Yesterday was the second time a group of authors and singer/songwriters gathered together in Nashville to develop a CD and accompanying book. I am a part of that group of talented women. I’m not a songwriter but I have had the opportunity to now contribute to three songs. Today will be the fourth. It’s been a thrilling ride and I look forward to sharing this work with you. But today I’d like to share one of the exercises we are doing to get our creative juices flowing.
The exercise of writing songs would be enough but we have also had the delight of learning how to find our voices, as they say, through writing prompts. If I get a chance, I’ll interview the women behind the prompt exercises. But if you are an aspiring author or writer, these practices might be a useful and helpful way for you to practice writing without editing, under a time constraint, and from whatever is on your heart.
Yesterday, we were given the prompt “I am from…” We had 15 minutes and this is what I wrote:
I am from the imagination of The Spirit. Crafted, knit together, formed, created.
I am from a small village of unseen, disposable, brown-skinned beauties. Loved of God in a land that flourishes even under distress.
I am from the mingling of old souls. Motown-lovin’, jazz playing, fried liver eatin’, poor in paper money, rich in soul, image-bearing, lovers—one gone to the next life.
I am from a perfect God-Man full of life, full of sorrow, gave me his so I could have mine. New creation.
But don’t you think my newness erased that small village, that old souls mingling work. No, it didn’t.
The Spirit’s too kind to make me forget where I’m from.
If you follow me on social media, you’ve likely seen posts and a video about a project my family has been working on called SJ Boutique. I wanted to take a moment to share more about SJ before we launch it into the world in the coming weeks (or days!!).
What is SJ Boutique?
SJ Boutique stands for Sydney Jean, named after and by our daughter by the same name. This small shop is in partnership with Azizi Life and the Abumurava Cooperative (“People Striving for Excellence” Cooperative) in Rwanda.
The Abumurava Cooperative was begun by a core group of women in October 2007 as a forum for working together in order to provide mutual support, development, and increased standard of living. Through the group, the artisans have been able to use and improve their skills in weaving sisal fibers in order to better provide for themselves and their families. The weavers hope to find new markets for their creations in the coming year. In their time weaving together, the members of Abumurava support and encourage one another in many areas of life.
The women of Abumurava Cooperative provide most of the jewelry provided here at SJ Boutique.
Why SJ Boutique?
In October, I went to Kigali, Rwanda with the wonderful organization HOPE International, a microenterprise development organization that partners with individuals and churches to provide loans, discipleship, and more. During that trip, we visited the Abumurava Cooperative through another organization, Azizi Life.
I have tried to stay away from the clichés that many say after trips like this but it was indeed life-changing or as one friend said, I was gloriously ruined. It’s been hard for me to put it all into words but meeting women from Rwanda, passionate about Jesus, working diligently and caring for their families was convicting, encouraging, challenging, and inspiring. Women like Primitive (who became a fast friend) and beautiful Speciose (pictured here) are women I knew I wanted to support.
Upon coming home and sharing about the women, their dignified work, and the relationship that I quickly built with them in just one day, my husband, Thern, wanted to get involved. As we sat at our dinner table, Thern developed the idea of supporting the women through their work, helping them expand their market reach so they can have greater financial stability to provide for their families and communities. But we wanted it to be a family adventure, one where we could all learn about Rwanda and support the Abumurava women together. Thern came up with the idea of allowing our daughter Sydney to “own” the shop.
SJ Boutique serves several purposes. It allows the Abumurava Cooperative to get their products into new hands, which has been a prayer of both the women and Azizi Life. A prayer that Thern and Trillia were unaware of until after they approached Azizi Life! It also allows Thern and I to teach our children about poverty alleviation in a way that we pray will help and not hurt. From everything that we are learning, simply sending money is not the way to best serve the Abumurava women. By purchasing their products, we are teaching our children about the value of work and in turn supporting the economy in that village.
Sydney has been involved in every aspect of the development, allowing her to learn leadership and management skills as well as use her very creative gifts and imagination. Their son will help with shipping, inventory evaluation, and cheering on his sister. It has been a true joy for our family—we are praying it will serve the families there too!
This is not a big business. It is a small shop where you can purchase handmade goods online as they are available, mostly jewelry to start. On a personal note, we are thrilled about this opportunity to partner with Azizi Life and the Abumurava women. I will have the joy of speaking at an event in Rwanda in 2021 and the goal is to visit the women as a family. We are also grateful to be able to continue the to support the work and ministry of HOPE, a portion of all profits will go to the continued work of HOPE International, where I have been involved in various capacities since 2014.
How can you keep up and get involved?
The community of people who read here and read my work in general are some of the kindest and most supportive around. I’ve been floored by the support already and we haven’t even opened our doors yet! Knowing that you would likely be interested in knowing how to keep up with SJ Boutique and support this effort, here are a few quick things you can do:
- Sign up for our newsletter: Keep up with when we launch, when there’s new products and more. I do not plan to send out a newsletter more than once or twice a quarter. You can sign up on the front page at sjboutique.net.
- Follow us on Instagram: One of our goals is to tell the stories of our artisans. Instagram provides a wonderful way showcase the jewelry and these wonderful artisans. Follow us here: https://www.instagram.com/sjboutique2020/
- Help spread the word: Admittedly, it’s easier to spread the word after you’ve received the product! I’m happy to tell you that I own many of the earrings and they are fantastic. But more than that, I’ve met the women we are supporting. If you think this would be a worthwhile venture to share, then please do let your friends and family know that they, too, can sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram.
We are looking forward to letting you know when SJ opens for business. Until then, we covet your prayers! Thank you for partnering with us!
SJ Boutique will be selling products like these beautiful woven loop earrings.
Every year since Tony Reinke introduced his Isaiah Christmas online reading club, I’ve taken up reading the wonderful book through the month of December. This year is no different. Although I’m terrible at remembering to use the hashtag associated with it, you can follow along via Twitter (and possibly Facebook) following the hashtag #IsaiahChristmas. And by all means, join us!
You can learn more about it and download the Isaiah Christmas reading plan here: https://tonyreinke.com/2019/11/20/isaiahchristmas-2019/.
There’s so many wonderful Advent books and studies. If you aren’t going to join us in reading through the book of Isaiah, I’d love to know what you are reading. Feel free to comment.
I pray that you enjoy this Advent season, a season of longing and waiting. A season of anticipating the dawning of unspeakable joy! I’m eager to fix my eyes on Jesus this season.
Over the next three weeks I’ll be doing some wonderful giveaways, all leading up to two exciting announcements. These aren’t giveaways just to give you more stuff. My hope is that each giveaway will serve you as you run your race of faith. Each week will have a theme based on one of my chapters in Sacred Endurance. This week is all about studying the Bible.
In Chapter 8 of “Sacred Endurance” I share: The race set before us requires tenacity in the spiritual disciplines. These disciplines aren’t meant to be added to-dos, and they most definitely aren’t the way to gain a seat at the Lord’s table. They’re meant to help us finish well and enjoy the Lord.
I hope these Bible studies help you know and enjoy the Lord!
Today’s prizes: THREE people will win a copy of my new book “Sacred Endurance” along with either: “His Testimonies, My Heritage” by Kristie Anyabwile and friends, “In All Things” by Melissa Kruger, “If God Is For Us” by Trillia Newbell, “Jude” by Jackie Hill Perry, and “God of Creation” by Jen Wilkin.
Because it’s the season of giving, you’ll get a chance to share your prize!
How to enter:
- Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/trillianewbell/
- Tag a friend on the post in Instagram you want to win (both you and your friend will win!)
- 2 Bonus entries: Repost giveaway in stories or on instagram using #SacredEnduranceGiveaway
- US. and Canada only
- Contest ends on Thursday, November 21 at midnight
- Please tag one friend at a time
- Enter up to three times only by commenting three separate times
- This is an Instagram giveaway only (no comments on any other social media site will be counted in the giveaway) Please enter here: https://bit.ly/2CWoOD0
Remember these giveaways are leading up to an exciting announcement. Stay tuned!
Per Instagram rules, we must mention this is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s term of use.
Thank you to all who were able to come out to the Sacred Endurance book launch event. It was a night I’ll never forget. One surprising gift was the people who drove hours upon hours to attend from Minnesota to Birmingham to Chicago; we were blessed to visit with people from all over the country. I realize that most people would not be able to take the trek to good ole’ Tennessee, so I wanted to provide a few highlights including quotes from speakers and pictures.
We started the night with music from the wonderfully soulful singer/songwriter, Sandra McCracken. Her voice is delightful, but her ability to connect the Word to her music and help us worship the Lord ministered to each of us. Make sure to check out her new Christmas CD: http://www.sandramccracken.com/
Jedidiah Coppenger, lead pastor of Redemption City Church in Franklin, shared a word on the power of prayer and enduring in the faith.
Here are some quotes from Jedidiah’s talk:
“For most Christians, including me most of my life, we believe in the power of prayer, but at the same time, we just can’t find the time to pray. We don’t have meaningful, daily prayer lives. And that’s a serious problem, especially as it relates to enduring. God didn’t design us to advance and endure without his help. And we show our understanding of that reality, or lack thereof, on whether we ask for that help in prayer.”
“When you see God for who he is (that he’s your father), you also find that you embody a childlike boldness. Children have a unique boldness with their parents. Children will walk into your bedroom in the middle of the night, without any hesitation, or concern about your big meeting the next day. There’s no apology.”
“God delights in answering specific prayers because when we get specific, he becomes visible. Specificity leads to visibility, which leads to childlike wonder and boldness.”
I’m so grateful for the reminder to boldly go to God’s throne of grace where we receive mercy and help in our time of need and to ask boldly and specifically. God can do more than we could ask or imagine.
Next was a word from Isaac Ezell. He is the Associate Director of Development for HOPE International. He read from Sacred Endurance focusing on chapter 10, “Don’t Go It Alone.” He shared how we need prayer and community to endure. HOPE embodies this call of community through partnering with local churches and helping establish savings groups. Proceeds for the book sales for the evening went to benefit the good work of HOPE International. You can learn more about them and savings groups by visiting their website: https://www.hopeinternational.org/.
I then joined Dr. Russell Moore, Barnabas Piper, and Dorena Williamson for a panel discussion on enduring in the faith in real life situations including through difficult times, divorce, raising children, and much more. These quotes only scratch the surface of our discussion. It was rich and I’m so grateful for each of these panelists.
Dr. Moore reminded us that God prepares us for hard seasons of life: “When it comes to enduring in the faith, a lot of that has to do with what God has been doing in your life leading you that time of trial.” – Russell Moore
“If you’ll look back at your life and you notice the times that Jesus was closest to you, it was always in those moments not of your triumphs but the times when you are weakest.” –Russell Moore, paraphrasing Ray Ortlund.
Barnabas was open about one of the hardest times of his life. He shared that, “Phrases like ‘how long oh Lord’ were all of a sudden things that I could say instead of things that I could read.” –Barnabas Piper
“Suffering simplified my faith. I come from a fairly theological background. And so to get to the place where faith is as Psalm 37 says ‘trust the Lord and do good’ and you just do that, every day.“ –Barnabas Piper
“These things that could be clichés or pretty pictures on a wall take on profound meaning on a very simplified but deeper day-to-day basis.” – Barnabas Piper
Dorena shared the great news about her husband securing African American historical representation in a small town square. She also shared about the pain of racism and the importance of enduring those things in a community. She shared, “[It’s important and special] being in a faith community who affirm your dignity, the imago dei in you. Who will lament and believe you.” – Dorena Williamson
I reminded us that we can often project what man does onto God. Dr. Moore had a helpful word when asked about people who are disillusioned with the church or specifically evangelicalism, “We have to be able to differentiate between Jesus and the church. Especially when you go back and look at the picture of Christianity that is given in the New Testament it is not airbrushed and idealized at all.” – Russell Moore
Dorena, who is the mother of adult children, shared, “One of the first things that parenting has done for me is remind me that I am dependent on my heavenly Father. Remind yourself that you are dependent on your heavenly father. You are his child.” –Dorena Williamson
“You have a father who is faithful. Ask him to show you how to be a faithful parent.” –Dorena Williamson
“Keep planting seeds. We think if we follow these five things we are guaranteed to have certain results. But that’s not the way it goes. Keep planting seeds.” –Dorena Williamson
At the end of the night I got an opportunity to honor my dear and wonderful husband. I dedicated the night to Thern, my husband, and as I held back tears of gratitude and joy, I read the dedication of the book to him. He’s a gift to us.
The dedication: To Thern, my husband, my friend, my fellow sojourner running the race set before us, hoping in Jesus and fixing our eyes on him—together. He is with us till the end and then forevermore.
I love my husband and kids. They are a gift and I’m grateful that I get to walk out my faith along side each of them. Our dear friend and pastor, Jedidiah, ended the night praying for my family and for all in attendance.
I hope you are encouraged by these glimpses of what God did that evening. I’m praying specific prayers for each of you as you read these highlights. God knows where you are and what you need. I pray you sense his care for you today.
Special thank you to: InterVarsity Press and Christina Gilliland for helping make this evening happen. Your support and encouragement has helped me endure though this process (pun intended). Thank you to Krista Sagraves for doing decorations, Lauren Ivanoff and Alexis De Weese for set up and break down and serving throughout, Jordan Hill for running sound along with your sidekick, Nick Ivanoff, Eric Brown Photograph for these wonderful photos, and finally the amazing Well Coffeehouse. Your team is delightful and generous! Thank you!
Often you’ll hear writers equate the book writing process to giving birth. As one who has given birth a few times, I’ll say it’s quite close. Today is Sacred Endurance‘s birthday!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting various aspects of the book and sharing some surprises that I hope will bless you this season. You can learn all about the book via this sneak peak post: http://www.trillianewbell.com/2019/10/17/sneak-peek-things-sacred-endurance/
I’d love for you to grab a copy! You can order your copy where books are sold or find it at these links: IVP, Amazon, ChristianBook.com, Barnes&Noble…
I’ve been so honored to have early readers who are ministry leaders, authors, counselors, professors, and ordinary (like all of us!) Christians share words of commendation. Here’s what others have said:
“Sacred Endurance is a rich biblical exploration of our call to persevere. Practical, gospel-centered, and serious, Trillia’s book helps readers to run faithfully without denying or downplaying the reality of suffering and evil we face in this life.” –Alan Noble, Assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, author of Disruptive Witness
This is our sacred endurance: running the race of the Christian life set before us by the grace of God, through the strength of God, until the day we face our God. That is my hope and prayer for you and for me. May Sacred Endurance help us in some small way to get there.