Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Better Boo - Third Edition

I post a variation of this post every year and watching this information spread, seeing my friends DO something about it, has been one of the most amazing blessings of my life. Truly.

Confession: I used to buy the big bag of Halloween candy as soon as it shows up in the grocery store and hide it from my family. I pretended that I was hiding it for Halloween... but then I'd sneak a piece every once in a while a few times a day and long before Halloween arrived, I'd have to buy another bag.

And, of course, I had to buy the "good candy." None of that cheapo chocolate for us. I insisted upon buying the bag that had Twix, Kit Kats, and Reece cups. Oh and then the other bag because it has Almond Joys in it.  Because, you know, I really care about the children in my neighborhood and I wanted to be remembered as a house that had good candy. Plus... see above paragraph.

And then a few years ago, I was shocked to learn that the vast majority of American chocolate was farmed by children.  In slavery or close-to-slavery conditions. I thought to myself, "The companies must not know!"

I'm naive sometimes.

Turns out, the major chocolate companies here in America are fully aware that the farms where they buy their cocoa use child slave labor. They were told back in 2001. And they've done very little about it, other than to rally together to prevent legislation that would have required a label to tell consumers which chocolate was produced without slave labor (you can read more about this here). A few, including Nestle and Mars, signed something saying they'll work towards total eradication of child slave labor by 2008. That was SEVEN years ago and it's still happening. I think Mars at least has signed a new one with the new goal of 2020. And Nestle plans to buy 150,000 metric tons of sustainably produced cocoa by 2017. While that's great, the global harvest is 5 million metric tons... so this is a drop in the bucket of overall harvested cocoa. Supposedly there are some fair trade Kit Kats out there right now somewhere... I need to go check! Let me know if you have seen one!
Photo from The Dark Side of Chocolate

Our children's Halloween chocolate comes at the expense of another child.  This is happening y'all. 

This is happening so that we can dress our kids up in fun costumes and eat yummy chocolate.

This is happening because we just really love Kit Kats (and I really do love them - I get it.)

This is happening because our chocolate companies are continuing to use forced child labor.

It's happening because we are letting it happen.

Americans buy more chocolate for Halloween than we do for Christmas and Valentine's Day. Over 90 million pounds of chocolate. 90 million pounds of chocolate, mostly harvested by children who are beaten and starved, not allowed to go to school. Whose still-growing bodies are suffering because of the hard physical labor forced upon them before their little bodies can handle it. Many who were stolen from their communities and trafficked. All this for my chocolate fix. All this for "trick or treat!"

I want to blame the chocolate companies. Okay, I do blame the chocolate companies. But you know what? They sell chocolate because someone is buying chocolate.  If we refused to buy it, the companies would be in a pickle, wouldn't they? 

What if we supported fair-trade companies? What if this year for Halloween, we gave out responsibly-sourced chocolates? I don't know about you, but I would feel a million times better about Halloween candy if  I knew families were choosing not to give out chocolate that was produced by child slave-labor. As much as I love chocolate, it just no longer tastes good to me when I know that children the same age as my kids had to farm it in horrific conditions. That takes the sweet right out of my beloved Almond Joy.

And I've told my kids. Not all the gory details, but I want them to know. Riley loves Twix (since we only buy fair-trade, he's had just a few when he's gotten them at school!). I don't blame him. But when I told him about how Twix are made, he was pretty upset.  And he and I have searched the internet to find our own Twix recipe so we can make our own using fair-trade chocolate. He's happy we can do something to rectify the situation (and still have our sweet treat, of course).

Want to join us and do something about it this Halloween? Oh, good - I knew you would! :)

Here are some ideas:

Order your Halloween chocolate this year from Equal Exchange. I've gotten their chocolate minis to hand out and have ordered baking chocolate from them. They have fabulous stuff! And there's usually some kind of free shipping or coupon closer to Halloween. I'll update if I hear about it.

Go Chocolate Free. Be part of the Teal Pumpkin Project this year. Find something else to hand out: stickers, pencils, tattoos. And put a teal pumpkin by your front door to indicate that you are handing out something other than food (SUCH a treat for kids with food allergies).

So now you know... and you can DO something. Be the change. Let's teach our children about chocolate and let them help us decide what we want to do differently this year.  I've seen this happen in my family and my friends' families as this information spreads.

We can have a Halloween that wasn't produced by child slavery.

Good news! We don't have to give up chocolate! You just need a list of slave-free chocolate companies. And I aim to please:

Friday, September 18, 2015


Deep breath. I've been trying to get up the courage to post this.

Okay, folks. I need to tell y'all something.

I'm healthy. And I don't look like this:

Funny buy not-funny: I googled "healthy woman midriff" and this was the first image that came up.

I am pretty sure I'm healthy. I exercise regularly. I finally managed to get in an eight mile run this week (although if you are friends with me on FB, you know it didn't quite go how I planned). The physical health benefits are nice, but I honestly exercise for my mental health. I finally found the thing that helps me fight depression, feel good about myself, and spend time doing something I enjoy that's just for me.

And I think I eat pretty healthily too. We eat real foods most of the time. But I eat chocolate when I want to need to. And I drink wine with my friends. I don't count calories or even know how much I weigh. I'm not saying those things are bad. But I know myself and I know that, right now, I don't need any extra pressure or standards to try to measure up to. I get enough of that from external sources without doing it to myself.

So I'm healthy. And here's why: I'm taking care of myself: physically and emotionally. I think I'm beautiful. Not physically - I still find myself fighting the battle against our society's standards of beauty. But I love my heart. I fell in love with Jesus and am doing my darndest to be more like him and I know my inner beauty comes from God. Life has given me so many opportunities to act like a beautiful person. I am so thankful for the times I've actually followed through. And more thankful for grace for the times I haven't. When I look around me, I realize my friends are amazing. They push and challenge me when I need it and help me pick up the pieces when I need that too, all while living their own beautiful lives... I figure if they want to be friends with me, there must be something to that, right?

So maybe today your Facebook or Instagram has a "motivational" picture of some perfect abs (along with beautifully styled hair & makeup).  Here's my contribution. This isn't a BEFORE picture. It's not an AFTER either. It's just ME.  No makeup. Hair how it decided to be this morning. This is what healthy looks like. This is a body that's almost 37 (eek!). This is a body that can run. This is a body that eats well, runs around with kids, grocery shops, volunteers in the community. See the stretch marks? This body birthed two babies, one with an epidural, one without any pain meds; both good choices. See those arms? They carried a frightened, sick toddler out of an orphanage in Ethiopia. See the wrinkles? Laugh lines from laughing with friends over glasses of wine. Or maybe a little from caring about politics and frowning at the internet. The bags under my eyes? Oh man, I stressed over that part of this picture almost more than anything else. I just don't get enough sleep, I guess. Right now, motherhood is winning over pretty eyes. Messy hair? I got to snuggle with my husband for a few moments before the kids woke up this morning instead of jumping up and taking a shower. And, you know... hair. Maya Angelou said it's our glory. I'm not always sure.

Social media gives us the chance to put forward only our "best selves" or sometimes our "imagined best selves." It's pretty easy to create a perfect persona. I'm guilty of it too. We all do it.  So here's some REAL for today. I didn't even know how to take a selfie in a mirror - this was an almost impossible task (what's the secret, folks?). And I had to clean the mirror first- see the cleaner bottle in the corner? I kept that in there for y'all. Oh and the scar on my belly-button from that great decision to pierce it when I was 18... lovely.We make such good choices as teenagers, don't we? Keepin' it real, mamas.

So be YOU today. Do something that makes you happy. Love that body of yours - I know it has done great things. Find the opportunity today to be a beautiful person AND find grace for the opportunities you've missed. Beauty has lots of shapes and sizes. But mostly, it's about the shape of our hearts. We've got this.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I didn't want to write about gay marriage anymore

I kinda thought I wasn't going to write about gay marriage anymore. I thought, naively, that once the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal, we were done.

But I was wrong.

Today, a clerk in Kentucky is refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She's saying it's a religious freedom issue, she's saying she's refusing on "God's authority."

I no longer believe same-sex relationships are a sin. I can no longer say with confidence that the Bible is clear in condemning gay marriage. But I know and respect lots of folks who disagree. I'm not asking anyone to change his or her mind. This has nothing to do with that.

But I do wish we could agree on this: We need to choose people over theology. We need to choose actions that display the love of Christ, that bring people closer to him. God is in charge of the judgment part. We can trust that he'll be fair - he can see our hearts, our true intentions, all the things that others can't see. Jesus didn't come and die on the cross so that we could take God's place as the Decider of What's Right. Part of the problem when Adam & Eve chose that infamous apple was that mankind no longer trusted God, saying instead, "we want to decide for ourselves the difference between Good and Evil!"

The clerk in Kentucky does not need to believe that same-sex marriage is okay. I would tell her she can absolutely hold that conviction. She can hold it near and dear to her heart. But I would also tell her that she's free. She's free from having to decide what others should do. She's free from having to worry about whether she participated in someone's sin. She can make sure that everyone is treated fairly under the law, even if she holds a different belief. She holds an elected office in our government - her job is to uphold the law of the land. She can even do so in a way that glorifies Christ, with grace and humility.

As Christians, we have a unique opportunity to bless all those who come across our paths. God is gracious. He is the God of second chances, he loves us. Nowhere does he say "change first, then come follow me." As a Christian, I can listen to others, I can support them, I can tell them "God is FOR you." And I can even tell my friends when they are doing something unhealthy, harmful, or destructive... but I must first to earn the right to speak that way to them. We can't just do it willy-nilly to folks if we aren't actively involved in their lives, actively loving them.

Think about it this way: good things won't bear bad fruit, right? And we've seen that the strategy of refusal, the strategy of keeping people out, of declaring that we have to "stand on the Bible" or "stand on the side of God," has pushed people away from Jesus. I know of zero stories of people deciding that they want to know more about Jesus when his followers have pushed them away, called them an "abomination," and refused to acknowledge (or denied access to) their civil rights. The Kentucky clerk believes she's doing the right thing. I know she does. But as a follower of Jesus, I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated that the nation is seeing her actions, that the nation is seeing that following Jesus means pushing people out, that it means a religious conviction is more important that a person. Her job isn't to define marriage or even approve of it.  If she knows and loves a gay couple and she wants to be involved in their life together and earn the right to tell them what she believes the Bible says about their relationship, I respect that much more.

Christians, we are free from judgment and free from being the Judge. God sees our insides. He sees our hearts. If you believe that he would condemn a same-sex marriage, yet you provide a marriage license for a couple because your job is to uphold the law, he's not going to smite you. He never placed us here to be the Moral Police. He never told us to force others to believe as we do or to follow the same creeds. We get to be free from that. And imagine if we engaged with gay people. If we invited them to dinner, got to know them as individuals, brought them chicken soup when they were sick or a margarita to celebrate a job promotion? What if we laid this "issue" aside and made it about people, about humans, about souls? That couple in Kentucky wants to be married... those are two people, two precious souls. Two men who love one another, who want to commit to spending a lifetime together. I remember my excitement going downtown to get my marriage license with my husband. I remember the giddiness, the love, the respect I had for the institution of marriage and how excited I was to make such a strong commitment to the person I loved.  And it breaks my heart that this couple's experience has been so tainted.

God loves people. I know he does. I believe he loves people more than he loves rules. I believe he'll judge us fairly. I trust him that way. Let's trust in that too and not let our differences divide us.