Believe it or not, there was a moment several weeks before Christmas when Cole said to me, “Mom, I don’t want anything for Christmas because I have so much already. Can we just ask Santa to bring me food and stuff that I can donate to an animal shelter?” I just looked at him with pride, he was sincere and I knew it. I told him that he had been very good this year, so I am sure Santa would bring him something. BUT, we could also ask Santa to bring us a gift card to buy some food to donate to a shelter. He smiled. And I knew he wasn’t perfect – just days later he told me, “Mom, I decided I would like some legos and maybe an iphone too from Santa.” 🙂 After all, he is only 8 years old.
Nevertheless, Santa met his wishes. In Cole’s stocking was a $10 gift card to WalMart with a note on it to buy some dog food for an animal shelter. He ran over to me when he saw it with a big smile on his face. So last week we went to WalMart and bought some dog food and a few toys.
The trip to deliver them was interesting because I passed up the shelter several times before I finally saw it! The kids were quite amused. Nevertheless, we made it, parked, and took our donations inside. I did not anticipate that there would be animals up front! I thought – surely we can get out of here without seeing any of the potential pets. I was wrong! There were some ADORABLE black fluffy puppies in a crib up front. I was so tempted to get one, and the kids were petting them and loving on them. I told them that dad would kill me if I brought home another dog right now, and they understood. So I let them pet the puppies a little longer than planned. Madison and Tyler posed with the puppies. I explained to the kids that these puppies would not be here long and would find homes in no time. They all smiled.
I must say – it was a great idea, and they all learned that an animal shelter is a great place to find a new friend or to help a friend in need. Great idea, Cole!
This month, the kids were collecting coins for another ELCA World Hunger project. The church passed out little boxes for coin collecting again, and the kids started collecting loose change around the house. The project lasted during the month of November with everyone bringing their coins in to church on Thanksgiving Eve or the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I really hope to make our service projects more creative in 2013, but this was something quick easy that the kids could do together (collect the change). They also got to dump it in the big bucket together before church started. Madison is holding the little box where they collected the coins. This project did help to teach them that a little change might not seem like much, but when you put it together with everyone else’s “little change”, it could make a BIG difference.
It’s been quite some time since we did a service project, but it has also been a very difficult past couple of months. As we approached Chase’s first birthday, I wasn’t sure I would make it. The sadness set in so deeply. I tried to stay as positive as I could though – particularly for the new baby girl growing inside. I decided that for Chase’s first birthday, we would visit his gravesite as a family and do a balloon release. I let the kids write messages on the balloons and send them up to heaven. They loved it! We also went shopping and bought Chase some gifts. They each picked out a gift 100% on their own. I gave them no guidance. It was amazing what they came up with. Tyler, who has always had natural musical talent wanted to give him a drum, Cole who is my perfect student wanted to give him a learning toy, and Madison who is just plain adorable bought him a giant Easter bunny. The day was absolutely beautiful, and we had a wonderful birthday celebration. After the celebration, we visited our local Goodwill drop off and donated the toys. It was a really wonderful project.
This holiday season is our first without our sweet baby Chase. Though he watches from heaven, and he never had the opportunity be here with us for Christmas, we know that this would have been his first. It has been very important to me to find a way to remember him that is unique and special. I listen to our local contemporary Christian radio station called 89.3 KSBJ. Every year they do the KSBJ Giving Tree where families in need can be nominated to receive help or gifts from listeners. KSBJ posts the needs on their website so listeners can select a way to help. What is so great is that this opens up opportunities for people to help who don’t necessarily have a lot of money, but who have special talents they can give. For example, I heard about an elderly woman who needed some general work repairs done to her home, so a general handyman selected her need and did the repairs on her house for free.
Part of what feels weird about Chase’s loss is that under different circumstances, I would be buying him all kinds of cute baby toys and clothes for Christmas. He would have been 9 months on December 23, 2011. I decided that one of the best ways to remember Chase would be to buy him presents anyway. But because he isn’t here on this earth with us, I would find another baby who needed them. That’s what will make Chase smile in heaven. It just so happened that on the KSBJ Giving Tree was a need for a high school aged single mom who had an 11 month old little boy and no money to give him a nice Christmas. The young girl is still in school and plans to get her diploma, but life has not been easy.
I told the kids about this – and they were fully on board. I bought a little tree for Chase that I plan to put up every year next to our big tree. This is where we will put all of his presents each year. Madison went shopping with me. She was so happy going through the aisles and picking out things for baby Chase. I admit that I went completely overboard and probably spent more on him than I did my other kids. But it was his first Christmas after all. And I miss him so much. I was also worried that because Madi was barely three, she would not understand what we were doing and why. But she got it – she really did. I am so blessed.
So we were able to make Christmas special for a special little boy who needed our help – and we were able to remember our sweet angel in heaven in a very special way.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America World Hunger project helps to purchase animals for families living in developing part of the world. God’s Global Barnyard animals include cows, sheep, ducks, and pigs. These animals provide families living in poverty with food, funds, and fertilizer, all for a better future. Every year our church takes part in the project by handing out these little paper barns that can be folded to collect bills and loose change. Then on the assigned day, we all bring them to service and collect the money. This year the kids are hoping our church raises enough to at least buy a cow for a family! We’re emptying our change into the barnyard when we get home. The boys even got their nana to donate a few dollars to help their cause! For more information about buying an animal for a family in need, visit https://community.elca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=607.
In case you weren’t located around Houston or Texas, you might not have heard about the devastating wildfires that consumed so much of our state in 2011. Within just miles of The Woodlands and our home is a town called Magnolia (we also attend church there) that suffered some very horrible losses due to the fires. Our community pulled together to help the folks who lost their homes or were displaced for weeks and months at a time. Tyler came into my room and started going through my toilettries. I asked him what he was doing, and he said that there was a big bin at his elementary school to collect things for the Magnolia wildfire victims. He said he wanted to donate some things in the bin. How could I possibly say no to that sweet face. I told him to take whatever he could find. Here are some of his findings and donations!
About a week ago the boys actually asked me, when are we going to do another service project? I just can’t describe how that made me feel. Five and six year olds ask to do things that are 1) FUN and 2) IMPORTANT TO THEM. For them to ask this question tells me that they see service as both fun and important to them. So Cole started to brainstorm ideas for things we could do that night. His first one was to go to someone’s house and clean it up for them. I LOVED that idea – how about we start with our own? Just kidding.
I explained that we’d have to arrange that with someone because we couldn’t just arrive at our neighbor’s house with a mop and broom. Or could we??? Tina?? Ha!
Tyler then asked if we could write a thank you note for our trash man. How sweet! I would have loved to do that, but since I am at work when the trash men come, and they have those metal arm things that lift up the can…I wasn’t sure how to get the note to them.
I was beginning to sound like I didn’t want to do a service project. But then Tyler said, let’s make a thank you card for the mailman! AH-HAH!
So Tyler and Cole got to work on their cards. Here is a photo of Tyler’s finished card.
Our mail”man” is actually a woman, so we thanked our mail carrier. Cole was not pleased with the card that he did, so he asked what else he could do to help. I told him that we could get a gift card too, and he could pick where we get it from. But Cole decided to do better than that he said, HOW ABOUT IF I PAY FOR IT WITH MY MONEY? How sweet is that? My selfless sweet little boy. Of course, I did not let him pay for it, but told him how amazing it was that he wanted to do that. We picked McDonald’s since the mail carrier is always on the go. This week I put Tyler’s card (also signed by Cole), the gift card, and a note from us and left them in our mailbox so the mail carrier would get them. This 52 weeks of service experiment is coming along quite nicely.
Well, we missed about two months. To say a lot has changed is putting it mildly. Two months ago, we lost our fourth baby at 38 weeks. Chase is a beautiful angel and rest in the arms of Jesus. For that, we are so happy. But we miss him, and we’ve spent the past couple of months making sense of everything and finding our new “normal”. The kids stopped asking about service projects, and I stopped feeling the motivation to serve. But several weeks ago I heard about the death of a young man who went to meet Jesus at the age of 21. And suddenly I wanted to serve everyone. I wanted to calm the fears of anyone who was scared, feed anyone who was hungry, love on anyone who felt alone…I once again felt the call of Jesus. And it suddenly became even more important to me that I instill certain values in my children. No matter how many medals they win, how many A’s they make on tests, or how many trophies line their walls, if they seek first the Kingdom of God, I have done my job. And to me, a large part of His kingdom is serving others.
So we started with something small – a donation to Goodwill of yet more stuff that we did not need. We have far too much stuff (don’t we all). And if we’re not using it, we should give it to someone who can. Here are the boys dropping off the “stuff”.
The boys were really excited when I told them we were going to do a service project – until I told them I had to take a photo of it. But they got back into the groove, and I explained what “goodwill” was. It was a nice welcome back into our mission, and it is my prayer that these projects instill in my children a love for serving others as if serving the Lord himself.
I admit, having three kids, working full time, and entering the last couple of months of pregnancy has made me one tired momma. But our church has made it a priority to start giving back more to our community, and I am going to take advantage of those opportunities! In January, the church held a clothing drive for a local group called Society of Samaritans. What a GREAT opportunity to clean out the closets. So the boys went through their old clothes, and so did my husband and I. The boys were excited to give the clothes to the people who needed them. Here they are picking out clothes to donate…
And here they are dropping them off at the church collection spot…
This was actually last week’s project. Time constraints have made me slow to post it, but when Cole asked me yesterday, “Mom, what is our next service project? We’ve done so many, what’s left to do?” I knew I needed to keep this going. It was an amazing feeling for him to be so interested in the projects and what we’d do next. It was also a great opportunity to tell him that there was so much more good we could do in this world…