From Tropical Mangos to Sunny Main Streets: How Mango + Main Is Making a Difference

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Photos |  Mango and Main

Recently I discovered a boutique called Mango + Main. (Shoutout to Instagram for taking online shopping to a whole new level.) The idea they promote is that products made by artisans in areas where mangos grow can be sent to the main streets of America.

When I saw that M+M sells only fair-trade products, my interest was peaked. I’m all for this type of work! Not only do the profits received from the purchase of these products go back to the artisans who made them, the products they create and produce are absolutely beautiful. These artisans desire to earn profit to better their communities, support their families, and thwart a life of poverty. You can read more about the artisans from all over the world that make these incredible, handcrafted products here.

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Mango + Main’s business is so much bigger than themselves. Each purchase, no matter how big or small, makes a difference in the artisans’ lives. So while the consumer receives authentically-created, intricately designed products, the artisans are supported in their work. M+M is making a beautiful relationship possible in this way.

I believe it’s worth spreading the word about companies who are doing business like this. Not only do these kinds of businesses give back, they remind us of the importance in doing so in our day-to-day lives and inspire us to remember to serve and put others first. I’ve linked the bags and keychain I have (and love!), plus some of my favorite M+M pieces below. You can click the picture or the caption to read a description of the product, who makes it, and where it comes from. Also, you can use code REBECCALEECURRY10 for 10% off your purchase! Shipping is a $6 flat fee, and purchases over $75 receive free shipping.

 

Tasseled Pouches

Tasseled Pouches, set of 3 | $32

Keychain

Fabric Keychain | $4

Bold Stripe Kitchen & Hand Towels

Bold Stripe Kitchen & Hand Towels | $30

Large Wola Nani Bowl

Large Wola Nani Bowl | available in 3 sizes and 3 patterns | $18

Wola Nani Bowls - set of 3

Wola Nani Bowl, set of 3 | available in 3 patterns | $34

Pillow

Cusco Alpaca Pillow Covers | $62

Leather Leaf Earrings

Leather Leaf Earrings | available in multiple colors | $28

Beaded Cuff - white

Beaded Cuff, white | available also in black and red | $24

Wristlet

Ruffled Wristlet | $36


I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Acts 20:35

 

Hello, College Football: Tim Tebow’s Book, Shaken

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It’s not just that football season is fast approaching. It’s that it’s already here. And I couldn’t be happier! If you’re like me, you’ve busted out fall scented candles, and you’re hunting for all your orange-y pumpkin decor. (This is especially exciting for me this year since I’m decorating my new place!) And during game days, you can hear the roar of lively crowds, the tunes of marching band music, and the commentary of enthusiastic football announcers in my living room because my TV is and will be set on ESPN and SEC Nation.

In honor of college football’s beginning days, I decided to make this week’s blog post one for the boys of fall. A few months ago, I wrote a review of Tim Tebow’s recently published book Shaken for Lifeway’s Women All Access. (To see the original post, click here.) It’s seems fitting to re-post it again, this time, here on my blog. You can read my review below. If you’re looking for a seasonal read, let me encourage you to pick this one up.

Shaken

When your world is shaken, when the plans and dream you’ve created, perhaps even banked on, get obliterated, when the path on which you walk is moving in an unknown and a particularly unwanted direction, what do you do? Better yet, what do you hold on to?
Tim Tebow

I teach high school English, and while I was reading Tim Tebow’s Shaken, I carried the book back and forth with me to school. One of my students spotted Tim’s book on my desk, and he told me his parents got him the book for Christmas. Low and behold, over the next few days several more students commented upon seeing the book. I’d say this goes to show just how far Tim’s audience reaches, and that’s especially the case with this book.

The premise of Shaken is that our ever-changing life circumstances are not what make us who we are; it is our identity that defines us. Sometimes we all need to be reminded and encouraged that the external should not dictate who we are, because money, popularity, and success will come and go in this life. We are and should be identified as a child of God.

My family and I are in no way Gators fans (go Vols!); however, we have been Tim Tebow fans since he played for Florida. I was pretty excited when he announced that he was working on a second book, especially since so much has changed for Tim since his first.

If you’ve kept up with Tim since his college football days, you’ve seen a rollercoaster of a ride. Honestly, Tim’s journey made him the perfect candidate to write this book since he’s experienced both highs and lows in his professional career on a very public platform. His book isn’t one of veiled analogies or vague allusions. He uses the circumstances of his own life as examples of when life doesn’t go as we hope or even when the plans we initially think God devises don’t work out.

Tim starts with the end, so to speak. He opens with his experience being cut from the Patriots, the last team he played for in the NFL. Even if you don’t know a ton about football, you know that for Tim, this was disappointing to say the least. But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to give the play-by-play (pun intended) of his careers. While you may not be able to relate to his job, you likely can relate to his situation in some way. He is open and honest in expressing the questions he asked during these disappointing times which were intermingled with his desire to trust God, even when his own plans failed.

This isn’t just a book about Tim Tebow’s life though; it’s a book about lessons. He tells stories of amazing people who have faced overwhelmingly difficult circumstances with incredibly strong attitudes and faith-based outlooks—and what lessons he’s learned from their stories. Their faith is described as unshaken in the midst of trouble. Chelsie Watts’ faith, for instance, is awe inspiring. Chelsie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer her senior year in high school, but her gift for loving others and following God never wavered. Her story will grab ahold of your heart and encourage you.

Throughout the book, I felt like Tim had just given me a pep talk. He addresses problems you or I might run into in our day-to-day lives. I was giving Tim some silent but enthusiastic fist pumps along the way. I’ll admit to wondering if this was going to be a book with ambiguous pieces of advice, but Tim was upfront early on saying that he didn’t know what my purpose is but that by having our identities founded in God, we are all able to impact others and “become part of a bigger picture.” There we go!

Tim also gives some words of wisdom telling of the importance of having an inner circle, being self-confident but not prideful, standing up for what you believe in, and listening carefully to God. Tim has been subject to a lot of criticism, and he talks about the difficulty and the overcoming involved. He says, “What God knows about us is more important than what people think.” Success is not the endgame; God’s approval is.

Tim uses his story to serve as an example of when plans go awry, and his sense of empathy goes a long way because of it. Shaken explains that by being grounded in God’s truth, we can overcome rejection and unfortunate events. My friends, this is a book of encouragement.

Celebrations of Life: Birthdays

I’ve always thought that having a twin would be really neat. Sharing life experiences and seasons together has always sounded fun, and I probably would have tried swapping places if I’d had a girl twin. Don’t want to go to art class today? Let’s swap, and you can go to science for me.

So I don’t have a twin…exactly. My brother and I are a few years apart, but our birthdays are only separated by four days, so we always celebrate them together. I’m not always one for traditions, but this particular tradition is very special to me. I’m sure that some years we’ve had grander celebrations than others, but the most important thing is that when I think about all my birthdays, Ryan was right there celebrating alongside me.

Growing up, Ryan and I were never really in competition with one another, which is surprising because we share so many of the same interests. Part of this is probably because we are girl-boy siblings, so even when we were doing the same things, they were still different, too. We love music, but we play different instruments – that kind of thing.

We’ve always gotten along well, too, and sometimes when this subject comes up, people suggest that it’s because we’re somewhat far apart in age, but I know better. It’s how our parents raised us. I can’t explain it well, but somehow mom and dad helped make our relationship one of friendship. I’d say their relationship played a huge part in this. We never watched them argue or fight, so I guess Ryan and I just didn’t think that was an option either. There’s much more to how they made this possible, but you’d have to talk to them. To me, it’s magic.

For as similar as Ryan and I are, we are a whole heck of a lot different, too. For example, we share the same sense of humor. Like when we play Apples to Apples, we get aggravated at picking each other’s cards – haha. Ryan’s way funnier than I am, but I like to laugh, so that’s convenient. But Ryan sees the world in black and white while I get captivated by grays sometimes. Good or bad, he makes decisions quickly, and I take my sweet time. He procrastinates (he’ll tell you about that sometime…), but he’s much more laid back than I am. He’s a math wizard, and I read a lot of books. 🙂 Our similarities bring us together and our differences help us balance each other.

Having a brother, specifically my brother, wasn’t something I knew to ask for, but he was something God knew to give me. I admire the person he is and the choices he’s made. I’m thankful he has my back, and he’s always been my best friend. I’m also grateful he married my now sister-in-law who is my other best friend. I tell people that it’s like I have this best friend who happens to be married to my brother. It’s wonderful.

So what does any of this have to do with you? I hope this makes you think about the people in your life who you cherish, who are there for you, and who have been there for you. Don’t take this as siblings are the end-all-be-all. Sometimes relationships don’t turn out the way we’d hoped. And sometimes what we hope for isn’t what we end up wanting anyway. Maybe you desired a loyal best friend or a close sibling or a caring husband. But maybe instead you were gifted a husband, sibling, or best friend. Cherish the people who choose to be loyal, who choose to be close, and who choose to care.

Birthdays are a celebration of life, and they’re a reminder that we’ve been given another year. Who are you celebrating life with? Are you making the most of your time? Are you recognizing gifts God gave you, even when you didn’t ask for them?

And to close, here’s a few pictures for your enjoyment. Haha! 🙂 Happy birthday, Ryan Alan!

 

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What We Can All Learn From the Summer Months

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It seems like only yesterday I was rolling my windows down, listening to Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar,” and getting ready for the summer ahead. Now I’m bidding farewell to my fun, laidback, and relaxing summer months. I went to Kirklands last week and didn’t even make it in the door before being greeted by orange leaves. Fall wreaths hung on the entrance doors, and pumpkins had moved in and taken over the inside of the place. Then last Saturday I stepped outside to head out for a morning run – and bam! Fall weather had seemingly moved in overnight. Now I know there are likely plenty more scorching days ahead of us, but I was just surprised at the drastic drop in temperature (and humidity – thanks TN!) to say the least. I’m definitely ready for SEC football, but I can’t say I’m totally prepared for fall.

The summer months gave me a lot to be grateful for ☀, but I feel for Annie Downs in Looking for Lovely when she writes about having a hard time enjoying the present for knowing it’s going to come to an end. Part of that is because I know my vacation time is up, and around the fourth of July, it seems like I start a mental countdown knowing I’ll turn around twice and school will be starting back. Plus, stores don’t help with their “Back to School!” reminders either.

Clearly I can’t complain because two months off in the summer is about as good as it gets. I’m thankful for all the wonderful, fun, and exciting things I enjoyed this summer. I got some quality family time, and if you know me, you know that’s of the utmost importance. I love both spontaneous visits and planned togetherness with everyone. We went to the beach and the mountains, the two places my heart remains, and the vacations were perfect! And while my friends and I did plan several outings, we also got in the habit of texting each other in the mornings and asking if anyone wanted to go to the farmers’ market, the mall, or breakfast. I read seven books, none of which were school-related, and I just kicked back and enjoyed flipping the pages in the real world while entering into lands of a fictional world. Sitting on my front porch in the mornings became a lovely habit where I drank my coffee as slowly as I wished and read for as long as I decided. I also didn’t miss putting on makeup everyday. 

I say all this to say, how important is it that we enjoy our present? Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves what gives us happiness beyond money, work, and busy-ness. In fact, I’d argue that most of the time, those things can cause us to be our least happy selves. Even with work starting back up, I’d like to continue enjoying these fun things this fall as much as possible, especially leisurely time and togetherness. I’m so grateful for even the smallest of blessings. 

Are you taking time for fun? Hang out with your family. Leave room for unplanned fun time with friends. Sit on your front porch. Make yourself a dessert. Watch a good movie. Find a funny TV show. Leisurely read a beautifully crafted book. Go to the store without gobbing on makeup. And remember to enjoy the present. As my sweet Granny always said, there’s no time like the present.

 

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
Ecclesiastes 3:12

Walking Back to the Right Road: Remembering the First Altar

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Hand-lettering and design by Sincerely Hope Designs | website | Instagram


We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
C. S. Lewis

I grew up in my home church learning a lot about Abraham, singing “Father Abraham had many sons” just like all the other VBS-ers out there. (Ok, acknowledge that you just sang the tune in your head as you read those words.) My church just finished a sermon series on Abraham, and I’ve been reminded of so many truths in his story.

Let’s do a quick recap. God calls Abram (pre name change) at the beginning of Genesis chapter 12, telling Abram to leave his homeland in search of the land God will show him. So Abram takes his family and travels to Moreh at Shechem (v. 6) where God shows Abram the land He will give to his offspring (v. 7). Then Abram pitches “his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord” (v. 8).

Then there was a famine in the land, so Abram sets off to Egypt. When he and his family arrive in Egypt, Abram tells Pharaoh that Sarai (pre name change) is his sister (which is only half true because she was his half sister), so she is “taken into his palace” (v. 15). God sends diseases to Pharaoh and his household, Pharaoh figures out the problem, and he orders Abram to leave: “they sent him on his way” (v. 20).

After this, Abram goes “to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 13:3-4). Sound familiar? Low and behold, Abram ends up right back where he started.

God took the initiative with Abram, just as God takes in initiative with us. But then Abram went his own way, as we are all so often prone to do as well. As has been pointed out per this sermon series, there’s no record of Abram and Sarai praying about the decision to go to Egypt, and there’s no text of God’s speaking to them to tell them to go to Egypt.

This is where we may be able to position ourselves with Abram’s story. Are we headed to our own Egypt, a place where we have not been called? Are we taking matters into our own hands by trying to force a plan that is not of God? Are we putting what we want before God’s will? We are so often tempted because of our lack of patience and selfish desires.

This wouldn’t be the last time Abram would take things into his own hands. Later, there’s a similar situation with longer-lasting effects (ch. 16). God made a promise to Abram that He would make Abram into a great nation and would make his name great (12:2), but Abram and Sarai grew impatient and decided to enact their own plan, just as they did when they went to Egypt. At the urging of Sarai, Abram has a child by Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant. Abram chose to do things his own way, and in doing so, caused much hardship on himself in the days to come. Yet even still, God did not turn His back on Abram; He called Abram back, though telling him this was not of His plan.

Abram should give us hope in that though we may go our own way, God gives the opportunity to return. Abram’s story is not to be used an excuse to wander, but that though if you find you have, it serves as hope in your return. Remember that after Abram wandered to Egypt, he returned to the place it all started, where he built his first altar.

Just like Abram, sometimes we need to return to our first altar.

Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:6

Obedience That Reveals God’s Will

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How often do we pray and ask God specific questions about our lives? Questions like, where should I live? What degree do I pursue? Is now the best time for me to move? Should I take this job offer? Who should I date? The answers to these questions are the ins and outs of our daily lives. They dictate how we will spend much of our time and days. It would make sense then, that we ask God to direct and guide us, waiting for a nudge one way or the other.

However, as I was reminded by a sermon at my church a few weeks ago, before we can discern God’s will for our personal lives (and the answers to questions like these), two other things must be going on. One, we must have a relationship with God through Jesus, and two, we must be actively maturing in our faith. Philippians chapter 3, verse 16 says, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.” As Christians, our role doesn’t stop after asking Jesus to be our Savior. We are to then grow spiritually, but we can’t do that if we aren’t being obedient. 

I know, I know. No one likes this word. Obedient. We associate it with other words like dependence, restraint or constraint. Yet Scripture tells us that obedience is what we are called to (Romans 1:5), that it’s beautifully liberating (2 Corinthians 3:17), and that it’s the path to our reward (Philippians 3:20). Being obedient to God’s commands goes against practically everything our culture tells us, but it’s what we are called to do – always (Deuteronomy 11:1). Jesus tells us in John chapter 14, verse 15 that if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments, and James chapter 2, verses 14-26 elaborates on the importance of growing spiritually.

Our ability to discern God’s will for our personal lives will be hindered, however, if we aren’t being obedient. Romans chapter 12, verse 2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The truth is, whether we like it or not, this verse doesn’t say that even if we’re living in the ways of the world, we’ll still be able to tell God’s will for our lives. If we choose to be more like the world than like Christ, then we, in turn, wander from Christ. This is an implicative conditional sentence, meaning, if one thing happens, then so does another. When this wandering happens, it gets hard to tell which way God wants us to go. Are we doing what He wants or just following our own desires?

But the good news is that the same is true of the opposite. If we choose to be more like Christ, then we are able to know His good, pleasing and perfect will.

This is why it’s so important to not only ask Jesus to be our Savior but to continue to grow in faith, to mature spiritually. The beautiful thing is that when we make the decision to press in wholeheartedly, God will speak to us – and we can trust this truth! Isaiah chapter 30, verse 21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Then in the book of John, Jesus tells us, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me […] My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (10: 14, 27). Sometimes God speaks through the urging of the Holy Spirit and other times in the wise counsel of those we trust. Regardless of how He’ll go about doing it, the point is, He will.

When we grow, ask, and listen, we must be prepared to hear from God. And one more decision awaits: will we obey His answer to us?

If you know you haven’t been obedient, you can ask God to redeem you and then walk in obedience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to be obedient to God’s commands when doing so is hard, be encouraged. Not only are you living how God called you to live, you’re being a light to others when you may not even know it.

Let us live up to (Philippians 3:10) the grace by which we are saved (Ephesians 8:9).

 

 

Why We Should Pay More Attention to Quiet Leaders

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Photo by Alyssa Joy Photography | website | Instagram 

This post first appeared in Grit and Virtue.

Humility is rare. Much of the reason humility is quite so sparse is because it has never really been a value that has been popularized – ever. Today’s society values individualism, materialism, wealth, celebrity, and competition, just to name a few. The idea of being humble flies in the face of most of what our culture tells us to pursue. But God instructs us over and over to be humble.

Interestingly enough, meshing humbleness and leadership together can get pretty tricky. We often look to those in prominent leadership positions to use as guides by which to model ourselves. This is natural because these are the people easiest to see. Take for instance, pacers. In half and full marathons, pacers are the runners carrying long, pencil-thin sticks with a sign attached at the top which reads a particular time, such as 2:30 or 1:45. If you stay with the pacer of the time indicated on his/her sign, you too will arrive at the finish line in that amount of time. Similarly, in life, we expect the same result. This is why choosing our role models is so very important.

The Bible lays out some pretty specific guidelines for leaders, and these guidelines, in turn, provide a clear picture of the person we should choose as our real-life role models. In 1 Peter chapter 5, verse 2, Peter says to “watch over [your flock] not because you have to but because you want to. For this is how God would want it not because you’re being compensated somehow but because you are eager to watch over them.” Peter likely knew that compensation is often fuel for pride, humility’s foil. Compensation can take many forms. Payment may come in the form of money, but it may also come in the form of praise. This is where we must be careful in choosing who we look to as a leader. Is this person seeking praise and adoration? Or is this person leading because their heart is in the right place?

Sometimes the people we can learn from best are not those that are in the most obvious of leadership positions. If you look hard enough, you can find people who lead in silence. You have to intentionally keep an eye out for these folks because they don’t demand attention. These people are quiet, but they are doing a knockout job. Most of the time, these silent leaders go unnoticed, but they should be the ones that we pay most attention to. They’re often just doing their own thing, minding their own business, and focusing on their job. These silent leaders are not interested in compensation, praise, or adoration. Their intentions are true and virtuous.

Remember our pacer? Pacers are marked because of the sticks/signs they carry, but the runner next to them might maintain the pace the entire race just as well. This runner is not as easy to pick out because he/she has no pacing sign, but he/she is just as talented – if not more so – than the pacer.

 Often, silent leaders are humble but have great talent. This humility is a value that God calls us to pursue. These silent leaders have embraced a very difficult command, one that goes very much against how our culture tells us to act. Paul tells the Philippians that if they have any tenderness and compassion (or as the Message translation says, “if you have a heart, if you care”), give him joy by having the same love and being of one mind. Then he says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Not only are we to not be selfish or vain, we are also called to value others about ourselves. It’s easier to strive to humble if you choose a role model that is also.

We must intentionally choose humility to be one of our core values, and we should choose models that practice this value so that we too might do so. The Bible tells us in multiple places that “God opposes the proud but offers grace to the humble.” (See 1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6, or Proverbs 3:34.) Jesus – our most important role model – came as a carpenter, not as a king on a throne. Jesus was the most humble of leaders, and we should always follow His model.

 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Philippians 2:5-7

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