A season of second guessing

This is the back of our tree as the ornament side is leaning against the wall because it will not stay standing any longer. It's been that kind of week.

       It’s been this kind of week.

 

With Christmas just days away, we have definitely reached that time where I start rethinking everything I’ve done. Have I done enough? Did we do too little? Did we do too much? Should I have done this? Should I have done that? What about…? And the list goes on and on.

It has been especially rough this year with Hope 2.0. It’s worked differently that it has in the past. Instead of people helping others directly, all but one of the helps has sent me a donation and then I have decided how to use it to do the most good. This wasn’t the original idea, but it has worked out. I’ve really enjoyed it, and when I look towards next year, I’m going to think about this format and how to best make it work.

I’ve read the stories people told and I’ve looked at what we have to give and have tried to figure out the best way to help the most people. I feel such a responsibility to be a good steward especially with the money others have given. What would they want me to do with it? What would they see as the most good? And let me tell you, it has been hard.

I made a plan and sent out emails to families. I learned kids’ names and what kind of toys they like. I learned what stores were close to people and how we could do the most good. I learned about families needing food. I heard about people being desperate for help, not qualifying for government assistance or just being too late for most charities. For example, to be a part of the Salvation Army’s Christmas assistance, you have to register in the beginning of October.

And maybe that’s what so great about what we have done here. These are the people who fell between the cracks. Maybe in October, it looked like they wouldn’t need any assistance for Christmas but by the time December rolls around everything has changed. I know how fast life can change. I’ve heard about illness and hospital stays and deaths in families. I sent a package to a family living at a hotel because they have nowhere else to go.

I made decisions that were hard but felt right. I sent the emails and made promises that had to be kept. I spent the money I was sent and felt really good because we had helped everyone that asked for help. We sent gifts and stockings filled with surprises to 7 little kids with the sender’s name as Santa. And then I got a notification that there were new comments on the blog.

Three new families needing help. Okay, I might be able to do a little more. And then over the weekend two more requests came in. A single dad, a grandma, families who had taken in nieces and nephews who needed a safe place to live. People asking for winter coats and food.

Let’s be real honest. Saturday night I sat and cried. I felt guilty for the people I hadn’t been able to help. I felt guilty that maybe I had done too much for the first group we helped. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to do enough for anyone. And then my husband reminded me that I had done enough, that I can’t save everyone. I can’t help everyone. And it sucks but it’s true. And considering this is all done on faith with hope, I was feeling pretty low and hopeless Saturday night.

God works in mysterious and wondrous ways. Sometimes I can picture him looking at us, at me, shaking his head with a little smile the way a parent would and saying, “Oh, ye of little faith.” Sunday night I got a message on Facebook from someone who couldn’t have known how I was second guessing all my decisions. They told me they wanted to help. And their help is enough to do something for everyone who hasn’t received help yet. It’s enough to fill the gap that I couldn’t fill.

And while I still wish I could do more, I also know that God provides. The week between the first needs and the first helps was so hard for me. Everyday I had to say to myself that it was still early. That people would help. People would give. It would be okay. And people have given and it is going to be okay.

With 4 days until Christmas, I’m going to try to stop second guessing every decision I’ve made. I am going to slow down and relax and enjoy the time I have with my family. I’m going to be grateful for everyone who helped me make this Christmas a little easier for some families. I’m going to be thankful for what we have and what we have done. I’m going to stop wondering if I did enough. I’m going to be joyful when I get messages from people we have helped and stop worrying if it was enough when they tell me it was so much and how excited they are when packages arrive. I’m going to take great joy in the message from the mom who tells me how much her daughter is going to love what we sent and how excited she will be Christmas morning.

Stop second guessing yourself.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Hope 2.0 and me this year.

Merry Christmas!

A Cheerful Giver

*Originally printed in The Hometown Treasure 2016 Countdown to Christmas*

As we move closer and closer to Christmas, people become more generous. Or maybe it’s just that there are more opportunities to give. There are food drives and donation boxes and red buckets everywhere you look.  There are opportunities like Shop with a Cop and Operation Christmas Child Shoebox.

My husband and I are raising two little boys. Living in a world filled with entitlement, we are trying to raise them to be givers, to earn what they have and give when they can. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” We are trying to raise cheerful givers.

One of the ways they love to give is by putting money in the red buckets. They love the ringing bells, and I know this time of year, I had better have money ready for them if we are heading to the store. The boys want to give on the way in the store and on the way out. They want to stop and talk to the bell ringers. They want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. If we head into a store and the red bucket isn’t on the stand, it makes them mad. How can they give if the bucket isn’t there?

Another way we are teaching them to give is going through their toys and donating some of them. They boys have an abundance of toys and at least once a year we go through them. Some of the toys get put up for a later time, some get thrown away, and some go into our donation pile. The first time I let the boys help sort through the toys to get rid of some, they were 5 and 3 years old. I will never forget that day. They asked who the toys were for that we were giving away. When I told them that there were kids out there who don’t have a lot of toys to play with or may not get presents for Christmas, they were shocked. My oldest picked up one of his favorite trucks and told me it was for the little boy who wouldn’t have any presents for Christmas.

That same year, we were asked to ring the bells for the Salvation Army red buckets. We were on our way to Wal-Mart for our turn when I decided I should explain to the boys once again what we were doing and why. I told them how they needed to remember to say “thank you” and “Merry Christmas” to the people who put money in the bucket. I told the boys that the money was not for us to keep. We were just helping. They wanted to know what the money was for so I told them it was to help buy food and presents for people who needed help.

It was one thing for the boys to hear that some kids don’t get presents for Christmas, but it was completely different for them to hear that some kids don’t have food. They didn’t understand that there are people out there who are hungry and don’t have food. They asked if we could stop and buy pizza for the hungry people. It was such an obvious thing to them. If people are hungry, we should feed them.

I think about my boys and the way they love to give and then I think about the way we adults look at giving. How many times have we looked at those red buckets and groaned? We pull the couple of coins out of our pocket and toss it in. Or we look away and walk as fast as we can past the bell ringers. Or we go through our closers and pull out the clothes that are about to fall apart or are so outdated that no one would ever want them and put those into our donation bag, but hang on to the nicest stuff even if it is 2 sizes too small and we’re never going to wear it again. How many times do we give not with a cheerful heart but with a sign or a groan or a roll of our eyes?

I think about that first Christmas. God gave us His best. He gave us His Son. And it wasn’t with a shrug or a groan. God didn’t think He was too busy to give to us that year that maybe next year He’d have the time. God didn’t look at us and say, “I’m just going to hang on to this because I know what those people will do with My Gift.” God didn’t look at the earth and shake His head and walk away. God looked at the world and loved us so much that He gave us the best that He had, the most He could give.

As we head through this Christmas season, as you hear the ringing bells and see the donation boxes, remember the way God gave to us on the first Christmas. Even if the only thing you have to give is a smile, give with a cheerful heart.

 

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Another great way to give is with our Hope 2.0. We have helped many people but new needs are still coming in. Please help me bring some hope and Christmas cheer to people who really need it.

Move. Help. Be Brave: Hope for the Holidays 2.0

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas season has officially started, and even though this year we have a couple extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it gets here so fast the older I get.

In my last post I talked about doing Hope for the Holidays again this year, and here is it. THE OFFICIAL POST.

Some back story on what we are doing here. I have been part of a community project of strangers helping strangers this time of year since 2011. It was amazing that first year when there was no planning or thinking about it. A stranger said something to another stranger about how hard Christmas was going to be and spontaneous giving began and exploded.

It was a little strange the way it all got started. People started telling their stories about empty bank accounts, losing jobs, parents and children who were sick. There were stories about kids old enough to understand that there just wasn’t any money for presents under the tree. There were stories about kids young enough that they wouldn’t know that there should be presents under the tree. There were stories about the empty corner where the tree should be, but that year there wasn’t going to even be a tree. People told how they struggle every week just to put food on their tables. People told how they have a job that covers the bills, but just the bills, and they weren’t even sure how they would put gas in the car to get to the job. As hard as it was to spill their guts, people shared their honest and hard truths to strangers.

And then there was the amazing people who could help. People with a little extra they could give. People who didn’t have children to buy for that wanted to help others be able to shop for their children. People who had never worried about how they were going to put food on the table and wanted to take that burden away from someone else. People who didn’t have money for gift cards but did have winter coats their children had grown out of and sent them to the mom struggling to buy her child a coat. There were people who the only extra they had was yarn and knitting needles, but they created hats, and scarves and mittens for kids that needed them. People gave with the faith that the stories were true and the hope that they could ease someone else’s burden just a little.

The next couple of years in happened again, with thought and planning, and it was good, too. Two years ago, the blogger who started it all had taken a break from blogging and couldn’t host it, so I took her idea, softened up the language a little, and brought it over here.

Two years ago, Hope for the Holiday’s didn’t help as many people as WANA ever did, but it was so awesome. From my small town in middle America, I was able get help to families as far away as Alaska. It was strangers helping strangers, giving a little bit of hope to those who may be feeling hopeless. I hope it moved everyone involved as much as it did me. You can read the post for the original Hope for the Holidays here.

Last year, WANA was back for its final year and I was struggling emotionally so I stepped back and just let it run over there. This past summer MODG shut her blog down completely. She was done and ready to walk away from her corner of the internet. And while I am sad that she isn’t writing anymore, I’m happy to be hosting Hope again this year.

I think especially after the extremely rough political season we just went through we all could use a little hope this year. Hope that not everyone is selfish or greedy or mean. Hope that there are people out there who care about other people. Hope that people are genuinely good and kind. Hope that people do want to reach out and help others when they can. So over here we are going to MOVE. HELP. and BE BRAVE.

So how is this all going to work?

The only way this works is if those who need some help, tell their stories, and those who can help, give. To ask for help please leave a comment below. Tell your story as much as you can. Be honest. Share what is going on and the specific help you are needing. At the top of your comment put *IN NEED* so it is easily spotted as a need. Tell your story and include your email address so people can contact you to help.

Here is an example of what a need should look like:

*IN NEED*

I’m stay at home mom and my husband has been out of work for several months. He just got a new job, but we are still trying to catch up from the time we were without income. We have two small boys, ages 8 and 6. They love trucks and dinosaurs and are so excited about Christmas, but I just don’t know if there will be anything under the tree. We are stretched so thin right now, sometimes I’m not sure after bills how we are going to put food on the table. We have family that would help, but they can’t afford to take care of us and we feel so guilty having to ask. If someone could just help a little bit it would mean so much to all of us. My email address is myname AT Hotmail DOT com.

That should give you an idea of the information to give. Feel free to give as much information as you are comfortable giving. Be sure to include your email address so people who want to help can contact you. If you leave it the way I did in the example, it is less likely spammers will find you. Once you have posted a need, please be patient.

For those who are wanting to GIVE, please reply to the comment on here so I can see that someone is helping. I will watch for those needs that get missed as more comments come in, but I won’t know who had received help, if you don’t leave a comment below.

Some important additional information. When leaving a comment, you do not have to use your real name. If you would like to be anonymous on this blog, you can be. Please include your real email address in the box for it because only I can see that and it gives me a way to contact you if I need to. Also, please check the box to be noticed of additional comments so you will know when someone has replied to you.

So here we go. This whole thing runs on faith and love.

MOVE. HELP. BE BRAVE.

It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas Yet

king become baby

I’m in a strange place this year. We are one week from Christmas, and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. I’m not sure why it doesn’t feel like Christmas time. This is truly one of my favorite times of year. I love the lights and the tree and the songs and the snow. I love THE Christmas story. The story of Jesus’s birth is the beginning to the greatest gift creation has ever been given. We get cards in the mail, and I make cookies and wrap presents. And I love it all.

This year is just different. Maybe part of it is the weather. It has been unseasonable warm this December. In fact last weekend it was in the 60s. I live in a place that is supposed to have a white Christmas. I want that foot of snow on the ground and snowflakes to fly Christmas Eve. (Last I heard they were calling for rain on Christmas Eve with a slim chance of snow on Christmas Day.)

As for the tree, we had it up early this year. We have never had a tree up before the middle of December, but this year we got it the last weekend in November. And then that sucker fell over completely decorated and broke our ornaments and lights not once but twice. Finally yesterday we got it decorated for the third time. I’ve told everyone that if it falls over again, I’m tossing it out the front door.

I have the most lovely nativity scene. I think it was Tuesday this week when I finally got it out. The boys and I drew and painted leaves to cut out and tape into a paper wreath to hang on our front door. The papers are still in a stack waiting to be cut out. There is a Charlie Brown and a Veggie Tales nativity set around here somewhere that haven’t been put up.

As for wrapping presents, well, we will need to buy them first. Christmas is one week away and we have exactly 1 gift for each of the boys. And it’s not that we go crazy with gifts piled a mile high, but just one under the tree with make for two very disappointed little boys Christmas morning. Someone really should start thinking about (and actually doing) our Christmas shopping.

What about that Christmas picture of the boys in front of the tree I like to take every year? I guess I did take one last weekend but it was just because that’s where they were standing when I took their picture and the tree only had lights on part of it because we hadn’t redecorated it yet.

And maybe I’m not the only one feeling this way this year. We don’t send out Christmas cards. Every year I think about it and then just never get it done. But even though we don’t send them, we always get a few. So far this December we have gotten exactly zero Christmas cards. And the boys love to look at all the Christmas lights on the houses when we are out driving around. It seems like there are just less lights up this year.

The boys did finally get to see Santa last weekend after missing all of the other opportunities we normally have in December with everything that’s been going on.

cameron and santa connor and santa

Thanks, Misti for the awesome photos! It was a great time and a great Santa, but it was also in the 60s and the boys didn’t even wear coats that day.

And the boys are just the exact opposite of where I am. They are so excited. They ask every day if it’s Christmas Eve. The saw Santa and made their lists. They talk about Jesus and His birth. They play with the nativity. Sunday they are in a program at church. They loved Piney (the Christmas tree) even when only half her lights worked and she had no decorations.

I’m not sure why I’m feeling this way this year. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s missing Grandpa. Maybe it’s because I had been picturing this Christmas looking a lot different than it does this year. I’m just not having that excitement that I normally feel especially by this time every year. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas yet.

I’m sure over the next few days the boys’ excitement will rub off on me, and it will finally start to feel like Christmas. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas yet.

That Busy Time of Year

Like most people, it feels as if we are just insanely busy this time of year. And this year, it feels much more overwhelming than it has in years past. At night when I finally get things wrapped up and get in bed to go to sleep, I remember that I was going to blog that day but I never got to it. In fact, I normally blog from our desktop because it’s easier for me than using our tablets. For Thanksgiving, our desktop was unhooked and placed in a corner out of the way. Today, I finally got it hooked back up.

Besides family get-togethers, company Christmas parties, Christmas shopping, visits to Santa, and all the regular every day things, these past few weeks have been so stressful. Shortly before Thanksgiving, Cameron had a cavity that became abscessed.  After treating the infection, he had to have the tooth pulled. He was an absolute rock star with how he handled all of it. And apparently, he doesn’t get his teeth from me because, where I’ve never had a cavity, before Christmas, Cameron has four additional teeth that are going to need fillings or crowns.

In case that’s not enough going on in our lives, for Thanksgiving, Connor got the flu. That annoying flu morphed into Bronchiolitis in Connor. By Sunday night, he was taking short, fast breaths and trying to take a deep breath would make him cough so he and I headed to the Emergency Room. After 2 hours in the ER waiting room, we finally got to see a nurse. Connor’s oxygen level was at 55. It’s amazing how fast they can get a doctor in to see you when your level is that low.

Connor got some steroids, a breathing treatment and a chest x-ray. He thought it was all great fun. I was functioning mostly on panic. After another 2 hours, we finally got to leave the hospital with a nebulizer, 2 prescriptions and instructions that if his breathing got worse or he started breathing like that again, I was to bring him straight back to the ER.

IMG_0933

The next day, not only was Connor sick, but Cameron and I had both caught the flu, too. Thankfully, neither of us had issues breathing, but we were all in sad shape.

What? That’s not enough fun? Well, there is more. While we were all sick, my husband had the one work trip he takes a year so there was no backup at home. (Thankfully he didn’t leave for the trip until after the ER visit.) We also got our Christmas tree that weekend.

IMG_0931

It is much bigger than the trees we’ve gotten in the past, but the boys love it and have named it Piney. Piney drops more needles than our last 2 trees did the entire time we had them up combined. And apparently Piney isn’t very happy about where she is sitting, or maybe it’s just really tiring being a Christmas tree because she’s fallen over twice. Let me tell you, the idea of having to decorate that tree a third time makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Oh, did I mention that last year we made glass ornaments and all but one shattered the first time Piney fell over?

So that’s where we are right now. Mostly well finally but also very overwhelmed.

I did noticed today that over the last week or so there has been a lot of visits to the Hope For the Holidays post from last year. I actually meant to talk about that a couple weeks ago (and then all the above happened). MODG, the blogger who started WANA, which Hope For the Holidays was based off of is back to blogging. She is hosting WANA again this year and I have decided that I just don’t have the strength to host a similar event. I would ask any of you who are looking to help someone in need to check out this years WANA. Any of you looking for help this year, please post your stories over there. (Fair warning, they use a lot more colorful language over at MODGblog.com than I use here.) You can find the post for WANA here.

I wish I felt I could do it again this year. I wish I could help everyone who needs help this year.

Now you guys are mostly caught up on where we are. I am hoping after the first of the year to be back with posts more than once a month or so. No matter what happens, 2016 is going to be an exciting year. I have lots of strong opinions on everything going on in the world that I would like to share. Hopefully, you guys will continue to stick around even when I’m not posting very often. I know I’ve lost some readers, as happens when you don’t have new content consistently. Thank you to everyone who’s hung around for 2015. It’s been one of those years.

Here is a special treat. Cameron wrote a song about Grandpa John today and had me video him singing it. He wanted to play guitar while he sang, but his guitar is broken and hasn’t been replaced yet (and he doesn’t actually know how to play the guitar). He is using a plastic wagon handle as a guitar. And a special thanks to Grandma for the lovely glasses she gave him yesterday that he needed to wear to make his look complete. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Merry Christmas

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. The presents are under the tree. There is a plate with cookie crumbs and a dirty milk cup next to it. And two sickly little boys are in bed, if they’d only stay asleep.

Merry Christmas from my crazy family to yours.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Happy birthday, Jesus.

 

How they really felt about me taking pictures

How they really felt about me taking pictures

Angels Among Us

The version of Angels We Have Heard On High in the video above is amazing. It’s The Piano Guys with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The video also includes clips from the world record breaking live nativity with over 1000 angels. It is worth watching.

Angels are so important to the Christmas story. They bring the news to Mary, to Joseph, and to the shepards. Each time it starts out the same. The angels tell them to not be afraid.

Imagine Mary standing there in her home and suddenly there is a man standing behind her. Imagine Joseph, his world collapsing around him as he learns his love is pregnant and he’s not the father. Imagine those shepards, watching over their flocks, settled down for the night and suddenly someone appears shining in the night’s sky.

Do not be afraid was probably the right way to begin. When I think about any of those situations, I know I definitely would have been afraid. In fact, afraid probably isn’t a strong enough word to describe how I would have felt.

These angels knew what to say. They were sent by God to give the best news. They knew there was no reason to to afraid. “You’re going to have a baby, and not just any baby but the Son of God.” “Marry your bride. Together you are going to raise the Savior.” “The Son of God has been born, and you get to be there!”

There was no need to be afraid. These angels were bring the best news ever. They brought cause for celebration. The Son of God was coming to earth!

“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men!'” – Luke 2:10-14

In the song, it says that the mountains echoed the sound of the angels singing the praises of Jesus’s birth. I’m not sure it was just an echo. I can imagine it being such a joyous occasion that even the cries of the mountains could not be contained.

And those shepherds, dirty and tired from tending their sheep, from chasing down the ones that wondered off. They were sitting around thinking it was just another night when suddenly their whole world changed.

I’m not sure what angels look like. When I think of Gabriel appearing to Mary, I imagine him to look like a man you could pass on the street without a second thought. When I think of the shepherds, I picture the classic angel look, the white gowns and wings and light. I’m not sure what they look like, but I know God is still sending them to earth.

I saw one once

It was night, and I was driving a friend home. This involved a lot of county roads with woods and fields, also known as a deer’s best friend. We were just getting off of the main highway which was well lighted. Just as the street lights were coming to an end, I saw something move. It was dark and person shaped but more like a shadow of movement than an actual person.

It bothered me and stuck with me. My friend didn’t see it, I was sure. I didn’t say anything about it, but I kept thinking about what I had seen.

We kept driving and a couple minutes later turned onto a dark county road. Whatever I had seen was really bothering me so I asked my friend if they had seen it. Nope, he had no idea what I was talking about. So I started telling him about it, where it was and what it looked like.

We were driving up a hill, and what I didn’t realize at the time was, while I was telling my story, I had taken my foot off the gas petal. We had drastically slowed down. And as I finished my story we started down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, standing in the middle of the road was the biggest deer I have ever seen.

Had I not seen the figure by the side of the road, had I talked about it right away, had I not taken my foot off the gas, I would not have gotten stopped in time. I have no idea how my little car, my passenger and I would have faired had I hit that deer, but I know it wouldn’t have been good.

And no one will ever convince me that it was anything but someone sent by God that I saw by the road that night. Do not be afraid for God is with you.

Angels among us 

We’ve gone through hard times just like everyone else. Our hardest time felt never ending (although it did end just like everything does). We had to rely on our families a lot. We struggled individually and as a family.

During this hard time, I opened the front door of the house to let more light in through the screen door. I found a shocking surprise. Sitting on our front porch were boxes of food. I stepped out and looked around expecting to see someone.

There was no one there. There was no note included with the food. I have no idea how someone could have gotten those boxes to my front door without any of us seeing anything, especially considering the giant picture window in our living room.

I still don’t know how the food got there, and honestly, it doesn’t matter. Whether it was delivered by someone from earth or not, I believe it was sent by God. Do not be afraid for you are not alone.

I also believe we have angels working with us right on this site. Over on the post Hope For the Holidays, strangers are helping strangers. And maybe all of the givers live on earth or maybe they don’t. Either way, I believe every commenter over there found themselves there through God. Do not be afraid for you are not alone.

This Christmas season watch for the angels. Do not be afraid. They are bringing good tidings of great joy.

Hope For the Holidays *Update*

Just before Thanksgiving, WANA (a private project where strangers help strangers) was supposed to start again for the fourth year. However, this year it was on Facebook rather than a blog where people could share their needs in a more private way.

I felt moved and decided to host something similar here calling it Hope For the Holidays (since I couldn’t get a hold of the original blogger). I wrote a post and slowly but surely people have showed up with needs and strangers have helped us fill those needs.

And every time I get discouraged that needs won’t be filled, more givers show up to help. And while I have been told no that I can’t share our project in places that seem like they should be willing to help, Matt over at Must Be This Tall To Ride wrote a lovely post about what we are doing and asked his readers if they wanted to make magic with us.

Together we have helped moms and dads, aunts and uncles, families that need just a little help this year. We have sent toys and clothes and gift cards to help with food. Christmas morning there will be presents under trees in houses that Santa Claus would have been missing. Families that worry about how they are going to buy groceries next week can breathe a little easier.

Thank you so much. None of this would have happened without those of you who have helped, by filling needs, sharing the project with your friends and family, and praying for us.

But our work is not done. We still have needs that I would like to see filled.

There is Jo, a mom of two little boys (ages 4 and 6) with a baby girl on the way.

There is a mom who is “looking for an angel” with a 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. Santa won’t be making a stop at their house without help.

There is Wanda, a grandma taking care of her grandsons (ages 5 and 1). She left a violent situation and they had to leave everything behind.

Heidi is a mom of 6 with one on the way. Not only is Santa missing their house this year, they don’t even have a tree those gifts belong under.

There is Brian who is 16 and has a 13-year-old sister. They know things are tight this year and there won’t be any presents under the tree. They aren’t asking for gifts. They just want to do something nice for their parents and get some help putting food on the table so their parents won’t have to worry so much.

Sara is a single mom with a 14-year-old daughter. Because of illness and missed time at work, things are tight. She doesn’t need things but is wondering how she’s going to put food on the table this Christmas season.

Elaine and her husband have 5 kids, 2 girls and 3 boys. Their car broke down and any “extra” they could come up with had to go to repair it.

Every comment that comes in I read. Every need breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes. I wish I could help every person. We pray for the families that need help and those that are helping. We pray that God would send us help to meet the needs that are left.

If these stories touch your heart and you have a way to help, please go to the original post and reply to the person’s comment. If the stories touch your heart but you don’t have a way to help, please pray that the right people see the needs.

If you have been helped, please go to the original post and update your need.

If you have been helped and are willing to share that story, please email me at 2crazylittleboys AT gmail.com. I’d love to share all those stories (and pictures if you are willing to share those).

Thank you for giving. Thank you for reading and sharing. Thank you for praying.

And as a bonus, my crazy little boys decorating the tree:

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Hope For the Holidays

December 2011 I was a part of something amazing. A blogger I love, Martini’s or Diaper Genies? (MODG), had gotten some ugly comments on her blog about how rich she must be. She responded with a very sarcastic post about how amazing she was and then asked for everyone to give their financial stats in the comments. The regular comments came, like, “I must be rich too since I eat ham.” But then a very different comment showed up.

A woman named Catherine commented and gave her actual financial situation. She and her husband were losing their jobs. They didn’t know how they were going to pay the bills let alone have anything under their tree for their young child to open Christmas morning.

And just like that hearts were softened and lives were changed.

MODG and her family helped Catherine, even though she wasn’t actually asking for help. It felt good. It felt right. So MODG came back to her blog and shared it with her readers and a movement happened. She called it WANA (We Are Not Assholes). She asked her readers to be honest and open. If you had a need, share it and let us help you. If you could help someone, comment on their need.

It was amazing. It exploded. So many people needed help and wanted to help that I can’t even share that blog post with you because it crashed the system and is lost forever.

People shared their stories. They shared their illnesses and job losses. They shared their fears of not knowing how they were going to feed their families or even put gas in their cars to get to their jobs that barely paid the bills. They shared their heartbreak that Christmas morning at their house Santa Claus wouldn’t be coming. They shared how their kids were old enough to understand how hard times were or young enough not to know there weren’t any presents where there should have been.

But if you are a mom or dad, you know that it doesn’t matter if your kids won’t know or will understand. You will know. And your heart will break. You will feel like you failed at something big.

Of course, Christmas is about so much more than presents under the tree. But that empty tree, or empty spot in the corner where the tree should have been but you couldn’t even afford one is just a glaring reminder that you failed your family.

It was a truly magically thing to be a part of, and I will never forget that Christmas.

WANA continued for the next two years. You can read MODG’s post for 2012 here.

In February 2014, MODG came to her readers again and told us she had to step back. As a mom, she just couldn’t blog anymore. It was too much. And as a mom, I completely understand where she was coming from. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be criticized for every choice you make for your kids by strangers.

Last week, MODG posted on her Facebook page that she still was unable to get back to the blog but wanted to have a place for WANA to continue. She made a post for it on Facebook. I clicked the button to get notifications whenever anyone posted on it.

And then I waited to see what would happen.

Later that afternoon someone finally posted on it. They had a need but would prefer private messages. And that’s when I realized this wasn’t going to work. When you post on ANYTHING on Facebook it shows up on the timeline of ALL your friends. It is hard enough to ask for help from strangers. How much harder when all your friends and family are going to see you asking for help?

I felt moved. I have this little place on the Internet that I can do whatever I want with. I felt called. I sent MODG an email sharing my thoughts with her and asking if I could run WANA through my blog. It felt so right.

And then I waited.

It’s been a week since she put the post on Facebook and I haven’t heard back from her. The last time I looked there were 15 comments on her post and no signs that anyone was helping fill those needs.

I completely understand that. Someone says they need help but can’t share that need in a public forum with all their personal information attached to it. And if you don’t know what the need is, how do you know if you can help? Do you send them a message and have them tell you their story? What if you can’t help then? “Sorry you just spilled your guts to me, but that’s not a need I can fill.” And then everyone feels bad?

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I have a deep faith. If you’ve been reading recently, you know I’ve been doing things recently that I feel God has called me to do even (or especially) that I don’t understand. This is one of those times. Maybe I can’t help everyone that has a need, but I can share my little piece of the Internet to connect people.

Because I never heard back from MODG, I don’t feel like I can use the term WANA. I’m calling this Hope For the Holidays. Because that’s what we are going to do here.

We all need hope, and when times are tough it’s really hard to find hope.

If times are tough for you and your family, I’m asking that you share your story with us here. Let us give you hope that things will get better and that people do care about you.

If times are good for you and your family, I’m asking that you help give hope to those who need it.

Giving always makes you feel good. And this time of year, more people are in the giving spirit. And there are great charities to give to. (We personally love Salvation Army and will be taking the boys to ring bells for them this year.)

As great as giving to a charity to help random people is, giving to a specific person to fill a specific need is amazing.

This is all going on faith. I have faith that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I have faith that people needing help will find this post. I have faith that people able to give help with find this post and be called to help where they can.

Some tips on making this work:

-When you post a comment, you do not have to use your full name (or even your real name) if you are wanting to remain anonymous.

-If you leave an email address so people can contact you, please leave it as name AT place DOT com so spammers are less likely to find you

-Please leave a real email address in the box for it when you comment. I am the only one who can see it and that way I will be able to contact you if I need to

-And I especially need you guys to share this post on social media. The only way for this to be successful is for people to know about it

Choose hope this holiday season. Let’s share Hope For the Holidays (no matter which ones you celebrate).

I choose hope.

**update**

It has been pointed out to me that my instructions may not be clear enough if you weren’t a part of the original movement. So I would like to clarify.

If you have a need:

Please share your story. Share as much as you feel comfortable with. This is important. People want to connect with you. Your story will touch hearts. Give us specific needs we can help with. It is also helpful if you leave your email address in your comment so people have a way to reach you.

If you can fill a need:

Please reply to the comment of the person you are wanting to help so we will know if the need has been met. It is then up to you and the person you are helping to connect so you can help them. If I need to be a go between, I can be, but it will be much simpler if you connect with each other.

When you leave a comment, the is a box to check if you want to get an email when there are new comments. I would suggest clicking this box so you will know when someone replies to you.

The best part of Hope For the Holidays and the only way it works is for us to connect with each other. Real people helping real people.

Thank you to everyone working to make this a hope filled holiday season.

Mary, Did You Know

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A day to spend with family and friends and thank God for all the blessings in the past year. It also officially starts the Christmas season.

I love this time of year. The weather turns crisp to cold. The snow starts to fall. (Although I haven’t always been a fan, seeing snow through my sons’ eyes makes me appreciate it again.) We have time spent with family and friends. I love the smells and even the cooking, decorating the Christmas tree and drinking hot chocolate. And I love the music. I’m not sure that the handful of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are long enough for me to get my fill of the music.

So today is starting our Holiday addition of Worship Wednesday. “Mary Did You Know” seems like a really good place to start. And the Pentatonix version I included above is an amazing cover of the song.

I remember holding both of my boys for the first time. It is an amazing thing to hold your baby for the first time. To look down at that little life that you created. To know that you are responsible for that little life. It is amazing and terrifying, all at the same time.

I can’t even begin to imagine what Mary must have been thinking that first Christmas. As she sat there in that stable, surrounded by hay and animals and looked down at the Baby in her arms. Of course, she knew she was holding the Son of God. She knew where this amazing gift she had been given had come from.

As she looked upon the face of that sleeping Child, could she have even begun to imagine the things He would do? I love the line in the song “when you kiss your little Baby, you kiss the face of God.” As she bent and held the sleeping Child to her chest and placed a kiss upon His forehead, did it cross her mind? Or did she just sit in awe of this Life that had come from her?

I believe that all babies are amazing and all babies are a gift from God, but Mary was holding a baby that was ACTUALLY God. And I am sure as she looked upon the Baby, she knew He would do great things. However, I can’t imagine she could have known how great or the sacrifice that sleeping Child would give.

As you begin this holiday season, take a moment and think about that mother and Child. Think about how amazing that moment must have been. So amazing that the shepherds went out and told all about the Child and Luke 2:19 says, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Even Mary couldn’t know how amazing it all was going to be.

So amazing that 2000 years later we would still be talking about that night in the stable.

 

Mary Did You Know

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your Baby Boy had come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand?
Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kiss the face of God?

Mary did you know?

The blind will see
The deaf will hear
The dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nation?
Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

You can find all of the Worship Wednesday posts here.