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.

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!

———

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.

 

Raising Boys With Giving Hearts

I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. I was pretty sure summer had just started, and it actually turns out that Halloween is next week, Thanksgiving a handful of weeks after than and then a month later it’s Christmas. Time seems to move faster and faster every year. And it seems like the retailers are trying to move it even faster. This year I saw Christmas decorations next to Halloween costumes.

We’ve talked about the upcoming holidays. The boys want to know what order they come in and how much longer until they get here. They’ve asked almost everyday if tomorrow is Halloween since we got their costumes. And then they asked if we could get a Christmas tree tomorrow. Umm, no to both, but it got me thinking.

The boys have an abundance of toys. They have so many that they can’t play with them (or keep them picked up.) Sometimes it feels as if they multiple while we are sleeping. I’ve been saying for weeks that we needed to go back through them and get rid of the broken ones, put some up for a couple of months down the road, and pack some up to give to Salvation Army. And though I keep saying this, follow through has been a little lax as sitting on the floor is extremely difficult with the cast on my foot.

Yesterday I had enough. We were going to start sorting through stuff. We sat down in front of a giant pile of toys and started talking. I told the boys that there are some kids that don’t have a bunch of toys to play with, and we were going to give some of our toys to those kids.

I have 2crazylittleboys with giant hearts. Their eyes just grew wide at the idea that some kids might not have toys. They both began to sort through the toys.

At age four, Connor struggled a little. He would pick up one of his animals and ask if he had to give it away. I had to explain a little better that the toys that he loves, he could keep. I wasn’t going to force him to give things away. After that he was feeling much better about our project.

Cameron understood a little better what we were doing. He has an ambulance that makes noises, lights up and with the push of a button will drive backwards and forwards. He plays with this truck regularly. He picked it up and put it into the give away box. I asked if he wanted to keep it, and he told me no. It was for the kids with no toys.

We got very little work done before it was time for me to fix supper so I told them we would finish the next day. By the time that bedtime rolled around, the ambulance and a couple of toys Connor had said to donate had made their way back out of the box and onto the floor. I wasn’t surprised, but I wondered how we’d ever get through everything at the rate we were going.

This morning I was drinking my coffee and taking a break when the boys came running up to me from their room. They started pulling on my arm and begging to clean up the toys. I hadn’t even thought about toy sorting yet but they were so excited. I finished my coffee and off we went.

They were dancing around so excited to get started. I walked into the room and the empty box from yesterday was once again full with the ambulance and other toys that had been removed from it. “We’re giving those to other kids.”

I can not explain how my heart filled with joy in that moment. They were so joyful to be giving toys away, and not just toys that they never play with but toys they had been playing with moments before.  By the time we were done for the day, we had filled four boxes with toys and a garbage bag full of stuffed animals.

 

A Giving Heart

 

Most people probably look at giving like my boys did that first day. You pick out the old or broken stuff to give. Maybe you put “good” stuff in your box to give away, but then pull them back out to keep.

And maybe it’s not stuff you have to give but time. You’re willing to donate your time to help someone, but not the “good” time. I can give on Tuesday from two to three but not Saturday afternoon. Or maybe you give the “good” time, but you give it grudgingly.

Maybe it’s not stuff or even time that you are giving. Maybe it’s a listening ear. Maybe it’s a smile or wave. Maybe it’s your understanding of patience. Maybe what you’re being called to give is as simple as letting the person with one item in front of you and your full cart at the store.

When someone mentions giving, we normally think about money or things or even time. Those, while they may seem hard to give, are the easy ones to give. Maybe we should start bigger and harder. Let’s start giving our patience, our understanding, our love.

The most important thing, regardless of what we are giving, is the way we are doing it. 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.”

I want to give like my boys did today. They picked out toys that they were playing with to give to little kids they don’t know. And they were excited to do it. They gave with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts.

In just over a week, my newsfeed on Facebook and Twitter are going to start filling up with people sharing what they are thankful for. Let me get an early start. Today I am thankful I have two little boys who are cheerful givers.