When Your Marriage Needs a Fresh Coat

Let’s admit it. No matter how good your marriage is, sometimes it needs a fresh coat – like your toes. When you get a great pedicure, do you keep it forever saying, “I have the world’s best pedicure?” NO! You wear it proudly, then when it starts to chip and wear away, you remove it for a fresh coat.

Want to find out how you can do the same for your marriage? Join me today at The Cafe. Click HERE to read my devotion.

Happy Memorial Day!

Join me on Twitter @sheeptotheright

Carol

God, Grace, and Girlfriends Contest Winner!

 

And the winner is…

Comment number 8, which is Theresa Little! Congratulations Theresa. You have won Mary R. Snyders‘ God, Grace, and Girlfriends book, a $10 gift card to Starbucks and a  Sheep to the Right pin and prayer card!

I will email Theresa and get her prizes to her right away. Thanks to all of you who entered. I highly recommend buying God, Grace, and Girlfriends for yourself.

What great books are you reading this summer? I’d love to hear about them.

Carol

Nine Months Too Long {World Vision – Featured Service Organization}

Remember how our family wanted to buy some chickens? World Vision, the featured service organization for the month of May, was the group to make that happen.

Not only does this incredible organization help purchase animals for families who need a hand out of poverty, they help connect children with sponsors, as well. Our family sponsors an eight-year-old girl from Bolivia named Jhovana. A sponsored child with World Vision is provided with things like clean drinking water, nutritious food, and an education. This organization not only helps the sponsored children, but provides for the whole community, as well.

I’m honored to have a guest post today from someone whose life work is changing lives.I met Lindsey Talerico-Hedren last year through a connection at World Vision. I love Lindsey because she shares my heart for missions and love for children.Let me tell you a little more about Lindsey.

Lindsey Talerico-Hedren worked at World Vision’s headquarters in the U.S. for nearly three years as a social media specialist – integrating new media and communications with marketing, media and public relations. Her work there took her to Bolivia in August 2011 as part of a new blogging initiative. She has three sponsored children… Memory in Zambia, Noelia in Bolivia, and Arminda in Bolivia. Lindsey met Noelia and Arminda in person. In February 2012, she moved with her husband to Auckland, New Zealand to take the first ever social media position at World Vision’s headquarters there. 

Here’s Lindsey:

Nine Months Too Long

It’s been nine months since we were in Bolivia. Nine months since we nervously gathered on a last conference call before meeting in person. Nine months since we packed our bags and boarded our planes. Nine months since we made monthly financial commitments to support children we never met.

In August last year, eleven of us set out to write a new story together as bloggers and compassionaries. We were going to Bolivia to witness the work of World Vision first hand and to blog every mile of the way.

We were taking a flight of faith, believing in new experiences and opportunity. Believing in friendship and trust. Believing in the work of World Vision.

It was everything we could’ve imagined and so, so much more.

We met schools of children who gathered weekly to lead one another in a devotional time. Lizbeth is only 13 years old, but as she spoke quietly from Matthew 13 telling the parable of the mustard seed, she captivated her classmate’s attention and ours.

We witnessed hope and happiness at a World Vision center for children with special needs. Weeping parents thanked us, people they never met, for giving them a place where they and their children were accepted and cared for in their community, where they were no longer the focal point of community gossip when their children were considered not “normal.” I sat beside fidgety, excited, smiley Arturo when hearing aids were fitted for his ears for the first time, a gift from the donations of child sponsors.

I cried as I watched Celestina cry for the hardships her family has overcome. I saw pain fall in tears down her face as she told us her neighbors thought her son Wilfram was slow because she must have drank too much while pregnant. I saw love in her tears as she told us nurses discovered Wilfram had a heart defect during his annual health check-up as a sponsored child. I saw fear drip from her eyes as she prayed the prayer she repeated to herself while she waited during his heart surgery. That surgery gave him a new life. When I met Wilfram, he ran long and hard and laughed the entire way. Child sponsorship gave him that surgery.

We met heaps of sponsored children, including our own. My heart melted when I met Noelia, just as it does now every time I think of her. This was the precious eight-year-old girl I sponsored from a webpage on my couch in Puyallup, WA. Weeks later I sat next this petite beauty, sharing a stairwell with her mother and father. She likes basketball and the color pink. I brought her a doll, nail polish, hair ribbons, stickers… but of all the gifts, she liked the crayons the most. An artist, maybe she’ll be one day.

We listened through stories that made our hearts ache. We were on the bus when our trip host, a beautiful young communications officer with World Vision’s office in Bolivia, told us the story of a little girl whose parents were trying to give away. Since no one wanted her, they left her. Later, a woman was walking by. She had no money, three kids, a very sick husband, and living in conditions most of us can’t even fathom. She found the little girl eating noodles from the ground and asked whose daughter she was. But no one knew. She took her home and adopted her. She had next to nothing, but she had the heart of a mother to give this little girl.

The moment I heard that story I recognized who the little girl was. In one of many preparations made before this trip, I scoured our photo library in search of photos from Bolivia we could use to in our announcement blog posts and to create banners should readers be inspired to sponsor a child. There was this photo:

It was taken six months earlier and its caption spoke of a little girl who was adopted by a neighbor family. I remembered she was a sponsored child and her new family has a pig farm started from a small gift of two piglets from World Vision’s Gift Catalog.

It was the little girl from our banners. It was the little girl whose story I was hearing.

Arminda was ten times more angelic and charming than in her photo, if you can imagine that. She has this giggle that makes you wish you saw what she saw in all of us – we must have been awfully silly looking as we awed at her family’s pigs. I knew the photo I had seen before of her was taken awhile back, but on the day we met her she wore the exact same pale pink plaid dress. I asked Andrea, our trip host, why that was, perhaps she had no other clothes. Andrea told me Arminda had other outfits, but this was her best. She knew we were coming and she wore her best for us.

I’ve had this growing suspicion for quite some time that World Vision was going to crawl (not just into my career, but also) into my heart and never leave. And it’s happened… but the World Vision that is forever planted in my heart is not paperwork; it’s not Excel sheets; it’s not campaign headlines; it’s not Facebook updates — even if these things are what help create my daily work.

It’s Lizbeth, Arturo, Celestina, Noelia and Arminda. They are my World Vision, my small contribution, my reminder that no amount is ever too little.

It’s been nine months since our stories collided with the stories of those we met in Bolivia.

Nine months since we looked into their eyes, held their hands, were welcomed into their homes as we listened to their struggles and cheered for their dreams.

Nine months since we embarked on a journey through uncharted blogging territory dragging our nerves behind us and letting go of our naivety along the way.

Nine months since we laughed and played with children whose impoverished circumstances know no bounds for joy.

Nine months since we soaked up the presence of God in Bolivia.

It has been nine months too long.


Connect with Lindsey:
Lindsey blogs to write, share and find community.
@lindseytalerico – http://lindseytalerico.com

If you’d like to buy some chickens or find a child to sponsor, click HERE to visit World Vision. It’s an easy way to reach out to others straight from your home. If you already sponsor a child, tell me about them!
UPDATE: Find out how I met Lindsey by reading her post HERE.

Carol

God, Grace, & Girlfriends Giveaway!!

It was pure jealousy that resulted in the new competition getting pushed out the window. But it was true friendship that brought him home again.

Yep. I’m talking about Buzz and Woody.

While Woody didn’t appreciate Buzz’s arrival, they soon realized they “had a friend” in each other. I find it funny that both Buzz and Woody were male toys because the jealousy factor is usually most prevalent in female relationships. Fingernail scratching, hair snatching…we can be vicious at times.

Have you ever struggled to find a girlfriend or group of girlfriends who you can always count on? Ones who always accept you for who you are, but challenge you, as well, to be more?

Mary Snyder did, and she has written an incredible book about girlfriends and combined it with grace and God to create a work that will leave you grinning. When Mary’s publisher sent me a copy of God, Grace, & Girlfriends, I couldn’t put it down.

Her book is divided into two parts. The first section is about finding friends. Sometimes, it’s harder than it seems. But Mary gives practical tips for creating lifelong friendships. Part two is my favorite. Titled Girlfriends, Gatherings and Getaways, it suggests lots of fun activities to do with your BFFs.

One example is to plan a Gardening Girls’ Day Out. Mary suggests you grab some pots, soil, and your garden gloves to spend a day in the dirt together. She provides an actual list of things you’ll need for setup and supplies. Then she offers some discussion questions to take your day out to a spiritual level. I love it! The gardening day is only one of many activities.

For actual getaways, Mary even provides a list of actual places that would be good options, with a description of each. This is a practical guide that I will return to again and again. For those of you interested in planning a full-scale retreat, she gives great details and lists about how to make it happen.

I teach the ladies Bible study group for my Sunday school class. God, Grace, and Girlfriends has given me lots of ideas and inspiration for planning some fun summer activities for the ladies. With such practical advice, this book is written in the light, often humorous, style, reading it feels like you are talking to a girlfriend.

So, here is some great news. Mary’s publisher has provided me with a copy of the book to give away! And because I want you to be able to spend time with your girlfriends, I am adding a $10 Starbucks card. Coffee AND a book. What could be better?

HOW TO WIN:
You will have the opportunity to earn multiple chances to win. They are listed below:
1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what you and your girlfriends like to do for fun. = 1 Entry

2. Pin this post to Pinterest. (You must let me know you’ve done it in the comment section or I won’t be able to count it.) = 1 Entry

3. Share this post on Facebook. (You must let me know you’ve done it in the comment section or I won’t be able to count it.) = 1 Entry

4. Sign up for my email subscription. (Be sure you activate the link after you get a confirmation email from Feed Burner. Once again, let me know you’ve done this.) = 1 Entry

5. Go to the May Service Calendar post HERE and print the calendar for your family. (You must let me know you’ve done it in the comment section or I won’t be able to count it.) = 1 Entry

6. Follow me on Twitter or Tweet about the contest. (You must let me know you’ve done it in the comment section or I won’t be able to count it.) = 1 Entry

7. Go comment on Mary’s post HERE and leave her an encouraging comment. (You must let me know you’ve done it in the comment section or I won’t be able to count it.) = 1 Entry

Okay, that’s a lot of ways to win. You can do one, several or all of them. Just be sure to let me know which ones you’ve done so I can count them as entries.

This contest will close on Friday, May 18 at 11:59 p.m. I will announce the winner on Monday, May 21.

*New Hope publishers did provide me with a promotional copy of the book, but the opinions listed here are my own.

Carol

Light Switch Dreams – Shedding Light on the Plans God has for You

You know when you flip the light switch in the bathroom first thing in the morning and your eyes sting because the light is so bright? That’s the way it was with my dreams.

They were always there – the dreams –building and stretching as God molded and shaved away pieces, fashioning who I was to be. But it wasn’t until the light, the bright light, that I could see and recognize them for what they were.

Paul had a bathroom light switch experience, too. Well, he was really Saul then. His blinding moment of light changed his life forever. I believe it’s that way with all of us. There is one defining moment, whether it’s one thing or the culmination and pinnacle of many, where we know what God’s created us to do. The knowledge is so dazzling, your first reaction is to close your eyes. But you can’t. You were blind, but now…

From that moment on, everything in the past seems so obvious. Of course, He was preparing you for this. To look back and identify the markers are enough to make your mouth drop.

At first, I couldn’t put a finger on my bright light moment. It could have been after reading a particular book. After finishing Bruce Wilkinson’s The Dream Giver, I thought my dream was to be published.

The desire in me so strong, I started writing devotions just for me and saved them in a safe place where no one could see. But you can’t be published if no one reads it. So I started a blog and signed up for a writer’s conference. Those steps of faith launched my writing journey.

Soon, I was published in a magazine. Then another. And another. Then came a book. It was as if I stumbled onto something, but my journey to write wasn’t by chance, for the pathway that led me there was easily recognizable in my rearview mirror. And then in the middle of writing a book proposal, somewhere in between writing a competitive market analysis and volunteering in a prison for research, my real light switch experience happened. I realized my dream wasn’t really to write, per se. My dream was to change lives, and many times that happened through the written word. God is in the business of changing lives and was asking me to join Him.

And that’s where my dream lies – in that process of change. While writing fuels much of it, sometimes the life adjustments come in different ways. Perhaps it’s changing the attitudes of the little people in my own home and sometimes it’s sending money for clean water and schoolbooks for my World Vision child. There are days when I teach and encourage men serving time for murder and others when I help a grandma wipe the ketchup off the floor at McDonald’s after she’s made a mess. There’s no task too big or too small when it comes to making a difference in someone’s life.

You see, I realized there was no fairy godmother to appear with sparkles and fairy dust when I finally had my name in print. It isn’t my name that’s important – it’s His.

I’m a mom of three that stays up too late every night and drinks too much coffee every morning. I’m not famous, and probably never will be. But that’s okay, because each day I’m choosing to live my dream, working to affect the lives of people around me – one word, one act of mercy, one let-you-in-front-of-me-in-the-grocery-store, one step out of my comfort zone at a time.

How about you? What has God placed in your heart?

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I’m linking up today with my sweet friend Lindsey Talerico-Hedren where she is posting about dreams. Come read her post So Long Old Dreams, Hello New Ones where you’ll also find a treasure chest of dream posts from other incredible bloggers.

Carol