Toys, toys, toys....

As I type that title, I'm reminded of The Grinch's famous lament. Unlike him, though, it is actually a cheerful chant for me.

I've been sorting through thousands of toys for the last two days at Toys for Tots. I have seen more toys this week than I even knew existed in the world. And, while putting a Tonka truck in this bin and a Barbie doll in that bin for 6 hours straight seems like it could become monotonous, it's actually been a blast. With every toy I tossed in a bin or stuffed into a bag or unloaded from a truck or loaded back onto a truck, I thought of how the little bit of work I was doing would help to bring a smile to a little boy or girl. Pretty neat!

Metro Kidz is helping out Toys for Tots for a few days, and they, in turn, are helping us out. We are collecting about 7,000 toys for the Christmas giveaway coming up this Saturday (!!!). We are halfway there and believing for the other half over the next two days. Yesterday, we brought in 1,000 toys. Today, another 65 garbage bags of toys with about 10 to 20 toys in each bag. And, a few of us went to Walmart yesterday and cleaned out the shelves, purchasing about $,1500 worth of toys for our kids.

I always knew Christmas was about something more than walking into the living room on Christmas morning to see a floor covered in presents. We all believe it's about blessing others, but this is the first Christmas I can say I've been focused on giving to those beyond my close circle of friends and family and doing what I can to bless those who don't have anyone else to reach out to them.

I know I wrote last time about how many of my kids (Metro Kidz) wouldn't have a Christmas without us making a difference, well, over the last weeks, I've found that to be more true than I realized. I have had moms sobbing, telling me that they would have no Christmas if it weren't for the presents we are bringing. And, more families than not at my projects don't have Christmas trees. The ones that do, most of us wouldn't even consider a real tree - tiny, 12-inch tall things sitting on a box on the floor.

Yesterday was supposed to be my last day at Metro Kidz. When I originally signed up, I committed to December 15. Knowing of the families that are hurting, not just for presents, and Christmas trees, and more "stuff", but for someone to show genuine care, concern, and love, there's no way that I could ever leave. When I'm called away, if that ever happens, I'll trust God to bring someone to fill my place. Until then, I consider myself blessed to be experiencing and enjoying a truly meaningful and eye-opening Christmas season.

Ps. I wasn't going to share this, but it's a good indication of my growth, for which I'm so thankful. I've been hit by three pretty big events over the last few days. Yesterday, my laptop died. Not accidentally powered off, but permanently died. (I'm sitting here typing this out on a friend's computer.) I may have lost four years of work and school history, not to mention the hundreds of dollars I will need to find to purchase a new one. Today, a rock flew up and hit my windshield on the way home from Toys for Tots. It created one of those marks with spider legs that make it look like it's going to spread across your windshield any second. Another $250, I figured, for my insurance deductible. Finally, in a few days, I'm going to be driving home for the holidays on completely bald tires. I've been slipping at stop signs and becoming generally more fearful of taking my car out on the road. Those will need to be replaced asap.

Those are the things that are going on. Maybe nothing too monumental to some, but in year's past, these things would have been catastrophic to me. The cost and stress of replacing everything would have been all I could think or talk about for days. I admit that just after my windshield cracked, I couldn't help the tears. But as I thought of how much money these things would require and how I would have nothing when it was all paid for and done, all I could think was "It's only money."

What a turn-around from years past, when money for me was one of the only things that mattered. I still fight my tendency to grab onto things. As I reflect on that, that tendency is not usually out of a "love of money," and I have used that fact to assuage my inner knowing that my focus was off. Instead, the tendency is often borne out of fear--a fear of not having enough. And, we know the Word says that the God is Love (I John 4:8) and that perfect love drives out fear (I John 14:8). We also know that what is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23), and fear is the opposite of faith, so we know that what is of fear is not of God.

In all this, I'm reminded of a song I haven't thought about for years, a song my mom used to sing so beautifully in church growing up. The song is old-school, and the recording is even more old-school, but the message is so encouraging that it makes me want to get up a shout! I looked for a different recording, but this was all that youtube had to offer of Janet Pascal's version. This is the one I grew up on since my parents ran Jimmy Swaggart's bus ministry (a factoid most of you probably don't know), so I grew up on this style. I don't think there's any type of music that has quite the same effect on me. Try to get past the style if it's not for you, and rejoice in the truth of the message:


Christmas for the Kidz!

I wanted to share a smile with y'all today, so here is a beautiful one from Jahniya:

I've had the past six days off work, and it's a good thing, because over the next 18 days, things are going to be flying fast and furious. On December 19, Metro Kidz is hosting "A Christmas to Remember." In 2008, it was the largest single-day toy giveaway in the city and we hope the same can be said of this year.

For many of our Metro Kidz, December 25 is just like any other day. Often, their moms or dads don't have the funds to purchase Christmas gifts. Metro Kidz is committed to changing that and making this a “Christmas to Remember” for thousands of families.

Last year, we had over 1,500 children and their parents show up to enjoy gifts, food, and fireworks. This year, we will have a Christmas village, a "Jesus," and a "Santa." I know things are tight for everyone this year, but if you can, please consider providing a child with a toy or clothing, and most importantly, a holiday memory to last a lifetime.

Check out this video about last year's event (you can catch a glimpse of Tom at minute 3!)

If you would like to give a Christmas to remember to an inner-city child who might not have a Christmas otherwise, you can:
· Donate new toys or clothing for children 12 and under.
· Start a toy drive at your local church or business.
· Dedicate your time by volunteering at the event.
· Donate funds for the purchase of gifts.*

*For most of you, this would be the best way to help because of location. Our Metro Kidz website is currently being redesigned, so if you would like to send funds, please direct a check (specify "Christmas fund") to the Atlanta Dream Center Metro Kidz at P.O. Box 54537, Atlanta, G 30308.

Thank you guys so much for keeping up with my adventures here! Blessings to you all this Christmas season!