Things that are Excellent

A regular feature that celebrates “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).

cristinas tortina shopWalk into Cristina’s Tortina Shop in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and right away you’ll notice there’s something special.

It’s not just the lively pink-with-brown-polka-dots décor.

It’s not just the picture frames along the east wall that showcase the staff and their dreams.

It’s not just the stunning selection of scrumptious cupcakes (if you happen to get there before they’re sold out!).

What you’ll notice above all else is the atmosphere.

Because the people on both sides of the counter can’t help but be excited about what owner Mary Iusso and her daughter Cristina helped launch just a few short months ago.

When Cristina was born, doctors were surprised to discover she had Down syndrome. They approached Mary and her husband with a list of things she would not be able to do.

Fortunately, in the true spirit of Things that are Excellent, Cristina’s family instead chose to focus on what she could do.

This led, just a few years later, to the opening of Mary’s brainchild: a cupcakery that “creates equal employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome, Autism and other Special Needs.”

Cristina’s Tortina Shop is so much more than a place that makes and sells outstanding desserts.

It is a place that, as their tagline suggests, showcases capabilities.

There has been quite a buzz about the shop on local media, and the word is spreading. When I visited a couple of Sundays ago, Mary shared that they were getting emails from around the world.

In the early days, they donated leftovers to a local women’s shelter. But these days there aren’t any leftovers. Cristina’s now regularly sells out of cupcakes long before closing.

The cupcakes are incredibly good (the Cioccolata is Cristina’s favorite and mine too!), but you’ll want to make the trip just to see what a difference the right attitude can make.

For more of the story and a quick peek in the shop, enjoy this video:

Yes, Cristina’s Tortina Shop is doing more than just serving up delicious desserts. They’re changing the world, one cupcake at a time.

Click here to link with them on Twitter and Facebook.

What is your favorite cupcake flavor?

Things that are Excellent is a regular feature that celebrates “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). If you have a feature idea or a guest post that you would like to submit, let us know in the comments below or email your ideas to:


Pack a Shoebox, Jack!

by Larry Hehn on November 6, 2013

pack a shoebox jackAs part of our continuing series Things that are Excellent, we are pleased to feature Operation Christmas Child, a ministry project of Samaritan’s Purse.

Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization, founded in 1970. They share God’s love by providing physical and spiritual aid to people around the globe.

Since 1993, more than 100 million children in over 130 countries have received a shoebox gift through Operation Christmas Child.

“The mission of Operation Christmas Child,” notes their website, “is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

This year Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame is teaming up with Operation Christmas Child to invite you to share God’s love with a needy child by packing your own shoebox gift.

The journey starts when you pack a shoebox with gifts for a young child, pray for the child who will receive it, and drop it off at one of hundreds of collection centers across the country.

The shoebox is then transported to a processing center, inspected and prepared for shipping, loaded into a sea container with thousands of other shoeboxes, and shipped overseas to the destination country by a team of volunteers.

The volunteers and local churches organize events by going into their community and inviting needy children, regardless of race, religion or gender. Every child receives a shoebox as an unconditional gift.

For some, it will be the only Christmas present they ever receive.

Would you like to share God’s love with a needy child this Christmas? Let Uncle Si show you how…

National collection week starts November 18. Help give a child a Christmas. Pack a shoebox, Jack!

Click this sentence to access the Operation Christmas Child website for more information.


A Beard for a Baby Update

by Larry Hehn on July 11, 2013

bearded baby<< Ok, not that kind of beard for a baby…

At the beginning of June I announced that I was lending my beard growth to help DJ and Courtney Hofmann adopt a child from South Korea.

So far, the “Beard for a Baby” Beard-A-Thon has been going incredibly well. As of the end of June, 31 beard growers have helped raise over $10,000 (including pledges).

While that is certainly reason to celebrate, it is only a fraction of what is needed to make the adoption a reality.

And though my beard continues to grow in support of the cause, my fundraising efforts have been lacking. I’ve never been good at asking people for money, even when I delivered newspapers as a kid.

To date, I am my only sponsor.

I need your assistance!

To help the Hofmanns reach their goal and provide a loving family for a child in need, or simply find out more about their story, visit the Beard for a Baby blog.

Check out the Growth Tracker, with photos of each participant updated monthly. Cast a vote for your favorite beard in the sidebar. Sponsor a beard with a one-time donation or small, convenient monthly installments that run from now until December.

Even if you can’t grow a beard, you can still be part of the action!

Do you know someone who loves babies? Loves beards? Has a beard? Was a baby? Knows someone who has a beard? Wants to know more about adopting a baby? Wants to know how to grow a beard? Wants to be inspired by beards of all different colors, shapes and sizes?

Visit Beard for a Baby and encourage your friends to come along.

On behalf of DJ and Courtney, thank you for your support!