‘Tis the Season to Sing and Let Your Heart Be Touched

'Tis the Season..

As I sit here listening to a favorite Christmas song of mine by Steven Curtis Chapman, I am finding it very difficult to put into words what I am feeling.

The song is called All I Really Want for Christmas, and it has always touched a very soft and tender spot in my heart.  I honestly can’t listen to it without tearing up and feeling a hurt in my heart for the millions of children who will spend Christmas day (as well as every other day of the year) without a family to call their own. 

Listen and Let Your Heart Be Moved

Please listen to this song and let your heart be touched for the approximately 143 million orphans in this world.  Imagine yourself in their position.  Be thankful for your family.  Hug your children.  And maybe…reach out and change the life of a child who doesn’t have a family to call their own.

If you can’t view this video in your email or RSS feed, please click here to watch and listen.

What the Bible Has to Say

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.  Matthew 25:40

For more information, stories, and resources, visit 143million.org

Be sure to visit the other two posts in this series:

‘Tis the Season to Sing When All You Hear is Silence @ The Humbled Homemaker

‘Tis the Season to Sing Really Loud Even if You Can’t Carry a Tune @ Intentional by Grace

And lastly, this is not a post in our series, but it is a wonderful real-life story of adoption that I read this morning with a lot of great resources and tips. Adoption: Our Family’s Story

Come back next week for the last post in this series: ‘Tis the Season to Submit!

Do you have a favorite song that touches your heart every time you hear it?

‘Tis the Season to Serve: 7 Practical Ways to Serve Others This Christmas

I’m so excited to announce a 4-week series for each Monday until Christmas: ‘Tis the Season! I’ll be joining Erin @ The Humbled Homemaker and Leigh Ann @ Intentional By Grace in discussing the true meaning of Christmas. Today our topic is ‘Tis the Season to Serve. 'Tis the Season..

Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year.  On top of the normal, everyday duties, there is also extra shopping to do, gifts to wrap, food to make, decorations to put up, and parties to attend. Whew…just thinking about it can wear me out!

With all of the busy-ness of the season, it’s no wonder that serving others can often get put on the backburner.  But I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Messiah’s birth, than to show His love and humility to others!

Serving others doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or even a lot of time.  Although both of those things are ways that we can express the love of God to others, we can still show His love without being rich or having tons of extra time to give. 

As with all areas of my life, I find that if I am intentional about serving others and have a plan of action, it is much more likely to actually happen

That’s why I am planning on doing several of the things of off this list of seven practical ways to serve others this Christmas season (or any season!):

1. Offer to babysit someone’s children while they are preparing for Christmas.

Give a friend a time that you would be able to watch her children, so that she can shop, cook, wrap presents, decorate, whatever.  A set block of time with no little ones in tow will allow your friend to get a lot accomplished.  This is a great way to be a big blessing to someone without spending any money.

2. Keep small gift bags in your car to give to homeless people at intersections.

Buy small gift bags and fill them with personal hygiene items, food items (such as nuts, granola bars, dried fruit, etc.), and small clothing items (such as mittens, socks, scarves, etc.).  When you see a homeless or needy person out on the street, you will be prepared to give them something that they can actually use and will be so grateful for.

It is very easy to pass judgment on these type of people that we see walking on the street or standing at the intersection.  I’ve done it myself, unfortunately.  But we have to remember that they are real, live people with feelings, needs, and emotions just like you and me.  And when we reach out and show love to them, it’s the same as though we were doing it to Jesus!  Wow – what an opportunity and an honor!

3. Replace one present to each of your immediate family members with a donation to your favorite charity on their behalf.

We, as a nation, are struggling economically right now – that’s no secret.  Yet, we still are richer and have more than most of the world’s population could ever dream.  Most children will receive more presents this year at Christmas, than other children in the world will receive in their whole life.

What if we replaced one present to each family member with a donation to a charity.  Compassion International is a wonderful organization that does so much to care for and help so many people.  Maybe as a family this year, you could pick a child to sponsor

You could still wrap this present of a donation up and have your children open it on Christmas morning.  Children are very giving people, and they will love this – especially if they have pictures of another child that they know they are helping.  This is a great opportunity to teach your children about loving and giving to others.

4. Pick out a missionary family or soldier overseas to send a care package to for Christmas.

I can imagine that if I were in another country with a strange culture at Christmas time, I would feel a slight tug at my heart, longing to be home with family and friends to celebrate Christ’s birth.  Do you know any missionaries or soldiers who are overseas this Christmas? 

Put together a small box full of small gifts, food, cards, and pictures.  Let them know that you are thinking about them and praying for them.  This might seem like a small act of kindness to us, but it will be so big to the ones receiving the boxes.  It may be the only thing they receive this Christmas, and it will be more encouraging than we could ever think.

5. Deliver a nice, prepared dinner to a needy family.

Lately, I have been trying to make an intentional effort to make a double portion of our dinner every so often, and then deliver the extra portion to a friend, neighbor, or someone I know is in need.

Sometimes, I complain to myself that there isn’t enough money in our food budget, when in reality, we eat better and more often than most people in the world.  How selfish of me!  Reaching out and sharing what I have with others does wonders for making me thankful and grateful to God for everything that I do have. 

Knowing that a delicious, healthy, already prepared dinner will be the highlight of some people’s Christmas season, really puts things into perspective for me.  It also fills my heart with love and compassion for those less fortunate than myself.

6. Write letters of love and encouragement to your friends and family, as well as those who are lonely and hurting.

To receive a handwritten note in this day of email, facebook, and twitter is a rather rare thing.  And even though I love receiving encouraging emails from others, it still doesn’t compare to when I receive a handwritten note or a card full of loving and encouraging words.  There is something special about holding a letter in your hand, written by someone who cares for you.

On top of our friends and family, who would love a sweet note of love from us this Christmas, there are also so many people out there who are lonely and hurting.  Think of widows/widowers, orphans, the elderly…those who have lost a loved one.  A sincere note of love would do more to encourage their lonely hearts than we might think.  The power of kind words is very real.  

7. Invite someone who doesn’t have anyone to spend Christmas with, to spend the day with you and your family.

Do you know anyone who is going to be spending Christmas alone this year?  A college student away from home?  An elderly person with no family?  While they might act like it’s okay and it’s no big deal, the truth is, they would probably love to be around others and share in your celebrations and traditions.  Invite them to spend the day with you and your family!

When Christmas day arrives, and they are at your house, treat them just as if they were a part of your family.  Make them feel welcome and at ease.  If you exchange gifts, have some small but meaningful gifts for them as well.  Love them, serve them, and have fun with them.  This will be one of the most special Christmas years that they ever look back at.

________________________________________________________________

This is just a little list of seven practical ways that were laid on my heart of how I can serve others this year at Christmas time. Most of these things can actually be done all year round.  Letting Christ show His love through me, is such an amazing thing that continuously fills my heart with more and more love for others.  I don’t reach out nearly as often as I should.  But the more I do reach out and give, the more I have a burden to love and help others.  That is a vicious cycle that I want to be a part of!

Be sure to visit the other two posts in this series:

‘Tis the Season to Serve with Little Ones @ The Humbled Homemaker

‘Tis the Season to Serve Like Saint Nick @ Intentional by Grace

Come back next week for the second installment: ‘Tis the Season to Celebrate!

Do you have any other ways to serve others this Christmas?

How YOU Can Help Japan

 

 

As the country of Japan is going through a time of terrible devastation, many people want to do what they can to help.  But halfway across the world, what can any of us in America possibly do to help?  Most of us will not be able to go to Japan to physically help the country and her people.  However, there are several ways that we can help with the relief efforts and show our support!

 

1.  Paper Cranes for Japan

 

Students Rebuild is partnering with DoSomething.org to give young people a way to help with “Paper Cranes for Japan”.  Help and encourage your child(ren) to get involved by helping them make a paper crane and then mail it to Students Rebuild.  For each crane received $2 will be donated to Architecture for Humanity’s reconstruction efforts in Japan. Their goal is 100,000 cranes, which will amount to $200,000!  Not only that, but once the 100,000 goal is reached the cranes will be made into an art piece as a gift from students around the world to the youth of Japan!  How awesome is that?  Visit Students Rebuild for all of the details, including a video of how to make a paper crane!

2.  Pray for Japan Ribbon

 

The San Diego South Chamber of Commerce has launched a campaign to support the victims of Japan with an app that stamps a ‘Pray For Japan’ ribbon on any picture for you to display on your social networking profiles.  Add a red Pray for Japan Ribbon on all of your social media profile pictures at this website!

3.  Watch and Share

The YouTube celeb Ryan Higa is doing something awesome to help Japan.  He went out to the streets of L.A. with a “Honk If You Love Japan” sign and donated $10 for every honk he got in one hour.  This totaled $600.  But he is also donating $600 for every one million views this video gets.  So, even if you are not in a position to donate money to Japan right now, you can help raise support just by watching this video and sharing it with all your friends!

4.  Spread the Word!

 

One of the best ways you can help is by promoting ways for others to get involved through your blog, facebook, twitter, etc! By sharing links of ways to donate and help you will inspire others to do what they can to help in whatever ways they can!

 

5. “Like” this Facebook Page

 

Explore.org is  donating $1 for every “Like” of the “Dog Bless You” Facebook page, up to $100,000.

 

6.  Buy a “Blessed” Necklace

 

For every “Blessed” necklace that is sold, The Rusted Chain will donate $10 to World Vision to help Japan.  What a great way to get involved!  Buy a necklace as a special gift for someone who needs some encouragement and help raise money for Japan all at the same time!  Click here to find out more information.

 

7.  Buy and/or Sell on eBay

 

Do you buy or sell on eBay?  Visit this page to see how you can raise money for Japan with your eBay transactions!

 

8.  Fundraise

 

Organize a bake sale at your church or school.  Have a yard sale with some neighbors.  Be creative and get your kids involved in helping.  Explain to them what you are doing and why you are doing it.  They will love knowing that they are having a part in helping others!

An easy way to raise even more money is to ask around until you can find a local company who will sponsor a matching gift drive.  Once you find a company that is willing to do this, advertise with posters and signs around your town to let others know and to maximize your efforts.

9.  Donate!

 

This is an obvious way for us to help, but an effective way none-the-less!  There are tons of different organizations offering relief in Japan that you can choose to donate to.  My advice for this would be to make sure you donate to an organization that will use your money wisely to make a difference in a way that is important to you!  World Vision is one example of an organization you can donate to.  A quick Google search will help you find many more!

10.  Pray!

 

I saved this for last because I believe that prayer is the most effective thing we can do to help the people of Japan right now!  Prayer is such a powerful way that EVERYONE can help – young or old, male or female, rich or poor!  Spend a few moments in prayer throughout the day asking God to provide for, protect, and bless the people of Japan.  Put yourself in the Japanese people’s shoes for a moment.  What would you want others to pray for you for?  Safety, family, food, a place to stay, protection, His mercy and grace, comfort…..on and on the list could go. 

Get your children involved in this also!  God loves to hear and answer the simple prayer of faith that comes from the heart of an innocent child!  Talk to your children about what happened in Japan and then pray with them for God to be with Japan and her people as they are going through such a devastating time.    

As you are in prayer for Japan, don’t forget to offer your thanksgivings to God for all that He has blessed you with!  There might be things that we are struggling with right now, but most of us have a warm place to stay, clothes to wear, food to eat, and family and friends to love and laugh with.  As I mentioned before, put yourself in the place of the Japanese people.  Really stop and think about what has happened to them and what they are going through right now.  This will greatly help us to put things into perspective and give us a heart of gratitude as we do what we can to help the people of Japan!

These are just some of the ways that we can share our help and support with Japan.  I’m sure there are many other organizations and ways to help that I did not mention.  Can you think of any other ways to help and support Japan?  If so, please leave them in the comments and don’t forget to spread the word!

 

This post has been shared at I’m Lovin’ It Fridays and Change Your World Fridays.