A Message in a Shoebox

photo courtesy of 'Operation Christmas Child'

God shows His love and kindness in many ways. For me, He showed it in a shoebox’s destination….

Around four years ago, I sat on the back row at church and listened to the woman on the screen rattle off statistics that I have never been able to forget. At that time, our church was connected to the orphanage in the Ukraine that this woman represented. I remember hearing her describe girls lured into prostitution after leaving most orphanages, and the majority of boys of choosing a life of crime. The number that hit me the hardest, however, was the number of young men who chose to live no life at all.

I can’t remember if I was pregnant with my second child or if she had just been born, but I know that the thought of adopting a child had not yet entered my mind given my own circumstances. But those statistics, oh, how they changed me forever. I sat in church that day with tears in my eyes. How horrible were those orphanages that these children thought they were worthless? How horrible were their prospects that these young men thought they had no hope at all? The thought of so many children taking their own lives rather than live in the world was incomprehensible to me.

Around two years later, I sat in the stands of the Gwinnett Arena and listened to the testimony of Christian after Christian who said they believed the call in James to care for orphans and widows was not merely a suggestion. They believed that God really meant we should give homes to these orphans, and they shared their stories of how they adopted children into their families.

My husband and I had never discussed adoption before, and I wasn’t sure that he would be receptive to the idea, but God had stirred some embers in my heart. I thought of those young boys in the Ukraine, and I felt I knew God’s plan for us.

But time passed. Life with my own three kids was crazy enough. Managing our finances was challenging as it was–saving tens of thousands of dollars for adoption seemed unreasonable. And as time went on, even though I truly felt God had spoken to me two years prior in that arena, I began to doubt what I heard. I still had the desire to adopt, but I also knew now was not the time to bring another child into our home. In fact, sometimes I didn’t know if there’d ever be the time to bring another child into our home, and, at times, I was okay with that idea.

My mind didn’t do well with this ambiguity. I’m the girl with the five-year and ten-year plans, and I needed to know if adoption was part of those plans. I needed to know how to plan for those plans. The last few months, however, I had the sense that I needed to stop planning all-together. The details in my life didn’t match up with the details of adoption.

And I felt crushed. Because as life often works, during this time of my life, a time when bringing another child into our home makes no sense, my desire to have another child is burning within me.

I told God I trusted Him. Maybe I hadn’t heard correctly a couple years ago. Maybe God does want me to have a heart for orphans, but maybe my role isn’t to be a mother to orphans. I would trust Him, though, trust that He would reveal His will to me–perhaps not today but when I needed to know.

In November, my son and I packed a box for his school’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive, and I printed out a label with a barcode so we could track it’s destination. Two days ago, I received an e-mail from Samaritan’s Purse:

Merry Christmas from Samaritan’s Purse! Thank you for participating in Operation Christmas Child and for choosing to Follow Your Box.

Your gift box(es) went to Ukraine. For photos, stories, and other information about Operation Christmas Child in this country, click here.”

I gasped when I saw the country. The Ukraine, the one place that is always in my heart, and there, a little boy would hold a shoebox full of toys and markers and toothpaste and know that he is loved.

And as I read that e-mail, I knew that I am loved. I know this post seems to be about adoption, but, actually, it’s about God’s love for me. When I read that e-mail, I knew God was speaking to me. I knew that He was telling me that He heard and hears the desires of my heart, and, as much as I care about those little boys in the Ukraine, He cares even more. He will make clear His Will to me, whether or not adoption is part of it.

All I could do was close my eyes and say I trust, Lord. How could I not trust the God of the universe who carried a simple shoebox to a place where He could speak to both the recipient and the sender?

Some might say that our shoebox landing in the Ukraine was a coincidence–it had to go somewhere–but I believe God cares enough about me to get involved in the details of life. Like a perfect Father, He knows the time to step back and let me learn and grow, but He also knows those times when I need to hear from Him.

He loves me enough to speak to me through an e-mail.

And He loves you that much, too.


Linking up with Michelle and Jen. When was a time that you knew God was speaking to you? How did He do it? And don’t forget to tune in this week to read more Christmas lessons. Thank you to those who have e-mailed/commented with suggestions!

11 thoughts on “A Message in a Shoebox

  1. This is so wonderful and beautiful and made me cry. Because i, too, have felt such compassion and love for the children who receive these simple shoeboxes. Yes, God alone had your gift travel to Ukraine. He is so mighty and amazing; it always baffles me that some would claim this to be coincidence. What a mighty God we serve!!!


    1. I really love this ministry because it is one that our kids can get excited about, too. It's amazing how a little shoebox can mean so much!


  2. Jennifer, I believe wholeheartedly that the command in James is not meant for some but for all. There are many places in the Bible where God talks about our responsibility to care for the orphans. It is not a suggestion anywhere. That being said, I also believe we are called to care for the orphans in different ways. For us, it means adoption. For our social worker, who has not adopted, it means dedicating her life to finding homes for these children. To others it means sponsoring children and orphanages around the world. For you it means taking care of children in Ukraine the best way you can. The bottom line is we do. We don't wait arms crossed for someone to do something. We. do. It was not a coincidence that box went to Ukraine. It was a confirmation that God sees and hears your heart of obedience. Beautiful story!


  3. Oh Jennifer, this is just such a beautiful story — thank you for sharing it so eloquently here. I'm so glad you linked this up!


  4. What a beautiful reminder that God cares so much for us in the little and big things. Michelle posted this on FB … so glad to have clicked over and read this tonight. Your words are an encouragement to me!


    1. Thank you, Amanda. I'm glad my story encouraged you–I was so encouraged when I read that e-mail, and I knew I had to record the details so I wouldn't ever forget.


  5. When our kids were young, they each packed a shoe box each year. We always prayed for the recipient, but I never knew that now you can find out what country your box goes to. That is a wonderful addition to an already great experience of learning to give, for our kids. Now they can picture the country and learn about it, too.

    How sweet of the Lord, that your box went to the Ukraine.



  6. The few times I worked at the center for Operation Shoe Box has been very rewarding to me. But you bring it to a new level. Your heart is tender. I support you in what ever decision you and Matt make.l

    Lov e


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