Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Retro--1997--Too Much

Here's a story from the beginning of my Operation Christmas Child journey.  In 1995 I first heard of OCC from a newspaper article and I packed three boxes.  I didn't have a brochure and didn't really understand the concept, so each box only included a teddy bear.  In 1996 I understood the program better and packed five nice, full boxes.  Then in 1997 God started to give me a larger vision and here's the story...

Too Much--1997

            “This is too much,” I grumble to myself as I struggle up the ladder to the attic carrying four heavy shoeboxes filled with gifts.  I heave myself up the last step and use my arm to wipe the perspiration from my face before placing the last box on top of the neatly stacked piles.  I’m finished.  I’ve toted all eighty shoeboxes up—four at a time.  After making my last descent I push up the folding stairs.  Twenty trips up.  Twenty trips down.  Me snarling all the way.
            For the past week the shoeboxes had a nice cozy home in the bedroom that belonged to my oldest daughter before she went to college.  We don’t use that room for anything.  It’s empty--the perfect place to store a resplendent array of eighty shoeboxes that are waiting to be shipped off to children in other countries for Operation Christmas Child.
            But my husband didn’t see it that way.  “Can’t you get rid of these shoeboxes?” he complained.  “They’re all over the place.”
            “They’re hardly all over,” I defended myself.  “I have them stacked up nice and neat on Amy’s dresser and bedroom floor.  They’re not bothering you.” 
            But it seems they did bother him.
            So after he mentioned it for the third time, I harrumphed to the attic opening, yanked down the stairs, and hauled up all eighty boxes.  I had to maneuver the rest of the assorted attic treasures to make room.  And I wasn’t nice about it.
            Last year I packed only five shoeboxes, but then I started thinking that if I collected items on sale throughout the year I could do more.  The number forty kept running through my mind, so I decided to set a goal of filling forty shoeboxes.  Then I started shopping.  The problem was, God led me to so many bargains the items started piling up.  For example, using double coupons I netted sixty free tubes of toothpaste and several hundred free bars of soap.  I stashed all my finds in the attic, and in the summer I collected and wrapped forty shoeboxes so they’d be ready to fill when fall arrived.
            In October I began the happy task of stuffing the shoeboxes, and I soon felt like the widow in the Bible whose oil never ran out.  I filled all forty boxes and still had piles of items left.  So I made several trips back to the shoe stores begging for more boxes. 
            Finally, I had whittled the piles down to only a few lonely leftover items.  The boxes were all wrapped and filled, and I counted the stacks to get a final tally, “seventy-eight, seventy-nine, eighty,” I whispered.  Exactly twice the number I had trusted God to provide.  I was excited.
            Then my husband, Jim, the omnipresent Voice Of Reason, looked up and down the rows and said, “See, you never plan ahead.  Now how are you going to pay for the donation for shipping these?” 
            “I don’t know,” I said with a near-moan.  “I know it’s a lot.”   Samaritan’s Purse, the organization that spearheads Operation Christmas Child, requests a five dollar donation to cover the shipping costs for each shoebox.  I hadn’t budgeted for that. 
            My joy hissed out, and the stacked boxes began to form a wall of resentment.  A wall that I just transported to the attic with a disgruntled attitude.  Now that Jim doesn’t have to look at the problem, maybe it will go away. 
            Over the next few days, I realize the problem isn’t going to disappear.  I trek to the attic and see that the bright Christmas wrapping on the shoeboxes is crinkling in the heat, making them look as wrinkled as I feel.  “What can I do about this, God?” I pray. 
            A plan forms in my mind.  Maybe there are people at church who aren’t packing shoeboxes themselves who would like to contribute to help pay for the shipping.  I suggest this to Jim, and he says, “That’s a good idea.”  Well—a positive comment.  Of course, he’s not offering to be the one to ask someone at church about this. 
            I hate asking for help.  I vow never to get into this needy situation again.  Next time I’ll plan ahead and not do too much. 
            It takes three weeks and a lot of prayer before I grab all of my miniscule supply of courage, wipe my perspiring palms on my jumper, and approach our pastor, David, with my request. 
            “That’s no problem,” he says.  Why was I so afraid to ask?  A few minutes later he stands up to give the morning announcements before church starts and says, “Kathy Schriefer packed more shoeboxes than she expected.  And now she can’t afford to pay for the shipping unless she sells one of her children or something.”  Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that.  Then he continues, “So if you want to contribute to help with this, put your contribution in an envelope and mark it for shoeboxes.” 
            Two weeks later I write a letter to Samaritan’s Purse, enclose my church’s check for $400, slap on a stamp, and drop it in the mailbox.  Easy.
            God, you are too much.

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