Monday, December 27, 2010

Post Christmas?

Today is December 27th and that means, I guess, that this is the Post-Christmas season. I don't think I ever fully got into the Pre-Christmas season and I'm hoping that's because Operation Christmas Child makes me 'think Christmas' all year long. Today I packed up two more straggler shoeboxes to mail to Operation Christmas Child headquarters in Boone. When my husband helped a friend move recently they found 2 boxes their children had packed and forgotten to turn in by the deadline. So I'm putting them in the mail today because that means 2 more children will have a gospel opportunity.

Yesterday morning I went shopping at 6:00 am looking for after-Christmas sales. I went to 4 stores and didn't find anything cheap enough to buy for shoeboxes. I came home with only a box of mac and cheese and a damaged tire. In a parking lot my car slid and hit a curb. So now it's at the tire store getting a new rim and new tires and finding out if the tie rods are damaged. It was an expensive trip with nothing to show for it. But we'd been procrastinating about putting the needed tires on the car so I'm taking that as one of God's "working together for good" activities.

Yesterday I looked back over my journal for January and February of 2010 and started dreaming about goals to set for Operation Christmas Child this year. What does God want to give us this year as far as shoebox numbers? What ministry goals does He want us to prayerfully pursue? Each year as I look back and see what God did for us I stand amazed, yet I still want more. I want new territory and bigger victories by His grace.

When we finished with the community-wide packing party this year (if you missed the video you can go to and search for "Erie, PA packing party") I asked our team what they thought the maximum was we could pack in a day at Grace Church. This year we packed 12,670 in 6 hours and they felt that maximum would be 15,000 in one day. So should that be our goal this year? God, You can do anything, but what are we ready to receive?

We received 27,444 boxes in Northwestern PA this year--a bit under the goal of 30,333 we prayed for. So how do we set a goal this year? I'm praying about that and asking for God's direction.

So, really, this isn't Post-Christmas at's just Pre-Christmas 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Best Friend's Birthday

I'm trying to get into the Christmas spirit. I don't know why that's so hard for me. Maybe it's because I kind of 'do Christmas' all year-round with Operation Christmas Child. I just don't feel any enthusiasm for the holiday.

My children are all coming home this weekend to celebrate an early family Christmas. Julie, my youngest, is doing her residency in OB/GYN and has to work at the hospital on Christmas weekend, so she's flying in for this weekend. My oldest, Amy, and her husband, Greg, will be driving from New York City and middle daughter, Jen, will drive in from the Pittsbugh area. I'm trying to get final details ready but it just doesn't seem like it's really Christmas.

So this morning while I was running I started to wonder how I would feel and how I would prepare for my best friend's birthday (this is assuming I actually had a best friend--which I don't). If Jesus is my friend then how do I get ready for His birthday? How do I honor Him?

Let me say that I have a real problem saying that Jesus is "my best friend". I honestly don't feel I have a very friend-like relationship with Him. I've been struggling for several years with trying to get this right. I know, I know--every relationship is different and there isn't any real right, but still, I struggle.

Do I pray to God or to Jesus? Do I seek to have a close relationship with God the Father or with Jesus? How does this really flesh out when one of the persons in the relationship is a spirit? I want to put my head in God's lap but He doesn't have one. So I still struggle to define my growing spirituality and can't bring myself to say Jesus is my best friend.

Still, I think about preparing for a friend's birthday. If I had a best friend I would know what she wanted, I'd be happy to give it to her, and I'd spare no expense or time in helping her celebrate.

So as I get ready for Jesus' birthday I think about what He would want. I know He said that whatever we do to "the least of these" we do to Him. So I think I'm going to go online to and use the new Build-A-Box feature to pack ONE MORE box for Operation Christmas Child. I'll bet Jesus would be happy with that birthday gift.

And maybe the joy that one box will bring will stimulate my joy in the season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I've been writing cards and stuffing envelopes and sticking on stamps, which isn't unusual for this time of year. But I'm not sending Christmas cards; instead, I've been writing thank you notes to all the churches in our area who brought in shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Last year I wrote out 47 of them and this year I've done 110 so far and still have more to do. Some I can't even do yet because I don't have copies of the shoe box drop-off logs from a few of the relay centers.

As I write each note and look at the number of shoe boxes collected by that church, I mentally subtract that number from our total. This reminds me of the impact of each gift and helps me visualize that each box is a part of our goal. If a church brought in 8 boxes, I realize that without them our total would have been only 27,436 instead of 27,444.

I am so full of thanks to God as I look at the totals of boxes that have been processed here in the US at the 7 Processing Centers. Right now that total stands at 4,665,099 boxes.

God, we pray still for that goal of 5.5 million boxes to bless children around the world. The harvest is here and you have abundantly provided. Please move those who could still participate by packing and mailing their gifts to Boone or by using the Build-A-Box online packing to contribute. Move in hearts, Father, to bring in these gifts.

And we'll respond with gratitude for Your glory.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Smell of Hope

On Monday, November 22nd our Operation Christmas Child Northwestern PA area team gathered at Chick-fil-A to celebrate all God's done for us in this collection season. Our final total came in at 27,444 (not counting the 8 boxes that came in after the trucks were sent off). This is 5100 more boxes than we collected last year for a 23% increase.

This isn't the 30,333 we were praying for, but I believe it's what God knew we could handle. Our trucks were full and the Warren collection center ran out of cartons long before the boxes were all cartonized. Now we can make better logistics plans for next year and be ready to receive an even larger harvest of boxes.

I took a couple of lazy days over the Thanksgiving holiday and now I'm getting back at it. By God's grace I got letters to the editors off to 8 newspapers in our area of NW PA and now I'm working on writing thank-you notes to the churches who contributed boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Truthfully I'm not a fan of writing by hand. I feel like those days in school when the class was punished by having to write 100 times "I will not talk when the teacher is talking." But I know it's important to thank and encourage the donors so I'm asking God to help me push through it and persevere instead of quitting so often. I have 30 done so far and it wouldn't take long if I could stay motivated.

It was such a joy to watch the Community Celebration live via streaming video from the Charlotte, NC Processing Center this morning. But it made me miss being there even more.

There's a particular smell at the processing center--kind of a combination of the smell of soap and crayons and candy and rubber bands and tape. It's hard to describe but for me it's a smell of coming home. And, when you get right down to it, it's really the smell of hope and joy.

I'm remembering that smell right now and I'm smiling, filled with hope and joy.