Allison and family

Allison Hottinger and Lisa Kalberer are sisters with a passion for giving back. Christmas is one of their favorite holidays but, after they started raising their own families, they realized that the true meaning of Christmas was becoming lost in commerciality. 

With that in mind, Allison and Lisa wrote a story and crafted a wooden manger and clay Baby Jesus, hoping to help their families and others focus on giving and the true meaning of the season. That first manger and clay figurine served as prototypes for what is now a concept for families everywhere who want to teach their children about the spirit of giving.

Allison and her family live in Ladera Ranch, California. Lisa lives in Austin, Texas.

The Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

Yes! The Giving Manger has been our “Divine Detour.” We were inspired with the idea when I (Allison) had five small children and Lisa had recently been diagnosed with MS. We weren’t looking to add anything else into our already crazy lives, let alone a business. But God had a plan for us and here were are. The Giving Manger has blessed our families in more ways than we could have imagined. 

The Giving Manger (Worthy Kids, October 2020) is your first book. What inspired it?

Our children were so caught up in what they could get for Christmas. Their lists kept getting longer. We knew this wasn’t the way we wanted Christmas to be celebrated in our homes.

A trip down memory lane reminded us of a tradition our neighbor friend did. A way to shift the focus of Christmas. We made the first manger in our garage, sculpted the baby with our own hands and set out to write a story. The story needed to do two things, explain the tradition and get families excited. But more than anything we wanted it to capture the spirit of The Giving Manger and the joy that giving brings to you and those you serve. 

Please share a little bit about the story in the book. 

The Giving Manger tells the story of a family who shifts the focus of their Christmas. Young Anne and Ben always look forward to Christmas. Each year their dad makes a special wooden toy for them, but he tells them this year will be different. They are starting a new tradition, and there will be more gifts this year, starting December 1.

The kids misunderstand, thinking they will be getting more gifts, but instead, the gifts are given by them to others. Initially disappointed, the children quickly change their attitudes when they see the joy that doing kind things and giving to others brings.
Throughout the Christmas season, Anne and Ben do acts of kindness for others, placing a piece of straw in the manger their father made for them, and on Christmas, they place the baby Jesus in a full bed of straw.

Lisa and Allison

What is included in The Giving Manger box set? How does the manger itself work?

The Giving Manger box set includes a hardcover book, wooden manger, bundle of straw and baby Jesus. 

Once your family reads the story together, it’s time to place the empty manger in a prominent spot in the house. In the days leading up to Christmas, family members place a piece of straw in the manger each time they perform a kind deed or act of service. Filling the manger will become a fun, interactive project for the entire family, prompting even young children to look for ways to love and serve others.

The Christmas season, like everything in 2020, will probably be different for a lot of people this year. Please share a few ideas of how we can serve the elderly, especially given restrictions for social distancing?

Christmas 2020 is definitely going to be tricky. But we love a good challenge! There are ways to show love and serve, even from a distance. 

A few simple suggestions: wave and say hi! Masks can hide a smile, but a hello can’t be missed.  

Drop flowers on a doorstep. Who doesn’t want to receive a poinsettia right now!

Send a card! 

We have a FREE printable download on our website. Printable coloring pages and a letter template. 

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Definitely chicken noodle soup. And homemade bread!

What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?

Matthew 25:40. I’ve loved it ever since I was a little girl and my mom read Tolstoy’s short story “Shoemaker Martin” to me. The idea that as you serve others you also serve Jesus just jumped out at me and is the inspiration for The Giving Manger. I try to live my life lifting and loving those around me as Jesus would and know I’m showing Him love as I do. 

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

For sure the little girl in high heels. Fake it until you make it!

Thank you! It’s nice to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.

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For more information about The Giving Manger, visit the website and/or on Facebook or Instagram

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