Set the Captives Free

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You know how much I love getting to teach and minister at the prison. I’m always asking the men to tell me their stories. I just love to hear about how God redeemed their lives.

Many times they will give me copies of the papers they’ve written for classes that tell their stories. I always ask for permission to use them in my writing. I want to share what God has done but also want to be respectful of their privacy. They always want me to share. Because in my sharing, it means their lives are being used. Their pain and bad choices aren’t just the tools that put them behind bars but are part of a greater story that God can use to change other lives. That’s powerful.

Today at the Presidential Prayer Team, I tell the story of Maurice. He would love it if you would go read it – and so would I. Click HERE to read his story of redemption.

*Remember the PPT devotion links are only direct for today, May 12. After today, you’ll have to click this date from the drop down menu on the site. 

Carol

Where’s Waldo?

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When I was a teen, Where’s Waldo books were super popular. I spent hours searching for his red and white striped shirt in the pages of his books. I wonder if you are thinking the same thing about me.

Where’s Carol?

I returned from the Dominican Republic after an incredible trip and disappeared from my website. Let me explain. When we returned, our air conditioner broke, our van died and then our dog (yes, our precious dog Comet) died.

The kids had spring break. I turned 40! We had Easter. Then throw in some chicken pox, two bladder infections and a stomach virus for the kids. Yep. That’s where I’ve been. Just trying to keep my head above the water.

I’m still planning on telling you all about my trip. But it’ll have to wait for another day. School is deliciously close to being out, but that means lots of responsibilities for a mom of three.

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In the meantime, enjoy a good Grace story at Just 18 Summers. You won’t believe why I had to threaten to punish my two older kids. Come find out. Click HERE to read my family funny there today. It’s called Kiss Day.

And if you aren’t my Facebook friend, come find me on Facebook. If we don’t know each other already, just let me know you are a reader. I post on there quite often. Also, I can get to know you, too. :)

Blessings,

Carol

When Words Fail

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Sometimes words fail.

It’s not often I say that because I’m a words person. I love to use them any way I can – talk, type, stamp – you name it.

But today, friends, words fail me. We visited a community afterschool center in the town of La Vega. I was amazed at what we found there.

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The mothers and children who greeted us were so warm and inviting. The welcomed us to take pictures and gave us hugs. It was here where I saw what child sponsorship really means. One Vision International, the organization behind this mission trip, partners with the ladies at this afterschool center to help the children.

The building was plain cinder block, but decorated with the most beautiful arts and crafts. You found the typical things you see in a kids program but not in the typical way. The ABCs on the wall in the preschool room were handmade. Some of the play blocks hand painted.

On the wall in and around the center were the most creative flowers fashioned from something they have plentiful – water bottles. The made flags with bottle cap lids and all kids of flowers from the mouths of the bottle.

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One look and I realized how much I take for granted the arts and crafts, not only in my children’s schools, but in my home, as well.

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Today, our team divided and conquered. Several went on a prayer walk in the neighborhood to pray for and over the families. Others told Bible stories with an interpreter and made crafts and helped serve snacks. My job was to take pictures of the new kids who needed sponsorships.

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If you have ever wondered who that sponsorship money really goes to help, let me show you some of their precious faces.

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I’m back at the hotel now for a quick break and am headed out soon to start our ladies’ conference. I speak tonight at 8 pm Eastern. So if you wanted to say a little prayer, I’d appreciate it.

I love you all and will post again when I can. Until then, would you consider partnering with One Vision and sponsor one of these beautiful children?

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Carol

God is More

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At the beginning of each new year, I ask God to give me a verse on which to focus. It’s not some mystical, “Lord, I’m going to open the Bible and point. Place my finger on my verse for the year.”

No. It’s not that at all. In fact, sometimes it takes me quite a while to figure out what verse God wants for me that year.

Last year, my verse was: Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 NIV

God asked me to stop trying so hard to control everything and let Him do what He is going to do without me pushing and shoving. I was weeks in to this year and still had no idea which verse to claim. So I prayed and asked for wisdom.

When I started my t-shirt fundraiser, I had no idea how much money I would raise. The site told me if I sold 75 shirts, I would raise about $350. I wasn’t sure if I could sell that many, but I thought it was worth the try. My trip to the DR was $1600. Three hundred-fifty dollars would certainly help.

As the two weeks of the fundraiser passed, I stood in amazement every day of the number of people buying shirts, but also of the number of people who felt led to donate. The night the fundraiser was supposed to end, I stayed up late watching television with Alan.

Sometime after midnight, Alan headed up to bed, and I came to shut down my laptop and check to see the final number of shirts sold and money raised. What I saw had me laughing out loud.

$1601 raised
115 shirts sold

I couldn’t help but laugh because only God can do something like that. Immediately, God impressed on my heart what my verse needed to be this year – Ephesians 3:20.

I love the New Living Translation version of this verse.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 NLT

God could have done $1600, but He did more. That $1 more wasn’t just a dollar for a dollar’s sake. It was God saying, “You can not put limits on Me.”

But friends, that wasn’t all.

Other family and friends mailed in money to One Vision. God provided even more money!

Alan and I sat down to discuss what the actual costs would be for everything and what we had left over.

One Vision was also trying to raise money for sponsorships for the women. They didn’t want the women to have to pay for the conference, so they were asking people like you and me to pay their way. We decided that whatever money we had above what I needed for the trip would go for sponsorships. From our calculations, we could also pay for 31 women to attend the conference.

Without telling her why, I asked our team leader how many more sponsorships were needed, and she emailed me the next day with the answer. Want to guess?

30

They needed support for 30 more women and guess how many God provided? 31! Because He can always do more. There was that number one again.

I share all this to tell you if God says He will provide, Jehovah Jireh will do just that. I don’t know what your need it today, but God does.

Let’s just take a minute to give Him the glory and honor He deserves.

I’m going to share this verse again – because it’s just that good. Think about how this can apply to your own life.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 NLT

 

Enjoy the slideshow! If you still haven’t sent me a picture, I still would love to have it. Keep them coming. Enjoy!

Everyday Missionaries on PhotoPeach

Carol

Packing my Bags

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I’m packing my bags.

I prayed for years for God to send me on a mission trip, but the details never worked out right. Then last year, when God asked me to “be still” and watch Him at work, He opened the doors for me to go to the Dominican Republic. I leave on Thursday.

I’ve poured over the packing list. And as I’ve configured my travel toothbrush, some antacids and my Bible, I realized I packed so much more that you cannot see.

I take with me each of the people who bought the 115 Everyday Missionary shirts to help support my trip. I take those who selflessly sent checks to One Vision. God provided immeasurably more than enough.

I pack away the memory of my grandmother who paid the way to my first ever writer’s conference and really planted the seed that started this journey here. Tucked deep down are my Memaw and Pop – my Pop was a man who dedicated his life to preaching the word of God with Memaw by his side. He was the one who told me to ignore God’s calling on my life, because if God was truly calling me, He wouldn’t let up. Pop was right.

My uncle Frank sent me a gift of love to help support my trip in memory of my aunt Gail – she who had a heart for internationals. I take her memory with me and hold it close.

Friends, I’m an emotional mess. I’m humbled that God would use a silly sequined girl like me to bring His message of love and grace. Did you know that just seven years ago, on that first trip across the nation to the writer’s conference in New Mexico, my girlfriend Amy had to hold my hand and let me cry on take off? I was scared to death.

And now this. Don’t let me fool you. I’m not as cool and confident as I may seem. The sparkles and bling are a deflection of the mess of me. I’m really not all that. I’m just someone who has been absolutely changed by Jesus.

I’m the one who cries most days during my quiet time, because as I read God’s Word I’m so amazed and humbled. I am not the same girl I used to be.

I am changed.
I’ve been redeemed.
I’m chosen.

And because of that, I can’t keep it to myself. So every day, I take my knee-knocking self to the foot of the cross and humbly ask God to use me.

Some days that’s loving on my twelve-year old son and letting him know that no matter what crazy things he does, I’m going to love him anyway. Other days it’s listening to a friend who needs to pour her heart out about family problems.

Still others find me (crazy enough) in prison, loving on the men there and learning from them about grace.

So this week, God is taking me to the Dominican Republic. Not because I’m somebody so awesome, but because HE is!

So if you are reading these words, I ask you to please pray for me and the team that will minister there this week. Pray also for the missionaries there and the Dominican women who will attend the conference.

And if you are reading this and are wishing God would “wow” you in your own life, I have a secret for you. He is waiting to do just that. Just let Him know you want to be used. But don’t sit around waiting for Him to use you. Draw close to Him and spend time in His presence, because that is where you will see change. You can’t be in God’s presence and remain the same. And when you are changed, you can’t help but share it with others.

Thank you sweet friends. Thank you for loving me.

I will be blogging from the trip – the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – so stay tuned. If you don’t already receive my posts by email, you can sign up in the upper right corner. You’ll just get an email on the days I post something new.

*photo credit

All my love,

Carol