Friday, December 15, 2017

2017 Suvar Christmas Letter

For the last 6 years we have taken the money that we would have used to pay for Christmas cards, pictures, and postage and put that money towards a charity.  For the last six years that money has gone to World Vision to buy a goat and a few chickens for a family in poverty. Last year we were able to add a cow to the mix as well, thanks to my commissions from Rodan+Fields. 

This year, with the increase in commissions from my side business, we are able to purchase the chickens, goats, and cow, plus support a local family in need.  We aren't tell you all this so that the light can shine on us. Rather, we share this with you so that others may see the Light that inspires us to give of ourselves. We can only give because He first gave to us.

"Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify YOUR FATHER in heaven." Summary of Matthew 5:16   

As my friend Carey says, "Our arrow points UP."

So instead of a picture in the mail with a happy holiday greeting, you get this update. And a montage of pictures taken over this past year.

Owen is 11 and is in 5th grade.  He is reading books at a high school level, building fantastic creations with his Legos, and aspires to be a surgeon someday. He is certainly the first-born of the bunch. Bent toward the Type-A rule following (to a T!) and constantly "directing" his sisters on what they should do. He has a knack for memorization and can recite long parts of scripture with hardly any practice and is self-teaching himself piano, mostly by listening to songs.

 The Boston Common

Hannah is 9 1/2 and is in 4th grade this year.  Hannah is our in-house creative, singer, and dancer.  We have noticed lately that, although she is incredibly shy and has a hard time around big groups of people, if you put her on a stage it's a whole different story. This girl loves to perform. I think I see musicals and drama club in our future. Daily she is writing stories, drawing pictures, and creating new things out of items found in our recycling bin.  All of her requests, questions, and stories come to us through song and melody.  Sometimes it takes 3 minutes to tell us something that really only takes 30 seconds, but at least there is entertainment through it all. 

 We as a family hiked a mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Madeline is nearly 8, in 2nd grade, and has quite the personality.  She is the most independent and headstrong of the three.  She seems to have a mature sense of humor that does not match her age and makes us laugh daily with things she says. She also loves to make little people out of simple ordinary objects (erasers, corks, clothespins), cuddle on the couch, and has a soft heart that is quick to ask and receive forgiveness. 

 He did it! 26.2 miles on the streets of Boston, MA.

 In April, we as a family took a road trip to Boston to cheer Paul on as he checked an item off his bucket list - running the Boston Marathon. A race that you have to qualify for in order to run (under 3 hour 10 minutes for his age group) it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip.  In June, Paul finished up his third year of teaching with much singing and rejoicing from me.  Having put in more hours in 8 months than a full time job does in 12, I was so very thankful to have him around for the summer.  But our summer was hardly a sit-down relaxation type of summer. We spent nearly 2 weeks traveling and visiting our dear friends in Zambia, thanks to a donor who paid for our plane tickets! The whole trip felt like a dream. In fact, if I didn't have the 400+ pictures to prove it, I would completely believe that I had imagined it all.  As far as myself, I continue to work for Gateway Woods as the Systems Coordinator in the Foster Care Department. I love being the support behind the department as we license foster parents and support them as they take care of hurting children.

Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia

I have been striving to be more active on this blog over the past year because I love to write. But so often I don't have those large chunks of time to sit down and type. I am hoping someday that I will be able to be more regular, until then, thank you to my few faithful readers!

 A quick stop in London, and a 3 mile trek to see Buckingham Palace

Along with working at Gateway, being a wife, mom, taxi driver, and all around supporter of everyone's lives, I am also balancing that along with the time I put into my side business. Two years ago I took a leap and joined as a Consultant of a skincare company, Rodan+Fields. For quite some time Paul and I have desired to live off as little as possible and give most of our income away. We felt like we were about to the point of squeezing blood from a turnip, when God brought along this out-of-the-box way of funding His Great Commission. These past two years have been a lesson in trust, waiting on God's timing, getting a better understanding of what giving really looks like, and changing our question from "How much should we give?" to "How much should we keep?" 

A typical home in the compound, outside Kitwe, Zambia.

Each of us is called to serve the Kingdom in different ways, and different capacities. I pray that each person who reads this will realize they have a part in furthering the Kingdom, and that 2018 will bring it into clearer focus just what that may be.

We thank you for your prayers and want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.  We are so thankful that so many years ago Jesus was willing to come to earth and live a human life, devoid of sin, and die on the cross for each of our sins.  We don’t deserve His sacrifice on our behalf, but we are SO very thankful for it!

A very Merry Christmas and a joyful, Happy New Year!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Perfectionist and trying not to be

This year I was part of the committee to create and direct the Christmas Program with our Sunday School students at church.

Drama and skits was not a “thing” for anyone on our committee, and so we focused more on music and scripture readings. Even at that, it still felt like quite the production and my easily stressed personality tried it’s best to take it in stride.

Tried being the key word.

The Program came, and it went. And no surprise, it all turned out fine.

And now that it is done, and that responsibility if off my mind, I feel like I can finally get into the Christmas Spirit.

How sad.

How sad that my cheer can be so easily offset by responsibilities, to do lists, and expectations.

I know there are other recovering perfectionists out there. How do you deal?

How do you set aside expectations you set on yourself? How do you deal when you fall short of what you had in your mind?

In this striving to NOT keep up with the Joneses, what do I do about the Joneses that I've created in my own mind?

I don't have the complete answer, and I would love to find that magic bullet that could just take care of this struggle for me.

But I did have the thought while I was ruminating in the car today, driving between work and school pick-up, the car was quiet and I could be with my thoughts.


When our fears, our failures, our deflated expectations stare us in the face, threatening to kill our joy, we can fight it with Truth.

Truth that nothing of ourselves will ever be good enough. Tough pill for a perfectionist to swallow, I know.  But truly, it can be freeing. Because the only good in me is Jesus.

Which means I can stop trying so hard. I can stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Because, well, the only good thing in the Joneses is Jesus, too.

I know this may not be a popular belief, and I know there are some that may disagree. That's OK. I'm open for dialogue. Because my Jesus loves everyone.  Every one.  He knows every single one of us is not good. But he loves each of us anyway.

Now, I know that Truth.  The daily struggle is to shut down the lies the try to invade and tell me otherwise. The best way to fight it is to start every morning with the Truth. And then, step out the door, wave to my neighbors, the Joneses, and smile, knowing they are only good because of Jesus too.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Giving Gifts that Give Back, round 2

 Christmas is kind of a big deal.

Even for those who do not celebrate Christ's birth, Christmas is kind of a big deal.

Gifts and giving is a huge part of this holiday. And, though I seek to keep Christ at the center, I too enjoy getting into the Christmas spirit of gift giving.

But how much more fun, like a cherry on top, would be giving gifts that give not only to your recipient, but to others as well?

Several years back I was introduced to a few different companies that were using their profits to aid others, whether it was freeing women and children from the sex-trade, giving poverty-stricken families sustainable jobs, or giving education to young girls who did not have access before.  I loved the idea of, when giving a gift, it was like giving it twice.

So, I compiled a short list (there are so many more!) or different companies who are using their profits for the betterment of souls and communities.  The ones listed below are all ones I have either used to give gifts, or have bought items for myself to own. Click on their titles and it will take you to their page where it tells more about each company.

Krochet Kids International 

I found out about this company about 4 years ago.  I've given several items as gifts, and, as you can tell from these pictures, own a few things myself. I love that every product they make is hand-signed by the person who made it. When you receive your package it comes with a profile of the woman who made your KK intl. product, so you can learn her story. You can go to the website and write a personal note of thanks and encouragement to them. This company employs women from around the world, helping them break the cycle of poverty.

  The head band and these comfy cotton pants were both handmade by women employed by KK intnl.. I've never owned a pair of yoga pants, but I may never have to because of this pair here.

Moriya Ethiopian Accessories
These bags and scarves are made by women in Ethiopia. This operates under a very similar vein of the above company, the artisans even hand sign their craft. I have given several of thier bags as gifts and own a couple bags as well that get daily use.

fashionABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by working with women who have often overcome extraordinary circumstances. They manufacture directly in the communities they wish to impact, both locally and globally, creating jobs and ending the cycle of charity dependency. I don't own any of these scarves myself, as all the ones I've bought I've gifted. There are more than just scarves, though. Bags, clothes, accessories, something for just about anyone.

Bloom & Give
This company creates textiles out of India. Each purchase helps to fund schooling for Indian girls, the part of society that is often seen as not needing an education at all. This also helps break the cycle of poverty, giving these young women a chance to grow and learn.

I personally love their kitchen linens, but they have much more beyond that as well.

Obviously this is not an exhausted list, there are so many companies out there that are looking to give back and give beyond themselves. I believe that if we are more intentional on where we save our money and where we spend it, we can impact lives worldwide. This is just a small piece of the puzzle. But something very doable for all of us.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The tricky balance of Contentment and Dreams

Grow where you are planted.

Godliness with contentment is great gain.

The art of contentment is being satisfied with what you have.

For quite some time I have struggled with trying to find the balance with being content right where I have been placed...

And being OK with the drive to not just stay where I have been placed.

How do you balance contentment with striving for dreams?  How do you accept that the grass is green on your side of the fence but know that the grass on the other side may be where you are to end up?

How do you balance striving for dreams and resting in the journey to getting there?

We live in a fast-paced society. That isn't news to anyone.  We want things to happen now, it's hard to breath easy in the wait.

But sometimes dreams that have laid dormant, it seems, in our hearts, are being worked behind the scenes and it can be years before they are realized.

How do you balance resting with the working? Because dreams do take work, they don't just happen.

To remain content with your present circumstance, but know that there is something better coming, you just have to keep at it.

This has been my struggle for the last few years. Perhaps you can relate.

I have this big dream in my heart, some of it I have put out there to the masses, but a part of it is still held close to my chest, Paul being the only one who really knows it.

Two years ago I stepped out in faith, not really knowing if this venture was going to be a teaching time of failure or blossom into fuel for my dream.

My desire to own a business that gives 100% of it's profit to world missions.  I wanted to give big, but I knew it was going to take some divine intervention to make it happen.

Now, two years later, it has grown to more than I imagined.  100% is given away. 13 missionary families are receiving funds, on 6 different continents. I am thankful and humbled every month with what we can give because of my business.

But, here is the rub.  To be content with what the business has brought about, but to strive to grow it more?

I think there will always be this struggle as long as we are on this earthly ground, because, truly, are grandest dreams will never be realized this side of heaven.

But something that can help keep this balance between contentment and drive - saying no to complacency.

It can be an easy thing to fall into. Complacency. Being OK with how things are and not really desiring change. Complacency is not the same thing as contentment. Be careful not to confuse the two.

Complacency looks at itself with smug regard, thinking itself pretty good and no need to get better.

Contentment looks at itself, feeling grateful for what it does have. Knowing there is better out there but also so very thankful for what it has today.

My business anniversary is fittingly, also the month of Thanksgiving.  Appropriate for sure. 

Because, you see, I still desire more for this business. I desire more team partners to come alongside me, funding their own dreams beside me. I desire to give more each month to world missions. But I also lift my hands in praise and thanks because this business has already grown beyond what I initially thought it could.

Do you have a dream that has been sitting dormant? Are you complacent, thinking you're good, there is no need to chase that dream? Maybe afraid of failure?  I pray you find the courage to take that leap, to pull yourself out of complacency, out of fear. And take the first step in following that dream. And find contentment that even the first step is further than you were before.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans' Day

I don't know too many people personally that have gone to war for me.

Although I do have some family members who have served in the armed forces.




My dad.

I think that is that one that strikes me the most.  Even though my dad didn't know me yet as he signed up to go fight a war.

To leave family and security behind.

To trade it for nightmarish reminders and medical affliction that still plague him today.

I don't know all the reasons behind why he signed up.  But I believe he was wanting to see freedom for others who did not have it.  Freedom that he enjoyed here in America.

He went, along with many, many others, to fight a controversial war.

I don't know many details.  As one could guess, my dad doesn't share too many of the stories of his time oversees in uniform.  But that's OK.  I've seen him suffer physically over the last 30+ years to know that all things were not pleasant.

My dad was exposed to disease and toxic gases while serving this country.  Things that followed him home.

I know there are countless other veterans who have and are suffering like my dad.  Their sacrifice for this country did not end when their feet once again touched this American soil.  Their sacrifice continues, follows them around daily.  Physically, mentally.

I don't say all this evoke pity.  I don't think my dad, or other veterans, necessarily wants that.

But I want to stir appreciation.

I know there are some who do not always agree with all that Armed Forces are doing or have done.  But regardless, these people sacrificed their lives, then and now, for each of our freedom.

The least we can do is say "Thank you."

Greater love has no one than this: 
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15;13

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Giving Gifts that Give Back

It's getting close to that time of year.

Though I don't do a lot of shopping until after Thanksgiving, I do keep my eye out for deals and certain gifts.  I did a post this morning on Facebook about a couple different gifts that give back when ever you purchase, so thought I would elaborate here on a certain one.


There are quite a few people out there who like it, so I hear....

And what a better way to give a coffee gift than with coffee that gives to more than just the receiver!?

Below I have listed 3 different coffee companies, that when you purchase from them, proceeds benefit missions, orphans, and those in poverty.  And BONUS: they all ship to you AND they all taste great (yes, I've tried them all)

Click the name of each company to be taken to their site.

From their site: Deaf Can! Coffee exists to affirm young people in their identity as a Deaf person and as someone made in the image of God. Success is defined as young men and women accepting themselves, believing in their inherent gifts and talents, taking responsibility for their future and becoming a leader in their families, communities and careers. We are an outreach of HarvestCall Jamaica, a not-for-profit organization founded to obey God and love others.

From their site: Gobena’s sense of community inspired the founders to start this coffee ministry where 100% of the net profits were reinvested in the lives of orphan children throughout the world. In 2012, Lifesong accepted the challenge of growing Gobena… where each bag of coffee sold blesses the lives of children.

100% of the profits from your purchase goes to support missionaries, and you can even specify which missionaries you want it to go to from the drop down menu provided.  Hint: I personally know Nathan and Rachel Mueller, so, if you purchase from this site, feel free to pick them! :)


Sunday, November 5, 2017

October Lookback

I love October.

It is my favorite month out of the year. The colors, the smells, the sounds. All of it. My favorite.

This October did not disappoint.

After a September of barely holding on, we had a few slow evening together at home to help me feel grounded. 

That being said, it was also jam packed with friends, celebrations, and all around being joyful about life.

It wasn't without bumps, don't get me wrong. But those bumps and valleys make the mountaintops and smooth road even more glorious when they finally appear. Could we really appreciate those highest highs if there wasn't a low to compare it to?

I'm still without my Canon Camera *sniff* so my Motorola phone cam had to capture it all. A bit fuzzy at times, but it still captured the memory. Thanks for walking down the lane with me.

The worship band that Paul is a part of was asked to play at an outdoor venue at the beginning of October. Rain ended up blowing in shortly before it started, but they soldiered on and we praised Jesus in the rain. Fitting, I think.

Wasn't planned, really.

We had a Saturday morning that we could meet sweet friends at the park, eat donuts, go for a walk, and catch up..

The bi-annual school skating party. Made it through another one with no major injuries...

Field trip to the pumpkin patch with 2nd graders

Celebrating Owen turning 11!

 I've never been able to really successfully make cookies....but I birthed a daughter that can. My 9 year old makes better cookies than me. And I'm OK with that.

 Grandparents Day at School

 Easily one of the most anticipated weekends of my year. Paul and I head to Columbus, the city of the start of our marriage, and run a race to raise support for Bryer's Song and Nationwide Children's Hospital.  I enjoy running, but I enjoy it even more when I can run it for others.

 Bryer's Parents. I marvel at how God makes lives intersect, long before we really realize why. This couple is one of those instances.

 Full disclosure. I tried out StitchFix. This lady, who is attempting to do a capsule wardrobe, tried out StitchFix.  In my defense, it was free for the first time. And I only kept 2 of the 5 things.  And when I kept those 2 things, I got rid of two others from my closet. So, really I'm even.....

 Random musicals and plays performed in the living room.
 Owen trying out his Cub Scout skills with starting a campfire on his own.

 One evening I really wanted to make it to a corporate event for my skincare business, but Paul was out all evening with Parent Teacher conferences and all babysitting fell through. Thankfully, I work for company that has no problem with children tagging along. Armed with Leap Pads and encyclopedias, I had 3 additional guests for the evening.

 These two gave me a tours of their houses they built.

 I had several people ask how we stick to $50 a week for groceries, so I started a few lives videos on Facebook in this past month with a few of the things I do. Feel free to find me and check them out. I'd love to hear some more money-saving ideas - I know they're out there!
 Got to spend one Saturday showing my sis-in-law with gifts and love. So excited to meet this little guy next month!

 The girls got some cousin time in at the baby shower as well
 And then a couple days later we took another road trip to meet the newest addition to the Steffen side of the family. You can say he is well loved.

 Just a rainbow that we had the luck to capture

 We didn't go out trick or treating this year but Paul had the idea for all 5 of us to dress up and have a costume contest. An elf fairy, a zoologist, and Captain America were the kids' creations. I dressed up as a pun that non of the kids understood.  But, once all the votes were counted, I ended up winning. Pretty sure those were all pity votes. 

We ended the month with Fall Break. For us it was mostly hanging out around home. The kids built forts, we played board games, and Paul caught up on more school work.

 I ended the month with meeting a friend who I have known for 2 years but only now have met her in person. We are part of the same skincare company (a huge perk to this job - meeting sweet new people!!) and she wanted to meet me in Indy to catch Jen Hatmaker and Nichole Nordeman live.  We got front row seats, signed copies of their book and CD, AND got to meet them in person.  The fact that Nichole Nordeman exclaimed: "I love your shirt!" may or may not have left me feeling high for nearly 24 hours after.