How to Evaluate Retailers & Shop Responsibly – A New Series

I have to admit to you this was the first thing I wanted to know when I found out how many people were being exploited by my lifestyle. I wanted someone to tell me, in no uncertain terms, how to spot slavery where I shop.

Can you relate?

“Just tell me what not to buy already!” (Having the willpower to walk away is another story entirely.)


You and I need resources so we can make wise choices with our purchasing power. I went looking for those resources and found there are very few places where the information was clear, concise, would translate from one person’s preference to another, and included the places where I shopped.

The waters around this topic are murky in some places and crystal clear in others. There are no easy answers but there are some guidelines we can all apply.

Starting this Monday I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you. I am! I hope you’ll engage in the conversation, share your questions and concerns, and invite your friends to learn too.

There is grace here.

We are all at varying stages in this journey. We’re going to make mistakes. I’m looking forward to how we grow together.

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I’m so glad you’re here.

What do you hope to learn from this series of posts? Have you tried to investigate corporate responsibility? What have you found?

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook  and Twitter.

How to Evaluate

How Many Slaves Sustain Your Lifestyle?

How many slaves work for you?

Was that awkward? Give that question a try the next time you take a friend to coffee and see what happens. Don’t blame me if they never say yes to your coffee invitation again. Not. My Fault.

How many slaves work for you?Here’s the deal. We learned about slavery in elementary school. We all understand it is wrong to own people, force them to work, and keep them from choosing a life of their own no matter how nice the accommodations may be. We understand this because we wouldn’t want it for ourselves. We also know it’s wrong to support slavery. Not one of us would knowingly choose to purchase goods from a slave owner, am I right?

And here in-lies the problem. Our lifestyle in the western, modern, fast-everything, cheaper-by-the-dozen world has an ugly secret. Our lifestyles are built on the backs of slave labor. It is sad and true.

When I first started this journey I both wanted and didn’t want to know how my purchasing habits impacted the demand for slave labor. It was easier to believe that my intention to do good was enough. But good intentions won’t make people free, action will.

The number of people being exploited by our lifestyles is directly tied to our purchasing habits. Where you shop, what you purchase, and how much of it you buy all send messages to retailers about the demand within the marketplace. And just as it has with organic, non-gmo, gluten free and natural products, when we begin to send the message that we want fair products manufacturers will respond. They are responding.

So, back to my question. How many slaves work for you? Do you know? Are you willing to find out?

I would like to introduce you to Slavery Footprint, a website designed to help you estimate the number of slaves required to sustain your lifestyle and help you take action to make slavery a thing of the past.

It’s super simple to use. To get a fairly accurate picture you’ll need up to 30 minutes. They will ask you questions about your family, your home, the food you eat, the electronics you own and more. When you’re done they will tell you how many people are forced to work for you.

39 people are slaves because of how our family lives. 39, I’m heartbroken by that number. The goal in our family is to reduce that number to 0 by purchasing responsibly and supporting organizations fighting against slavery.

How many slaves work for you?2In the coming weeks I’ll be giving you a crash course on how to read a corporate statement of responsibility and determine which retailers are doing the most good. As you head into the holiday shopping season you will be armed with the knowledge you need to choose fairer gifts.

This week’s challenge:

1. Take up to 30 minutes to fill out the survey at

2. Share the site with others to raise awareness.

3. Spend time thinking and praying about how you will respond to the epidemic of slave labor.

4. Invite a friend to learn about corporate responsibility. We will need many voices if change is going to happen.

Have I told you lately how glad I am to have you here! Thank you for reading. You all are the very best! I’d love to connect with you on Facebook  and Twitter.

Another great read on this from Jamie The Very Worst Missionary.

One Day with Not For Sale: When Women Reinvent their Lives

Not For Sale3There are moments in our lives when we know we will never be the same. Weddings. Births. Funerals. Graduations. Last Wednesday felt like one of those days for me. I am certain I will always look back on that day at Not For Sale as a day when everything changed. And the day wasn’t about me at all.

When my friend Heidi asked if I would be interested in accompanying her as she coached some young women I was both nervous and excited. I have dreamed of walking with women as they take steps toward a new and courageous life but had basically given up on the idea. When the invitation came I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way. Where normally I would allow my children to be an excuse for not getting involved, this time I unreservedly made calls and plans to have friends watch them for the. whole. day.

We arrived at Not For Sale, a rustic-urban mix of web-cafe and freedom fighting awesomeness, with just enough time for some brief staff introductions before getting to work coaching seven of the most courageous women I have ever met.

In a small conference room these young women, ages 18-24, were on the final day of their journey through the month long Reinvent program offered through Not For Sale. Reinvent gives at-risk youth and victims of exploitation an opportunity to gain life skills, job readiness training, coaching and relevant work experience to move forward into a life of stability and freedom. On this final day I was there to observe and assist in coaching them through what it will take to sustain the changes they are making.

Not For Sale1We started our time with an exercise about identity. Not one of these women seemed aware that their identity was theirs to mold, remake and live out. For years they had been handed their worth by family members, peers and those who would disparage them. I watched as these women gave up identifiers like sexy, worthless, thick and unhealthy to embrace identities like mom, courageous, successful and blessing. To see the hope they have for themselves, their families and their future was a powerful experience.

Seven women came to Not For Sale believing people, be it corporate America, charitable organizations or those from the ‘right side of the tracks,’ didn’t really care. Those same women left knowing they are capable, valued and worthy not because we have said so but because they believe it to be true.

The most powerful part of our time together came as the women shared what the Reinvent program meant to them and where they would be working after graduation.

“I have been in other programs. This is the first time I felt like someone cared about what I wanted and about me. I want to tell the other girls they need to do this too.”

“I had never heard of a CEO or met the president of anything. I didn’t even know corporate America cared about girls like us.”

Not For Sale2“I can be a model for my daughter now.”

“I never gave up hope or anything like that but I’m only 18. I wanted out but I didn’t know how. Being here has helped me learn about the resources I have.”

“Sure, tell people my story. I’ll be the biggest success story you’ve ever had.”

I’m overwhelmed even writing about it. These women are my heroes. The courage it took to step into an unknown place, filled with strangers and entrust their future to a new program is remarkable. They have such strength. I cannot wait to tell you how their stories unfold.

And for me. Being at Not For Sale that day was like stepping out from behind my screen into an adventure. One where I get to be the hands and feet of the One who calls us all His very own. I’m telling you I left that day feeling so privileged to watch as lives were restored to freedom. I have no words to express the gratitude I feel for having been there.

What now? I have two thoughts to leave with you.

1. Give. Money. Not For Sale and it’s programs rely on financial support from generous donors. The team at NFS is creative, inventive and entrepreneurial in their approach to find ways to stop trafficking at its roots. You can be part of the solution by donating to their work. It’s that simple. Consider giving one day’s wage to support the Reinvent program and it’s goal to provide relevant work for those at-risk.

2. Tell people they matter. In one way or another each one of those women told us they believed they were a commodity and could be nothing more because no one ever told them differently. You may never know the power your positive voice can have.

To the child at school who is running wild, to the little boy who is so angry, to the girl with tattered clothes, to the one who will not make eye contact, to the ones you cannot understand, to those you wish would just be different – speak a message of their infinite worth. Tell them of their value.

You might be the only one who ever does.

Follow Not For Sale on Facebook and Twitter.

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5 Questions to Get You Started Fighting for Freedom

This is the last in a series of posts about Essentials for the 21st Century Abolitionist. So far we’ve learned about new perspective and messages, finding friends who share your passion and keeping hope alive. Today we’re talking about how get started fighting for freedom.

To be an abolitionist you’re going to need a starting place. Good news, it’s easier than you think.

You’ve read the books, seen the news, subscribed to Facebook pages so you’ll be in the know. You believe freedom is for everyone. So now what? Now that you have all this knowledge and the truth about trafficking is searing a hole in your heart, where do you go from here?

First, I need to prepare you, this answer isn’t the adventurous quest you imagined while reading about girls in a brothel or people trapped in a brick factory. It doesn’t include traveling to another country or even out of your hometown. Maybe someday you will experience all you imagined but it isn’t where you start. The best place to begin is right where you are, with what you already know and love.

Location doesn’t make you an advocate for freedom, your heart does. 

startfighting5 Questions to Get You Started Fighting For Freedom

1. What do you already love to do? Go grab a pen and some paper, I’ll wait. Okay. Now, think about your life. Write down what you already enjoy doing. You have a routine, a hobby, a career, a sports team, a place of worship, a passion. Write it down. Try for a 10 item list.

2. How can you take freedom into the life you already love? What doors are already open in the places you listed? If there were no limits what might you try? Be creative. Write it out.

Need an idea?

Does your place of work allow days off for community service? How can you use that time to advocate for freedom?

Do your kids play sports? Could their team be the one that plays for justice? How?

Drink coffee? Try a fairer cup.

How could your art/business/exercise send a message for freedom?

3. What one way can you be an advocate this week? Start small. Shop at a thrift store. Wear the artisan necklace you bought. Draw a line in the sand about the chocolate you’ll eat. Choose one thing this week. Get started.

4. In what ways are you already an advocate for freedom? How can you build on them? A wise friend taught me: Success breeds success. If you’ve already started on this path what can you do next? No step is too small.

5. Who can you tell? Here’s the thing, when we talk about slavery without knowing how to be part of the solution, no one wins. You have become part of the solution and that, dear reader, is a message of hope. A powerful message people need to hear.

The more I write about freedom the more people I find who want to be part of the solution. When you tell others you stand for freedom you become a catalyst for others to join the party and make a difference.

By speaking your commitment to freedom you become accountable to your words. Your spoken conviction breeds action. Speak up.

WARNING: If you decide to advocate for freedom opposition will come.

There is an enemy. He is committed to people living shackled, lie-driven, broken lives. When you advocate for freedom you will experience push-back. It may come as inconvenience, illness, depression, embarrassment, or something else entirely. My advice, move forward no matter how slowly. The. End.

I’m taking a step for freedom this week.
A friend invited me to visit Not For Sale to attend (and help with) a seminar to equip trafficking survivors in taking their next steps into a life of freedom. Before I could go I needed to find childcare, coordinate rides and ask for help (not my strong suit). Plans were all worked out three days in advance and then I discovered I’d made them for the. wrong. day.


I had a choice, give up or press on. Text messages flew. People were called. Plans were changed. Tomorrow I get a front row seat to watch some of the bravest people in the world take their lives back. I would move mountains to be there.

How about you? What’s your one thing this week? Where will you starting fighting for freedom? Please tell me. I really do want to know.

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45 (Easy & Not so Easy) Ways to Give Hope

We had just been at the park playing. We were hot and tired and it probably would have been a better idea to head home, but we needed groceries.

One kid in the cart, the other by my side, we scanned the aisles for the few items on our list. My tired clan eyed the granola bars and requested one each for the ride home. A savvy mom, I knew $1.50 for snacks in the car would be money well spent.

Urging the kids to wait for their snacks until we could pay for our groceries, I hurried us to the checkout line. It seemed everyone else in the store had the same idea. Every station was open, each one with a line.

Our turn came. Groceries were scanned. I pulled out my wallet to pay for our meager haul only to find my debit card was gone. I’d left it on the desk after making purchases on-line earlier in the day.

“Would you like me to hold them for you?” the clerk offered. “You can come back.”

Judging from the state of my children I knew a return trip to the grocery store would be their  undoing and probably mine as well. We would not be returning that night.

Embarrassment set in as I apologized profusely while attempting to soothe my now wailing children. Truth be told I could have cried too. Instead, I put on my happy-mom face, explained that it was very disappointing that we couldn’t have our treats but that we would get more soon. Their cries only grew as we hurried to the car and I began buckling them in.

“Come back inside,” the man behind us in line had found us in the parking lot. “Come back inside. I’ll pay for your groceries and you can send me a check later.”

I can’t even remember how I said yes. I only know I did. And before I could unbuckle the little ones and get back to the store he emerged with our bag and said simply, “I remember how it was having kids that small. Take them home and enjoy your family.”

He wouldn’t give me a way to send reimbursement and I had nothing to offer except, “Thank You.”

He didn’t just pay for our groceries that evening, he gave us hope. Hope that even in our busy world people still take time to encourage exhausted mothers. Hope that today may have been a bust but tomorrow we can start fresh. Hope that we are not alone no matter how alone we feel.

Friends. This world needs more hope. We have enough pain, judgment, reality, pessimism, truth-telling, self-righteousness, bitterness, brokenness, anger, hatred, and strife. We do not need more pain. We need more hope. And hope can start with you.

45 Ways

45 (Easy & Not so Easy) Ways to Give Hope

  • Pay for someone else’s groceries.
  • Visit a sick friend in the hospital.
  • Take a meal to a grieving family.
  • Help your neighbors with their home improvement project.
  • Make eye contact with the homeless man.
  • Help make people free.
  • Give a warm drink and conversation to the woman shivering outside your coffee shop.
  • Say ‘Hi’ when you’re out exercising.
  • Invite people over for dinner.
  • Keep finger puppets in your purse, just because.
  • Share positive messages.
  • Adopt a child.
  • Become an advocate for children in need.
  • Give clean water.
  • Skip out on your schedule to spend time as a family.
  • Ask your neighbor if they need anything when you head to the grocery store.
  • Send mail, the kind the mailman delivers.
  • Attend a sporting event for your friend’s kids.
  • Work for a non-profit.
  • Hold the door open.
  • Let someone go ahead of you.
  • Take a friend to coffee.
  • Fund a micro loan.
  • Ask “How are you?” and mean it.
  • Say “I could be wrong.”
  • Listen without thinking about your response.
  • Do not interrupt.
  • Give hugs. Good ones.
  • Adopt a grandparent.
  • Reach out to touch people.
  • Smile at someone.
  • Be an encourager.
  • Leave an outrageous tip.
  • Open a Fair Trade shop.
  • Commit to spreading only hope for one month through your social media pages.
  • Make time for a good conversation.
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and treat them as you’d want to be treated.
  • Bring treats to the next meeting, for no reason at all.
  • Have dessert first.
  • Dance when people are watching.
  • Hold hands.
  • Give to help families stay together.
  • Once a year use your business to bless your community.
  • Admit your short comings.
  • Say “I love you.”

And so many more. What would you add? Let your imagination run wild with this one.

give hopeThe world needs more hope. Give it away like it grows in your pocket. 

When have you found hope through someone else’s kindness? What other ways can you think of to spread hope?

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How to Engage the Broken World Without Losing Hope

Some seasons of life seem so much more heartbreaking than others. This summer has been that way for me. From the chaos happening around the world to tragedy striking close to home my heart is aching. There’s so much hurt, at times it’s all I can see.

HopeThis week I’ve found myself wondering what keeps me going. How do I continue to hold on to hope that it will get better, we can make a difference, and this life will not have been for nothing? How do we engage the broken world without losing hope?

This is where I’ve landed:

1. Trust God and His faithfulness.

Hope hides. For Abraham and Sarah it hid in her womb until well after hope was lost.  For Joseph it hid beyond the betrayal, the cistern, the slave traders, the wrong accusations and imprisonment. With Rahab hope hid in a brothel. With David it hid after battling the giant, running for his life, losing his best friend to war and becoming a murderous adulterer. With Elijah hope hid in a palm sized rain cloud. In Bethlehem Hope hid in a manger. Outside the boat it hid on the waves of the water where only one would dare to walk.  And at the cross Hope hid for three days in a tomb. Hope hides.

And God is faithful even when we cannot find hope. Trust Him. Always.

2. Be an agent of hope.

Happy endings may hide for a time but hope can start with you. To keep yourself from losing hope give it away like it grows in your pocket. Seek to love not hate. Replace anger with gratitude. Listen longer than feels comfortable. Speak truth marinated in love. Seek reconciliation not retribution. Go to the hurting and hurt with them, divide sorrows. Find the joyful and rejoice with them, multiply joys.

And when you find you’ve no hope left to give, you just might find others waiting in the wings offering hope to you.

When all seems lost and the world is spinning itself into an ugly mess let it stop with you. Be an agent of hope.

Give hope away like the future depends on it. Trust God always.

What ways have you found to keep from losing hope? Really, I want to know. Share with me in the comments here or on Facebook.

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