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

christmas gift blog

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.

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.

Hope 2.0 Update

I thought I would give everyone an update on what’s going on with Hope for the Holidays 2.0. Things are moving very slowly, and I find myself needing a big dose of hope. The first time I did this, it got shared a lot. People saw the post and helped. This year feels different. People aren’t seeing the post even if they wanted to help.

I have shared and shared and shared the Hope post until I think my friends and family must be getting super annoyed with how many times it is showing up on their news feeds. And then I learn things like I had shared it 4 times before my best friend saw it. There are several people who I know I can count on to read and share no matter what I write, and they never saw it (or have just stopped sharing and liking my words.) I’ve shared in a couple of groups with very little response even when I’ve just been asking for prayer and nothing else.

It all makes me very nervous and scared and leavings me needing my own hope. I have to take a moment and remember that everything I do here is a giant leap of faith. I remember that I said we were going to move, help and be brave. I need to remember the brave part. I remember that God has a plan and I truly believe that the needs posted here will be filled.

And then I climb in bed at night, and it’s dark out, and I lay awake thinking about all this. I think about all the people who have posted about having a need. I think about how it seems Facebook is hiding my posts from people. I think about how I’m failing these people who need someone to care about them and to help them. I think about how I am not in a position where I can help everyone who comments with a need. I can help, and I will help, but I cannot do it all by myself.

So far we have 7 families in need. And no families that are giving. And in the daylight, I remember that God does not set us up to fail. I believe that there will be givers, and we all need to have patience while this works out.

I would ask that if you are reading these words you would share them on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else you would like. This only works if people know about it. Also, if you haven’t liked my Facebook page, you can find it here. I am doing 25 days of Christmas songs there right now and will also post updates as they come.

To end this post on a slightly happier note, we took the boys to see Santa. Thanks to Misti Yoder Photography, LLC for the awesome photos.

They were both very excited to get to see Santa.

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Cameron whispered into Santa’s ear what he wanted for Christmas so no one else could here. I’m hoping he asked for a little Christmas magic because we could use some over here right now.

 

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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Can one pizza feed the world?

Raising boys with giving hearts is so important to me. We live in a world that is full of entitlement, and I don’t want my boys to be like that. I don’t want them to think they deserve everything they want just because they want it. I want them to love to give.

We work hard on this. It feels like the most important thing we can teach them other than to love Jesus. Several times a year we go through the toys to give some away. The boys are great about it. They want to help others and they find it hard to believe when I tell them about other little boys and girls that don’t have toys to play with. They are kids so sometimes they just pick out toys that they never play with or the broken toy that somehow made its way into the toy box instead of the trash can. But sometimes they pick out old favorites that still get played with so another little boy can have a toy.

One question I get asked every time is, “What is his name?” meaning the little boy to receive our toy. I don’t know is not consider an answer. I’m the mom. I’m suppose to know.

Maybe that’s why our Hope For the Holidays project is so close to my heart. It’s real people asking for help and real people replying to help. And even if they aren’t using their real names, you have names to associate with real people and their stories.

 

Ringing bells

Ringing bells

 

Last week we rang bells for Salvation Army. Salvation Army is my charity of choice, and it was a really easy way we could do something to help. I also thought it would be a fun way for the boys to give their time instead of items. Plus they could ring bells and who doesn’t love that.

On our way to ring the bells, I explained again what we were doing. I told them if people put money in the bucket, they needed to remember to say “thank you” and “Merry Christmas.” Then I explained that the money was not for them to keep. It was for little boys and girls who didn’t have presents or food.

Food?

It was so hard for them to understand that there are people who don’t have enough food. My boys have never had to worry about where their next meal would come from. Thank You, Lord, my boys have never known real hunger. Even during our hardest, darkest times, there has always been food.

If you know Connor, you know he loves food. It just broke his heart to think about little kids not having food. And with his childhood innocent and giving heart, he had a plan.

We drove past a Little Caeser’s. Connor said, “I know! Let’s go to Pizza! Pizza! and take pizza and Crazy Bread to the hungry people!”

“That’s a really nice idea, Buddy.”

I kind of wish I had stopped at Pizza! Pizza!

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During bedtime prayers, we’ve been including prayers for “Mom’s project.”

“What’s it called again?”

“Hope For the Holidays. We’re helping people who need presents and food.”

“We should go to Pizza! Pizza! and get them food. Then they won’t be hungry.”

How simple is it when you look at it through the eyes of a four year old? If people are hungry, stop and get them food. Through the eyes of an adult, it feels so hard. But maybe he’s right. Maybe it is that easy. Maybe we’re the ones making it seem so hard.

Maybe if we all gave a little, if we all gave a pizza, we could change the world.

Thank you all so much who are helping with “Mom’s project” whether it’s been through actual giving or prayers for those in need. If you are in need or are looking to feel a need, be sure to check out what we are doing with Hope For the Holidays.

 

My Faith Is Just My Faith

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about my faith as it is seen through the eyes of others. It’s been an interesting experience. To me, my faith is just my faith. It’s something that has always been a part of me. I don’t remember a time without it. There wasn’t one morning where I woke up and suddenly realized that Jesus was the Christ.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t defining times of faith in my life. There are definitely moments that I look back on and know that God was working in my life. And while there are no times in my life where I questioned the existence of God, there are certainly times where I was far from Him.

I’m at an interesting period in my faith right now. Suddenly, I am listening more carefully and doing things I feel God is calling me to do when they make no sense to me. Or when I’m not even sure that I want to do them. Or when the thought of doing it has me literally on the verge of throwing up.

And then I pray that I’m making the right decision. I pray that the words that I’m using are the right ones, the ones that will make the most impact, the ones He wants me to use. Before yesterday’s post, Hope For the Holidays, I was sick and shaking. What if it didn’t work? What if there’s all these needs and no one to help? What if it’s just an epic failure, and then everyone knows that I’m an epic failure?

And then I prayed again. Hope For the Holidays is probably the most prayed over blog post I’ve ever written. And after I prayed, I felt at peace. I was still shaking. I was still nervous. Those are human reactions. But I knew that if it was right, it was going to work. I actually had prayed for God to shut my blog down and not let it work if I wasn’t supposed to write those words.

In the last couple of weeks, people have been talking to me about my faith. I’ve been told I was brave. I’ve been told that my faith is awe-inspiring. I’ve been told I’m doing God’s work.

It’s amazing for people to look at me and my words and see my faith like that. To me, it’s just my faith. It’s just who I am. Most of the time, I feel like a scared little girl just trying to do what her Father wants her to do.

You look at me and say that I am brave? I am so scared every time I write. But maybe being brave is writing when you are scared.

You look at me and say that my faith is inspiring? It’s just who I am. It doesn’t feel inspiring.

You look at me and say that I’m doing God’s work? WOW. That one just blows me over. I hope you’re right.

Thank you for giving me a different perspective on my faith.

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.