beaded crosses! (super-duper september)

Super-excited today to introduce you to a gal I’ve got a lot in common with. We even share blood. My dad & her mom are siblings, just a few years apart. And I won’t go into it all here, but we used to NOT LIKE EACH OTHER EVEN ONE LITTLE BIT.Jen

(I did blog about that here if you’d like to read more.)

And now? WE LOVE EACH OTHER SO SO MUCH.

Introducing… my beautiful, creative, talented cousin, Jennifer Hanson! And her gorgeous beaded crosses!

Me: Tell us a little about yourself, Jen.

Jen: When I’m not chasing after my ten-month-old twin boys, Weston and Isaac, or hanging out with my photographer husband, Devin, I love to create art by hand. I’m a graphic designer by trade, but there is something so refreshing about using raw, hands-on materials to create something beautiful.

I’ve been to Uganda, Africa twice and have fallen in love with the people there. They have completely changed my perspective on what faith really looks like. My experiences in Uganda have also helped me to realize how incredibly blessed I am materially. Even though our family is “below the poverty line” according to the U.S. government, we are still wealthier than 80% of the world’s population (see what percentage you fall into here). I truly believe that if one has been blessed (be it with money, resources, talents, time, etc.) it is so that one can bless others. My favorite verse is 1 John 3:16-18, and it serves as a great reminder as to the “why” behind giving to the poor.

Me: When/why did you start making your beaded crosses?

Jen: I started making beaded crosses when I wanted something unique and meaningful to adorn the bouquets at my wedding. I got so many compliments on them, that I started selling a few here and there. Recently though (after reading The Hole in Our Gospel and getting more and more consumed with my desire to really love the poor), I needed a way to generate some income to support my giving habit, so I opened an online shop on etsy, and 25%-50% of all my profits go to help working mothers in Uganda.

Me: Tell us more about where the profits go.

Cross by JenJen: There are two different places the profits go, depending on which cross is purchased. The “We’re All in This Together” cross features beads made by, and purchased from, widows living in the slums of Uganda. When one of these crosses sells, not only does it support the artistry of the women making the beads, but 50% of the profits are donated to Amazima Ministries which provides approximately 60 meals for a child living in the same slums (many of them children of the widows making the beads).

For all of my other crosses, 25% of the proceeds are donated to Kiva – an organization that provides small, low-interest loans to help those living in extreme poverty start a business. (By the way, the repayment rate of these loans is incredibly high: 99% of those receiving a loan pay in back in full.) One unfortunate misconception about the poor is that they are poor because they are lazy. However, more often than not, the poor are extremely hard-working. They simply lack the hope and opportunity to lift their family out of poverty. A small micro-loan can give someone living in extreme poverty the capital needed to start a business and begin using their talents and abilities to provide for their family. Giving them not only sustainable income, but confidence, empowerment, a sense of achievement and HOPE. All things that can break the cycle of poverty and be a catalyst for lasting change for the poor. Not a temporary hand-out, but a life-altering hand-up.

Another reason I chose mothers specifically is this: I love adoption (I have two adopted sisters whom I adore), but I would love even more for a mama to be able to keep and provide for her babies instead of having to give them up for adoption because she can’t make enough money to feed them. I would love for kids not to be orphaned by AIDS because the only available way for their mother to make a living was to sell her body. A Kiva loan can change these things and keep babies in the arms of their mamas.

Me: Any stories about where your crosses have gone/who they’ve been given to? (I’ll share that I gave one to a sweet mama in Cambodia.)

Jen: A friend of mine purchased one of the “We’re All in This Together” crosses for a single mom with five adopted, biracial children. My friend wanted to give it to this mom as an “I love you” gift from God on Valentine’s Day. Little did my friend know that this mom had just read Kisses from Katie (written by the young woman who runs Amazima Ministries – the organization that hires the widows making the same magazine beads I feature in the cross and that runs the feeding program that I give to). This single mom was blown away that God had blessed her with Katie’s beads at that very time when she was yearning for a piece of Africa again (she had traveled to Kenya 2 years earlier). WOW.

Me: Any words of inspiration for mamas of little ones who want to do something to make a difference in the world?

Jen: It can be really hard to feel like you’re doing “enough” to serve the poor when so much of your time as a mom is spent serving your own family. There are two things I’ll say to that: One, don’t miss this precious season of raising, training and loving the children God has placed right in front of you. Allow it to be a time for God to mold you into the example He needs you to be for your kids so that as they grow, they can be witness to and involved along side you in loving others. And two, try to find something that you can do with the talents, time and opportunities you have right now (however small those “mites” might be). Pray about it and see what ideas God gives you.

Thanks Marla! I love how God has brought our hearts together through the blogosphere and our love for the poor. You, Gabe, and your girlies are such an example to me of what a family working together to “Love God, Love Others” looks like. Love you, cousin!

Me: Love you too, Jen!! Thanks SO much!!

Today Jen is giving away one of her gorgeous beaded crosses–you pick which one! They are really, really, really beautiful, friends.

And if you don’t win, you can still get 10% off any cross from now until September 15. Just go to her etsy store and enter the code MARLA10 (my first-ever discount code named after me!) when you check out.

(Click here to go to Jen’s blog and here to see her etsy shop. And the crosses are 3.5″ tall. Here’s a pic of one in my hand.)

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49 thoughts on “beaded crosses! (super-duper september)

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  5. Jen Hanson

    So, I was reminiscing with my dad about my trip to Myrtle Beach with your family and commenting that Stephanie, Bethany and I stayed out way (WAY) too late, in the dark, on the beach, by ourselves, playing card games in the sand. I started telling it as a “remembering fun times with cousins and card games” story, but as I’m listening to grown-up self tell the story I just stopped mid-sentence and said, “Sheesh, no wonder Marla didn’t like me. I was such an idiot.” Well, I guess I was probably more immature and naive than anything else on that trip (eerr… and probably a little self-absorbed), never-the-less, those days are behind us, thank goodness!

  6. Sharon

    I like Pretty in Pearls. I heard a Ugandan pastor speak when I was in high school and he sparked my passion for missions. Oddly enough, I’ve been on a few missions trips, but haven’t made it to Uganda. Yet.

    1. Jen Hanson

      If you ever want to go to Uganda, Visiting Orphans is a GREAT organization to travel with. That’s who we went with last spring (when I was 11 weeks pregnant with the twins!). They are super supportive of families traveling together for missions too, so if you (or someone you know) ever wants to do a mission trip with young kids, they are the group to go with! http://www.visitingorphans.org/

  7. Harriet Keith

    I love two things about this. The first is that one person can make a difference by taking action. Without individuals stepping up there is no we. Make sense? And the second is the talent shown by Jennifer in her creativity in making the crosses with the very special beads, and by Marla in writing this blog. It all honors God, from whom all blessings and talents flow. Blessings.

  8. Jennifer Martinez

    I love the “We Are All in This Together Beaded Cross (Multi-colored African Magazine Beads wrapped with Copper Wire)” The bright colors are so eye catching!

  9. Katherine

    I love these crosses and the meaning and help behind them. I, too, fell in love with Uganda and the African people after visiting there in 2009. I love that these crosses help with microloans, as well as Amazima. I’ve been following her blog ever since I went to Uganda. All of the crosses are gorgeous! I especially love the Pretty in Pearls cross. Fun art for an amazing cause – win-win!

  10. valerie

    Jen, I love your beautiful crosses….and I love Uganda too! I’ve been there twice and, like you, it has absolutely captured my heart. I had the chance to serve with Amazima and meet Katie too, and it was amazing. I have been praying that God would show ME how I can use my gifts and talents (when I figure out what they are!) to serve the people of Uganda, too. Truthfully, I’m getting a little impatient waiting for Him to show me. 😉 Love what you are doing so much!!

  11. Andrea

    How beautiful! My favorite is the Peacock, but they are all so lovely!

    This whole post reminds me of a dear friend so I’m emailing to her. She’s going to love it.

  12. Danielle

    Hi Jen! You are just so creative, both in your designs and in how you are creating something in order to be able to give more. How cool! There are several adopted Ugandan kiddos in our church, and I think of their sweet faces often when I hear of mommas in Uganda being given a chance at life with their babies through Kiva, and Amizma, and a dozen other “hand up, not hand outs.” I particularly like the “We Are All in This Together”. If I won i think I would give it to one of the adoptive mommas I know with a Ugandan kid in her heart and home.

  13. Shannon Wheeler

    Love the peacock and the emerald! And I LOOOOOVE that you’re making a difference in Uganda by what you’re doing here. That is so inspiring to me!!!! And I just last week finished reading “Kisses from Katie,” so it’s extra-super-cool to have those images fresh in my mind when I read about what you’re doing. Blessings!!!

    1. Jen Hanson

      That is so cool Shannon that you’ve been reading Katie’s book. My most recent trip to Uganda, my husband and I got to serve a couple of days at the Amazima feeding program. It was unreal to be physically serving food to the same kids that my crosses were helping. I ever got to the chance to give a cross to Katie and thank her for her example. Neat moment and so cool to have faces and places to remember as I make the “We’re All in This Together” crosses with Katie’s beads.

  14. Melissa

    I think each of the crosses are so beautifully made! I love that you donate money to Uganda. I read Kisses from Kate and it is amazing what God is doing through her. Thank you for what you do!

    1. Jen Hanson

      There is just something really special about Uganda. A friend of mine is a photo journalist and has traveled to numerous countries in Africa, and when I asked him if he felt there was sometime unique about Uganda, he answered, “The people there are some of the most joy-filled individuals I’ve ever met. They live in such extremely hard circumstances but their hearts are so friendly and giving. There is something about Uganda that just stands out from all the other African countries I’ve visited.” I couldn’t agree more (even though I haven’t traveled anywhere in Africa besides Uganda ;-))

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