I’m honored to be participating in a blog-hop this month: A Season of Giving: 31 Days of Spreading Joy. Be sure to check out the links below to follow all of the inspiring articles shared by fellow bloggers throughout the entire month of December!
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
In a former life, (when we weren’t actively funding an international adoption and my real-estate career was booming right alongside a thriving housing market), I got a real thrill from covertly slipping cash into Bibles, picking up dinner tabs for unsuspecting diners, and delivering shopping carts full of new winter-wear to nearby homeless shelters. Turns out, that was a SEASON. Nowadays, in our single-salary, homeschooling household where every spare penny is being funneled into bringing home Little Brother, we have become more creative with our giving and leave the more grandiose gestures to those still enjoying a season of plenty.
We still love to “Bless in Secret”, as my beloved great-grandmother taught me, but these days blessings more often take the form of a simple ding-dong-ditch of treats to a doorstep, or buying the coffee of the person behind us in line at the drive-thru.
Here’s what I’m learning: These “small gifts” truly are, especially as impressionable eyes are ever watching, rich indeed. After all, “It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” -Mother Teresa
These days, TIME is actually one of our most valuable resources. Last year, my daughters volunteered in a local retirement home, after passing by every day on our way to/from the first week of school. Selfishly, I wanted my girls to have the blessing of a an “adopted” grandparent, having just moved away from their biological counterparts. Despite the unforseen heartbreak of watching several of our most favorite pals pass away over the ensuing months, we were so blessed and thankful for our time with those “Grandmas”.
We’ve always tried to instill in our kiddos an others-centeredness. One way we’ve done so is by teaching and emphasizing to them the Fruits of the Spirit. (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.) I recently resurrected an old tactic implemented in the throes of desperate toddler years, recognizing, praising, and charting their examples of these character traits. Long before I was actually a parent, I learned from gifted educators that praising positive behavior was exponentially more effective than merely correcting the negative.
Clever Carly, my Bestie who blogs over at Africa to America, recently had the ingenious idea of incorporating service projects with her children’s advent calender. Never one to miss out on a party, I enthusiastically jumped aboard her bandwagon with gusto.
Each day this month, our girls are selecting a service project from a bowl of pre-selected, budget approved, kid-friendly activities with the goal of illustrating to them, yet again, that the best part of the Christmas season (in my seldom humble opinion) truly is GIVING.
Here is what they have completed, thus far:
Dec. 1st – Donate mittens/gloves to warming center. Montana is cold. REALLY cold. Temperatures dropped way below zero this week. Our region has made available a place for homeless to retreat to from 7pm to 7am in the winter months, most assuredly a life-saver. This makes the warming center an easy place to donate to and know that your gifts will immediately be a blessing to those in need.
Yes, I went to Walmart. Only for Jesus.
Dec. 2nd – Make a Christmas card for church teachers. Easy-peasy, we did a little extra art in homeschool. I hope the teachers appreciate these hand made sentiments as much as my girls enjoyed creating them.
Dec. 3rd – Shovel the neighbors’ sidewalks. Our city has an ordinance that states you have 48 hours after a snowfall to shovel your sidewalks before you can be fined. The night before we got 7 inches of snow! We were thankful for the opportunity to bless our busy neighbors, as well as the caloric burn!
Dec. 4th – Bake cookies for neighbors. Ziplocs, Sharpies, chocolate and love. Amen.
Dec. 5th – Make treats for hungry birds at the park. Or our backyard. Sometimes when I step out there it looks like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s scarring film, with scores of chatty magpies lighted on every solid surface. Nevertheless, it got down to -28′ that day and I know our chickens despise the cold, so the wild birds must as well. I hope they enjoyed the organic peanut butter.
Dec. 6th – Leave a quarter in a gumball machine. Little cost, big impact. And we knew just which gumball machines to leave our quarters in. No easy feat with mittened fingers, but we managed.
Dec. 7th – Ding-dong-ditch a neighbor with ice cream. We chose mint chocolate chip and the house full of college kids renting on our street. No fear of melting with sub-zero temps all week. (Side note: Snowboots are not optimal for ding-dong-ditching.)
Dec. 8th – Write a letter to someone in Oregon. Neither of my precious daughters wanted anything to do with a pencil on a Saturday, until I suggested they address their letters to their cousins. I loved corresponding with my own cousins growing up, always on Garfield stationary. Everyone loves getting real mail.
Those are just a few of the many service projects that my girls will be completing as we count down to Jesus’ birthday. What are some of your favorite ways to bless others during the holidays?
To be continued, here…