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Fresh Cut Flowers by Jody

May 30, 2022 in Empower, Other

By Jody, TFG Volunteer


A little over a year ago, it was freezing cold outside. The ground had been frozen for a while. The holidays were over, and I was feeling the mid-winter blues creeping their way into my heart. As in years past, I would sit by the fire, flipping through seed catalogs and gardening books to help me escape the cold. It was in one of those moments I had a passing thought that I should start a farm stand specifically set up with flowers.

Gardening has been something I’ve enjoyed since I was a little girl, and gifting someone with a bouquet of flowers has always been something that seemed to bring equal joy to the person I was giving flowers to, and to myself.

It was also around that time that I heard Pastor and Author Mark Batterson in an interview with Susie Larson on her radio show. During that interview Mark made mention of the dream he and his wife have of reaching a point in life where rather than giving 10% of their income to God and keeping 90% for themselves, they would flip that idea and live off of 10% and give 90% to God.

When I heard that, I just knew I wanted to grow flowers, arrange them, and set up a flower stand.

Rather than the stand being a source of income for me, I was super excited to see what God would do if I committed to offering flowers for people, while requesting donations to pass on to a local charity. I wanted to take on the challenge of donating 90% and using 10% to put back into flower garden supplies in order to continue the process the following season.

I was nervous the first time I set my bouquets out by the the roadside. I worried no one would stop to get flowers. To my surprise, the bouquets were gone in a short amount of time…which was awesome, but this presented me with another problem…if I was going to have many people want my bouquets, I was going to need many vases.

As I started talking to God about this, He whispered to me in the most caring way, “Jodes (that’s the nickname only those closest to me use), let Me take care of the vases.”

To my surprise and delight, vases started showing up in all sorts of ways.

Friends brought me vases, a couple of times there were boxes of vases left by the flower stand anonymously, and once a lady pulled into my driveway and explained that she was helping her friend clean out the home of her friend’s mother, and she had 3 boxes of vases she was getting rid of…she wanted to know if I’d be interested in them…Yes, please!

So the summer went on and I continued to enjoy my time in the garden and set flowers out by the roadside.

It’s hard for me to find words to explain the enjoyment I found in the whole process…the best I can come up with is that I could tell that God was having fun with me.

I would be in the garden cutting flowers while I had praise music playing.

I would head to the flower stand to close things up and I’d find $100 bill in the donation box!

My mom would come and work with me and we’d lose track of time getting covered with dirt while we were visiting.

A friend would stop by to get flowers and we would walk the garden connecting with each other while they picked out the flowers they’d like for their bouquet.

My boys would be playing in the yard and I’d chuckle to myself as I heard their giggles…and sometimes, they would even come and ask questions about what I was doing and I was thrilled to pass on some gardening knowledge to them.

My summer was the Bible verses, “God loves a cheerful giver” and “It is more blessed to give than receive” woven all throughout it!

When the gardening season came to a close, it was time to add up all the donations and decide where they would be passed on to. I had been praying about this all summer. I felt strongly that the money should go somewhere local.

A few years earlier, my family went through the process to become a host family for Together for Good. We hosted a couple of times, but with four young boys and a farm, it just wasn’t a good fit for that stage of life.

My husband and I have been so impressed by the ministry of Together for Good. We love the way it serves families.

Although my stage of life did not allow me to help in the way of being a host family, I strongly desired to help the ministry of Together for Good in some way, and I knew this was a wonderful way to do that.

My flower stand allowed me to help TFG out financially, and that really brings me joy!

 


[November 2022 update]

Jody recently shared with us an update as she brought in another donation to TFG from her 2022 flower stand proceeds:

“The flower stand was great this year…just as much fun as last year. The word has gotten out around my smaller town of Hastings, so I had reason to pick so many more flowers than I did last year.

There were even a couple nights before predicted frosts where our driveway was like a Chick-fil-A drive through and my whole family was working to keep the stand stocked! So. Much. Fun!! I can’t wait for next year!

You can see the new and improved stand we had this year (my husband repurposed our old entertainment center). It was great solution to my struggle against the wind that kept blowing things over. I also added some “encouragement flags” for people to add to their arrangements and pass along an encouraging word to someone they may be getting flowers for.”

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How much fun is this? We LOVE Jody’s creativity and joy – thank you, Jody, for generously donating proceeds from your flower stand to TFG. Your support allows us to keep supporting families with wrap-around care in their time of need. We’re so grateful for you! 

Small church, big impact

May 30, 2022 in Crisis Hosting, Relationships, Wrap Around Care

By Gerri VanAcker, TFG Ministry Coordinator with Grace Church in Wyoming, MN


Our elders and wives attended a virtual information session for Together for Good in April of 2020. We were immediately struck by the Gospel focus, love for people, and tangible ways to serve children and their parents well.

It was clear to everyone that this was a ministry that we had been looking for and we wanted to prayerfully move forward. Co-coordinators were chosen and we began the exciting opportunity of becoming a partnering church with Together for Good.

During the next 6 months we began to rally our church and build our team.

We announced the partnership. We cancelled our small groups and encouraged our whole church to attend an info meeting. We designated a space on the bulletin board for TFG needs and updates. We continued to pray.

As we began to understand all the ways we could serve through TFG, we started to get organized and promote volunteer opportunities. We formed a prayer team, created a supply closet, and recruited host families and support volunteers.

We quickly found that our church was eager to help and there was something for everyone to do.

God has since used TFG to ignite the hearts of our church people.

He has given us a protective framework through TFG that has offered us a bridge into the lives of others that need us. We are now able to serve and care for the most vulnerable.

We currently have 7 host families that take on the direct care and supervision of children being hosted, but the rest of the church is actively participating in support through prayer, providing meals, purchasing supplies, and responding to any need that arises. Women have sewn welcome bags, young girls have made blankets, families have donated countless supplies, and we even have teenage boys asking to be on the prayer team!

This group of ladies got together to make tie blankets for host families to give as gifts to the kids they host.

The Thompson family organizes and keeps a supply closet at their home. They enjoy the personal touches of putting together a welcome bag for each child’s first hosting.

God is so faithful! Our church is small, but our trust in God is big.

God asks us to give him what we have to use for his glory. As we added one simple thing at a time, God met us and showed us what to do next. Our pastor is preaching through the book of James right now. We are regularly challenged to live out our faith.

TFG has given us a pathway to obedience so that we can be not only hearers of the word but also doers.

We pray that God would sustain our volunteers and make them steadfast.

We ask Him to continue to show us where He is working so that we can join in that specific effort.

We pray we would follow Him wherever He leads, even to the hardest situations and hostings.

We hope for more ways to serve the needs of people in our local area.

We long for more churches to join in this great effort with Together for Good!

Iowa’s first hosting!

May 10, 2022 in Crisis Hosting, Relationships, Wrap Around Care

By Ashley Baker, TFG Iowa Director


Last week, Together for Good in Iowa was overjoyed to have our first hosting!

This hosting has challenged and stretched us from the very first phone call, due to the fact that this participant mom does not speak any English. Due to this communication barrier, we needed extra help and extra grace and God has provided both in abundance.

Nelsey is a mom of three beautiful kiddos, Franklin (4), Ashley (2) and baby Nelson, who is a newborn and was just released from the NICU. Nelsey has endured suffering, some of it very recently. She is a strong mom who pushes through to care for her children all while overcoming many barriers, including communication and transportation.

Nelsey needed someone to watch her kiddos while she spent time caring for her newborn in the NICU, walking through surgery and his release from the hospital.

Our host mom Liz stepped in to care for Franklin and Ashley with so much kindness and compassion, despite the fact that these kiddos speak only Spanish and Liz and her children do not.

They had a wonderful day, playing and laughing together. Liz patiently cared for them, overcoming the language barrier between them. This gave Nelsey the room she needed to care for Nelson and bring him home safely, knowing her older children were in good hands.

When it was time to bring the kids home, some hilarious moments ensued when it took 15 whole minutes of using all of the Spanish Liz and I could muster to coax Franklin to get off the potty. We tried our best to communicate that it was “time to go see mama,” but Franklin was more interested in sitting on the potty and playing with a toy fishing rod, exclaiming “Pescado! Pescado!” It was a great bonding opportunity for us. 🙂 We learned that a 4-year-old’s stubbornness is universal, no interpretation needed!

Liz said of the experience, “My heart grew yesterday to include these two sweet kids. I had my own sick kiddo and we didn’t know the same language but God is bigger than that.”

As for our TFG team in Iowa, we have been stretched to rely on God more than ever.

We’re praising God for His grace and blown away by our volunteers.

We’ve fallen in love with this participant family and these sweet kiddos. Our compassion and empathy have grown as we’ve witnessed the difficulties non-English-speaking parents face as they care for their children in this country.

Through this experience, God has provided Together for Good with three tremendous volunteers who have helped us with translating over the past couple of weeks, as well as an incredible host family and a support volunteer who has given Nelsey and her kids rides to resource appointments to help them get the support they need to thrive.

Several church partners have also come together to donate clothes and diapers for this family as they get back on their feet.

Each believer and church has a role they can play as we move out in faith to come alongside vulnerable children and families.

Loving families that may not look exactly like ours means reaching out a hand of help, even when it doesn’t come naturally. It means being creative, flexible and willing to problem-solve.

We’re so thankful for our volunteers who were willing to step into this situation with us.

We will continue to walk alongside this family with our team of volunteers, and we can’t wait to see what else God has in store!

 

Mother’s Day reflection

May 8, 2022 in Other, Relationships, Wrap Around Care

By Jennifer Thelen, TFG Volunteer Advocate Coordinator


As a single mother for the past nine years of two children (now adults ages 20 and 22!), I often find myself reflecting on Mother’s Day at all of the ways that God has been there for me in my parenting.

Jennifer Thelen and daughters, circa 2022

(Jennifer and her daughters, circa 2022.)

I will never forget the day I was walking in to church and both of my kids had been fighting. I was not handling it well. I sat in the back so no one would notice us. As the music began to play, I cried out to God and told Him I can’t do this. I felt like I was failing on all sides.

At the end of the service, an older man tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “You are a good mother.”

He walked away and I never saw him again. I wasn’t able to thank him.

In this moment, it was like God reached down from heaven and told me, “in my singleness, I am enough,” even when life and the world would tell single parents something different.

This helped me see that God can reclaim our brokenness, fill us with joy and help us to see the beauty in life each day.

This is why I’m a part of the TFG team. I believe it is organizations like Together for Good that give hope to single mothers, help them see Jesus and point them back to His healing authority in their life.

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We LOVE Jennifer’s story and the way God poured into her in her moment of need. This is why TFG exists and why you are a part of the Together for Good family.

We think you’re an amazing mom, Jennifer! Thank you for all you do for TFG families.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Mother’s Day,

Your TFG team


In honor of Mother’s Day, support a TFG family! (https://tfgood.org/give)

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