Mission Ideas, On Mission

Thankful Leaves: A Printable

If you could write out all the things you are thankful for, what would you write? We have so much to be thankful for! I’m so thankful that my sweet gals are napping in their rooms right now as I write this! Ha

Seriously though, this time of year just gets me! I love Thanksgiving and turkey and of course the pecan pie! But a huge part of it is the tradition that Dan and I started when we first got married. We began a thankful “tree” and each evening at dinner, we spent a few minutes writing what we were thankful for from that day on a little “leaf” and tying it to the tree. Some things are funny. Some things are just plain silly. Some are sweet. And some just make me cry like a baby. Once our gals came along we knew we wanted the tradition to continue and each year just gets better and better! And we also love keeping the “leaves” and going back and reading them… lots of things change from year to year.

I also have noticed that when we are more focused on things we are thankful for, our gals begin to also do the same. It’s funny how that works, eh…

So how do you foster thankfulness around your home? Do you have any traditions like a “thankful tree”?

If you don’t, I want to encourage you to start a simple tradition and take time to voice and write down things you’re thankful for this year!

Here’s a simple (like super simple) leaf printable that you can use. Just print and cut and then punch holes and tie on your tree!

Click the Link Below to Download your free printable!

Our “tree” is pretty basic too – just find a good mason jar, fill it with sticks and there ya have it! I think they even have some great “real” trees now at Hobby Lobby or Target?!

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What thankful traditions do you have?! Share your ideas here or over on our Instagram!

Here’s the free Printable!

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Mission Ideas, On Mission

Growing Thankful Hearts…

“But mommy…. just one more! One more piece of candy!” Seems to be said and heard a lot around our house during this time of year.

At Times, it makes me want to pull my hair out and scream, “can’t you just be thankful that I even let you have ONE piece….” (while that silly pumpkin taunts me from the counter…)

But, then I take a step back and a few minutes of “mommy timeout”, and remember that it’s my calling and honor to teach my girls how to have thankful hearts. They definetly don’t and can’t learn that on their own!

This is a great and easy time of year to take a step back and spend some time developing little thankful hearts.

1. It starts with you! Are you thankful for the things which God has given you? Your home? Your family and your friends? The clothes you wear? Spend some time personally thanking God for all that He has blessed you with. A wise friend once reminded me that “if I were to wake up today with only the things that I thanked God for yesterday, what would I have?” Thats convicting! I can sometimes skip The thankfulness and move right into the petition. When you invite your children into your thankfulness, it’s huge! Do they hear you say “thank you” to your hubby or for that special gift or for the food or for the raise you surprisingly received at work? Or are they hearing you whine “just one more….”

2. Be intentional! There are lots of great ways to foster thankfulness. For us, we have the tradition that dates back to the beginning of our marriage of having a thankful “tree” and each evening during November, we take time at dinner to share one or two things we are thankful for from that day. It may be a phone call from a friend, a walk with the dog, a hug from one of the girls… it can be anything. But we write it down on a “leaf” and tie it to the tree. And over the month it’s always fun to watch the tree begin to fill up. There are other fun ways too celebrate and foster thankfulness.

3. Read about it! Start with scripture and share what it has to say and talk about it with your little ones. 1 Thes. 5:18, Col. 3:15, Col.4:2 and I could keep on going! Just look up “thankful” in your bible! Memorize a few of those verses this month. My favorite is 1 Chronicles 16:34. God’s word is active and alive and can change their hearts! There are also really great books and stories to read together. One recent resource I came across is the “I will Thank You” scripture and art journal from Kids Read Truth! So good!

3. Say it and show it! Take time with your kids to say “thank you”. Make a special card for a grandparent that watched the kids overnight, or the maillady that goes above and beyond with your mail, or the trash man who is faithful to pick up your trash each week. Take time and make cookies or buy a coke or coffee for that teacher who loves on your kids when you can’t. And do this with your kids by your side! Does it take you longer? yep! Can you whip up cookies during nap and be done with it? Probably? But look for ways to bring your kids in to the activity and chat about the whys and watch them grow in their own thankfulness.

What other ideas do you have? What has helped grow thankfulness in the heart of your little one?

Check out our Pinterest Board to see fun ideas to say and grow thankfulness in our little one’s heart! And of course, if you have an idea or resource to share, please do! That is how we grow and learn!

And let me say “Thank you” to each of you who continue to follow On Mission Moms! Thank you for sharing your ideas! Thank you for sharing these posts and inviting your friends to be on Mission with you!! Thank you for pushing me on toward more and more love for Christ and love for others!

Blog, Mission Ideas, On Mission

Reclaiming Halloween

I strongly believe that what the world meant for evil, God can redeem for good. It’s somewhere in the Bible, right? (Actually Gen. 50:20, where Joseph is speaking to his brothers after they sold him…)

I tend to view Halloween a lot like that. While the world often sees it and pushes it as evil, it doesn’t have to be. As believers, we can reclaim it and use it for His good and for His glory!

Here are a couple ways to do that!

1. Use the evening of trick or treating as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors. Have candy for the kiddos but also provide something for the adults too – maybe a cup of hot coffee or cider, maybe a bag of popcorn. Our Life Group (Sunday school class) did this and not only had a great time together but we were able to help some of our friends meet their neighbors and pray with a few parents too! It led to great conversations and connections and who doesn’t love a quick warm drink when you’re walking around forever with your little super hero or princess.

2. Treat (don’t trick) your Neighbors! We have great neighbors and it makes it so fun when we get to surprise them with extra goodies! And they are so sweet to do the same!! Make some special treats for those that live right beside you or those neighbors that maybe aren’t believers and you are developing a great friendship with. Attach a special note and let them know you are thankful for them and praying for them! Look especially for that neighbor that maybe isn’t able to get out or is alone… this can be a stressful and lonely evening for some! So pray for them and stop and chat! You may be their only conversation that day…

What ideas can you share to help us reclaim Halloween and use it as an opportunity to share Christ with our little ones and our neighbors?

Blog, On Mission

Asking the Questions

Call me crazy, but I generally love car time with my girls. It’s a chance to chat and connect and hear about their day especially when I pick them up after their morning of preschool. Often times though, I’m met with silence and tired brains that have been learning and playing hard and as my oldest sometimes says “I just don’t wanna talk about it right now.”

I strive to keep the conversation going though, admittedly so they won’t fall asleep in our five minute drive home, but also so I can learn and encourage and know what’s brewing in their little hearts. I also love to use questions to help them to start thinking about their day and how we are all “on Mission”. I generally ask a question and then we all take turns answering, even the two year old – which is often comical! We usually don’t get more than a couple questions in at a time and that’s okay. My goal isn’t to work through a whole list of questions, it’s to provide a safe place where my girls feel like they can chat and share and open up their hearts. I believe it’s also crucial and more beneficial to ask questions that can’t be easily answered with a yes or a no, but ones they have to give details with. This usually Spurs on deeper conversation.

Here are some great conversation starters centered around leading our little ones to see their lives as “being on Mission”:

  • What did you love about today?
  • What did you not love?
  • What would you do different about today if you could?
  • How were you able to serve others today?
  • How did you serve your teacher and bring her honor?
  • Were you kind and loving in all you did today? With all your friends?
  • Was there anyone who was “left out” or maybe alone today?
  • Were you left out today or maybe felt alone? How did that make you feel?
  • Did you see a special “need” in your class today that maybe you could help with?
  • Were you able to share with a friend today?
  • If you could help or serve anyone today, who would you want to help? Why?
  • What’s the name of a new friend that you played with today?
  • Who did you have an opportunity to share Your bible story or scripture verse with today?
  • Is there anyone or anything you would like to pray for today? (And then we pray for that!)

Let’s be mamas that reclaim the car time and the dinner table time and make sure that it’s a space where our children are chatting and connecting as a family, which starts especially as little ones!

And on those few days when they “just don’t wanna talk about it,” we crank up the silly songs and sing our way home!

What conversation questions do you use with your kiddos to get them talking? Do you listen and share too?

Blog, On Mission

On Mission Mom Spotlight: J serving in Southeast Asia

* we can’t share her pic here, her name, or where she serves… but you can pray regardless and be encouraged by this On Mission Mom as she strives to be intentional and balance her time!

Introduce your family and what you guys do, etc.

My name is J and my husband is T. We have four children and we live in a Southeast Asian country that is primarily Buddhist; however, our main focus and people group are Muslim. In our country the people we serve are disliked and hated. They have very little freedom in our country and many struggle just to vote or travel. They are often happy to talk with believers. They feel a closeness to us because we hold many same beliefs, such as following one God.

What’s been your biggest joy in living and serving overseas?

The biggest joy in living overseas is learning this new culture and loving on these people. We have some great people here and they are happy to help. Whenever I am out with the kids, usually someone comes over and helps me carry them or helps guide them in the direction we are going. The people here love to help.

We are beginning to see our children have a love for the nations, because they see this country as home and they love their friends and want to share with them the Good News, even now as children.

What’s been the biggest struggle?

The biggest struggle here besides missing family like crazy, is remembering the culture we live in 24/7. There are days I would like to go to the store and back without someone pinching my kids cheeks. Or having to stop when we are at the park every few feet because everyone wants a picture with the foreign children. My children sometimes get shy and just want to hide when people start talking to them and they don’t understand all that is being said to them. This is not the culture I grew up in, and it takes effort to remember how to react to situations I would see as weird and they think is an everyday occurrence. It doesn’t mean their culture is wrong. It is just different. We look at it in a different way and see what they see. There are many times my baby loves posing for pics, so his brother and sisters get out of it. I think he now thinks it is weird to go somewhere and people not look at him. We love these people and every pinch and picture also shows that they like us also, and are willing to be around us. We can even use that to share with them life changing news!

How do you involve the kiddos in what you do?

Right now in our work there are very few believers in the people we are reaching. We are going out and pr* walking around their places of worship. Also T goes out regularly to share with people and I go to an English club where many girls are trying to learn English. Every Sunday we have a family pr* time for our people and the kids ask for them to hear the Good News. We go to parks and as a family hang out with other families and the children play together and naturally talk about what they know. My oldest child is passionate about wanting to share with people. Our older girls also attend a dance class and on Easter they wore the Easter story in henna on their hand and made cookies for their class to share.

Whats one way that you stay “On Mission” where you live?

One thing we try to do to keep “on Mission” is to remind the kids as we go out that we are being intentional. We are going to keep our eyes open for the person Father is sending our way today. That person may be someone who we are supposed to share with. That could be the kid on a slide with you or the lady giving you candy from her store. Just be ready and willing to share and help Mama and Daddy also recognize and share too!

What’s one thing you are learning as a mom?

The thing I am learning these days is balance. Our schedule can get very busy as most moms know. I am learning how to maximize my time and focus on what He has entrusted to me at this moment in my life. Right now my main focus is homeschooling and discipling my children. In doing that, we also go out to tell others.

How can we lift you up as you love and serve your families and others?

As you think of us just lift up that we use our time wisely. Ask that we recognize the opportunities in our path to share. Ask that our children will be bold and share with us. That we continue to learn language and culture to be better at reaching their hearts.

Blog, On Mission

A Mom (and daughter) On Mission: Angela & Sierra

One of my most favorite families and mentors, Angela, recently took her youngest daughter to Brazil to serve and share Jesus! Angela has great wisdom as a wife and mom, but most of all, she’s a lady that loves Jesus and wants other to know Him here in Spartanburg and around the world!

1. Introduce you and your fun family!

My name is Angela and I am wife to my best friend Greg, and mom to seven of my most favorite people in the world.

2. How/why did you feel led to go on this trip and bring Sierra with you? Or did she want to go first?

My parents are missionaries in Brazil, so the opportunity to minister in this country is ever present. My four older kids have all been to Brazil to do missions work and two of them have been there for an extended amount of time. About a year ago, Sierra, who was 15 at the time, said she really wanted to go. At that time I was not sure if she was just curious about a country that she had heard so much about or if she was hearing God’s call to go. After Christmas, I begin to feel God calling me to go out of the country on mission. This surprised me a bit, because I had felt for some time that I was content to stay home and “hold down the fort” allowing several of my family members to travel and be on mission.  Shortly after that, Sierra came to me and said she really wanted to go to Brazil in the summer. We have typically tried to cultivate curiosity for mission trips in our children but desire that the calling come from God. From that point on, Sierra was convinced she was supposed to be in Brazil this summer.  God confirmed to me and to her that this was something he had put the desire in her heart for.  One evidence was that her desire did not waiver. She was comfortable missing out on things that had previously been valuable to her, in order to be where God was leading her. For those of you with teenagers, you know that stepping out and doing something different is not the norm.

3. How did you prepare yourself and help her prepare?

I wanted our time in Brazil to be as profitable as possible. I knew we needed to prepare for the trip just as much spiritually, as we were physically. I went to the IMB (International Mission Board) website and found a Bible study to help us prepare. The study was a tool to cultivate spiritual conversations to help us prepare. We talked about why we should share our faith and how to share faith, what happens when share our faith and even practiced sharing our faith. We read scripture together and prayed for the people that would be in our path as we went. The study even covered things to be conscience of while we were in route and how to prepare for a different culture. The most valuable part was just talking with Sierra about the Gospel and hearing what it meant to her.

4. What lessons did you learn serving together?

I was reminded how much freedom there is in obedience. When we obey God, we don’t have to worry about the outcome or even the process. We leave that to Him. In obedience we are able to get a clear picture of God and all He wants for us.

5. What advice would you give Moms about going on missions with your children?

I constantly remind myself that my children are not my own and no matter how much I love them, God loves them infinitely more. If the goal for my kids is to love God and love other people . . .and it should be, then I must give them opportunities to do just that. Love God by sharing what he has done for us. Love God by sacrificing time and money to go where He has called. Being “on mission” with your child enables you to see them in a whole new light. You see the talents and abilities that God has given them. Knowing these strengths, you can look for opportunities to serve based on their giftedness. Remember when we are on missions with our kids sometimes we need to step back and let them lead. Let the Holy Spirit speak to them and don’t interfere. Many times God uses our kids to teach others and US!

Thank you Angela for your wisdom and encouragement to raise our kiddos to be World Changers who love JESUS and love others and for sharing your most recent journey with Sierra!

Blog, On Mission

Serving with Your Little Ones

Each summer my nieces (ages 11 and 9) come down and spend about two weeks with us and it’s always super fun! This year we had the fun opportunity to all serve together at The Bridge, a ministry of our church, that helps others in our neighborhood with financial, food, and clothing needs. It’s pretty dear to my heart so it was the perfect place for us all to serve together. After our time serving, I shared a few pictures over on Instagram and was so encouraged by several of my friends who reached out to say that they really wanted to start serving with their little ones too, but weren’t sure exactly how to get started or connected. I also realized that I’ve never really shared any insight to serving with little ones although that is a pretty big piece behind my desire to start up On Mission Moms (duh….)

So here goes:

1. Know your children! That seems kind of silly to say but it has to be said here. If you know your little one can probably only stay focused for an hour or so, you don’t want to volunteer little “Suzy” for a four hour shift. Or if your child struggles with carrying or lifting heavy items, you probably shouldn’t sign up sweet “Bobby” for unloading the food truck with 10 pallets of #10 cans. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean they can, and you have to keep in mind that the experience is not really about you.

2. Get connected with the right place to serve! What does your child like to do? What are they good at? What does a specific ministry do? How can they use your gifts and talents and the gifts of your little ones? What rules or policies do they have in place for volunteers? There are tons of great ministries out there – soup kitchen, homeless shelters, children’s shelters, community centers, pregnancy centers, and on and on but they may not always be the best fit for a four year old or a twelve year old. One way to do that is to email or call them and chat and ask questions like “Can my four year old serve?” “What types of things would my eight year old be doing?”, “what do you expect from my family if we volunteer?” It may also take a few times and a few different places before you find your sweet spot of service!

3. Keep the end goal in mind! I’m a “doer”. When I serve, I wanna put my head down, get my hands dirty and just get to it; however, when Ivey and my nieces are with me… my goals and responsibilities have to change. My desire when I serve with them is that they have the opportunity to actually serve. So I may never get to stack a can, hand out a bag of food, help a shopper pick out food they like or hang a stitch of clothing, but if I have led my little one to do that, then we have had a great day! It won’t be as productive but they will walk away having a fun experience and a chance to learn. My expectations have to be that of what a four year old can get done not what a nearly 40 year old mom can do! And the expectations of the ministry site must be the same too! If they are expecting you to unload those pallets and your six year old can barely lift a pound of potatoes, there might be unmet expectations and frustrations all around!

4. Be ready to follow up and debrief with your child. They may have questions like “Why don’t these friends have food?”, “Can we take home some juice and chips?”, “Where does all this food and clothing come from?”, “Why does he smell funny?”. Also, be ready to help them walk through their experience. With my four year old, I ask questions like “What was your favorite thing about serving this morning?”, “What did you not like about serving.” “Why do you think we should serve others?” Help them begin to process the “whys” behind it all. They may not understand it all completely and that is okay but help them process. Pray with them about their day and experience.

5. Make it relational and personal! This is pretty important to me because while it’s important to help our little ones hang clothes and sort food, it’s even more important for our little ones to begin to “see” people. Look for opportunities to let them interact with those that are being served. Introduce yourself and your children. Ask your new friend their name. This really depends on the place of service and what they will allow a volunteer to do. I’m so thankful that at the Bridge we had an opportunity to help a couple ladies shop for their food. The girls got to hold their bags and we got to introduce ourselves to them. We got to talk about foods we each loved or didn’t like. How do you cook an artichoke?! It led to great opportunities later to pray for them too, by name. The day was fun because we served together, but it was also fun because we made a new friend!

Above all, just serve! It doesn’t have to be perfect, you don’t always have to know all the answers, you may or may not even interact with people, but just get to it! Your little one will love it and when they begin to serve at a young age, it begins to build in them a foundation of service and a love for others!

Have you had an opportunity to serve with your children? If so, what tips would you add to the list? Comment below!