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Monday, November 3, 2008

Stress-Free Christmas Part 6

Christmas countdown banner

I stopped by Wal-Mart Saturday to pick up a few essentials. When I walked in the doors, I was greeted by a 20 foot Christmas tree and Christmas music. I noticed the puzzled looks of several of my fellow shoppers.

I realized then that our retail stores take us from the "Gimme Candy" of Halloween to the "Gimme Presents" of Christmas without stopping for the "Give Thanks" of Thanksgiving.

How many times have we been so worried about the parties, presents, and food that we've missed the true meaning of Christmas? Have you ever hurried the whole family out the door for the Christmas Eve church service and then not been ready to worship and give thanks once you arrived?

One way that our family tries to counteract this frantic pace is to do some intentional giving. I'm not talking about casually throwing loose change in the Salvation Army bucket at the mall (though that's great too). I'm talking about planning ahead and putting a lot of effort into giving.

This year our family is trying to put together six shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. If you're not familiar with this group, they take shoeboxes full off goodies to needy kids around the world. You can learn more about it
HERE. These kids need everything from soap to toys to pencils. (Did you know that many of the kids can't attend school if they don't have a pencil? And some of them don't attend because pencils are too expensive!!)

I thought about the shoeboxes when I started CVSing this summer. I started stashing things away as I got them free or almost free. As of now, I have 12 soaps, 6 toothpastes, 6 toothbrushes, 6 deodorants, 36 pencils, 12 pens, 6 packs of gum, and bags of hard candy. I chose to do boxes for teen boys, because most people prefer to do boxes for younger kids. From what I've heard, boxes for teen boys are more scarce than the other age groups.

I was reminded in church on Sunday that the collection week for the boxes is November 17-24. That's coming up quickly!! Since I got started a little late this year and don't have enough for all 6 boxes, my mom is going to help me finish filling the boxes. We're going to take the list found on the video HERE and divide and conquer. Between the two of us, we're going to find sunglasses, combs, pencil sharpeners, solar calculators, notebooks, art supplies, and some fun items for our boxes.

You can get free boxes from Operation Christmas Child, but I noticed that they were small. We're planning to get Rubbermaid shoe boxes for ours. That way, they can also keep the containers and reuse them.

So how are you going to give this Christmas? Now is the time to start planning for giving that extends beyond your own family. Thinking ahead about giving allows you to start watching for sales and budgeting any extra money you want to spend on giving. If you need a starting place, you can check with your church, a local school, or your local social services agency. They can all point you in the direction of someone who could use a helping hand this Christmas. And I guarantee you that your heart will receive more than you can imagine!

"...remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " -- Acts 20:35