Community: Giving Thanks

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What is it about Thanksgiving that causes us to count our blessings with laser focus and then so quickly shift our minds to what we “need” forgetting all the blessings we have been given. Once again it seems like we have it all backwards, every day is Thanksgiving because there is always something we can give thanks for.

You may have heard or read NY Times Best Selling Author Ann Voskamp because she actually challenged herself to count 1000 gifts and turned it into a book by the same name 1000 Gifts. The book has been life changing for me. I have become more intentional about counting my blessings/gifts and seeing the blessings in the little things.

This past week at the shoppe has been filled with meeting new customers who thankfully love the shoppe and the concept. They are quick to ask me where the vision for Shoppe 561 came from. The seed for the vision started in Rwanda and then God built on it from there over the next year.

In addition to reflecting on Rwanda and all that I learned while I was there, I have been preparing for a 60 mile bike ride benefiting the Paley Foundation. The Paley Foundation helps people from all over the world use their limbs they no longer thought possible.

Thinking back on Rwanda as well as preparing for the ride, I was reminded again how blessed I am. I was prompted again to count my blessings/gifts. In Rwanda a bike is a precious commodity. I now have a road bike and a hybrid. My road bike is entry level but the price I paid would have bought 4 bikes in Rwanda. You can see from the pictures bikes are not used for leisure they are workhorses that allow people to function and earn a living.

I was thinking about the water I drink while riding my bike and today during our “rest stops” the water was plentiful and clean, in Rwanda some children don’t go to school because they spend all day getting water because the well is so far away. You will see on roads stones painted different colors that serve as markers for the children to know how much farther to go.

When my back started to hurt around mile 40 I was reminded again that I am blessed to be able to ride a bike that requires hands to shift and brake and feet to pedal. Most days I do that without incident (I always say my grandma’s name was Grace not mine) and I take it for granted that I can just hop on a bike because all of my limbs function.

When I think back on this past week the moment that I will continue to cherish as a gift this year is precious Elle who is about to turn two years old. Long story short, it was time to leave the shoppe and she didn’t want to say good-bye to the soap she was holding. There was no consoling her or distracting her. When I went around the cash wrap to give her mom her bag, Elle held out her arms for me to take her. Her mom picked up her baby sister in her car carrier and we headed toward the door. It was nasty outside and the thought of this mama managing both didn’t sit well so I asked where she was parked as I did have customers in the shoppe. She said first car in the parking lot – perfect. So out we went and I got Elle in her seat and all buckled in. I realized once again how thankful I am that God chose for me a location that had easy access parking so I could love on a mama and her girls. This again is what community is about, it is more than a sale; it is about helping each other out and lightening each other’s burdens.

A way for you to pay a blessing forward:

This Christmas we have created a gift that keeps on giving allowing you to be a blessing. We have bags made my women at the Vocational School in Rwanda that are filled with goodies from the Shoppe 561 artisans. The bags are $50 and all of the money is split 50/50 between Hope House and the Scholarship Fund for the Vocational School. You get an amazing bag filled with goodies and we get to help girls rescued from human trafficking and provide schooling to women in Rwanda so they can make a living (also ensuring they are not at risk for one of their children being trafficked).


Ann Voskamp Bicycles community Hope House Florida modern day slavery; paley foundation Rwanda shoppe561

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