Sunday, March 8, 2015

Let Love Bloom: Bring Your Own Tools

We are getting more and more excited about our plans for Let Love Bloom on March 28th. We've received some donations, and we've enlisted a few volunteers as well. We know that some of you want to know more details about our plans.

We will meet at 12:15 to give our volunteers some important information and tips as they go and share love throughout the neighborhood.

We are hoping that we will have enough volunteers that we will be able to send a few groups of 3-4 people to visit people's homes throughout the neighborhood and ask them if they would like to have a flower planted in their yard. Teri and I are currently working on mapping out some paths for those small groups of people to drive as they pass out flowers.

Teams of people will do as much of their route as they can, and then we will plan to meet back together as a large group at 2:30.

This will be a bring your own tools event, so please bring any gardening tools that will be helpful to you or that you would be willing to share with other volunteers.

People interested in volunteering can comment below, message us on facebook, or email us. Please contact us by March 16th, if you are planning to volunteer so that we can plan accordingly.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Let Love Bloom

Last week, we shared a bit about why we do what what we do, and we promised to keep sharing about the details about what it will look like to walk alongside our neighbors in High Ridge. Here is our first step: 

We are planning a Spring Event, "Let Love Bloom."

We have given away oranges two years in a row, and this Spring we think we need to get a little dirt under our fingernails.

We're enlisting a little help from our friends.

This is Seeds of Grace's fourth year of ministry. Just as a four year old child starts preparing for school, we are preparing our organization for a new phase. We want to grow and become even more involved in the High Ridge community, so Seeds of Grace has been planning some new events, in addition to our regular Book Bus schedule, for this coming year.

On March 28, 2015, we want to "Let Love Bloom" in High Ridge with a flower giveaway. This Spring event was inspired by our winter citrus giveaway. During the past two winters, we have been honored to have someone contact us saying they had oranges they wanted to get rid of and asking us to give them away. Teri and I loaded up in one of our trucks and drove around some of our favorite streets around town (many of them happen to be in High Ridge), asking people if they would like some oranges. In some ways it seems like a silly thing, but the smiles on people's faces and the little conversations we had with people let us know that this was helping us build some relationships in the neighborhood. "Let Love Bloom" is just another way for us to say, "You are loved, and you matter." 

If you'd like to make a donation to our fabulous flower give away, please mail your donation to 6148 County Road 352, Keystone Heights, FL, 32656. Seeds of Grace is a 501c3 organization. 

And, if your a local reader, we'd love for you to join us for the day. Contact us on facebook

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Poverty...It's complicated, y'all!

Poverty is defined as "the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support."

I'm not really a fan of money. It stresses me out. I stress about saving, spending, handling it, counting it, and generally being responsible for it. If I could figure out how to live in this world without dealing with it, I would. I have seriously considered trying to implement some sort of barter system.

Even when I think of poverty, I'm of the opinion that it isn't really about money. Maybe that's because I've been to Haiti and other places where some people might say "they don't have anything." They surely don't have much- not a roof or running water or much more than a little oil and rice for their one meal of the day. But, I've sat next these people "without" anything and I've seen that they really have so much more than meets the eye. So much more than my big house and nice clothes and full fridge is worth. These "poor" people that I've had the privilege of sitting next to know real joy and gratitude and hope and ingenuity.

However, there is another kind of poverty- the kind that has "no means of support." Truth be told, Seeds of Grace isn't very interested in helping with the money side of poverty. There are so many organizations and programs that exist to help with those obstacles. We know, though, that there are many people- some with large bank accounts and some with empty ones- that feel stuck or alone or lost. There are people who just need a good friend or a good teacher to walk alongside them for a little while, and at Seeds of Grace we want be doing that kind of "work." 

Teri and I started this whole Book Bus thing because we were working with students who needed more than what school could offer them. We had students who were coming to school dirty, who had many behavior problems, who were low-achievers, and who told stories of chaotic homes. Most of these students had one thing in common. They were from low-income homes. Many of them living in a single neighborhood. And our heart began to break. For these children. For their families. For their neighborhood. 

It wasn't that we thought we were better than anyone in that neighborhood. It was that we believed we could be in that neighborhood. We could be stuck or alone or empty. If we were, we would want someone to come along side us for a little while. 

For those of you who have been following us for sometime, you know that when we talk about a neighborhood, we are mostly talking about High Ridge. That's true. However, we want to be very clear- we love the people who live there. We love the children and adults who live in that neighborhood. We love the people who live in that neighborhood who have beautiful homes and yards, and we love the people who live in that neighborhood and have trash thrown all over their yard. We love the people whose children are bathed and nicely behaved and strong readers, and we love the people whose children have a weeks worth of dirt on their neck or never follow directions or are reading way below grade level. We love the retired folks and the working-hard-every-day-to-make-it-folks and the folks on food stamps.We love the church goers and the bar goers. We love the volunteers and the drug dealers. Really. We do. And really. There are all those kinds of people and everything in between in that neighborhood just like any other neighborhood. The thing is, if you drive through High Ridge; you can't deny that there is something different. That it at least appears that more people are struggling in that neighborhood than in the country club or on Lakeview Drive or Grove Street. 

Johnny, one of our board members, told me a story about privilege the other day. He said he had read about a teacher who was trying to explain privilege to her students who claimed that everyone in the United States has the same opportunities. The teacher put  a trashcan in the front of the classroom, and she had the students sit in rows as their desks. Some students were in the front, some in the middle, and some towards the back of the classroom. The teacher handed all of the students a crumpled piece of paper, and told them that they would all have the same opportunity to throw their crumpled piece of paper in the trash. They couldn't move from their seats, even if they were in the very back; but they all had the same opportunity to throw their piece of paper in the trash. 

As a teacher, I see privilege play out in a million different ways every day in the classroom. Students who have computers at home know what to do the first time they are asked to maneuver a mouse. Students who have been to a public library know how to treat a book. Students who have conversations with their parents at the dinner table have a better vocabulary. Students who are fed nutritiously and sleep through the night are more able to focus and concentrate. 

I started writing this blog post because I heard that someone else had heard that someone was offended because we were saying that all people who lived in High Ridge were poor and then I inferred the next thought- that we arrogantly thought we could "fix those people." I can't nor do I want to fix "those people." I want to  love. I want to be friends. I want to walk alongside my neighbors, whether rich or poor.

We want to tell you more about the details of what walking alongside our neighbors in High Ridge is going to look like, and so we hope you'll stay tuned and joined us as we keep growing and sharing.

Monday, January 5, 2015

We've grown!

It's been almost a year since our last past post, which I guess means it is more than time for an update.

First some confessions. We are not marketers and fundraisers, but we have big dreams. We've learned no one is going to get people excited about our ideas for us.

So, here we go.

We are committed to the High Ridge neighborhood. We are committed to seeing a reduction in poverty in the Keystone Heights area.

We believe poverty is not as much a money issue as it is a relationship and education issue. We want to help people build relationships and provide educational opportunities.

We believe that the people living on Purdue, Bowdoin, and Clemson (the names of streets in High Ridge Estates) need the people who live on Lakeview, Magnolia, and Palmetto (streets in the city limits of Keystone Heights) and vice versa.

We believe relationships and education change people. We believe they change the middle class, the poor, and the rich. And we all need changin'.

We haven't written in almost a year, but we haven't been idle. Here's the overview:

We were practicing what we preach in our personal lives (relationships = Carey adopted two boys; Teri's daughter was married quite recently; education= teaching, teaching, teaching which means learning, learning, learning).

We gave away oranges. Twice. That's a good story that we'll have to tell on a separate post, but let's just's the little things, people.

Carey was ordained. Remember that church we might need to start ? Well, we are working on it. It's slow work, but good work that I can't wait to have more to tell you about.

We've kept putting one foot in front of the other. We took 15 Book Bus trips this year, and recently we estimated that means we spent about $1,000 on gas alone. We almost always have some books in the back of our car that someone gave to us.

We have some great friendships with people in High Ridge. Before I started writing this post, I went and looked at the pictures we've posted over the last few years. We have several elderly friends in High Ridge, and there were their faces on the blog. When we posted those pictures, we didn't really know their stories. They were exciting new faces then, but now they are warm friends who we look forward to seeing each month or who we greatly miss when they can't make it.

We've taken dinner to our friends, prayed with them when they are sick, rejoiced with them when their husband went to church.

One little girl who was one of our original "visitors" is in Teri's class this year! She is an avid reader, and we like to think we are partially responsible. Although her grandmother gets most of the credit!

I guess, we didn't write for a year, because it seemed like we didn't have anything to say. You know how when your kids are growing up, you don't really notice that they are getting taller because you see them everyday. And, then, all of a sudden, you look at them, and think, "Oh my! Those jeans are WAY too short!" I think this past year has been like that for us. We didn't really think much was happening, but now when I look back on it....God did a whole lot!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Break Book Business

To some folks spring break means beach trips, house cleaning and relaxing but to us it meant sorting through 47 boxes/bins of books. With the help of the Middleburg Black Creek Lions Club and a couple of dedicated friends we accomplished a daunting task in just 7 short hours (with no lunch break).  

We love volunteers!
Hard Working Helpers

I don't want to mislead you there was quite a bit of planning and preparing for this to get accomplished in one day. First a very sweet gentleman built us custom shelves, at no charge. The shelves house our overflow books. We also had to spend a little bit of money on some bins, just under a hundred dollars. Finally we had to set a date and put out the all call for some able bodies.

I have to say it feels great!  We now have a closet with books that are sorted into organized bins. We were also able to go through and purge some of the less desirable books. Now before we head out for our book bus routes we simply go to each labeled bin and refill any necessary books. A dream come true! Now all that is left is the ice cream truck. Let us know if you have one sitting around your yard.
Thank you Mr. Buddy for our shelves.
We even had a few leftovers book to donate to the rummage sale.

**Next Book Bus run is Saturday April 13th. Let us know if you would like to ride along.**

Monday, January 14, 2013

And we're famous, sort of.

In case you don't read The Florida Times-Union, you should know that we are a little bit famous. Okay, maybe not famous, even a little bit; but we have been seriously impressed with the article and the amazing response people have had.

If you haven't read it yet, you can check it out here:

We were front page!

We've had numerous people contact us about donations of all sorts (gift cards, books, etc.), and that has been amazing! We've had a few people say they would like to help us by volunteering or spreading the word about what we are doing. And we've had a few just " 'Atta boy!" kind of emails. It's been lovely!

And that momentum carried us through a very busy weekend. On Friday, we had another mom's gathering. One of our mom's from our first group came with her sweet little baby girl, and we had a new mom who is due in March attend as well. Mentors, mentees, and a lovely labor and delivery nurse sat around telling stories and talking about all things birthing and motherhood. We made some cute onesies for the new babes in the room and on their way. We closed with a sweet prayer, hugs, and talk of the next gathering.

On Saturday morning,  we were loading books at about 8:45 and around 3:45 we were shoving bins of books back in the closet. We finished the day pretty tired, but as I said on Facebook, there is no other way I'd rather spend my day.

We've quit keeping a formal count of people and books at Book Bus, but I would estimate we saw about 100 people over the course of the day, which means we gave away around 500 books. The McRae crowd, which meets us at Gadara Baptist, was not quite as large as last month; but I would guess there were still about 50 people there.

We also had a very special international guest at this weekend's Seeds of Grace events. Our family has had the privilege of hosting Ataro Alice in our home as she participates in a Teacher Exchange at the local high school, and while she is here she is investigating how we encourage parent involvement and looking for ideas that could be transferred to her country and culture. Who knows, maybe we're gonna go international! Ha.  

Partially because so many people have asked us about our needs and partially because it is that time of year when we reflect and plan ahead and dream; Teri and I have spent some time lately talking about what the next steps might look like. We still continue to dream about a place and a real bus/ice cream truck to enhance our current work, and we have also begun dreaming about new programs too (more information to come soon, we hope). The truth is, though, we need help just maintaining these amazing seedlings that have begun to grow. We continue to pray for someone who could help us get and remain organized. We continue to look for particular books. Currently, our biggest need is chapter books for second and third graders. And we continue to pray that God will guide every step we take. We do not want to be ahead of him or behind him, but right in step with what he is already doing. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell 2012

As the final hours of 2012 slip away I thought the blog deserved one last post for the year. Even though we have been lax in our writing, we have been busy. We have our very own business bank account as a non-profit. The best part is there is actually a little bit of money in the account. As of the first of December all the new moms from our first class have given birth, two boys and two girls. Some of the girls are continuing to keep in touch and for that we are grateful.

In December we made the decision to expand Book Bus once again. On the second Saturday we loaded up the trailer and went from Melrose, to High Ridge in Keystone and for the first time drove the 15 miles out to McRae to share books with that community. To say we were well received would be an understatement. There were no less than 75 visitors at that stop! What I haven’t even mentioned yet is that we had a guest that Saturday. A reporter from the Times Union spent the day with us. She wrote an amazing article that really captured all that Carey and I have been trying to do. It was great to get the publicity. We have received several responses to the article, people offering books and even gas cards to help defray some of our costs. Everyone who has contacted us has been supportive and encouraging of our ministry.

I’m not sure what 2013 holds for Seeds of Grace but we know that Book Bus will continue as well as a brand new mom’s class with new mothers to be. Carey and I still dream of a real bus/ truck with music and brightly colored paint. However the old truck/trailer gets the job done, so no complaining. We have a few new faces on the scene helping with our Mom’s Class and starting a Couponing Class too. Who knows what else will reveal itself as the year unfolds. All I know is God is good, all the time, and he shows us that time and time again through each endeavor we set out to do. We welcome you to join us in any way you feel led. Wishing you a fulfilling 2013.
Loading the trailer

A warm reception from McRae
**The article ran in the Times Union on Friday December 28th on the Front Page. :)