Operation Christmas Child… It’s Time to Pack Some Shoeboxes!

Every year my daughter and I participate in Operation Christmas Child. We collect items throughout the year and pack them into shoeboxes for the good people at Samaritan’s Purse to deliver to boys and girls in need who live all over the world. Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 with the mission of demonstrating God’s love in a tangible way and sharing the Good News of Jesus.

I began packing shoeboxes when my daughter was one year old and this year we packed six shoeboxes in honor of her 6th birthday. All four of her grandparents donated items for us to pack and gave us money towards shipping. My daughter enjoys shopping for items as well but with COVID-19 we haven’t been going into stores so my daughter used some of her birthday money towards the shipping instead. I am happy she has been called to care and is growing up sharing her blessings with others.

How to Pack a Shoebox- Samaritan’s Purse has a step by step guide on how to pack a shoebox. I’ll outline a few tips I’ve picked up over the years.

Step 1- Find a Shoebox- Although any cardboard shoebox will work, I’ve read that the children often view the physical shoebox as a treasured gift. This year I used plastic shoeboxes. One of our shoeboxes came from Hobby Lobby and was specially designed with the Operation Christmas Child logo printed on inviting red and green plastic boxes. I also used three clear plastic shoeboxes that I purchased elsewhere. The other two are complimentary cardboard shoeboxes with the Operation Christmas Child logo that my mother in-law received from her church.

Step 2- Girl or Boy?-  Although many of the items we pack can be enjoyed by all children, Samaritan’s Purse will ask you to identify if the shoebox was packed for a boy or a girl and what age category. The age categories are: 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14; with the oldest group typically being the one to receive the least donations. We pack boxes that correspond with my daughter’s current age so this year we are packing boxes targeted at the 5-9 age group.

Step 3- What To Pack in a Shoebox?- I keep a big box in our basement labeled “Shoebox Items” and go bargain shopping throughout the year. I scored school supplies for 75% off at Wal Mart, got discounted playground balls at the end of the summer from Walgreens and often pick up discounted items in Target’s dollar area when they change seasons. You can locate some outstanding items during after Christmas sales at all stores.

Samaritan’s Purse recommends packing a WOW item in each box. This could be a doll, stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump or a new outfit. Older children enjoy simple tool sets and expandable shoes. Click here to view gift suggestions by age. Amazon has a nice list of shoebox items as does Hobby Lobby. Besides toys we always pack self care items (a bar of soap, washcloths, combs, brushes, colorful band-aids, socks, hair clips and or bows, and toothbrushes.) Liquids and edible items are not allowed so you have to leave out toothpaste, candy and bubbles! We also include crafts and activities (crayons, pencils with a pencil sharpener, markers, pads of paper, coloring books, puzzles, and stickers.) You can also write a letter to include in your box. My daughter enjoys drawing a special picture and writing a note telling the children that Jesus loves them!

Step 4- Pray- Perhaps the easiest thing to do is pray for the children who will be receiving the boxes you prepared. Pray that the boxes will bring them joy and that by hearing the Gospel they will be filled with hope and encouragement.

Step 5- Follow-Your Box Labels- The cost to ship a box is $9 and you can click here to pay for labels that will track your box.

Step 6- Drop Off Your Box- Collection week is always the third week in November. Several churches and other organizations volunteer to be drop off facilities. This year collection week is November 16-23, so you still have time to pack a few shoeboxes! Due to COVID-19, shoebox collection will be drive-through, so you won’t even have to get out of your car! The Samaritan Purse’s website has a place where you can search for a drop off location near you!

Other Ways to Help?- If you would like to help but don’t have time to gather items and pack a shoebox you can save time and pack one online by clicking here or donate money to cover the $9 shipping. People will often pack shoeboxes but not include the money for shipping.

Whether you pack a few shoeboxes, volunteer at a processing center (like my in-laws have done in the past), pray for the children receiving the shoeboxes or donate money for shipping, I hope you will make Operation Christmas Child a family tradition. For many of the children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received. In addition to the shoeboxes all of the children will hear about the greatest gift of all…Jesus!

Living Generously, “Small Business, Supporting Small Business”…Day 67

We are all aware of the financial struggles many small businesses are enduring during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a way to support a local small business, my mother in law bought me a gift certificate to one of our favorite local restaurants for Mother’s Day. During the quarantine we have ordered curbside from Syberg’s a few times as a way to support a local business and to ensure that our favorite wings would be available when we are ready to eat out again.

Living Generously– A few days after my Mother’s Day surprise, I saw a post on-line from Total Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning, another local small business, stating they would match a gift card purchased from Syberg’s (up to $50) as a way to support a fellow small business during this unusual time. All that was needed was a copy of the receipt. With nothing to lose, I emailed the receipt that accompanied my gift card and forgot all about my submission. Imagine my surprise when I received a personalized note and a $50 Syberg’s gift card in the mail from Total Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning! A huge thank you to Kimberly Donahue, the owner, for participating in the “Small Business, Supporting Small Business” initiative. The Noteworthy Mommy and her family are grateful for your generosity! 

 

 

Staying Connected Through a Birthday Visit, Fancy Surprises and a Virtual Concert…Day 63

During a time where we are socially disconnected, in many ways we are connecting even more! We are simply finding new ways to stay in touch and show we care. Today included a surprise birthday visit to a family friend, a heartwarming surprise package in the mail and a virtual live concert by a talented church friend.

A Birthday Visit and Fancy Nancy– Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things we have done during the quarantine is dropping off surprises to teachers, family members and friends. Today we surprised a family friend with a special birthday card. This eleven year old didn’t want a birthday parade, so we recognized her special day with a short outdoor visit. I’m sure this will be a birthday she will never forget! We were treated to laughs and a bag full of “Fancy Nancy” books to take home! If you have a young child in your home I encourage you to check out the character, “Fancy Nancy,” a French loving six-year with a fancy wardrobe and an even fancier vocabulary! In her world of fancy things, “Fancy Nancy” celebrates the things that make us unique and different. CLICK HERE to visit a website filled with fancy fun!

A Generous Surprise– My daughter was excited to receive a spring craft packet in the mail from Katelynne, a mommy blogger, who is also know as The Disguised Super Mom. CLICK HERE to check out her website. What a generous surprise! We can’t thank you enough! 

 Virtual Concert– I filled a wine glass with some liquid therapy, sat on my comfy couch and experienced my first virtual concert with “Live at the Library With Bethany Coad.” Bethany is an extremely talented contemporary folk singer/songwriter who also happens to be a member of my Zion Lutheran Church family. It was a relaxing hour of fabulous music, storytelling and escapism. Her original songs took me on a delightful journey and for a few minutes I forgot about social distancing, disappointment and the pandemic. I could relate to the peppy tongue and cheek “Lincolntown” as I have made the laborious drive from St. Louis to Chicago too many times to count! I also enjoyed the beautiful ballad titled “Lewis and Clark.” Her newest song, “A Place Where Time Stands Still,” conjured up happy memories of playing concerts, dining with family and attending festivals and parades along our historic main street in what has become my daughter’s hometown, St. Charles, MO. If you missed the concert, no worries, it was recorded. CLICK HERE to listen to Bethany Coad’s virtual concert at the library.

 

 

Live Generously, Virtual Happy Hour and Socially Distant Coffee Hour…Day 32

Living Generously- Beyond problem solving and learning Foundational Skills my hope for my daughter is that she is a caring and generous person who gives unto others authentically. One of the things that first attracted me to my husband was his huge, unselfish heart. Without wavering he immediately offers assistance to those in need. He never seeks acknowledgement for his good deeds, preferring to stay invisible. Like her parents, our daughter is growing up in a Christian home where these values are instilled but more importantly modeled and put into practice. During this time of isolation we are living generously by surprising loved ones and friends with care packages and parades. Reaching out to others we haven’t talked to in awhile and thanking God every single day for the many blessings He has given us.

Generously Living… Sharing meals, margaritas, treats, cards and more.

Virtual Happy Hour- This is the fourth Friday I have participated in a virtual happy hour with a few of my girlfriends. With wine in hand, we gather around our screens and talk. We begin with airing our weekly frustrations from facilitating virtual learning (for those with children) to working from home (for those who work) to social distancing, sharing recipes and finally securing some much needed toilet paper! But then the conversation turns to talking about the past, reliving cherished memories of when we were young and care free. As we laugh until we cry, the unconditional love from my girlfriends is just the support I need to get me through another week.

Pat’s Socially Distant Coffee Hour– My sister in law began a weekly Zoom chat and opened it up to any female on her Facebook list who was interested in joining in. During our first meeting we met each other, a group of eclectic women across multiple states who didn’t have anything in common except having some sort of connection with our host. Pat asked each of us to share a favorite coffee mug and the history behind the mug. Another week we shared something that was helping get us through the quarantine. This week we are sharing a favorite picture. Through the sharing we are connecting, learning about each other, processing our new reality and supporting each other. I look forward to our weekly chats and through my sister in law’s socially distant coffee hour chats, I have met some amazing Christian women who I no longer call strangers but now proudly name as friends.

Living Generously, Easter Eggs and Holy Saturday

We spent Holy Saturday Living Generously by cooking, filling plates and delivering Easter meals to our parents and to family friends. All are being cautious about going grocery shopping due to their high risk status of contracting COVID 19. After days of isolation my daughter and I were excited to go on a drive where we helped others. Last week we prepared and delivered Easter baskets to my daughter’s BFFs and surprised some special friends with a palm cross. Although we didn’t use Live Generously funds for these outreach opportunities my daughter and I began discussing what we can do to Live Generously in the future.

Easter Eggs– I have many wonderful memories of decorating Easter eggs with my father. When my daughter came along he continued the tradition with her. This year the quarantine kept us from decorating eggs with Pops so our family of three had a night of decorating instead.

Holy Saturday– Today was supposed to be Immanuel Lutheran Church’s annual Easter egg hunt. I had signed my daughter up for the hunt and upon cancellation our sister church contacted me with the exciting news of delivering goodie bags to all of the families who planned on attending. My daughter beamed when she discovered the goodie bag on our front door. One of the gifts in the bag was the book, The Sunday Morning Miracle along with a companion activity book. I enjoyed reading the book to my daughter in preparation for Easter Sunday.

We also watched a short video about Holy Saturday. CLICK HERE to view and we sang the following song… He Hung Upon A Cross.

He hung upon a cross, He hung upon a cross. He hung upon a cross for YOU and ME…

One day when I was lost (ca chicka chicka) He Hunt upon a cross (ca chicka chicka) He hung upon a cross for me.

He bowed His head and died…

They laid Him in a tomb…

He rose on Easter morn…

He’s coming back someday…

CLICK HERE to listen to the song.