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18 Ways Your Family Can Serve Others At Christmas

 

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I want my kids to understand that Christmas is about more than the gifts. At the same time, I want them to see the gift inside of them they can offer to others. We can practice generosity and service all year long, but Christmas provides a unique opportunity to model a giving heart.

The Christmas season seems to blow in like a blizzard and bury us with piles of to-do’s. The key for me is to plan ahead just a little. To determine before life gets too hectic what our family will do.

Serving can be so fun when done together as a family. It’s an easy way to create new traditions that bond your family while giving to those in need. Here is a list of ways your family can serve others at Christmas.

  1. Have a hot chocolate stand and donate the proceeds to your favorite charity. – My kids love having lemonade stands. In the summer, they will host a stand and donate to Blood Water Mission to provide clean water for Africans. I’m amazed at the generosity of the people who stop when they know they are giving to a good cause. People will pay $5 for a cup of lemonade. So how about hot chocolate at Christmas? The kids have fun making signs and setting up the stand. They work hard and keep none of the money but know their efforts have the potential to save lives.
  2. Pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child– This is one of our favorite traditions. Each of our boys likes to pack their own shoebox. Many Chick-fil-A locations even have a day to drop off boxes in exchange for a free sandwich coupon.
  3. Purchase a gift for Angel Tree Prison Fellowship -Many children have lost a parent to prison. This is a way to provide a gift to a child whose parent is unable to give them a gift.
  4. Visit a nursing home– One year we visited the nursing home and just walked around visiting the residents while they ate lunch. This was very uncomfortable for me but totally comfortable for my husband. He didn’t hesitate to hug people he didn’t know, and I couldn’t believe how open and receptive the residents were. They loved seeing our boys. Andrew was about 2 at the time, and he easily hugged the necks of strangers and they hugged him right back. Other times we have purchased small gifts such as slipper socks and warm hats to hand out to the residents.
  5. Adopt a family– Many local charities offer ways to adopt a family in poverty that cannot afford to provide gifts at Christmas. This is a wonderful way to lessen what you might spend on your own family and allocate to a family in need. Children can be very involved in this by selecting the gifts, making cards, and wrapping presents.
  6. Host an orphan, or donate to help other families host an orphan. 2 years ago we hosted an orphan at Christmas and explained to our children that rather than use our money to buy gifts, we were going to bring a child who has no parents into our home, love on him, and model to him what family looks like and show him the love of God. This experience changed our family forever. We have now hosted twice, and God has caused our hearts to desire to care for the fatherless in tangible ways.
  7. Pack military boxesBrave men and women serve our country so we can enjoy the freedoms and safety we enjoy. They sacrifice their lives for us. For many in the military, they will not be with family like we may be. Sending a little care package is a tiny way to say thank you for all they do for us.
  8. Blankets to homeless – Purchase blankets and visit an area of town where homeless men and women are likely to lay their heads at night in the cold. Pass out blankets. And pray over the blankets you will place in the hands of ones in need.
  9. Ornaments or craft projects to friends and neighbors – This isn’t a project of serving the needy, but is a way to continue to think of others over ourselves. It’s a fun way to love on the ones we love. The craft store has so many inexpensive projects that kids love doing. Pinterest not required! Just grab a few ornaments, paints, and stickers, and let the kids use their own creativity.
  10. Cookies and apple cider to homeless shelters – Take jugs of cider and plates of cookies to a homeless shelter and pass them out. It might be the brightest moment of someone’s week or season when you enter into their world even for just a moment to love on them.
  11. Provide a meal for a hospice patient – This has become a tradition for our family, which we started about 3 years ago. Contact your local hospice and ask if they have a volunteer list for donating a meal. Our hospice offers the option for Thanksgiving or Christmas and the option to provide a cooked or unprepared meal. In the past we have delivered a cooked meal on Christmas Day. Providing a meal is an obvious act of love and one that is so easy to get the kids involved in. It’s a way to remember that while some of us are in seasons of joy, others are in seasons of grief and pain. We can pray over the meal we prepare and pray for the mouths that receive it.
  12. Serve in a soup kitchen (most have age requirements, so this doesn’t work for young children). Our kids have not been old enough to do this yet, but I look forward to the day we can.
  13. Invite someone you don’t know over for dinner and practice hospitality. Is there a neighbor you don’t know very well? A widow nearby that could use the company? Don’t worry about how clean the house is, don’t worry about the decorations. Open the door wide, invite them in, and love on them through kind hospitality.
  14. Deliver treats to community service workers. Drop cookies at the fire stations, police station, teachers lounge, library help desk, garbage men. We are served all day long by many different people. Our kids need to be reminded how hard others work on their behalf. It’s a small thank you.
  15. Choose a gift from the Compassion or Samaritan’s Purse catalogue – The gifts from these catalogues are so inexpensive when you see the life-changing effects they have. Andrew selected a soccer ball as a gift item one year. Our boys take for granted they can go to a store whenever they want and buy a new ball. To realize some children don’t have a simple ball to play with was shocking to them. One of my boys chose the gift item that provides medicine. And one chose clean water.
  16. Random acts of kindness– everyone loves this, especially kids. It’s a fun way to be a secret santa. There are hundreds of random acts of kindness you can find online.
  17. Dedicate a day to the “little” ways that bless big – We often look for the obvious ways to serve, the soup kitchens, the shoebox packing, but we can’t overlook the little ways we can bless big. Make it a game of finding every chance to bless someone by serving them hope, love, peace, or joy. A child that normally fights back when offended by a brother chooses to disengage, he gave the gift of peace to the family. A child that saw an elderly in the produce aisle and offers to push her cart while she picks her produce, offers the gift of love. A child who sees a sad expression and tells a joke, or offers a giant smile, gives the gift of joy. We have the opportunity to serve constantly. While it is important to look for big ways to serve, it’s equally important to practice serving in the less obvious ways.
  18. Day of prayer– choose a day and a charity or need that God places on your heart and spend the day praying. Prayer changes situations more than anything we can ever do. It shouldn’t be overlooked. Prayer is the best act of service we can offer, and this is something we can model no matter the age of our children.

With all of these ideas (and the many I didn’t cover), we can’t forget to discuss with our kids why we are doing what we are doing. We aren’t trying to gain recognition. We aren’t trying to be super christian. We aren’t trying to gain favor. We are giving the gifts of Christmas. We are showing the love of Christ when we allow Him to use us to offer love, hope, peace, and joy to another.

Everything we do is an offering to Him. Every act of service is an act of worship.

One beautiful way to keep this visual in your home is to wrap up these “gifts” as gifts back to the Lord in honor of a season that is a celebration of His birth. This can be done by keeping a stocking for Jesus where you write notes on scraps of paper of all the gifts of Christmas you gave in His honor and fill His stocking. Or you can let the kids wrap up notes or packages addressed to Jesus that tell of the gift given for Him. Christmas morning unwrap these gifts to Jesus in celebration of His birth.

All in remembrance of the gift He gave for us. The gift of a son, born to die for our sins, so that we could have eternal life through Christ. The ultimate Christmas gift.

[box] If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. You will receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.[/box]

Orphan Hosting

 

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In 2012 we hosted a little boy from Eastern Europe through New Horizons for Children.  This experience and program opened our eyes to orphan care.  Orphans are no longer a number. I have a name and a face that I see each time I hear a number.

This summer we will host for the 2nd time.  This time a 12 year old girl.  She arrives today.

When V returned to Latvia in January 2013, the photo listing was published by NHFC for the upcoming summer hosting session, and her picture grabbed me immediately.  It was her sweet smile and the description that she had only been in a children’s home for a few short months.  Her eyes were young and innocent.  I asked Steve if we could host again that summer, and with compassion and wisdom, he said no.  I was grieving the loss of V and needed time for my heart to heal. I needed to leave myself available to support the family that would seek to adopt him.  I needed time to process before moving forward.

I called my sister and asked her family to host.  They did.  And they loved this little girl. After 2 hostings they are currently fostering children and are unable to host and asked us to host her.  We jumped at the opportunity.

When we hosted V, I didn’t know what to expect.  I expected nothing.  This time I know a little of what to expect.  I can expect my heart to grow exponentially.  I can expect my heart to be broken.  I can expect my heart to be healed by my Comforter.  I can expect to see God move mountains.  I can expect to see God work in the life of a hurting child.

Would you be in prayer for our family and the little girl we are hosting?  The next 5 weeks will certainly bring forth enemy attack and your prayers are appreciated.

Here is an index of the postings from our time with V:

He’s Here

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

Day Ten

Day Thirteen

Day Seventeen

Adopted by the Father

Intentions and Goals of Orphan Hosting

9 Ways To Help An Orphan

Day 22

Advocating for Adoption

Adopted by God

Before and After

He’s Gone

Post Viktors

The Journey Continues- Meet the Sloans

[box] I donate 10% of my royalties from the sale of Seeking Christmas to support orphan ministries such as New Horizons for Children. Seeking Christmas gives families the gift of memories at Christmas. Many children are without a loving family to experience traditions and create memories. We can make a difference little by little.[/box]

Mission Mondays: A Summer Tradition

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Summer is in full swing and so begins one of my favorite summer traditions.  Mission Mondays.  Summer is for memory-making.  We have so many opportunities to create meaningful memories.  While we are creating memories, we can do something for others in need while sewing seeds of compassion into our children’s hearts.

2 years ago we labeled Mondays as Mission Mondays.  These were dedicated days of service projects.  Looking back over the years, these projects have become some of our favorite memories.  As my boys get older, I’m realizing how important continuing this tradition actually is.

This year we invited friends to join us.  For our first mission project of the summer, we filled blessing bags. These are bags that you fill to keep in your car so when you pass a homeless person in need you have something to offer them.  We fill the bags with personal hygiene items, small non-perishable food items, a Bible, a handmade card, some hard candy, etc.

Once our bags were filled and cards made, we moved to our 2nd project.  Making a welcome sign for a 12-year-old we are hosting through New Horizons for Children this summer.  If you have been a reader here for awhile, you will remember when we hosted Viktors, an orphan from Latvia, during Christmas 2012. This summer we will host again, this time a girl. We know her well since she has been hosted by my sister’s family 2 times.  We are so excited to shower her with love this summer.  And have some girl flair in this male-dominated home for a few weeks.

This summer we have selected 4 Mondays to serve others.  I find that my children tend to learn through action rather than just my words and these projects allow them to become involved and take ownership.  Summer is a time of fun and relaxation, but I want them to see beyond themselves.  To see that summer isn’t about only themselves and having fun.  I want them to use their time and their talents to serve others.

Our first Mission Monday last week had the girls all over it.  Marina has a beautiful sign that will greet her in 9 days!

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Here are some Mission Monday posts from the past:

Homeless Blessing Bags

Mission Monday Ideas

Lemon-Aide Stand

What are some ways your family serves others during summer break?  I have shared a few ideas in the links above and would love to hear your ideas!

 

 

Let the light shine

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Matthew 5:16 NIV In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

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When the boys were little, one of our first family mission projects was filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Sparks are ignited in simple beginnings.  No matter how young.

Filling shoeboxes has become a tradition and one that takes place before the season gets kicked off into full swing.  When the kids’ school did a shoebox drive, I thought they wouldn’t be interested in doing our family shoeboxes.  When I made the mistake of expressing that to one of my children, he took it upon himself to begin the shoebox filling.

“Mom, we have to do the shoeboxes.” And he wouldn’t let up.  We did the boxes.  Afterwards, he looked at the 3 boxes and said, “That’s not enough.  We need to do more.”

My response back was shameful.  “Well, you did some at school.  We did 3 here.  And we have the other projects we are working on as well.  It’s just impossible to do much more than what we have planned to do.”

At first he was speechless.  Then he said, “We have to.  I will use my own money.  I want to set a goal.”

In that moment all the years of wondering if packing those boxes made a difference simply disappeared.  They made a huge difference.  He has a heart that cares about caring for the needy.

I was deeply convicted.  Packing these shoeboxes had become a box to check off for me.  A box on our tradition list.  For my children it was a deeply moving experience where they were able to pour into the lives of hurting children.  To give gifts they would love and to imagine the joy on the faces.

I hesitated to post about this because I feared you might feel like I am patting myself on the back and saying, “Look how great my kids are.”  I assure you that is not my intent here.  And if I had time, I would videotape the fighting and bickering and ugly moments to show you that is just not true.

I decided to post this because I believe we need to let our light shine this Christmas.  Brighter than ever before.  It is not bragging.  It’s shining the light of Christ.  Let the world see the good works so God can be glorified.

And then maybe, just maybe, you will have the privilege of seeing how that light inspired another to action and how your good works done for the glory of God have multiplied.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Over the summer my boys hosted a lemonade stand for Blood Water Mission.  One of my friends sent me a message that because of her boys learning about that, he decided to ask his friends at his birthday party to contribute to Blood Water Mission instead of giving him gifts. She sent a thank you to let my boys know they had inspired her boy to take action.

When we let our light shine, it’s not bragging.  It’s giving glory to God.  And it’s inspiring and encouraging others to take action.

When I shared with my boys how the $80 they raised by selling lemonade had turned into close to $300 because someone saw what they did and were inspired, you could have heard a pin drop in our car.  In a rare moment, silence.  The weight of it lingered.  300 Africans would have clean water for 1 year because a group of little boys took action.

It’s not bragging.  It’s not look what I did.  It’s not I’m working to gain favor in God’s eyes.  It’s I love Him passionately and I do it because of that love, and I want the world to see that love and see Him.

Let your light shine this Christmas season.  You can start now.  The giving spirit doesn’t have to kick off on a specific date.  It can start right now.  The spirit of Christmas is alive all year long.

Matthew 5:14-16 Msg  “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Making Memories Through Missions

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The problems of the world are dire.  Catastrophic.  Overwhelming. Though we often feel unable to make a real difference, that simply is not true.  Not only can our actions make a difference, sometimes life or death in another person’s life, but we can imprint the hearts of our children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends when we work together for the greater cause of humankind.

Consider the imprint left on your child’s heart when you involve their hands and feet in the service of one in need.  In a very tangible way, you are teaching them to be like Jesus.  Jesus served.  Jesus gave.  Even his very life.

Summertime is a prime time to create memories.  What if we used our memory making opportunities to serve another?

Last summer Mondays in our home became Mission Mondays.  This summer we are once again turning Mondays into service days.  We are creating memories that revolve around the needs of others.

Here are a few ideas we are working on this summer.

  1. Lemon-Aide Stand– www.bloodwatermission.com – What kid doesn’t love to host a lemonade stand?  I love this project through Blood:Water Mission.  For $10 you can order an entire kit full of supplies for setting up your stand.  Or you can print them out for free.  In turn you donate your proceeds to Blood:Water Mission.  “Blood:Water Mission is a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa.”
    “Summertime – a time to make memories, spend time outdoors, get re-acquainted with friends and neighbors and drink lemonade! This summer, Blood:Water Mission invites you to not only make memories but make a difference, too. Over 320 million Africans lack access to clean, safe water – smart, talented, hopeful people like you can make a BIG difference in the lives of our friends in Africa!
    Build a Lemon:Aid stand in your community to quench the thirst of someone in your neighborhood, as well as someone half-way around the world! Then, donate the profits from your Lemon:Aid stand to Blood:Water Mission and provide your friends in Africa with clean, safe water. “
  2. Baby Care Kits– Assemble baby care kits for CWS.  “In areas of extreme poverty or following a natural disaster, Baby Care Kits help young mothers care for their newborn babies.”  Involve your children in shopping for the supplies.  On the day you assemble the kits, pray over each kit.  Encourage your children to continue praying for the recipients long after you have shipped the kits.
  3. Birthday Bookmarks– I love a birthday party.  Imagine being a homeless child and having no one celebrate your birthday.  This project is great for kids because they understand the importance of feeling special on your own special day.  Bright Blessings is an  organization in Charlotte with this goal : “The goal of Bright Blessings is to bring joy, recognition and support to children and families during difficult and sad times in their lives.   Our two core programs, Bless-A-Birthday and Bless-A-Baby,  raises spirits and boosts confidence for homeless children ages tots to teens, and offers help and hope for babies beginning life amidst the struggles of homelessness.  Each program incorporates education, enrichment and critical-care needs for the children we serve– our commitment is to supporting the whole child.”  A project that is easy to do at home with even the littlest ones is creating bookmarks that Bright Blessings will put in the party bags.  “Every month Bright Blessings volunteers assemble and deliver classroom party packages for more than 100 homeless elementary students who will be celebrating their birthdays. This anonymous program helps ensure the privacy of each student’s living situation among peers. Our volunteers deliver the party supplies, gifts and care packages to school social workers who then take the party packs to appropriate teachers so that the children can enjoy their celebration in class with friends.”
  4. Hospice Meal–  Kids love to help in the kitchen so capitalize on their excitement by blessing someone with a meal.
  5. Deliver popsicles to a homeless shelter
  6. Sponsor a Compassion child.  Or if you have one, write them a special letter.
  7. Have a day of prayer for a cause close to your heart.  Prayer is the biggest impactor of change.
  8. Bake a birthday cake for a Women’s Shelter–  A sweet way to make a woman in need feel special even if for just a moment.
  9. Blessing Bags–  Make bags of necessity for the homeless that you keep in your car.  Hand them out as you have the opportunity.

Mission Monday Moments

I desire for my children to feel so cherished and loved that they in turn will pour out that love into the lives of others.

Matthew 22:36-40 ” ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  Jesus replied: ‘ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What does loving others look like through the eyes of our children?

Summer provides the time and opportunity to create traditions, memories, and experiences on the mission field.  The hope is that the time we spend together as a family sharing the love of Christ with others will not only deepen our family bonds, but will make us less self-centered and more others-centered.

The simple act of naming an activity can create anticipation and excitement to participate in that activity.  Sort of like Taco Tuesdays referenced in my Friday Night Chicken and Rice post.  In an effort to create some excitement around serving others, we labeled Mondays as “Mission Mondays”.  Throughout the summer every Monday we will do some type of family mission project.

For our Mission Monday kickoff, the boys and I put together a few blessing bags.  We often pass people standing on the street in obvious need of some love and care.  Usually we have very little on hand to offer.  For less than $10 we were able to fill 4 bags that we can keep in the car for the next person we see in need of a little love.

The boys really took to this project much more than I realized they would.  We purchased a few supplies such as wipes, mouthwash, and deodorant.  We added a few non-perishable food items we had in the pantry along with extra Bibles we purchased for 50 cents each at the Christian bookstore.  Next, the boys wanted to add candy and their own money to the bag, two of their prized possessions.

To complete the bags they drew a picture with a scripture verse on a card.  Zachary chose James 4:8 “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  Jacob chose Acts 16:31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”  The final step was to pray for the people who would receive those bags.  We asked God to send us to whoever was in need of what was inside that bag.  And most importantly that God would draw near to those individuals.

This was a really fun project to start our summer missions.

Here is a list of some fun and simple family missions projects:

  1. Prepare blessing bags
  2. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank
  3. Visit a nursing home
  4. Provide a meal to someone who could use it
  5. Bake cookies for a neighbor
  6. Sponsor a Compassion or World Vision child
  7. Send a care package to a soldier.
  8. Write a letter to a sponsored child
  9. Gather items around the house to donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army
  10. Pull weeds or other yard work for an elderly neighbor

We’d love to hear your ideas for creating family memories through missions!