Category Archives: Faith

How to Pack a Shoe Box: Tips from a 4-Hour Volunteer

This afternoon I had the great privilege of volunteering at the local Operation Christmas Child processing center. (side note: If you are not familiar with the ministry of Operation Christmas child, I encourage you to learn about it — it’s pretty amazing. Each Christmas, OCC oversees the shipment and distribution of thousands upon thousands of shoe boxes to needy children around the world — shoe boxes assembled by everyday folks like you and me and filled with hygiene items, school supplies, toys, and other goodies. You can check out their website here).

I happen to live just a couple of miles away from the local OCC processing center warehouse (where all the shoe boxes are dropped off, inspected, packaged and shipped from), but for whatever reason had never volunteered there until this afternoon — and I have to say, it was a lot of fun!

My job today was to inspect the shoe boxes. For obvious reasons, each shoebox that is sent to OCC needs to be inspected before it is sent off. My job today was to look for and remove banned items such as liquids, war-related items, food, etc. (removed items were then placed in an “inappropriate items” bucket to be distributed to other local ministries, if they could use them) and also to add “filler” items to any boxes  that were a little sparse (my counter was stocked with baskets full of extra toys, supplies, t-shirts, etc. to add to the boxes as needed).

I found it to not only be a fun experience, but an educational one. I saw a lot of boxes during my little shift, I got some ideas and learned a few things about what works/doesn’t work, and I think I picked up a few do’s and dont’s for packing shoe boxes. So, for whatever it’s worth, I thought I’d share them here for your own use (or at least for my own reference next year! :)):

  • DON’T send any non-candy food items — this even includes things you probably wouldn’t consider “perishable” — like fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, granola bars, beef jerky, etc. Also, no cough drops or supplements (There will be a lot of ministries in the Twin Cities receiving bags of Ricola after my shift today…I’m just sayin’). 🙂
  • DO send candy of many varieties — For whatever reason I’ve always only send hard candy, like Lifesavers. Meltable chocolate (such as M&Ms) are still out of the question, but things like Skittles, gummies, gum, Tootsie Rolls, etc. are acceptable.
  • DON’T send liquids of any kind — this includes the obvious things like mouthwash, shampoos and lotions — but also some not-as-obvious things like certain roll-on deodorants and even those bouncy balls with water & glitter inside them. (By the way, toothpaste is OK :)).
  • DON’T send used items of any sort — even if you are just wanting to share that which you no longer need, this isn’t the place to do it. Used items just go straight in the bucket.
  • DON’T send anything porcelain. ‘Nuff said. And, why yes, I did have to remove a mini porcelain tea set from a box today. 😦
  • DO add variety to your box— add a good balance of toys, hygiene items and school supplies…try not to go too heavy on any one of those 3 categories (try not to pack a box of ALL toys, for example).
  • DON’T send war-related items — the definition of this is anything with a gun or weapon on it. It’s not a “politically correct” thing; it’s a “many-of-these-kids-live-in-war-torn-countries-and-weapons-don’t-exactly-say-“merrychristmas”-to-them” kind of thing). Even things that you may not think of as “weapons” — for example, today I had to remove a plastic gun that “launched” (shot out) little airplanes. It was cool, but it was a gun, so…had to go. 😦
  • DO be creative with what you put in the box. I got so many neat ideas today! Everything from play doh and little games to hand-knit items (great idea!) to a deflated soccer ball & pump. One person was even able to fit a fleece blanket in their box by putting it in a “space bag” (one of those bags you vaccuum seal shut). It was so fun to see the different things people chose to give!
  • DON’T let your 3 year old pack a box…alone. Otherwise you might end up with a box containing approximately 12 used McDonald’s toys and a pencil. Not that I saw a box like this today, or anything. Ahem.
  • DO remember the older kids, especially the boys. The most boxes we seemed to get during my shift were aimed at 5-9 year old girls. The fewest boxes we got were, by far, for 10-14 year old boys. Something to consider as you are selecting an age category/gender to pack your box for.
  • DO include a “cuddly toy” — just because every kid needs a toy or doll to cuddle with. Just my opinion. 🙂
  • DON’T include an Austin Powers DVD in your box (OK, so this didn’t actually happen THIS year, but it did happen to one of my siblings when they were inspecting boxes a few years ago. And…seriously. It’s just wrong on so many levels.)
  • DO follow your heart as you select items for your box — Today I found some toddler sized clothes included inside of a box labeled for a 5-9 year old girl. I approached the supervisor and asked her if I should re-label the box to be for a toddler, and she said “No…we really want to honor the intent of the giver as much as we can. Let’s just pray that this box goes to a girl with a little sister who needs those clothes.” Another neat story I heard today was about 2 twin girls in a village. Due to an oversight, not enough boxes were sent to this village, and the girls were asked to share a box. Much to their surprise, when they opened it, they found 2 of every item — even 2 dolls. ~Chills~. So..if you feel like maybe you are supposed to put an extra toothbrush or a certain toy in the box, just do it. You never know who it might bless. 🙂
  • And, most importantly, DO PACK A BOX — and PRAY FOR IT, TOO! It’s amazing to hear the stories of little lives that were changed through this simple yet tangible way of helping others and sharing Jesus’ love. There are still a couple days left to drop them off this year, if you live near a processing center…or you can even “assemble” a box onlinehere.

OK, so that’s my list. I hope it’s somewhat helpful! And if you have any other suggestions (or corrections!), please share them in the comments!


Out of Key

Tonight at music rehearsal our church worship director shared this quote:

“All of the Christians I meet who are amounting to anything for God are Christians who are very much out of key with their age – very, very much out of tune with their generation… If you can fit into it too comfortably, I am forced to wonder whether the miracle has ever been wrought in your life.” The Tozer Pulpit, Vol I

I like this.



Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same [tuning] fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. ~ A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (1948), p. 97

I love this quote. So often it seems that churches focus on preaching unity, as if by saying “Come on people, be unified!!!!”, everyone will join hands and be one happy family.

The reality is that true unity is a beautiful by-product of whole-hearted devotion to Christ. If every believer would truly seek to draw nearer to Christ in obedience and faith, it would automatically happen. We would all be unified. Done.

So let’s be careful to not  preach UNITY…let’s preach Christ, and let’s each set our eyes firmly upon Him, seeking to obey him faithfully and carefully.

Unity will follow.

I love that. 🙂

Just something that’s been on my mind for the last few weeks!


For the past several months I have been subscribing the blog for a place called “Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center” — a clinic and a place that serves needy, (often malnourished) children.

It seems to be a wonderful ministry, but I won’t lie — the blog is heartbreaking to read. HEARTBREAKING. I often find myself in tears after reading it. It doesn’t sugar-coat the pain, suffering and poverty that often occurs there. Many children find physical health and healing there, but not all of them do. Many end up in the arms of Jesus.

As difficult as it is to read, though, and as tempted as I have been to “desubscribe” to it — it would be so easy to shut this kind of thing off and pretend it doesn’t exist — I won’t let myself. I know it’s good for my soul to see this stuff. It puts things in perspective.

It can be easy for me to start feeling inklings of discontent: My kitchen cupboards are outdated. My house is old. My Old Navy/Target clothes aren’t the most stylish. My kids often wear hand-me-downs. My computer’s too slow.

Whine, whine, WHINE.

Then I read RHFH’s blog and it puts it all in perspective for me. I have nothing to complain about. NOTHING.

I have a house. I have clothes. I have food. I have a loving husband and healthy children. I have access to good medical care.

Anyway, I encourage you to check out their blog. Also, Noel Piper recently visited the center and has blogged a bit about it.

Your heart may be broken, but in the best way possible: for some of that which breaks the heart of Christ. May it move us all to deeper prayer and greater hearts to serve those in need of Jesus’ love!

The Sun of My Solar System

“The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. And when it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center.”

—John Piper
from the book Seeking and Savoring Jesus Christ

Jesus Wants the Rose

I love the message of this video. I hope you do, too.

Real People

Update: Here’s more info on Compassion’s Disaster Relief Fund .


This past November, as I read through blog posts like this one and this one about/by bloggers who visited Compassion’s center in El Salvador, a little something happened in my heart: I realized that sponsored kids are real people.

Duh, right? But really, how easy is it to slap that two dimensional photo on your fridge, send that check each month and simply trust that it will somehow make it’s way through a cosmic funnel to somebody who could use it? Far too easy for me.

Ever since that simple revelation, I’ve tried to be more intentional about writing more faithfully…sending pictures…having W color pictures to send…praying over our sponsored kids pictures with him over lunch. Simple, simple actions I’m ashamed to say I didn’t take much time to do before.

So when I heard the news about the earthquake that has devastated Haiti, it hit me maybe a little harder than it would have before. We have a little Compassion-sponsored boy over there. His name is Quepson. M picked up his picture at a concert we went to while we were dating and he’s been in our lives ever since. We call him “Queppy”. 🙂

Today I don’t know if Queppy or his family are OK. Last I heard there has been no word from the Compassion center in Haiti. But this I know for sure:

Quepson is a real person, in a real country with a lot of real people that are really hurting right now.

If you’re able and willing to give, you could get info on Compassion’s disaster relief fund or on Feed My Starving Children and how they are responding to the disaster….there are lots of other great organizations out there, too. Also, this site has a compiled list of several organizations and ministries that are mobilizing to aid in the cause.

Whatever we do, though, let’s all remember that they — the people of Haiti — are real. Let’s let it break our hearts, let’s act, and let’s pray with that in mind.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it

— 1 Corinthians 12:26 (New International Version)