#Write31Days – Post 6 – Sweetest Day

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I don’t think there is anyone who is reading this that isn’t familiar with Valentines Day, a time when we declare love in our romantic relationships.    It has gone on to include gifts between parents and their children, card exchanges in classrooms with small parties, and even friends will celebrate their affections for one another.
Recently, the holiday “Sweetest Day” was introduced to me.  To be totally honestly, I had not clue what it was about.  Being someone who likes to research I took on the task of learning about this holiday.  The origins were not quite what I expected.  I assumed it was a pre-Valentines Day type thing…. or that it was simply about being intentionally kind to one another.   Since I was unfamiliar with it, I assumed it was fairly new and probably one of those made up holidays to increase retail sales.  Although I wouldn’t complain if I had the chance to swing by a confectionery for a free gift.
In my research, I learned that it was a midwest thing… being from the south… that explains a lot.
I also learned it goes back to the 1920s and all began out of an act of kindess and compassion toward the “least of these”, the orphans & shut ins from around Cleveland.  A local candy store owner gathered friends and families and delivered sweet little gifts to those who were being overlooked, forgotten about, or had fallen on hard times (this was during the depression).  The idea stuck, other people starting pitching in, and it spread into neighboring towns, cities, and states.
What an AMAZING idea!
And, since I like to PARTY…. why not invite some friends to join YOU and plan a SWEETEST DAY party.  Sweetest Day is the 3rd Saturday in October, so you still have PLENTY of time to plan!
Sweetest Day is on the 17th of October.  Consider one of the following party types:
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  1.  Prepping Party on the 16thgather with your friends, put together your sweetest day gift bags, while fellowshiping, munching, and praying over the recipients.  Then you (and your family, or your friends) can deliver them to recipients on the 17th.

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  1. Sweetest Day Party on the 17thperhaps your church could host a fun day at the church of games, activities, food, etc. and invite groups of disadvantaged children from your surrounding neighborhoods to celebrate together

Don’t forget about the kids who are in hospitals or centers that care for children removed from their homes. You can call ahead and plan something with their coordinators to ensure the gifts are approved, and you know how many to plan for.

Or, your heart might be calling you to celebrate with the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  There are also the men, women, and youth who are in prisons and detention centers who could use a little extra love and encouragement.

If you are going to have a party, think SWEETS but don’t forget the healthy foods too!

If you are celebrating with friends, you might want to have a more indulgent menu of desserts and treats while you prepare your gifts.  However, I am sure that hospitals, nursing homes, children’s centers, and even prisons are not going to be keen on a bunch of junk food!  Apple slices with caramel dip are a great balance and still a sweet treat.  Don’t forget about your friends who need a little salt with their sweet!  Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods are easy, quick, and tasty!

Online retailers, like Family Christian, have items for various age groups and interests.

When putting together gift bags for kids, you may want to consider some of the following ideas:  (Click any photo for more options and suggestions)

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Velvet Wall Posters, Coloring Books are always kid friendly and enjoyed.  Stuffed animals like bears, are a great companion to cuddle into.  Sharing the New Testament with kids in an easy to read format, that has colored illustrations, is a wonderful way to share the Gospel with those you are reaching out to.

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If you can find out the ages of the children you will be visiting, and gender in some cases, you can also bring a gift of books!  It encourages reading, something they can take with them when they move, and with many great Christian titles you can leave them with a gift that will not only be enjoyable but point them toward Christ.

If you are reaching out to the elderly, some great options include:

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Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not have Bible available for their residents, and if they do… they are usually ones that are donated from personal libraries or a church has purchased new ones for their pews.  This means they are rarely large print Bibles.  If the resident brought one with them to the facility, it is possible that it too is not a large print Bible.  When speaking with volunteers at a local center, large print Bibles were a top request!

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A CD of Hymns might also make a great gift, as most of our older generations grew up on these songs as part of their Sunday worship and even weekly family devotion time.

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And never underestimate the joy a few hand drawn pictures from your children, or the ones in your church!  Take a collection, I am sure moms have a few they can spare.  Or have a party at the center, bring the kids and let them celebrate along side the older generations.  Prepare some sing along songs, have crafts on hand to do together, and check with the facility about any dietary restrictions on food brought in.

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For Larger Gifting … a simple snack size candy bar, lollipop, or individually wrapped cookies and snack packs can be paired up with tracts.  They cover a variety of topics, come in different languages, and there are versions for adults and children too.  They are also inexpensive, a pack of 25 tracts can run you less than $3 per pack!

Some additional thoughts, as you consider the least of these:

A trip to a prison, may have much more stringent rules on what you can and cannot bring it.  These rules may very from prison to prison.  So, you are best to contact them ahead of time and get a list. Due to the number of inmates, you may also want to look for something that you can buy in bulk and give everyone the same thing.

Also keep in mind that addiction recovery centers & mental health care facilities may not allow any outside materials due to the nature of their residents conditions.

If you would like to reach out to women, men, or family shelters (particularly abuse shelters) may ask to pick up your donation to distribute themselves, due to the security and protection of their guests.

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Easter Inspiration

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I don’t know about you, but I have a really bad habit of scrambling for Easter Baskets.  We adhere to a strict budget in home (a’la #DaveRamsey ).  When there was just one child, Easter was great.  I would buy up things in the months leading up to it, wrapped in special paper, hidden along with eggs.  So very #MarthaStewart.

Our first hiccup, is that every 4 years our eldest daughter’s #birthday is the same week as #Easter.  That will pinch the budget, quite a bit.  Then we had our second daughter, who miraculously shares that same birthday.  So now, we had 2 kids to Easter shop for, and every 4 years … 2 kids birthdays to shop for.  Double pinch.  It would come to an arch with the birth of our 3rd daughter, who doesn’t share the same birthday, but is still another person to shop for on Easter.  Not to mention by the time she came along, Easter baskets for my eldest were starting to get a big pricier.

The funny thing about all this #budget complaining?  I know #DaveRamsey would say “You know it comes every year, why don’t you plan for it?”  And, he’s right.  My girls birthdays fall the same day, every year.  With or without Easter.  And Easter, is conveniently on the calendar.  It’s not a surprise, it’s just not planned very well.  My fault, entirely.

2015 brought a particularly tight budget, though.  Not only did we have the year of the Birthday/Easter week, but for my eldest it was a milestone birthday.  Sweet Sixteen.   This year, however, I had my #DaveRamsey cap on.  I was determined to plan, and plan early.  I was determined to stay within my budget.  I was also determined to interject more #Jesus, less candy.

I know that it’s too late Easter 2015, dear readers.  But, you can start planning early for Easter 2016.  Here is a break down of this years baskets.  I hope it is a bit of inspiration.   (And no, I didn’t get any discounts or freebies from these companies.  LOL.  Not sponsored ads, just idea sharing).

candyThis is a 3.75 lb. bag of Palmer Easter candies.  They call it the “Egg Hunt Mix“, and it was perfect.  A little bit of everything.  1 price, 1 bag.   I grabbed my bag at BJ’s.  #Palmer candies are one of my personal favorites.  I’m partial to their peanut butter cups because the peanut butter is smooth and creamy vs. grainy like other brands.

I divided the bag of candy up by 4, because mom needs here share.  I plead the 5th as to whether or not those were “equal shares”.

For my 8 and 12 year old daughters, their baskets were virtually identical.  I headed over to #OrientalTrading and wanted the best value for my dollar.  I went with:

ebfiller  This Easter Basket Filler Assortment was a perfect solution, it had quite a variety and divided up perfectly.  You should be aware that you won’t get everything in the picture.   I did get most of what you see in the picture.  The blow up bunnies were my personal favorite.  The foam airplanes were the kids.    Most of the variety was just 2-4 pieces of that particular item, but there were a couple of things I got a ton of.  I held onto the extras & I am saving them for next year.  #BudgetWin   I also made the choice to inflate the bunnies and built the planes vs. putting the diy kit in there.

supertoy  I also selected the Super Toy Assortment.  On this one, there were definitely differences from the photo.  I pulled the whistles out, because that was one thing our household didn’t need.  I am going to donate them to a local rape crisis center, or place that offers women’s self defense training.    Despite the differences #OrientalTrading still provided a great assortment, with small numbers of each type of toy.

lamby  I purchased one these adorable I Love Jesus Sheep for each of the 3 girls, because who doesn’t love a sweet cuddly plushy?

chalk  I also selected a bucket of chalk and these cute bags carrotbag to wrap up some of the smaller items in.   The carrot bags do not come with any ties, so you will need to pick up some ribbon.  #OrientalTrading came through this year, for sure.  Plus I had a free shipping discount code.  WIN.

I then hopped on over to #FamilyChristian to grab up a few items for the individual girls.

For my 12 year old, I grabbed this great devotion bookdevotional  She’s growing up, and it was time to upgrade her from her “Action Bible“.  She loves that bible and I highly recommend it for your younger kids (girls and boys alike).  But it was time for something more, “Middle School”.

For my  year old, who has been telling us the same jokes over and over again… and is terrible at making up her own…. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of kid friendly, clean joke books #FamilyChristian carries.

jokebook  I picked these 2, but there were many more to choose from.  eastercolor You can’t go wrong with coloring or activity books for an #EasterBasket , so I picked up this too.  It’s perfect, for 8-12 year olds.

There is another great company called #CTAInc. that I have purchased all sorts of items from to use with our #WomensMinistry .   I had never paid much attention to their kids section, but I am glad I took a peek this year.  I got these awesome eggs to put in the girls baskets!   One tells the Gospel Story through cute little egg shaped cards.  Another has a dog tag style necklace that sums up the story with easy to remember color coding.  The third has a puzzle and mini story book to seal the deal.  I chose just to get the eggs because I had other items already purchased.  But CTA Inc. had a lot of other Easter items for various ages, and some coordinated with the eggs!

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For those waiting with baited breath as to what in the world I got for my 16 year old…. that was a bit tricker.  With it being her 16th birthday, we had a BEAUTIFUL Blessings Tea at a local Tea House.  She was gifted a lot of amazing things, to put into her Hope Chest (yes, we do that thing here, LOL).  So she didn’t get a lot of typical “fun” gifts.  I mean, sure grandparents gave her spending money…. because that is what they do.  But, at her party the gifts were much more personal and sentimental.

So, I filled her basket with the plush lamb, a bit more candy than her sisters, and then went for jewelry & some cute Easter socks.  I’d like to say she loved them, but frankly at the hour her sisters got us all up… she was less than human.   She promptly went back to bed, I expect I’ll know the success of my endeavor by whether or not pictures show up on her facebook page.

Frankly, I had already failed her with opting not to dye eggs this year the traditional way.  She silently protested.  Choosing to color her eggs solid, as if to say … “this is how they should look” … while silently thinking “mom not only disappointed me with a cheesecake instead of a real birthday cake, but now she has ruined Easter too.”

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WHO DOESN’T LIKE CHEESECAKE?????   People, really.  This happened.  Pray for her.

…. and yes, that is a Candy Corn Easter Egg…..