5 Ways to Give More Love This Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is often turned into something commercial, but at its heart, Valentine’s Day is about sharing as much love as you can. So, here is a list of five ways you can give more love this Valentine’s Day:

  1. Attend a V-Day show. V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Their shows, put on all over the world this month include “The Vagina Monologues” and “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer” by Eve Ensler. You can find shows near you using their handing V-Spot locator. The shows make great dates, and fun self-love gifts.
  2. When you give your loved ones gifts from Heifer International for Valentine’s day, not only do you get the “aww” factor of looking at the cute faces of cows, sheep, and chicks, but you also get to help end world poverty and hunger. You get to give a gift to someone you know and someone you have never met.  Now that’s a lot of love.
  3. Send someone you love and e-card from Scarleteen this year and you share more than just your feelings. Scarleteen provides young people essential information on sexuality, love and sexual health. A gift to Scarleteen means you are helping young people make better choices about who to love and how to share that love. Plus, you might learn a tip or two for your own love life.
  4. If you want to really share the love this Valentine’s day, then One Family Honduras should be your Valentine. One Family Honduras helps one family at a time in Gracias,  Honduras to get access to excellent education.  You donation helps adorable kids like Karla, Ada, Sergio, and Stefani gain knowledge that will change their futures.
  5. Want a gift that keeps on giving and gives back? Well then Kiva is your way to give more this Valentine’s day. Give your loved ones $25 Kiva cards and they can choose how to share that love with people around the world. When the loan is repaid, you can give it to someone else. Talk about a chain of love!

If you still want more ways to share your love check out our Spare Change page. We all have wisdom and love to share, so go ahead…

 MAKE YOUR LOVE GLOBAL

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When You’re Not Looking

By: Jenni Taylor

Every so often I put on my headphones, jump on a crowded bus, and head a few miles away to tutor a young girl in English. They live in one of the hundreds of thousands of high rises bursting out of the concrete on every street corner, reaching up through the pollution to find the rare sunlight filtering through the smog. I know the route well- walk, bus, walk, elevator, do my job, and repeat steps to go home.

This time the parents were heading out to see the opera, and the young girl was left with her grandparents as babysitters. The old gentleman’s eyes met mine as I greeted him in Chinese, unsure of their background. He responded in English, and proceeded to offer me slippers in clear, slow, and intensely polite English. Though surprised at his perfect accent, I briefly thanked him and turned my focus to the girl for the next hour. I was here for a job, after all.

As we ended, the grandparents came back into the room to see me off and begin cooking dinner for the girl. The man gently stopped me again to chat.I had no interest. I wanted to go home. It was cold and while the bus ride was short, it was always crowded and uncomfortable.

The silliest part of all of it was that I had planned on going home to continue reading a book on recent Chinese history, a book that was changing my perception of China on every page. Each chapter made me feel like I knew less and less, and made me more eager to learn.

The older gentlemen spoke slowly and softly. He asked me where I was from. “Chicago, ah, I have been there twice,” he said. “The Sears Tower, the highest building. The cold wind from the lake biting into your skin.” It wasn’t what I had expected to hear. He went on to tell me that he used to work for a foreign service radio in Beijing in the 1970s, and was an English teacher for several years at a well-known Chinese university. The conversation didn’t last long, but nevertheless I felt humbled.

I had closed my eyes to the world around me and had almost tuned out this poetic, experienced grandfather who simply wanted to chat with me. I had become hardened after failed attempts at friendships with the Chinese and had decided to learn everything from books rather than people. I had stopped looking for relationships, and had almost missed one right in front of me.

It’s a small, insignificant story, but it reminded me to keep my eyes open at all times. With the new year just beginning, it is such a small step to resolve to look for the good in others, to be open to wonder, to go slowly and see what there is to see under the more obvious layers.

My very simple resolution is to stay awake. I’m ready to find something beautiful.

Beginning My Life as a Christian Writer

Today’s post comes from Emily Hornburg, a Chicago native who moved down to small town Missouri to work as a youth minister. Her post talks about how she began writing about her spiritualty, and how she began to see writing, even creating, in a new way. You can read more of her writing on her website, Love Woke Me Up This Morning, or  follow her on Twitter @LoveWokeMeUp 

When I was in high school, I gathered up the guts to show a friend of mine my writing. (Who in fact, is one of the founders of this site.) I hate showing people my writing because I never know how it’s going to go over. Receiving criticism from a stranger is much better than from a friend whom you see every single day.

She handed it back to me and said she liked it. However… whenever I talked about faith it was stiff.

It was fake.

Forced.

It just wasn’t good.

I knew this about my story long before I showed it to her. It was a truth I didn’t want to face. But wasn’t that what I was supposed to do? I was a good Christian girl and I was given the gift for writing. Therefore, I had to talk about God and Jesus in my stories!

Then my friend told me something, which has stuck with me ever since… and it’s nearly ten years later. I don’ t have to mention God in my writing for people to see where my heart is. Who I am and what I stand for and believe will shine through without having to mention the name or word “God.” That was a new beginning for me.

From then on, I’ve noticed this in all that I create. Whether it’s writing a story or a blog post, singing a song, or performing a role on stage. Because here’s the thing:  creating in itself is an innately holy act.

The very first words of the Bible are that “God created.” The beginnings of our world came to be because God was creative. He made something. He made it beautiful and honest and true.

Which is really what creating is about. It’s about being true and sharing the story.  Even if it’s just our side. It’s about reflecting who we are, and by reflecting who we are we are also showing who God is. Because he is the one who created us and gave us these minds with those ideas and these hands with those skills and that voice with that heart.

Creating, by simply being itself, is the beginning of something holy.

Loose Thread: Thankful Thoughts

Hamilton Wright Mabie once said,

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

No matter what you are celebrating at this time of year, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are, as always, grateful for all of you. We are also thankful for hugs, for hot chocolate, and for the love being shared around the world.

We invite you to share something you are thankful for with the community of Searching Sophia’s Pockets.

What’s your thankful thought?

Everyone Loves Hot Chocolate

By: Jenni Taylor

It was my first Christmas away from my family. I was used to White Christmases, or at least cold ones, coating the windows with frost on the south side of Chicago. Now, I was in the depths of the jungle in a tiny city of Peru.

I was visiting my friend, Deysi, for our usual lunch together.

“What are you doing for Christmas?” I asked. Her eyes lit up.

“I’m throwing a Chocolatada,” she said. She went into the other room and came back with an enormous box full of toy airplanes, barbies, and plastic whistles. “I’ve been saving up for it all year.”

She went on to explain that those who had the means would throw a Chocolatada in their neighborhood- a party with toys, bread rolls, and yes, hot chocolate galore. It was made for children who might otherwise not have a Christmas.

When the day came, Deysi was at her best. The pot of hot chocolate was big enough for a bathtub, and had bits of cinnimon sticks poking out of the thick, hot liquid. She placed a sparkly pink sign outside her door reading “Jesus te Ama”, Jesus Loves You, and a Santa Clause pinata. The toys she had shown me were already wrapped and ready, sitting in large piles all over the kitchen table.

The Chocolatada was set for 3pm. Kids began to arrive at noon.

“Tia Deysi, is it ready? Is it ready?” They would ask, smashing their faces through the grate on the door. “Not yet, not yet, have some patience!” She would reply.

It couldn’t come soon enough. When things were finally ready, children and their mothers sat on the few wooden seats placed outside, or stood in the shade out of the hot sun. A small radio with speakers began to blast Christmas carols.

We began to hand out the Styrofoam cups of hot chocolate, bread rolls, and toys. Soon boys were zooming around the dirt road with toy airplanes in hand, and girls were setting up games with their new dolls. The Santa Clause pinata came down in an explosion of glitter and small candies. The children had magic in their eyes.

It was only hot chocolate, really. But it was enough to change the world for these children, even if only for a day. Soon each child had wandered off back home, and the chocolate pot was empty and smelling of cinnamon.

“Worth every penny,” Deysi said. “Here, have the last cup.”Photo by Jenni Taylor

Loose Thread: Thankful Thoughts

Charles M. Schulz once said,

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

For our part, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are, as always, grateful for all of you. And for food, and chocolate, and of course, wisdom, love …and lint.

We invite you to share something you are thankful for with the community of Searching Sophia’s Pockets.

What’s your thankful thought?

Turkeyless Thanksgiving

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This year there will be no turkey on my Thanksgiving table, and not just because I don’t eat meat, or because I am thousands of miles from the United States of America.  This year, both in preparation for the coming advent season and to honor and raise awareness for those who go hungry everyday, I will be fasting for Thanksgiving.  

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As someone who was raised Catholic, I have been aware of the power of fasting since childhood. When we remove the metaphorical and literal filler of food, we can become aware of other ways to fill ourselves. To mark this year’s U.S. Thanksgiving, which comes to close the the start of advent, and which has already been embroiled in controversy about worker’s rights, with an absence of food seems the only right course for me.  I will have time to think about the meaning of gratitude, of gifts, of wealth, in light of both the upcoming advent season and the existence of massive worldwide poverty and hunger.

Given the confluence of Advent and American Thanksgiving this year, I have to wonder, how would Jesus celebrate Thanksgiving?  It is hard for me to imagine the Jesus I know, the Jesus of the poor, the outcast and the overlooked, sitting at a table overflowing with food in a nice warm house discussing how early he will be getting up to stand in like for the best black Friday discounts.  I imagine Jesus might be at a soup kitchen, or might hang out on the street corner with those who don’t have houses or dinners.  Jesus might be so shocked by the gluttonous feast, he might spend the day in the temple praying.

I don’t really know how Jesus would celebrate Thanksgiving, but I can do my best to follow his example. Maybe next year I’ll be out on a street corner, but this year it feels right to pray for wisdom, for change, for love.

There will be no turkey on my table this Thanksgiving, no mashed potatoes, no green bean casserole. I will sit, at my table, an ocean away from Black Friday plans and pumpkin pie, and pray for the wisdom to celebrate all my blessings the way Jesus might. So, no matter how, or if, you celebrate Thanksgiving, I’ll be praying for you.

Heifer International and My Brother’s Gifts

Today’s post from Jenn Schultz Simmons, who works as a pastor at  a church in Springfield, Mo. Jenn gives us a personal look at Heifer International  and how her family chose to keep their loved one’s spirit of giving alive. Her poignant words remind all of us that our lives create ripples of change, and that our generosity lives on long after we are gone. 

My mother walked up the stairs and said, “Heifer, I want to invite our family and friends to give animals in Sean’s memory.” When my brother died very suddenly at at 27 after suffering a head injury and severe trauma we searched for the best way to invite our family and friends to celebrate his life.  Years ago he put the heart donation sticker on his drivers license.  He wanted to be an organ donor. So, when we had to decide how we wanted to honor and celebrate the life of my brother, giving flocks of chicks, ducks, rabbits, and cows was a perfect fit.

Jenn and her brother Sean

Jenn and her brother Sean

Over the years, I have had the privilege to see the work of Heifer International first hand.  In Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to meet families that received pigs, trees, plants, and chickens from Heifer International.  The pig farmer, a mother of three kids,  was so proud of her pig and the way she had changed the lives of those living in their village.  Her children had the opportunity to go school all because of a pig. After receiving lessons about how to care for their pig, they were asked to teach others in their community.  I met their pig as she was about to give birth to the next generation of pigs and impact a whole new family.

While serving at Webster Groves Christian Church, I had the honor of getting to take youth and adults to the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, AR.  Everyday we signed up for new classes and chores.  Some of us learned about bees, others milked goats, while some cut down trees.  One night we stayed in the global village representing many different countries and situations.  There was a refugee camp, an urban setting, and various economic experiences in numerous countries.  Some youth had to sleep on the hard floor while others had a bed.  Each youth was given some resources and then had to decide how to share their resources for the night so that they could eat.  The overall experience at the Ranch gave the youth and adults hands on experience to begin to understand how animals really can change the lives of people and impact communities.

When I first saw the work of Heifer, I asked my family members to buy me chickens for the holidays.  At first my brother thought it was silly to ask for a flock of chicks for people in another country (I mean how do you put that in a Christmas box?), but over time, and with many stories of the difference those chickens made in people’s lives, he began to love it.  Now over the years, we have given flocks of chicks, ducks, and trees as Christmas gifts in our family.

We decided to ask our friends and family to celebrate Sean’s life by giving to Heifer. We realized giving animals through Heifer to families all over the world so that others might have new life was another way to honor my brother’s decision to give new life to others via organ donation.  Now, in celebration of my brother, chickens, pigs,  and heifers will impact new families and communities all over the world.

Loose Thread: Thankful Thoughts

Melody Beattie once said,

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

For our part, we here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets are, as always, grateful for all of you. And for chaos, and order, and the great creative visions of today and tomorrow.  And for this past month of creativity and for the creation of feast to come.

So once a week, we invite you to share something you are thankful for with the community of Searching Sophia’s Pockets.

What’s your thankful thought for the week?

Wanting Wise Words….

This photo was taken by Priscilla Hope. Click the photo to see more of her work.

This photo was taken by Priscilla Hope. Click the photo to see more of her work.

Dear Friends and Readers,

Welcome to October. This month we look at the wisdom, love …and lint found in the world of creativity. So we want to hear how creativity has been a part of your spiritual journey. Whether it is through photography, poetry or even procreation, we want you to tell us about it.

You can send your submissions to SophiasPockets@gmail.com.

The world is filled with infinite examples of divine creativity and we can’t wait to explore this theme with all of you.

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team