Today, the next installment of the #12daysofblogmas series we are sharing with all our lovely readers our own gift guides! If you missed my first two posts of 12 Days of Blogmas you can catch up here and here (<— Enter the Amazon Giveaway on Day 2!). I know that a major goal for us as parents every year is to try to steer our children towards a heart of giving. I’ll be honest, entitlement is a HUGE pet peeve of mine and sometimes I go to great lengths to be “unfair” to my children. It’s not always the best method, but I can’t stand the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. During the Christmas season, while we focus heavily on Advent and the “why” for what we believe this time to be about, we also emphasize the opportunity to give and to serve our community. As a family, we “spend less/give more”, which means everyone gets one big gift, and what money we would normally spend on “filler gifts” we pool together and give to a cause/organization that we believe in.

So here is my Guide for Giving (Back). I have curated a list of several organizations and ideas for how you can pay it forward/give back.

Foster Care/Adoption

We have always had a huge heart for adoption/fostering. We have several good friends who have served as foster parents and who have received the incredible gifts that are their children through adoption. It always makes me weep. It always reflects such a beautiful image of the gospel story. It always makes me love Jesus more. Adopted Coffee is a local Phoenix family who started hosting community coffee mornings out of their home for free, taking only donations to help offset the fees anticipated with the adoption of their child. The response from the community spawned the couple, Jake and Rachel McDonald, to believe that this could
be something that goes beyond just their family, and dreams of assisting other adopting families were born.

Photos taken from Adopted Coffee's Instagram account
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“Instead of just having this small fundraiser for our family, it became something that we wanted to carry on to other local family adoptions too,” McDonald said.

Is that not amazing?! I adore everything that they are doing. For more information on Adopted Coffee, you can read this article from earlier in the year, or visit their Instagram or Facebook. Donations are accepted here or here. *Adopted Coffee is an approved 501(c)3 non-profit organization, donations are tax-deductible.

Other Phoenix-based organizations we love and have experience with are Foster Care Initiatives and Christian Family Care.

Autism

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In September of this year, my sweet 3-year-old nephew, Calvin, was diagnosed as being on the severe autism spectrum. While this has been hard and trying time for the family, I am so proud of my incredible brother-in-law, Isaac, and his beautiful wife, Liz for the way they have depended on their faith in Jesus to give them peace and wisdom as they parent their beautiful son. They have fought hard for Calvin to receive the care he needs that will give him the best opportunities to grow and flourish while allowing them to be actively involved in their process as a family. Autism Speaks has been a direct help to Isaac, Liz, and Calvin and offers services to aid in the learning and growth of those diagnosed with Autism. “At Autism Speaks, our goal is to change the future for all who struggle with an autism spectrum disorder.” Sounds good to me! *donate to Autism Speaks*

Another organization who exists to support those diagnosed with autism and their families is Generation Rescue.

Veteran Support

I was raised to be a patriot. I love this country and weep my way through Independence Day fireworks shows, and nearly every patriotic song. I am not blind to its many short-comings and grievous failures, but I am thankful to be an American. It is a blessing every day. One thing that continuously reminds me of what an amazing country the U.S is, is our veterans. I am honored to know and

love several American Heroes who have served our country in ways I can’t imagine. They are the bravest, and most humble men and women whom I will always hold in the highest respect. The way many soldiers return from battle is heartbreaking. The things they suffer through is enough to break any man, and yet they sign up willingly and see it as a noble duty to fight. Thank you to all of those who have answered the call to fight for freedom and justice, to protect each other and millions who you’ve never met. I do not take it for granted. I asked one of my dear friends, who is nothing short of a badass soldier, which organizations he would feel comfortable giving to and he was kind enough to give me a couple suggestions.

Wounded Warrior Project exists “To honor and empower wounded warriors”. Their tagline states that “the greatest casualty is being forgotten”, and I couldn’t agree more. If you are a vet, thank you for your incredible service, and/or if you know a vet, please consider giving to their ongoing support. Other organizations to consider are the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Home for Children.

Music/Art 

I vividly remember being 9 years old and sitting in the car with my then 18-year-old big brother, who is a gifted and talented musician, while he played a song called “Mayonaise” by Smashing Pumpkins (I wore out the Siamese Dream album). Watching him beat out the rhythm of the drums with his whole body (world’s best air-drummer!) was mesmerizing. He drew my attention to the lyric Billy Corgan belts out at 4:47 in the

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song that says, “I just want to be me, the way I can…”. He asked me to pinpoint the emotions that Billy was conveying through the passionate way he delivers that lyric, and taught me to always approach music that way – by connecting to the emotion. That is the first music lesson I remember, and I have fallen in love with all types of music because my natural instinct is now to find the emotion and connect to it. That one lesson changed the way I process song, poetry, and visual arts. Music and art are invaluable to me and my family. Organizations like Incredible Children’s Art Network, who bring high quality art programs to children, particularly those least likely to receive them, are providing services that can be life-changing for so many kids like me, who will years later look back on what they learned and realize that it shaped them in a way they never thought possible.

Find Your Own

If none of these organizations strike a chord with you, I urge you to find one that does and give as generously as you are able.

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Involve your children in the giving process! Let them know that they are giving up a few $5.00 toys that they will most likely lose or break before New Years to help people reach their goal, whatever that may be. Or, if you are unable to give separately from your
holiday expenses, shopping through Amazon Smile lets you choose an organization from a massive list and a percentage of your order will go where you direct it. I have mine linked to my kids’ school! How easy is that?

Also, **ARIZONA RESIDENTS** – look into the AZ Tax Credit, where you get dollar-for-dollar return when you donate to approved organizations such as schools or the 100’s of charities listed here (including dozens of foster care organizations that qualify for a higher donation credit limit=give more, get more back!)

Merry Christmas, my friends. Here’s to seeing outside of ourselves, and pressing on to join the Redeemer in His great work, which is why He came in the first place.

**I am not affiliated in any way with any of the organizations mentioned in this post. I have received absolutely nothing in return for writing about them. I simply believe in what they are doing. All opinions are purely mine.**

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