Saturday, August 29, 2015

21 Days and I'll Be Fixed

In his book "Don't Waste Your Life" John Piper tells of a couple who retired early, moved to Florida, bought a boat, and spent all their time playing softball and collecting seashells.  He calls this a tragedy--a waste of life.  I agree.

But when life gets stressful my husband and I will sometimes say to one another, "The seashells sound pretty good right now."  This is one of those times...

Look at this picture.  Doesn't our storage container look nice and neat?  We're down to the last few square feet of space left and we're still expecting another few pallets of items.

Just 21 days from now and this 2015 Community-Wide Operation Christmas Child Packing Party will be over--for better or worse.  Yes, I'm trusting God for victory.  Well, most moments I am.

Still, when darkness closes in I begin to think of all the details that need to be managed in the next three weeks.  Actually, compared to other years we're far ahead this year when it comes to preparation of items.  All the crayons and soap are bagged and we're down to probably ten more spools of rope to be made into jump ropes.  That's a first.  Of course, we still have 25,000 labels to put on boxes, but they won't come until the Monday before the packing party.

My biggest concern is getting volunteers there to pack the boxes and, more importantly, key volunteers in place to supervise the operation.  The packing party is an Operation Christmas Child area team event, but our team isn't that large and many don't participate in the packing party at all.

Our church is large by our community's standards, and they only promote official church events.  I've been able to put posters up in the rest rooms, but that's about it.  So...I need to get myself busy on social media and do some promoting.  And I need to get brave enough to make some more asks to get people on board.  When it comes to this I feel very much alone...that's probably inaccurate but it's just  the way I feel.

My husband and I spent about four hours in the car today and I leafed through a book of inspirational stories of women who've overcome obstacles--big ones.  And last night we went to see the movie "War Room" that cast a vision for the work of prayer.  That's another thing I need to get myself busy doing. 21 days it'll all be over...for better or for worse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


When I go out to yard sales on my stuffed animal safaris I tend to be pretty focused.  I breeze into a sale and scan quickly for those prized animals for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  If there aren't any, I head back to my car pronto.  This past Saturday I left a sale that had no animals and was all the way back to my car parked a half block away when I had a prompting.

I felt I should return to that sale and look for children's clothes that would meet the dress requirements for City of Erie school district--solid colored polo shirts and navy, black, or khaki dress pants or skirts.

For once, I didn't have an internal debate about this prompting.  I just went back and scrounged through piles of clothes (priced at only .25 per item) and found ten pieces of nice clothing for a young girl.

I took them home, washed them, and took them with me yesterday when I went to volunteer at a local clothing pantry.  It was raining yesterday so we let the shoppers come in early.  A harried mom with four young kids in tow hurried over to ask me, "Do you have any school clothes?"  The only ones we had, really, were the ones God prompted me to bring in, so I told her, "a few."

I was working the counter a half hour later when she came through the line with all those items of clothing.  Her eyes sparkled as she gushed, "This is SUCH a blessing.  I didn't know what I was going to do for school."

But God knew.

Meanwhile, on Monday I was discouraged, overwhelmed.  Then I got an email from an Operation Christmas Child fellow-area coordinator in Kansas.  She wrote to ask if she could have her prayer team support our upcoming packing party.  I felt a weight lift from my heavy heart and wrote to tell her how timely her email was.  She didn't know how much I needed her encouragement that day.

But God knew.

My friend said she felt a prompting to contact me.  She said she wished she obeyed all God's promptings that readily.  I wish I did, too

But God knew.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Night Watch

Why does everything seem worse in the dark of night?  I had a relaxing afternoon by myself at the beach--just resting and spending time with the Lord.  I was refueled and feeling peaceful.

But when I'm lying awake past midnight my mind gets as tangled as all these lengths of rope I've been cutting to be made into jump ropes.  Details that I blessedly ignore during the day flit like August fireflies through my foggy brain.

Despite being on detail overload, I have to admit God's been pouring out blessings in the past few days.

Look what arrived at my door on Friday--

These totes held a donated pristine Beanie Baby collection--792 of them!  And earlier that day I was blessed with another donation of 96 on top of a good yard sale haul.

Then a bit later on Friday the UPS man showed up with three large cartons--

full of the softest, cuddliest new stuffed animals--159 of them!  After I got them sorted and counted I had to let them sit around for a while just so I could look at them and hug them a bit--  These were sent from across the country by a sweet teen girl who reads this blog and, with her family, just wanted to bless the children who will receive the boxes packed at our packing party.  That family was obedient to give even though the father of the family is out of work right now.  Will you please pray with me that God will bless him with just the right job?

The total for Friday alone was 1,158 stuffed animals...

So...God has been answering prayer.  I've been "casting my cares on Him" for a few hours now so it's time to shut my brain off and let Him work out the details.

He'll be awake.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

T Minus 1 month month from right now we should be cleaning up from our September 18th Friday night youth packing party and making final preparations for our major September 19th Community-Wide Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Party.

This will be our 7th annual packing party and every year brings new challenges.  As my friend and Church Relations Director, Heather, says, "We never do the same thing twice."

I have to confess I'm getting a little tired of moving things from one place to another.  Sunday's exploits included getting hit with an avalanche of rope spools when they toppled in the storage container.

The good news is that between last week's work day and a crew of people willing to work at bagging from home, we have 25,000 bags of crayons and 25,000 bags filled with soap prepared.  It's wonderful to know we won't have to worry about that during packing party week.  Now I'm recruiting volunteers to assemble another 9,000+ jump ropes.  I'm thinking maybe if I can get 225 rope lengths pre-cut and give them out with a box of 225 sets of handles I might be more successful in getting people to do the job.

I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat waiting for an update on the stuffed animal hunt.  Well, as of yesterday we had 11,101 (give or take a few hundred) animals--not even enough for half of our boxes.  They're still coming, though.  Yesterday our local newspaper printed a letter to the editor I wrote asking for donations and I've had several calls since then offering donations.  A church preparing for a rummage sale this coming weekend allowed me to come last night and choose all I could use--150 nice ones--before their sale even begins.  I was doubly blessed to be able to leave them some Operation Christmas Child materials and encourage them to pack boxes also.

On the positive side, I have an over-abundance of major clothing items.  I've decided I can pair two of those items together for boxes for the older children since I don't have enough stuffed animals for each box.  I calculated I'd need about 5,000 more of those items to be sure each box has two and have been praying over the last week for God to provide a source for them.

Those prayers were answered early Monday morning when I found a source for where I could purchase those needed items for .20 or less each.  I'm excited about that and continue to pray that each of these boxes will bless the child who receives it.

Last year we had fewer than 4,000 extra filler items beyond the basics and this year we have more than 25,000 of them.  I prayed God would allow the quality of our boxes to improve, and I believe He's been answering in great ways. main concern is getting volunteers recruited and placed for the packing party.  We've never pre-registered shoebox packers but we have recruited key volunteers and placed them in specific jobs.  The competent volunteer who spearheaded this the past few years is not involved this year and that leaves a large hole.  We've been asking God to fill this need.  I need to start making some lists and praying over them twice (or twice times a hundred.)

Posters were ordered today.  I need to make arrangements for lunch for volunteers.

It's crazy, but over the past few weeks I've learned people are coming from Florida, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and maybe Virginia to attend this packing party.  My husband jokingly suggested we should sell tickets to make money for shipping the boxes.   It's a lot of pressure thinking people are going to make a long trip and possibly be disappointed.  But not as much pressure as realizing these boxes are going to represent the love of Jesus to kids around the world.  God, please help them to be good ambassadors.

I need to coordinate with church ministries to see when we can use the facilities for setting up for the packing party.  I need to double check on ordering the truck.  And the dumpster.

I'd better get busy making those lists... and praying some more...

Because...31 days from now we'll be on our way.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Working Out and Not Alone

The past few days have been especially stressful for a number of reasons--not all of them blog-appropriate material.  And one of the lies the 'enemy of my soul' loves to whisper in my ear in times like this is, "You're all alone."

Yesterday I ran around doing packing-party-related errands and none of them had anything to do with leadership.  And, that enemy was whispering again, "You're a failure at leading.  You don't know how to delegate.  If you were a good leader you'd have people lined up to do this work."

Today we had a work day scheduled for our upcoming packing party.  Our OCC media coordinator did a good job of publicizing the event and I'd had calls from several people in the community who said they were coming.  Still, I didn't have commitments from my team or know which of them might be coming.  I had no idea what to take to the church or how to set up for the event.

So I got there early and set up four tables and 16 chairs.  I knew a reporter and photographer from the local newspaper was coming, and I was concerned that no one would be there when they arrived.

The event was scheduled to begin at 1:30 and before 1:00 several of my team members arrived to help with preparations.  Myron, a faithful friend from our small group, came and volunteered to take over cutting the rope for jump ropes.

More and more arrived--people from the community I'd never met; five associates from our local Kohl's store who were there as part of their Associates In Action program; several families with young children; two former co-workers I hadn't seen in years.  By the time the reporter came, I had set up five more tables and counted 45 people filling them.

Folks came and went throughout the day--probably at least 60 different workers all together-- and some took supplies with them so they could complete work at home.  The Kohl's associates took items to work on in their break room.

I wish I'd been able to keep better track of exactly how much we accomplished but I'd say conservatively we assembled at least 2,500 jump ropes, bagged 20+ cases of soap with 112 bars in each case, and put together a couple thousand bags of crayons.

I was even more encouraged when eight people stayed all the way until 6:30 and helped clean off and return tables and chairs and load everything back into the storage container.

Things are working out.  And I am not alone.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit -- Craig Groeschel

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Craig Groeschel -- Expanding Your Leadership Capacity

Eph. 3:20 -- Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and forever.

Mark, inventor of the Koosh ball, dared me to hold my breath underwater for a minute.  At 40 seconds I'm rededicating my life to Jesus--at 60 seconds I exploded up out of the water.  Mark said "I'll bet you could do it twice as long if you do what I tell you.  Breathe in and out deeply four times . Your brain does not understand what your body is capable of.  Trick your brain into thinking you are about to give it oxygen."   He did 2 minutes and 45 seconds.   There was way more in me than I ever understood.  

I came to the summit this year to tell somebody there's way more inside of you than you can imagine.  Our God wants to do more than you can imagine.  You can apply this to every area of your life.  

To run a family with six kids we have to have a different mindset.  As your organization grows your mindset has to change.  If your number of volunteers grows you have to change.  Any time my organization starts to settle or struggle I always assume my leadership capacity has to expand.  Many of you are facing a leadership lid and you need to change the way you operate.  

Five "C"s to expand your leadership capacity:  I challenge you to choose one that is yours.

1.  Building your confidence
2.  Expand your connections
3.  Improve your competence
4.  Strengthen your character
5.  Increase your commitment

Building your confidence-- Too often we speak the "language of the lid"--saying "There aren't enough hours in the day.  I can't get it all done.  There's not enough of me."  Change your self-talk.  One of my early fears was public speaking.  I said, "I'm too young.  I don't know enough, etc...."  Now before I speak I take one step forward and in my mind I step out of my insecurities and into the calling and authority of God.  Someone here needs to take one step forward.  I'm not talking about being confident in yourself but confident that God will give you everything you need.  The pathway to your greatest potential is through your greatest fear.  Replace your negative self-talk with the truth of God. 

Expand your connections -- You may be one relationship away from changing the course of your destiny.  For example, after Saul's conversion he met Barnabas who believed in his conversion and vouched for him.   For me it was a guy named Lyle Schaller.   We were considering going to three services and I asked him if it was possible.  He told me I was thinking too small.  Now we have 136 services in various states.  You can learn from legendary geniuses.  Don't try to copy what they do; learn how they think.  Bill Hybels' vision gave me "the gift of disorientation."  Whenever you find yourself wanting to push back and say, "That's not true where I live," you need to expand your connections.  You need a mentor. 

Improve your competence -- You need to decide a specific area in which you need to improve.  People around you know what that area is.  Examples:  communication; listening; delegation; receiving feedback; work ethic; hiring and recruiting; firing; how you run meetings.  

Strengthen your character -- Talent can get you to the top but only character can keep you at the top.  If your character is not strengthening your future potential is weakening.  You and I need to check our lives for leaks.  Are we neglecting a spouse or time with the Lord?  Are we telling 'white lies' or allowing greed to get into our lives.  Are we living with unconfessed sin in our lives?   Why would I try to resist some temptation in the future that I can eliminate today?  (lock out computer sites, etc.)  

Increase your commitment -- There's a big difference between "I kind of want this" and "Nothing will stop me."  Some of you need to stop kinda doing something and increase your commitment.  Examples: imparting faith to youth; reaching our communities for Christ.  There is MORE in you.  Your brain does not understand what your God is capable of doing through you.  You need to step into that commitment.  What you want determines what you will do in order to get it.  

What is your one thing?  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Albert Tate

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Albert Tate--Leading With Leftovers

Today I'm gonna take on this lie about leadership.  I want to take on this lie that we're supposed to leave it all on the field and give 115%.  If I leave it all on the field I go home with nothing.  We can't give 115%  We need to learn to lead and still have something left--not living for our resumes but for our eulogies.

We need to not be held captive by the scarcity of this world but from the abundance found in Christ.  We want to see how Jesus tells us how to lead with leftovers.

The crowd of people is getting hungry and it's getting late.  So Jesus asks "Where shall we buy bread for the people to eat?"  Let's talk about the moment when Jesus asks dumb questions.  Why would Jesus ask them that?  He wanted them to do the math and see they couldn't do this in their own power.  He wanted them to do the math so that when they get on the other side of the miracle they give God glory.  Jesus wants you to do the math so you can see it's not possible in your strength.  Jesus' dumb question gives way to a dumb idea.  Andrew finds a little boy with two fish and five loaves of bread but he's not laughed out of the room.  Jesus says "Bring them to me."

We need to ask dumb questions and allow dumb ideas because a dumb idea + God's hand = life transformation.  Our culture should support dumb ideas.   Jesus specializes in using dumb ideas.

Father Boyle had an idea to have gang members learn to make puff pastries and sell them and that business is thriving today.

Jesus looks at the little boy with his loaves and fishes.  Who is this little boy?  Out of 5,000 men and families, was he the only one who brought a lunch?  This boy brought what he had and Jesus used what he brought.  What if Jesus is going to do a miracle using what you bring?  What does it mean for you to pack your lunch?  This little boy comes with a dumb idea--he packs his lunch then gives it to Jesus and gets out of the way.  We don't see him anymore.  One of the most key things we can do as leaders is to bring what we have and get out of the way.  Some of us give it to Jesus and then try to instruct Him along the way.  When he gets out of the way he can discover the awe and wonder of God's almighty hand.  He watches Jesus reach in and pull out the lunch and discovers the awe and wonder.  The awe and wonder is what happens when we give it to Jesus, get out of the way, and see what He can do.  If you've brought all you've had, now get out of the way.  When's the last time you were blown away by what God did and your neck hurt because you were in awe and wonder at the power of God?

Two fish and five loaves could be sitting right in the room but you're so busy with your spreadsheet you don't see them.

They ate until they were full.  This is the picture of abundance--of more than enough.  Then they had leftovers--twelve baskets full.  I imagine they gave those baskets to that little boy.  Can you see him walking home with twelve baskets?  I believe at the end of this miracle he had something left.  What would it mean at the end of the day to have something left?

Some of you are sitting here on empty.  That's not the sign of a great work ethic.  That's the sign of missing God's provision in your life   You need to humbly submit what you have and get out of the way so Jesus can meet the need and you have something left.  That's the picture of the gospel--the idea that we're not limited my what's in our hand.  We have the power of the almighty God.  It's not about my name being great; it's about the power of His name.

We don't have to live outside the promise of God in the scarcity of the world.  Jesus came to hang on the cross, bleed, and die and rise again to say to us, "Come on in!"  You don't have to leave it all out on the field.  You can come on in and experience the abundance of God.

Leaders, you don't have to go home empty.  You don't have to leave it all on the field because Christ left it all on the cross.  Tell Jesus, "What I have may not be much, but I give it back to you and I trust You so I can experience the awe and wonder of God."