Sharing Box Ideas: 28 things to put in your neighborhood pantry this month

One of my favorite parts of my neighborhood is our Sharing Box, a small outdoor pantry where neighbors can put things to share and take what they need or want. Since Advent coincided with our new puppy’s ability to go on longer walks, we have used the Sharing Box as a destination multiple times a day (It’s a few blocks away–just enough for a little walk) and used Advent as an opportunity to share more. We set our goal of sharing once per day, and we’ve mostly kept it up.

Here are some things we’re sharing during the cold month of February.

  1. canned soup with pop-tops
  2. boxed soup
  3. crackers
  4. in-season citrus fruit (dropped off in the morning before the temperature freezes)
  5. tins of sardines
  6. double-bagged Ziploc quarts of homemade curry
  7. frozen pizzas (during our run of below-freezing days, marked on the outside with the moment of delivery so that folks know how long they’ve been in the box)
  8. single-serving size bags of chips
  9. individually wrapped tea bags
  10. packets of hot cocoa mix
  11. boxes of almond milk
  12. bottle of hot hot sauce
  13. a can opener
  14. box of cake mix + a 9×13 pan to bake it in
  15. small bag of apples
  16. extra toothbrushes  and sample-sized floss and toothpaste picked up from the dentist
  17. bars of soap
  18. winter pajamas we’ve outgrown
  19. hats, gloves, scarves, and mittens we’ve outgrown
  20. decks of cards, including Uno and Skip-Bo
  21. candles
  22. Valentine’s Day cards for kids to share at school
  23. bag of individually-wrapped Valentine’s Day candy for kids to share at school
  24. recent issues of magazines
  25. this week’s local newspaper
  26. repurposed shaker bottle (like from Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast) filled with sidewalk salt
  27. costume jewelry that a child might like to give to their mother or grandmother
  28. a doll

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We love our sharing box!

A little snow makes it easier to say goodbye to Christmas

I’ve been a little jealous these last few weeks as friends in different parts of the country have gotten snow and we’ve gotten warnings about snow and then… nothing. But today, a little snow landed and stuck–nothing serious, but enough to make it feel like winter for a bit. Which also means it’s easier to say goodbye to Christmas, which we’ve started celebrating through the 40th day after December 25th, because it still feels like winter (which it is).

Here are some highlights from our house this Christmas season.

We used this Advent calendar from our church to connect us to others as we each performed the same acts of kindness each day. The little felt donkey, just 1″x1″, guided us to the nativity.

Above, scenes from our Advent wreath making project. Using recycled parts but new candles, we made an Advent wreath for everyone at church who asked, about 10 in all.

During one of our weekly Christmas crafts, we made garland from paint chip samples–trees and stars.

Do you have a Christmas pickle on your tree? We used paint chips to make 3 dozen of them to share with neighborhood friends.

More Christmas crafts! Trees from a paper forest, a pinecone elf, and snowpeople made from wooden blocks.

Last year, we made every family with children at church a small Holy Family painted on tiny rocks. This year, we made every family with children a peg people Holy Family.

Some presents appear every single year: board and card games, books, and either mugs, travel mugs, thermoses, or water bottles.

Christmas Eve dinner references my life back East, so, this year, crab mac and cheese. Christmas Dinner this year was themed “traditional Midwestern,” with roast beef replacing turkey. As usual, the sides are the star. (And, yes a 1:8 lb butter:potato recipe is entirely appropriate)

We love birds in our tree–and here are some additions for the year: a felt cardinal, a knitted cardinal, and a ceramic star with a dove cut from it.

New wreaths, three on the tree (a yarn one by a friend and two woven from wheat), plus one we made from a grapevine wreath on the banister.

Our Christmas tree, overseen by Marian Zsofia, our angel.

Children’s Time: “We March” by Shane W. Evans

The Sunday before Martin Luther King Day is one of my favorite of the year at church. We have honored it in different ways over the years, including using King’s words in our worship, singing songs of the Civil Rights movement, praying for our enemies, and preaching on the themes of racism, poverty, and militarism. This year, our worship included the reading of this picture book by Shane W. Evans. It includes illustrations based on photos from the March on Washington. See if you can spot Dr. King, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, and John Lewis.

First Sunday of Advent: Hope

The first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the year on the liturgical calendar. It’s also the the Sunday of Hope. You hear it in today’s readings, which include  parts of Isaiah 64. Here is an excerpt from The Message:

Since before time began
    no one has ever imagined,
No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you
    who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who happily do what is right,
    who keep a good memory of the way you work.
But how angry you’ve been with us!
    We’ve sinned and kept at it so long!
    Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved?
We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
    Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.
We dry up like autumn leaves—
    sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.
No one prays to you
    or makes the effort to reach out to you
Because you’ve turned away from us,
    left us to stew in our sins.

Still, God, you are our Father.
We’re the clay and you’re our potter:
All of us are what you made us.
Don’t be too angry with us, O God.
Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us.
Your holy cities are all ghost towns:
Zion’s a ghost town,
Jerusalem’s a field of weeds.
Our holy and beautiful Temple,
which our ancestors filled with your praises,
Was burned down by fire,
all our lovely parks and gardens in ruins.
In the face of all this,
are you going to sit there unmoved, God?

To hear a really beautiful reading of this, listen to my friend Chuck read it, starting at minute 10:25.

Like many families, we use an Advent wreath to guide us through the Sundays of Advent. Here is ours this year:

Blackbear Bosin, Indigenous Artist

Sometimes I get to share children’s time teachings with my congregation. When I do, I share them here. 

Today’s children’s teaching focuses on Blackbear Bosin (also called Tsate Kongia), one of the most famous indigenous people from our area. As you watch today’s video, you might ask yourself:

1. What is a detail from his paintings or sculptures that I like?

2. What is one thing I learned about or was reminded of about indigenous culture from his artwork?

Have you seen any of Blackbear Bosin’s work in real life? Share your experiences, please!

And you can find the whole service online here.

Jonah’s Big Feelings

Sometimes I get to share children’s time teachings with my congregation. When I do, I’ll share them here. 

Today’s children’s teaching focuses on Jonah 3:104:11, when Jonah expresses how angry he is–so angry he could die!–about God’s kindness to the people of Nineveh. As children listen this week, you could ask them:

1. What is a big feeling you’ve had before?

2. What is one silly way you could describe your anger?

You can watch the whole online service here.