Sweet Katie, If you're reading this, please stop!! I don't want to spoil any of this year's surprises for you, and if you keep reading, or even viewing, there will be a bit of spoiling! In fact, I'm not emailing you this post just to ensure secrecy! To your sisters and cousins who are reading this, no telling!!
It's been 13 years since I made the first legacy box. That's how long it's been since my oldest niece entered her freshman dorm to begin a new journey as a university student. I've been making a legacy box every year as niece after niece has entered and completed college.
But it all began in 1985 in another dorm room, at another university, my university as I began my sophomore year in college. I had big hair, and wore things like stirrup pants! My dear friend Teresa, who lived across from me in Nesbitt Hall, gave me my first introduction to a legacy box. It wasn't called a legacy box back then. It was just the box her mom sent with her every year as she packed up her car and headed back to campus for another year of study, and friends, and boys. It was a gift that kept giving each and every month while she was away from home. Teresa stored her box on the top shelf of her closet, and each month she pulled a chair up in front of the closet door and, on tiptoes, took the box down as her friends anxiously waited to see what she might pull out of it this time!
The box itself wasn't special; it was just a cardboard box, but it was special inside. Teresa's Mom wrapped nine gifts, one for each month that Teresa would be away from home, and placed them in the box. Each gift was labeled with the month that the gift was to be opened. I know I would have been tempted to open them all up at once, but Teresa was faithful to open only one gift at a time. They were usually simple gifts: new underwear, mittens for winter, an umbrella, and candy, but it wasn't as much about the gift as it was the anticipation of what was under that wrapping paper, and perhaps it represented a moment with her mom, a glimpse of home. There were no rules about when each gift could be opened, only that it had to be opened in the month for which it was designated. And so it went month after month.
I decided then and there at the age of 19 that I was going to make "the box" for my daughter each year and send it wither her as she made the trek to university. I would wrap up a little love along with her so she could experience a bit of home away from home. I knew the day of becoming a mother was a long way off, but the box had such an impact on not only Teresa, but the rest of us who enjoyed it with her, that I never forgot it. This would be one of the traditions I longed to begin with my own daughter.
Thirteen years ago I was still waiting on God to make me a mother when my first niece was getting ready to leave for college. I was 34 years old, and something deep inside told me even then that I would never be a mother. It didn't keep me from hoping for a miracle, a hope that didn't fully burn out until this year. But I was an aunt, and I loved being an aunt! And so that was when I decided that I would begin this tradition with my nieces, and if a daughter came along, she would just be added to the joy.
So just as my friend's mother had done so many years ago, I created my first box with an added twist. I decided that I wanted to make it even more special. I wanted to give it a deeper meaning than just the excitement of opening material gifts that these girls may or may not need in any given month. I decided to choose a scripture that could somehow be illustrated by the gift I was giving, and write a letter or a note with each one. I have tried to leave a legacy of hope and love with each gift. The gifts will all disappear someday, but the words, the words can be kept. They can be meditated on and held close to the heart. I can leave a little bit of me and Jesus in the words.
So every August I sit down and find nine scriptures illustrated by the gift, and I write nine letters and post-date them, wrap the gifts, and bundle it all up in a box and send it on it's way. Two of my nieces attended college nearby so I was able to give their box in person. Sometimes I don't use a box at all, but a large basket, decorative bag, or hamper that holds all of the gifts and notes. My niece Katie, who is currently in college, attends school several hundred miles away so I put all of her gifts in a shipping box and mail them. She doesn't get a fancy basket or bag, but she still gets the box and all the love included.
The legacy box has been a tremendous blessing to me, and I hope to my nieces and maybe even their friends as well. One of my nieces shared with me that she didn't always open the box on the first day of the month. She saved it for those days when things weren't going well, and she needed a little lift. I know at least one of the girls has saved every letter I wrote. I hope they all have. The main message I am trying to send them is that they are deeply loved not only by their Aunt Steph, but their heavenly Father. It's a tradition that I wanted to have with my own children, and well, these girls are my girls as far as I'm concerned. I love them with a love I don't think they can fully grasp. I am so proud of them.
Would you like to create a legacy box for someone special in your life? I think it is a tradition that will bless you and your loved ones for years to come!
Let me share with you exactly what I do each year to help you get started. Of course, you can adapt this for your own needs and desires.
1. Buy or make one gift for each month your loved one is gone to school.
2. Shop throughout the year so that you don't have to spend one lump some of money at the end. It can get expensive . Shopping throughout the year also helps you to be able to buy seasonally appropriate gifts for the following year. Also, remember you can make gifts to save money!
3. Find a scripture applicable to each gift. For example, if the gift is perfume, you might use the scripture about our lives being a Christ-like fragrance found in 2 Corinthians.
4. Write 9 notes or letters to include the scripture you've selected. Use this opportunity to share words of wisdom and love. Speak truth into their lives. They need to hear the Word of God, and they need to know they are loved and prayed for in their absence. Pray before writing, asking God to give you words that will be appropriate for them this coming year.
5. Wrap each gift, and label it with the month you want them to open it. Attach that month's letter to the gift. Be sure to write the month on the letter as well as the gift so they can easily be matched up if they get separated.
6. Bundle it all up in a resuseable box, decorative basket, hamper etc.
7. Pray over your box. Ask God to use it to bless their lives and bring glory to Himself.
8. Deliver it to your loved one, and pray for them throughout the year.
9. Continue shopping for gifts for next year's box.
What you give totally depends on the recipient, your budget, and the size of the box. Anything goes!
You can see in the photos above a couple of items I included in this year's box - homemade pickles (she loves pickles) and a book. One thing I try to do is to have one gift that is consistent every year. For example, I bought this niece four Christmas stockings that match. Each year she gets one of the stockings filled to the brim. She opens this particular gift in November so she can use the stockings for decoration in her dorm if she chooses.
It's not too late for you to send a legacy box this year! It's only September so you could actually have a box sent off in the next couple of weeks that includes your September gift! And it's okay to just send one box each semester. If buying or making nine gifts is not in your budget right now, just buy or make 4 for the first semester. Send a second box in January!! Otherwise, begin shopping and planning for next year!
I just decided this year that I'd like to keep this tradition going for a lifetime. I am going to continue to send a legacy box to my nieces on special occasions throughout their lives. It's not something I can do every year for every niece, but it could be done once in awhile on a significant anniversary, a marriage, the birth of a child, a milestone etc. How fun to make a box of 12 wedding gifts and have them open one each month the first year of their marriage! And how about shopping for 12 gifts for a first child? That sounds pretty fun!
I pray this idea will be a blessing to you and yours. If you choose to make a legacy box this year or even sometime in the future, I would love to hear about it and hear how it has become a blessing to you!
What traditions do you share in your family? I'd love to hear your ideas!
Today I am sharing with Three Word Wednesday - My three words today are The Legacy Box. I'm also sharing with Tell His Story, DYWW, and Little Things Thursday