We love summer time and we love reading around here! Our local library has a summer reading program that my girls love to be a part of and they are already filling up their little list of all their fun books that we have read together so that they can turn it in at the end of the summer for a prize. It’s a fun way to keep them excited about reading and it gives us a fun reason to head to the library just about every week.
Of course, reading is so very important for many reasons but one of the reasons that I love the most is that it opens their eyes and hearts to places they have never been before. I strive to be intentional with the books that we check out of the library and get a few books about life in another country or culture so that they can see now as little ones that life isn’t always like their life here in America. I want them to see that children don’t always have lots of toys or that their names are different and foods are different. I also want to be able to walk alongside of them and answer their questions and remind them that even though cultures and countries and people are different, God created all people and He loves them deeply and so should we!
If you are looking for some fun books for reading time this summer with your little ones, here are some fun ones that we have and LOVE!!
Refugees have been close to my heart for some time now. Traveling to the Middle East a few years ago to see a little of their world was not only eye opening but heart breaking. We see and hear a lot on the news but how can we as mamas know where to even begin… honestly, I sometimes just stay stuck in the “heart break” stage.
My super fun friend Misty works with World Relief, an organization that walks alongside refugees and helps them get settled in their new homes. She was kind enough to answer my questions and help us know what we can do.
It’s also World Refugee month during June leading up to World Refugee Day today, June 20th. Will you take a minute to read and respond as God leads your heart.
“America is so great. The mail comes every day here.”
I have never sat back on my couch and been in awe of our postal system- I am certain it is because I take amenities like receiving the mail daily for granted, but this was the first thing a refugee mentioned when asked about first impressions of the U.S. Since 2015, over 450 refugees have been resettled in Anderson, Greenville, and Spartanburg County. Each day at work, I have the opportunity to serve refugees daily and partner with them as they begin to rebuild their lives in a place they have never known. As an employee of World Relief and a major fan of On Mission Moms, there are a few things I want you to know about the refugees we serve!
1. A refugee does not choose to come here.
A refugee, by definition, is someone who has been forced to leave their home country because their lives or safety have been threatened. Today, over 65 million people in the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes. International law defines a refugee as someone who leaves their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for one of these five reasons: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership in a particular social group (UNHCR).For more info, be sure to read, “What is a Refugee.”
Refugees are not the same as any other kind of immigrant or asylum seeker. Resettlement is the last option for a refugee, and they are placed in a variety of countries. Generally (there are a few caveats) a refugee does not get to choose the country they will move to. An extensive vetting process makes the Refugee Resettlement Process the most difficult way of entering the US. The average processing time for a refugee’s case is just over 18 years. This means that if a person is a part of the small percentage that has the opportunity to go to another country, they will wait years before the move actually comes to fruition.
2. Not all refugees are the same.
Refugees have all experienced persecution but because they come from all over the world, they are very different from each other. They are light skinned and dark skinned and Christian and Muslim. They are eating things we have never heard of but also passing you in Costco. They dream of having families or growing up and being mamas. They dream about the career they will have and have hopes for their children. They want a family and a safe, peaceful life for themselves.
A volunteer, Jim, recently stated, “As much as we’re different, we’re a lot alike. Some of us have just been given better opportunities at certain times. We have the same basic needs, the same desires for our families. So I really believe we have a responsibility to love and serve our vulnerable neighbor.”
3. Refugees make America better.
The only thing that has really stood out to me as typical amongst our diverse population of refugees is their spirit of hospitality. More often than not when I walk through the door of someone’s home, I am given tea and water with a variety of accompaniments! I had to say accompaniments; there is not a better word that describes the plethora of snacks I am given. It has completely reshaped the way I think about hospitality and inviting people into my life.
Extensive studies have been done to show how essential refugees are to the U.S economy. They pay more in taxes than the amount of help we give them in the beginning, and they are essential to filling vacant jobs to keep our country’s businesses going.
Will you take a minute to read about the contributions of Refugees here?
4. We need your help.
GIVE. Our office has recently undergone some budget cuts. We are constantly doing more with less and need private donations more than ever before. Your donations could go towards things like bus tickets to get clients to work, stocking an apartment with groceries, etc. World Relief is holding a fundraising campaign for the entire month of June.If you would like to donate to our local World Relief office, click here!
Volunteer – Volunteer to be a “Friendship Partner” or “Language Partner” to another mom with little ones!
Notes – Have your children write some notes to other littles for us to place in backpacks! These notes would be encouraging them as they prepare for their first day of school in a new country, where they don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language.
Put together a Welcome Kit! We have a list of essential items that make up a “Welcome Kit.” Every refugee family receives one upon arrival.
Where can we go to learn more about the Refugee process or how to be involved?
For questions about our office or our work, please contact me. I would love to chat with you about the backgrounds of some of our refugees and how they make it to the Upstate. If you are willing to volunteer, I can connect you with our Volunteer and Church Mobilization Specialist to discuss our training process!! Our contact info is here!
Our morning didn’t go quite like we had planned thanks to the rain but it opened up our schedule to celebrate and enjoy National Donut Day and have some great conversations about loving and serving others! We stopped and grabbed our free donuts from Krispy Kreme and then we decided to buy some for daddy and his coworkers too. Our oldest picked out all the fun flavors she loved like chocolate covered, chocolate covered with sprinkles, and strawberry with sprinkles. You can guess her favorite thing is sprinkles!
As we were on our way to surprise them, she began to talk about all the ones she wanted us to keep for ourselves and take home so that we could enjoy them. This was a great opportunity to chat with her about what we were doing and why. We were taking donuts to daddy and his friends to surprise them and to show them how much we loved them. It wasn’t about us or about donuts or sprinkles. We talked about how we shouldn’t keep all the donuts for ourselves even though they are our favorite kinds, because God tells us to love and serve others first before ourselves.
It was the perfect opportunity to just chat about denying ourselves and thinking of others first.
How are you seizing opportunities to help your little ones grasp the whole concept of thinking of others before themselves? In our culture today, it’s hard!! But I’m realizing it is really just in the little simple moments like car rides and conversations about favorite donuts like we had today where the big truths are woven into their hearts!
And we get fancy on National Donut Day!! I’m learning to pick my battles. It’s okay that you wear a fancy yellow costume dress with pink sandals… haha
And don’t feel too sorry for them! They did get to enjoy a sprinkle donut too!
We have recently fallen in love with China around our home. This past school year, our family “adopted” a college student at one of our local colleges that had moved here from China on a two year program. We hosted her in our home. We celebrated Thanksgiving with her and a few other holidays. We met for dinner and enjoyed our little town together. She is a breath of fresh air and just loves (or tolerates) my crazy family. She returned back home to China for her summer break and we already miss her. There is usually not a day that goes by that my oldest doesn’t ask if we can send her a funny picture or how much longer until she comes back. It’s hard to explain to a two and a five year old the concept of summer break lasting three whole months! ha
She has taught us lots of fun things about China like how to make homemade dumplings. We also celebrated Chinese New Year with her and many of the other families students and my girls fell in love with the food and attempting to eat with chopsticks.
This summer while our student is away, our plan is to continue to pray for her and enjoy some yummy Chinese food to remind us of her until she returns. It’s not as good as her homemade dumplings though!
Pray for the national church that is highly persecuted right now. Pray that they will be wise and bold.
Pray for families to come to know Jesus. Many do know follow Jesus and many are living in a spiritual darkness.
Pray for missionaries living and serving in this beautiful land and among these beautiful kind people.
There are quite a few Chinese recipes that are easy to make so I’m just going to share some links to different recipes and be sure to also check out our Pinterest Page for more ideas!
Or if you’re like me some nights during the summer and you just don’t want to cook, stop by a local Chinese restaurant, bring it home, and then spend some time praying for China together! Don’t forget to use the chopsticks. It’s always fun to try new ways to eat the yummy food too!
Summer is my favorite!! Mostly because I truly do love to be outside, sitting on my back porch and playing with the girls in the sweltering heat. What’s not to love about that? But I also love the freedom of our schedule being wide open! No school! No early mornings! Very few extra activities that we “have” to be at. Just me and the girls and fun and friends!
Each summer I strive to choose a few ways to encourage the girls to serve and love others. Summer seems to be an easier time to do this because of our more open schedule. Here are a few easy ideas to help us make this the best summer ever!
1. Invite a few friends over for a popsicle and water playdate! Try to Invite friends who you don’t see often or need encouragement or maybe the mama that seems to have it all together – cause chances are, she may be longing for fellowship too!
2. Set up a lemonade stand and either give ice cold glasses of lemonade away just to simply say “we love our neighbors” or if you do decide to sell it, donate your profits to a local non-profit or church to use.
3. PrayerWalk a neighborhood and then spend a little while playing at the park. We have a local event called Pray & Play and if you’re local, join us for the next one on May 30 at 10:00am. Our little ones can pray too – they don’t have to be elaborate or fancy but they can be simple.
4. Spend an afternoon serving together at a food pantry or clothing closet! We did this last year with my oldest and my two nieces and we had a blast! I answered lots of questions and we may have not gotten a ton of clothing hung on hangers but my girls were challenged and their eyes were opened to the need right in their community!
5.!Make cards and a care package for friends serving Jesus around the world! Send a few pool or summer toys for their kiddos to enjoy too! Families love to get a little taste of home! If you don’t have someone that you can encourage, let me know and I can help you get connected!
What are fun summer ways that you have served Jesus? Share with us over at Instagram so we can all be encouraged!
Be sure to join us May 30th at 10:00am at The Bridge for a fun morning of prayer and play time! We will begin our time with a fun prayer walk through the Northside and then close it out at the brand new playground at The Bridge for some fun playtime.
The Bridge is a community ministry center of First Baptist Spartanburg at the former Green St. Baptist Church located at 317 Green St. It is open to serve those in need through financial support, clothing and food ministries. There are also children’s programs and a bike program. It’s such a fun and exciting place to be!
Our desire is that this time will help you and your little ones to be intentional in all you do whether it’s playing or praying. It’s also just a lot more fun to serve with other mamas and their littles!
There is no cost to attend; however, we do ask that you bring a few canned items for us to donate to The Bridge. Also, be sure to wear some good walking shoes, grab your stroller, water bottles, and some sunscreen. Be sure to sign up at our Event Page and let us know that you are coming.
A sweet mama friend, Teal, recently shared in her Instagram stories how God was using her little ones to do something that may seem “small” but in reality was quite HUGE and I had to ask her to share her story with us! And her kiddos are just the cutest! I pray that it reminds you this week that God is using our little ones and it’s usually just the simple things!
Being a mom changes so much. What I think about, what I do, how I do it, when I do it – it’s all different now that I’m a mom! My name is Teal and I am wife to Martin and mom to Rose (3.5) and Grady (1). Children changed everything for me. They have made me better. Children notice things – big and small – they are observant little sponges soaking up everything in their surroundings. Children are easily awed by things they see or hear. They experience joy about things that we have become calloused to as we have grown.
Becoming a mom has made me slow down. I now notice the small things. I now hear sounds I wouldn’t have paid attention to before. I now interact with people I would have probably passed without noticing before.
A very real example of this in our family is the big yellow school bus that turns our corner every afternoonat 4pm. I will admit that as an adult, the grandness of a school bus had long worn off for me. School buses didn’t excite me when I saw them drive past on the road or in front of my house. Now, they do! Especially one in particular.
In the fall of 2018, we began noticing a pattern of the school bus stopping at our corner to let our neighbor off. Then the bus would beep several times before turning the corner and gearing up the hill at our house. Every afternoonat 4pmwe would hear those beeps and the sound of the bus stopping and starting again. We were often just finishing snack after naptime and sometimes we were outside playing as she passed. That is when our relationship with the bus driver began.
This sweet bus driver comes around the corner, up our hill, with her arm waving outside her open window. She has a smile that lights up her face and always enthusiastically waves to my 3.5 yr old, Rose. Every day Rose wakes up from her nap, runs down the hall to get a snack, and waits for that special sound. We hear those beeps and Rose runs to our front door. She swings the door open and begins waving even before the bus starts back up the hill. As the bus passes, Rose and that sweet driver are both enthusiastically waving their arms at one another with smiles across their faces. The smile across MY face as I witness this sweetness every.single.day can also be seen across the road, I am sure.
There have been days when Rose wakes from her nap and I have a list a mile long that I need to accomplish. Several times that I can account, I’ve told Rose “Let’s get your snack and eat it in the car on the way to the grocery store.” or “Let’s hurry and grab such-and-such on our way to see Daddy at work.” and every time Rose reminds me “But I have to wave to the bus driver!” In the moment, I might sigh and experience frustration at that “kink” in my schedule. But as soon as that sweet bus driver passes and intentionally waves and smiles at my girl, all that frustration fades away as I remember those small moments and the childlike joy God wants us to experience daily.
Halloween of 2018 was the first time we spoke to Ms. Laura, the sweet bus driver. We were playing in the front yard as she passed and she stopped her bus right in front of our house and asked for me and Rose to come to her window. I hoisted Rose up to see Ms. Laura and she handed Rose some candy. It made Rose’s day even more special! Days went by as we continued to wave and look for one another each dayat 4pm. On Valentine’s Day, Rose and I picked out a heart shape box of chocolates and Rose wrote Ms. Laura a note. We handed it to her as she drove by that week. Along came the week before Easter, and Ms. Laura stopped in front of us and asked us to come to her window. She was grinning ear to ear as she handed two Easter buckets FULL of goodies for Rose and Grady. One pink and one blue. Both full of perfectly age-appropriate toys and goodies. I was in awe at her thoughtfulness. Here she is, a bus driver for the middle school, thinking about MY toddler and baby and spending her own money to bless my kiddos in an extra special way. I was able to talk to Rose about Ms. Laura’s extreme kindness and we talked about how we could be extra kind to HER and bless her. Rose wanted to find some perfect goodies for Ms. Laura, so off we went. We excitedly handed the Easter bag over to Ms. Laura the next afternoon as she passed. I was able to write her a note of encouragement and thankfulness at the way she has blessed me and my children. I was also able to share my faith and invite her to our church if she was not a member of a church.
We do not know much about Ms. Laura. We really only know her name and her smile. I do not know if she is a believer or if she is a member of a church. But I do know that she thinks my kids are special and she has treated them with an unordinary kindness. She has blessed our family tremendously – starting with intentional eye-contact, smiling, and waving and now with special gifts from her heart. Through this simple interaction with our sweet bus driver, I am reminded of the impact a simple wave can make. Or a simple greeting. What started so simple has grown into something even more special. May I always be on the lookout for moments like these to be a blessing to others like Ms. Laura has been to us. Showing Christ’s love doesn’t have to be an extraordinary plan or production. It can be done through unordinary kindness. On a daily basis, we pass people and may not notice them. May we be on the lookout like Ms. Laura is for my 3.5 yr old standing in the doorway and may we go out of our way to extend simple kindness to one another. I am eternally grateful for the lesson God has taught me through Ms. Laura, the bus driver, and Rose this school year.
And for more cuteness, you have to check out this sweet little VIDEO that Teal put together of the simple waves and sweet relationship!
What simple ways can you and your little ones serve Jesus and love others this week?