Tuesday, July 29, 2014


It's hard for me to believe that just a few months ago the storage container we use for our Operation Christmas Child packing party was nearly empty and we weren't sure we'd even host a packing party this year.

Now I'm seeing a web of details converging at once and wondering how all of it will be sorted out.

Our container is getting filled up.  The 27 bins pictured above are loaded with flip-flops, but  none of them are sorted by age and gender.  Cathi Mitchell, a local woman with a great heart, has been hosting a flip-flop drive called "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" and it will culminate this Saturday as we line a local 1/4 mile track with flip-flops (2 pair abreast) to make a mile.

I have no idea how many flip-flops will be donated and whether I'll need to transport these bins of flip-flops I purchased to get to the 1 mile goal.  Whether I do or not, they'll eventually need to be unpacked and sorted.

Also this Saturday I have another OCC friend coming to pick up the coloring books we can't use at our packing party to make space in the container.

Speaking of space, I wonder how much space the donated flip-flops will take.  And how will we store them?  Guess I should round up some boxes for that.

And then there's the load of 5 pallets (27,000 bars) of soap I ordered.  It may be shipped this coming Friday...or maybe next Monday.  Who will help unload it and where will it fit in the container?

Then there's the 18,000+ washcloths and 96,500 pencils my patient friend Loretta has been storing for me.  She lives about six hours away, and we've been praying for months for God to provide a way to get those items transported.  A great couple have volunteered to do that, and we thought that trip might be slated for this weekend also.  Turns out, though, that it will have to wait for another week.

As I see God providing in so many ways, I can't wait to see how this is all going to come together.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

What A Difference A Decade Makes

This morning I read Psalm 18:49--"Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name."

Since people from different nations read this blog it's a perfect place to give thanks to the Lord among the nations....and so....I want to give thanks and sing praises to His name.

Lucky for you, I'm not going to actually sing, but you get the idea.

I found this picture in an old Bible a few weeks ago.  It's a picture of a bulletin board I created at my old church in 2003 and it announces the Operation Christmas Child shoe box goal we were praying for that year.

The goal was God-sized.  After all, we'd only packed 796 boxes the year before in 2002.

But we prayed and trusted and watched God provide.  Every purchase was lovingly recorded in my simple notebook.

I was so excited when God provided notebooks at WalMart for .10 each and crayons for .15 and when I found large tubes of toothpaste for .69 each.

Ultimately, by God's grace, we packed 1,234 boxes.  Loved that number!  And it was a 55% increase over 2002.

I was ecstatic.  God was gracious to let me exult in the victory.  He didn't tell me then that a decade later we'd be packing over 22,000 boxes in one weekend.  That would have terrified me.

Instead He led us little by little--to 1,780 the next year and then to 2,240 the next and to 3,100 the next.  Increasing first by hundreds and then by thousands, with Him providing all the way.

Also in 2003 I went to an Operation Christmas Child informational meeting and filled out an application to become a volunteer.  I was never interviewed and never had any more verbal contact with our regional office, but I received a training manual and a certificate signed by Franklin Graham that proclaimed me trained as a "Promotional Partner."

I got a shirt in the mail every year but it wasn't until 2007 when I met Leigh Fisher and interviewed for a position as a volunteer Area Coordinator that I really got connected.  Things were different a decade ago.

And in 2003 we got an official OCC Collection Center in Erie for the first time. I believe they collected about 7,000 boxes that year.  That, too, has changed, with 40,000 coming out of Erie in 2013.

Year by year God gives the growth.  Pushing us.  Growing us.  Every year doing something new.

At our OCC area team meeting last night we joked that "We never do the same thing twice."  Last year, for example, I thought I had the perfect supplier for soap and toothbrushes and planned to use them again.  Instead, we got our soap and toothbrushes from totally different places this year.

Some things stay the same, though.  I still lovingly record every purchase on lined paper in my simple notebook.

And, still, God always provides.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I can't believe it's been almost three weeks since my last blog post.  Part of the reason for that is that I took an intentional break from Facebook and most computer work.  I did check e-mail once a day but that was it.

Our Operation Christmas Child regional director, Leigh Fisher, asked our team to take a week off from OCC duties.  My media coordinator, Pam Niedhammer, dubbed it a "Praycation" and I like that term.

Leigh asked us to take that week to be still and hear from God.  I had hoped to make it a total week-long personal retreat but it didn't quite work out that way.  Life interfered, as it often does, and there were responsibilities I couldn't (and shouldn't) dodge.

Still, I was able to take at least a few hours most of the days of that week to go to some local place where I could experience the beauty of nature and I was able to stay (mostly) unplugged.

I only live a few miles from the beauty of Lake Erie beaches, but even though I love it I don't go to the beach on a regular basis.  Two days of that week I spent some time on the shore.  The weather was threatening but the clouds were gorgeous.  The sky is ever-changing, with a new view by the minute.

The verses I read in Isaiah 43:18,19 seemed appropriate, and I read them over and over.  And then I read them some more.  "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

There's been a lot of wasteland over the past months but I'm seeing a new thing spring up in our area.  God is on the move for us.

I stood at the shoreline and watched the waves come in and recede.  As the waves go out they seem to pull the ground from underneath my feet, then the ground is steady until the next wave comes.  That's life, too.

Then I read Psalm 46:10--"Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." -- I will be exalted in your team.  I will be exalted in your team members.  I will be exalted in your packing party.  I will be exalted in your marriage.  I will be exalted in your children.  I will be exalted at Rock The Lakes Erie.  I will be exalted at the BWI Processing Center.  I will be exalted in National Collection Week.  --Father, You are sovereign and You will be exalted.

Another day I went a few miles in the other direction to Four-Mile Creek.  It was a cool morning and I stretched out on a warm rock beside the water and just  listened to its gurgling.

This water isn't exactly still but it's not rushing either.  It looks peaceful and clear.  As I watch it flow, I think--the water doesn't know where it is going or how long the journey will be--it just flows.  It's diverted by branches and rocks but it just flows around them.

"Lord, I want to flow like that--surrendered to Your direction, Your timing, Your destination.  I sense that You are tending me as my Shepherd.  God, in my heart I want to please You, but all my trying will not do it.  Help me surrender to You, rest in You, trust You.  You will be exalted.  You are my fortress.  You will give me all things.  Like Elijah, I want to rest here by the brook and be fed and refreshed by You."

Because the shoe box goal for our Mid-Atlantic region is 1.1 million this year, Leigh challenged us to be still for 11 minutes each day but even by the end of the week I could never do it.  Not once.  I could sit still but I couldn't make my mind be still.  I guess I need more practice.

Though I failed to empty my busy mind, I felt God's comfort.  It was good to retreat.

Friday, July 4, 2014

TIA Minus 3 Months

Three months from right now, Lord willing, our 2014 Operation Christmas Child packing party (slated for October 3 & 4)  will be over and there will be 23,000 filled shoe boxes packed in cartons and waiting on the truck(s) for pick-up.  Praise God!

The hardest part so far this year was determining whether God wanted us to do another large packing party or not.  The waffling back and forth gnawed away at my soul.

But at Easter time the core team made the decision to move ahead and since then I've had more peace.  Sure, there are moments when my breath catches and I wonder for a brief time how it will all come together.  For the most part, though, I'm trusting our El Shaddai to make this happen again for His glory.

In fact, this week I'm starting to practice TIA (Thanksgiving In Advance.)  I am making a concentrated effort to thank God each day that He has already accomplished all the details of this packing party and it is COMPLETE in His eyes.

Since yesterday we got another 300+ major clothing items for our boxes, so after going to a movie my husband and I stopped at the storage container to stash and reorganize.  We're getting ready for the next round of blessings.

I have exactly three more months to practice TIA so please hold me accountable.  Together, let's practice Thanksgiving In Advance for God's answers to all our prayers and the prayers of people around the world.

Great things he HAS done!