We are in the fourth month of adoption paperwork, trying very hard to get everything wrapped up. Since we have never done anything like this before it’s been one lesson after another. Most of it has gone smoothly but one of the most frustrating parts so far has been getting documents notarized and apostilled. You’ve probably heard of a notary before– someone who verifies a signature. But I had never heard of an apostille before beginning the adoption process. What is it? An “apostille” is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. Basically it’s another layer of paperwork.

Apostille

We have sent documents to the Secretary of State’s office in Iowa, South Carolina and North Carolina in order for them to be apostilled. But as we were wrapping up our paperwork we had about 30 documents that needed an apostille so we decided to stop at the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office on our way through the capitol last week. I figured this was just another hoop to jump through, another waiting room to sit in. But I did not expect more than half of our documents to get thrown out. In order to save someone else a headache, here are three things to look out for when you’re having your adoption paperwork notarized:

1. SIGNATURES: One of our reference letters was not approved because it had been notarized, but not actually signed! Oops! The purpose of a notary is to verify a signature, so I guess I can see how this would not be approved.

2. MIDDLE INITIALS: All of our medical documents were thrown out because the notary at our doctor’s office did not sign her name with her middle initial. Given the fact that our medical documents were the most difficult to complete this was extremely disheartening. Because her notary application included her middle initial, she should have used her middle initial in her signature. I was very mad at the letter H that day, but we’ve since made up.

3. DATES: It seems perfectly rational to me that someone may type up a letter and not have it notarized until a later date, hence making the dates on the letter and the notarization not match. But in the eyes of the Secretary of State’s office this is a BIG no-no. So to save yourself a whole lot of headache, I’d just advise keeping dates off your letters. Because the silly thing is, dates aren’t required, but if you do happen to include them and they don’t match you’ll be in big trouble!

I’m sure there are many other ways to mess up a document you need apostilled, but these are the three areas that gave us hang ups. So now we have to go back to all of the people that created these, have the documents redone, signed and notarized again, so we can return to the Secretary of State and try to have our apostille process completed once again. Yay! Let’s hope we don’t get stuck in any more red tape for a while.

 

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Yes, you heard it right! I want to egg your house this Easter weekend! My new friend Blythe came up with this awesome adoption fundraiser and she is fully booked! So she suggested I take the reins to earn some funds for our Burundi adoption!

Egg My YardHere’s how it works:

1. Email me at alison@alisonstorm.com and I’ll shoot you a short questionnaire to get info about where you live, how well you’d like your eggs hidden and what night you’d prefer your eggs to appear! You can also let me know if candy is ok or if you’d like your eggs stuffed with sugar-free alternatives like stickers etc.!

2. Make your payment via PayPal for the number of eggs you’d like: $25 for 25, $45 for 50 or $80 for 100.

3. The Easter bunny will make a special delivery at your home and you’ll be supporting our international adoption! https://www.gofundme.com/AdoptBurundi

Adoption AnnouncementTHANK YOU for letting us make your Easter egg-stra special!!

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  • Karen Mace - 25 Eggs

  • Sarah - Egg my house please! I have a 5 year old who would be overjoyed if the Easter bunny came by! What a fantastic fundraising idea and for a great cause!

  • Jessica Dobson - I live in apartment complex so didi t know if this would be able to be done?

  • Lauren Gilbert - I would like to do this for my daughter if it is not too late. Please contact me with details. Thanks!

Dec 15 CoverIn the magazine world, typically it’s the January issue that’s full of fitness tips and low calorie recipes, but the Belle team decided to shake things up this year! We’re helping you stay healthy over the holidays. Local fitness trainer Holly Di Giovine gave me some amazing tips for cramming a decent workout into as little as ten minutes. You will not want to miss Holly’s four favorite time-crunched mini workouts!

And did you know that one serving of egg nog can pack as much as 400 calories and 20 grams of fat? Santa may be able to pull off the little round belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly, but I know it’s not the look I want to go for this holiday season! Before you become a Grinch and start skipping Christmas parties in an effort to reduce your calorie consumption, read my article to learn the six foods that should end up on your naughty list.

I also interviewed Leslie Nease for the December Girl Talk column. Leslie’s life is one adventure after another. The latest chapter in her life has been opening up a gym in Travelers Rest. You’ll want to check out the Belle Magazine Facebook page for a chance to win a free one-month membership to HUB Fitness. Then you’ll have no excuse not to stay healthy over the holidays!

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Someone once said that it is impossible to feel grateful and depressed at the same moment. Every day we make a choice about whether we want to be thankful for what we have or dissatisfied with what we may think is missing from our lives. November offers such a great reminder of the importance of gratefulness when Thanksgiving comes around. So I developed the #ThankfulBelle challenge and I’d love for you to join in!

ThankfulBelle

Take the 10-day challenge to help you not only identify blessings, but to celebrate them! Start this challenge at any time but be sure to add the #ThankfulBelle hashtag to your posts and pictures so we can join in your journey of thankfulness.

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HIS Radio’s annual Sharathon fundraiser is going on this week. It’s the time of year when we raise our operational budget. And since we’re asking people to support the ministry of HIS Radio I thought I would explain why I support HIS Radio. We always talk about how people turn on the radio and hear the perfect song at the perfect time. For me, sometimes that is Jamie Grace’s “Do Life Big”, when ISharathon day 2need a boost of energy to keep doing what God has called me to do. Sometimes that’s Building 429′s “Where I Belong” because this world seems so crazy and I feel like I don’t fit in. But a few months ago one of the songs we play on HIS Radio jumped out of the radio and into my life.

Sammy RainMy family was eating dinner and suddenly my son, 2 years old at the time, started singing Matt Maher’s song “Because He Lives.” My husband and I looked at each other. “Did you teach him that?” I asked. “No, did you?” my husband responded. We both got tears in our eyes as little Sammy belted out those words, “Amen! Amen! I’m alive, I’m alive because He lives!” Of course, alive sounds more like “a-libe” but we knew what he was singing. And we knew where he learned it– HIS Radio.

Here’s the thing you may not know. My amazing son has severe speech delays. I waited two years to hear “mommy” and even longer for an “I love you.” Despite two sessions a week with a wonderful speech therapist and a seemingly unending effort to get him to say words his peers were saying long ago, most things just didn’t seem to stick. So when he began to belt out the lyrics to a song he only knew because he’s exposed to HIS Radio for hours each day, my heart nearly exploded.

I went deeper and I looked up the lyrics to the rest of the song. And what I realized was that God just may be using that song to do more than teach my son. I think He was using it to speak encouragement to me. One verse says:

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life my future in His hands

When my son was born three years ago doctors gave us a whole list of things that weren’t quite right. I didn’t know what to expect, how he would develop, what was in store. The last three years have been a constant lesson in trust and giving God control. But how amazing is it that God was able to use my son, despite how limited his communication can be, to tell me that He holds my life, and my son’s life, our future, in His hands? So if you support HIS Radio, thank you! Thank you for being a part of the reason the Word of God is already impressed into the heart of my sweet Sammy.

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Kelly McCorkle Parkison has never been one to back down from a challenge. In 2002 she won the Miss South Carolina title, placing in theGirl Talk Kelly Parkisontop 15 at the Miss America pageant. In 2005 she competed on The Amazing Race, a reality show adventure that took her around the world. And now while serving as a pastor’s wife and mom to five children, including one adopted last year from India, she’s finding time to write a book  and launch a non-profit called LOFT 218 to help orphans and human trafficking victims. Learn all about this amazing lady in the October issue of Belle in our Girl Talk column!

I also had the opportunity to spend a weekend in the Triangle of North Carolina for my piece on Durham. The big takeaway from that weekend getaway article is that you cannot visit Durham without stopping at Loaf and buying me– I mean you– the twice-baked almond croissant.  It’s a little, flaky piece of heaven on earth.

And since the October issue is all about women who are making a difference, I also profiled local ladies who are doing just that. Processed with VSCOcam with s3 presetFrom rescuing slaves to fostering children, local women are changing the world by loving others. These super heroes are committed to making the world a better place for generations to come. And keep an eye on the Belle Magazine Facebook page because on October 19 we’ll be launching a giveaway featuring ethically made goodies from a new women-owned local company called Given.

 

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A year ago today I showed up to the HIS Radio studio for my first day on the job! And my very first story was about how the Pumpkin Spice Latte was returning to Starbucks. I think I took that as a sign that I was right where I was supposed to be, even if I felt like they had hired the wrong girl. The last year has been so full of highlights I couldn’t possibly list them all, but here are a few: I’ve sung with For King and Country (albeit the Daniel Tiger theme song, but still!). I’ve worshipped in Central Park with Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin. I’ve prayed with strangers. I’ve mailed potatoes and thank you notes. I’ve pranked Toby Mac and said “black buns” on air. I’ve made snow cones and banana/mayo sandwiches. I’ve eaten jelly beans with Kirk Cameron. I’ve made fun of Jim Mann’s large head. A lot.His Morning Crew Graphic

But it’s also been full of personal growth and strengthened faith.

People get used to familiar voices and I learned pretty quickly that not everyone was a fan of hearing me during their morning routine. (Shocker, I know!) Criticism can be tough and I’m not going to lie– it shook my confidence. No one wants to be judged and it takes a lot of courage to reveal your true self to anyone, let alone thousands of people listening to you on the radio. Don Miller said, “Is there anything more toxic than the fear of being judged? Judgement shuts us down and makes us hide. It keeps us from being ourselves.” That’s exactly what I had to work through.

And just like Don, I decided that being myself is more valuable than having to take the occasional blow from a judgmental person. Maybe it’s my willingness to sound dorky, or be passionate about something that isn’t cool, or cry, or be wrong that got me this opportunity in the first place. After all, I have to believe that there are people far more talented with far less annoying voices and more Bible verses memorized that could be doing a way better job at this than me. But I said yes to God. I was (and am) willing to step outside my comfort zone on a daily basis because when I am feeling uncomfortable or weak or nervous I talk to God a whole lot more.

It’s been a big adjustment for my family and my husband has truly helped me thrive because of his willingness to take over the morning routine at home. And he’s never once complained about my geriatric bedtime. I’m grateful for the opportunity to encourage others through heartfelt stories and lots of laughter and I look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries at HIS Radio!

 

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A bacon bubble blower? Butt covers? Doggie nail polish? This is no tall tail, er, tale. These unique pet products are actually sitting on store shelves and people are panting to buy them. According to CBS News, pet spending is creeping close to $60 billion, reaching an all-time high of $58.5 billion in 2014. Pets are becoming increasingly important members of the family and that means owners are willing to spend more money on feeding, sheltering, clothing, grooming, boarding, training, entertaining and caring for their four-legged friends. Read my full article in the August issue of Belle!

August 2015You can also catch my article on pet fostering and this month’s Girl Talk which features Spartanburg author Wendy Duke. Wendy has an incredible story about how she became a mother. You’ll love her new book Grace in the Middle!

Grace in the Middle

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Is there a food you don’t like? For my sister, it’s fish. For my mom, mushrooms are on the naughty list. And my husband has it out for cherries. For me, it was watermelon. Well, really any melon for that matter. It was the reason I always felt scammed by fruit salad, which turns out to be 75-percent melon in most restaurants. They fill the bowl with honeydew and cantaloupe, then top it with a strawberry and maybe a miniature blueberry or two. To me this was proof that melon was cheap filler, not worth much. But I just discovered that I was wrong.

watermelon

For years I watched other people wipe juice off their faces while holding those pretty pink wedges on a hot summer day. Watermelon sure looked tasty. But at some point in my childhood I must have had a bad slice because I determined that I hated it. I clung to that opinion for years, decades actually. Until recently. I decided to set labels aside and give watermelon a try. It was glorious. And within moments of inhaling that beautiful, juicy slice of summer I realized the label I had put on myself years ago of being a watermelon-hater was no longer accurate. How long ago had a outgrown this disgust for melon? How many summers did I let slip through time without experiencing the joy of a chin covered in watermelon juice? How many other labels was I wrongly clinging to just because the younger Alison formed an opinion?

I realized I don’t want to be pigeonholed into not being good at something or not trying a food simply because that’s how I felt ten or 20 years ago. Things change, tastes change, interests change. I now plan to revisit other things I once determined to not be my thing: Zumba, raisins and cop dramas. And even my husband is discovering new things about himself. Turns out cherries aren’t the devil.

Image credit

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When Kent and Amber Brantly moved their family to Liberia to serve with Samaritan’s Purse they knew they might not make it home. As young 30-somethings they drafted wills and wrote letters to their family members in the event that something happened. And while they were prepared to die for their faith as Philippias 1:21 says, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain, they weren’t expecting to be cast in the middle of the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

One year ago today Kent Brantly was quarantined in a Liberian hospital, waiting for the test results that would reveal whether his symptoms were from something common like miliaria, or something devastating like Ebola. And on July 26, 2014 results confirmed the worst. Kent had Ebola.

I remember watching the video of Kent, like millions of us did, covered head to toe in a thick white suit as he made his way back to the US for treatment. Kent describes Ebola as “a painful, disheartening, dehumanizing disease. I had to have someone else change my diaper.” By God’s grace his wife and children were not in Liberia at the time. They were in Texas for Amber’s brother’s wedding. Although, Amber says she wishes she could have been by her husband’s side during this battle.

Brantly in suit

I asked Kent if he feels survivor’s guilt. “More than survivor’s guilt I feel a sense of survivor responsibility,” he says. “I’m alive today, many others aren’t, 11,260 others aren’t. I have a responsibility to use my life in a way that is meaningful and helpful. Part of that is to continue to raise awareness that West Africa needs help of the rest of the international community.”

I feel some of that same responsibility having been to Liberia myself. My husband and I traveled there in 2011 with Water of Life. We fell in love with the people and often think about the villages we visited and the well we saw drilled. Liberia was only just rebuilding after a 14-year civil war destroyed nearly everything. Even the elephants left.

Liberia West Africa

The World Health Organization says only a few dozen doctors serve in Liberia. “There is so much need there for education, for electricity and clean drinking water, for health care, for so many things that help society function,” says Kent. Amber says, “And that’s why we were there in the first place. Now to add Ebola on top if it they are just devastated.”

Watch my full interview with Kent and Amber Brantly here:

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August 1, 2001 should have been my last day on earth.  You see, my very best friend was born 12 days before me and if all was equal in this world I should have died 12 days after she did. But I didn’t die on August 1, 2001. Nearly 14 years have gone by since she passed, and while I’ve grieved the loss of my best friend over all these years, Jess has also propelled me to take more chances, to hold less tightly on to material things, to choose happiness. From a very young age I’ve understood the brevity of life in a very real way. Jesus healed my heart from needless worry and fear of the unknown. I don’t have time for pointless grudges, boring novels or long commutes. So far I’ve been given 5,035 more days than she did. I may never know why, but I feel like I owe it to her to make each one count for something.

Jess and I celebrated 17 birthdays together. We exchanged Barbies and Beanie Babies. We ate pizza and cake and snow cones. Lots of snow cones. Her favorite flavor was Tigers Blood. So to celebrate my 36th birthday I decided to live out a childhood dream and give away free snow cones. Actually these are better than my childhood version (sorry Rainbow Snow!) It’s shaved ice, light, fluffy and amazing.

Bday Snow Cones 2

Jamie and Sean founded The Nomadik Few and they are two amazing young guys who are living out Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. This may look like a food stand, but they’re using it to share their faith with anyone they encounter.

Bday Snow Cones 1

They were worried that there wouldn’t be very many customers the day I showed up to sling ice. So Sean prayed for God to send customers and He definitely did! I made shaved ice doused in flavors like blueberry, red velvet cake and bubblegum for people of all ages including this sweet family! They even sang me happy birthday!

Bday Snow cones 3

In all I bought $61.50 worth of treats for perfect strangers and I honestly can’t imagine a better way to spend my birthday cash. I know Jess would have loved it.

Bday Snow Cones 4

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  • Juana Mikels - I know you had a happy birthday as you chose to serve others on your birthday. The love of Christ in you Alison is inspiring. I am off to follow your selfless example by God’s grace in whatever way He shows me today!

Ever day at HIS Radio we pray for people who have submitted requests at HISRadio.com or called our prayer line. A couple of weeks ago I selected the prayer for our 6:30am prayer time and we prayed for the woman. Later that day I got an email from her saying that she heard us praying on air for her. “You truly can’t do life alone and sometimes unfortunately HIS Radio is all I have,” she wrote. “I knelt on my knees in my closet and just cried because then and there I did not feel so alone and defeated.”

His-Radio-Google-PLUS (2)To some people HIS Radio may be uplifting music, or morning traffic reports or a funny morning team. But to others it’s everything– it’s Christian community, it’s encouragement through the valleys, it’s God speaking into their lives.

HIS Radio teeThis edition of Operation Good Tee is a little different. I’m wearing a HIS Radio t-shirt today, but it’s not one you can purchase. However, you can support HIS Radio by calling 1-800-447-7234 or by visiting HISRadio.com. We’re in the middle of our spring FriendRaiser. Since we’re a listener supported radio station we rely on listeners to keep the ministry alive. While we have about 431,000 listeners every day, just 3% of those people keep us on the air with their generous gifts. So if you want to be a part of a ministry that is reaching people for Christ and encouraging other believers on their walk with God, please consider supporting HIS Radio!

FriendRaiser Call Now SquareHave a tee you’d like me to wear? Contact me with the info!

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In the last decade, Iraqis have experienced ten times more heart defects at birth compared to world averages. But Iraq’s once great medical infrastructure can’t serve these children, due to decades of war and internal battles. This has left an entire generation of children who desperately need surgery waiting for care. That’s where the Preemptive Love Coalition comes in. According to their website, they created the Remedy Mission - a pediatric cardiac training program that brings international heart surgery teams into Iraq to train locals and save children.

Iraq Baby

While heart surgery is incredibly expensive in the US, it’s much more affordable in Iraq. That means for as little as $650 you can save a child’s life by sponsoring a heart surgery. Another way you can help is by purchasing a tee from their online store. I’m wearing the “Love First, Ask Questions Later Tee”, which you can buy for just $25. Acclaimed designer Dana Tanamachi created the design.

March 11 tee

Governor Rick Perry happened to be in the building doing an interview on a talk radio show, but the HIS Morning Crew snagged a picture with him in the lobby. Who knows, he could be our next president so it would be pretty cool to have a picture with him!

Rick Perry

Have a tee you’d like me to wear? Contact me with the info!

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St. Patrick’s Day is more than a week away, but I’ve already been going green. My boys and I went to Greenville’s Irish celebration yesterday and Sammy loved it! He loves to dance and does his own Irish jig. I guess those dance moves are just part of his DNA.

Green Irish Fest

I also wore a cute green dress to the Fashion With a Passion event, a fundraiser for Safe Harbor. It just so happened that my friend Kimberly Kelly was hosting the event and wearing the exact same color!

Green Fashion

We had the band Rend Collective in the HIS Radio studio on Thursday. They’re from Northern Ireland, the same county as my husband. We had fun with them and even gave them their very first McDonald’s green Shamrock Shake.green shamrock shakesAnd I went “green” in a different way for the March issue of Belle. Check out my article on eco-friendly makeup.

March 2015 Cover

It was pretty eye-opening for me when I learned about all the cancer-causing chemicals that some makeup contains. So I’m excited to incorporate more organic and natural brands into my beauty routine.

Green makeupHow are you going green this month?

 

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There are ways to help some of the world’s 143 million orphans, ways to make a difference that don’t require much at all. We can all make a difference for an orphan through The Sparrow Project, an amazing organization started by an ordinary person who followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to help orphans. For my latest installment of Operation Good Tee I want to tell you about how a simple tee shirt can make a big difference!

Feb 25 The Sparrow ProjectEvery purchase made through the Just ONE Campaign supports P143, an orphan exchange program. One hundred percent of the proceeds, including the adorable $10 tee I’m wearing today, goes to helping orphans and families that participate in the program.

Keep in mind that these super soft tees are a flattering feminine cut, but do run a little small. I’m wearing a large. The shirts are also 100% cotton. I paired it with some gold necklaces and a comfy gray cardigan from Anthro for the HIS Radio morning show today. It’s a great outfit for dancing like a tea cup poodle!

Have a tee you’d like me to wear? Contact me with the info!
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I’m really excited about this Operation Good Tee. On the surface, Krochet Kids Intl. simply looks like a really cool clothing and accessory company. Every item they make is hand-signed by the person who made it. You can then visit KrochetKids.org and learn more about the artistan whose hands touched your shirt or stocking cap. Isn’t my LOVE Africa Tee cool?

Feb 11 Krochet KidsBut dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Krochet Kids Intl. is actually a non-profit. Having that status means they’re able to focus more researches into program initiatives that serve those in need. Today, over 150 people in Uganda and Peru are working, receiving education, and being mentored toward a brighter future. KKi works with highly vulnerable women who live in poverty stricken regions of the world. And the part I love best– their model is the love of Christ.

Feb 11 tee closeThe LOVE Africa tee comes in many styles and colors. Prices start at $25.95. I wore this tee this morning on the HIS Radio morning show.

 

Have a tee you’d like me to wear? Contact me with the info!

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I’m not going to lie. Watching monster trucks crush cars and pop wheelies is not my idea of a thrilling Friday night. But I have a two year old who is extremely passionate about all things cars. And watching him get excited about things and experience life for the first time is thrilling for me. He was not so enthused about having to wear protective head gear.

Monster Truck

But he did look pretty cute in them! If you end up going to Monster Jam I’d advise bringing your own ear plugs. They sell the cute child-size ear muffs for $20 and basic ear plugs are $2. Once the show started Sammy was pumped. His whole body tensed up and he was scared at times.

Monster trucks

We did not stay very long because the show started after Sammy’s typical bed time and we were a little worried about his ears even though he did have the protective head gear on. I think it still made a strong impression on him. He has not stopped saying “monster trucks”. Now I’m off to do something a little more exciting for me– getting a massage. Have a great weekend!

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T-shirts rock. Especially when they promote a really cool organization like Lemonade International. In an effort to shine the light on some incredible organizations and businesses that are changing the world I recently launched Operation Good Tee. Every other Wednesday during the HIS Radio morning show I’ll wear a special t-shirt from a really cool charity or movement and tell you a little bit about that group here on my blog and on my social media accounts. Today I want to tell you about Lemonade International.

Jan 21 Lemonade

I first heard about this cool non-profit from Bethany Tran, who owns The Root Collective. The Root Collective makes adorable shoes and sells them in order to promote change through dignified jobs. Bethany also donates a portion of profits to charity partners including Lemonade International.

The Root CollectiveLemonade International offers several ways to change lives in the largest urban slum in Guatemala including:

Sponsor a Scholar: Our Scholars Program enables students in 7th grade and above to continue their education by attending a private school in Guatemala City. You can make this possible, by committing to a monthly donation of $100 or you can share the sponsorship of the scholar with another family or individual by committing to a donation of $50 a month.

Sponsor a ScholarSponsor a Teacher: The teachers sacrifice each day in an effort to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness that grips the La Limonada community. Sponsoring a teacher is an incredible way to build a meaningful relationship with them through your support, encouragement and prayers as they invest their lives in the children of La Limonada.

I wore my Lemonade International tee today on the HIS Radio morning show. This interview with Tammy Trent was one of the highlights!

Tammy Trent Dishes About Bestie’s Star Studded Wedding from HIS Radio on Vimeo.

I urge you to check them out and consider linking arms with this great group of people working for change!

Have a tee you’d like me to wear? Just send me the info!

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Last week we kicked off a two-week no-spend challenge in my house. It’s a pretty simple concept. For two weeks you don’t spend any money. Instead you get creative with recipes using what’s been sitting in your pantry for a while. You seek out free entertainment. And you cross the stuff off your to-do list that you normally don’t have time to do because you’re out running errands. Seriously though, one of the major benefits of the no-spend challenge is more time to do things other than run to the grocery store, mall or TJ Maxx.

3 lifesavers

We are halfway done with the challenge and honestly I feel like we could tag on another week. We still have plenty of food and we’ve discovered ways to make it easier. Here are three things that have made this challenge painless:

1. Free Coffee at Starbucks

starbucks tumbler

I gave my hubby this tumbler for Christmas. For $30 it came with free coffee during the entire month of January. I also had $10 in free Starbucks from using the coupon app Ibotta. And on top of that I have a free earned reward just waiting to be cashed in.

2. CVS ECBs

dayquil

My plan was to use my $12.50 in Extra Care Bucks at CVS for milk and possibly bread. However my husband got the flu. So last night I picked up a two-pack of DayQuil/NyQuil which was on sale for $13.99. I still had to pay $2.18 even after using up all my ECBs. I’ll have to buy some milk, but the point is I’m not spending any money on non-essentials.

3. Memberships

sammy at childrens museum

We have spent a lot more time at the gym in the last week. My husband works out in the morning and I usually go in the afternoon. We also have a membership at the Children’s Museum which is a great source of free entertainment. Sammy’s favorite spot is this car at the bank teller station.

It’s amazing how little you can spend if you really put some effort into it!

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Christian artist Matthew West is known for incredible songs like “Hello, My Name Is” and “Do Something.” When I started researching Matthew for his upcoming visit to HIS Radio I quickly realized that Matthew isn’t a typical singer. He doesn’t just find inspiration in his own life. He knows there are thousands of amazing stories out there waiting to be told so he asks people to tell him their stories. Then he handpicks some of the most amazing ones and writes songs about them.Matthew West at his radio

We play his song “Do Something” all the time on HIS Radio and I love it. I love it even more now that I know it was inspired by a 20-something named Andrea. She was a typical American college student until a trip to Uganda put her face to face with a rundown, corrupt orphanage. Instead of going back to her cushy American life Andrea stayed in Uganda to do something about it. Despite death threats and being ill-equipped for the challenge, she was determined to make a difference. Now she and her African husband Haril run Musana, a children’s home that cares for nearly 100 little ones.

I emailed Andrea and asked if she’d help me surprise Matthew during his interview and she excitedly said yes! We pulled her and her husband up on Skype and Matthew said it was the best morning he’s had in a long time. Watch it here:

HIS Morning Crew Shocks Matthew West from HIS Radio on Vimeo.

Matthew West tells Andrea’s story at concerts and in interviews. He says her story has created a ripple effect, with other people doing amazing things to serve others. It just shows that we can all do something.

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In an effort to shine the light on some incredible organizations and businesses that are changing the world I’m kicking off something I call Operation Good Tee. On Wednesday during the HIS Radio morning show I’ll wear a special t-shirt from a really cool charity or movement and tell you a little bit about that group here on my blog and on my social media accounts. I’m starting off Operation Good Tee with Rice Bowls, a charity spin-off from Spartanburg-based company Bridgewater Candles.

Jan 7 Rice Bowl tee

According to their website, Rice Bowls turns pocket change into food for orphaned children around the world. By filling up these cute little plastic rice bowls with nickels, dimes and quarters you can help Christian orphanages rescue, love, educate, and feed children at the same time. (Ordering a rice bowl is completely free!)

Jan 7 Rice Bowl

Also, if you want a cute tee like mine they are available in the Rice Bowls store for $22. And every t-shirt provides 40 nutritious meals for orphans around the world.

RB-logo-front-largeI wore the tee this morning during the HIS Radio morning show. Check out this fun interview we did with Kuka Juice!

Juicing to Get Healthy for the New Year from HIS Radio on Vimeo.

Have a tee you’d like me to wear? Contact me with the info!

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Happy New Year Friends!

happy new yearHave you ever picked a word to serve as your focus for an entire year? My friend Brittney pointed me to myoneword.org. A North Carolina pastor encourages people to choose one word to focus on, rather than a list of resolutions. I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve decided my word for 2015 is PROMPT. Why did I choose PROMPT?

PROMPT shows commitment.

As an adjective PROMPT means “done, performed, delivered, etc., at once or without delay” as in a prompt reply. When you drag your feet when it comes to something God has called you to do you are not showing a commitment to Him.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. Ecclesiastes 5:4

17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

PROMPT encourages action.

As a noun PROMPT means “to move or induce to action.” In 2014 I had the opportunity to see firsthand God’s work in India through Water of Life and Set Free Alliance. My goal is to share those experiences as much as possible in hopes of prompting others to get involved. It’s not about me, it’s about encouraging people to do what God has called them to do.

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24

So what’s your word for 2015?

Image Credit

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Do you make resolutions or goals at the beginning of every new year? I do. But 2014 proved that God’s plans are way bigger than my own. I was busy thinking about how much more water I was going to drink and all the money I was going to save, but God was working on pushing me to my limits, throwing open doors to opportunities and blessing me beyond comprehension. So much happened this year that I could tell you about a million little moments (including the time that I sat next to Kirk Cameron in the backseat of an SUV while he sang the theme song to Growing Pains), but I’ll just focus on these four.

1. Trembling at the bottom of an Indian slate mine.

IMG_4267The primitive wooden ladder that I clung to had 12 rungs. It was rickety, but that wasn’t why I was shaking. My heart raced. Deep breaths and a fake smile were the only things holding back my tears. Fifteen months ago I didn’t believe that child slavery could possibly be real and now I was watching it with my own eyes. Dusty little faces stared at me with giddy smiles. And I smiled back at them.

IMG_4286

I was like one of those politicians I’d been assigned to follow around during election season, always chuckling, waving and grinning. But for some reason my trek to their hole in the ground was making these kids happy and although it went against every fiber in my heartbroken body, I smiled. I looked into their eyes. I touched their tiny hands, buttery smooth from slate dust. A few minutes later I climbed out of that pit. Word of our presence had made it to the mine owner and we weren’t safe. I tried hard to burn those little faces into my memory. It’s still nearly impossible for me to talk about that moment without crying. That’s because those kids are still there. While I’m taking my son to the park, wishing away time on the elliptical machine or indulging in a $5 latte, those kids are still at the bottom of that pit. The only thing I know to do that makes that reality a little easier to swallow is to tell as many people about it as possible. Set Free Alliance has helped pull hundreds of kids out of those holes, giving them safety, love and an education. They’re helping to create an army of Christ followers that I believe will change the future of India.

2. My last conversation with my grandmother.

Birthday Girl

My grandmother prayed for me every single day of my life. She told me that a couple of years ago and I’ve thought about it a lot. I don’t even pray for myself every day. When my grandmother’s health took a downward turn I flew back to my hometown for a few short days. I sat next to her at her dialysis appointment. We made a batch of homemade laundry detergent. And with the help of one of my best friends Melissa, we recorded my grandmother. Although I knew she probably wouldn’t be on earth much longer, I didn’t realize that my last conversation with her would be just a few months later. She had been unconscious for hours so my dad propped his phone up to ear so I could say goodbye. Prepared for an emotional moment I started telling her how much I loved her, when suddenly I heard a voice on the other end. “Hello?” My tears turned to laughter and gratitude as my grandmother told me she loved me one last time. I said a quick prayer of thanks for this gift. Many times we don’t get to know when our conversations will be our last, but this time I knew. The conversation wasn’t profound, but it was sweet and full of love. Two days later my grandmother passed away.

3. Sitting in a hospital waiting room.

Sammy hospital

Just a couple of weeks ago my son had surgery. It was a planned event and I spent a lot of time dreading it. I know from experience that I don’t handle medical events well. Let’s just say there tends to be a lot of sobbing. Uncontrollable sobbing. And two days before the surgery when the nurse called me to go over the details there was more uncontrollable sobbing. I had to pass the phone to my husband. So I asked everyone for prayer– my small group, my Facebook friends, my co-workers. And although I could feel the creep of dread as I carried my two year old into the hospital I also felt something else: calm. The 90 minutes spent in the waiting room while he had his surgery was actually very peaceful. And I can only attribute that to the answered prayers of so many. The next time I’m facing something with utter dread I’ll remember the peace I felt that day.

4. A text message about a job.

His Morning Crew GraphicMy son was napping and I was enjoying a couple of minutes of quiet time when my phone chimed. It was a text from Rob Dempsey asking me if I had ever considered working in radio. I had secretly thought that hosting a radio show would be an amazing job, but it was nothing more than a passing wish. Within a couple of weeks I was waking up at 4am to join the HIS Morning Crew each weekday morning on HIS Radio. And while I’d never admit it, my schedule was too much to handle. Although I had accepted the new job, I did not give up any of my other responsibilities as a writer, publicist, wife and mom. Thankfully God knew how to handle the situation, taking away my biggest freelance gig, one that I had held for more than six years. It was a huge surprise, but also a big blessing. I could tell when my editor broke the news to me she was expecting me to be sad or upset, but I could not stop smiling. God knew I would not have let go of that writing job unless it was plucked from me, which is exactly what happened. I have thoroughly enjoyed this new role, one that I never would have predicted when I kicked off 2014. In just a few short months I’ve been a part of some amazing stories and I look forward to many more exciting opportunities in 2015.

What moments, big or small, will you always remember about 2014?

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It’s the last day to enter a fabulous giveaway I curated for HIS Radio! It’s full of companies that are giving back to help the less fortunate around the world. I also threw in a couple of products that will help you and your loved ones keep the Word of God close to your heart. Alison Gifts GRAM I must admit… I would be THRILLED to win all of these amazing gifts:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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