Thursday, March 31, 2016

Praise Van

From watching the posts of other Operation Christmas Child shoppers on Facebook I had intel that Walmart would reduce their Easter clearance to 75% off today.

I had a hard time falling asleep last night and didn't dose off until around 2 am, but my body's internal sale clock had me up and alert at 6 am and dressed and into my van by 6:10.

Of course it's raining this morning.'s not snowing...yet.

I had the sale aisle at the first Walmart all to myself and, thankfully, there were no other customers to wait behind me in the checkout line.

Three associates helped with the checkout process so it was fast and easy and netted me 82 nice plush animals at .74 each and 80 packs that each held 48 plastic eggs for .49 per pack.  Again this year I plan to fill the eggs with either cute plastic rings or erasers.

After loading my stash in the van I was on to I-90 headed east to Harborcreek where I found another 131 cute animals and 100 packs of eggs.  Again, there was no waiting and the cashiers were efficient and uber friendly.  We developed a great rhythm for holding up those tags and scanning them while another cashier held the bag.  

As I pushed my loaded cart out into the rain one of the large cardboard boxes holding the plastic eggs tipped off onto the puddled pavement.  I was able to corral it before the wind swept any bags away, though.  

It felt a little blurry by the time I got everything loaded, but there was still a little room to spare.  I'm praising God for this vehicle and for my husband who allowed me to buy another van.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Resurrection Roles

How is it that weeks (and months and years) just keep flowing by more and more quickly?  Our Operation Christmas Child area team met again tonight.  Our 2016 ministry plan is still not completed, but we spent some time tonight reflecting on the resurrection and our roles for OCC.

Reports from those of us who attended the recent Connect Conference helped inspire those who could not be there and watching a short You Tube video "Tears Of The Saints" made it clear to all of us that what we do is Kingdom work.

Then we enjoyed making Resurrection Rolls.  Each of us took a large marshmallow and visualized it representing the challenges and problems that stand between us and the completion of our team goals for 2016.  As we dipped those marshmallows in butter, then in cinnamon sugar, we talked about how it's easy to try to 'sugar coat' those problems but that never makes them disappear.  We wrapped each of those marshmallows in biscuit dough, carefully sealing them just as Jesus' body was sealed in the tomb.  After baking them we bit into that deliciousness to find those marshmallows were completely gone.  And we reminded ourselves that the power that raised Jesus from the grave (dunamis) lives in us by God's grace.  In His name, we are overcomers.

So...the ministry plan still isn't completed, but we all have a better idea of how His power will move in each of us to complete His plan.

And that plan will be on paper soon--it's just one more marshmallow to melt.

Monday, March 21, 2016

It's About Connections friend Jill just messaged me, "Your blog readers want to know how Connect went."  Yeah, I guess I'm a little behind in the blogging arena so let me catch up for all you inquiring minds.  As you can see by this picture, the conference was transformational for me.

I don't want to share too many specifics about these days since so many of you have yet to experience Connect 2016 and I don't want to be a spoiler.   So I'll just share some of my personal feelings and connections.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but a few months ago I was asked to co-present at the pre-conference sessions on the topic of hosting packing parties.  One thing Operation Christmas Child is good about is encouraging everyone from shoebox packers to their top leaders to develop themselves and take on new challenges, and I prayerfully accepted this one.  I was given a well-designed curriculum and had the leadership of my regional director, Leigh Fisher.

I studied.  I recruited a team to pray.  And, per request, I arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  The thing is, there was a glitch and a room hadn't been reserved for me.  And...the hotel was completely full.  So my roommate and I sat and waited and as time marched on we started to formulate some other plans for accommodations.  I even texted another friend and blog reader who lives in the area and she offered us a place to stay.  In the end, a room was found for us, though.

I felt a little out of place in my role as pseudo-staff.  Now OCC has some staff persons--Regional Area Coordinators and Regional Area Strategists--who are volunteers.  But I'm not in that category.  I didn't really have a role to play in the preparations, but I did try to pitch in.  And I can say from my little behind-the-scenes foray that these Operation Christmas Child staff folks are the real deal--just as personable and hardworking in the days before the conference as they are during it.  And considering all the work they have to do to prepare for FOUR of these conferences, that's saying a lot.

On Wednesday morning Leigh Fisher got a phone call that changed the shape of the conference for me.  Leigh got the news that one of our new area coordinators, a young woman named Jana, who was planning to be at the conference, was found unresponsive that morning by her husband and life-flighted to a hospital.  We stopped immediately to pray, and prayer for her became the framework of the conference for me.   Jana and I bonded as we rode in the back seat together to our area coordinators' retreat six weeks ago and as reports over the next day let us know she was still unresponsive, I couldn't imagine how her husband and young daughter were feeling.

I spent time in the prayer room with the chaplains--John and Dottie, Steve and Robert--as we joined together to pray for Jana.  On Friday we got the amazing news that she miraculously regained consciousness and was able to recognize family, speak softly, and even walk a few steps.  By that evening she'd been diagnosed with a rare type of stroke and was transferred to rehab.  My thoughts and prayers still keep turning to Jana throughout my days as she journeys toward recovery.  Here's a picture of Jana and her little girl, Hannah, taken on Sunday.  Will you join me in praying for God to continue to be glorified in her healing?

Leigh and I presented the packing party session three times on Thursday, and I enjoyed the opportunity.  It's funny how making a phone call to one person can undo me, while teaching (or, in this case, presenting material) to a group is invigorating.  I hope the participants found the session helpful.

The general sessions were wonderful.  Even though I've been doing this for years now, God always renews the call to do more when the needs around the world are so clearly presented.  I also learned some new leadership strategies from the breakout sessions I was able to experience.  Amazingly, the new Connect app was easy enough for a techno-tard like me to use.

The best part, as always, was getting to see so many of my OCC friends and hug their necks.  It's sad to realize that I won't get to see these folks until at least next fall and maybe not until next spring.  I'm grateful for Facebook and the other technology that lets us stay connected when we're not at Connect.

So...maybe I'll blog in more detail when all the conferences have ended, but for now let me say that if you're a year-round OCC volunteer you still have time to get yourself to the remaining conferences in San Francisco or Atlanta.  And, you should!

Because, really, it's all about the Connections.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Shoebox Workhorses

We recently said goodbye to a faithful old friend--with some emphasis on the old.  Our 2006 Dodge Caravan was purchased specifically with shoebox hauling in mind.  My kids teased me for having a "soccer mom" car when our soccer days were decades in the past.  

But this workhorse uncomplainingly transported countless cartons of fillers and bags of stuffed animals.  More than once I abused it with an overweight load like that time I filled it with a literal ton of crayons that forced the back bumper nearly to the ground.

Faithful though she's been, the old girl was showing her age with various "check" lights on the instrument panel lighting up at odd intervals.  So we prayerfully made the decision to buy a new vehicle.

At first my husband lobbied for a smaller car but as we loaded up the van a few times recently he realized our shoebox habit still needed some decent cargo space.

So...after a lot of prayer last week we took possession of our next shoebox workhorse--an updated Dodge Caravan.

I prayed for God to lead us to a car that was built on the auto worker's "good day"--one that will be mechanically sound and last for years.  I trust this is it.  It still has that great new car smell that we've rarely experienced in our marriage.  Truthfully, I hate to put the first load of cardboard in it, but it's time.

After all, cardboard is its destiny.