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Light ‘Em Up 2014 – Top 10 Ideas

It’s here!! 2014 Light ‘Em Up!

I have butterflies in my stomach. Do you know how much I love this program, this community and this time of year? You are my people. YOU GET IT!

You understand by one simple gesture, one kind act, one remark, one genuine “thanks” … your family can change your neighborhood. Your family can change a community.

If you are new, I am beyond excited you are here.


You will join an army of moms around the world that lock arms during Christmas to say: let’s focus on GIVING, not GETTING! Let’s teach our kids through experiences vs lectures. You guys made this program go viral the first year. More importantly, you continue to serve and love your neighbors in amazing ways. You’ve shown your kids just how GOOD it feels to give.

And, for many of us, we are looking for a way to shine God’s love into our community. We often don’t even speak His name. We warm hearts and light em up through a love that overflows from our hearts. We’ve been given so very much.

I felt pressure to dream up something NEW for you this year.. and, it’s just not necessary. We need to do more of the same – with one important challenge.

2014 Challenge: Invite your kids to this party, early!



(PS – I love that I found this photo and it’s my friend’s son Elijah. If you have followed his cancer story – he is a miracle walking. Go Elijah! Keeping showing love and spreading love. You’re a role model for so many!)


I want those little hearts engaged. Let them help you with planning. Let them brainstorm and make their list. Give God a chance to move in their hearts. Help them have the courage to follow through on their ideas.


You will get all the free downloads and resources at the end, but let’s start with my Top 10 Favorite Light ‘Em Up Ideas since we began. The program started here – with a soapbox, over-it blog post. And now, it’s Chapter 12 in my new book In This House, We Will Giggle.

Top 10 Light ‘Em Up Ideas To Try


1. Love Your Garbage Collectors

Here are kids from Raleigh to Orlando making it happen.


Make them a poster and they enjoy gift cards, candy, donuts, coffee – anything!


2. Hide Dollars With Love

My kids loved this sneaky adventure last year. We put $1.06 (so tax was included in a baggie with the “surprise” gift tag and taped them all through the dollar store. Can you imagine finding free money as a child? Or even a struggling adult that could use a break? We met a homeless woman in the parking lot as we left and I was out of money – Ella whispered the solution to me. Of course! “Ma’am – we just hid dollars all through that store.” And she lit up to go find some treasures. The point is often not the others – it’s how he works in us and our kids.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 8.12.46 PM

3. Dazzle the Mall with Candy Canes and Love

Our first year, we strolled through Lenox Mall in our double stroller and we were a candy-cane-giving-machine. We handed them out with gift tags attached. And simply said “thanks” to anyone working the week before Christmas. From security guards to makeup artists. We had tears and hugs. “No one has ever thanked us.” The girls were shy at first then would RUN to find the next person. My heart almost combusted. We even loved on Santa.


4. When a Tradition Meets Your Passions

My friend Kristen hosts an annual caroling party to the assisted living home in our neighborhood. Her family has a passion for serving the elderly and it is what they do every year. Find a way to merge your passions with a tradition.

It can be so simple. This sweet family is helping out the salvation army with the bell ringing!


5. Pay It Backwards (or Forwards)!

I wish I could remember the name of the mom (if it’s you – tell me). Her family paid for a Starbucks customer behind them in line the first year we did Light Em Up. She went back in the next day and the employee let her know that her kindness rippled on – it went on for 40 cars!!! People kept paying it back and paying it back – or forwards :). Incredible. In Tampa recently – it went almost 400 cars.


6. Encourage Great Customer Service

Everywhere I go, I find someone doing their job really well. I love to take time to fill out the survey. One day, I was so impressed by this girl – that we walked back and found her manager in the Macy’s girls department. I told her boss in person how great she was – and they asked me to fill out a card/report for her so she’d get recognized. This was her smile afterwards.


7. Feeding Someone Hungry

I love to widen the perspective in our world. Our kids need to see and understand food is a gift. And some people in our own neighborhoods do not have lunch every day. And, we can help in small ways and big ways. This is often on the heart of our kids. I suggest that you use the Planning Guide to get started – find out what your kids want to do. They are far more engaged when they are involved.


8. Let’s Go Big

Some of my favorite moments are when we go BIG unexpectedly for others. I was at the Americasmart and this lady at Starbucks just loved my necklace. Full story here – but short version. I went and bought her one. Her face is one I will never forget. She was stunned. And thanked God, and me and tons of hugs. What fun to just delight someone in a huge way.


There are so many families out there who will not do Christmas – what if we took care of that for them? We brought the meal and the gifts? Just pray and be open – God will line it up. I am splitting a turkey with the cashier at Publix. We are donating to a family in need – because he works like that!


Our Light ‘Em Up queen – Sara Easley took her kids at Mother’s Day and surprised new mothers. Just precious.


9. Expand Your Territory

Isn’t it much more fun when we have a group? My sister invited her playgroup over and they made cookies together and made their plans for Light ‘Em Up!

I purposely left off my site and light em up off the gift tags. I want the person getting the love to feel it was pure – not about a promotion.



My friend Izzy is not a mom and she does Light ‘Em Up every year and shows her teens (she mentors um, 75 of them) how do do it. This is one of her teens lighting up her high school. Notes on the lockers.


10. Meet Needs In Unexpected Ways

We did this idea with Light ‘Em Up – Mother’s Day edition and oh my word! The reaction. People just run out of wipes! Don’t you? We loved meeting this need – placing some in a favorite restaurant in our town.


One mom took her family and taped quarters to washing machines. Because during the holidays, it would be a real treat for many to save this money. Meeting real needs.


Don’t forget to DITCH the guilt! No guilt mommas!

If you get to one – that is enough. If you do it every day – that is great too. Don’t compare. Let God and your kids guide this – so it is a rich experience for all.


Download Free Light ‘Em Up Resources

  • 2014 Planning Guide – start here and involve those kids; great to use in a small group setting as well; document helps focus your attention and guide your giving

Light Em Up Planning Doc 2014

  • 2014 Gift Tags – these handy gift tags are so helpful for our little ones. they can get the courage to walk up and say “thanks!” and sometimes that is it. however, the recipient is left with a meaningful note that explains it all. or, when you need to leave a surprise – these tags do all the work for you!

Light Em Up Gift Tags 2014

  • 2014 100 IdeasNEW, fan favorites highlighted in RED; try 1 idea every day in december or just highlight a few you want to try; you won’t run out of ideas with this list! or make your own list!

Light Em Up 100 Ideas 2014 FINAL

  • 2014 Classroom Ideas – NEW by Jennifer Green; so many teachers have taught their students how to “give” through light ’em up – consider these classroom ideas.

Light Em Up Classroom Ideas 2014



1. Comment below!

Just say HI below if you are IN! Let’s do this!!! Say your CITY, STATE, OR COUNTRY!

2. Share!

We need everyone you know (and kind of know) to join us. Share, share, share! On social media and invite others to join you. Share the stories – not so you get the glory, so that others get ideas and are inspired. #LightEmUpActs

3. Be Anonymous!

There are many ways and ideas in the list that do offer ways for our kids to give without getting the credit. That is definitely an important part of the process. It depends on the age and idea. We certainly give treats and hide. And sneak over so no one knows. And sometimes, I do want them to see the face and feel the heartfelt gratitude so they get it.



Thank you from the bottom of my heart for carrying this on – all over the world year after year. Just some of your faces and photos are featured above, but there are thousands of you and I am grateful.


Let’s LIGHT ‘EM UP!!!



For more ideas on how to make virtues, love and laughter a daily part of your family life – learn more about In This House, We Will Giggle.

In This House We Will Giggle

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    1. This is a great idea! I would love to do something like this!
      Jennifer maybe we could get together and come up with something and I can help you with the kids!

  1. This is year #2 for us and we are IN!!! Last year we did this with our small group and our combined 15 kids. This year I am using “Light ‘Em Up” to teach kindness to the First Grade Bible Club at our girls’ school. So fun and the best way to spread Christmas cheer!

  2. Sara in Dallas, GA… excited about it this year, my girls are at a fun age for this type of thing. We did it last year, but I think they’ll be a little more into it this year (and less timid about going up to strangers 😉 )

  3. Hi! Kellye here from Baton Rouge, LA and WE ARE IN!!! Our homeschool group is going to be lighting up our town this holiday season, and we cant wait!!

  4. I couldn’t be more excited about this year! We are really stepping back and turning down Christmas to focus on gratefulness and giving! We will Light ’em up in Nashville, TN!

  5. i am so in! cannot wait – roswell, georgia get ready! passing it on to several of my random acts of kindness gurus too! thanx for the tips and the downloads too! my heart was full just reading the post today! cannot wait to share with my munchkin at dinner tonight! what to do first! woo hoo!
    thank you –
    in His love

  6. Court, I got the home stomping grounds – Stone Mountain, Georgia for year number three. And we’ll take it with us while we travel.

  7. Third year and we’re in again – London, UK. So great that this post went up today – my littlies asked on the wet walk from school tonight when December starts because they want to think of a way to light up the lollipop man (crossing guard)! So we are raring to go. So excited and live that this is now ingrained in our family tradition.

    1. Courtney –

      I’m pretty sure you are the reason that Sara and I met! We both have a love of all things where we can serve with our kiddos. Sara and I are in the middle of #30daysofThanksandGiving but it wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t #lightemup too! What a fun surprise to see one of our pictures at the bottom of your post! Keep up the great work!

  8. We’re in…how do we contribute?
    How do we get the 2014 gift tags to make this even more special for our shy givers or
    reluctant receivers?

  9. I love this whole idea! Just printed all the sheets and tags, cant wait to have our family meeting and get started! Thank you so much for how easy you have made this for everyone! What a blessing!
    God Bless!!!

    1. Caroline. I am very familiar with that verse. And my children are too. I mention that at the end of the post. That is definitely a challenge with this idea – to teach them to capture the joy of giving in a way that points to Christ, not to them. I am well aware of this tension and we talk about it often. Most of our activities are anonymous. I share most of mine publicly in an effort to spur on this community. Thank you for your comment.

  10. I so love these ideas. I am brand new to your website. I love the ripple effect and how sometimes the simplest things make someone’s day. A few years ago I started sending out an email with a flower image attached. They are my good morning, Happy Monday, Happy Tuesday etc, emails. I added a new acquaintance to my list to receive a daily flower. Several months later I ran in to her and she told me that she had been out of town with her husband while he received cancer treatments. She said that she waited for her flower email every day and was so blessed when it arrived. Who knew? I have 2 young former co-workers who came to my desk and said, “when I leave this job will you still send me a flower?” No act of love or kindness is too small.

  11. Asheville, NC I can’t wait to introduce this to my 6 year old son. He loves to help others so this is going to be fun.

  12. I’m in! I make gallon ziplock bags with bottled water, beanie weenies , a plastic spoon, an applesauce, a pack of crackers, and an individually wrapped cookie/cake. Hand out to the homeless at a stoplight or anyone you see who might need lunch. It will bless you. It’s a blessing to be a blessing!

  13. Yes, we are in! Our goal is to “Light ‘Em Up” as a New Year’s resolution and to spread the light all year long! I am always amazed at the love and goodwill that is tangible during the holiday season and wonder why it can’t last all year long! In the words of Mathew West, it’s time to, “Do Something”…..thanks so much for your ideas and inspiration!

  14. We are in Richmond VA and will definitely be participating! Thank you for your ideas to help us share His love!
    VA Keevers

  15. Thank you so much for sharing! We always try to do a few things during the holidays but this list is so helpful. We will be sharing around Winder, GA.
    I am hosting and helping others host Sole Hope shoe cutting parties too – check out their site http://www.solehope.org.
    Thanks! Melissa

  16. Thank you so much for sharing. Your ideas are awesome and I will add them to my collections. Wanted to also share something that my moms group has been doing for 2 years now. We make blessings in a bag to hand out to the homeless. We have really enjoyed it and the kids are able to help make them and they love to write notes. Thanks again for inspiring me and my family.

  17. Wonderfully mission minded and keeping with Christ’s great commission. Me and my small group are definitely excited and ready to go. First time on board here in the Great White North – Edmonton, Alberta.

  18. We are in, and looking forward to using some of these great ideas here in Denton, Texas. Thanks for posting all the helpful downloads with your blog post!!

  19. My children are grown but this is great idea. I’m disabled now so can’t do this but when my children were younger we did stuff like this. Our favorite was helping a family with 5 children. We did a play on 12 days of Christmas. We also did anonymously and left a cute note. Seems like first day was a tube of tootsie rolls. One day it was pairs of socks. They enjoyed it too. It was our choir director’s family so we knew when they’d be gone plus left some at church. Good memories!

  20. Last year, my granddaughter and I made a special cake that my mother made every year at Christmas, We made them as small loaves and handed them out to our neighbors, they so appreciated the gift. I plan on doing again this year!

  21. One of my favorites is to pay for the drivers in line behind you on the toll roads. Here in Austin, Texas we are in! Thanks for the inspiration.

  22. Newbie here, but I am sooooooo in! Been yearning to do something like this, needed to stumble across your site to light that fire in me—-thank you! I’ve got a ten and nine year old that are going to love this! Oh, we’re in Woodstock, GA!

  23. These are great ideas.
    I’m in.
    I will try to get my freind that shared this on fb and see if we can do something together with our youth small group.

  24. My family and I have been seeking out ways to help others and celebrate this wonderful season of giving and gratitude. This truly was the perfect time to stumble across this post via Facebook. I can’t wait to Light ‘Em Up in Killeen, Texas!! Blessed be.

  25. Wow! Full time RVing to see the country this year. What a great way for us to spread the love of Jesus all over the U.S. of A.! We will begin at home – St. Louis, MO.

  26. My son is doing a greattreat for kids that are in the hospital at Christmas time. This will be his second year he has taken WAGONS filled with activities, color books, ect. So they have something to do while at the hospital. “WADE’S WAGON DRIVE”

  27. I am so excited by this idea! I am always looking for ways to show my kids the TRUE spirit of the season!!!!! WE R so in…….Orlando,FL!

  28. We’re in all the way from Bozeman MT! This is exactly the focus I would like our family to have this Christmas. Way to go for putting tangible ideas/actions together for people to launch on their own! Thank you for this and all you’ve done!

  29. Craig, Colorado

    We will do the “12 days of Christmas” to a family that needs extra light and love this Christmas.
    12 gifts for 12 days left on the doorstop where we run like mad. The kids love being chased so we hope to choose a family with some spirit this year.

  30. Hi, we are IN from Sarasota, FL. I didn’t know this was around, but we have been doing something similar for the past several years. We call it ding, dong, ditch and make gifts/treats and leave it on the door of someone’s house and ring the door bell and leave. All are anonymous.

  31. My daughter (5th grade) had her first KKids meeting at school. It’s a club designed to help the community in different ways. She came home on Wednesday and told me HER idea was to recognize the janitors and lunch ladies at school with cards!! They will have each grade sign a card to give all of the under appreciated staff! It was a proud moment!! We are definitely IN!!! Thanks for the great ideas!

  32. I saw this link on a friend’s Facebook page and wanted to do this in my 1st grade Catholic school classroom. The teacher before me did Elf on the Shelf activities, which I think are great, but I wanted to change it up a little. As soon as I saw this link I knew our Elf would become a Good Deed Elf, bringing supplies and activities for my students to do each school day in the month of December! We will be sharing God’s Love one day at a time through a good deed! Thank you for your inspiration!

  33. Our family is in – from Sterling, CO! This will be the third year for us – the kids are so excited about it again and already are thinking up their own ideas. It’s a beautiful way to spend December! Thank you for your inspiration. 🙂

  34. We are WAY in! Love this…been looking for a way to help my daughter learn to think of others during this season! Chico, California

  35. We did this last year and it was honestly the highlight of my year! I have been looking forward to this all year long. We gave a candy cane with a tag to a police officer and he almost cried! He had tears in his eyes. Melted my heart. A candy cane! It made his day. Thank you for starting this- it truly is amazing.

    1. I LOVE this idea! My husband is a police officer and he said he would also appreciate a thought like this. I’m going to buy a box of candy canes, make tags that say “thank you for your service” and keep them in the car to pass to our local officers. Thank you!!!

  36. I love this so much! We don’t have a ton of money but I love that some of these don’t take a lot! Im excited to grab my 3 girls and start shining! 🙂 thanks for this site and for the great ideas! – Conroe TX

  37. I was having a terrible morning,Angry and resentful and scared.
    I caught your blog took the time to read it as I love hearing and remembering the one thing that makes me smile is helping others.
    It reminded me that when I focus on the real needs, I get to forget what foolishness others put on me.
    Thank you for the great Ideas
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours.


  38. I’m in….been going since Thanksgiving Day. Just got back from taking a hot-out-of-the-oven Chocolate Pound Cake to the Fire Dept & they were thrilled! This is SO much fun!!

  39. We are IN! So empowering! My little girl is recently 3 and we talk about filling people’s “buckets” all the time. What a great extension of that. Can’t wait!! We are in Cleveland, Ohio!

  40. Amanda from Burleson, Tx! We are IN this year for the first year! I have two little ones and I am excited to get them focused on GIVING this season 🙂 We are going to have a “Kindness Elf” with our Elf on a Shelf this year and he is going to challenge my kids to LITE IT UP!!

  41. I can’t wait to start! The pen and paper are in hand and the list keeps getting larger for people we can bless this Christmas season. Even my hubby was giving me awesome ideas he thought of. Serving totally captures my heart! Thank you!

    PS – Have you ever offered your logo as a .PNG?

  42. We are in!! Me and my 2 boys: 2&4 yrs. we live in South Wales, UK!! Thankful to have stumbled across ur blog and have just bought ur book… Great stuff!! xx

  43. We can’t wait to get started! This is our fourth year doing this is it is one of our favorite parts of the season! We are all in!
    McDonough, GA

  44. We already do giving back projects each year as part of Advent, but I am loving all of your new ideas. Thank you! We will be adding some to our list this year.

  45. Eastern Colorado, in for the third year in a row! I print all of the information for my entire MOPS group, and my mom prints it out for her big Bible study. Our little community is blessed by this! 🙂

  46. I’m In!! From Mechanicsville, MD
    My son is already excited to spread joy!
    Going to be taking this into my sunday school class as well as start a little group in my area to join forces and spread kindness!

  47. The Williams crew in San Rafael, CA are in! Someone had planted a seed in my heart earlier, so we were planning to put together “snacks and socks packs” for the homeless, and know our kids will love all these ways to share the love of Jesus with even more people!

    p.s. LOVE the book! 😉

  48. My family is ALL IN! We live in the Catskill Mountains in NY! I am sharing your post on my blog and hopefully challenging my readers and friends who live in the are to join me! Thank you so much for the ideas! God Bless! We are very excited!

  49. Our Homeschool Co-Op group will be going out to “Light Em Up” this week in Gadsden, Alabama. Thank you, Courtney, for your wonderful ideas and helping us show the love of Jesus to others.

  50. We are in-Fairfax, VA! Every Halloween someone in our neighborhood starts a “You’ve been Boo’d” chain where they secretly leave Halloween treats on two neighbor’s front steps and then those families do the same for two others. It’s always a lot of fun.

    I’m going to use that same idea to spread “Light ‘Em Up” throughout our neighborhood and town. We’re going to leave a little treat along with Light ‘Em Up resources for two neighbors. We’ll challenge them to do the same for two other families in the neighborhood but also take the resources they’ve been given and go out into our community to spread some love and kindness. Thank you for this idea and these wonderful resources!

  51. I think this is great for ANYONE! My kids are grown and gone but I think it would be fun for my husband and I to do! I’ll note this site for our church preschool too. 🙂 THANKS!

  52. We’re in! Goose Creek, SC.

    I’ve been so overwhelmed lately and feeling like I don’t have enough time to just love on my kids. With these ideas, we’ll create opportunities to love on others. My kids are all about the random compliment to a complete stranger, so I think we’re going to rock this! I’m excited!

  53. Hi, we’re IN!! I love your comment that even if we only do ONE thing on ONE day, we’re still good moms and we’re still making a difference! So excited that I found this on Pinterest!

  54. We’re in! Our Mom’s group at church is joining in with a “Week of Giving”. Thank you for all the great ideas! – Tulsa, OK

  55. I love this and am having so much fun doing it with my 2 year old! We would love to have gift tags in spanish. Does anyone know how to translate the ones already made in English?

  56. I just heard about you and this awesome progress from the God centered mom podcast. I can’t wait to share this with my family.

  57. Mine and three other families (total of 9 children) are handing out candy canes at the local mall tomorrow. We are SO excited to love on our community.

  58. My 9 year old collected over 40 gifts for the kids staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Mobile, Alabama and about $200.

  59. Thank you! We have done some of your ideas and I love seeing my children fill with joy as they feel that warmth inside from sharing.

  60. Hi, I read your message on MOB this morning and would like to win a copy of your book. One of the ways my son shows kindness is by speaking up in a timely and appropriate way about what he has learned about Christ. When this happens, as it did last night, it gives me encouragement that we are working together to bring Jesus to a weary world. This is the day the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

  61. Hi Courtney,
    Not to late to let you know, our family was in this past December, from the suburb of Paris, France…. Happily in… in French. Keep on letting God inspire you… Marie-Laure

  62. If you are going to spend weeks decorating your house with Christmas lights and then attracting visitors from near and far to your road, you might as well do it to raise funds for charity. At least that might placate the neighbors as the crowds descend to stare and enjoy the spectacle.

  63. I love what you are doing with your children and family, this is great. I live in Heidelberg, MS 39439. I will be using a lot off your Light ’em up! ideas they are truly great

  64. Simply desire to say your article is as astonishing. The clearness to your publish is simply cool and that i could think you’re a professional in this subject.

    Fine along with your permission allow me to snatch your feed to stay up to date with impending post.

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