Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Truly Trusting

I want to learn to truly trust God. Instead of being amazed when God answers prayer, I want to have a grateful nonchalance born of absolute faith that God will keep His word.

But I'm not there yet and so yesterday I was amazed when I was contacted on Facebook by a young woman who knew we were praying for paper for our shoeboxes and called a local printing company to ask for a donation. This company has agreed to supply enough paper for 10,000 boxes! (yes, that exclamation point indicates my lack of absolute faith) God is so good.

I've been praying for 500 stuffed animals each week and last week things were slim. The week before God had provided 1640 in one week but by last Saturday I only had 277 stuffies. I thought it might be the first week that God didn't answer my prayer. But I was surprised (yes, surprised) when I went to church and found a donation of 275 NEW stuffed animals (pictured above). This brought last week's total to 552.

God also answered prayer when I went to Wal-Mart and they allowed me to order a large quantity of crayons. The items are coming in.

I added up shoebox spending a few days ago and found I've already spent almost as much as the total for last year and I still have lots of school supplies to buy, but it didn't worry me. Maybe in some ways God is starting to get His promises more firmly rooted in my too-often-doubting heart.

There's always something to keep trusting God for. Right now I'm trying to figure out what to write for a radio ad for our upcoming packing party. And how to organize volunteers. And how to transport and arrange all the items.

I must have been at the end of the line when God handed out organizational skills so I'm back to trusting. And we know that even our faith comes from God.

So there's nothing to do but trust Him. Truly.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What a Difference a Decade Makes

The other day I was thinking back to the year 2000 and I commented to my husband, "Do you remember how ten years ago I used to lie in the hammock all summer and read books?" He chuckled and nodded, sharing the memory.

Life in the summer was lazy back then. Of course, in the year 2000 I also packed only 300 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. So I guess that's what you get when you spend the summer reading in the backyard.

Now, ten years later, our goal is to pack 12,000 boxes and I spend my days very differently. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss those lazy days but on the other hand there's a lot more meaning to even the mundane sorting and hauling I do now.

I'm amazed at how quickly my emotions can cycle in the midst of these days from high to low, from absolute trust in God's provision to feeling that I'm all alone in all of this.

When I think of the victories of the past, I'm confident that our faithful God will provide all our needs and that I'll come to the worship service on Sunday, September 26th--the day after our giant Operation Christmas Child packing party--with shouts of praise.

But in the meantime I struggle with loneliness in making decisions. Today I've been trying to write up some copy for radio advertising for the packing party and I'm filled with doubts. I don't even know what hours to set for the day of the event. Grace Church is hosting the party but I don't really have a committee to help me there--at least not yet. I know that I'm supposed to be the one who establishes that (insert big sigh here).

But my Operation Christmas Child Northwestern PA Area Team isn't really in charge of the packing party either. I don't feel like I have anyone to come alongside me and help with the organization. I approached two people but neither of them were willing and/or able.

So yesterday my regular Bible reading led me to I Kings 19 where I read the story of God's provision for Elijah when he was depressed following his great victory. An angel tended to Elijah and made sure he was fed and rested. And then God showed Himself to Elijah in a gentle whisper so Elijah would understand that God was with him even when it wasn't so evident.

God was there WITH Elijah in the cave. And then comes my favorite part. In I Kings 19:15-21 God gave Elijah very specific directions of exactly where to go and exactly who to anoint to give him help and protection. God had a plan in place and He made it so, so clear. And then Elisha stepped up to be an amazing apprentice for Elijah. Elisha was so committed he burned all his tools so he couldn't go back to his past occupation. I want that person on my team.

Oh, man, do I want God to give me a plan like that. I'm going to keep listening for His whispers and waiting on His plan and trusting that He'll provide the help I need.

And I'm waiting expectantly to see what 2020 will be like for me if, as we used to say, "the Lord tarries".

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Alexis Challenge

Alexis is seven years old and she loves Operation Christmas Child. She's the grandchild of our pastor, Al Detter, and his wife Marie and last year she worked like a trooper to bag candy for our gift-filled boxes. She was also an enthusiastic volunteer at our huge shoebox packing party and, with her grandmother, she carefully chose the items to fill six boxes of her own.

Touched by the needs of children around the world last year, Alexis wanted to do more to help but "I don't have any money," she said. Then her grandmother suggested that she could save money for the next year. Alexis decided that whatever money she received during the year would go into a special piggy bank to be saved for Operation Christmas Child.

A week or so ago Alexis broke into her piggy bank and they counted her money. Amazed by all her wealth she exclaimed, "I have twenty-eight dollars!" This was a huge sum for Alexis but she was determined to give it all away. With her grandmother she was off to Wal-Mart where she strategically purchased Crayola crayons and spiral bound notebooks on sale to put into shoeboxes.

These may seem like simple gifts, but they will be treasures for the children who receive them. In Uganda, for example, a box of crayons costs the equivalent of $5.00 American--about the same as a weekly wage. Families have to provide their own school supplies for their children to attend school and must often make the hard choice between feeding their families and buying those supplies so they can get an education. Receiving crayons in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox frees up money to buy food.

Lejla Allison who received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox in 1993 in Bosnia tells of using the same notebook over and over again for several years and erasing the writing with a rubber band wrapped around a stick. When she received a notebook in her shoebox she was overjoyed.

These gifts from Alexis are an investment in the Kingdom. She gave everything--just like that little boy gave Jesus his lunch of loaves and fishes--and I believe Jesus is going to multiply her gift and bless thousands in His name.

When's the last time you gave like Alexis? Have you saved strategically to make a sacrifice? Have you dared to open your hand and give it all away?

Take The Alexis Challenge...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

They're Praying

A week or so ago I received a letter from a family of 5 children in the country of Jordan who received some of our Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. They wrote, "We'd like to thank you so much for your prayers and gifts. We pray for you, too, may God pay you back all the happiness and peace."

One of the most humbling things about Operation Christmas Child has been receiving letters such as this in which fellow-believers around the world say they are praying for me (us) and for the project here. I think of that often as I wend my way along in Shoebox World.

Today, for example, I was excited to be able to buy 976 pairs of high-quality children's socks in various sizes for only 20 cents per pair. I was also elated about getting two vehicles full of boxes moved from a warehouse to our storage area. God has been blessing us in amazing ways with stuffed animals and our storage container (which should be renamed the ARK) now holds 7,000 of them.

Then, I thought about the thousands of school supplies I still need for our boxes and the doubts swarmed like mayflies in June. Also, I finally got an empty Operation Christmas Child carton and found that no matter how hard I try I can only get 18 of these Crest Spinbrush boxes we're using at the packing party to fit into a carton (as opposed to 22 of the deco boxes that we can't use). My husband and I worked on the puzzle for some time with no better luck.

In the ebb and flow of Shoebox World I need to keep reminding myself of the prayers of the saints around the world being offered on our behalf. I need to keep reminding myself that Jesus Himself is interceding for me, too.

No matter how many roadblocks seem to come up, no matter how big the pile of crayons and notebooks we need to amass, God has a plan and His power is released because....

they're praying!