On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.

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It’s Shoebox Time Again

This is my second annual Operation Christmas Child post. If you take nothing else away from my writing, remember this: Anyone can pack a shoebox full of gifts for a child who needs to know that Jesus loves him or her. It’s true. To prove this, here are the 13 boxes that 9 girls packed this afternoon at our house.


Hidden behind the two front boxes is evidence of my love for Saucony running shoes.

It took them somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes to fill these boxes with soap, toothpaste, wash cloths, stuffed toys, coloring books, markers, crayons, Play Doh, playing cards, stickers, temporary tattoos, and various Hello Kitty products. In the process, they turned my dining and school rooms upside down and littered the tables and floor with bits of Christmas wrapping paper, Scotch tape, and scraps of paper.


One of the boxes we packed for a little girl. There’s a lot of pink in there!

But the well-ordered melee wasn’t the result of a spoiled child opening too many birthday presents. (Oh, come on. All of us have been to those kind of birthday parties.) Instead, the girls were sharing Christmas with children they will most likely never meet in countries they will most likely never visit. And not a single child cried or yelled, “It’s not fair!” I did not hear the refrain of, “That’s mine, not yours!” And I did not witness a single act of fighting. For 45 minutes. And yes, there were three sets of sisters involved.


We managed to scrounge up just enough non-pink items to fill a box for one boy.

No, the event did not go off without several glitches. I seem to have lost my voice this week thanks to a well-timed case of pharyngitis; a few guests canceled at the last minute for legitimate reasons (Don’t tell my friend Stephanie that you’re going to clean your room and hope that she forgets about it.); and almost a third of our guest list never RSVP’d.

But in the end, it was perfect. We’re donating the leftovers from this afternoon–including a green and purple inflatable dinosaur–to the mean mom who grounded her children for not cleaning their bedroom. (Just kidding. She isn’t the meanest mom in the world; that’s a title my children have bestowed on me.) And next month 16 children somewhere around the world will discover the joy of Christmas.


All that was left after the lids were on the boxes. See the inflatable dinosaur in the background? Who wouldn’t want one for Christmas?!

Before I close–and I’m already 20 minutes past my deadline–I need to thank my next-door neighbor Timea. Earlier this year I wrote about H’s favorite friend Sofia and her brave battle against brain cancer. While Sofia was in the hospital, friends from all over the country showered her with countless toys, art supplies, and gifts–to help brighten her hospital stay and to let her know how much she was loved. After Sofia passed away in June, I volunteered to help Timea find a home for 10 boxes of books and toys. With Timea’s permission, we saved two boxes for this afternoon’s shoebox packing party.

Even after her passing, Sofie’s life continues to make a difference. Thank you, Timea, for blessing the lives of others. Before I get too teary to write, I’m going to leave you with a video from Samaritan’s Purse, the organization that sponsors Operation Christmas Child. If you still haven’t figured out how or why to pack a shoebox, watch this video or just read the instructions I wrote for the girls.



Got an Empty Shoe Box? Fill It Up!

It’s that time of the year. Shoe box time.

When we arrived (almost on time) at church yesterday, I noticed a familiar sight in the foyer. On a table sat two shoe boxes overflowing with school supplies, toys, candy, and personal hygiene items. Operation Christmas Child brochures, stickers, and prayer cards surrounded the boxes. I made a mental note that I needed to go through my pantry, round up empty shoe boxes, and make a shopping list when we returned home.

After lunch, the girls and I pulled out the stockpile that we had amassed over the past year: markers, colored pencils, and crayons bought during the back-to-school summer sales; a 6-pack of socks found on clearance; a tiny Beanie Baby bear, two elastic bracelets, several notepads, and a mini Etch-a-Sketch all stashed and forgotten at some point earlier this year.

We pulled out 4 empty shoe boxes, hunted for 2 more, and then got to work separating, filling, and evenly distributing our stash. Then we made a shopping list: wrapped candy, Hot Wheels for the 2 boys’ boxes, 6 tubes of toothpaste, and 6 bars of wrapped soap.

After a quick trip to Target, we finished our packing. How easy was that? We like to wrap our shoe boxes, but that task remains for a later date–mostly because the 4 of us don’t wrap boxes very well together. (I’m just being honest here.)

A boy's box: same art supplies, hygiene items, and candy + toys.

A boy’s box: art supplies, hygiene items, socks and candy + Hot Wheels!


One of the girls’ boxes: same art supplies & hygiene items with purple socks, Play Doh and hair goodies.

If you still have no idea why we filled up 6 shoe boxes yesterday, watch this video below. Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, the international relief outreach headed by Franklin Graham. (It gets a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.)

See how simple that is? If you have kids–or if the voices of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber don’t make you cringe–watch this how-to video. Don’t forget to attach your label and include the $7 shipping fee. Or you can follow your box around the world by paying online and downloading a special tracking label.

I think I packed my first box more than 10 years ago. Now we routinely pack 6 boxes each year. (That’s one box for each of our children.) In past years, our boxes have reached Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Ukraine, and Zambia. What an amazing way to share the love of Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas with children all over the world. I can’t think of a better way to spend $7.

National Collection Week is November 18-25, so that gives you about 2-3 weeks to pack your boxes. So go pack one or two…or even more. What’s stopping you?