The crisp, fall air brings to mind cozy days at home, time with family, and making memories. It’s also a time of year that brings change. The leaves turn from green to golds and reds, the bright flowers shift to a dormant state, and little birds leave the nest.

The fall season is also the time when our own ‘little birds’ leave the nest for college, and those days are filled both with joy and sorrow.

I remember when our oldest daughter was finishing up high school. My husband and I were so excited for her but nervous about how our family would be altered once she left the house. Our goal in raising our three daughters had always been to confidently send them off when the time came to begin their adventure of discovering God’s plans for their lives, but it was still a difficult transition. That sweet little person who’d been there for 18 years was turning into an adult at what seemed to be the speed of light.

I knew there were many things I would miss about having our daughter home all the time, but there was one thing I was completely looking forward to—sending care packages! Whether it’s for a college student, a new mom, a missionary, or someone else in need, care packages are a beautiful way to let someone know they are thought of and very much loved.

The first one I sent my daughter included some of her favorite homemade cookies, other snacks that she loved, a box of microwave popcorn, packets of cocoa and tea, a gift card for a coffee shop nearby (I grabbed that when we were dropping her off at Welcome Weekend), and the most important thing you can send a college student…cash.

It was a hit!

That’s when the idea hit me. I loved creating care packages, but I knew several moms who had no idea where to start. So, I decided to host my first “Care Package Party.” I planned it for right before the fall finals, and it was so much fun. And you can do it too!

The first thing to do is decide how many moms you would like to invite and create an invitation. I like to use Evite. In your invitation, you explain that you will be taking care of all the shopping (there are so many of your friends who will LOVE this part the most!). I usually request about $30.00 per person to cover the cost of the items. The invitation can also suggest the attendees bring a letter they’ve written their child and any other personal items they want to include. You can also include a ‘what to bring’ section in the Evite and ask your guests to bring an appetizer to share so you have some yummy goodies to nosh on.

Here’s the basic list of things that I would typically purchase (or make) for the boxes:

• Snack size candy bars

• Granola bars or trail mix

• Homemade chocolate chip cookies

• Small packet of index cards

• Blue, black, and red pens

• Yellow highlighter pens

• Pencils

• $5 Starbucks card

• Microwave popcorn

• Cocoa packets

• Tea packets

• Emergen-C packets

• Advil or Tylenol

• Small bag of potato chips

• Gum

• Mints

• Anything else that would make a fun addition

I also purchase the mailing boxes, tissue for wrapping and packing the items, and packing tape.

At the beginning of my party, I arranged all the goodies in baskets or containers on our dining room table so each mom could ‘build’ her box how she wished. While we did this, it was so refreshing to chat and catch up with each other, as most of us hadn’t seen each other since our kids had graduated from high school.

Once we were finished packing up the boxes, I gathered my friends into the living room and we all shared updates about our college kids. After the last mom shared, we then took turns praying for each other’s children. We did this by praying for the mom and college student to our right; that way, we made sure to pray for everyone. This became my favorite part of the night.

I love 2 Timothy 1:3-7, in which the apostle Paul reminds Timothy that he had been gifted with a legacy of prayer through his mother and grandmother. The passage says, “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Prayer is a vital part of the care package. As we prayed for our college kids and each other, the Holy Spirit carried our prayers to the Father and the room was filled with His glory. Covering our children in prayer is the most important thing we can do for them, no matter their age.

This fall season, I encourage you to pray for your college kids and send off those fabulous care packages. Or even better, consider hosting your own care package party! It is a tangible and beautiful way to send a big “I love you” to your little bird.

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