Sunday, November 28, 2010

Celebrating Christ

Dear Family and Friends,

This year will mark a radical change in the way that our family celebrates Christmas.

For years we have struggled to find a balance between gift giving/receiving and celebrating the real "reason for the season," the birth and life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. While we feel that we have come closer to finding that balance each year, we still walk away feeling mediocre at best. As the Christmas season has crept steadily nearer, we have found ourselves on our knees many times, pleading with the Father for His guidance on how we can best celebrate Christ this Christmas.

As I was studying my scriptures I came upon a passage in Deuteronomy (24:19-21):

"When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow: that the Lord they God shall bless thee in all the work of thine hands.

When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow.

When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow."

As I read and reread that passage, I was overcome by the peaceful presence of the spirit. We have been blessed my friends, SO BLESSED, both temporally and spiritually. We have a roof over our heads, warm clothing, and food on our table. We have a steady soure of income, access to wonderful medical care, clean water, education, and reliable transportion. We are surrounded, daily, by loving family and friends. And most importantly, we have been blessed with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have "harvested our sheaves, beaten our olive trees and gathered our grapes" and, because we have been so richly blessed, it is time for us to share those blessings with "the stranger, the fatherless and the widows."

This year friends, there will be no presents under our Christmas tree. There will be no Black Friday Christmas shopping, no toy catalogs, and no visits from Santa Claus, because from this year forward, our focus will be entirely upon fulfilling our Savior's "wishlist," because He has given us the greatest gift of all. . .His blood and His life in exchange for ours.

And what exactly might one find on the Savior's "wishlist?" His request is simple:

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25.40)

Our toy catalogs have been replaced by this, this, this, this, this and this. The time we would have spent shopping will be spent caroling to the residents of several local nursing homes, baking and delivering treats to our friends and neighbors who are unable to be with their loved ones during the holidays, providing meals and crafts for the families and children at our local Ronald McDonald House, sending cards, letters and care packages to the men and women fighting for our freedom overseas and to the missionaries working so hard to "publish peace" and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our Heavenly Father's children around the world. And in the evenings as we gather together around the Christmas tree, adorned with ornament depicting the Savior's birth, we will read one of the many testimonies of the Savior that we have asked friends and family to record for us.

We may not walk away with new shoes, clothes, toys, or electronics, but we do hope to walk away with a gift more precious than all of those combined. . .a deep and abiding love for our Savior and Redeemer and those whom we serve in His name.

Our "capstone" Christmas project this year will focus on a precious little boy in Eastern Europe. Dusty is a 5 year-old little boy living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. He was born prematurely, with Down syndrome and abandoned at birth. Last Christmas, each of our children chose a child on the annual Reece's Rainbow Angel Tree to sponsor and to pray for. Jacob chose Dusty. He has faithfully prayed for a family for Dusty every single day for the past year and his tender heart just can't comprehend why no one has come for "his boy."


As many of you may know, international adoption is expensive. While there is never a shortage of families willing to adopt, sadly, there is almost always a shortage of funds. Dusty is lucky to still be at the baby house, but institutionalization is imminent. The mortality rates at these institutions are high and it is very likely that, if transferred, Dusty would not survive childhood.

Dusty is truly "one of the least of these" and our gift to the Savior this Christmas is to raise as much money as possible for Dusty's grant fund so that finances do not stand in the way of a family being able to commit to bringing him home. This precious boy deserves to know the love of a family.

In an effort to raise money for Dusty's grant fund we will be hosting a fundraiser called "Stitched Together by Love." We will be putting together a "Heart" quilt that will be presented to Dusty's family once they have committed to bring him home (each heart pattern has been designed by my children and will be appliqued to the middle of each quilt square) . For every $5 donation, the name of the donor will be written on a heart that will be stitched to a quilt square. For every donation of $25 or more, your family's name will be stitched to the square. For donations of $35 or more you will also receive a beautiful Christmas ornament from Reece's Rainbow with Dusty's picture (when donations are made BEFORE December 15th).

In addition to having your name written on a heart, for every $5 donation your name will also be entered into a giveaway for a 16x20 matted and framed print of Del Parson's "Perfect Love" (Recognize this picture? This is the picture on the puzzle that was "Pieced Together by Love" earlier this year that now hangs in my girl's room as a testament to just how loved they are!).

To make a donation you can click on the "Stitched Together by Love" widget on the sidebar, click on Dusty's "Christmas Warrior" button (This will take you to Reece's Rainbow's Angel Tree. If you choose to do this, please make sure you specify Dusty when making a donation) or mail a check (again, be sure to specify that the donation is for Dusty) to:

Reece's Rainbow
PO Box 4024
Gaithersburg, MD 20885

All methods of donation are linked to Reece's Rainbow (including our Chipin) and are therefore tax deductible. Only donations through our "Stitched Together by Love" widget will notify us of your donation, so please be sure to let us know that you have donated if you choose to donate directly through Reece's Rainbow's website or by check. This quilt will be given to the family that commits to bring Dusty home and we want to make sure that he and his family are wrapped up in your love!

As you are considering your gifts to the Savior this Christmas, won't you please think of Dusty? Give the gift of family, love and life and help make this the last Christmas Dusty ever has to spend without a family!

The Rieben's


Tammy said...

I LOVE this. I absolutely LOVE this!!! I'm just not sure I can add anything else! I love your hearts Rieben's!!!

Tamara's Mommy said...

Wow.. How amazing you and your family are. Truly an inspiration to the rest of us. I wish you much success, love and peace this Christmas Season. May your hearts always be as full as they are right now. ;o)

Kim said...

I have a practical question about this...we've struggled with the same thing since having kids. We've thought about similar approaches. But what do you do about the rest of the family? They will expect gifts, especially for their kids, and many will not understand and will be insulted. Many of them will simply ignore it and send gifts anyway. How have you handled this?

MoonDog said...

Valerie you are incredible! I stand in awe of you. again.

Ross said...

Valerie, that is beyond impressive. The content is amazing, and we will absolutely give to the cause. I am equally impressed with your insight and vision, and the ability you continually demonstrate to implement your inspiration into the lives of your family. I love you, and am more proud of you than you can know.


Charissa said...

Love this!

Sarah@Life in the Parsonage said...

After my own post today, a reader sent me your way. I love this. THAT is what I want our Christmas to look like!

Anonymous said...

I admire you. You are an inspiration and I hope to raise my kids like you raise yours when I have them.
PS: have you seen that lil Dusty has a family?? I guess Jacob must be so happy!

Amy said...


Thank you, thank you, thank you... for praying for Dusty. I am filled with joy to know that you have been praying all year long for him. God answered your prayer! We have welcomed Dusty into our hearts and hope that soon we will have him in our arms! Thank you for raising money for his adoption! We are very grateful to you and your family. Merry Christmas!
Dusty's Momma