One of our favorite holiday traditions is partnering with Samaritan’s Ministries and putting together shoe boxes for their Operation Christmas Child outreach. Samaritan’s Ministries is a fantastic organization with an amazing mission statement, and as a family, we are passionate about supporting them in their efforts to reach out globally.
When I was a single gal, I loved putting together a shoe box! Then when David and I first got married, we each assembled our own, and as our family has grown, it has warmed our hearts to watch our children get excited about putting together shoe boxes for little boys and girls just like them! In fact, we get so excited about this project that I also have a blog post where I highlight how special this tradition is for our family.
Throughout the year, I watch for items that would be a good fit for the project. Then as the official collection week draws near, we head to the store as a family and gather any additional items we might need – whether it be more toothpaste, extra toys, etc.
When we have everything we need, we set up an assembly line of sorts and get ready to fill our boxes. There are cookies in the oven…Hot chocolate is warming on the stove…Christmas music is planning on Pandora…the works! It all begins as a somewhat peaceful scene, and then chaos ensues as we begin happily filling the shoe boxes – chatting about the children who will receive the items we’ve gathered.
The festive atmosphere is so fun, and I can’t explain how sweet it is to watch my little ones see first-hand that it is more blessed to give. It is truly one of the highlights of our holiday season, but one year, we opted out.
As collection week drew closer, I realized that putting together the shoe boxes had simply become one more thing on my to-do list.
Our containers were ready to go, and throughout the year, I had gathered all kinds of fun items that would be perfect for the project. We were mostly ready, but not really.
You see, that particular holiday season had gifted us with a little bit of extra time to be with family we don’t get to see very often as well as a few additional giving opportunities and situations that had our focus elsewhere, and when it came time to dive in to preparing for the Operation Christmas Child outreach, we realized that year, we were not in a place to be able to give the project the time and attention it deserved. Our hearts were not prepared for this particular service opportunity. Sure, we could have quickly busied ourselves and been hurried givers…but not cheerful ones.
At first I felt guilty about this! C’mon, girl. All you need to do is grab a few last minute items, and choose a night to make the assembling party happen…but then I was reminded of what my heart was craving that year. As I looked ahead toward the holidays that year, what were the things I said I wanted?
I wanted less chaos and more stillness.
I wanted less hurry and more calm.
I wanted fewer commitments and more time to enjoy simple traditions with my family.
I didn’t want my holidays to be consumed with schedules and sign-ups and drop-offs and e-mail reminders. I wanted my heart to have room to remember my Savior…I wanted my calendar to have time to share that same Jesus with my children…and I wanted to leave space to hear that still, small voice – the One that will specifically tell us where He wants us to give…and when.
We scaled back the shopping…
We decided not to attend some of the events and festivals we used to rush off to…
We said no to a few good things to leave room for the very best things: the manger, each other, and specific God appointments.
I don’t want to miss those ordained appointments, and I know you don’t want to either.
What will this look like for your family this year? Do you have plans that could use some adjusting so your family time is better spent? Is there a sign-up that’s not a good fit for you this year? Is there a HARD conversation you REALLY need to have with a relative? Are there events you may not make it to as you had originally planned? This holiday season, what is your family’s version of our shoe box situation? Is there something you’ve always done – something really, really good – but maybe this year, you know your focus and attention needs to be elsewhere?
We put so much pressure on ourselves (especially this time of year), but please come close and let me whisper in your ear: Psst…it’s okay to say no, and after the initial pinch is over (especially for my fellow people-pleasers out there!), it’s going to feel amazing – I promise! Just go for it! God did not design any of us to do it all, and it grieves Him to see us so distracted with trying to do so! #guilty Satan loves to have us in such a place – yes, using even really, really good things to distract us from the God-encounters that have been planned for us.
Ugh…it’s so hard to fight it sometimes, but please don’t allow the holidays to become one big to-do list, and when it comes to giving and serving this holiday season, allow God to show you where He wants you to focus your time and attention. He has very specific things He wants each of us to accomplish for Him this Christmas. What do you sense He has in mind for your family this year?
Each holiday season, I want to experience a special freedom as I allow God charge over my calendar and my Christmas checklist. Will you join me as I work really, really hard to stay as close to the manger as possible?