Simple Shoeboxes with a Big Impact

Over 10 years ago, I sat in church at the end of October.  That year,  I had decided not to pack any shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Sure, I loved it.   I love kids.  I love sharing the Gospel  with kids.

So, it was a perfect match.  You fill a shoebox with school supplies, toys, and hygiene items and Operation Christmas Child sends it around the world to a child who may never have had a Christmas present before.

Plus,  it opens up opportunities share the news about Jesus in communities where shoeboxes are distributed.

But that year, money was tight and it felt like I gave to  so many different things at the holidays.  Time to  narrow things down,  I had reasoned.

Then, they showed a video  during our church service with kids jumping up and down with joy just for getting a shoebox.  They celebrated over some matchbox cars and toothbrushes or a doll and some soap.

I cried.  Doing such a simple thing has such a big impact.  Pack a shoebox….bless a child…bless their family….bless their community….bless the world.

No way was I going to miss out on being a part of that!

This year, Samaritan’s Purse hopes to  send 12 million shoeboxes to children in need around the world and we can all participate.

NATIONAL COLLECTION WEEK THIS YEAR IS NOVEMBER 12-19.

That’s soon!

Our family likes to work all year long to collect crayons, pencils, soap, toothbrushes, and more so that we’re ready to pack those boxes each fall.

Some of you have also helped us gather supplies in order  to make some homemade items for our boxes.  I love making homemade items because they add a little  extra love to each box and I pray over every project as I make it, which helps to keep my focus on serving others.

HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITE PROJECTS FROM THE PAST FEW YEARS:

Here’s one of the things I love the most.   When we do these  projects with our kids, when we carry in bags full of crayons and stuffed animals to church for our packing party, when we gather around our kitchen table to pack a box, when we finish up those boxes and pause to pray for the kids who will receive them….we aren’t just blessing kids around the world.

We’re blessing our own children.

We’re teaching our kids that this world is so much bigger than us and there are people out there with overwhelming need.  We need  to be praying for them and we need to be rolling up our sleeves and reaching out to  help them in practical ways.

Some of the children who receive these boxes have never owned their own toothbrush; they’ve shared with all the kids in their orphanage.  They’ve never had their own toy.  They don’t have the pencils they need to go to school so they simply don’t go.  Or they might be wearing raggedy, ripped apart shoes that barely hold together.

We can bless them with a shoebox of gifts.

WOULD YOU CONSIDER PACKING SOME SHOEBOXES THIS YEAR FOR OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD?  HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN ORDER TO GET STARTED:

YOU CAN BEGIN BY LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION HERE, LIKE:

If you make a $9 donation online to cover the shipping for your box, you can even print off a label that lets you track it here!!  A few weeks after delivery, they’ll send you an email telling you what country your box was delivered to and some general information about the needs in that area.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON’T FORGET TO PRAY OVER EACH SHOEBOX YOU PACK!  PRAYER IS SO POWERFUL!

HERE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE OCC VIDEOS TO ENCOURAGE YOU AS YOU PACK.

Pack a shoebox with Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty

Matthew West shows the Great Lengths OCC goes to bring shoeboxes to kids around the world.

Scotty McCreery shows how to pack a shoebox.

TobyMac’s Christmas This Year OCC Video

Check out how excited this boy from Angola is to receive his shoebox!  This is my most favorite OCC video ever!

Learning how to pray globally as a family

“I’ll pray for Luther!”

That’s my son, the  little echo at our nighttime family prayer sessions.

It’s missionary prayer night and we’ve pulled up a list of prayer requests from missionary kids around the world.

As I read each request, I assign my kids to pray.

“Catherine, you can pray for Luther,” I say.

This is when my four-year-old stakes his claim.  “I want to pray for Luther, too!”

He hops in like this with our every request.

Pray for these missionaries.  “I want to pray for the missionaries!”

Pray for Nicaragua.  “I want to  pray for Nicaragua!”

Pray for Nepal.  “I want to pray for Nepal!”

And when he bows his little head and asks God to “please help Nepal,” I pray also that God receives the precious gift of small prayers for a big need.

I am imperfect at this as a mom, growing and learning but certainly not there yet when it comes to teaching my kids that the world is so much bigger than us, so much bigger than middle school problems and playground drama.

I want them to consider others, to keep perspective, and to see  a world that needs Jesus.

So, I’m learning mostly from other moms about ways to teach my kids to think internationally and to pray mission-ally for the world.

Here are some of the tools I’ve found.  If you have a resource to  share,  please comment below!  I’d love to find new ways to pray for the world as a family,

    • The IMB Pray app:

      You can visit the prayer page for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board  here and view daily prayer requests from around the world.  But, we personally love to use the IMB Pray app on my phone.   Once a week during our family devotions, I open up the “Pray with Missionary Kids” section on the app and we read through their prayer requests.  It’s great for my children to connect that missionary kids are real kids close to  their own age who need God’s help with making friends, learning languages, being away from home, and moving away from family.

    • Operation World:

      My friend introduced  me to this definitive global prayer handbook and I fell in love.  We use the book, Operation World, a few times a month as a family.  It includes a prayer calendar in the front of the book that shows you what country you can pray for on a particular  day.  If we read every detail in this encyclopedic book, it would be completely overwhelming.   But, we go over the basics with the kids.  We open up our world map and find the country, we read a little about its history and current struggles and then choose a few prayer requests to focus on as a family.
      Operation World also released an abridged version of their prayer guide so it’s  a little less overwhelming, called Pray for the World.

      They also list some helpful prayer resources on their website, including their prayer calendar: http://www.operationworld.org/country-lists 

    • Pray for your sponsored children:

      I’ve found that it’s so easy to let Compassion or World Vision automatically withdrawal  money from my bank account each month without actively engaging in prayer or relationship with our sponsored children.  Whenever we receive an update on a sponsored child or a letter….or when we remember to write letters around holidays and birthdays,  we also take time to pray for that child at night before bed.  We ask  God specifically to help them know Jesus, help their family, help them overcome poverty,  help them make good choices,  and help them in school  and with career choices.

    • When you pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, be sure to pray over it!

      We love packing shoeboxes full of toys, school supplies and hygiene items and sending them via Operation Christmas Child to needy children around the world . Collection week is in mid-November each year.   Before we carry those boxes into the collection site,  we take a few moments to pray over the children who will receive them.  When we use the tracking labels via Samaritan’s Purse, we also receive an email after a few months telling us where our shoeboxes were delivered.  That’s another great opportunity to learn about those countries, pull out our map, and pray for the people who live there.

Click here to find out how to pack a shoebox.

Or Click Here to visit the Operation Christmas Child website.

  • Kids on Mission

    The Kids on Mission website (run by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board) offers resources on different countries that can be plugged into any children’s curriculum, but can also be adapted by families to use at home.  Each unit includes activities like  a map, a video, a theme verse, a  game and/or photos of the country.

  • The Compassion Experience:

    If you hear that The Compassion Experience is coming to a nearby city/town, please go!  Take your kids and just go!  It’s an amazing event for families where you can walk through replicas of African ghettos or slums in Ecuador and the like and see how child sponsorship can changes the lives of kids, their families, and their whole communities.  In this walk-through tour, each family member wears headphones and hears the narrative from the perspective of one particular child.   They even have child-sensitive head sets for younger children in case some of the events are too intense for them.  It is an eye-opening experience full of impact that made child sponsorship and praying for those in poverty more real and tangible than anything we’ve ever done as a family.

 

Are You Packing a Shoebox?

occ2

November is one of my favorite months of the year for a couple of reasons.

Thanksgiving for one.  It’s my favorite holiday.

Cooler weather for another (October here in Virginia doesn’t always live up to my expectations of fall.)

And November is also when we pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Every year, the organization Samaritan’s Purse collects shoeboxes stuffed full of goodies that they then deliver to needy children all over the globe.

National Collection Week is in November every year.  This year, the collection dates are November 14-21.

We love Operation Christmas Child as a family. All year long, we collect toys, hygiene items and school supplies to donate to our church’s packing party.

It adds less than $10 to my family’s grocery budget for me to pick up some extra pencils or toothbrushes or soap (for instance).  Then, by the time November comes, we’ve actually collected a large supply of items to give!

If you’ve never done that before, would you consider buying a few items every single week in 2017 to use for packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child?

Some people like to buy a different theme item each month—like stuffed animals during February with Valentine’s Day and candy in October following Halloween.

I personally like to focus on buying the same items each week with occasional toys, pencils, notebooks, flip-flops, etc. as an extra when I find a really great deal.

At a packing party, church members bring all these gifts together for one big night of packing as many shoeboxes as possible.  It’s a lot of fun and has a big impact!

Some of you have also helped our family collect the supplies we need to make some crafts to put in the boxes.  Thank you!

This year, we recycled old t-shirts into headbands, used some leftover fleece to make hats, and made friendship bracelets.occ-andrew-with-boxes

Even my three-year-old is in on the excitement now.  He’s talking all the time about “shoeboxes,” “Christmas child,” and he loves helping out as we prep items for OCC.  Getting kids involved is one powerful way to teach them about gratitude, giving, and caring about others.

Some of the children who receive these boxes have never owned their own toothbrush; they’ve shared with all the kids in their orphanage.  They’ve never had their own toy.  They don’t have the pencils they need to go to school so they simply don’t go.  Or they might be wearing raggedy, ripped apart shoes that barely hold together.

We can bless them with a shoebox of gifts.

But the most beautiful thing about these shoeboxes isn’t the toys and school supplies we slip inside of them.  It’s knowing that we’re sharing a tangible reminder of God’s love with kids around the world.  This is indeed the greatest gift!occ-3

Sadly, because of our wacky November schedule, we haven’t gotten to participate in the actual packing party at our church for the last two years.

But we can still pack boxes as a family and so can you!

Here’s everything you need to know to get involved in Operation Christmas Child as an individual.

YOU CAN BEGIN BY LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION HERE, LIKE:

If you make a $7 donation online to cover the shipping for your box, you can even print off a label that lets you track it here!!  A few weeks after delivery, they’ll send you an email telling you what country your box was delivered to and some general information about the needs in that area.

Most importantly, don’t forget to pray over each shoebox you pack!  Prayer is so powerful!

HERE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE OCC VIDEOS.

Pack a shoebox with Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty

Matthew West shows the Great Lengths OCC goes to bring shoeboxes to kids around the world.

Scotty McCreery shows how to pack a shoebox.

TobyMac’s Christmas This Year OCC Video

Check out how excited this boy from Angola is to receive his shoebox!  This is my most favorite OCC video ever!

 

Time for Operation Christmas Child!

Operation Christmas Child

Earlier this year, I asked for your help.  My kids and I wanted to recycle broken, worn out, paperless crayons and use our new creations to help pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child this November.

You all responded!  Many of our local friends brought us bags and bags and bags of crayons.  Thank you so much!IMG_2947

Because of your donations, we made approximately 400 new crayons and bagged them up in groups of two, meaning that we should be able to place that gift into 200 shoeboxes this year.

 

IMG_3033

 Every year, the organization Samaritan’s Purse collects shoeboxes stuffed full of goodies that they then deliver to needy children all over the globe for Christmas.

Oh how easy to forget, though, that the gift isn’t just the items we pack into a small box and ship out.

The gift is the testimony of God’s love–that our God sees them and loves them.

National Collection Week is in November each year.  This year, the collection dates are November 16-23.  

That means it’s the perfect time to gather supplies and pack those boxes!

We’ve been packing shoeboxes as a family for several years and it’s by far one of my favorite Thanksgiving/Christmas traditions because it’s a reminder to be grateful.  It’s a way to shift our focus off of getting and onto giving.

For the past two years, we’ve been trying something new as a family.  Every single time I went into the Wal-Mart to pile up on groceries, I bought a few items for shoeboxes.  It only added about $5 to $6 to my weekly grocery budget and I could do less or more as I needed to or was able to.

Last year, I chose a different two ‘theme’ items to focus on each month.

In 2015, we decided to spend all year buying toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, with some occasional stuffed toys, pencils, notebooks and flip-flops thrown in.
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Then, every two months or so, I loaded up a bag of the supplies we had collected and dropped them off at our church where we have a room set aside for OCC supplies.

Next week, our church will host a packing party.  In addition to the individual boxes we can pack at home, we’ll use the bulk supplies we’ve collected as a church family and pack as many shoeboxes as we possibly can by working together.

My husband and some of the families at church even made a fun video about how packing parties are different from packing individual boxes.  Please check it out here:

If your church has a packing party, would you consider picking one or two items to buy at the store each time you go?

I hope that you’ve packed a shoebox before and are making one again this year!  If not, here’s everything you need to know to get involved in Operation Christmas Child as an individual even if your church is not hosting a packing party.
You can begin by learning more about the organization here, like:

If you make a $7 donation online to cover the shipping for your box, you can even print off a label that lets you track it here!!  A few weeks after delivery, they’ll send you an email telling you what country your box was delivered to and some general information about the needs in that area.

Most important of all, pray for the child who will receive your shoebox!  Prayer is so powerful.  Don’t just send stuff, send gifts along with time spent on your knees.

Here are some of my favorite OCC videos.

Pack a shoebox with Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty

Matthew West shows the Great Lengths OCC goes to bring shoeboxes to kids around the world.

Scotty McCreery shows how to pack a shoebox.

TobyMac’s Christmas This Year OCC Video

Check out how excited this boy from Angola is to receive his shoebox!  This is my most favorite OCC video!

There are so many opportunities to give every holiday season, but this is my very favorite.  I hope you’ll make Operation Christmas Child a part of your holiday traditions, as well!

Do you have any great ideas or stories about Operation Christmas Child to share with us?

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

What I’m Learning About Operation Christmas Child

Every year, the Operation Christmas Child videos turn me into a tearful mess, just watching children from around the world cheering and dancing because they receive one simple box for Christmas.

Maybe inside they find a toothbrush and toothpaste….or a toy car….or some hair clips.OCC2013

That’s enough to make them cheer.

And it’s enough to make me cry at their grateful hearts and their innocent joy.

Every year, the organization Samaritan’s Purse collects shoeboxes stuffed full of goodies that they then deliver to needy children all over the globe for Christmas.

Oh how easy to forget, though, that the gift isn’t just the items we pack into a small box and ship out.

The gift is the testimony of God’s love–that our God sees them, loves them.  I read an email this week about a boy with a box who looked at the blessing and saw a loving God at work and wanted to know more about Him.

National Collection Week is in November, before Thanksgiving—this year, November 18-25! That means that we’re in the middle of prime shoebox packing season.

We’ve been packing shoeboxes as a family for several years and it’s by far one of my favorite Thanksgiving/Christmas traditions because it’s a reminder to be grateful.  It’s a way to shift our focus off of getting and onto giving.

This year, though, we’re learning new tips from a family at our church who is passionate about OCC!

Our church is hosting  a true packing party for the first time.  In addition to the individual boxes we can pack at home, we’ve been collecting bulk supplies at the church.  This week, we’ll gather as a church family and pack as many boxes as we can by working together.

My husband and some of the families at church even made a fun video about how packing parties are different from packing individual boxes.  Please check it out here:


Now that I know we’ll hold a packing party again next year, I can prepare all year long for the event instead of scrambling for items the last few months of the year.

We learned this year that homemade items and gifts are great to fit into the boxes we send.  I’ve seen videos about women knitting slippers, sewing dresses, and making socks for shoeboxes.

I’m not nearly so craft-capable.

But, my daughter and I can make simple friendship bracelets or my little ones can make beaded necklaces.

The family at church makes small sewing kits for older girls inside empty mint tins and hinged eyeglass cases and they collect small toolkits for boys.

Whatever we decide to make, if we start now, we could have at least a hundred or more homemade gifts for next year’s packing party!

I also have a whole year to collect items for the packing party by shopping clearance sales and deals, especially after each holiday.

Even more than that, if I pick one simple, inexpensive item to buy every single time I walk into the store all year long, I’d have collected almost 100 boxes of crayons or pencil sharpeners or toothbrushes or whatever item I choose.

If your church has a packing party, would you consider picking one or two items to buy at the store each time you go?

I hope that you’ve packed a shoebox before and are making one again this year!  If not, here’s everything you need to know to get involved in Operation Christmas Child as an individual even if your church is not hosting a packing party!

You can begin by learning more about the organization here, like:

If you make a $7 donation online to cover the shipping for your box, you can even print off a label that lets you track it here!!  A few weeks after delivery, they’ll send you an email telling you what country your box was delivered to and some general information about the needs in that area.  Our boxes two years ago ended up in Tanzania.

Most important of all, pray for the child who will receive your shoebox!  Prayer is so powerful.  Don’t just send stuff, send gifts along with time spent on your knees.

Here are some of my favorite OCC videos.

Matthew West shows the Great Lengths OCC goes to bring shoeboxes to kids around the world.

Scotty McCreery shows how to pack a shoebox.

Check out how excited this boy from Angola is to receive his shoebox!  This is my most favorite OCC video!

There are so many opportunities to give every holiday season, but this is my very favorite.  I hope you’ll make Operation Christmas Child a part of your holiday traditions, as well!

Do you have any great ideas or stories about Operation Christmas Child to share with us?

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Packing Shoeboxes

I’ll be shopping tomorrow for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and thought this would be a great time to tell you all about it.  If you’re a fellow shoebox-packer, please post a comment with some ideas of what to pack!  Inspire us!

And, please don’t forget that all this week, I’m asking for folks to chime in with ideas of how to pray for our pastors.  What do you pray?  For wisdom, vision, encouragement, health, strength and family?  Share with us and you’ll be entered in our giveaway!!!  You can find out all the details here.

Packing Shoeboxes

He was a little boy with one desire–Hot Wheels cars.

Operation Christmas Child I read this story from Operation Christmas Child (OCC) a few months ago.  The little guy looked at the OCC worker handing out the red and green shoeboxes and asked, “Will mine have Hot Wheels?”

Of course, no one can know these things.  The boxes are packed by individuals, families and churches all over and then sent to distribution centers where they’re shipped worldwide.

So, hoping for just one toy car, the boy opened up his shoebox and found it half filled with Hot Wheels cars!  The OCC worker said she’d never seen a box with that many cars and trucks in it before.

God heard this boy’s little heart’s desire and fulfilled it in miraculously abundant ways…  because He’s just so gracious and because a shoebox packer somewhere was totally obedient.

Every year, the organization Samaritan’s Purse collects shoeboxes stuffed full of goodies that they then deliver to needy children all over the globe for Christmas.

National Collection Week is in November, before Thanksgiving—this year, November 12-19! That means that we’re in the middle of prime shoebox packing season.

My kids and I have made our “shoebox wish list” of all the goodies and gifts we’d like to send to a child overseas through Operation Christmas Child (OCC) and we’ve prayed (just in case God wants us to send Hot Wheels).  This week, I’ll be hunting through dollar stores and Wal-Mart for the gifts.

My daughters are adding everything they see on TV and in Wal-Mart to their Christmas lists.  So, it’s the perfect moment to take them shopping for gifts to give to another child, a child they’ll never meet on this planet and a child who isn’t likely to be opening any other packages on Christmas morning.

It’s a reminder to be grateful.  It’s a way to shift our focus off of getting and onto giving.

I hope that you’ve packed a shoebox before and are making one again this year!  If not, here’s everything you need to know to get involved in Operation Christmas Child.

You can begin by learning more about the organization here, like:

Check out this video of Scotty McCreery on How to Pack a Shoebox:

If you make a $7 donation online to cover the shipping for your box, you can even print off a label that lets you track it here!!  A few weeks after delivery, they’ll send you an email telling you what country your box was delivered to and some general information about the needs in that area.  Our boxes two years ago ended up in Tanzania.

I usually let each of my girls pick items to fill a box for a child their gender and age.  This year, we’ll be sending off a box for a 2-4-year-old girl, and two 5-9 -year-old girls.  We picked out jump ropes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, combs, socks, t-shirts, small games like jacks and dominoes, stuffed animals, some candy, some shiny pencils and a pencil sharpener and more.  We practically have to sit on the boxes to make it all fit!

Most important of all, pray for the child who will receive your shoebox!  Prayer is so powerful.  Don’t just send stuff, send gifts along with time spent on your knees.

Here are some of my favorite OCC videos.

Matthew West shows the Great Lengths OCC goes to bring shoeboxes to kids around the world.

Check out how excited this boy from Angola is to receive his shoebox!  This is my most favorite OCC video!

There are so many opportunities to give every holiday season, but this is my very favorite.  I hope you’ll make Operation Christmas Child a part of your holiday traditions, as well!

Have you packed a shoe box before?  Where did it end up?  Are you packing shoeboxes this year?

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 04/14/2012

Hiding the Word:

This morning when I awoke, I didn’t know what verse to choose to meditate on this week or what inspirational and insightful message to share with you all.

I was a blank.

I was blank as I served up breakfast for my children, blank as I washed up the kitchen and switched over laundry, blank as I showered, blank as I drove to and shopped at my church yard sale.

Then, on my second sweep around the gym full of recycled treasures, I discovered a tiny, Christmas-colored box almost hidden on the table amidst china and craft supplies.

This was treasure indeed, Scriptures in a cardboard box to last me a whole year and to remind me to pray for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that we package up and send out to children around the globe each Christmas season.

On the very first card in my box, Franklin Graham has a message that reads:

“As you commit verses to memory your heart becomes like a treasure chest filled with verses that can bring you comfort, strength, inspiration, courage, and refreshment.”

Amen to that, Franklin Graham!

So, in the Spirit of Operation Christmas Child and the Samaritan’s Purse organization, here’s our verse for the week:

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18, NIV

Weekend Walk:

In His Time
Originally posted 04/15/2011

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

The day has finally arrived!  I’ve iced cupcakes, wrapped presents, and filled goody bags for my daughter’s fifth birthday party.

She has been asking me when this day would come every single morning for 9 months.  I’d show her on the calendar how far she had to go and she would sigh and whine with frustration.  Her birthday simply would never come.  She would never ever be five years old.  Everyone would always be older than her. Surely she would stay four years old indefinitely.

I’ve held her as she sobbed out tears of disappointment only one week ago because her birthday was just too far away.  Seven days was an impossibly long time to wait.

I, on the other hand, feel as if this day has come so quickly.  How is it possible that my gorgeous, brilliant, quirky little one has been with me for five years?  For these past few months, I’ve been telling her to wait, just wait, it will come and it will arrive sooner than she realizes, but those words felt empty and meaningless to her.

Impatience weighs heavy in this house.  My older girl has been telling every stranger in town, “Hi, my name is Victoria.  I’m almost seven.”  Sometimes, she even pads her age a bit and tells them she’s almost ten or almost 12.  And so I lean down and whisper to her that her birthday just happened; she’s still eight months away from even one more birthday, much less four or six!

“Mommy, I want to be in kindergarten.  Mommy, I want to be in first grade.  Mommy, I want to wear point shoes in ballet.  Mommy, I want to be a teenager.  Mommy, I want to be old enough for a house of my own so I can have a dog.” Even my baby toddles around after older sisters trying to do the same “big girl” things they do.

No matter how old they are, they always want to be older.  I try to tell them truth—that one day they will pay bills, and go to work, and care for sick children, and will long for the preschool days when they worried only about show and tell and their snack choice for the day.

Please enjoy this moment right now, I beg.  Please don’t let it pass by you unnoticed and unvalued because you are too busy looking ahead to the next step.

And I have been there.  I have trekked across a college campus and longed for graduation.  Married and been asked by family when we’d have a baby.  Had a baby and contemplated what it would be like to have older kids, and sleep, and no diapers, and no need for babysitters. Worked a job and longed for retirement.   Always too busy thinking about later to actually enjoy now.

Solomon told us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11, NIV).  No amount of rushing or anticipating or worrying will change God’s appointed seasons in our lives.

I love to visit Colonial Williamsburg and walk the gardens surrounding the palace and I long to stroll through the local botanical gardens and enjoy the color and scents and hovering butterflies in a place of beauty.  But, if I travel there before they are ready, before the flowers have bloomed and while the bulbs still lie dormant beneath cold earth, I would see death, not life, brown dirt instead of the brilliant hues of tulips and daffodils.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and so we must cultivate, plant, and tend as God calls us to so that we can enjoy life in its proper season.

Of course, sometimes we feel as if the season we are in has lasted forever and that surely God will never release us to newness and fulfillment.  We remain dissatisfied with the now He has given us as we dream about the future we imagine.

And what happens, then, if the next season bears no resemblance to the goals and dreams in our heart?  I know a couple who planned retirement with excitement and anticipation, but the reality wasn’t travel, relaxation and golf.  No, it was stroke and poor health and a future not at all what they had envisioned.  They can’t go back and enjoy the time before caregiving and doctor’s appointments.  It is now a season past.

In Psalm 90, Moses challenges us to keep the proper perspective about our life’s circumstances.  He says, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night . . . Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures . . . Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:4, 10, 12, NIV).

We all feel stuck sometimes and without hope that we’ll ever overcome our difficulties.  My mom’s greatest advice was to remember that “this is only a season and won’t last forever.”

There were struggles and stresses that consumed my thoughts in the day and kept me awake at night, now long since resolved and in the past.  Sleepless nights with a newborn, a teething infant, terrible twos, potty training, juggling college and work, unemployment—all seasons that seemed interminable when I was in them, but now appear so brief as I scan back over my life history.  Even our entire lives, the seventy or eighty years Moses thinks we have on this planet, constitute so little of the human history God has witnessed and walked through.

So then, we ask that God “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  It is wisdom indeed to realize that the circumstances we are in are a passing season and hope can carry us through to victory. A new season will arrive at just the right moment and it will be beautiful in its proper time.

But, it is also wisdom to number our days, making each one count.  Not letting a single calendar square go by without us valuing it for what it is–this is our life in the here and now and God is present in it. What would it look like if we lingered here in this place, finding the beauty God has created in this time rather than straining to see what lies ahead?  It would be a life of glorious contentment and peace, restful and unrushed as we take the time to look, really look, at the beauty all around us in the reality of our now.

Even in the difficult times, we learn to see the beauty in dirt turned over, weeds pulled, seeds planted—the work God is doing in our lives this moment, the beauty of Him active in our lives, cultivating our hearts in this season, knowing that in His own perfect timing He will bring forth growth, shoots of life, and a harvest plentiful.  So much beauty all in His time.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.