It’s been a rough year, filled with so much trial and tribulation. The devil is doing anything and everything he can, in order to kill, steal, and destroy my family unit. But He Who lives in me is greater than he who is in the world. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Jesus loves and lives within us, so we have the power and authority to fight back in his name. Because the devil loves division, he made sure we missed one of our yearly fall traditions in October, by wearing and tearing us down so badly, we didn’t even have the energy to participate when the opportunity presented itself.
And suddenly, it was November… shoebox time. It’s the time of packing up shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, so that less fortunate children in third world countries will receive a Christmas gift. It may be the only gift they ever receive in their lifetime. Our church had sent out the email about the shoeboxes only one day before they were due. It was too late. Another tradition of ours would be missed; but most disappointing, was the lost opportunity to bless God’s beautiful children: children who would otherwise happily receive our gifts, and more importantly; hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I felt saddened, when suddenly another ministry opportunity presented itself; the chance to again sponsor two adorable children for our friends’ ministry over in Haiti. We joyfully accepted.
It had been a crazy year, So I decided it was probably okay that we’d missed our annual tradition of filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. For years, I had run around running helping others, but I had forgotten to take care of myself. God had long ago revealed to me the need to first pray and check my calendar before making commitments. I’d gained wisdom in this area, yet our family was still drowning in health issues, struggles, and hurdles. We needed to be together more than ever. We decided to give financially, without taking on any added stress of shopping. Regretfully, I let go of the shoebox tradition.
But God had already planned the silver lining: He wanted us to keep our busy tradition, and He’d take care of giving us what we needed most. When our church sent out an “oops” email, apologizing for the last minute shoebox notice, we realized the deadline for shoebox collection had been extended! We now had no reason not to pack some shoeboxes, and honestly; it had been pulling at my heartstrings. Every time our boxes get packed, I think to myself: For each shoebox we pack, another child will receive a gift and have a chance to hear about Jesus, and receive eternal life in Heaven… all because we participated!
So this year, on the day before Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes were due, our family ran full force into our yearly tradition tradition of kicking off the holidays by filling shoeboxes of gifts for children around the world. We purchased sturdy plastic shoeboxes, along with more special items that we don’t find at the Dollar Tree; such as nice dolls, t-shirts, brushes, etc… We then slid into the movie theater’s last row of five seats, just in time to see The Grinch, which put us into the holiday spirit. Afterwards, we finished our shoebox shopping, and enjoyed a cozy Italian dinner at Olive Garden. With sales galore, everyone ended up with new winter clothing before we headed back home to pack the shoeboxes.
By midnight, we were exhausted. We did what we do every year; we shopped till we dropped. But that’s our tradition too! I thought of how blessed we are to be living in a free country of plenty: clothes, food, and gifts. I felt thankful to have spent the entire day with my family, that everyone had participated simply because it meant family togetherness, and for the opportunity to be able to give; because every good gift we have comes from God, and we are meant to share our blessings with others.
God had blessed my family, just as He would bless the children receiving our shoeboxes. God had given us back what the devil wanted to take away from us. He gave us back our tradition, and He elevated it. It’s not that it was different from what we usually do, nor perfect; but that it was so much more important for us this year to have that family time together. It’s comforting to know that God won’t let the devil steal it away from us. It’s a time of healing and growing and leaning on Jesus; and God knew we needed our shoebox day more than ever.
What a blessing it was to pray for our seven shoeboxes up on the stage with the others when we went to church on Sunday! This Christmas, I encourage you to gather your family or close friends; and bless someone, somehow, this Christmas. Bring a meal to an elderly person, purchase a toy for a child, or sponsor a child in a third world country. Spread joy, love, and Jesus. Rejoice in the fact that when you give to others, you are giving a gift to your Savior; because when we bless others, it is as though we are blessing Jesus Himself:
” ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” ‘ ” (Matt. 25:34-40 NIV).
Do you want to spread God’s Love and Joy this Christmas? Here are some ideas:
Least of These: Haiti – Sponsor a child for school or feed a child! Visit the homepage for more info. This ministry belongs to personal friends of mine, who travelS three to four times a year to visit the children of the village.
Child Child Magazine: Compassionate Child– In 2015, I had the pleasure of interviewing teen missionary, Avery Thompson, about her family’s ministry in Haiti. This short article shows what a difference you can make as a missionary, no matter what your age!
Operation Christmas Child: Samaritans Purse – Learn how to pack a shoebox gift for a needy child who will also receive the gospel of Jesus Christ! Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization which applies all of your donations to provide immediately needed disaster relief, including fresh water, food, and medical supplies to countries all around the world.
Toys for Tots: Marine Veterans – Marines, often Veterans, working with local businesses and social services in order to bring toys to less fortunate children for Christmas. It’s as simple as bringing an unwrapped toy, and dropping it into the large marked box at your local places of business.
Further reading: Posts about Joy