…and so it begins.

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I am having anxiety. My mom called me to say they were on their way to Nicaragua for a family reunion, and I completely lost it. Best thing about it was, I was at the grocery store, so people literally thought I was crazy. Great. There is SO much going on. Our line launches in SIX days. It’s pre-sell 750 pieces or BUST. Seriously. After returning from Haiti, I had a fire in me to do this. I kept telling our team, “Starting a fair-trade factory in a tiny village of a third world country seemed like an impossible task, but we did it and if we can do that, then we can pre-sell 750 pieces in the month of September. Right?! I have to keep reminding myself, that the answer is YES… yes we can! (Obama told me so :))

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Also many of you have asked me about my trip and I am still having difficulty answering you. So sorry about that. I’m still trying to process everything. My last trip to Haiti, was my first, so I spent a lot of time getting to know the women behind aDARable and discovering the village of Ti-Bouk.

This go-round was different in ways I can’t describe. Before I go into more detail, let me allow myself to explain a few things first. Those of you who know me really well, know that I very much march to the beat of my own drum. I believe in fairytales, happy endings. I believe in following your gut, your intuition. I believe your gut, your intuition is really your heart screaming at you, and I believe in following your true heart’s desires. I believe if you follow your true heart’s desires all the powers in the universe will conspire together to help you achieve whatever you set your heart to. I am very much a free spirit, a lover of people and life. I love learning about other cultures and other religions. I believe we should all try to learn something new every day. I believe we all live just once, but I also believe if we live our life following our hearts, living once is more than enough. And last, I believe in Christ.

Rarely will you find me talking about religion, politics, and other touchy subjects with others. I love hearing others discuss their point of views, but then I go and do my own research to hopefully understand where and why I stand where I stand. I guess I am like this because although I am a believer in Christ, I am mindful and appreciative of other religions and ways of thinking. Anyway, all this to say on this trip to Haiti, I felt Jesus. I have had one other experience like the one I had in Haiti one other time in life, and it took me a good while to talk about it.

It was our last day with the women and they started playing some Compa music. Compa is the music of Haiti. We then attempted to teach them the Cupid Shuffle. We danced, laughed and hugged. The women then made a circle around us and began singing church songs, they prayed the Lord’s Prayer in Creole, and then each woman began praying for us out loud. At that point I just closed my eyes and listened carefully to the words that were coming out of their mouths, not understanding any of it, but enjoying the eloquence of how their prayers were resonating. It was at that point that it hit me like a lighting bolt, an overwhelming feeling. I knew it was Him talking to me. Telling me to continue on my pursuit of happiness in helping the poorest of the poor. Telling me He has been by our sides this entire time. Telling me not to quit, to free these women of their poverty stricken state, to give them meaning, and purpose in life. I felt Him. I really did.

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I really am going somewhere with this and it leads me to my now. I came back a changed person once again. It seems like I come back changed every time I go to a place like Haiti. But this time I am more driven than I have ever been about this project….today was just a tiny step back for me. But you can feel how much our women need us, and lately I have only talked about our women in Haiti because of the excitement of aDARable, but our women in Costa Rica–I haven’t forgotten about you. I came back knowing that although many people thought (and many still do think) I am crazy for following my heart, my heart didn’t fail me. I came back knowing God has been listening to our prayers and He is behind this project in ways I’ll never understand. I came back smiling because of the feeling as though I have found my real purpose in life, and I came back more stubborn than ever, because this project cannot fail. Individual lives are depending on us and on me, that is a responsibility I will protect and try my hardest to accomplish. Now, I just need to remind myself of this constantly….especially on a day like today when my nerves are taking the best of me. We. Can. Sell. 750 pieces. In. September….YES we can!

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m.

It’s So Much More than Just a Video …

Video. It’s my passion. I love it. I grew up watching fairly tale movies. If you sat me in front of a movie when I was little I would be so enamored with what I was watching that you most likely had to walk in front of me to get my attention. And sit me in front of that movie enough times I would start saying the lines and singing the songs along with the princesses. I was in love with movies. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up and have a job that is a part of my passion. When Martha came to me and asked if I would be a part of this trip and make a video for her, of course I jumped at the chance. Take some time off work and travel out of the country?! Who wouldn’t say an immediate yes?!! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have the experience I did.

I’ve been reading Love Does by Bob Goff the last few months. Just taking my time and really reading through it – taking it in. Bob knows his stuff. About a year ago I was out on the road at the Democratic Convention for work when my phone rang. I was out getting my crew coffee when I looked down and saw Martha’s name on my phone. I answered and the first thing I heard was “I’m going to start a children’s clothing line!” …. hold on … say that again?! Here’s the thing about my sister-in-law: she gets ideas at least once a day about something new. So when I heard this it didn’t really surprise me that she had a new idea. What did surprise me was the fact that she wanted to pair it with her non-profit, and not only did she want women to produce the clothing, she wanted students to design the line and women in Haiti to produce the line. Whaaaat?!?!! That sounds crazy right?! I thought so. I’ll admit it. Like I said, she gets ideas at least once a day, but this one seemed different.  Here’s another thing about my sister-in-law: her heart is bigger than yours and mine combined. And I think it’s her heart that gives her ambition and drive. She told me how she was going to talk to O’More College about their students designing the line and then how she was going to start a free trade in Haiti to give 10 Haitian women jobs. ….. are you speechless yet? Good. I was too.

Now here we are almost a year later and she’s doing it. We’ve all been praying for her, but it seemed like such an impossible prayer. Once again, I’ll admit that. I would pray for her and what she was doing, but, to me, it seemed like such an impossible thing to pray for. Like I almost felt bad for praying for this because it seemed so far-fetched. Amongst the many genius things I’ve underlined and highlighted and circled in Love Does, one of the things Bob talks about is how “ …God delights in answering our impossible prayers. The kind of prayers made in a dark cell by someone holding unwashed hands. Prayers asking for the things we couldn’t possibly think could happen for us or someone else. Ones we might even feel a little bad saying, as if it’s just asking God for too much.”

That’s all my mind has been thinking the past few months. Pray bold and pray big. Don’t be afraid to pray for outrageous things. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be standing in front of one of these women watching them learn to sew on an electric machine for the first time. Seeing their face light up when they made a button-hole or a certain stitch or threaded their machine correctly and Crista or Sarah looked at them with a large smile and said “bon travail” (meaning good job).

I remember when my first niece was born. I always imagined what I would feel when I saw her for the first time. How big my smile would be. How long I would hold her. How my heart would feel when I held her for the first time. My brain would literally try and make the scenario up in my brain so my emotions could be prepared for the moment (you see I tend to be a huge type-A person … I try and prepare for every scenario as best I can … flaw and attribute of mine – different blog for a different day). You see no matter how much I tried to prepare for holding her and seeing for the first time, my heart was 10 times more emotional than I ever thought I would be. The same thing happened while I was in Haiti.

Imagine a place where houses are consistently unfinished. Where kids run around with no shoes on. Where dogs are so thin and so scared that they don’t come up to people willingly like we’re used to seeing with our dogs here in the US. A place where cars are not an option of transportation for a 3 mile journey. Road lanes don’t exist. Imagine a 3rd world country. I did. Of course I fell for one of the little kids down there and a dog as well (if you know me then you knew this was bound to happen!) … I couldn’t stop imagining taking them home with me and offering them a different life. But, overall, I think I prepared myself as best I could for the visuals that I saw. What I wasn’t prepared for was the love in the hearts of these women that are a part of this project.

These women love Martha. I mean they really love her. The first day the women came to the Parish Hall to work with Crista and Sarah, Martha walked in and went to say hi to each and every one of them and one woman in particular held her just a tad bit longer. Hugged her just a tad bit tighter. She had the biggest smile on her face while she was hugging Martha. I was lucky enough to be standing there with my camera guy and both of our cameras were pointed at the moment. I’ll say it again: these women really love Martha.

And their love for Martha is so much more than just loving her for the kind of person she is. I mean she’s an awesome person so, naturally, everyone pretty much loves Martha when they meet her, but the opportunity and the possibility of a different future for these women and their families is why they love her. They love her for speaking out about her idea. They love her for her passion. They love her for being hopeful. They love her for being strong and never giving up on the project. They love her for the ambition she’s thrown at this project. She’s creating a possibility that these women have never dreamed of – that they most likely could never have imagined at all for themselves. I got to speak with most of the women and when I asked what this project meant to them and they all could not stop saying thank you and how big of an opportunity this project was so they could provide for their family – so they could care for their children – so they could provide an education for their children. Their love for Martha is so much bigger than I ever anticipated.

Martha’s “crazy idea” of starting this clothing line grew with love. The love and the passion she has for this project is what breathes life into it each and every day. Over the past year I’ve gotten the opportunity to see this project start from a small idea and develop in to women in Haiti sewing the patterns for this clothing line. And while in Haiti I got to see a different side of my sister-in-law. A side that is so filled with love to help people that she’ll stop at nothing. She had an idea that was so filled with love and compassion that you can’t help but jump in and join her. I mean she took an idea, went to a design school and got a clothing line designed. She then found a town in a 3rd world country and is able to give 10 Haitian women a job sewing this clothing line. On paper, in black and white, it still sounds crazy! But I love it. And Martha loves it. And the women love Martha. The little town of Ti-Bouk love Martha for what she’s doing for these women.

Love. It’s been there from start to finish in this project. It’s been there in different ways. These women and the town of Ti-Bouk love Martha for what she’s doing. Martha loves it so much that she stopped at nothing to make it happen. She loves it so much that I was able to go with her and document the journey. I love it so much that I will continue to pray the impossible prayer. Love has so many meanings for each of us. I love my parents for the person they’ve molded me in to. I love my brother for the way he loves me as a sister. I love my dog for her awesome personality and her company she gives me. This trip to Haiti gave me a new perspective on love. I circled this whole section Bob wrote months ago when I started reading Love Does:

“…I understand just a little more how God has pursued me in creative and whimsical ways., ways that initially did not get my attention. Nevertheless, He wouldn’t stop. That’s what love does – it pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end.”

For me, this experience down in Haiti wasn’t just about making a great video. It started out as that, but it was molding into an experience where I see how much God loves me. He loves me so much that he let me be witness to these women and their lives changing. He loves me so much that He showed me Martha in a new light. And it’s not until now, seven months after circling and underlining this specific passage in Bob’s book, after having been witness to aDARable in progress, that I see how much love has done. It’s pursued blindly. It’s pursued unflinchingly. It has no end in sight.

Bob was right. Love really does.

 

– Jen

We are in Haiti!

“I use to think life could be shared by anyone but now I know choosing the right people is pretty important.” — Bob Goff, Love Does

Rain. I talked about rain on one of my most previous blogs. The saying of some people just get wet, while others actually feel the rain. Today I felt the rain. I really did. It was the romantic, happy, dancing rain, it was the rain that brought feelings too good to be true. I don’t know how to describe it.

I’m here in Haiti, surrounded by beauty everywhere. It’ the stillness. The simplicity of life here, but we all believe we can make it even more beautiful, by providing hope to these people who have basically nothing, yet have so much love.

Seeing our women for the first time brought tears to my eyes. Seeing them excited, wearing their Sunday best, made me realize how much this really means to them. Some of our women travel more than 6 miles every day for this opportunity…it’s the small things. I know I’m all over the place right now, but I’m just over the top excited for what is happening.

Our crew consists of our team cheerleader, Taylor- which along with many other tasks, is taking care of the women in our project, by making them feel loved, appreciated, taken care of, and supported. She has fallen in love with the children and women. It’s been so fun to watch her interact with the people of the village.

Crista-our DARling intern has amazed me everyday since arriving. You can just see how much she loves teaching our women and you can see and feel how passionate she is about this project. Crista is one of the designers behind our “Concrete Pioneer” collection. She has been a part of this project from day 1 and so she has been a vital role in our current mission here.

Sarah- our fun, awesome, ” Zami” aka friend, from Matilda Jane Clothing, has been a God send. She has been working hand in hand with Crista, teaching the women all the skills they need to know to produce our line.

Jennifer- beautiful Jennifer is a producer for Studio Now, and has worked on projects with L’Oreal, Verizon, AOL, along with many more. She has donated her time to help produce a video that tells you more about our work here in Haiti.

Paul- I have no words to describe Paul. Paul is a Director of Photography and simply the best. Paul has traveled the world filming for nonprofits, like ours. We have had so much fun with Paul-man! He is here working with Jen, and filming most of our project. Paul will also be editing our video once we return. He too is a God send because “someone” sponsored his entire trip and he took sick days to help us and travel with us. I can’t tell you how thankful we are for him.

And so far our crew has accomplished sooo much. We have made sewing tables for each woman. We secured a generator, surge protectors, extension cords, and taught the woman how to use electrical sewing machines for the first time! Crista and Sarah have taught each lady how to make button holes, sew zippers, how to use a serger for the first time, and tomorrow they will be making patterns!! Whew! Now can you understand why I really don’t have words to describe what is happening? We will post pictures soon, since our internet is iffy, at best.

Bob Goff said it best when he said, “Sometimes I think God says to ordinary people like me and you, that instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads, sometimes He wants us to keep our eyes open for people in need, and to do something about it.”

Feeling blessed.

T-48hrs!

As of yesterday I’ve found myself in the super excited/super stressed mode most people find themselves in before taking a big trip! When you know you have SO much to get done before you leave that all you want to do is just crawl in bed and quit life but your excitement for your upcoming excursions keeps you going…that’s exactly where I’m at.

You can imagine the lists I make with my Type-A personality..and my Target/Walmart list was nothing short of OCD. I began my hunt for DEET, SPF 1000 sunscreen, Lysol wipes, traveling toothbrush cases, etc. feeling a little overwhelmed. But as I took my time strolling down each aisle, I began to have fun with my “To-Buy” list. With every item I found, I began imagining myself in Haiti and how/when/where I would be using that product. As I contemplated my choices in the candy aisle for a solid 10 minutes, I couldn’t help but imagine meeting and loving all the Haitian children in Ti-Bouk and how excited they would be for a little taste of American treats. I eventually decided on 2 three pound bags of tootsie-rolls and lifesavers…American classics.. 😉

But as I began to imagine my upcoming trip, the stress began to fade and pure excitement started to enter. I just want to rush through the next 48 hours and meet my team at the airport! I honestly don’t know what this trip will bring but I couldn’t be more excited to be on such a wonderful adventure with such amazing people! We are truly getting to live out our dream of empowering women in 3rd world countries, and we’re starting with Ti-Bouk, Haiti!

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we begin our world adventures! We can’t thank you all enough for your support through this journey! We have been hard at work for almost a year now on aDARable, but the truth is, we are only just beginning! So excited to see where our adventures take us!

Excited to start our globe trotting!
T

Restoring the Lost and the Broken

T- minus 4 days until the adventure really begins. 

Let’s see. Questions I’ve been asked recently:

Have you been out of the country before? Why yes I have. I’ve been to Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland, Belize, St. Thomas. But to be honest, the last time I was out of the country was over 5 years ago. I had to renew my passport and everything!

Have you gotten your shots? Yep. Some of my vaccinations are in the form of pills that I am still taking. It has been a constant reminder of my upcoming trip! 

Are you so excited? The short answer to this question is most definitely YES! If you remember from my previous post, making fair-trade clothing has been a dream of mine for years. It’s why I chose a degree in fashion design in the first place. The other side of the coin, though, is this strange place I feel caught in. Maybe you know it. The just-graduated-college-and-the-world-looks-different thing. Everything is a bit more real. The possibilities don’t seem quite as endless as they did only a few months ago. 

But here’s where it gets good. Sometimes in the strange chapters in our lives we are able to connect with others and God in a completely different way. I feel as though I am more myself than I have been in a long time. I’m not consumed with homework, fashion show preparation, or even really the next step. I have been content to live in this season however long or short it may be. Above all else, I have been challenged recently to really listen for the voice of God. You know the age old, you don’t have to ask God to speak to you because he probably already is, you just need to listen…I can honestly and vulnerably admit that I have never known how to do this. Or how to identify his voice. This is what I have gathered in the last few weeks:

We are called to a life of discipline. This is SO VASTLY different than the culture we live in. Let’s be real. The only thing I do religiously is check my facebook/instagram/email. In the last month, I’ve fasted twice on Mondays. It’s been a challenge and even more difficult than I had imagined. But it was so good to reap the benefits. One of those things was being able to identify the voice of God. Not that I have it down to a science, or that there is a formula, but when you earnestly seek the Lord, he will reveal himself to you. Taking the time to sit down with him will change your life. Which leads me into my next thought. 

Beginning to really know the lord will change your desires. The honest to goodness truth is that glamour is one of the most seductive and false things you can get wrapped up in. I find myself daydreaming about moving to New York and working for some famous designer (there is nothing wrong with this) and feeling jealous towards those who have gone to do that. Money, fame, power have the ability to lure us in and always leave us wanting more. We know this, but I don’t think we realize how easily we can get hooked. When we allow his heart to be our own, we start dreaming in different ways. For me, it is no longer a loft in Manhattan, but a journey of restoration (I love this word so much I have it tattooed on my arm). Restoring the lost and the broken. My sister (a restorer herself in the way of foster care/adoption) once left a post-it note on my bathroom mirror that said DREAM BIG. Chances are, we aren’t dreaming big enough. 

So, this leads me to Haiti. I’m nervous, anxious, excited, and overjoyed that I get to be apart of this experience. I can’t wait to come back and blog all about it and tell you much more worth it the faces of those women are than anything I can dream up on my own. 

-Crista 

This one is for you, Denise

Sometimes, I think that the stars  are actually a huge connect-the-dot puzzle, and if we could only find the right pattern in which to connect them, then maybe we could figure out what they’re trying to tell us. And I think that there is a different pattern for every living person, every person that has ever lived, and every person that will ever live. So in a way, we’re all written into the night sky. And we gaze up at the sky, lying beneath our fears and dreams, and futures, and if we could find the right pattern, we might be able to know where we’re supposed to be. But the night sky is bigger than I can even begin to grasp, so I lay down on the damp summer grass amidst laughter and sips of wine, and I trace my finger along the brightest stars I can find, and I smile. The stars can keep the burden of knowing where it is that I will end up, because I am happy with where I am right now. When they twinkle, I think they’re winking at me, like they know something I don’t know, but I don’t mind. Sometimes, I like being in the dark, and right now, I don’t mind at all. —

Denise,

I am hoping this will make you smile.  We all go through yucky, gross, ___________ (you can fill in that blank:)) days, but you are doing it with so much grace.  I admire you.  I admire you more than you know.  It’s a bit scary…kinda stalker-ish really, since we have never met, but you are doing so much good in the world and I wanna be like you!

Like I have said over and over again on this blog, I’ve had this desire in my heart to impact lives in ways I would never dream of.  I want to restore HOPE in people who feel as if they are destined to live a life with no self worth, no food, no shelter, basically no hope.  I want to do alotta good in the world…ALOTTA good.

That’s when I decided to reach out to clothing companies to collect donations and send to women in Central America.  We would teach them the basics of business, and how to start their own little micro-enterprise via the donations they receive. I had my vision.  I had my mission. Now I needed to get to the meat of it all and, well, get donations.   I made a spread sheet of different clothing companies, I drafted a letter, and I emailed out to everyone on my spreadsheet.  A couple of weeks went by and PING, an email from Matilda Jane Clothing came in. The email, from Kayla, pretty much said YES we want to help.  I almost peed my pants.  I’m not kidding.  I was beyond the moon excited.  That was almost two years ago.  Our women in Costa Rica are awaiting their next opportunity to sell.  We are in process of collecting and sorting donations for their second round.  We are in the works of expanding to Nicaragua, and we just partnered with Souls4Soles to distribute your beautiful clothing to little girls in Port Au Prince, Haiti.

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The good you are doing in the world is amazing.  YOU, Denise, are amazing!  I wish I could give you a hug.  I hope this makes you smile.

Tu Amiga,

m.