world changers

We have a tradition of ‘camping out’ under the Christmas tree each year. Some years it is all fun. Some years I am just thankful we only do it once a year. We started back when we only had one kid – there was more space under the tree back then! Hot chocolate, popcorn and a Christmas movie are always part of the night. The kids look forward to it each year…

She was more interested in playing Peek-A-Boo than the movie. The trash bag tree skirt is there to protect the wood floors when the kids water the tree. Usually it is covered…just in case you were wondering!

We started a new tradition this year…lighting an Advent wreath of candles. One candle each night leading up to Christmas. It has quickly become a new favorite nightly tradition. While the candles are lit we talk about things we are thankful for or we pick out ‘birthday presents’ for Jesus from various non-profits. (ideas from Ann Voskamp, click links to read more)

Mary travels around the circle, getting closer to the center and last candle each night.

Every year we’ve picked items from Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Catalog. This year we added several other non-profits like Compassion International, International Justice Mission and Smile Train. Going through these catalogs with the kids and talking about real issues of poverty and injustice is one of my favorite things to do this season. To watch compassion, gratefulness and generosity well up in the hearts of my kids is the best Christmas gift I could receive.

Sometimes we give them a budget, other years we wait to see what all they get excited about being a part of for others. This year the older boys snuck away with the catalogs and began circling everything they wanted to donate money towards.  In the past, they’ve circled things like helping build water wells or fighting against slavery. This year they circled a lot related to babies and moms. Their hearts have been changed this year and it is the most beautiful thing.

While in China we visited Little One’s orphanage. It was important to me that her older brothers see where she spent her first year. I hope one day she can talk to them about her hometown and her first home. The photo below is of the boys when they first stepped foot in her old room. The room was filled with row after row of metal cribs with wood for mattresses like the one you see. The room was quiet though the cribs were filled with babies. You can see the hearts of my boys on their faces as they looked around that room with the full knowledge that 4 days before their baby sister was laying in one of the cribs. Their hearts broke. In the next instant, they were walking among the babies smiling and trying to get the little cuties to smile back. They were strong and brave and overflowing with compassion.

This year their sister is home, but they still remember that room. They remember those cribs. They remember the rows of babies. Their hearts are bigger, stronger and more beautiful because of that experience in China. Obviously, they are normal kids that enjoy their toys and fight and argue and all that other little boy stuff. But they are also becoming young men that have a global perspective of poverty and human rights issues….and they believe they can make a difference. While I will always be an adoption advocate, adoption is not always the answer in regards to ‘caring for the orphan’. Fighting against poverty in sustainable ways is often a means to prevent a need for adoption. I hope and pray that Chris and I are parents that are intentional about empowering them to do all they dream of doing.  This year they used catalogs and partnered with non-profits to change the world and they had so much fun doing it.

Before we turned off the lights and fell asleep under the Christmas tree, my oldest came to me and said, “Mom, I want to spend some of my money this year too. Did you know it only takes $4 to protect a child from parasites? I could protect a lot of kids!”

And my son reminded me of the joy of giving. The beauty of compassion in action. The miracle of Christmas.

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  • Lyn - Beautiful!

  • MG Atwood - You are raising boys with compassionate hearts who will grow to be great men. What a wonderful blog this was. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  • RachelC - Awesome.

  • jeannett - tears, friend.
    world changers indeed.
    i love every single thing about this.
    i love that you are teaching them to see outward. there is a world beyond our front porch. see it.
    merry christmas. squeezes to you and yours.

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - Yey! I did a post about The International Justice Mission catalog, so that is really wonderful that it was included in what you did. I hope that the children had a wonderful time celebrating Advent and sleeping under your tree!

  • Caroline - The pictures of Little one playing peek-a-boo with Chris is just so sweet and heartwarming!
    Love love it! 🙂

  • Annie - Words escape me. It’s just so very beautiful.
    Lifting you be yours up in thankful prayer this morning. God is so VERY good!

  • Marilyn - Truly what Christmas is all about!

  • Heidi Leonard - such beautiful hearts!


  • aubrey - Precious! Makes me cry. You are raising true men of the Lord. Keep it up:) Thank you for what you do.

  • emmybrown - so wonderfully inspiring! Merry Christmas to you all, Campbell Family!

  • Sandy W - The picture of the boys seeing the orphanage broke my heart. You can see their emotions so well in that picture. You are raising amazing young men.

    I wanted to add what I do to protect the floor under the tree. I bought a cheap waterproof mattress pad, a flat one, not fitted. I put that on the floor on put the tree stand on top. It works really well and is easily covered by the tree skirt.

  • Tracy a - Ok, Friday it was laughter, today it is back to tears! Beauty…

  • Michelle W - Your posts always get me choked up. Thank you for beautifully sharing how your family grows.

  • joelle - You have an amazingly God-filled and beautiful family. May God shine is light upon you all in the coming year.

  • Nicole - You are very good at making me cry!

    Lots of love sent to you and your family this Christmas 🙂

  • What are you hoping for? - Pantier dot com - […] intending to pay it forward with honoring each child lost; and third, how to change the world and be a fighter against poverty like Ashley Campbell’s family, and planting those seeds strongly in the hearts of our children. Action creates […]

  • Amy - Incredible. Thank you for sharing your process. We are learning so much from you and want to raise our children similarly. We have been so blessed by the birth of our amazing little girl (she’s 2 months old now) and the development of her compassionate character is so important to us!

  • Kerry - Giving is the best gift, isn’t it? What a wonderful heritage you are passing on through your children. I just shed a few “these things make God smile” tears.

  • Svetlana Ozolina - I thank Instagram for this minutes I looked at your pictures. I thank you for writing your blog. You make me better. You help me live full life, but not only part of it. And now my wish about adopting child are bigger, than it was before finding your blog. You are so special for me for these 24 hours ) Thank you so much!
    Whishing you wonderful Christmas, full of love, smiles and joy of life.

  • Emily - I really hope that one day my son says the same thing to me. Merry Christmas!

  • Katie - Every post I read of yours, I am almost always left thinking you are raising the most beautiful and compassionate children ever.

    If some day I can raise children half as wonderful as yours, I’m going to count myself very lucky.

    Your blog is always a lovely reminder of how I can live life better. Thank you.

  • giozi - Merry Christmas dear Ashley. You are a strong woman and always with something pretty to everybody. The best for you and your family for the next year.

  • Marina - Beautiful, wonderful Ashley.

    Forget about the worry of a trash liner under your tree. We would never have noticed that if you hadn’t pointed it out.

    What we *do* notice is your heart. Your big, wide, open and generous heart. The heart that brought Little One to you. The heart that allowed your boys to see they *can* make a difference in this world. The heart that shows the love between father and daughter in a simple game of peek-a-boo. The heart that gave Firecracker and Little One a sisterly bond that will never be broken. A heart that is pure and belongs to you.

    You’re doing it right. Perfectly in fact.

    Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family, from Melbourne, Australia. You are an inspiration.


  • Shannon - This post brought tears to my eyes. Your traditions are wonderful, and I love the lessons your boys are learning so young.

    Merry Christmas!

  • jenny - beautiful….just beautiful. Makes my heart even fuller. 🙂
    thank you for sharing.

  • Jill - Ashley, I love your advent wreath. Can you tell me where you got it? Amazon is not being helpful 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  • Jill - I just saw the link, LOL. Thanks 🙂

  • Anna Joy - Of course their hearts are full of compassion…it’s cause you are their mother! Love your heart, friend.

  • Miranda Hazeveld - Great post. Beautiful boy’ s. Be very proud of your children.

  • Kristina - You are such an inspiration and exactly the type of parent that others need to learn from. One day I hope I can teach my future children half of what you do. Bravo!

  • Fran - I know you are super busy, but where on the smile train site are you able to order the catalog/book? I found the Compassion Intl catalog and ordered it (can’t wait to look through it with the kids) but I would really like to get the other one as well. Thanks!

  • AshleyAnn - Fran – I didn’t have a Smile Train catalog, just an informational pamphlet..

  • Stoich91 - I’m not crying. There are onions…in the air…invisible *sniff* 😀

  • Silvia - I can’t even begin to express to you how hopeful this post made me. I love the way you share your traditions and what you are doing to raise your children to be compassionate and caring towards a world that needs Jesus so much. I even made my husband read the post and he cried. Thank you for sharing, it’s so amazing and encouraging!

  • Cara Louise Reitbauer - Ashley- it’s been a while since i left any comments, and I apologize. I read every single blog post and am always inspired, encouraged, strengthened, and even convicted! You share your heart with us, and I just wish there was a way you see how full each of our hearts is toward you and you lovely family. I have been recently going through my blog subscriptions, realizing that I will never be able to keep up with the number I have on my list, but you, your family, and your blog have quite the permanent place here in my heart and on my computer! much love for the entire Campbell family, and continued prayers for all of you as you continue in the amazing adventure that is ‘life’.

  • elizabeth H - I’m so encouraged by this post.
    I “camped” out by the tree as a child & have continued that tradition w. my own children. It’s such fun!
    This year, a first for us, my older boys “purchased” gifts from Samaritans Purse for Jesus from money they raised themselves.
    I LOVED seeing how they truly wanted to make a difference.
    It’s a tradition i plan to continue ~ raising world changers!

  • Ana Paula Caputo - You are Sister Sycamore that was missionary in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro? I’m Ana Paula from Campos, Rio de Janeiro. I’m not sure about that, but if you same I remember you with great affection.