Thursday, 24 May 2012

Spring update!

I've been completely quiet here at Inside Outside Upside Down, but my family and I have been really busy back in the real world. Change is in the air... so thick we're almost choking on it.  We started a company named "Just Fair Goods".  Our goal is to use that company to make it easier for people in our community to access fairly traded products. It's also a means to support local ministries. Thirdly, we will be at the local farmer's market beginning in only a few weeks (eep!) and I'm really hoping that this will be a great place to start conversations, build relationships, spread the word on Fair Trade, find other like-hearted souls, and oh, maybe sell some great coffee.  So, we are excited.   We have also joined a new church community. That has a pile of emotions tied to it. I still love my old church and didn't leave for any negative reasons, it just felt like God was calling us to something new. We have landed in an awesome new church, I'm really inspired by their love for justice and mercy.  They are great people and I'm so glad we found them.

I've really, really, rulllly been thinking a lot about that old mainstay of loving our neighbours and putting that into action. I'm thinking about service, I'm thinking about meeting needs, I'm thinking about indifference and not knowing the needs I could know about. I'm thinking about building God's kingdom in my neck of the woods. I'm thinking about what to do, where to start.  I'm seeking God's guidance and trust me, he has been very clearly pointing things out to me. So now, I need the gumption to move on that and not to cower in fear of rejection.  Pray for me! 

Finally, I've come across a fantastic book called "Common Prayer" by
Shane Claiborne:
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove:

It is a book of common prayer (no surprise) that is clearly justice and mercy-minded. It is a collection of prayers and reflections from a variety of Christian traditions and a number of Christian writers, leaders, and saints. It has been a very useful prayer book for me. Each day's morning prayer includes reflections for the day (like a devotional) plus a reading from the psalms, OT and NT, a song, as well as a place for prayers for others.  There are also evening prayers for each each day of the week.  I have been really blessed by this book. And the best thing I've since discovered, is that you can follow the website (which posts the daily prayer) for free! Of course, you will probably fall in love with it and want to buy your own copy too. Here is the website to check out:

Well, just wanted to give you all an update on life around here! Hopefully, I'll get to write more soon,


Saturday, 3 March 2012

Taking the "Fair Trade Family" Challenge

"Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:1-10 (NIV)

It's Lent (the 40 days - okay actually 47 days- before Easter).  Traditionally this is a time when many Christians fast, repent and give alms.  I was doing a study of references to fasting in the bible and I was really struck by this one in Isaiah, because it has God's response to human fasting.   Let's look again right in the middle of that passage:

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

So, for Lent, our family has decided that if we're gonna do any fasting it BETTER follow the kind of fasting that God has chosen.  Our humble solution is to commit to drastically cut back on the "extras" so we can give that money away (specifically to World Vision's efforts in the Horn of Africa) and also to commit to supporting fair trade. Incidentally, cutting back on extras dovetailed nicely with trying to use only fair trade sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, and spices: we have cooked more foods from scratch since most prepared foods don't contain fair trade ingredients.

If you're not already familiar with the fair trade movement, here it is in a nutshell: Fair trade guarantees a fair, reliable price to farmers for the crops they grow - rather than forcing farmers to sell at the prices set by the commodity market.  There is a premium paid on fair trade products that is earmarked for community development - to build and support schools, wells, or medical clinics for example.  By contrast, many conventional commodity farmers in the third world are at the mercy of the commodity market (which is grossly manipulated by richer nations and their farming subsidies).  Furthermore, fairly traded products are also almost always organically grown.  For growers, organic production means better soil for future crops and freedom from pesticides which in turn means better health and cleaner water for the farmers and surrounding neighbours.  Pesticides (and the rental of sprayers) are extremely expensive relative to crop prices and are often applied without the use of safeguards such as protective clothing or respiratory equipment.  I won't even get into the problem of pesticide resistance among insects here... Sadly, the whims of the market and the reliance on extremely expensive pesticides leads to an escalating cycle of debt and many farmers are effectively enslaved to their creditors. 
 I believe that the goals of fair trade are in line with what God is calling for in the passage above.

(Here is a pretty smart explanation of what fair trade and why it's important:

I was listening to a GREAT sermon on this Bible passage and was struck by two ideas from the pastor: "Living a life of worship means saying no to something so that we can say yes to something"  and  "(The Gospel) ought to force us to live an outward life."  (Check it out at - check out February 26, 2012.)

And now... the "Fair Trade Family" Challenge!!!

So here is my two-part challenge to you and your family: First of all, choose one or more items that you usually buy from conventional sources and switch to Fair Trade.  If you already buy a Fair Trade product regularly, coffee for instance, commit to adding another product.  Then,  think about which other "extra" foods and drinks you can cut back on and pledge to use the money you'd have normally spent on those goodies (chips, beer, candy?) and give it to charity instead. 

Please leave me a comment if you're taking the challenge and be sure to let me know how it goes!

much love,


"Let's do for one what we wish we could do for everyone". -Andy Stanley

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Start with "hi".

I previously refered to this article from the Globe and Mail about a study that found that most kids with intellectual disabilities have NO friends whatsoever.  That's right, not one friend.  It is appalling but sadly not surprising if you've spent any time around the intellectual disability community.

It can be really hard for someone with an intellectual disability to make friends, especially if he or she doesn't communicate with words, or has difficulty communicating with words.  Ironically, it is precisely people with intellectual disabilities who really, really belong in friendships: not only do people with intellectual disabilities tend to rely on others to get through life more than a typical person, but time after time you will hear, or learn for yourself, that a lot of persons who have an intellectual disability are incredible friends.  Judith Snow wrote about the giftedness of a man named Peter who fostered a strong sense of community for so many people in his west end Toronto neighbourhood.  In an age where we seem to worship individuality and independence, people like Peter remind us time and again that the beauty of humanity is our interdependence, our ability to love one another, to trust and be trusted. 

Philosopher and humanitarian Jean Vanier observed this gift and has dedicated his life to L'Arche, now a worldwide community celebrating the lives of our brothers and sisters living with an intellectual disability.  A local L'Arche community is made up of core community members (adults who have an intellectual disability) and assistants. The core community members and assistants live communally in one or more homes in an area and often enjoy the informal involvement of many other neighbours.  I really encourage you to take a look at the L'Arche website, and if you want to learn more, I would refer you to Jean Vanier's beautiful book "Becoming Human".

Now for most of us, especially those of us who already have our own families to raise, moving into a L'Arche community is probably not an option,  however, there are still so many ways to become involved in the life of a person who has an intellectual disability.  In Canada, Community Living associations exist provincially and within each city.  They exist to provide support services to individuals with intellectual disabilities.  You can contact your local Community Living agency and volunteer to be paired with an adult in your area.  As a volunteer you commit to building a friendship with your assigned partner based on  your mutual interests. You can find a list of all of the local Community Living associations within Ontario here.

If you are out and about much in your neighbourhood you probably have seen at least one person from time to time who you recognize as probably having an intellectual disability. I really encourage you to just say "hi" the next time that your paths cross.  Start a conversation the time after that.  Be a friendly face instead of just another stranger.  I love this initiative by Community Living British Columbia:  . 

If your child has a classmate who has an intellectual disability, why not invite the child and her parents over for a playdate?  Especially if the kids aren't friends yet!  You can be a great role model for your own child in this regard. 

Your child, or you for that matter, might feel nervous around your potential new friend: encourage your child to express their concerns with respect for the other person's dignity.  For example, my kids were a bit uncomfortable around a boy we know because he can not control his salivating.  We talked about the muscles in our faces and how we usually control our saliva and why this was difficult for our friend.  His mom and I assured the kids that someone can wipe his chin whenever he starts to salivate too much, and that my kids can just wash their hands if they get some saliva on them.  As trivial as this sounds, it was a big deal to two of my kids and once we talked about it their comfort and enjoyment of their new friend increased greatly.   Again, I think it's really important for our kids to address their discomfort with differences (not to be made to feel ashamed for mentioning it) and to deal with it matter of factly and always with respect and dignity.  Shame or a fear of asking questions will only lead to avoidance! 

Hopefully, there is at least one person who comes to mind as you read this post.  I trust that we are all meant to be living the lives that we live, in the time and place that we are in.  This person you are thinking of is meant to be who he or she is too.

You are both fearfully and wonderfully made by our Heavenly Father.

 I believe that God has placed this person in your heart for a purpose.  God has given you both the wonderful opportunity to befriend each other.  Who knows you might just be lucky enough to make a friend for life.

God bless you!


Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Unplugged Family: The REAL World.

After my last post I read this beautiful piece by my beautiful friend, Cassandra. Looks like we were both thinking about the meaning of life lately. Enjoy!

The Unplugged Family: The REAL World.

Meant To Be

My kids love "Veggie Tales". (They love all kinds of smash-em-up violent comic book hero movies too...but even more than that they love, love, love "Veggie Tales") For the uninitiated, "Veggie Tales" are basically animated stories about character traits and faith told by vegetable characters. This week we watched "It's a meaningful life" which is based on the Christmas classic "It's a wonderful life".  It addresses the feeling of being unimportant or insignificant, the longing to "be somebody", to have your name up in lights. It takes the main character, played by Larry Cucumber on a what-if journey in which he realizes that even in this humble life of his he is very important, in fact crucially important. He has a purpose. He is meant to be.

As part of the DVD extras there are a music video and a little behind-the-scenes story about the music video. The featured song is "Meant to Be" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  The lyrics are such beautiful truth and I hope you take the time to read them all and reflect on them. Here is the first verse:

Long before you drew your first breath
A dream was coming true
God wanted to give a gift to the world
So he wrapped it up in you
Every step that you’ve taken
Every move that you make
Is part of his plan

Before I really became a Christian, by that I mean, before it hit me like a tonne of bricks that God was who he said he was and that Jesus was indeed the saviour of the world, my very own saviour, before I decided that I needed to trust and follow Jesus come what may, to cling to him in faith before all of that I was so very lost. I was weary and burdened, grasping for answers of meaning, of purpose. I was desperate to know what I had to do to be validated, to have worth. I mean, I knew about Jesus, I grew up in a very Christian environment: Catholic school and Church on Sundays. I hung out with churchy people and went to bible studies and the whole bit. I should have known HIM, but I didn't. I knew about him, but I didn't know him. He could have been a myth, he could have been just a really fantastic great story.  I couldn't build my life on that. Great storty, but what self-respecting, educated person could really believe that stuff was TRUE?

I wanted to be good, and to do something good with my life, I wanted to be righteous! So I looked for anything that seemed to me to be worthwhile to invest in. I was in fact doing many good things, but for the wrong reasons. I would do things out of guilt or obligation or to please others or to look like a smart, successful self-respecting, good person on the outside. But inside, I was filled with anxiety and loathing. What if I wasn't doing enough? What if the right people didn't notice? What if they noticed but didn't care, or worse, didn't approve? Who were the right people anyway? What if I wasn't doing what REALLY mattered?  How would I even know what that was? What if I totally screwed up my kids for life? I had to try more things, read more things, do more things.  I am very ashamed to write this now but I secretly looked down at all the people who got in my way, who were so different from me, who didn't buy into my philosophy or cause of the month, who stood like light in stark contrast to the darkness of my life. I dehumanized them and for this I am deeply sorry.  If you are reading this and have known me for more than a few years, then I may have dehumanized you too. I probably have. Please know that I am sorry.

It is difficult for me to write about what a nasty arrogant know-it-all jerk I was all my life and then tell you that now I am following Jesus and now I know that this time I am on the right path and oh, how I've changed! and now you should listen to me and trust Jesus too. I realize how offensive that sounds coming from a nasty arrogant know-it-all jerk.  But all I can say in all humility and truth is, I'm not a nasty arrogant know-it-all jerk anymore. That person is (thankfully) dead. And maybe the memory of her still lingers and brings back past hurts and resentments. But (and I really can't tell you how humble and contrite and awkward and thankful I feel right now) I have been born again in Christ and now I live. I am a new creation and I thank God (not nearly enough) that he would take an undeserving wretch like me and make me new. Because He Loves Me.  Because He meant for me to be. Because He has a plan for me.  And because I know who I once was and how awesome I thought I was when really I was so not, I can only guarantee you that salvation is a gift and is NOT something that can be earned. 

Maybe you love Jesus too and are so happy to be living your life in his light. Amen! Leave me a comment to encourage others.


Maybe you are reading this right now and are thinking that you are feeling weary too. Maybe you feel frustrated because you've been living a religious life all your life, and have been trying so very hard to please God, but something is missing, maybe you know about Jesus but yet don't know him.   Maybe you didn't grow up with any faith, or lost it long ago. Maybe you so desperately are looking for answers and want to know if this is legit.  Jesus said "Come to me if you are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)  Want to talk about it?


Maybe you can testify as to what a jerk I really was and that you have in fact seen a change in me! Leave a comment, but please, let's try to be kind - ulp!


Maybe you can't get over how much I have hurt you and am still hurting you through your memories. If so, please, confront me. Let me take you out for coffee and apologize to you face to face. Please let us start to rebuild our relationship.

A few final thoughts on being meant to be (you'll need a bible, you can try since you're online anyway- and you'll see it simultaneously in several translations with slightly different nuances):

Psalm 139 (especially verse 15 and 16)
Acts 17:25-27
Ephesians 1:4
James 1:18

And from "The Purpose Driven Life" (of which you can download the first 7 chapters for free):  

"But being successful and fulfilling your life’s purpose are not at all the same issue!
You could reach all your personal goals, becoming a raving success by the world’s standard, and still miss the purposes for which God created you. You need more than self-help advice. Jesus Christ once said, “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to
finding yourself, your true self.”Matthew 16:25 (Msg)"

This post was supposed to be about a Globe and Mail article that I read this morning claiming that 53% of  kids with intellectual disabilities have no friends.  I will hold that thought for next time.  Let me just ask you, how can you see that others are meant to be part of God's plan if you don't realize that you too were meant to be?

love and blessings,


Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Warning...thoughts under construction.

I feel like a million and three thoughts are currently duking it out in my brain for a place in the forefront of my conscience.  I also realize as I sit here typing that I really don't love sitting and typing. I am all about handwriting and scribbling and doodling and drawing out mind-maps with connecting lines all over the place. (They communicate so much more than a bulleted list of points.) I have a handful of drafts already composed that are little more than point-form notes and seemingly disconnected thoughts. I need some time to go back and flesh out the ideas, but alas, that's not the way things have been rolling lately. BUT, all four Fabrizikins are asleep (I know!!) and I really wanted to get something out here, so by way of the lamest introduction to a blog ever, I welcome you, dear reader, to a glimpse of what is going on in my spirit, heart, and mind.  Welcome.

A few important clues as to where I am going with this thing:
1) I am crazy in love with Jesus. I want to stalk him, and become just like him. This would sound really bad if I were talking about anyone else, but because it's Jesus it's all good. Trust me on this. (Oh, and he loves me back!!)
2) "If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking." This is a line from a song (sorry, that is the extent of the credit I can give here and now, google it if you really want to know) and WOW! We are drenched, soaked to the bone, sopping wet in God's grace. Whether you know it or not God loves you to bits. He made the universe just so he could one day put you in it (oh, and everyone else too, but really, he actually planned YOU... amazing!) He's perfect and awesome and beyond comprehension, yet he cares about us and wants us to love him.  Awesome!
3) "All is grace" (Thank you Ann Voskamp for that one). I am re-reading "Radical Gratitude" by Mary Jo Leddy (oh please tell me I have that name right).  I am reminded that just being born would have been enough, but God has blessed me and blessed me and blessed me every day.
4) The world is messed up! I see this paranoid, hoarding, cut-throat scarcity mentality seeping into every aspect of life... and it's craziness, and destructive, and a lie.
5) Jesus came down to earth to show us his love, save us from sin, shut down religion, and set up his kingdom (thanks to Bruxy Cavey and the Meeting House for this).  And guess what, that kingdom is upside down, and indside out compared to what the world looks like now.  For starters, Jesus hung out with all the icky people (lucky for me!). Read the Gospels... I'm not making this up.
6) We are part of the plan! We get to help God by being his hands and feet in this world, and pointing others to him by loving on others.
7) Relationship is HUGELY important to God. And he is so holy and amazing, and so our gunk gets in the way and we get all funny and can't be near him like that and so he wants us to repent of our sin and snap, he forgives us and gathers us up into his big old loving arms and it's beautiful and we want to be there. Oh, so sweet.
8) This is the kind of religion that the Bible says is pleasing to God: caring for widows and oprhans in their distress. And, furthermore this is what God wants of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him, our Lord. 
9) I suck big time and am woefully inadequate and unworthy of just about anything I have been given (have you seen the wonderful family I was born into, or the one I married intom or the wonderful family that my husband and I have built? Just that should be proof enough that I am ridiculously blessed more than I deserve! And all that family could tell you all kinds of stories to vouch for my claim of unworthiness!!) and yet, Jesus loved me anyways. Thanks Be To God.

What's coming up...
*Lent, the season of preparation for Easter, a time of penance and almsgiving, of getting our hearts right with God and giving generously to others, is right around the corner. I will post something about Operation Rice Bowl and other nifty ideas before lent begins (or again, visit my good friend Google for more about that).
*I'm thinking about starting a fair-trade food co-op because I love me my coffee and chocolate and want to share some of that love with the people who make it. I'll explain more and invite you to join my crew.
*some thoughts on inclusion and people who are labelled as disabled and being human and being made in God's image.  (Google Jean Vanier or Judith Snow if your curiosity is piqued).

So, three concluding thoughts:
1) I really probably should have left this as a draft and worked it into something more coherent first, but now you really know how my mind works...and I used my real name and everything in the blog title... what am i doing?
2) I hope that  I have left you simultaneously confused and intrigued enough that you'll come back for more.
3) I can not believe that all four of my children have slept long enough for me to actually write this thing! Oh wait, the baby just woke up, so...

The End.

love Jen