.”

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We talked about it as we munched on our steaming breakfast and as he shared with me his fears, I reminded him how Ben and I want the best for him.

“We don’t do things to hurt you. We do everything we can to keep you safe and healthy. To make life good. Not easy. But good. Daddy and I want to protect you…but sometimes we will ask you to do things that are new. Things that make you nervous and maybe even scared. But we will never ask you to do something bad. We only want good for you.”

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He looked at me, searching my eyes, as if he was trying to learn how to trust us…but didn’t know if he could. Or should.

I could almost see the wheels turning in his brain as he thought back on things Ben and I have done or required of him. Perhaps even thinking back on his life in Ethiopia, learning there that to trust was to be hurt.

I put my hand over his and again looked him straight into his eyes. “Dad and I will NEVER do anything to hurt you. We love you so much. We want the best for you. You can trust us. I promise, you can trust me.”

A smile slowly spread across his face and he asked that I call Ben to tell him he was ready to go back. After taking the rest of the Crazies to school, we set off for the doctor once again. And he did it. Blood was drawn and a half-dozen needles were shoved {as carefully as possible} into his arm.

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“I am strrrong, mom.” He said, in his beautiful Ethiopian accent, rolling his r’s. “I am brave. And I am ready for the dentist.”

So that brings us to today. Our sweet dentist, who we adore, walked him through everything and told him step-by-step what he was doing {all the while, keeping the needles out of his line of sight}.

Many fillings and the extraction of one very infected tooth and we were on our way home.

“I am happy, mom. My teeth no hurt. You are good, mom.”

Such a far-cry from this past fall when we’d tried this two other times. Even Valium couldn’t calm down his freaking out those times. It was bad. I can’t even explain how awful those trips were. Think worse-case scenario and you might get it.

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Abreham’s grandmother had told him that in America, our medicine is witchcraft. It’s voodoo. “No wonder he’s having a hard time trusting us!” Ben and I said to each other as a friend translated his fears, after one of the horrific times we tried the dentist this fall.

Trust. It’s huge. Especially for a child who’s been hurt time and time again.

But we’re getting there. He even hugged me today, saying thank you.

Hugs from him are like gold. They’re so very infrequent and incredibly cherished.

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“I like that doctor. Good man, mom. Good doctor. No hurt.”

Like our sweet Abreham who is learning to trust that his mom and dad love him and want the absolute best for him, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us and want the best for us?

Even if at times it’s scary and things hurt a little. Coming out on the other side, with trust in one arm and becoming better for the sake of experiences in the other, we know we are loved.

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 Maybe I’ve been living in the dark ages, but have you heard of this magazine?!

It’s like Martha Stewart + Real Simple + Bible Study. It’s fantastic.

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 My best friend gushed about it a few months ago but I forgot about it until my mom gave me one for Christmas.

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Recipes and design tips…

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…and Bible Verses surrounded by beautiful photography.

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And most importantly, learning more about God’s Word and Missions throughout the world. People changing lives, impacting the Kingdom.

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Hope I brought a little more Faith + Beauty to your mailbox!

Life: Beautiful? Yes it is.

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