Around this time each year I have a huge clear out of my children's bedrooms. I go through old clothes to see if they still fit, put some in a charity bag, throw out broken toys and put battered books into the paper recycling. Maddie's outgrown clothes go into Eleanor's side of the wardrobe, items Joshua hasn't worn out go in a box for Sam or get passed to friends. DVDs and CDs they've matured from are given away and generally loads of clutter is binned.
I do it to create room for the new wave of presents that are coming next month.
But, you see, a clean tidy room, that holds a lovely comfy bed with a soft warm pillow and cosy duvet upon which sit various cuddly toys and under which there are more toys, situated next to a set of drawers containing far more clothes than the need, makes me more than aware of just how rich my children are.
Not just in the material sense, but because of the great provision our God has given us as a family. Andy and I are always panicking around this time of month whether our money will make it through to pay day and miraculously it does and miraculously we are constantly blessed with food, clothes and all the general trappings of having a pretty good life. All because He loves us.
So this year, I wanted the children to appreciate just how much they have.
After explaining to them that millions of children around the world wouldn't actually have a Christmas like them, I asked whether they wanted to do a shoebox. I asked them how they would feel if on Christmas morning they only had a shoebox to open. What would they want to find in there? What would make them really happy? So, armed with the list of gift ideas suggested, the children were determined to put in items they knew a child their age would enjoy. They didn't automatically choose rubbish or just chuck something in the basket because it was cheap. They took time and care to select things. Eleanor sniffed soaps to see which one smelt the nicest. Maddie chose the cutest little beanie toys she could find. Joshua made efforts to find a writing pad that wasn't girlie and a beanie toy that wasn't cute, but slightly boyish. Samuel didn't come shopping but he did express an insistence that sweets should be included.
I'm proud of them. Not once did they ask for anything for themselves and not once did they moan it wasn't fair that somebody else was getting something and not them.
Our only sadness was that it was restricted to a shoebox. But mulling this over I was struck with a thought. Do you recall years ago your parents would put all the family photographs in a shoebox? Their cherished and most precious memories all packed up in a little cardboard box.
And this is exactly the vessel that's been chosen to light up a child's life next month.