First Hosting!

September 7, 2019 in Other

When I got approved as a host “mom” I wanted to jump in right away. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I was excited to serve and help in a time of need, but I was nervous not knowing who God would send my way. And then questions of doubt began to set in. I’m a single person with no kids of my own, can I really do this? Is my house fun enough for kids? How do I install a car seat?! (Don’t worry, there is help for that!) After a time of anxiously waiting, I got connected with a family and after meeting them for the first time I truly felt there was a reason for the wait. God was just bringing the right family, at the right time. The situation the kids are walking through, I have lived through myself.

Now comes the hosting part. Did it go perfectly? No. Was there strawberry jelly on my table and books scattered all over the floor? Yes and yes. But to be able to share laughter and smiles made it worth it. To ease the situation the family is walking through and help the kids forget about it for just a little bit is worth the spilled jelly mess. The time spent reading story, after story, after story to show the kids they are valued and cared about is priceless.

My first hosting experience was only for a day, but it showed me that I can do it. It left me excited to host again (and I am soon) and it reassured me that I don’t need a bunch of fancy stuff to be a host parent. I just need the willingness to give my time and to spread the love of Jesus. Become a host family. You won’t regret it!

To learn more about hosting with Together for Good, find an information session on training near you on our Events page.

Helpers, Ask for Help!

July 20, 2019 in Caregiving Tips, Social Isolation, Wrap Around Care

This was it! We were about to start our first hosting for a weekend. I brought my nearly 2-year-old daughter to do the pick-up of a 2.5-year-old. He was bigger than I had imagined – closer in size to my 4-year-old, but I figured we could manage. The drive home was tense, as he constantly tried to kick and hit my daughter in the car seat next to him but I tried to remain calm and tell myself that it was just a stressful transition. After we got home, it was a bit like having a tornado strike. Toys were flying, chairs were being knocked over, water was pouring from the refrigerator as he held down the water button.

Within 20 minutes of his arrival, I was in the kitchen crying. My mind was racing and I panicked at the thought of the weekend ahead of me. It might not have seemed all that daunting except that my husband was going to work all weekend so I was on my own. Alone with a 2.5-year-old who scared me and seemed to have it out for our daughter. As I stood there crying, my 4-year-old came in, took one look at me and said, “Someone needs to pray for Mommy right away!” I kept whispering “I can’t do this. I can’t be alone. I can’t do this by myself.” Hearing my son’s and my own words, was a wake-up call. In a way, I was right, I couldn’t do this alone. I needed help. I began by praying fervently to God that He would help us get through the weekend. And then I felt a calmness and a vision of an old-fashioned Rolodex, which I took to mean that I needed to start flipping through my contacts and figure out who I was going to call for back-up. I wasn’t very good at asking for help, but I needed support. I decided I would reach out for help for every hour that my husband was gone.

Holding back tears, I called my sister and asked her to come for half a day without her daughter. Done. Next, I called our babysitter and asked if she would come for the second half of the day to watch my kids while I spent time with our host child.  Done. I was feeling more confident that I could get through this. One more day to figure out. I felt I could manage to get them all to church but the transition home would be a hard one. So I called a member at our church who hosts with TFG and asked if she would come home with me and help me get through lunch and into naptime. Done. Every hour accounted for. I would not be alone. 

The rest of the weekend mostly went without a hitch. All those times where the 2.5-year-old had undivided attention, he was a typical kid: smart, fun, loving and a little bit mischievous. I enjoyed being with him. Splitting the kids up eliminated the fear and allowed for a safe home for everyone. And my kids didn’t seem to think it was odd at all that we had extra adults around all weekend. Our first hosting came to an end and while I breathed a deep sigh of relief, I also felt proud that we had gotten through it. 

Looking back, I think God used those first 20 minutes of the hosting to teach me and shape me for all future hostings. The experience taught me to lean on Him first. It also taught me that I can’t do this alone, nor should I feel like I have to do it alone. It was incredibly humbling to ask for help, but that’s not a bad thing. It was a good reminder that families we serve may not have anyone they can call on for help. We are their support and possibly provide hope that things will be okay. They might not be able to depend on their family, church members, or pay a babysitter for a much-needed break. The work we do as host families matters, and if asking for help is what it takes to do it, reach out. You won’t regret it.

How Hosting Affects Your Kids

July 20, 2019 in Caregiving Tips, Crisis Hosting, Respite

One of our greatest misgivings about hosting for Together for Good was how it would affect our children. Would they be negatively influenced? Would they somehow be hurt? Would they feel resentful that attention was on other kids? Our discovery is what other host families can likely affirm: children are natural hosts. When we picked up M (age 1.5) for our third respite weekend with him he was screaming in the car seat. Suddenly, I heard the quiet, calm voice of my 2-year-old daughter say “It’s okay, M, you’re going to be okay. You’re safe. It’s okay.” Eventually, the crying stopped. I asked my daughter what she had done and she said, “Mommy, I’m holding his hand and he feels better.” Her actions and words were exactly what he needed. 

My kids love these “strangers” in a way no one else can. At ages 4 & 2, they pray for the children we host, ask what their parents’ names are, and include the parents in their nighttime prayers. They ask when we’ll see the kids again and encourage me to say “yes” to a hosting, even if I’m hesitating when I look at the calendar. When we walked into the house that we would eventually buy, we were thinking through who would sleep in each bedroom and the kids both said, “This one is going to be M’s room.” M had a room designated in our house and more importantly, has a place in all of our hearts.

Mom’s Luncheons: The Power of being Present

July 13, 2019 in Other

We were blessed to have Portia Allen share at our monthly Mom’s Luncheon. Portia has been in ministry for 9 years. She has had the opportunity to speak in Minnesota and across the country and is passionate about uplifting and empowering women. 

Together for Good specializes in helping families in vulnerable circumstances find the support needed to get back on firm ground. I am a firm believer that when you are a parent, especially a mother, sometimes it is good to hear a genuine, “You’re doing a good job. Keep up the good work.” Being a mom with little kids, it is sometimes easy for me to take the community I am surrounded by for granted.  They are supportive and quick to remind me I am a good mother, despite the many parenting mistakes I have made and will make in the future. TFG helps mothers form safe and positive communities. There’s a lot to be said about being present and talking about life and parenting. I call it “airing out the crazy”. Having the opportunity to talk about the times of struggle in an authentic way, in a safe environment is invaluable.  Connecting over a time of lunch is one of the ways TFG helps build safe environments for mothers. 

Arriving at the TFG luncheon I already knew it would be mothers attending, so I hoped common ground would be easy to find. When I walk into a room of people I do not know, I immediately begin trying to find something in common with them.  Good food and similar experiences in life are often the fuel I use for new friendships. I’m a pretty big fan of pizza so when the conversation turned to the amazing combination of pizza dipped in ranch dressing, connections began to happen. Sidenote: If you have never tried pizza dipped in ranch dressing, you’ve got to try it. It’s SO good! Conversation during lunch covered many things. We talked about screaming toddlers…sometimes they just cry no matter what you do. It is good to have a safe place you can put your child and walk away for a few minutes to collect yourself before re-entering the “fit zone”. There were questions about what to do and suggestions were given on dealing with toddler meltdowns.  Ethnic hair care was a hot topic because it’s an ongoing learning process. There seems to be new methods and products to try all of the time, so to hear the ladies sharing about what has worked for their kids or even themselves is just another way to form connections. It is probably near impossible to have a group of women together with babies and not talk about which brand of diaper is the best for the money spent.

I loved my time with the ladies at the luncheon. We laughed. We shared stories. We showed pictures of our kids. We shook our heads over some of the challenges of being a mom (i.e. going to the bathroom alone). Attending the luncheon was not about me, but about meeting women who, at the end of the day were not different from me. They have children they love and moments when parenting feels overwhelming. The connections came from being willing to be open, willing to talk and willing to listen. 

You may find yourself asking what you have to offer if your children are already grown. The experience you have is invaluable. “I can relate” stories are effective tools in encouraging someone who feels alone and not understood.  If you are not a parent, please remember there is great power in YOUR presence. Asking questions about a mother’s experience and listening to her story is another way to be present. You do not have to come armed with all of the answers (only Jesus has all the answers anyway). Just come.  Be an encouraging voice, a listening ear or arms willing to hold a child. There is a place for you at Together for Good. Sometimes all that is needed to keep going is someone being present in your life, reminding you that you’re not alone.