Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day Affirmation

Our Northwestern PA Operation Christmas Child area team decided to meet today--on Leap Day--because we thought it would be a great way to celebrate this day that comes only once every four years.

It also turned out to be a day when I think I tried to pack a little too much into too little time.  God blessed us with a new application over the weekend, and I  decided on a whim to see if this prospective team member could join us at our meeting.  When I found out she could be here, I offered to do her interview before the meeting and she agreed.

Then, just hours before the meeting, I thought about inviting our two new ministry coordinators to sit in on the interview.  Amazingly, they were both available.

And...right before the meeting my husband and I had to go pick up the car we bought this weekend (another subject for another post.)

Since our team meets at my house the day also involved last-minute cleaning, final touches on the agenda, and also making a trip across town to deliver rope and handles to someone who is making jump ropes. was all worth it tonight when a record number of 15 turned out for our meeting.  We did a simple Valentine affirmation activity.  We each got a heart with our name on it, then we passed the hearts around the circle and took turns writing a word or phrase of affirmation on each person's heart. Words are my love language, so I know I'll keep that heart in my Bible to re-read many times throughout this year.

Our new Church Relations Coordinator and Community Relations Coordinator each spent time meeting with their teams separately while I met with the other five assorted team members.   Plans were made for more affirmation--of participating churches and groups.

We also got to affirm and congratulate Cathi, our team member who is receiving the Women Making History award from a local organization.  We are so blessed to have her on our team.

There was a lot of laughter tonight, and we even got to see an x-ray of Bob's recent hip replacement. He's not leaping yet, but I'll bet it won't be long.

So let me affirm...having a meeting with a great group of volunteers adds up to a memorable Leap Day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Whassup? Cups!

So, my dear blog readers, are you getting tired of pictures of cardboard boxes yet?  I think I was destined to spend a life involved with cardboard.  I started working at age 14 at Juvenile Bootery-- the children's shoe store where my mother worked--and continued in that job through summers in college.  I started handling large quantities of shoeboxes decades before Operation Christmas Child was ever conceived.

In the past ten years I've progressed to handling large cartons of shoebox items.  I've become a connoisseur of cardboard.  There's nothing like a good, sturdy box.  Unfortunately, today's boxes were not so good and sturdy.

I'm not complaining, though, because today's truck delivery was filled with blessings--21,600 nice plastic cups--brightly colored and 17 oz. each.

You know how I've been praying this year that God would allow our boxes to be better quality and be sure to bless each child who receives one.  I've been trying to accumulate more filler items, so I was ecstatic last week when I was able to find good cups at a low price.

When I heard they were being shipped via truck on pallets, I was worried they'd arrive in large pallet boxes and we'd need to find individual boxes for them.  Also, I wanted to be sure they arrived before I had to leave for the OCC Connect Conference in three weeks.  God answered both those prayers--they came today--in cartons and in an unprecedented nine days' time.

The weather today was sunny--cool but calm.  A perfect day for two 60-something women to unload 1,706 pounds of cups.  The delivery was scheduled between 10am and noon.  This was tricky because my faithful HELPer, Pam,  had an appointment at 10 am and I was supposed to be at my volunteer job at noon--12:30 at the latest .

By God's grace the driver called at 11:30 and was there pretty promptly.  Shawn, the driver, got the pallets dropped next to the container then discovered he couldn't get the truck out of the driveway until we unloaded and moved the pallets.  He told us to take our time while he waited in the truck and watched Pam and I wrestle those 31 cartons (probably 40+ pounds each) into the container.  We had to keep stopping to repair boxes when the bottom seams would start to let loose as we lifted them.

Eventually I think he got tired of waiting and came to help us get the last pallet of boxes stacked up to the four-high level in the container.  Whew!  The truck was on its way by 12:10 giving me just enough time to make it to downtown Erie by 12:30.

The ever-positive Pam said she'd been telling God how she hadn't been disciplining herself to exercise and He'd just helped her out with that.  So true.  I'm thinking I should keep knee braces in the storage container for the next delivery.

Still, a few weeks ago I never would have dreamed we'd have thousands of nice cups filling up our storage container.  God is always up to something.  And it's always good.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Turning A Corner

This is a blog of praise for turning corners.  This afternoon my husband turned a corner after being sick for the past two days with a severe headache and high blood pressure.  A trip to the ER yesterday earned him some IV pain meds and some assorted tests that were, by God's grace, all negative.

Still, this morning he had so much pain he wanted to go back to the ER again.  We agreed to wait an hour to make a decision and I prayed fervently for God to give us a clear answer about what to do.  He slept for two hours and woke up feeling better.  Praise God for answered prayer and a corner turned.

I feel I've turned a corner, too, in my Operation Christmas Child leadership life.  Lately I've been able to think about leadership without struggling so much.  I started to read a book on leadership by John Maxwell last week and my initial reaction was my usual depression.  The bar is always set so high it seems unattainable.  No matter how hard I try I could never succeed in being the leader I should be.

The good news, though, is I was able to talk some truth to myself and decide to find one thing from my reading I could apply.  If I can make even one small step toward being a better leader it will be better than allowing Satan to defeat me.  I believe the prayers of others are a part of that.

I'm also starting to realize I can't do this forever--at least the hauling and carrying part that makes up the packing party.  I spend time with an older friend and mentor twenty years my senior.  When I told her this week that I worry my strength is failing she chuckled, shook her head, and told me she thinks I have a few good decades left.  It's all relative, I know.

Still, on Tuesday afternoon after loading twenty bags of donated sandals with thick rubber soles into my minivan I was pretty tired.  I've kept up with running and workout routines, but I notice the difference in stamina from even a few years ago.

Another job of this week has been counting out jump rope handles and cut rope and bundling it into plastic totes.  Each tote contains the supplies to make 200 jump ropes.  On Monday as I hefted three totes into my car to drive them to a volunteer, I pondered how many trips it will take to drive these around town.  Maybe I should have just waited until spring and tried to have some work days at the church to save myself some effort.  It's a constant juggling game to try to figure out how to do things efficiently while still involving other people.

On Wednesday we got a storm that dropped a foot of snow and forced the cancellation of two training sessions with new team members.  I guess that was for the best anyway since we spent four hours in the ER and I also got to shovel the sidewalk and driveway twice.

Being home today gave me a chance to haul the bags of sandals in from the car and get them packed into cartons for storage.  There were a total of 447 pairs in those boxes now surrounding the dining room table.   With subzero temps forecast for the weekend I might have to wait until next week to get them stored in the container.

I also spent a few hours watching the series of High Impact volunteer training videos on the OCC Extranet site. Surprisingly, I found them pretty inspirational.

Yes, I do believe we've turned some corners.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Roping It In

Things might look a little precarious here but actually I've been really blessed over the last few days.  I returned Sunday evening from an amazing retreat with the other Operation Christmas Child Area Coordinators from the Mid-Atlantic region.  

Last year I missed the retreat because of a crazy snowstorm but this year God answered prayer with wonderful dry roads for the drive down to Maryland and back.  It's always a joy to be with other OCC volunteers, but this year was especially wonderful.  I didn't feel any of the usual discouragement I experience at training events and it was so exciting to hear how God blessed our region with a record 1,138,928 shoeboxes in 2015--an incredible 11.3% increase over 2014.  

I came home excited for the year ahead.  Despite losing two of our long-term coordinators, I know God has good plans for us in 2016 and I'm eager to start casting vision for our ministry plan.

While I was gone I got word that the two pallets (180 spools) of rope I ordered would be delivered today.  I got the pre-delivery call earlier than I expected this morning and headed out to meet the truck.

As you can see from the picture above, the driver had some problems with the lift gate.  I stood by praying while that heavy pallet of rope spools teetered over the edge and threatened to crash over the side.  I pictured myself chasing rolling spools of rope down the driveway.  After 15 minutes of trying, the driver finally gave up and we offloaded the spools by hand while still in the truck.  

Thankfully the second pallet was easier to move on the lift gate and got dropped without incident and I was able to pray with Eric, the truck driver, before he headed out.

 My husband arrived to lend a hand and Dustin, part of the church's creative team, blessed us by stopping to help us stow the spools in the container.  Space constraints forced us to stack the spools high and the stacks look pretty unstable.

The guys rigged up a pallet and a strap to try to provide some stability.  I'm praying that holds them upright.  

Now...let the jump rope making commence...