Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Gifts For A Child In Need

Worth repeating from a post in 2012. 
Having worked in child welfare, I've learned a few things about giving to children in need.  It's important to consider some of the challenges multi-stressed families face and how this can play out in an appropriate gift selection.  It's important to remember that these families often live without many necessities we take for granted, including adequate food and housing.

Here are some tips:
  • When buying clothing or coats choose dark colors over light--many families do not have easy access to a washing machine and dark colors can be worn longer with less staining.
  • In colder climates hats, gloves, footed p.j.s, and warm clothing are always nice--many families lack adequate heat.
  • Blankets and fuzzy throws are welcome gifts for the same reason, and many children sleep on couches or even the floor. 
  • Socks and underwear--families sometimes have access to used clothing but lack these necessities (tho one of my children is still certain underwear are not necessary!).
  • Avoid battery operated toys--families rarely have the funds to buy replacement batteries (and may even lack a screwdriver).
  • Avoid toys/games with lots of pieces--families often lack storage space and move frequently.  If you give a toy with pieces, focus on those where it won't matter if a few are missing (Tinkertoys).  If one missing piece will spoil the toy (puzzles) steer clear.
  • Buy a storage container to go with toys such as building blocks.
  • Always consider safety--some children lack adequate supervision and/or the safety of a toy isn't clear.  As an example, I love Magnetix, but I would never give them to a family who might not know the danger of a child swallowing the magnets (they can stick together in the stomach).
  • Buy durable toys.  Hot Wheels cars have to be one of the greatest toys ever made!
  • Board books are often appropriate even for pre-schoolers.
  • Buy classic toys that a child will still play with months from now, including sports balls. 
  • Along the lines of safety, always give a helmet if you buy something like a scooter.
  • Consider useful/life-skills gifts such as a knitting kit for a teen.  Play dishes for young children can often be used in the real kitchen. 
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste are a great addition to all gifts.  A washcloth or bath towel will also be greatly appreciated. 
  • A wind-up flashlight can be security for a child who knows the fear of having electricity cut off.
  • Craft items/colored paper/stickers/washable markers/glue sticks (with storage box) can give kids hours of entertainment.  You can even cull your craft closet for additions.
  • Remember that over the holidays kids aren't getting free breakfast/lunch at school.  Consider adding some high calorie/high protein snacks such as power bars, peanut butter, tuna packs.  Special individual snacks will also be a thrill to children who often see their classmates with them (pudding snacks, cheese and crackers, fruit leather).  Fresh fruit is coveted. 
  • Don't forget that teens love the addition of food too!  Gatorade (powdered goes a long way), a bag of chips, Poptarts, granola bars, pepperoni sticks, or a movie-size box of candy. 
  • Feel free to bring gently-used items with the gifts--clothing, books, stuffed animals, toys, blankets. 
  • Finally, the most important thing.  Write the child a note.  Tell them you will pray for them/send them good thoughts throughout the coming year--then do it.  You may only have a first name, but God knows exactly who you are praying for!   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Hits

A few family favorites from last year.  I wondered if my kids might be too old for the Playmobile advent set, but they loved it (and we are using it again this year)!  

This book provided after dinner entertainment.   It is action-packed and filled with adventures (although, true confessions, we didn't finish it, so we are working on the end this year). 

GREAT GIFTS:  Electric Snap Circuits, Stomp Rockets, and a ping-pong set that attaches to any table. 


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Starters and Cheerleaders

I've learned some important life lessons.  One is that even a short trip to see loved ones is worth the money. 

To prove it, feast your eyes on a recent trip to see my son and his family.  I was only there for 2 days but it was so worth it--our granddaughter is growing up fast!

A more recent life lesson is the incredible importance that positive people play in my children's lives--both "starters" and "cheerleaders."  I've always recognized the importance of mentors--the "big players" like relatives and Godparents and coaches who are super involved in my kids' lives.  Those relationships are the mortar that helps hold their lives together.  It means so much to my kids to have other adults who love them unconditionally and take the time to be involved.  My recent life lesson is that something as simple as sending a postcard or a text adds up to make a big difference.  It's the on-going "I love you, and I'm thinking about you, and I'm here for you" communication. 

And I've recently truly learned the incredible importance of the "cheerleaders"--every small kindness adds up.  Kids (especially teens) need lots of fans!  My friend Suzy is an example.  She is one of those people who is always positive, but unfortunately we don't spend time together outside our annual campout.  Yet even though we aren't close friends, Suzy makes herself well known to my children--she is one of their greatest cheerleaders on Facebook where she can be counted on to make positive, encouraging comments on a regular basis.  Cheerleaders like Suzy make my kids' lives richer. 

Every kindness counts.  And every single adult who takes time for kids means SO MUCH!  Thank you to those who take time for my kids and make the world a better place with their involvement in young lives. 
My hope is that I can work a little harder to be both a starter and a sideline cheerleader to all the kids in my life.  One person can AND DOES make a HUGE difference!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankfulness Brings Joy

When life gets overwhelming it is so easy to lose our joy.  And what's interesting is, at least for me, I can't always see it dissipating.  And then one day--BAM--it hits me like a ton of bricks!  
And once it's gone it seems so elusive to get back.  What I've found this time around (or perhaps once again) is that thankfulness brings joy.
I'm re-reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  I blogged about it long ago and it's just what I needed.  Not only does it help keep my worries at bay, it helps me find the joy in each and every day; each and every moment.  I look around and praise God for all the small delights in life. 
I am reminded to keep smiling--and keep trusting God.  I am reminded to truly keep thanksgiving in my heart, which seems especially meaningful this week.
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
                                                  Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, November 13, 2014


It's been awhile!  Whew!  I think it was a lifetime ago!  It's has been up and down and all around, but God is always good and it's amazing how He orchestrates life!  I'm learning a whole new meaning of Carrie Underwood's song, Jesus Take the Wheel!  Lots of topics to blog about.
I'm off to taxi kids to evening events, but I wanted to stop in and tell you all hello!  I miss blogging and hope to add more soon.  For now, here are pics of Mei Mei's birthday.  She was SUCH an excited birthday girl!
And while I'm catching up, some pics of Halloween--Harry Potter, a cat, a Minion, and can you guess who was Gru?  LOTS of candy and a fun night.  (The other kids all decided they were too old for trick-or-treating this year--my babies are growing up!)
More posts coming soon to a blog near you. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Trust, Fear, and Grace

I like to think I can trust God.  I certainly believe in His power, goodness, and presence through good and bad.  I believe that he has a Big Plan and that someday I will understand it.


It's easy to trust God when things are going great.  Right?

But I've also begun to realize that when life goes haywire--for whatever reason--it's harder for me to trust God. To truly trust Him.  I've thought a lot about this recently and I think I finally understand why--it's because I don't trust myself.  I tend to blame myself for things that happen.

If my child has cavities it's my fault for not making certain they are flossing perfectly.  If my teen has friend problems it's my fault for not teaching them how to navigate relationships properly-- and probably my fault for not fulfilling all that they needed in relationships in the first place.  If my child gets sick I at least partially blame myself--even when Joe had cancer I couldn't help but remember that when he was a baby we were living in Europe in the path of Chernobyl.  Perhaps I could have done something different to protect my child? 

And my own trust issues go even deeper than guilt.  The last few years have had times of intense pain.  I learned that even if I called out for desperate mercy it might not come.  My loved one might not be healed.

In the last 7 years we have lost our precious son, my husband's brother, my husbands sister, my husband's mother, my father, and our one-year-old nephew. Most recently, we even lost our dog to cancer.  The grief sometimes seems never ending. 

One of my children said it's almost like all we can do is just wait for the next bad thing to happen. 

And the fact that my child thinks that way breaks my heart. 

But I get it.

God never said life was going to be easy.  It certainly wasn't for his very own Son.

With all of that, trust can be hard.

But what I have to hang onto is that even in the midst of pain there has been MORE joy.  In the past 7 years we have added three incredible children, a beautiful daughter-in-law and grandchild, and many nieces and nephews.  Life has tears but also so much joy and LOVE!  I always trust that at some point in the future there will be more happiness.

And I really do believe that God has a master plan.  I might not always like it, but I HAVE to trust it because if I don't then my faith will soon be non-existent.  And what I'm realizing is that even if I don't trust myself to get things right--even if I do unintentionally mess God's plan up--then He is going to somehow make it all okay. I'm learning to give myself grace--I can only do my best.  I can only keep praying for guidance and turning toward Christ and then keep working my hardest to proceed in the direction I believe God is leading me.  And if I feel no lead I must make my best guess.  My job is to keep a solid connection to Christ both in good tines and bad so that I can listen for his guidance.  And to remember that God is truly in control even if I don't understand everything on this side of heaven.

And recognizing all of that helps me release my fears.  Which brings a peace that surpasses all understanding.  I can only do my best.  God will do the rest.  Trust. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Light of the World Forever Reign

It's been a long, crazy summer.  There have been really great parts and some really challenging parts.  One of the most difficult aspects of blog writing is that I can't always write about the challenging parts. Life can be hard sometimes, and I keep just trying to remember that God is in control.  When you haven't heard from me on the blog it usually means we would appreciate some prayers!  
Speaking of prayer, I wanted to share some beautiful pictures from Lan Lan's baptism.  She has such a deep faith--the true faith of a child.  She has the most amazing dreams that revolve around her faith and Jesus--I love to imagine all the ways God will use her for his greater glory! 
Each child who was baptized chose some special words to be read.  Lan Lan had a vivid dream that included the song Forever Reign, by Hillsong:

 I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing
no other Name
Jesus, Jesus