Thursday, October 25, 2018

Doubly Blessed

Again this morning I am searching my journal and recording God's answers to so many prayers. I guess I'll have to pull out journals for the past year or so because the prayers go back that far at least.

And all those streams of prayer flowed into a river of it this week.  Anticipation has been building for months as we waited for our new twin grandsons to be born.  A double blessing in answer to more than a year of prayers.  Week by week I prayed for them to stay safe inside their mom--to grow and develop to full term babies. And I prayed for God's will for their delivery but told God my desire was to avoid a c-section and allow those babies to be born vaginally.

My daughter is an obstetrician and knows all that could go wrong in the process of pregnancy, labor and delivery. She prepared for everything and planned she would probably deliver premature babies. I continued to pray for healthy full-term boys and rejoiced as each week went by that moved her closer to her due date.

And, praise God, she made it to the date planned to induce her labor--just over 38 weeks.  Jim and I drove from Erie to Chicago on Sunday, greeted our daughter and her husband, and then settled into the hospital waiting room with her mother-in-law and father-in-law and our other daughter.

Then...we waited.

We were excited at 11:00 pm when she was 5 cm. dilated.  Now we knew those babies' birth dates would not be 10/21/18 but the doctor predicted they would come by "early morning" on 10/22/18.

Then...we waited.

At 2:00 am she was still 5 cm. then at 4:20 am we got a report she was 6 cm.

Then...we waited.

When she was still 6 cm. at 8:30 am I went to the beautiful hospital chapel (see picture above) to pray and I texted friends who are prayer warriors to pray with me.  By 9:30 she was still 6 cm. and they decided to wait just one more hour before doing a c-section.

Praise God...then there was progress.  By 10:30 am she was at 8.5 cm. (I mean, I'm not sure how you get it measured down to 8.5 cm. but it does sound more encouraging than 8 cm.)  And by 12:30pm she was getting ready to push.

Then...we waited.

Three hours of pushing later and at 3:15 pm they moved her to the operating room where the delivery would take place.  Twins are delivered in the operating room because of the risk of complications.

Then...we waited. 5:28 pm we got a text message with this picture and our joy broke out in the waiting room!

On the right is George Bradford who was born first at about 4:10 pm at 5 lb. 8oz. And on the left is Augustine Shaw who was born next at 7 lb. 1 oz.

It was more than two hours later before I could see my daughter in the recovery room and she recounted more of the story.  It seems that after 3 hours of pushing, George's heart rate decelerated so they needed to use the vacuum extractor to deliver him.

Then...Augustine's heart rate plummeted so he was delivered by emergency c-section. I think my daughter deserves Continuing Education credits for enduring such an array of pregnancy/delivery experiences.

Everyone is recovering now. (I mean, I think I'm almost recovered--lol)  Little George is still in the NICU because he wasn't able to keep his blood sugar level stable, but we hope he'll be out soon.

And so I sit and thumb through my journal and look at so many prayer requests that were answered--not exactly all in the way I'd hoped--but still answered fully and completely by our loving God.

Doubly blessed for sure.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Homecoming. My Facebook newsfeed has been filled with pictures of my friends' children in beautiful dresses ready to attend homecoming dances.  So I, too, decided to post pictures of beautiful dresses. There aren't any children wearing them yet, but they're on their way to share the love of Jesus  with the girls who will one day wear them.  

God blessed me this year with 31 fancy dresses that I've found at rock-bottom sale prices--dresses that would cost many times what I paid for them.  So at tonight's Operation Christmas Child area team meeting we decided to have a mini packing party and put them all into boxes with matching shoes, jewelry, and hair ornaments.  

And, by God's design, I had 31 quality Barbie dolls that I purchased at 90% off when Toys R Us went out of business.  They made the perfect fillers!

After we packed our boxes we talked about homecoming--the ultimate homecoming described in Revelation 7:9-12--"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

I can't wait for that homecoming, and I'm praying the little girls who receive these dresses will be there--around the throne to worship the Lamb.

As you look at these special dresses will you pray for that, too?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

So Many Answers

Our 2018 Operation Christmas Child Community-Wide Shoebox Packing Party is over with 30,590 boxes packed. Wow, that's crazy!

I've been spending some time looking back through my journal at all the prayers God answered throughout this year that brought us to the victory of Saturday. And I can't even begin to know all the prayers that were prayed around our country and even in other countries around the world.

This year especially I am in awe of how God uses His people--the body of Christ--to come together to do things that can never be done by one individual.  People, it's incredible!

If you've read this blog you've followed the progress through the week of God's provision for the boxes and cartons to arrive on time, for the day-by-day box folding, and a host of other details that God orchestrated.

But behind the scenes as we went into the big weekend I was blown away by God's goodness in undertaking for my own deficiencies.

I was so upset with myself for dropping the ball on making contacts for things I wanted to happen to make the environment for this party better.  For one, I wanted to plan meals for the volunteers throughout the week.  I prayed about this, yet I never organized it.  The body of Christ came together, though, as people brought in donations and offered to bring in food without even being asked.  We were gifted with leftovers from a staff dinner on Tuesday night and throughout the week our lunches and dinners were covered all by God's grace.

I'd wanted to arrange for decorations that would give volunteers something to look at while walking through the line, but, again, I never asked anyone to do that. I was amazed on Friday when Donna, who has gifts of creativity, took the OCC pictures I gave her and some posters I printed a few years ago and made attractive wall arrangements and then constructed two trees of folded GO boxes. Then two teens, Korin and Kaytlyn, drew some great art on a white board that was a tremendous focal point.

On the day of the packing party I was sad again that I'd neglected to ask someone to take pictures. Then Jeannie came up to me and said, "I see you don't have anyone by your photo props, do you want me to take some pictures?"  Well, SURE I did!  And she took amazing pictures and videos and posted them on Facebook.

All evening long on Friday and all day long on Saturday God kept leading us step by step.  People made suggestions and we made a few corrections. We tried hard to keep the lines moving.

Still, by 2:00 when we were at 26,000 or so I doubted we would even get to the 28,032 boxes we did last year.  I confess my normal task-orientation went into overdrive as I passed slower people in line in an effort to get more boxes completed.

This was the latest packing party ever as we went right up to 5:10 pm before we ran out of school packs and decided it was time to FINALLY stop.  We are praising God for the 30,590 boxes packed!

On Friday night we had 232 volunteers from 18 different organizations come to pack and on Saturday we had 337 people from 34 different organization come to pack boxes.

As I looked through journal entries--starting back at the beginning of 2018--I found the one pictured above where God confirmed our goal of 30,000.  It seemed like a big jump over last year's 28,032 but God confirmed it and brought it to pass with an extra 590 just for fun.

Still, it was a hard-fought year.  Amanda, who is in charge of organizing and stocking many of the line items, had major surgery in July and had restrictions on lifting.  Pam, who was in charge of all the clothing items and school packs, developed a sore throat and cold the week of the packing party and had to struggle through.

Then on Saturday morning two major leads had a conflict and one walked off the job and left the packing party completely.  I am so sad about all of this, but, again by God's grace, other volunteers took up the slack and we kept going.  This, I KNOW, was a direct result of prayer.

On Sunday I got a message from Christy, my OCC prayer partner friend in Florida who also does a large packing party. Christy told me she was at a Beth Moore simulcast on Saturday morning when she got a strong urge to pray for our packing party.  Since they were in the middle of a worship song she decided to wait until the song was over to pray. But she said she then felt such an urgency that she KNEW she needed to stop and pray right then. So she turned in her pew to face north and held out her arms and prayed.  Praise God for her obedience, because only God knows how her prayers kept us going that morning.

God is sovereign and His plans will not be thwarted.  When we pray for one another--even though miles away--He is faithful and answers.

So...thank YOU friends for praying. Thank you for your faithful prayers for stuffed animals. Several thousand were donated the week and weekend of the packing party and only the last few hundred boxes did not have a stuffed animal (we substituted water bottles in those.)

Thank you to the person named Beth who sent me a package of beautiful fillers for 2-4 year old boxes from New Hampshire and to Cheryl who mailed a big box of new stuffed animals from Indiana.

Thank you to Pam and Keith who drove 13 hours from Kansas City, MO to be with us and for the group from the Poconos, to Lael and her group from Columbus, OH and to my dear friend Lisa who drove up from Virginia and brought 500+ cute Crayola crayon tins to load up with smaller items.

Thank you to the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people who were part of making this packing party happen in some way.  I may never know your name, but God knows. He sees. And He rewards you with a part of the blessing.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday's First

The morning started with a group of people waiting in the parking lot for the church to be opened. This turned out to be a wonderful thing because we started an impromptu prayer meeting that was a true blessing.

Once in the building the majority of people started in on the box folding while the core team did last minute preparations for the Christian Academy students to start the packing adventure.

The 70 students and adults arrived at 9:30 and before long the packing commencedı.  We had the kids circulate only through the Commons area so the carbonizing area was in the same room and that seemed to work out well.  By the time they were ready to leave they'd packed 3,152 boxes (compared to 4,670 at the end of the same time last year.)

The box folding continued through the day but it was impossible to know how many boxes were folded since some were being used as others were being folded.

The evening packing started at 6:00 pm and it was hard to evaluate if having the school packs made much of a difference in the time it took people to go through the line. The registration folks report there were 229 people there tonight, and that's a record.

By the time the packing ended at 9:00 we'd packed 10,419 boxes.  So...we're about a third of the way there.  There are about 1,500 boxes to fold but they are reserving 500 in the storage container to see if they are needed.  I really want to pack every single box we have, but we will see....

And we will see soon....

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday Thrust

Just hours now until the start of our 2018 Operation Christmas Child packing adventure.

Since I knew the day would be getting warmer I started early this morning in the attic to get 115 bags of larger stuffed animals down the pull-down stairs so we could pack them up to take them to the church.  It's easier if I can lower the bags down to Jim, so when he had to leave to go to the church to meet the driver with two of the pup trucks to hold our boxes shoeboxes I had to stop.

A few hours later Jim and Myron made a trip to Donna's house to pick up the large plastic bags she and her husband had folded and stored in their home.  It took four vehicles to hold them all.

When they returned we decided to go back home and fetch the Schriefer Zoo before it got too hot.  I got all the bags hauled down and the guys loaded them--nearly filling the box truck.

By the time we had all those garbage bags unloaded and added to the ones from yesterday our packing party room looks more like a landfill.  The bags might not be aesthetic but they're a practical way for us to store so many thousands of stuffies.

I was excited to have Lisa Seale arrive from Virginia and we set to work filling the 500 cute
Crayola tins she brought us. They'll make really nice fillers.

Of course the box folding went on all day with the size of the crowd fluctuating but peaking in the evening with a large group of middle schoolers.

Our rooms are pretty much ready and we ended the day with 23,210 boxes folded.

Just waiting for the third load of stuffed animals to come out of the dryer...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wednesday Wins

Praise God for some big wins today.  We got the trailer of stuffed animals unloaded and in the evening unloaded another trailed full of school packs that were put together and stored in the basement of a team member.

And...the box folding continued with a good group of about 20 people at any given time throughout the day.  We ended the day with over 16,000 folded!

The Commons area (second stage of the line) is nearly set up and tomorrow the set-up will commence in the gym area while box folding moves to the youth rooms.

The couple pictured above, OCC volunteers Pam and Keith, drove in from Kansas City, Missouri (a 13 hour drive) to be with us for the packing party. How amazing!

We also had a precious prayer walk tonight as we thank God again for the wins of the day and the wins yet to come.  Abundance.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuesday Tidings

Despite its busyness today felt like a day of rest.

We were blessed this morning with 27 students from Iroquois High School who came for a 9/11 service day to help us fold boxes. They worked hard all morning and assembled 2400 boxes by themselves.

We had a great group of volunteers today--probably 30-40 different persons throughout the day.  And it felt like a vacation because I got to spend a lot of time sitting and talking to these friends while we labeled and folded boxes together.

Teresa and her mother-in-law drove a few hours from Brockville to partner with us today. It was great to trade stories of God's goodness in our lives.

I spent some time talking with Julie and once again rehearsing His goodness even in the midst of trials she is enduring in her life. Praying together was a special joy.

My friend Dawn Ward from OCC visited this morning and we got to take a prayer walk around the building.  The evening brought another prayer walk as four of us prayed our way around again,  trusted God together and anticipated His victory.

By the end of the day we'd not only made two trips with a truck to pick up many of the items stored offsite BUT we finished the day with 10,008 boxes folded! And, thanks to althea ah=mazing volunteers they were folded in under 36 hours.

The towers of boxes on the pallets are falling but we still have another 20,492 to fold.

What a great day!