I love Autumn! I love everything about it, even though here in AZ we really don't get that whole "leaves changing colors" thing. Mostly, the weather finally cools down to a more reasonable daytime temperature. I love this time because it highlights some of my favorite things - the colors of fall, soups and fresh bread, pumpkin in anything!, and everyone getting excited for the holidays. One of my favorite things is when I start to plan our family traditions of giving.
There are so many ways to give and show our appreciation for all that God has blessed us with. I always end the season feeling good about what we did, but wishing it could have been more. So, I am hoping to find even more ways this year to bring that Thankful giving spirit into our family. Please let me know what you all do with your families in the spirit of giving. Below are the things we typically do each year, I hope one or two of them are new to you and things you can begin to incorporate into your traditions!
- Starting now, when the sales start up for cooking and baking, I try to buy extra of any staples that go on sale to donate to the food banks. There are tons of opportunities to donate these items and we try to make sure to do any we come across: our school, cub scouts, as admission to events, at church, etc. Look around, there is a box somewhere you go that is waiting to be filled up!
- Pay your kids their allowance in change or $1 bills and have them keep it in the car, then they always are able to put something in the buckets for the Salvation Army. We like to listen for the bell and see how many we can find in a single day running errands, let them put the money in and remind them to say "Merry Christmas"!
- Compassion International. We have a sponsor son in Bolivia who is only one month older than AJ. We have been sponsoring him since the boys were 4 years old and we always try to do a little extra around Christmas and his Birthday.
- Kiva.org is a wonderful site where you can loan a little money which is combined with others to make a larger interest free loan to someone who is trying to improve their life. I've just made my forth loan and love to get the updates on repayments so I can pray for the person/organization. It's amazing, check it out!
- Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan's Purse. If you have never filled a shoe box for this organization then you are missing a great opportunity! Each year we fill two shoe boxes, one for a boy and one for a girl of AJ's age. He loves shopping for the boy, but I think it's great for him to also have to consider what would make a little girl happy. (Never too early to get guys thinking about making us happy!!) Now, it's even more fun because you can print tracking labels for your boxes and find out what country they are being sent to. We have also received precious thank you letters back from kids that have received our boxes. Collections are going on now, so get on this one quick!
- Our church has an Angel Tree ministry and we pick an ornament to buy a present for a child who has a parent that is currently incarcerated.
- AJ's school also has gives us an opportunity to purchase presents for struggling families in our community. We love looking over the wish lists and then finding kids that have the same likes and interests as AJ. Although, last year he surprised me by wanting to chose ornaments for kids that were much younger than he was, he had a great time shopping for them and remembering what he used to like to play with when he was little. :0)
- Santa's Sack is a favorite tradition started when AJ was 3 years old. That was the first Christmas in our house and Santa left his beautiful velvet bag behind with a note. Santa explained that when he comes back next year he would be happy to collect any toys that AJ no longer plays with or that are a little broken. He would take them with him and fix everything up brand new to have even more toys for those children who might not have as many toys as AJ. So now a few weeks before Christmas we start cleaning in AJ's room and he go through his toys, books and puzzles to fill up Santa's Sack. Once it is filled it is placed right next to the milk, cookies and carrots. The next morning the cookies are just crumbs and the sack is empty and ready to be packed away for next year. (Be sure to have a black trash bag available to move the toys to until they can be donated!)
I'm sure there are many more things that I just can't think of at the moment, I may add comments as more things come to me. Please let me know what are your favorite ways to donate time/money/talents! I just feel that to avoid the post holiday let-downs I need to remember to do four things: stick to my budget and don't overspend, spend as much time with my loved ones (friends and family) as I can, give from my heart as generously as I can, and honor the meaning of the season and my Savior in all that I do.