I have always loved filling shoebox Christmas gifts. Growing up this was a big mission project in my church and it definitely held a special place in my heart. I loved the shopping, the filling of boxes, and the praying for the hearts and lives those gifts would touch.
When Logan and I started dating, our second date was spent filling shoebox Christmas gifts for Operation Christmas Child. Of course, I loved that date! (And, when Logan planned this date, I don't think he even knew my great love of this mission.) There we were, two college students roaming the isles of Walmart, filling the cart with goodies, packing one shoebox for a little girl and one for a little boy.
This became a tradition for us. Every Christmas, we would fill two shoeboxes - we gave one from each of us.
So, the Christmas we were expecting our first daughter, we filled three shoeboxes. As our family was beginning, our Christmas shoebox tradition was not only continuing but expanding.
A year later, I remember sitting in our living room with our now almost 9-month-old daughter surrounded by toys, hygiene items, and books; and filling those shoeboxes as a family of three. I was giddy as I watched our daughter join us for this tradition. I was thrilled that we would be able to share this tradition of giving with our children.
Then, another year passed and another baby girl was added to our family. As Christmas was approaching, I was excited to fill four Christmas shoeboxes this year with our girls. However, as Logan and I sat down and began pouring over the numbers for our December budget (this was Christmas 2016, just three months before we finished our debt-free journey), it was clear that there wasn't room for any extra giving this year. There would be no Christmas shoebox gifts.
I remember feeling defeated, saddened by our inability to give and quite honestly a bit miffed that we were breaking tradition.
Christmas without filling shoeboxes. Is that even Christmas?
I struggled with this, wanting to give just as we had always given. But, the numbers had spoken. Even more importantly, God had spoken. (We have always, and continue to, follow His direction with our finances because they are a gift from Him.) Giving shoeboxes simply was not an option.
Even so, I struggled.
However, it was this Christmas - the Christmas that we couldn't give - that a valuable lesson really hit home for me. I had always been taught about the power of prayer, and I had many times prayed for our giving. However, this Christmas simply giving through prayer was my reality.
We might not have been able to give shoeboxes, but no lack of funds would have kept us from giving through prayer. We still joined our church family and helped pack shoeboxes with already donated items. We still prayed over those shoeboxes. But, we focused our own hearts and our personal prayers on giving that Christmas.
No matter where you find yourself this Christmas, I hope that you find a place of peace - a place where your heart is filled with contentment recognizing all that God has provided and a place where you never underestimate the power of giving through prayer.