Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More for Moore

It's hard to believe it's been just over a week since those devastating tornadoes hit in Oklahoma.  I'll bet they feel like it's been a lifetime ago.

With all the tragedies and devastation highlighted in the news lately, it's easy to see it and just move on.  But for the people affected there, life will not be the same for a long, long time.

Samaritan's Purse is a reputable and efficient relief organization that was on the ground soon after the storm working to bring hope and comfort.

I want to help support them in a small way, so I'm going to run a 'virtual 5k' on Friday morning.  I'll be joining many others around the country who will also be raising funds for the work of Samaritan's Purse in Oklahoma.

My 5k will just be seven laps around the block but I'll pray as I go--not only for those in Oklahoma but also for God's blessings on those who are donating to help them.

My goal is to raise $500 by Friday, and so far the total is just at $170.  If you want to be a part of this, you can click here to go to the link for my fundraising page to contribute online.

No donation is too small, and together we can do MORE.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Moore Memorial

One of the things we did at church yesterday was spend some time in prayer for those who lost so much in the tornado that brought devastation in Moore, Oklahoma this week.  It's one more reminder of how fragile our life on earth is and how quickly it can change.

On Saturday I had another encounter with Moore tragedy, also.  A man whose last name is Moore (I'll call him Jack) met me at our church on Saturday afternoon to bring me a donation for our shoe box packing party.

'Jack' called me a few days ago to tell me he heard about our need for stuffed animals and wanted to donate his wife's Beanie Baby collection.  He told of how she lost her battle with lung and brain cancer and that collecting these little toys had been "her only vice."  Her wish was for her collection to go to children and Jack hadn't been able to find anyone locally to accept them.  He became very emotional several times as we talked and kept repeating that being able to donate these beanies to Operation Christmas Child was "a godsend".

We arranged to meet on Saturday, and before the day came I asked my OCC friends to send me pictures of children receiving stuffed toys in their Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes and printed some of those pictures for Jack.  I also wrote and framed a poem thanking him for the legacy his wife left through this gift.

I called Jack on Saturday and my husband and I met him in the parking lot at Grace Church.   The first thing Jack did was hand me a memorial card from his wife's funeral.  I looked at her lovely picture and saw that she had died on May 8, 2013--so recently--and was only 52 years old.

I tried to give him the pictures I'd brought but Jack said he didn't want them.  He'd already gone online and had seen the children receiving gifts.  I gave him the framed poem and told him he could read it later.  "You didn't have to do that," he said as he stowed it in his car.

Jack just wanted to talk.  For about a half hour he told us about his wife and how she helped everyone she met.  He related how she bravely endured her cancer treatments while never missing work as a medical transcriptionist.  He recounted how his wife collected each of these Beanie Babies and made a display of them in a curio cabinet for each holiday.

"We weren't church-going people," Jack said.  He explained how much they loved NASCAR and also local races and told how his wife joked that they went to "the church of the Holy Oval."

Jack's raw grief was almost overwhelming.  He wiped his eyes often as he talked.  His loneliness was nearly palpable.  I asked Jack if I could pray for him and he seemed grateful.  I prayed that our "God of all comfort" would bring comfort to him.

Jack lives very close to Grace Church and my husband invited him to come on Sunday.  We also told him all about the packing party in September and invited him to come and see his sweet gifts on the next leg of their journey.  "Now you have me curious," he said.

After we unloaded his truck and said our goodbyes, my husband drove off and I stayed behind to sort out the Beanies and store them in the storage container.

As I sorted and counted those 566 beautiful new Beanies, I prayed--not only for the children who will receive them, but for Jack.  I thought of I Thessalonians 4:13 that reminds us when our loved ones die in Christ we "will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope."

Jack has no hope.  Please pray with me that he will come to find that hope in Christ.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I can hear Matthew West singing "Forgiveness" on the soundtrack in my head.  Today was another step on one of those journeys that seem to be lifelong.

Let me back up a bit.  It was just about 19 years ago when my husband, Jim, was suspended from his middle school teaching job in the midst of untrue accusations that he made inappropriate comments in his classroom.  We were naive and thought because he had done nothing wrong the misunderstanding would be quickly remedied, but that didn't happen.

Though the accusing students were found not to be credible witnesses (and thus never even called to testify later at an arbitration hearing) the superintendent pursued the case.  In the midst of months of hearings and delays in the case, however, the superintendent retired.

After an expensive year-long legal battle Jim won his case on all points and continued to teach for another ten years.   God, as only He can, brought good out of a difficult time in our lives.

Still, over the years we've struggled with forgiving several of the players in this battle--especially the superintendent.

Fast forward to two weeks ago when I received an e-mail at school about a reception being held today as a send-off for the former superintendent and his wife who are moving out of town.

I forwarded the message to my husband with the subject line "an opportunity".
This would undoubtedly be a last chance to talk with this man.

As of this morning Jim wasn't sure about going.  He said he didn't want his words to be hollow.  So he did something very wise; he texted two of our pastors and asked them to pray.  

I was praying, too.

After a long work day we both got ready and headed out--still unsure of how this would go.

My husband exchanged light conversation with a few of the other folks there until, finally, we were face to face with the former superintendent.

He was pleasant and friendly for a few moments of conversation, then Jim explained that he "wanted to make peace with him."

Over the years my husband has amazed me many times but never more than today as I listened to him say to this man, "I've hated you and I want to ask you to forgive me."

"I've already forgiven you," came the reply from the superintendent.

I realized, then, that being able to forgive may hinge on admitting my own need for forgiveness.  No wonder Jesus taught us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

At it's heart, I believe forgiveness is divine and can only be extended or received by God's grace.

And, praise God, His grace was certainly flowing today.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Good Vibrations

Last week our local newspaper had a status on their Facebook page asking for people who go to yard sales to respond to them for an upcoming article.  I e-mailed them about our stuffed animal safaris for Operation Christmas Child.

This week I was contacted by Dana Massing, the religion editor, for more details about our hunts.  Dana has been a good friend to OCC locally, and I was excited to think we might be included in the yard sale article.

But I was surprised yesterday morning to find a stand-alone article in the Erie Times-News about our stuffed animal safaris with a plea for donations included.  You can read it by clicking here.

All day long yesterday my phone sat on my desk vibrating.  Already I have had 37 calls from people wanting to donate stuffed animals.  Some are older folks who only have one or two to donate and some are parents of children who have bags full.  But every one counts.  I can't wait to see how many God brings into our ark from this one media opportunity.

Good vibrations.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Decision Perspective

Ah, the above is such good advice from the writer of Hebrews.  I've been a bit discontent because I have decisions to make--about a bridal shower for daughter #2, about travel plans to visit daughter #3 in Chicago to celebrate the completion of her residency in ob/gyn, about travel plans to visit daughter #1 in NYC just for fun.

These are great events but they still require planning that I hate.

Today as I was contemplating the choices, I tried to get some perspective...

After all...the decisions I face are downright trivial compared to those faced by the majority of mothers around the world today.

Many face choices like whether to make cakes of clay for their children to eat to try to ease the hunger pains, even though they will give them no nutrition.  They need to decide whether to buy food for the short term or invest those few precious dollars in school supplies so their children can attend school.   They have to choose whether to send their children to work in dangerous sweatshops just for the hope of enough money to get another meal or two.

Yes, my choices are pitifully unimportant next to those.

Still I cling to the truth of I Peter 5:7 "Casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."

God cares even about my trivial problems.

So I pray...for my silly choices and for the mothers who are making hard choices that I, by God's grace, have never known.

Help us all, God, to get Your perspective.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bearing Burdens

I'm ready to leave for work but I just have to quickly blog about this picture I just received on Facebook.  This is our nephew, Ben Martin, carrying his sick brother's heavy pack for miles on the trail.

Jim's sister, Brenda, and three of her children--Ben, Brooke, and Brice, are on a 500 mile pilgrimage on the El Camino de Santiago--a trail from Paris into Spain.  Brian (their husband and father) went to be with the Lord last Christmas and they have set out on this journey as part of their healing process.

I love this picture because it summarizes God's call to us to bear one another's burdens.  I think of how many have done this for me in my Operation Christmas Child journey.

So many have come alongside me--with prayer, with encouragement, with contributions of time and finances.  This picture of Ben inspires me to remember that and to devote myself anew to becoming a burden bearer.

If you're reading this, will you take a minute to pray for Brenda and her family--especially Brice who is sick right now?

Thanks for bearing our burdens.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Previously I wrote that I'm collecting new shoes for our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes--purchased with money donated by a friend in my small group.  This dear man saw one of the pictures I posted of someone wearing shoes made out of an empty 2 liter soda bottle and God put it on his heart to donate money for shoes.

My goal has been to collect at least 250 pairs and today God blessed me with 17 more.  I saw the hint from the "Clip With Purpose" facebook page that Big Lots had 90% off the clearance price on hats and gloves.

It was raining and I'd just gotten settled into my recliner chair after school.  I almost talked myself out of going out to check the store because I figured everything would be gone.

I'm so glad I went, though.  There were no gloves or hats--only 3 scarves on the shelf.  But then I spotted these nice fleece lined shoes with hard bottoms.  Regular price was $12.00 for each pair, but I got them for 60 cents each.   So now 17 more children will get a chance to have their feet covered.

It doesn't end there.  I alerted Heather Rogers who lives near the east side Big Lots and she scored 60-70 more items there--mostly gloves and some hats.   I love good, cheap items, don't you?

So far God has blessed us with a total of 113 nice pairs of shoes for a total cost of $185.90.

Nothing short of shoe-pendous!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Meandering to Meadville

Today Heather Rogers (my Operation Christmas Child Church Relations Coordinator) and I took the show on the road again.  We drove to Meadville for an OCC Celebration Event there.

The day was gorgeous--maybe too gorgeous for people to want to come to a meeting--but we had 14 shoe box enthusiasts who joined us to hear more about the ministry and get geared up for making an eternal difference in the lives of thousands of children again this year.

Pictured above is our faithful Relay Center Coordinator, Cindy Woolstrum, who hosted the event at Meadville CMA Church.   She is holding a copy of the certificate we presented to each church who packed 100 or more shoe boxes in 2012.

Here are Cindy and Heather flanking the sign announcing year-round volunteer opportunities with Operation Christmas Child.  It's a privilege to serve the Lord in this ministry and I'm so blessed to be associated with it.  I think people should be beating down the door for the chance to join our team.  But they aren't!

We didn't give out any applications today but we're still trusting God to build our team in His way and His time.

Meanwhile, today was a joyous time of celebration as we praised God and shared ideas for increasing gospel opportunities from our region.   It's amazing to realize that if each participating church in our three-county area would just pack 20 more boxes we'd reach our goal of 5,000 more boxes for a total of 45,000 in 2013.  It would take so little to reach so many more children with God's love.

And so many children are still waiting.  If the 100 million Operation Christmas Child boxes packed over the past 20 years were all put together they would only reach 5% of the children in the world right now.

Jesus said we need to become like children to enter the Kingdom of God.  And who could be more childlike than children!

My mind is meandering down trails of ideas for getting a gospel opportunity to more of these sweet waiting kids.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


A week ago last Friday I got an e-mail from a wholesale supplier offering a list of items to be bulk purchased for just 10 cents each.  I've been praying for fillers for our Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing party so I was excited about the possibility of getting thousands of good filler items in one order.

I prayed and I talked to my husband (no advice there, except "whatever you think") and I asked my facebook friends for prayer.

I had to make a quick decision as the sale was only good for one day so I took the chance and purchased 3500 crayon/pencil sharpeners and 2800 radios with batteries.  I asked the seller to be sure the radios worked and he said he'd check.

Today the order was delivered and God answered prayer for them to be delivered after I got out of school on a gorgeous day.  Pictured above are the two pallets waiting for me to unload and store them in the container.

I really like the crayon/pencil sharpeners--
they're a good size and will be a really useful filler.

Now, about those radios--
I've been looking for bigger fillers this year so I can make sure our boxes are nice and full.  These radios will take up some space but they also take up a lot of space in the storage container, too.  They come with AAA batteries that are not expired but several that I looked at had some corrosion on them.  And I couldn't get this one to work.

As I hauled all those boxes, I couldn't stop thinking that maybe I'd made a big mistake in this purchase.  But, by God's grace, I determined not to worry about it.  If it was a mistake, I'll learn from it and move on.

When I got home and tried new batteries in the radio it works perfectly with great sound.  Not bad for 10 cents (well, closer to 14 cents when you add in shipping).

But how am I going to check 2800 radios to be sure they all work?  Maybe I'll be looking for a good deal on AAA batteries.

On the other hand, God may have a purpose for these.  I do know He is omniscient and He is in control--

and about that I know I am not mistaken.