Part 2 of….

A Boy and a Shoebox.

Sunday morning, I got up with a cup of coffee to wrap the shoeboxes in paper. The boy and girl were still sleeping. My mom and I visited about the events yesterday. It brought so much more meaning packing those boxes with the two children. They had such a viewpoint on this act of giving – almost sacred, in a way. It wasn’t just a flippant donation to them, and it made the rest of us catch the excitement this year that might have faded for us as we got older.

We headed to church with Opa while Nonna and Great-grandma stayed home. The kids rode with their precious packages in their laps. We wanted to have time to drop off the boxes before church, but it wasn’t working out that way, much to the boy’s disappointment. But a short explanation helped him to see that we would do the giving right after church. I’m glad we did, because instead of rushing through the process, we took the proper time to digest this act in its entirety. IMG_0160

It started with a fun pre-printed letter provided by Calvary Albuquerque. This church is one of the largest drop off points in Albuquerque. We took the letters over to the coffee shop, bought some hot cocoa and coffee, and the boy and girl set to work filling in the information – their favorite color, name, age, how many siblings they had, and their address in case the recipient of the box decided to write them. They were so focused on the shoebox letter that the hot cocoas remained untouched until they had completed the letters. This mission of giving had truly become the central thing in both of their eyes, and they were ready to see it through with all their little hearts. The girl had some beautiful things to say in her letter. Where the fill-in-the-blank spot said ‘I love Jesus because’ she wrote: ‘Because he paid for all my sins, and He loves me so much. He loves each one of us. And Jesus loves you too, and can save you if you just ask.’

IMG_0161

We said some goodbyes to friends at the church on our way en-route to the drop off table. The boy with the shoebox was full of smiles, holding his priceless cargo packed with love. He told a couple people about what we had just accomplished and what was going to happen. And at one point in time, I don’t remember exactly when, he said to me, “Mamma! it feels so cool to give this box to somebody, even if I don’t know them! ‘Cause God knows them!”

IMG_0165

 

And then, the big moment came: time to hand over the heart-felt presents to be taken to their destination. We walked into a calm foyer since the next church service had started and the people coming in and out would wait another 45 minutes. The boy and the girl with the shoeboxes walked up confidently and set their boxes on the table. A few more to-do’s had to be done: the donation money to help with the postage for each box,

IMG_0166

And almost last, a prayer for the children who would receive these shoeboxes.      IMG_0172

Both the boy and the girl had sweet, sincere requests to God in their prayer: both prayers were centered not on hoping the kids would write them back, or any other selfish motives. They only asked that each of those children would come to have a relationship with Jesus. It was such a powerful ending to all of this, it touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. We’d come to the end of a very special event. And it was time to bring it to a close. IMG_0173

And that is the end of the story. Almost….

      As we walked to the car, I said to my dad, “You know, dad, we’ve done this so many times, but this time was different. That boy and girl with those two shoeboxes didn’t just take part in an act of giving. They made this mean so much more. They really took it to another level in the way they were so intent and eternity-minded with every step. It makes me stop and think: how many times do we just go through the ritualistic motions of doing a good thing? What would it look like in our lives if we took every act of giving, every token of Jesus’ love, so whole-heartedly as they just did?”

I’d like to try to remember that. And when I share a song, a meal, a donation, whatever it may be, I want to do it with all my passion and strength and heart. Because it makes a difference. Oh, God can still use all the half-hearted giving that takes place with me at times. But it’s so much more rewarding to be like the boy and girl with the shoeboxes.

This is a story….

…about a boy and a shoebox.

 

Before you hear the story, you might need a little background information. Have you ever heard of Samaritan’s Purse? This is an organization that was started by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham. In the description of what they do, you can read on their site that ‘For over 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering.’ One aspect of this amazing outreach is a program called Operation Christmas Child. “It was a simple idea that became the worldwide ministry of Operation Christmas Child—to minister to children in war-torn and famine-stricken countries. In just two decades it has inspired everyday people to provide more than 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes to needy children in 130 countries.” (you can read all about that story in a new book called Operation Christmas Child, A Story of Simple Gifts).

I’ve been a part of this neat outreach over the years, from being a child and packing boxes with my parents, helping pack the shoeboxes that will get sent to the center in North Carolina, and even got to go distribute boxes when I was a teenager once: we went to Mexico to some of the children who received them. My husband had gotten to be a part years ago at the collection center where they check the boxes and get them ready to go.

But this year was different. It was special. And that’s where this story starts…

This story is really about 2 shoeboxes, and a boy and girl. But the story starts with a conflict, as all good stories do. What was the conflict? It was one of those inner struggles where a person (a boy) had a thought that he was wrestling with in the battles of his mind. That was where our story begins.

As we were trying to decide what we had time to do in our afternoon, the decision was made among the adults that the best choice was to take the grandkids shopping for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. That ended up taking precedence over the zoo or shopping for their own Christmas gifts with Nonna and Opa. Then I informed the kids what we were going to do: go shopping for the shoeboxes and then go out for ice cream. And something unexpected happened:

“No! I don’t want to buy stuff for someone I don’t know!! I don’t even know what to get!”

Although surprised by the defiant response, I took a moment to observe where this disagreement might be coming from – this boy never before had a problem with sharing or giving. What could be the problem? I pulled up a chair, and the conversation began…

“Zeke, how come you don’t want to put together toys for a child who might not have any? Do you know what the shoeboxes are all about?”

“Mamma, I don’t know what to get him! And I don’t have any good ideas.”

“Well, don’t you think you can pray and ask God to help give you ideas of what to pick?”

After a pause, the boy was still unhappy with that. Then he says “Mamma, that’s too easy.”

Hm- asking God for help is too easy, it can’t really solve anything. How often had I dealt with the same struggle myself? But I pressed on:

“Ezekiel, He’s ready to help us, but we have to ask for help first. Do you think we could pray and ask God to give you ideas?”

It was not an easy struggle for him to win, this battle in his mind – he was not ready to see that prayer would really help him through the troubles he had inside. We talked for almost 30 minutes as the boy thought about, argued, asked questions, and then finally, agreed. The moment of turning was when he began to realize that God already knows the future and would know exactly what child would receive the presents Zeke would pick out. He knelt beside me and prayed for help.

“Jesus, please help me know what to get, and give me good ideas.”

Then we were ready to go.  FullSizeRender (1)

The transformation that took place in the boy as we left for the stores was amazing. The girl was much more ready and willing, having the maturity to understand what giving means, and having experienced what it feels like to be the one giving. She was thoughtful and considerate in the items she picked, her heart fully in the task at hand. But the boy with the shoebox was intent: he had a purpose now, and he was on a mission. His eyes scanned the shelves, picked up an item and studied it, then made the serious decision whether that small token would be the right one for the box. And the ideas of what would fill it with treasures started to formulate in his mind as he changed from randomly searching the shelves to seeking out exactly what was on his mind.

IMG_1063

It didn’t take long to fill the shoeboxes. And both children put their entire heart into the choosing, the purchasing, and the packaging. We celebrated a deed well done at our favorite ice cream place in Albuquerque, NM (I Scream Ice Cream – Bill serves the best ice cream in the best restaurant for it. Fun for all 🙂 ) Then it was home for the evening, ready to finish delivering the shoeboxes in the morning.

IMG_1064

(pssst: tune in tomorrow to hear the rest of the story)

 

The Possibilities are Endless!

FullSizeRender (1)

I love fun socks – and mismatched socks, and having SO many possibilities. I mean, I could wear a polka dot green one on the left foot and a striped orange one on the other. Or I could do two stripes, different colors. Or I could switch it up and do polka dot on the right and stripes on the left. Or two different polka dots. OR….I could be really odd, and wear the same exact sock… On both feet *gasp*

All right, there are  not really endless possibilities to my socks. But you know what? With God, the possibilities are endless, really. I love watching Him match up His plans, take care of the details, and make me a part of it all. I love seeing ‘impossible’ circumstances, unforgivable events, all of a sudden have God-made possibilities. And when we act on those, He works. And that’s a bit more exciting than fun socks. You know what’s more exciting than that? Being a part of the possibilities that God makes…in my fun socks. Now nothing tops that.

The Day I Went Out in My ‘Nightgown’

So I’ve been home from Germany for a few days now to help take care of my grandma. It has been rewarding, contemplative, bittersweet, nostalgic, and fun. Yup, I think that describes it well. But I will definitely emphasize the fun. My 95 year old grandmother still knows how to laugh, how to have a good time, and how to give her grand-daughter a hard time. Which is great, because then it gives me material to write about, hee hee.

Yesterday, my mom and I took my grandma out for Chinese food. She loves Chinese – and since she was having a good day, it was a day to celebrate. My kids were spending the day with my in-laws, so it was just us ‘girls.’ We got all dressed up to have a nice lunch together. But when I came out in my version of all dressed up, my grandma only had one thing to say: 

What are you doing going out in your nighty?? I don’t know if I want to go out with you, with no clothes on!

Oh, it was so funny 🙂 I made some silly excuse for my modern fashion and said I’d spent too much time in Europe; they dress funny over there (No, I was not about to have a long conversation about the evolution of women’s clothes and what people actually do wear out in public and that I was actually dressed very decently in comparison to some outfits that dare go out in ‘public’ – but grandma, true to form, made sure she said something about it every 30 minutes. Which was fine by me, she’s a funny lady. She even told our waitress at the Chinese restaurant that she didn’t really ‘know’ this person across the table that decided to go out in their underwear. I just came along and there was nothing she could do about it (hmm, true on quite a few levels!)

FullSizeRender (1)

We had so much fun and so many laughs. But the icing on the cake was when we were in the mall after lunch. After walking around a little and even seeing more ‘nightgowns’ for public wear that I joked about with grandma which one she might want so she could go out in her underwear too, an employee from JC Penny stopped us and said to me:

I have a dress in my closet just like that, and I have been wondering how to wear it. You look so cute!

My mom was laughing so hard as my grandma just stared with her jaw dropped as me and this lady discussed briefly the different shoes, leggings, and what not to add to this attire.

 

  I know I don’t have much more time with this lovely lady. So we are making memories and enjoying life and laughs day by day for now. Honestly, I’ve never sat around just talking and hanging out so much in a long time; and going out in a nightgown was a first 😉 Every joke, every hug, every smile will be stored up in my memory bank to keep me company when I miss her in the years to come. And now, when I decide to go out in public in my nightgown, I can smile and think of her.

me at mall

2100 Day Shoes

It’s not a brand name. It’s the approximate number of days I wore my favorite pair of shoes from the last 6 years. And now, they are about to retire. Of course, after 6 years of almost daily wear, the time is past due to stop sliding my feet into my favorite sneakers. But this retirement is a lot harder than I thought it would be! One of the reasons it’s been so hard to let go of these shoes is that the company went out of business (I have a theory – they made their shoes too well and so didn’t sell them often enough. And a friend of mine concurs, as she had a pair of Simple shoes too). But the reasons they need to go are not helping me replace my most loved and useful daily footwear.

I’m so glad this wearing out and going away doesn’t apply to people. But wait….

Even though we don’t ‘throw out’ people we love (or we shouldn’t, at least), every person also has an expiration date. Each individual will see their body wear out, and get ready to ‘retire’ – the difference is our sole…I mean, soul, :)… does not. And even though this body design will now be ‘out of business’ the Bible says we have a heavenly body waiting for us, a much better design and make than the one here. It’s designer is not a shoe company, it’s the Creator. 

But there are two choices where you will ‘purchase’ this new fit. If you try to buy it yourself, you won’t end up in a good place. Actually, Jesus says it’s eternal torment. But if you let the Savior buy it for you, then the guarantee is better than lifetime, it’s forever. Not 2100 days. But on and on.

Remembering all this helps me not stress too much about my next pair of shoes. I’ll find another set, and I’ll be okay with the fact they probably won’t last as long. But this ‘shoe’ my soul is walking in currently won’t last forever either. I’ve got a much better deal waiting for me – I just need a temporary fit for now. The best one is coming soon.