Dear Neighbor:

Driving around looking at Christmas lights is one of our favorite family traditions every December.

And we love the houses with Nativities the most!

Last year, we started a new tradition. Every time we saw a house with a Nativity in the yard, we put a note on their door. My kids loved sneaking up and blessing our neighbors with an anonymous thank you. Yours might too!

It’s a great reminder to our kids to keep Jesus the reason for the season and it’s really fun trying not to get caught.

Go, ahead, try it.

dear neighbor printable

Click to print letters of your own and start a new Christmas tradition today.

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Let’s Give Differently This Holiday Season | 3 Ways to Change Christmas

Last week I had lunch with two women from Azerbaijan, an oil-rich, but oppressive country situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

They have heartbreaking, but hopeful stories and use their testimonies to work with women who are escaping violence and oppression in the Middle East. We talked about partnering together.

It was humbling to sit with these former Muslim women who daily risk their lives to follow Jesus.

It made me want to live differently, so I can give differently. 

With the gift-giving season around the corner, I want to encourage you to think and shop differently this year. Dad doesn’t want another tie and mom has enough cardigans. For the same amount of money, you can give a unique gift and change someone’s world.

Here are three ways to give differently this season:

1. Give a gift in someone’s name:

Rehema House Gift Catalog-Mercy House supports impoverished moms and babies at Rehema House in Kenya. Not only can you impact lives in Kenya, you can also do so in someone’s name. For every gift you give, you can have an e-card sent to the person of your choice. [Gift options start at $10. For example, you can gift this for $10 in  your teen daughter’s name and this for $50 in your grandma’s name.]  It’s an easy way to change the world. Check out the Gift Catalog here.

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Compassion Gift Catalog-I love Compassion and I believe in what they do. I have seen their work behind the scenes in Kenya and elsewhere and they change lives.

2. Give a gift twice:

Fair Trade Friday-Fair Trade Friday is a fun monthly subscription club (with more than 500 members) that delivers 3-4 fair trade items to your door. The items are created by impoverished women all over the world who are supported by your purchase. Join the Club or give a Fair Trade Friday Gift Box to someone who’s been extra good on your list. Get $5 off a one-time Fair Trade Friday gift box with this code:  5off 

The Refugee Project-Gorgeous hand knitted and crochet items are always on everyone’s list! Every purchase benefits a refugee who has been relocated to the USA from a refugee camp, struggling to make ends meet in their new home. I spend my Friday’s with these beautiful ladies.

the refugee project

No. 41-When you buy a lovely sewn burlap and kitenge bag from Rwanda, it not only supports the young lady who created it after she’s aged out of an orphanage, it also feeds one child, one meal, every day for one year.

Zambia Soap Company -THE PERFECT STOCKING STUFFER -Scented Organic Handmade Soaps and Lipbalms (Families harvest organically grown herbs. Workers distill the herbs to make essential oils for soap, while women widowed by the AIDS epidemic weave gift baskets and attach labels.all overseen by local Zambian churches)

3. Give a gift that provides for a future:

The Mercy Shop-A large percentage of every purchase from the Mercy Shop goes into an account for each of the Rehema House residents who created the items. After graduation, she will be able to use that money to provide school fees for her baby (while Mercy House continues to pay her school fees). So, every purchase helps provide for the future of the babies that Mercy House supports!

the mercy shop

Caring for Korah- We believe in child sponsorship. We just added our 11th child to the family (besides 3 of our own). Our dear friends are saving lives in Ethiopia and you can give a child a future this Christmas.

Let’s change Christmas this year.

10 Ways to Incorporate Gratitude in Our Kids’ Every Day Lives

Ice cream for dinner.

This weekend my kids were overcome with gratitude when I said those four magical words.  I think I shocked them. They couldn’t stop saying thank you.

The next day I reminded them to do their chores and the huffing and puffing didn’t sound much like the thanks giving from the day before.

It’s easy to be grateful when we get what we want.

It’s a lot harder to be thankful when we get what we don’t want.

I want my kids to see the two are connected. One without the other makes us entitled.

But teaching our kids thanks giving doesn’t happen because we eat turkey and watch football on one day of the year. It is a lifestyle. It’s thanksliving. Here are 10 ways to create an atmosphere of gratitude in your home.

Aerial Pumpkin Table

1.  Create a Space for Thankfulness | DIY Thank You Bank

Make room for teaching gratitude in your home by putting a jar in a high traffic area as a constant reminder to be kind and grateful.

Gratitude Jar

2.  Create a Habit of Gratitude | Family Gratitude Jar

Focus on gratitude daily by putting a gratitude jar on the kitchen table and writing down your highs of the day. It’s great reading material later.

GratitudePinterest

3.  Create a Place for Appreciation |Printable Thank You Notes

Keep a stack of cute thank you notes in an obvious place and take time to write them to people in your lives.

printable thank you notes

4.  Create an Opportunity for Perspective

Sponsor a child and display their photo on your refrigerator.Frame a picture of a child and pray for them as a family.  Fill a shoebox for a child through Operation Christmas Child. This practical, tangible way to give will start a great conversation.  Sometimes it’s just the reminder we need to give us perspective. You won’t just be helping a child in need, you’ll be helping your own.

Operation Christmas Child

5.  Create Room for Reflection |Faith-Based Books on Thankfulness

Ages 2-5 The Blessings Jar: A Story About Being Thankful by Colleen Coble *affiliate link

The Blessings Jar

Ages 6-10 |Every Day a Blessing: A Year of God’s Love (one year of devotions on gratitude) *affiliate link

Every Day A Blessing

Ages tween-teen | Make Every Day Count – Teen Editionby Max Lucado *affiliate link

Make Every Day Count

6.  Create an Environment for Gratitude | A Thankful Heart Activity

Sometimes the best way to teach thankfulness is to exercise thanks giving.

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7.   Create an Example of Thanks

Without a doubt, the best way to teach gratitude is to consistently give thanks in front of your kids. Let them catch you writing thank you notes to friends, adding your blessings to a jar or journal. In the classroom of gratitude, there is no greater teach than you.

Be the example

8.  Create a Memory of  Gratitude | Thanksgiving Time Capsule

It’s too easy to forget the simple daily gifts in our lives. Write them down.

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9. Create a Viral Thanks Giving Lifesyle |Random Acts of Kindness

Gratitude is contagious. When you give thanks to others and show kindness to someone, the natural response is to pass it on.

Random-acts-of-kindness-for-kids

10. Create Time for Service | 100+ Ways to Make a Difference As a Family

Gratitude is born in service to others. We were created to share what we have-whether time or money or both. Nothing creates a grateful heart like doing something for someone else.

The Life-Changing Price of Gratitude

The musty room was stifling, a mixture of sweaty bodies and uncirculated air. I could hardly breathe.

The women were waiting their turn patiently, but the line was out the door. They pressed in closely towards the back of the room where we were buying.

It was Friday.

We were purchasing (super cute) items for our upcoming December Fair Trade Friday boxes (we provide the supplies for free for those who attend classes). My friend Taylor and I always carefully calculate how much money to bring so we can buy something from every lady in the room. There are now 65 ladies in our class, so it’s a lot of math. And even more money.

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Once we get thru the line, the room fills up again and the women hold up their creations and Taylor buys items for the The Refugee Project Store. And no matter how well we plan, we always run out of money. The women bring bags of beautiful items and are eager to sell so they can buy necessities like diapers and toilet paper for their families since most of their factory incomes go towards government housing.

I finally opened a window to let the breeze in and I took a deep breath. The money bag was nearly empty and there were still more than ten ladies in line, mostly women from Burma. I quickly did some figuring and realized for the first time since we started this class almost a year ago, we would run out of money before we were able to buy something from everyone. There is a lot of racial division in the class among the different people groups and I knew this wouldn’t help. Taylor and I looked at each other and tried to figure out what went wrong with our calculations. We asked the remaining women to wait on one side of the room, while the other side filled up with women who wanted to sell extra things they had brought.

The language barrier is huge and it’s hard to explain that you have enough for some and not for others.

We didn’t have time to get to a bank and we still needed $220 to buy from those still in line.

It was tense.

We asked the volunteers with us if they had money and we collected $222 from those serving in the room. I took a deep sigh of relief when we paid the last lady –with $2 to spare.

Taylor wouldn’t be able to buy extra items and so we told the group of ladies with all their gorgeous scarves and practical dish cloths we were out of money and encouraged them to bring their stuff back to the next class.  By that point, I had a splitting headache and Taylor was crying.

Because changing the world for another person is a hard kind of beautiful. And some days the burden is overwhelming.

This is an Art Business Class. It’s an opportunity for refugee women to learn a skill for free and earn a little extra money. It’s education and business.

It’s also community. And most importantly, it’s an entry point for The Gospel. And we are beginning to see some beautiful testimonies of that.

But something unexpected happened in that stuffy room last Friday.

Usually at the end of the class, when we are out of money, everyone says their goodbyes.

But many of the refugee ladies sensed our stress, saw our tears, and watched us borrow money from our friends. And they responded. Not as customers or students, but as sisters.

One by one, the women took the beautiful scarves out of their bags and walked up to each of us–and placed them around our necks and hugged us, faces shining.

They had purchased the yarn and supplies with their own money and instead of waiting the next week to sell their creations, they turned them into gifts.

Multiple language barriers, racism, economic divides and am empty bank bag can’t stop gratitude.

Taylor asked me later, “Do you think the women know that my husband and I spend hours each week winding yarn balls and selling their products? Do you think the young moms in Kenya and all the women empowered through Fair Trade Friday know how hard you and your volunteerswork?”

Probably not, I said.  God knows and that’s what matters.

But with a lovely new scarf around my neck, I think I will change my answer.

Serving cost us something.

But the life-changing price of gratitude is worth it.

And even though none of us left with extra money that day, we were all a little richer.