Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What's in Our Box?

In the last post, I shared how awesome and life changing the boxes can be for kiddos. This post is more about what to pack in your box. I figured I would show you guys how easily it is to pack a box filled with items to change a child's life and how to do it without breaking the bank. I'll break down what is in each box and how much we spent. I'm no expert, especially since this is just my first year, and I am sure there are cheaper ways to do it and better items, but I figured it would still be helpful to see what's in a box. Some of the items have weird prices because I divided the total cost between all boxes. So here are the 5 boxes we have packed, so far.

Boy (Age 2-4)
Total cost $13.60

Ruler- $0.25
Maraca- Unused toy from my house
Library shirt- Inara got this from reading books, but didn't want it. So I saved it for a box!
Hard candy- $0.60- I found 3 bags on clearance and divided them between all the boxes
Coloring roll- $3
Band-aids- Free (I had 3 unopened boxes, I split between all the boxes)
Crayons $0.50
Finger puppet- Unused toy
Punch ball balloon- $0.25 (Pack of 4 divided between boxes)
Jake and the Neverland Pirates Toy- $4 (clearance section at Kroger)
Toothpaste- Free from Inara's dental cleaning
Flossers- Free from dental cleaning
Tooth brush- Free from my bathroom closet
String bag- Free from VBS
Flashlight with batteries- $3
Soap- $0.5

Girl (Age 2-4)
Total cost: $11.60

Shirt- $1 (Clearance at Kroger)
Minnie Mouse Toy- $4 (Clearance at Kroger)
Flossers- Free from dental cleaning
Toothbrushes- Free from dental cleanings
Flashlight with batteries- $3
Bracelets- $0.50
Castanets- Unused toy from home
Crayons- $0.50
Flashcards- Free from house. (I bought them $1 at the Target dollar spot, but Inara never used them)
Band-aids- Free
Bag- Free from VBS
Punch Balloon- $0.25
Soap- $0.50
Happy Meal Toy- Free
Hair rubber bands- Free because I have ONE MILLION of them for Inara
Barrettes- Free- Bought them for Inara and after they were opened (of course) they never used

Girl (Age 10-14)
Total Cost: 12.85

Bag- Free from donation at church
Homemade sewing kit- Thimble, needle, thread, tape measure- Free from my sewing box
Ribbon- Free from sewing box- Could use to embellish clothes or tie in hair
Bow- Free- bought for Inara, she didn't like it.
Stretchy headbands- $4
Clips- $4
Earrings (3 pair)- Free- Made by me
Band-aids- Free
Candy- $0.60
Ruler $0.25
Soap- $0.50
Poncho- Free from my bathroom closet
Bracelets- Free (bogo at Kroger)
Solar string lights- $2- Clearance at IKEA
Composition book- $0.50
Colored Pencils- $0.50

Boy (Age 10-14)
Total Cost: $12.60

I rearranged a few items from other boxes and added them after I took this picture.
This one looked kind of empty when I compared it to the others

String backpack bag- Free from VBS
Composition book- $0.50
Candy- $0.60
Colored Pencils- $0.50
Legos- $6 for 2 packs (Target Clearance)
Ruler- $0.25
Paddle ball- Free from (BOGO at Kroger)
Flossers- Free from dental cleaning
Soap- $0.50
Jump Rope- $1
Gum- Free (Unused from my junk drawer)
Flashlight with batteries- $3
Punch balloon- $0.25

Boy (Age 10-14)
Total Cost: $7.35

Deck of cards- Free (Unused from my junk drawer)
HUGE bag- Free from Justin's video game tournament (Seriously, it's the size of the table)
Toothbrush- Free from dental cleaning
Gum- Free
Candy- $0.60
Solar string light- $2
LEGO- $3
Composition book- $0.50
Soap- $0.50
Band-aids- Free
Punch Balloon- $0.25
Colored Pencils- $0.50
Flossers- Free

I think what has been really apparent in packing the boxes is the sovereignty and the love of God. At first I was stressed about some of the items I was packing. Like that little tank top. I worried, "but what if its sent to a little girl in a cold climate?" Or the solar lights, "what if that gets sent to a kid who doesn't need that or doesn't get a lot of sun?" Bt then I remember, God knows! God knows where each box is going and WHO is receiving each box. So the box that I packed that has double toothbrushes, I'm praying that goes to a child with a sibling. It has been so encouraging to follow Operation Christmas Child on Facebook, I highly suggest it! Here are some of my favorite stories that show how big our God is!

 "The story that we like the best is the one from a little girl who has leukemia (final stage). She opened her shoebox and found a hat that she needed because she didn't have any more hair. We were surprised how God gave each child what he or she needed. Only God knows what our needs are."
"When I was a child I went to Sunday school at a local church. I did not have a father, and when I needed something my mom would tell me to 'ask God in prayer'. I wanted to have a watch, so I prayed for it. Later, our church had a Christmas celebration and at the end we had OCC gifts given to us. When I opened my box I found a watch. I was so glad that such a great God in heaven had answered my prayer! I had that watch even after I finished high school and for many years it was a testimony that God answers prayers. Now I am 25 and I always wanted to write a letter of thanks to the family that put my shoebox together, but I did not have a chance. Right now I work with children and we also distribute shoe boxes among them. It is a huge blessing for me." 
"After one distribution in Lithuania, a girl came up to us and shared her story. That week their class was going to the swimming pool. It's a great event for the kids living in a village area. The girl had one problem – she didn't have slippers and without them kids were not allowed to come into the pool. When the girl opened her box and found slippers, she was so excited that she rushed toward us to tell of her great miracle and show us proof that God really cares about her!" 
Seriously guys, you should follow them on Facebook to see story after story of God answering the prayers of little children and changing their lives. This is my first year, have you guys ever packed boxes before? Any tips?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Operation Christmas Child

For a few years I've been reading posts from one of my favorite "mommy bloggers" Amanda at OhAmanda post about Operation Christmas Child. And each year, I'm always like "Oh dang! Its too late now to participate!" Our church is hoping to pack and send 350 boxes this year, and I am super, SUPER excited to help! In fact, I've been storing away things from the clearance section, the $1 spot at Target, and back to school sales for about a month. Last week I decided to bust out all the stuff I bought and start packing them in boxes. I was amazed when I realized I have enough stuff to pack 5 boxes nearly full!

Source: Operation Christmas Child Facebook Page

But what I am more excited about than the great deals, is the lives that will be changed this year. Here are some of the sweet stories I've read from the Operation Christmas Child's Facebook page:

"A Collection Center Leader from Germany participated in a distribution trip to Poland. During one of the distributions, the team visited a family with two little girls in one of the villages. As both of the girls opened their gifts, the collection center leader recognized one of the boxes as one (of many) that she had packed herself. She was overcome with joy and tears at this miraculous act of God’s grace. She now has divine motivation to pack even more boxes for children in need."
"The child of a prominent witch doctor in a Tanzanian village received a gift at an Operation Christmas Child distribution. The witch doctor was touched that someone who did not know his family would send such a wonderful gift. He heard the gospel presentation at the distribution and was so moved, he decided to accept Christ as his own personal savior!" 
"As a 10-year-old boy living in an orphanage in Central Asia, Timur had no concept of unconditional love. He had been abandoned in the hospital after birth. Survival required him to be guarded and self-reliant. At age 13, Timur received the first gift he had ever been given—an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. Inside was a yo-yo, Tootsie Roll candy, school supplies, and a letter and photo from a boy in Texas. 'The shoebox reminded me of Jesus’ love for me, that He forgave me of my sins. It reminded me that I should forgive my parents for what they did to me,' said Timur. 'When I forgave them, God set me free from the bitterness.'"
Even posting these stories is making me cry. Jesus says, "Let the little children come to me" and he is chasing after them, through Operation Christmas Child. I'm so honored to pack boxes, pray for these kids, and show them the love of a God who has not forgotten about them. Will you join me? I'd love to have some other's jump on board with me! Next week I'll be sharing how to pack a box, what was in our 5 boxes, and how much we spent. You'll see how little is actually costs to change a child's life. It didn't break the bank, but it did take some planning. Collection week is in November, so you have a little over 2 months to pack. So who is with me?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

1000 Gifts

I've been slowly making my way through "1000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. She's not the typical type of author I would read, but its still good. Just the thought of being thankful to God for little gifts throughout the day. James says "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." Anything good is from God, so why not thank him for all of the good things he's given. I wanted to do something clever like "Thankful Thursday" or something like that but today is Wednesday, and I haven't blogged in FOREVER, so I figured I better do it now, or I never will!  I've been making a list of some things to be thankful for, so I thought I would share.

  1. Shepherd's laugh when his legs get tickled
  2. Inara's love for snuggling
  3. Building LEGO's with Inara
  4. Hearing a "yes" when I ask if she wants to pray
  5. The breeze on a warm day
  6. Colorful flowers at my parents house
  7. Justin smacking my booty
  8. The word booty
  9. Prayer
  10. Being reminded to be child like
  11. A free sample inhaler and assessment at the doctor's office- a reminder of God's provision
  12. Quiet house- hearing a clock tick
  13. Having the windows open
  14. YNAB and it's helping us with our budget
  15. A warm bed
  16. God's provision with our house
  17. A dry place to sleep
  18. More than enough of everything we have
  19. God's mercy with me
  20. Technology, and the ability to encourage a friend instantly
  21. Inara facing her fears and jumping in the pool.
  22. A husband who loves to be a good Dad
  23. Books to convict and encourage- "A Praying Life" and "1000 Gifts"
  24. What's been DONE on the cross and in my heart. 
Have you read the book before? Did you make a list?

Monday, June 16, 2014

My toddler boy

Gosh, that can't be true? Some how, some way.....I have a toddler. Here's my 15 month update (2 months late) on our little dude. Because sorry, you're the second child and well child checks are never on time. Seriously, if I had more than 2, they'd NEVER get to the doctor!

Weight: *Mom fail, I threw away the paper with his information on it
Length: *I am basically a rockstar  :)
Favorite moments:hearing him laugh and giggle with Inara, getting big open mouth sloppy kisses
Least favorite moments: Him waking up tired and grumpy with the sun
Milestones: Started walking around 14 months, signs more, help, please, and eat. Climbs everything. New words every day.
Likes: being outside, cars, dogs, Inara, Pawpaw, EATING
Dislikes: Getting snack catcher taken away, being told no

This little guy is such a dude.  He LOVES cars and trucks. Each time he sees one, he says "vroom, vroom".  And when we get to watch the garbage truck, its the best thing ever.  He can find a ball from a mile away, and NEVER stops eating.  He is sweet and will gives kisses, but oh my! This kiddo has a temper. He has recently been hitting when I say "no". Which is kind of a lot because he's a crazy boy who want to scale everything in my house. He follows Inara around like he is her shadow, and gets SO sad when she wants to play by her self in her room. When she is gone, however, he is a different kid. He is much more calm and playful, and actually acts like a toddler.  He just is frustrated all the time when they are together because he loves her so much, and just wants to be with her. It really is super sweet.  

I mean, look at this kid?  He hopped up on the couch, grabbed the ipad and was swiping away :)

See? He climbs EVERYTHING! We are in trouble! But look at his cute face :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Being Depressed

Well if that isn't the most exciting title, I don't know what is?!  Just kidding. I've been away from my blog for a while. 1) Its really hard to keep up with these days. Who knew having a second kid would add so much more work. 2) I feel like I've not had really anything great to write. Then tonight Justin encouraged me to blog about how I've been depressed lately.  So I'm submitting to him, and here we are.

Anyways, about a month ago, something changed. It wasn't a specific thing that happened, but I noticed all the joy in my life was gone.  I wanted to sleep all day, I wasn't eating, and I wanted to sleep some more. I've always wanted to stay home with my kids, but found my self longing for work days, counting down the hours until Justin would be home with me, and looking for ways to leave the house. I didn't want to do anything. Go out. See people. Cook. Eat. Clean. All I wanted was sleep.

One day I was in the kitchen and just burst into tears because I had to do the dishes.  Seriously folks, I'm a pretty stellar human being :)  I found my self CRYING OVER THE DISHES.  I thought, that surely there was something more important, more Godly, with more eternal significance, than doing dishes, changing diapers, cooking food.  I would think about my day at work, how I SAW what I did, and how it mattered. I could see how bringing coffee to a tired mom, made a difference.  How praying for a friend and sending an encouraging text meant something. But, this? Snotty noses, dirty counters, and laundry? What was I doing? Did it matter? Add some "mommy guilt" and I was feeling top notch.  

I thought, "Oh my gosh. Why am I thinking these things? Something is wrong, this isn't me. I love my kids and being at home." And I was right. Something was wrong, but that IS me. That IS who I am without Christ. Depressed. Unmotivated. Angry. Impatient. Unkind. Unloving. Selfish. I was being me. I was ignoring my Savior. And without the love of Christ overflowing in me. There is nothing good in my heart. I'll say it again, because its true. There is nothing good in me. Everything that is good and loving and kind and sweet, is from the Lord. So when I lose sight of who He is, and what He's done for heart is cold and dark and lonely.

By God's grace I confessed my sin, was forgiven, repented and started just doing the next thing.  There still wasn't joy, but I was getting up and moving. Going outside with the kids. Cleaning the 10 cup of the day (Seriously, how do 2 tiny humans use so many cups?!). Meal planning. Reading a book. Playing and interacting.

And you know what else? Without Christ as my focus, life IS depressing. Without working for him, doing the dishes AGAIN is infuriating and insulting. Honoring Christ MUST be my focus, because Shepherd's never going to say "Wow, mom. I'm sorry I smacked you 5 times before 10am today. You look like you need a rest. Go have a nap". When my focus is on the things of this world, my outlook is bleak. BUT, when (by God's grace) I can see past the snot, to the tiny hurting heart that needs a Savior just as much as I do, that is where the work and joy is. Doing the dishes all day long, because I'm loving "the least of these" and therefor loving Jesus.

My sweet, sweet friend Katie gave me these two small prints that fit perfectly by my sink, which is where I spend a lot of my day. It was (and still is) a great reminder that my work matters.  It matters because its been given to me from a loving, perfect, and holy God.

I'd love to say that it's all rainbows and unicorns over here. But I'm still fighting. But. I'm fighting.  I'm choosing to trust God with what he's given me and to obey his calling on my life. It has gotten better. Last week the kids were sick and I was so sad I had to go to work.  But then I was happy, that I was sad. Because that meant I wanted to be home. That meant God was working in my heart.

Playing with the kids has actually been fun, instead of a chore. Wrestling when I'm sleepy didn't make me angry yesterday, it gave me energy. God is good. Being a Mom, is by far the most selfless and hardest thing I've ever, ever, EVER done. But it's also showed me so much about my dark, dirty, heart, and the sweet loving, tenderness of my Savior and my Heavenly Dad. 

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