{weekly Gussy shop update — Limited Edition Africa fabric}

Back in May, Zack + I traveled to Tanzania, Africa with Compassion International. I remember so many vivid moments from our trip, just like it was yesterday instead of exactly three months ago. Whenever I smell charcoal burning, or hear a group of children singing, or think about eating pineapple, rice or chicken, I think of our Tanzanian friends. Climbing the hillside to visit the homes of sponsored children, walking past women carrying colored plastic buckets atop their head. Breathtaking landscapes all around us. But there’s something else…

I also think about how I have been selfishly hoarding African fabric for three months, too.

Did you know that?

Some yards I bought, others were gifted to our group. One local woman actually sent her grandchild home to bring back a cut of fabric, just for me. And not only that, but the whole sewing/fabric aspect of our trip was unreal. EVERYWHERE we went we saw something sewing-related: the markets, a local church, while walking to a home visit. Nearly every day I was comforted by this timeless element. Some eight thousand miles from home and still I found comfort in Africa through sewing.

 

So yes, I have been selfishly hoarding fabric for three months. At first I wanted some time to process our trip before cutting into it. I was soothed by this and didn’t feel like I needed to rush into it, but after about a month passed I felt like it was time. But still, my heart wasn’t ready.

If I cut into the fabric and sewed up a couple dozen zipped pouches, then sold them, what would I have left?

Selfish. So very selfish.

Then I changed my perspective:

What if I cut into the fabric and sewed up a couple dozen zipped pouches, then sold them and with a portion of the profits we were able to sponsor a child through Compassion International? Now that is an idea!

So that is our goal. Gussy Sews has never done anything like this and honestly, it’s time to change that. Many of you have shared you’re eager to help but you’re not able to travel with Compassion or your family isn’t able to sponsor a child. And it’s wise to be able to recognize if now isn’t the time. But even so, you have said you’d be able to purchase a pouch and help out that way. So let’s sponsor a child together, yes?

I already feel like many of you journeyed with me to Tanzania. I felt your prayers + your comments/emails lifted me up daily. Let’s take this to the next level.

The pouches are selling for $31 and are named after four Tanzanian children that nestled themselves into our hearts: Ruth, Mary, Topiwo and Winner. You can read about each child in the product descriptions. As the pouches sell we’ll be collecting a portion of the profits to sponsor a child. Will you help us make this happen?

My goal is to sell all of the Limited Edition pouches listed in the shop so we can sponsor a child together.

So again I ask, will you help us make this happen?

We choose the medium zip for this Limited Edition launch so we could get the most number of pouches from the available fabric. These pouches are made from beautiful, local Tanzanian fabric and while I was told they are made from 100% cotton I’m not completely sure. My hope is that these pouches would become a keepsake of us joining together to do something wonderful as a team, on behalf of Gussy Sews.

You can click here to see the full collection — and would you please help us spread the word by clicking the links below to share on Facebook + Twitter?

xoxo

 

*Are you ready to sponsor a child as an individual or a family? You can find more information here :)

 

{What you can find in sharing your troubles.}

I had an exciting opportunity to be a guest on Simple Mom’s podcast channel the other morning. It was amazing + fun, and I’ll be sure to share the link once it’s live. But in the meantime, the podcast reminded me of a few things I’ve had on my mind. To backtrack a bit, one of the things Tsh + I chatted about was how we’ve both felt a steady, slightly strong pull to share more personal things on our blogs. Not like “nitty gritty, down & dirty” stuff. But things like sharing more about who we are as individuals, outside from the brands we’ve created.

^ My sweet friend Nester + I shared so many “get real” moments in Tanzania. By the way, WHY am I standing like that with a giant smile on my face? I am weird, hehe.

^ Oh, what I would give to know what these boys think of my husband’s silly faces :)

^ Getting on those planes, which brought me to these kids, were the scariest things I’ve ever done. BUT! It’s brought me some of the greatest rewards, too :)

Prior to blogging about more personal things, I think it’s been a bit easy to {unknowingly} paint myself on a pretty, sassy shade of pink pedestal where “nothing could possibly ever go wrong for her.” And that bothers me a bit, because that isn’t truth. I guess that’s one of the troubles with writing a blog — knowing where to draw the line with sharing personal things. I know in past posts I’ve shared about my fear of flying and how coming back from Africa I felt like something huge was brewing in my heart. {And no, I will never stop talking about Africa so if it bothers you then go on, click that X up there in the corner. Tee hehe.} Traveling to Africa with Compassion changed my life in such a large way that I can’t imagine not talking about it. I think the easiest way to wrap up our trip is to say I am just about over worrying about things. It’s like I returned home with a pair of grandma undies, except I’m only 27 years old. Zack, I hope you find that attractive –wink!

^ just moments before I fell + had my pride smeared all over my clean clothes

Sharing more of my heart, my troubles, has been a real gift. It didn’t make sense at the time, but starting this blog almost four years ago and just recently sharing more personal things was on purpose. His purpose. I think it’s set me up for a safe, incredibly encouraging place online for me to share more of my heart. Talking with Tsh the other day confirmed this for me.

So back to our trip, I believe it’s helped me put a finger on that strong pull to be more personal on my blog. And last Friday I got really brave + shared about the baby bump I don’t have, but hope so badly I will have. For a little flash of time I thought my post wasn’t good enough, that it didn’t share enough about the dark moments, but then I remembered that my post was written with hope, and that OH YES, YOU AGREED TO NOT WORRY! Remember that’s one gift Tanzania gave you, Maggie??!!

But then you interrupt me and tell me you can relate with everything I’ve shared so far. You have blogs you read often and it’s easy to want to feel connected because after all, you keep coming back week after week. But if they don’t share “enough” personal things, you don’t feel bothered. You know it takes time for these things to develop so you are a perfect friend + you wait patiently :)

^ I’m really not that different from the woman who launders these items. Well, the only different is she loves the color turquoise and I love pink.

I want to be honest about one thing, though: I totally get how easy these pedestals are to set up. Actually, if I didn’t know better it would be easier for me to set them up, too.  And — there are times when I have to firmly remind myself not to set them up. But let me be honest about this, too: I only live a perfect life because of who I am in Christ. From a worldly perspective I have just as many troubles + weaknesses as my neighbor.

And my neighbor, oh you are beautiful and perfect in your own ways, and your troubles really aren’t that different from mine because we’re all afraid of something and we all want something. And we will all always be learning more patience.

 

But I do think there is a lot of value in being able to share what makes sense to share. It has taken me some time to get to that point, where I can point out “yes, share that” or “no, that’s not really that important.” And so far I like that I’ve been able to be more personal on here :) Sharing in my troubles has brought me deeper friendships, and if you recall that’s something I’ve been looking for, too. 

So to that I say — Thank you for being so kind to the fact that yes, I’ve taken some time to get here. But I do feel like I’ve finally arrived in my own skin. And thank you for welcoming the change with open arms. You sure know how to make a lady wearing grandma undies feel loved.

Let’s connect in the comments, tell me this: Where do you draw the line as a blogger? How personal do you get on your blog? Or, are you “all business”? And in sharing your troubles, what have you noticed doing so has brought you?

xoxo

[All photos taken by Keely during our beautiful, inspiring, life changing trip to Tanzania with Compassion International.]

{lessons learned from my friends in Tanzania…}

I went to Tanzania last week to help others, but really I think they helped me the most. Here’s what I mean…

* * *

Thursday night after dinner Shaun asked us what we thought would be the hardest part about going back home.

My answer?

“I don’t know how to go home after spending the last week here — I didn’t want to come here in the first place.” It was supposed to be funny — so I’m glad the group laughed at me, because I was sobbing at that point and really needed a bit of relief. {I cried so many times last week, really it was no surprise that I cried once again on Thursday.} We left on Friday, May 4th, and the entire week leading up was hugely emotional for me. I knew I needed go on the trip but I didn’t *want* to. Every feeling from this past week has been shot straight into my heart.

I think the second hardest part about going back home will be knowing HOW to put all that I’ve seen into action.

1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

My posts this week have been extremely personal. Maybe they’ve been hard for you to read ~ there were times this past week where they were hard for me to write. Being vulnerable is so hard. Being open to learn in a new country is even harder. Last week, before we boarded our first international flight, I prayed God would show me what to write about. And now, the start of a fresh new week, I pray my words were exactly what God wanted me to write.

* * *

Don’t throw a paper ball at me, I know I’ve said this like three or eight times already, but I really do feel like this trip was planned just for me. Zack and I have chatted many times this past week and we mutually agree there are big things in store for us. I think — I know — I needed to feel the Lord’s presence this strongly last week. I’m curious to when the door will be opened and we’ll see all that He has planned.


I mean, we were up early every morning and His presence was clear. It came in stunning wisps of beauty with a few patches of tough around the edges.

See? ~


This sunrise was like a little picture message from the Lord: Enjoy today, I’m going to show you clouds of beauty and clouds you must endure. “Trust me,” He said to me.

But I think the Lord wanted me to feel it, too. And to take this a step further, I think the Lord wanted this because of how it’s going to translate into others’ lives. I’m just dying to know how it’s translating to others. I’ll be able to read through + comment on the posts from this week very soon. I ran on adrenaline last week and very quickly on our final flights home it wore off Q U I C K! and so I’m being forced to act fast.

Everything about this past week has been shot straight into my heart and I pray many of you feel the same way.

* * *

Oh, Compassion, you’re so full of passion. It’s like the best ever, and I’m so thankful that Zack and I could travel with you. What a great organization to fly halfway around the world with, and thank you for the invitation from the bottom of my ruffly heart. I clearly remember telling Zack I’d never travel overseas with him because of my fear of flying. He has always wanted to go to England or Paris or Scotland, but I’ve always told him “I can’t”.

Looking back, comparing what was to what is, it feels so freeing and I’m already wanting to plan our next trip. ::cough cough:: Maybe it will be with Compassion again? ::cough cough::

{I just skipped around our house.}

Yeowwwww — would you look at this view?

The wild grass and dry dirt and exotic trees we don’t have back in the U.S. and pet goats and cows and so many lovely people that fill these plains ~ oh it’s a breath-taking view. Every day is it’s own breathtaking view. I told Nester I am looking for rhyme or reason here, because literally everything is everywhere all the time! Hah! And I don’t think writing that even begins to explain what I mean. Whenever we traveled to spend the morning + afternoon with the kids at the Child Development Centers my eyes were glued to the windows of our van. I want to remember this view forever, it’s the original meaning of natural.

* * *

Africa is a special place. I was warned it would take a piece of my heart, so once we landed in Tanzania I put it out on my sleeve and have left it there ever since. I wanted to feel happy things, like when the kids danced for us; and sad things, like seeing a knee-high pile of warm, dead fish with flies swarming over top, knowing that fish was dinner for many people. I wanted to feel encouraged. The best part is the local pastors that lead every Child Development Center didn’t have to try hard to make me feel that way :) Like I said, Compassion radiates passion.
Here’s my very first view of Tanzania. No skylines were found, only land where bread was broken and smiles were smiled and the sound of sweet songs flooded my heart ~

One day we visited Gidioni’s home. When we got there, there was another girl under Gidioni’s mother’s care. This sweet little girl was walking around, being watched after out of compassion by Gidioni’s mom. Her own mother was away trying to feed the family — Tanzanian people are kind like that. I snatched her up as soon as I saw her. I squeezed her chubby legs and I tickled her belly. Before we left I gave Gidioni’s mom my necklace. This little girl was playing with it nearly the entire time I held her, so I thought Gidioni’s mom needed it more.

I’ve given away a few things this week to the new heart friends I made. They weren’t expensive and I know the recipients will treat these items like gold, which settles my heart. After spending a week in a third-world country I knew it would mean more to me if my new friends had them.


a Maasai tribal woman wearing a new {my favorite} Lisa Leonard Designs necklace

* * *

While walking to the home tours of CDC children we walked across prairie lawns and eroded roads and women sitting on their front porch with all of their babies nearby ~ washing dishes with found water and laundering clothes with whatever was leftover.


As we passed through, homes were accented with colorful laundry: wraps and shirts and pants, strung between trees on found string. The constant color made me feel so relaxed. My home is colorful, and to see their home colorful was a settling feeling.

* * *

Midweek we got on a small plane and flew to Arusha, Tanzania to visit a few more Child Development Centers. We were hours away from the previous city and still there was so much dirt and homes sitting on homes sitting on small storefronts sitting on houses sitting on farmland sitting on… It was hard to make sense of it all. My mind kept trying to figure out how this could be. Who owned what? Where were their papers to prove it? Why weren’t there street signs? If sent out on my own I’d be lost as soon as I took my first step ~ I just know it.

Oh, I was constantly trying to figure out how this could really be…


The last CDC we went to had older children attending, which meant they had been a part of Compassion International + their local church’s  program for a few years now {yeow!}. It seems like all Compassion children, regardless of how many years they’ve been a part of Compassion, have hope. They radiate it and it takes one glance of the heart to feel it.

But to SEE with my blue eyes what a year or two or five looks like in terms of how long a child has been sponsored — it’s the most wonderful feeling.

Having an education and somewhere to be every day {because they now go to school}, eating nutritional meals and receiving letters from their sponsors — WRITING letters back to their sponsors, all gives them something to be hopeful about.

Shaun shared with us that children who receive letters do so much better with their schooling + vocational training, and have far better chances for success in their life.

There’s that Hope thing again :)


And did you know Compassion offers a Leadership Development Program? It’s an amazingly cool way to tell children “graduating” from the Child Development Centers that they can go on to higher-education at a University. The LDP will allow them to receive this schooling which includes a Christian mentor in their field of study.

LOOK AT THE GOATS! AND THEIR SMILES! These sweet kids above are sharing their gifts with us. Each Child Development Center documents the financial gifts a family enrolled in the Sponsorship program receives, and it was so fun to flip through the pages in the book and see hundreds of happy kids standing with their purchases. They are so proud!!!
Some of the other kids bought rice or fabric or cooking oil, buy my favorite purchases were the little goats. A few kids were able to buy multiple goats and their photos received additional giggles and screams from our group ;D Sooo awesome!

* * *

Ohhhh, just sippin’ tea with my new friends. We’re drinking Chai tea. Yup. And they are making me laugh. With tea in my mouth.

Seems like I was either crying or laughing this whole time ;) And aren’t their school uniforms precious? Purple sweaters, yellow collard shirts, light purple skirts for the girls + light purple pants for the boys… (right behind me is Mrs. Big is the New Small).


SERIOUSLY, their smiles…


* * *

Tanzania seemed to be decorated in two base colors: greens or browns. The greens went five shades lighter and five shades darker, creating an ombre look to every surface on the ground. And it was beautiful. Occasionally you’d see other colors break up the ombre-ness of it and those were like, extra special moments. Yellow was the most popular flower color but sometimes we’d see blue flowers. And this day we saw pink!

* * *

My friend + mentor, the Nester. I’m so glad she was here to experience all of these things alongside me. I think going on a trip this big, this life-changing, has been so much easier to process because of our group. Nester + I met about 2.5 years ago and I feel so blessed to be her friend.

I’ll be praying for her as we return ~ as she enters back into her daily routine with her family and her vision for Nesting Place.

* * *

Part of my, “Will you travel to Tanzania with us???” email from Shaun — at which I first told him NO! {hehe}, but later changed my mind to YES!, and then later I wondered why I changed my mind because I wasn’t sure what the Lord was trying to show me, but now I know {see example 1 and 2} — included a trip to the market to purchase African fabric for the biz.

Here’s an itty bitty preview ~


And hot diggity dog we DID go to the market, and now several cuts of fabric are sitting in the studio waiting to be transformed into a limited edition line of Gussy ruffles. Tracey tweeted a few days ago asking for a little preview. If I haven’t shared this enough, every single tweet + email + instagram comment {follow me, @gussysews} has meant so much. All week our eyes were held open with toothpicks called adrenaline, so thank you for all the encouragement.

* * *

Our trip began May 4th. Zack + I met the entire group in Detroit. From there we flew to Amsterdam, but before we got on the plane I cried. You knew it was coming, right? That was my very first International flight and I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew walking on that plane, putting my seatbelt on and controlling my breathing as the plane took off would be the last things I did before my life would be forever changed. Once we were in the air there was no going back ~ we were off to Africa!

We broke off into groups when we made our home visits and one particular day we hiked up a mountain. The mother shared with us some of the unfortunate events that happened to her family. They prayed through these misfortunes, and shortly after her son received a sponsor through Compassion. Their lives were forever changed.


She told us this story with us as we sat on her couch, with our feet on their concrete floor, with family photos hanging on their blue-painted walls. This was the only home we visited where family photos hung and the walls were painted, but every home we visited had hope and the family shared how their lives were forever changed.

* * *

3 things I learned from my friends in Tanzania:
- smile more
- find more joy in the everyday moments
- wake up asking myself, how can I serve others?

 

Prior to leaving on this trip I really questioned why I had agreed to go. It’s hard to write that, even if it’s the truth. But once we arrived in Tanzania, and the sewing machines and gifts of fabric appeared over + over again, I no longer questioned why I had agreed to go.

Purpose. We all had purpose there. We all have purpose.

And now that Zack + I are back in Minneapolis, I think this is just the beginning.

 

To be continued…