The Winnebago Camper

DSC06196Sun., Dec. 24, 2017

Luke 2:7 – And she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

 It’s just a toy Winnebago camper, circa early 1970’s. But nephew Ben thought he’d won the jackpot.

When I was 5- or 6-years-old, all I wanted for Christmas was a Barbie camper. Apparently, they were terribly expensive. Instead, my Mom bought me this Winnebago camper for $10-11. I remember opening it on Christmas morning, still in my pajama’s. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, and it was the only gift I received that year, but it was a camper.

This camper has brought years and years of joy and happiness to our Deaton family. I grew up in an old farmhouse with hardwood floors. I can still hear the sound of the camper’s wheels being pushed across the floor. Full-size Barbie’s didn’t fit inside the camper. But we could sit on top of the camper and ride it. Not only did my sister’s and I play hard with the Winnebago, later, it was the favorite toy for my niece and nephews to play with. After my parents moved to town, they rode it down main street. Inside the house, they would make a circle through the dining room, living room and kitchen, going from carpet, hardwood floors and linoleum with each pass.

It’s been played hard. The rear window is missing. The bumpers have hit way too many walls. But it’s mere presence drums up a whole bunch of fun memories.

For the last several years, presents with my Deaton family have taken on a whole new twist. (I explain this more in https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2016/12/13/were-they-practical-gifts/) I wrap up items from my parents, grandparents and long-standing family traditions. With each gift, I include an accompanying story, sharing a little history of this item. Each year, there are highly sought after presents: my Dad’s dog tags from when he was in the service, a photo book from when he was stationed in Germany. Since we began this tradition, my niece and nephews have been asking when the Winnebago camper would be included. Everyone knew this would be a highly sought-after item.

This was the year.

Last week, I went through boxes of items from my Mom’s and pulled out 22 items, wrapped them and the accompanying stories. Then, I went and found my beloved Winnebago camper and wrapped her up. When I shared with Rick that the camper was part of the Deaton gift exchange, he asked me if I really wanted to let it go. I felt it was time to let another family continue the joy of this very special item.

It was clear my niece and nephews were anticipating the Winnebago. There had been advance plotting and planning for who would end up with the camper. Naturally, being the biggest box, it was the first gift opened by great-nephew Dane. He was cautioned that while it was his for the moment, it wouldn’t be his for long as stealing gifts are part of the exchange.

Quite honestly, there were lots of super cool items in this year’s Deaton gift exchange. My grandfather’s high school diploma from 1925. The honorary FFA Chapter Farmer plaque my Dad received. A copy of the sale catalog from when my parents disperse our registered Holstein herd in 1987. My Dad’s 4-H record books. The well-worn Uno cards were busted out for another game. Not so popular? The Easter basket from the 1960’s. The head silhouette of my sister Debbie. Even her husband, Keith, didn’t select this. Niece Jenny was stuck with Debbie’s framed head from third grade.

The last person who selected a gift was my nephew Ben’s wife, Jackie. Yep, she picked the Winnebago for her husband Ben, which let to flurry of last minute gift steals and exchanges. No doubt, Ben was one happy camper last night as he loaded the beloved Winnebago into their vehicle to take home. For him, this was the best Christmas gift he could have received.

Ben - winnebago
The new proud owner of the Winnebago – my nephew Ben

As much joy and laughter we experienced at our Deaton family Christmas yesterday and as many cool memories the Winnebago camper eludes, let’s not forget THE single greatest gift of Christmas ever: the birth of Jesus. As we gather with family and friends today and tomorrow; as we sit in worship tonight with lit candles and sing “Silent Night,” I pray we can be very thankful we have a God who loves us so much that he sent his only son into this world for all our benefit. This is the reason why we celebrate. This is the reason we exchange gifts. This is the reason we even have a Christmas. It’s a gift even more special than the Winnebago camper.

From all the Deaton clan, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

DSC06175Lord God – Words can’t express the deep gratitude for the gift of your Son, Jesus, into this world. I pray we see your love as the reason for the season.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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What Can You Do with $2.63?

Tues., Dec. 12, 2017

Psalm 138:2– I face your Temple as I worship, giving thanks to you for all your loving-kindness and your faithfulness, for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.

The elementary-school-aged boy proudly dropped some money into the bucket. He looked up and said, “The $10, that’s from my Mom. I’m putting in $2.63!”

$2.63. Right down to the penny.

I am part of a program called Blessings in a Backpack. Each week, our volunteer group puts together bags of food for kids within the school district who might not have enough food to eat over the weekend. Each week, our group packs 52-54 bags of food and takes them to the school. School staff discreetly put the food bags into kid’s backpacks and/or lockers. Parents have granted permission for their child to receive the food bags. It is our hope these little bags of food provide security and confidence the recipients will have some food to eat over the weekend.

The average cost of a food bag per student each week: $2.63.

The program is sustained by donations, grants and generous people. Our Blessings group is a non-profit organization that appreciates every penny we receive; including the $2.63 this boy dropped into the money bucket one night.

The school parent organization had organized a student craft night. Students could sell crafts or baked goods they made. Our Blessings program was invited to participate. Would I be willing to share with the students and parents about the program? Could I encourage the kids to give back some of the money they earned from their sales to the Blessings program? Why, of course, I would.

Before the shopping began, I asked the students what they could buy with $2.63. After a few answers, I showed a typical food bag that students receive, pulling out two breakfasts, two meals and four snacks. If they wanted to help fellow students, maybe they could donate to the Blessings program from the proceeds of their sales.

bread

I was so impressed with the unique ideas the students had. A cupcake decorating station. Lots of candy, cookies and baked items, including gluten-free options! Bookmarks, crafts made from Mason jars and burlap bags: it was all there. The price lists and business cards brought smiles to shoppers faces.

It was a super-fun night. I enjoyed a little shopping myself and seeing the creative options. As people were packing up left-over items, most of the kids stopped by the Blessings table and dropped some money into our bucket. One mom shared that her daughter donated 50% of her profits, a pre-arranged requirement. And there was the boy who donated exactly enough money for one Blessings bag that would be packed the following morning for one of his fellow schoolmates. Right down to the penny.

Once home, I counted the money. Total donations from the craft night: $254.83. It costs about $100/child for a school year. Blessings received donations to pay for 2.5 school kids for the current school year.

So many lessons abounded in this single event. Kids discovered how to make something. They were given the opportunity to sell their product and maybe even learned a lesson or two about marketing. They learned about stewardship: the value of giving back and paying their proceeds forward.

I give thanks for every student who dropped any amount into the Blessings bucket that night, as well as their parents and grandparents. I give thanks for their loving-kindness and their faithfulness. I give thanks for the $2.63 that will provide a student with a bag of food this weekend.

What can you do with $2.63 today?

Lord God – Thank you for helping us see that giving comes in all shapes and sizes. May we be reminded that the size of the gift is not nearly as important as the giving heart behind the gift. We thank you for your never-failing loving-kindness and faithfulness to us. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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