We're filling shoeboxes at my house this week. If you haven't heard of Operation Christmas Child, it is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse. They collect shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene items, school supplies, and other goodies and distribute them to children in poor countries. Children that have likely never seen a Christmas present before.
As a lover of everything Christmas, I adore this ministry. I love that I can be a part of bringing a piece of Christmas to a child that otherwise would not see any of it. And with each shoebox, they distribute the Gospel message, bringing hope that lasts far longer than the boxes contents.
This year, we are having each of our kids fill a shoebox for a child their own age. My oldest, Bean, is so excited about it that she's about to bust at the seams.
Earlier this week we went shopping. We hit the discount store and the dollar store, snagging some great stuff to put in our boxes. Bean wanted to put a Barbie in her box. I told her we would get one at the dollar store, since the recipient wasn't likely to know or care about the brand of the doll.
I didn't know that the dollar store doesn't carry Barbie-like dolls anymore.
When we left the dollar store it was too late to go back to the discount store. We told Bean we'd pick the doll up later in the week.
She started to cry.
Now it's always hard to listen to your child cry, but it's especially hard when she's crying because she wants to do something for someone else and doesn't think she's going to get to. (As a side note, she has also cried when we forget to bring our food bank donation to the church. I love this girl's heart.) Between sobs, she choked out phrases like, "But I want to get it for her." and "I know that little girl would love the doll!"
As we drove home, I remembered something. Several months ago I received a coupon in the mail for Kohl's. I used it to buy a Barbie doll to stick in the gift closet for Bean's next birthday party invite. There was a doll - a nicer one than Bean wanted to buy - waiting at home.
At home I went to hunt down the Barbie doll and Bean hit her knees by her bed, praying that God would make sure that the little girl got the doll she was supposed to have and could He please bring it soon because Bean was really worried about it.
I'll never forget the look on her face when I laid the doll in front of her on the bed.
It's a ballerina with brown hair. Just like my daughter. It's like she's sending herself in the box to that little girl on the other side of the world.
As I sit here, recalling the evening, I am struck again at how God works. He had a plan for that doll. What I thought was just an act of frugality and forethought, He was going to use to teach my daughter, and me, about His faithfulness and love.
Our church is collecting the shoeboxes this weekend. When I see it packed away, I know a piece of my heart will go with it. And I'm okay with that. There's a little girl somewhere in the world that could use that extra dose of love so that she can learn about the God that never fails to provide what His children need most.
Even when it's a Barbie doll.