Thanks for the Hope

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December has just been crazy around here. A lot of the time it hasn’t felt like December, and it’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away. We’ve had Christmas parties and family come into town. We finally managed to get a tree last weekend and start our own Christmas shopping. There is still so much to do and so much going on in the next week. (And the week after that, if I’m being honest.)

I went back and forth a lot on whether I was going to do Hope for the Holidays this year. It’s always a lot of pressure on me to make sure I’m doing what’s right. I do my best to make sure there are no repeats or fraud. This year was especially frustrating as we did have fraud. There were two posts with different stories that came from the same person. And the most frustrating part of all of it was that one of those stories was part of the reason I did this again this year.

However, we all go into this with our eyes and our hearts open. It is all a matter of faith. And while one person lied and got help before I could get it shut down, we helped a lot of really great people. Nine families received a little extra help this year, a little bit of their burden lifted. They got a little hope from strangers across the internet.

This year we helped a single mother whose daughter needed a winter coat and a little something under the tree. We helped grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. We had people write in requests for their neighbors because they knew they needed help. We helped several families who struggle to put food on their tables. We helped families from the east coast all the way to Alaska.

Thank you to everyone who gave this year. Thank you for caring for people you don’t know and will never meet. Thank you for supporting me in my small part of giving back. If you want to give, it’s not too late. I’m sure any of the families we’ve given to could use a little more help, and there were several new comments today from people who just heard about us and could use some help.

From my family to yours,
Merry Christmas

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Ho(pe), Ho(pe), Ho(pe): Hope for the Holidays

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Everyone goes through times of good and times of bad. We all have our up times and our down times. Times where everything seems to be going just great, this life couldn’t get any better and times where if one more thing goes wrong you don’t know how you’re going to make it through. Sometimes life seems to cycle through the good times and the bad. Sometimes life seems to stall out in the middle of the bad cycle. Sometimes it appears as if other people only have the good times. Sometimes it feels as if you only have the bad times.

My family had gone through our share of good times and bad. We’ve had times where everything feels like it’s going just right and it’s all worked out and there’s a plan and we’ve got this. And we’ve had times where it’s all come crashing down. There’s been days that felt so dark I didn’t know if we’d ever see daylight again. We’ve had days that felt hopeless.

This past year has been interesting to say the least. It’s certainly had its up and downs. People we love have died. Jobs have been gotten and lost. Times have been hard. But we have also laughed and loved and had joy. Times have been good, too.

The day after I got a seasonal part-time job, my husband lost his job. And while he wasn’t surprised by it, I was certainly shocked. And then I took a deep breath and remembered all the calls he got from people wanting him to quit his job to go work for them. We decided he’d take a week off to relax and then he’d be back to work in no time. He was too loyal to his company to just up and quit so this was a blessing.

That week or two off turned into 6 months. All those job offers vanished overnight. And as the weeks stretched on, it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My job ended before he had a new one. And while I wasn’t making that much, it certainly helped. It was hard to stay hopeful. It was hard to stay calm.

We are very blessed that we have each other to lean on. We have family to turn to for help. We have friends who repeatedly asked what they could do to help. And we consistently reminded each other that God has a plan for our lives. We are following His path, and we know His plan is good.

As November rolled around, I thought about the last two Christmas seasons where I have used my words and together with some amazing people, both strangers and family, we have given hope to people who didn’t have anywhere else to go. Together we have been the shoulder to cry on, the sympathetic ear, the hope for the hopeless. And while I thought about it, I didn’t think I had it in me to be that hope for someone else this year.

I made a decision that I just couldn’t do it this year. Last year I was so emotionally involved with every person that asked for help, and I just didn’t think I had it in me this year. How was I going to help others when I wasn’t even sure how we were going to do it this year?

Sometimes I need to take my own advise and remember that God has a plan. My husband started his new job just before Thanksgiving. And, honestly, it feels like our own Christmas miracle. But even with that, I still decided I wasn’t going to host Hope for the Holidays this year. I just didn’t have it in me.

I told my husband I wasn’t going to do it and gave my reasons, and he thought I was making the right decision. He remembered last year me sitting at the computer crying every time a new need was written when there was no one to fill it. He remembered, when people trusted me to decide how to send out what they wanted to give, how I agonized over every dollar entrusted to me. He knew I laid awake at night wondering if I had made the right decisions, done the right thing.

And then I got an email from one of our moms from last year. I let the email sit for days. I didn’t know what to do with it. How could I tell her no? How could I just walk away from it? I told my husband about it and sometimes he just amazes me. He told me that it sounded like God wasn’t ready for me to walk away. He said that he thought God uses me to give hope to people feeling hopeless this time of year. And then I got emails from two more people asking about this year.

We got our Christmas miracle so we’re going to try to pass that along to others. This year has been really hard for a lot of people. The world at times has seemed so hopeless. There is so much sadness and darkness out there that it’s hard to remember there is also hope. There is light at the end of even the darkest tunnels.

So here we are today taking a giant leap of faith. This is our third year for Hope for the Holidays and I’m not really sure how it’s all going to work out. The first year people connected with each other directly. Those who were able to help contacted those who needed help. Last year those who were able to help contacted me and I connected with those in need. This year we’re just going to see what happens and where God leads us.

Here are the guidelines:

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR HOPE-

  •  Please comment on this post. Tell us your story. Give us ages and genders for your kids. Let us know what kind of help you need. If you need groceries, what stores are close to you? If your kids need winter coats, what size do they wear? What is the best way for us to help you?
  • Be sure to leave your email address so we have someway to contact you directly. Leave your email address as yourname AT domain DOT com so spammers are less likely to find you.
  • You do not have to use your real name. If you want to remain anonymous in your request you can be.
  • Be patient. The needs come in faster than the help does. Last year it was a week between the first need and the first help.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO GIVE-

  • If there is a specific need you feel moved to fill, please reply to that comment and then contact that person directly. You can contact me if you need to or have additional questions for me, but connecting directly with the person you are wanting to help will be the easiest way to help.
  • If you don’t have a specific need you are wanting to fill but still want to help, you can contact me directly at 2crazylittleboys@gmail.com and I will get back to you. This is the way most of the giving was done last year, and I’m okay with doing it that way again.

 

So here we go. Maybe together we can spread some hope this holiday season. Let’s be a light in the darkness. Let’s share in the magic of Christmas.

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.

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.

Resolutions

It’s New Year’s Eve, and everyone is making resolutions for the new year. Personally I think this is silly and have no intentions of making some resolutions that I won’t even remember by the end of January. I do have a plan for the new year. I do have some goals I’ve set. But not resolutions.

But there is a place where I’d like to see some resolutions, a plan to change in the new year, and an announcement to the world about it. I’m talking about the church.

It’s time to call the church out, and for the church to stand up and quit hiding in the background. The time for being quiet and trying not to offend anyone is over. (Although I don’t think this time should have ever started.) Stand up and make your voice heard.

Jesus tells us that what we do for the least, we have also done for Him, and what we have not done for the least, we have not done for Him. (Matthew 25:31-46) It’s time to start doing. We are called to take care of the poor, the sick, the orphans and widows. Jesus did not tell us to have the government take care of them. He called the church, his people, to care for them.

Lets stop telling people about all the government programs they can qualify for and instead HELP THEM OURSELVES!

When we get a call that someone is hungry, instead of saying that they should sign up for food stamps, lets give them food. When we get a call that someone needs shelter, instead of giving them the names of all the government housing agencies, lets give them shelter. Lets open our homes, our hearts, and OUR CHURCHS!

Maybe we don’t need a new fancy building. Maybe we don’t need the newest, coolest audio system. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for the church to stand up and instead of sending people to the government, bring them to Jesus.

I want to be a part of a church that when they get a call that someone needs help they immediately move into action. When a single mom doesn’t have food to feed her children, instead of telling her how to apply for food stamps, we deliver food. When a job is lost and the heat is going to be turned off, lets be ready to make sure that home stays warm. And when someone has fallen behind in everything and is going to be out on the streets with no where to go and they call us, lets have a safe place for them to stay.

I’m tired of the church saying that they’re sorry but here’s the number for food stamps, WIC, section 8 housing. If the only place we have to let people stay when they call asking for help is the sanctuary, lets move the chairs out of the way and set up cots.

There are more and more people depending on the government to get by. Let’s start taking care of our own and anyone else who calls us for help. How discouraging must it be to call the church for help and be told to call the government? Or that the church can help, but you need to fill out a form and we can’t do anything until the next elders meeting in 3 weeks? When people are hurting and searching and need help, let have that help ready in a moments notice.

“for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” Matthew 25:35-36

It’s time for the church to step up. Jesus just called and you told him to sign up for food stamps.