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.’

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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!”

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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,

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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.

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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.

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

 

Creativity with School :)

Something I did with my kids today during science, (we are doing Exploring Creation With Botany by Apologia):

me: “okay, so for this section, ‘Thirsty Trees,’ I want you to take a drink of water every time I say water or drink or thirsty.”

 

result: much more sips than my daughter’s mouth could hold…hee hee hee.
interesting fact: most trees transpire – that means, put back in the air – around 90% of the water they take in.

 

correlation: My daughter ended up giggling…and transpiring 90% of her water.

 

But I’m pretty sure she’ll remember the lesson on Thirsty Trees.

A Backyard Birthday Party Camp Out – and a lesson

We just celebrated my daughter’s 10th birthday! Can’t believe she’s growing so much. And I am growing still too. Even having a birthday party for her was a life lesson, and here’s my story about that.

DSCN0768So I have to admit first of all, I was not excited to throw a birthday party for her. My heart was completely in the wrong place. I didn’t want to do a bunch of work, any decorating, and especially didn’t want to make a cake or clean up from what ‘birthday party’ entails. So friday, on my way to the store, I called a friend to pray with me about my bad attitude in general, over all the ‘disappointments’ I was currently (mentally) facing. Now, I want you to know, I can honestly admit that my ‘problems’ are much more like slight irritations – life is good right now. No major bumps, losses, or tragedies. Instead, I’m just bummed I probably don’t get to travel to Italy this next month, I have to consider letting go of some of my ‘expectations’ for the school year, and I have a daughter who wants an awesome birthday party (understandable, 10 is a big year).

After shopping though, I prayed again for God to make my attitude correct about this party – that it wouldn’t be to spoil my daughter, but show her how much God loves and cares about her. That I wouldn’t be doing things to ‘show off’ what cool parents we are, but that our activities, food, games, etc would just also be an extension of how Jesus wants to share and bless people. And that I wouldn’t flip out about messes, but be gracious and laid back. (funny story about that – oh, I’ll get into it later)

So Saturday morning came, with no other preparations taken care of on my part than buying food and borrowing the neighbor’s fire pit (and by his offer, not my request, some paper lamps I could use to decorate if I wanted. But you remember, I had no intention of decorating, I was just barely coming around to going the extra mile for this party). And I decided to go jog with my neighbor before I did anything else; but on our run, I shared with her the chorus to a song I’m working on –

I will praise You, even when the sun won’t shine

And I’m kinda tired of tryin’

But You’re always by my side

So I will praise You, even when I cannot feel

The happiness that says You’re real

‘Cause Who You are is more than all the ups and downs of life…

And when I got home, God started turning my day around. The ‘outside of me’ better attitude that started to begin the day before began to pour into my actions. (now, I just wish it had filtered out to what I was wearing…until further notice, for the reader’s understanding, know that I was in my stinky jogging sweats; and I never go out in my stinky work out clothes…except that day…for some reason…okay I’ll let you get back to the story).

At 10 am, I ran out with my husband to return a friend’s car and pick up tikki torches. We raced back home to straighten up and get out tents, and I went to work (with some helpers very excited for the day’s events) on making cupcakes for 30 people, baking potatoes to go with the sausages and brats, and….yes, decorating (the ‘help’ needed a bit of help every 2 minutes to re-open the paper lanterns; tricky little things, the next step was my idea – two birds with one stone….if you’re a mom, you get the point). My daughter and her two neighbor friends made a “Happy Birthday” banner, and then the friends went home to get ready for the party. Continue reading

More Free Fun on a Rainy Day

It’s been raining here in Germany non-stop for forever. Well, okay, for three days.

And we are definitely over the rain 🙂 but that doesn’t stop us from having fun! Remember my post about flying fun? Well, this is some other fun to have when it rains: The already white and grey sky was starting to get rain-like clouds – again – and my husband decided it was the perfect time to let the kids camp outside.

DSCN0134So he went to work setting up the tent for them as they ran around ‘helping’ and telling every neighbor who dared to pop their head out “We’re camping outside!!” Now I do have to say, we miss the desert camping we would do, New Mexico was such a great place to go camping! I’ll have to share some photos of that sometime.

But backyard camping can be fun too: I actually recommend backyard camping for a rainy night! The sounds, the smells, it just makes me appreciate the rain that before, from being stuck inside, I was resenting. As a matter of fact, it didn’t just end up being a ‘rainy night’. We started to see some pretty good wind and dark clouds – even a little lightening – and so what did we do? Pack it up and say, eh, it’s a little too stormy out here….

No way! We hurried to throw up the other tent so we could sleep outside too!

 

 

DSCN0130 As we were finishing up, the wind was blowing a pretty decent amount, and our wonderful German neighbor (I love him, he’s great) came over to let us know – “You know, there is a big storm tonight.” Yes, yes we do know 🙂

We all snuggled in the kids tent for a little, watched this ‘Dick Van Dyke Show‘, then prayed and tucked them in and ran through the rain to our own tent. And no, we don’t do things normal (where is the fun in that?!); we had taken apart our couch cushions to sleep on in our own tent. It worked very well.

I loved laying there, listening to the rain, watching the lightening, and being with my family in our silly, and FREE!, fun. I gotta say, I slept so good that night. If this rain keeps it up, I can see this happening again this weekend…

 

So what about you? What kind of Free Fun for a Rainy Day can you come up with?

 

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Unashamed

So I will admit. I’ve had a tough time deciding to post anything after that last poem. I sincerely don’t want to fill the time and air with pointless babbling. I’ll save that for other places – like my journal, where it doesn’t take from your precious time if this blog happens to intrude into your world. Now if someone so chooses to read the random thoughts there, I cannot take the blame for such things. They can do so at their own risk. So here is me, stopping the babble. And now saying something interesting, maybe even important.

My son is such an amazing example to me of being Unashamed: he will dance if he wants to dance, sing, speak what he thinks, and tell people about Jesus if they don’t know about Him.

It is such an inspiration to me at times. Like today, he had been talking to a little girl on the play ground while we were watching Brasil against Chile (what a great game that was!) – and he comes running up to me with this statement:

Mom, I need a Bible quick, so I can tell this girl about Jesus. She doesn’t know who He is!

In that moment, I realized the beauty of his lack of self-awareness. How many times do I shy away from saying things to people because I’m worried what they will think of me? And what an example my little guy was of what we should be focused on! She doesn’t know who He is: that should also hold such emergency in our minds  that it overcomes any self-consciousness we use as an excuse to keep it in.

Then he did something later on that night before we left.

He got up on the table and danced, face gleaming with a huge smile.

Zeke was enjoying life to the full, and he couldn’t contain it. The music, the cheering, and he followed suit and expressed his happiness in his individual way. Am I full of joy or happiness and do I let it show? Or again, DO I CARE more about what other people think?

I hope you find opportunities to not be ashamed: well, unless you are much older than eight and are still dancing on tables. But you know what I mean. Find ways to step out and show people how Jesus’ love is in you. Then reply to this post with a way you overcame your self-consciousness, and unashamedly shared.

What Zeke said at Dinner Tonight – or, I love the random things my kids say

WHAT ZEKE SAID TONIGHT

“Mamma, We should write a book about my problems.”

“Sure, Zeke, what kind of problems?”

“You know, my problems in life.”

“Okay, what will the first chapter be?”

“It’ll be called: Where Cloe Eats One of My French Fries.”

(Cloe quickly placed a french fry back on his plate)

Free Flying Fun on a Gloomy Rainy Day

Yeah, you probably made paper airplanes when you were a kid. But have you sat with your kids and done that? Maybe you have. But have you taken it to the next level? we just did. Actually, I’m still playing our airplane game while letting you know about this free fun – so stop sitting at the computer and go play – here ya go:

Step one: make some airplanes. Not very good at building? try some easy how-to’s online like

http://www.amazingpaperairplanes.com/Simple.html

Step two: sit with your kiddos and make some planes. Attach pieces of colored string on the back for extra color and something different.

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Step Three: So this was Zeke’s idea. and it was a great idea! Let your planes carry notes across the room to each other. He is still busy passing me notes – I don’t mind. I’ve got a pretty cute collection of love from my son now.

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So what’s the point?

Kids need us to spend time with them, play, get creative, and do something simple and memorable. It speaks so much more to them than just having fun – it says “mom takes interest in the things I think are interesting.” “Mom’s not too busy to hang out with me.” and probably the best one – “Wow, even my parents know how to have fun, and I kinda like hanging out with them.”DSCN0129