"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever." – Psalm 136:1
For me, the holidays will always be bittersweet. My mother died a week and a half before Christmas in 2003. My father died less than a year later, on the day after Thanksgiving in 2004. Every year, as we enter the holiday season, they are much on my mind.
So are Bob and Jody, who introduced me to "the blessing box." Perhaps more than any other couple I've met, Bob and Jody demonstrate what it looks like to manage money well. Their Christian faith motivates them to give away the first portion of all that they receive, then they save a portion and live on the rest. This approach — give, save, spend — has enabled them to live on one income for most of their married life. And it has helped them avoid carrying any debt other than a reasonable mortgage.
Managing money this way has meant going without some of the things many people take for granted, such as cell phones and cable television. However, in return, Bob and Jody have experienced something too few people experience: financial freedom. And here's something else they've experienced: God's faithful provision.
Some years ago, Bob and Jody had been dutifully saving to replace an old van. Buying vehicles with cash is just what wise money managers do. But right when their van was reaching the end of its useful life, they felt a tug on their hearts to adopt a child.
For as long as she can remember, Jody felt called to motherhood and dreamed of being a mom. When she had difficulty conceiving, she thought her worst fears were being realized. Eventually, fertility treatments enabled them to have two children. Still, as Jody puts it, "I wasn't done mothering babies yet." Because they didn't want to go through fertility treatments again, their thoughts turned toward adoption. But their hearts' desire came with a hard reality: adoption fees of $12,000.
Neither one recalls ever thinking twice about their decision to put the van money toward the adoption fees. It was not a trade-off. A van was, well, just a van. Their desire to adopt a child was based on their longing to make a difference in the life of a child who didn't have a family.
But what about their need for a replacement van? As it turned out, their old one ended up lasting a bit longer than they thought it would, and shortly after they adopted their son, a relative unexpectedly gave them a van. Bob and Jody are living proof that there are blessings that come from doing as God directs, even when it may not make the least bit of sense on a spreadsheet.
When Bob and Jody received the unexpected gift of a van, they wrote down what happened and put the note in a box they call "the blessing box." Throughout the course of the year, whenever some unexpected blessing occurs, they write a note and put it in the box. Then at Thanksgiving, they read the notes and remember God's goodness — all of the blessings, large and small, that happened throughout the year. It's a meaningful time for Bob and Jody, and they hope the tradition fosters hearts of gratitude and contentment in the lives of their children.
When I first heard about the blessing box, I wanted to put the idea into practice in my own family. But I never have. And now that several years have passed, I hate to think of all the many blessings I have forgotten about.
That's why I recently bought a special box from Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade organization that sells unique gifts made by disadvantaged artisans from around the world. Sure, I could have done the frugal thing and used an old shoebox, but somehow having a special box to hold our family's reminders of special blessings throughout the year seemed appropriate.
If you'd like to incorporate the use of a blessing box in your household, go right ahead. I don't think Bob and Jody would mind at all. In fact, I'm confident that if they knew their idea had spread to some other families, they'd count it as one of their blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.