The Blessing Box

I love the fact that the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving.  It’s so healthy to take some time to remember all that we’re grateful for.  One of the best ideas for doing so was introduced to me by Bob and Jody.

But first, a little context.

Prioritizing Their Use of Money

Perhaps more than any other couple I’ve met, Bob and Jody demonstrate what it looks like to manage money well.  Their faith motivates them to give away the first portion of all that they receive, then they save a portion, and then they base their lifestyle spending on what remains.

This approach – give, then save, then live on what’s left – has enabled them to live on one income for most of their married life.  And it has helped them avoid carrying any debt other than a reasonable mortgage.

To be sure, making generosity and savings higher priorities than spending has meant going without some of the things many people take for granted, such as cell phones and cable television. However, in return, Bob and Jody have experienced something too few people experience: financial freedom. And here’s something else they’ve experienced: God’s faithful provision, which brings me to the story of their adopted son.

Beyond Practical Money Management

Some years ago, Bob and Jody had been dutifully saving to replace an old van.  Buying vehicles with cash is just what wise money managers do.  But right when their van was reaching the end of its useful life, they felt a tug on their hearts to adopt a child.

For as long as she can remember, Jody felt called to motherhood and dreamed of being a mom. When she had difficulty conceiving, she thought her worst fears were being realized. Eventually, fertility treatments enabled them to have two children.

Still, as Jody puts it, “I wasn’t done mothering babies yet.” Because they didn’t want to go through fertility treatments again, their thoughts turned toward adoption. But their hearts’ desire came with a hard financial reality: adoption fees of $12,000.

Neither one recalls ever thinking twice about their decision to put the van money toward the adoption fees. It was not a trade-off. A van was, well, just a van. Their desire to adopt a child was based on their longings to grow their family and make a difference in the life a child that didn’t have a family.

But what about their need for a replacement van?  As it turned out, their old one ended up lasting a bit longer than they thought it would, and shortly after they adopted their son, a relative unexpectedly gave them a van.

As much as I’m a strong believer in such practical steps as being generous with the first portion of all that we receive, saving or investing the next portion, and basing our lifestyle on what’s left over, I am an even stronger believer in what this part of Bob and Jody’s story demonstrates: There are times when the right financial decision doesn’t make the least bit of sense on a spreadsheet.

Remembering the Blessings

When Bob and Jody received the unexpected gift of a van, they wrote a note about it and put the note in a box they call “The Blessing Box.”  Throughout the year, whenever some unexpected blessing occurs, they jot down what happened and put the note in the box. Then at Thanksgiving they read the notes and remember God’s goodness—all of the blessings, large and small, that happened throughout the year. It’s a meaningful time for Bob and Jody, and they hope the tradition fosters hearts of gratitude and contentment in the lives of their children.

When I first heard about the blessing box, I wanted to put the idea into practice in my own family.  But I never have.  And now that several years have passed, I hate to think of all the many blessings I have forgotten about.

That’s why, before finishing this article, I ordered a special box from Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade organization that sells unique gifts made by disadvantaged artisans from around the world.

Sure, I could have done the frugal thing and used an old shoebox, but somehow having a special box to hold our family’s reminders of special blessings throughout the year seemed appropriate.

If you’d like to incorporate the use of a blessing box in your household, go right ahead.  I don’t think Bob and Jody would mind at all.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that if they knew their idea has spread to other families, they’d count it as one of their blessings.

Here’s wishing you a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving.

If you haven’t done so already, why not subscribe to this blog? Twice a week, you’ll receive ideas and encouragement for using money well.

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5 Responses to The Blessing Box

  1. Matt Bell November 18, 2011 at 7:26 PM #

    Such a great story, Jim.

    I wonder how many people end up with extra money in reserve at the end of the year — and then use that reserve as you described.

    Not surprisingly, your kids’ reactions – not being satisfied with how much some of the charities were getting – shows that they have caught a very powerful lesson.

    Thank you for taking the time to share this story. You’ve made the blessing box even richer!

  2. Jim Jackson November 18, 2011 at 5:32 PM #

    Matt – This blessing box story and activity is a great story! It made me think of an activity we did with our kids to help them learn the value of giving first. My wife and I realized toward the end of the year that we had more cash in our reserve than we had planned due to conservative spending, a pay raise, and not changing our budget. So on Dec 15th we went to the bank, and took out the reserve in cash – $3000 in $20 bills. We brought it home and at dinner told the kids, aged 13, 15, and 17, “God has blessed us with extra money for Christmas this year, but we’ve already done our shopping, and we’d like your help figuring out how to give it away.”

    Of course they asked, “How much money?” We then dumped the bag full of $20’s on the table, and gave each person a turn to take $100 at a time to make their pile, and name the charity to receive that money. We also came to the table with a list of various charities we believed in, and asked the kids if they had favorites.

    When we finished the kids were not satisfied that some of their charities were getting enough, so they added another $800 of their own money. In all we gave money to eight different charities and ministries that night. We prayed for the charities, went online and made the actual contributions, and went to bed well fed that night, through the blessing of giving.

  3. Diane Williams December 7, 2010 at 10:29 PM #

    I loved the idea of the Blessing Box. Let Bob and Jody know that at least one other family is doing it now! Thanks for sharing about this.

  4. Jessica November 24, 2010 at 4:35 PM #

    I finally got around to reading this, I love it… the whole story – living below your means, financial freedom, and the blessing box. I’m thankful for what we do have, but I feel the need and really want to live with less now, so that we can have more (a family) later. I created quite a bit of debt in my 20’s, have on a payment plan and will be paying it off most of my 30’s, but that means I’ll finally have it together in my 40’s and I’m not sure that timeline works with my biological clock. I’m terrified and I don’t want to create more debt, but I do want a family, so I’m really trying each day to find the small ways to save and pay down the debt so that we can go into having a family with more stability.
    Trying to be thankful and hopeful all at the same time.

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  1. Best Personal FInance Articles From Around the Web | Matt About Money - November 25, 2011

    […] How Making a Gratitude List Can Change Your Life (LearnVest).  Sure, Thanksgiving is over, but now’s the perfect time to start stocking your blessing box. […]

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