Purchase With Purpose

Purchase With Purpose: Because Christmas!

Dustin and I have a weird relationship with Christmas. A couple of years ago we didn’t celebrate it. Last year we did but we had a few rules. This year I don’t know what we’re doing. I made a list so I guess we’re full on celebrating? Only time will tell on that one. We try real hard, when we can, to purchase with intention. Sometimes Target wins, though. We are only human. I do believe there is such power in how we spend our money and where we do it. So we research and we find new companies and we try. Here’s my new list of companies who are using their influence and the dollar for good. You can check out last year’s list here and here.

MISSION LAZARUS

Mission Lazarus is all about coffee and leather and Honduras. They have a vocational school and an orphanage and agriculture programs, and each purchase helps fund each of these programs and helps Mission Lazarus continue the work they are doing in Honduras. “The Mission Lazarus social enterprise program exists to empower local Hondurans, who would otherwise not have the opportunity, to learn artisan skills and sustainable business development training in efforts to advance their overall education.” Their coffee is real good and their leather is to die for. You can’t lose.

Funny story about Honduras: I was supposed to spend a whole summer in Honduras when I was in college. I got there and didn’t want to anymore for a gazillion reasons. My parents said they would not change my flight or pay for that to happen so I needed to get over it. They also said that if I did somehow get my flight changed to not call them again until I got to Miami. I can play that game. I told a friend in Honduras my predicament, he took me to a doctor who gave me a “diagnosis” that said I had stomach and intestinal issues and if I didn’t get back to America in 48 hours I could die. (WHAT!?) They let me change my flight free of charge. I’m pretty sure my parents were stunned when I did indeed call them from Miami. I love that story. I love Honduras. I love Mission Lazarus.

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MARKET COLORS

Market Colors is a super cool company with really great products. (The scarves, though. And those iPhone covers. I can’t.) Market Colors is working with men and women all over Africa; Uganda, Namibia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi. They partner and collaborate with local craftsmen in each of these countries, producing really beautiful products. “Market Colors was started because I believe where we shop can make a difference. It was founded to make a lasting impact for families throughout Africa…. We exist to make a difference in the lives of craftsmen throughout the world. We call it Handmade Impact.”

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LITTLE LOVES

Little Loves is one of my most favorite new finds. It started as an adoption fundraiser, selling hand designed tees. But because why not do some more things, they decided to give a portion of the proceeds from each product sold to Abide Family Center in Uganda that focuses on family preservation and orphan prevention. So many good things.

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MIRIAM DESIGNS

Miriam Designs is all about hope and restoration and really pretty jewelry. They employ women in Nashville who have survived lives of addiction. Each piece is handmade by sweet women who have stories to tell. I love everything about it.

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SHE DOES JUSTICE

This one also started as an adoption fundraiser but over time has morphed into something really big and really cool. I like this one because every month she gives a percentage of profits to a different organization “working for the good of others.” I think it’s kind of a cool concept. I mean, one can never have too many headbands and scarves, right? Right.

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THE SHINE PROJECT: THREADS

The Shine Project is really kind of awesome. They are based and work with at risk youth in Phoenix, Arizona. Threads is a project under The Shine Project which employes at risk youth and helps them pay their way through college. “Threads is a cause driven business that changes the future of at risk youth. They come from various backgrounds, but all have one thing in common, they want to break the cycle. By employing them, we instill values of self reliance and hard work. They are paid fair wages for the bracelets they make, and in turn are able to pay their way through school. Many of Threads employees are first generation college students. They dream of becoming nurses, broadcasters, writers and engineers.” So awesome, right? We got my mom a bracelet from here for her birthday and it was loved by all.

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There ya go. Happy Christmas list making, y’all!

 

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Mocha Club Giveaway!

I’m doing a giveaway today. I don’t really even know what that means, but I’m doing it and it’s going to be so lovely. I’m not cool enough, nor do I have a zillion followers, so people do not ask me to promote their things. They also don’t send me free stuff to give away to my “readers.” So don’t you even worry that this is headed that direction. It’s totally not. This is a “I got something cool from somewhere cool and I already owned the cool thing, so why not give it away to someone and let them have the cool thing” type of giveaway. It’s also Thursday, and people like getting free things on Thursdays, right? So, let’s do a giveaway, shall we?

If you haven’t heard of the Mocha Club, you should hear about them. They are doing some really cool work all over Africa. Seriously, all over… Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Ethiopia. They focus on five project areas: clean water, education, economic freedom, healthcare, and orphan care. They ask you to join the club by giving up the cost of a few mochas a month and giving instead to one of those five projects. You pick a project area, join the club, and they give you free things. It’s so kind of them.

We joined the clean water club a while back. I have shared with you before about how spending time in Africa has made me a freaking weirdo. Clean water is one of my weirdo hot buttons. There are some things in life you can never unsee. Watching people lean down and gulp brown, infested, disgusting water is one of them. Watching people see and taste clean water for the first time in their lives is also one of them. And then there was this little boy, who my heart loves so much, sitting in my lap guzzling the water I would bring him because he was so thirsty. He was just thirsty. Don’t ask me to talk about that one in person. My eyes get red and watery and I just can’t. You cannot unsee those things, y’all. You just simply cannot. So, for nine whole dollars a month, we joined the club. Nine dollars. I cannot with how little that is. But it’s making a difference. People are getting themselves clean water and I’m giving up like, two coffees a month. And then sometimes I’m not giving up those coffees because NINE DOLLARS. We are so privileged. Can I say that?

When we joined the club, they sent me a free pocket tee. Lucky for you, I already own this said pocket tee. It’s one of my very favorites. It’s cute, comfortable, supports Africa, and comes from Africa. You are literally winning on all the levels in my book. Mocha Club partnered up with FashionABLE (again, if you haven’t heard of them you really should hear about them) with these tees. FashionABLE was created as a result of seeing firsthand in Ethiopia how extreme poverty forces young girls and women to make awful choices for money. Because they need to survive and eat and take care of their babies and all the things that we just don’t even have a clue about. Again with the privilege. FashionABLE was created as a business and it gives these good women jobs and hope and so many good things. The pocket is FashionABLE, the tee is Mocha Club. I already said you were winning with this one.

I have a tee and I want to give it to someone. Fine print is: it’s a small. Sorry that’s all they had left. So this is kind of an exclusive giveaway and I apologize for that. All I need you to do is comment that you want it. I’ll pick a winner on Friday. So just do it before then. You will love this tee. I promise.

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Santa vs Jesus

A few nights ago, Dustin and I were talking about deep theological world-changing stuff like, Santa Clause. I saw Santa once when I was a young tot. It was in the middle of the night on Christmas Day, I heard something downstairs, went to see what it was and lo and behold it was Santa. He saw me and said, “shhh.” After learning the dirty truth I did some serious investigating by shining lights in family member’s eyes and asking them intrusive questions about their whereabouts that night and if they owned a Santa costume. I learned nothing which leaves me just plain confused about Santa.  Like, deep down I know he isn’t real but at the same time I’m like, “Yeah, but I’ve seen him.” I mean, it’s whatever.

We were talking about what we were going to tell our kids about Christmas and Santa. Do we let our kids believe in Santa or no? How do we talk about Jesus and Santa? How do we make Jesus cooler than Santa? Because let’s be real, Santa trumps Jesus all day every day. Santa brings you real gifts and Jesus brings you the gift of eternal life. Womp. Womp. (omg I’m kidding but you know what I mean). If our kids don’t believe in Santa, how do we even do that without our kid making other kids cry with the truth and us getting on parent’s hit lists. We didn’t come to any solid conclusions. By the end of the conversation I was denouncing all things Christmas, including the NSYNC Christmas cd (which is blasphemy), and Dustin was defending Santa like they were precious friends and I had just said something super hateful. So we just dropped it and ordered another round of chips and salsa. Ole.

Last year we went rogue and didn’t celebrate Christmas. Well, we celebrated just not per usual. We did three things: served at a homeless ministry on Christmas night, bought nothing and gave financially. It was a good Christmas, if I do say so myself. Dustin and I recieved a black nutcracker and my family fought over where and what we were going to eat post-serving Christmas dinner to homeless people. But seriously, it was simple, refreshing and not about us.

This year we’ve decided to step back into the celebrating Christmas arena. We’re calling it an intentional Christmas and it looks like this:

1. Any gift we buy for anyone will be socially conscious.

2. Dustin and I will be exchanging 3 gifts on Christmas morning- something to wear, something to read, and something to use to bless someone else

*Dustin asked me the other night, “What are we doing again for Christmas gifts? Something borrowed, something blue..?” No. Just no.

3. I downloaded the Holy Bible app on my iphone (because I’m a heathen and didn’t already have it on there) and we’re going through an Advent daily devotional/scripture reading plan. We’re doing “Good News of Great Joy” by John Piper. You are welcome to join us at dinner any night between now and Christmas to discuss what we read that day.

This is how we’re choosing to celebrate Christmas this year. I won’t be surprised if I do indeed get something borrowed and something blue from my husband. So, basically I’ll just let y’all know how this whole intentional Christmas thing goes. Merry Christmas, y’all!

Purchase With Purpose: Part 2

Check out part 1 if you missed it. 

Recently the question was asked, “What if everything you bought for Christmas this year made a difference in the world?” But seriously… what if it did?? 

So, here goes round 2 of sharing the good stuff…

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I’m obsessed with No. 41. I silently stalked No. 41 on Instagram for a while and then randomly one day I got to meet the brains and passion behind the organization. They’re awesome y’all. Based out of Rwanda, they work with young women at an a orphanage, teach them to sew and give back to their community through a feeding program. When you purchase one of their super cute bags you feed one child, for one meal, for one year. They also have stockings that make me want to die they’re so cute. I’m buying three to hang on my mantel this Christmas, don’t even worry. 

http://www.no41.org

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Thistle Farms, y’all. Let me just tell you. It’s based in Nashville and works with women who have survived trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. Thistle Farms is a residential program that provides these women with housing, medical needs, education, therapy, and job training. Their stuff is all natural and wonderful. I got to spend time with a few ladies that graduated from the program a while back and man y’all, talk about some powerful life stories. They were also hilarious and I wanted to get their numbers so we could hang out sometime but I refrained because of the definition of creepy. Alas. They also opened up a restaurant a while back that is fabulous. Thistle Stop Cafe, go there and love it.

http://www.thistlefarms.org

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It’s no surprise that anything Uganda related I will love unconditionally. So, I introduce you to Imani. Imani works in northern Uganda. If you don’t know much about Uganda- northern Uganda borders South Sudan and the Congo. Northern Uganda is a war-torn region where there are child soldiers, refugees, and children forced into brothels, trafficking, and the sex industry. Imani works to alleviate poverty and free women from the sex trade industry by teaching them to make jewelry. They learn a trade, get paid a fair wage, provide for their families, and get freedom. I love it. I have approximately all of their jewelry on my Christmas list this year. Imani is under the Zion Project; which deserves a whole paragraph of its own. I’ll refrain, as long as you’ll promise me to look them up, read what they do, and love them.

http://www.imanilove.com
http://www.zionproject.org

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Exile International. One day I will work for them. I’m not at all joking. They work in the Congo and northern Uganda providing trauma care to former child soldiers and children affected by war through art and expressive therapy. I KNOW, RIGHT!? Coolest thing ever. They also have a sponsorship program for children who have been orphaned or abandoned by war where they feed, house, educate, and give them psychosocial care. Their vision is “empowering children of war to become leaders for peace.” I mean, it just doesn’t get any cooler. All of the proceeds from their EI store goes to continuing the work their doing. If any of you get a job with them before I do, please don’t tell me.

http://www.exileinternational.org

addone

Last one. Promise. If you didn’t catch the post about add ONE, check it out for a more thorough explanation. The gist is simple: when you buy an add ONE product you will help bring 3 kids home from Uganda, China, and Haiti. I mean, I just think it’s really cool. Regardless of whether Dustin and I are a part of it or not.

http://1907apparel.com/addone/

There ya go. More than enough ways to make a difference this holiday season. Have at it.

Purchase With Purpose: Part I

One time Dustin and I were standing in line at a fine clothing establishment. I was holding a shirt and a necklace. I was excited about these purchases and could already hear some of the compliments I would be receiving. As we inched closer to the register, Dustin leans over and says, “So, how many slaves do you think it took to make that shirt?”

&*@!

We’ve made an effort to try and change the way we purchase. It’s so much easier said than done. I have spent hours googling, “stores that don’t use slaves” or “does (insert clothing store name) pay their workers a fair wage” and come up with not a whole lot. Maybe I need to change my google search but whatever. The point is, it’s super easy to say, “I’m going to buy fair trade” or “We don’t support human trafficking.” However, it is much more difficult to actually do it. So, in an effort to share the goodness, here are just a few of the things we are loving right now that also do good in the world. Eat your heart out.

Humphreys Street Coffee

I started drinking creamer with a touch of coffee in it when I got married. Dustin has always been a straight black coffee drinker. So, obviously he mocked my coffee/creamer ratio of choice. A few years ago we were traveling and Dustin dared me to start drinking my coffee black. So, I did. After I choked down my first black cup of coffee I’ve never added anything to it again. Now that I can’t hide the taste of crappy coffee with sugar and creamer, I’m picky about what coffee I’ll drink. Humphreys Street Coffee is where it’s at, y’all. It’s so good. I love everything about HSC. The coffee is fairly traded from around the world and they roast it right here in Nashville. The best part, though? HSC is a mentoring program for teens serving as an alternative to juvenile criminal activity in their neighborhood AND through coffee sales they have a scholarship fund that helps sends kids who have been in their program to college. I am in love with it. I’m sipping on some Humphreys Street Coffee right now. That’s how much I love it.
http://humphreysstreetcoffeeco.com

Bridgewater Candles

These candles, y’all. So awesome. Not only do they smell heavenly but they also feed kids in developing countries for a day. What!? Feeding kids by buying a candle that smells divine? Sure, I’ll take 7 please.
http://www.bridgewatercandles.com

t-615

t-615

t-615 was co-founded by my friend, Lauren. t-615 is a brand that is all about giving a voice to those who don’t have one and telling the stories of those who can’t. Modern day slavery still exists and t-615 is their response to that. They challenge you to “become a number to give someone else a name.” Dustin and I are #0078. There are several things I love about t-615: they have some of the softest tees this side of heaven, every tee tells a story, their tees are screen printed right here in Nashville, and they give 25% of their profits to organizations who are rescuing victims of human trafficking. So. Awesome.
http://www.t-615.com

Noonday Collection

I don’t even remember how I found Noonday Collection but I am so glad I did. Based out of Austin (TX forever, y’all), Noonday is a business that is devoted to alleviating poverty through fashion. They work with artisans all over the globe- Uganda, India, Ethiopia… just to name a few. They give these good people jobs, fair wages and hope for their families. I love everything that they make and one day when I’m rich will buy everything that they make. I also follow them on social media and they make me believe that I too can look trendy and cute wearing 87 pieces of jewelry at one time. The verdict is still out on that one, though.
http://www.noondaycollection.com

Check these good people out, buy something awesome, and help change the world by purchasing with a purpose.

We Aren’t Doing Christmas This Year

This is Courtney. Dustin says I need to get my own blog. I don’t think I have time for that.

We have decided to do something different this holiday season. The Koctars will not be celebrating Christmas this year. Let me rephrase that, we’re celebrating Christmas just not in the same way. I’m kind of excited about it. We’ve been talking for a while about doing something different for Christmas and I like the plan we’ve devised.

The plan is simple: serve, buy nothing, and give.

There is something in Nashville called The Bridge Ministry. Every Tuesday night under the Jefferson Street Bridge in downtown Nashville you will find hundreds of homeless people gathered. You’ll find yourself a hot meal, some good ole’ worship time, a message, and groceries for the week. Over the last few months we’ve been going to serve once a month at the bridge. I’ve seen Jesus several times under this bridge. I’ve been brought to tears a few times as I’ve watched these people with hands lifted high proclaiming that this is holy ground. I’ve been humbled after what I would deem a horrible day to come and be blessed by the homeless of Nashville. We’re lucky because Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year. You’ll find us and my family, who we are celebrating Christmas with this year, at the bridge Christmas night. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Jesus than by being with family and the homeless.

I’ve been telling my family for a while that we’re not doing Christmas this year. There will be no gifts from us under the tree and I do not want a list of things you might want for Christmas. I’ve been telling them for a while that I don’t want any gifts for us under the tree and we will not be giving them a list of things we might want for Christmas. Despite my best efforts I think there are still a few gifts under the tree for us. I tried, right? I will not be stepping foot into a mall or store to buy anything for anyone. We will not be making a budget for how much we can spend on gifts. The truth of the matter is we don’t need anything. Yes, there are several things I want but upon further review I don’t need them. There is such relief in not having to buy anything this year. We might not be the favorites on Christmas morning but I think I’m okay with that.

If this were any other year we would be buying gifts. We’d have to create some sort of budget and decide how much we could spend on each person. We’d have to decide how much we could spend on each other and go from there. This year we’ll probable still create some sort of budget and decide how much we would have spent on each person but it won’t be for the same purpose. We’ve decided this year to give the money that we would have spent on gifts to somewhere else. Our place of choice is Know Think Act (surprise, surprise) but it just as easily could have been anywhere else. So instead of getting gifts this year our family will know that our friends over in Uganda are getting mosquito nets or supplies for the school. Once again, we may not be the favorites this year on Christmas morning but I really think I’m okay with that.

We’ve been challenged over the past year to live differently. I’m learning that living differently doesn’t look the same to everyone. This is how we’re choosing to celebrate Christmas different this year. Will you join us?

Here are some of our resources for celebrating Christmas differently:

http://www.adventconspiracy.org/

http://www.knowthinkact.com/needs.php

http://www.projectr12christmas.org/

Do you have any other resources you can share with us?

Fundraiser for Our Ugandan Friends

Calling all people who like ice cream and cute African children!!
 
Dustin and I went to Uganda this summer. Duh. We came back pumped about a thing called Know Think Act which links needs in Uganda to people who can help fulfill those needs. We have been working on the Christmas projects for our sweet little friends at the orphanage. So far, because of you crazy people, these kids will get a fantastic Christmas meal and brand new shoes. The last Christmas project is for new clothes for each child. This is the one time a year where they will get to pick out their very own brand new outfit(s). How fun.
 
Sweet Cece’s in Green Hills has agreed to host a fundraiser for the Christmas clothes project next Thursday, October 18th, all day. 20% of all purchases will go towards our project and because Know Think Act is so awesome, 100% of that 20% will go straight to buying clothes. You must have a ticket for this event. If you would like to come, click here to print off the ticket you need. You have to present this ticket at the time of your purchase for it to go towards our project. Your ticket will then be validated for a free cup at your next visit.
 
Let’s recap:
 
What: Fundraiser for Global Support Mission that will help our friends at the orphanage get their new clothes for Christmas
When: Thursday, October 18
Where: Sweet Cece’s in Green Hills, 4031 Hillsboro Pike Nashville
Time: ALL DAY
What do I need to bring: Bring this ticket!
 
Our friend Chris Carpenter will be playing some tunes that evening as well. So come hang out, eat some ice cream, listen to great music, and help kids in Uganda all at the same time. Could we kill any more birds with one stone!? I think not. We would love for as many people to come as possible. So pass this along to family, friends, coworkers, random strangers, etc. Dustin and I will be there from 6-10, so come say hi! Or come earlier and don’t. It’s all good.
 
Are you a non- Nashvillian and want to get involved? Here are a few ways you could help…
1. A cup of ice cream at Sweet Cece’s cost me about $3 and Dustin about $5 (fat kid. KIDDING.) You can go to our page at Know Think Act and donate $3-$5 or get your calculator out and donate 20% of that. I failed math multiple times, so I will not be able to help you with that.
2. If you know people in Nashville or people who are down with helping people in Uganda, pass this info along to them.
3. Pray. Pray that people will show up and money will be raised. Pray for our little friends across the world in Uganda. Pray that in all of this only God will get the credit.
 
Thanks for being a part of our Uganda story. Thanks for being willing to help kids you don’t even know. Thanks for being Jesus. Who knew being Jesus could look as simple as eating some ice cream? As my friend, Bob Goff said over the weekend, “Love God. Love people. Do stuff.” Come do stuff with us.

We hope to see those of you in Nashville next Thursday!!