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The deadline for your participation in the Gifts for Gracias Christmas project is coming up quickly! Although the last date for mailing packages is the end of November, we continue to receive personal deliveries from the Maryland area for another month after that. Then the container will be shipped from Maryland to Honduras, and the fun begins down here, as we assemble a gift for each of the members of the families on our many pastor lists!

During the last few months of every year, our family spends a lot of time getting the house and our lives in order for the onslaught of the container full of gifts and donations. Everything is very busy and cluttered here once the container arrives, so it helps to have some preparation and organization completed in advance.

For instance, it’s very hard to clean the house, once the shipment fills almost every inch of floor space (except for pathways) up to ten feet high or so. Because we know it will be several months from the time the shipment arrives until we unearth most of the house again, we try to do a deep cleaning right before the shipment. Things are still pretty dusty and dirty by the time we’re finished, but at least we know we tried!

The kids and I get an extra-large amount of schoolwork done in the last few months before our part of Gifts for Gracias begins. We know it will be difficult to get much done during the time the house is full and we’re so busy sorting everything and making gifts, so we try to squeeze extra school in ahead of time.

Usually, we have some left-over items from the previous year. Perhaps we had an overabundance of stuffed animals, for instance, or school supplies, or toothbrushes, or something else. Often these items are given away during the course of the year, but there are always a few boxes of leftovers which need to be pulled down off shelves and put into use along with the new donations. We also sometimes receive items brought down by teams during the course of the year, which are saved for use at Christmas, and those also have to be brought out of storage and put where they can be made use of. We move those items down from the shelves during this preparation time.

This photo is from Gifts for Gracias 2006 – we had a carport at that rental house

The past few years, Ben has completely given up his bedroom to be used as storage space when the shipment arrives. Because we have almost NO room to move once the shipment is unloaded into the bodega, it is difficult to actually work with the items in the boxes. Ideally we would make stacks of boxes containing similar items, so that we could more efficiently gather the specific items needed for a particular family’s gifts. In reality, we just scramble up and over and around and through everything, until we’ve created and distributed enough gifts that we’ve regained some floor space! It’s more than a bit overwhelming at first! (I’m so excited that we are building our own house now, so that soon-ish we should be able to use the entire bodega for this kind of work, instead of having the use of only part of the bodega because we’re also living in it!) Since our new house isn’t finished yet, we move Ben out of his room, take down his bed and store the parts up against the wall, put his toys up on a high shelf, and just generally clear that space for the shipment. Ben sleeps on the couch, or in Gus’ room, until his room is emptied and available for him again. Ben’s a trooper!

At the last minute, we rearrange the “house” part of the bodega, so we reserve as little space as possible for our personal use. We push the kitchen table to one end of the kitchen, and we use the bit of space at the other end of the kitchen for a couch, the TV, and the Christmas tree. Boo and Gus also tighten everything up in their rooms, so that we can put some items in those spaces as well.

Now that you know what we’re doing . . . what are YOU doing now, or planning to do, to help with Gifts for Gracias? We can surely use your help!!!!!