Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Spark"

The Spark Good movement was started by one thought: What is one thing I can do this week to make my life or the world better? Jason Jaggard wanted to explore what would happen if a group of ordinary people took this challenging question to heart, so he started a group that became known as a Spark Group. From that first small group of people, hundreds of groups have popped up across the country, inspiring thousands of people to do good. This book shares some of their stories and inspires the reader to risk for the sake of good change.

I enjoyed this book. Jason Jaggard is like the guy next door that wants to tell you all about this exciting thing he's doing. It's easy to follow along and catch his excitement  The book tells the what and why about risk, but not the how. That is left to the reader, since each person's risk will look different. Each person reading this book will instinctively know what their risk needs to be (Just as if you read a quote about love, your mind goes to a certain someone). This was an easy and varied read, yet stays completely on subject. Its like sitting down with a good friend and dreaming, "what if?" Jaggard has a way with words that made me laugh out loud a few times and kept me reading.

If you've ever felt like there was more to life, this book is a starting point to finding out what.

3.5/5 Stars

*I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing in exchange for  an honest review*

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

15 Days til the Dominican Republic!

It seems I haven't posted anything about my upcoming trip! So, here goes :)

A few months ago, my church's Missions Ministry was revived with the appointment of a new director. They asked me to be the assistant director, I accepted, and it's been a whirlwind of activity since! We are heading to the Dominican Republic in 15 days to begin to serve the people there. Through our director's relationships with different ministries down there already, we will have the opportunity to meet with several organizations, churches, and government officials while there for a week.

The purpose of this trip is unlike any other missions trip I've been on, and unlike most short-term trips. We are taking a small group of strategically chosen leaders in the church to "survey the land", so to speak, a little bit like the 12 spies the Israelites sent into the Promised Land (Numbers 13). We will be seeing what these different ministries are doing, what is needed, and where our church would best be able to make a lasting difference. We don't want to go reinvent the wheel, or show up and say, "This is what we're doing, and how we're going to do it, and you'd better be grateful!" We want to strategically be able to have a lasting impact of the lives of people in this area, and the best way to do that is to partner with local churches and ministries to better equip them in their work.

From this trip, we will plan our next three years of ministry to this area of the world. We plan to take several more trips to the Dominican Republic, including family and youth oriented missions trips (something I am sooooooo excited about!), and really form relationships with the people and ministry there.

I am so excited for this trip and the possibilities that are going to come from it! This is something that's been on my heart for a while and it's coming to pass! Short-term trips that are a part of a bigger, long-term ministry! Now, I would like to offer you the opportunity to partner with us. You may not be able to go on this particular trip, but can you sponsor me, financially or with prayer? The Bible recognizes equal blessings to anyone who supports missions, as to the missionary themselves. So every soul that is saved because of this trip is counted towards you, too, if you've helped support it! How cool is that? I love that God looks at the heart, and at each person's sacrifice. Perhaps giving to this mission is as much a sacrifice for you as actually going is for me. God knows that and rewards accordingly.

Now, I always hate asking for money. So let me quote Paul on this, "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account." (Philippians 4:17). I know that I will have the money for this trip, one way or another, God will take care of it. But I want you to have the opportunity to be blessed by it, as well. If you would like to donate, you can see me in person, or send a check (made out to CCF, with "Ashley Dominican" in the memo line) to:

Community Christian Fellowship
105 Princeton Blvd.
Lowell, MA 01851

Thanks for you help and support! I am very much looking forward to this trip in two weeks and will be back to let you know how it went and what we did! If you send a check, please let me know so I can keep and eye out for it. God bless :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Through the Eyes of a Child

This week's assignment for Compassion's Blog Month is to write from the perspective of a sponsored child. To do this, I'm going to use a dream I had last week. In my dream, I was in (I think) Africa, in a small village, visiting with Compassion (hasn't happened yet...but I'd love it to!) and I was visiting my sponsored child, a little girl with braids in her hair (At this time, I don't sponsor a girl, and have never sponsored a child in Africa....maybe I should?). This dream, this girl, will not leave my mind, so today's post is from her.

"I wake up on my pallet in the corner. It's too early to get up, but I'm too excited to sleep! The only sound in our little house is the flies buzzing around the netting over my bed, and my little brother snoring softly next to me. The sun is just starting to peek through the little window, but the day already promises to be very hot. There's a little breeze blowing the dust around outside. We haven't had much rain this year, and Daddy's worried because we won't have much food to harvest. Everything seems like another normal day, but it's not. Today's they day They come.

I lay in my bed thinking about Her. In the pictures in my Special Box, her skin is as light as the sand on the beach near Gramma's house. She wears big glasses on her eyes and has a big, happy smile. Her letters say she's a nurse, so I know she's smart and kind. The nurses that took care of Mama before she went to Heaven were smart and kind, too. In her letters, she always says I'm special and that she loves me. That makes me feel happy. For my birthday, she sent me new shoes, and a pretty doll. I've kept them nice and clean. Today I'll show her how good I take care of her gifts. And I'll tell her my alphabet, and my numbers, and my Bible verse. I'll show her how much I'm learning, and that I'm a good girl. While Daddy tried to get work yesterday, I cleaned the house so it is perfectly clean. She'll be so proud of me. And she'll know that I am glad she is my sponsor.

I've always lived in this house. Our  village is little, but there's lots of people in it. And lots of kids to play with! No one has much money, but we help each other how we can. When Mama got sick, our neighbors helped me take care of her while Daddy worked to get her medicine. Daddy worked a lot, then, because medicine is expensive. He wasn't home much. I stayed home to take care of Mama and the house, and to look after my brother. But nothing I did helped. Mama got sicker and sicker. Then, Daddy took her to the hospital a far way away. Me and brother went with them, because it was too long for us to stay alone. The hospital smelled funny. And there were lots of sick people. The doctors and nurses put needles in Mama's arm, to give her special medicine, but she still got sicker. I heard the doctor tell Daddy that it was too late, but they could make her comfortable. I didn't know what that meant. The nurses were nice. They always smiled at us, and gave me and my brother little treats. I would sit with Mama and talk to her, and tell her stories, and say I would make sure the house was clean until she was all better. But she didn't get better. One day, I woke up and Mama wasn't in her bed. Daddy was crying and said Jesus took Mama to Heaven. I wanted to go with her, but Daddy said I couldn't. He said Jesus needed Mama in Heaven, and for us to stay here. I cried too. My brother cried for Mama, too, but he didn't understand about Heaven. He's too little.

After Mama went to Heaven, I was in charge of cleaning the house while Daddy looked for work. His boss fired him when Mama went to the hospital, since he couldn't go to work, so he had to find a new job. Sometimes he found work for a day, but sometime he couldn't find anything. We didn't have much food. Sometimes we could only have a little rice at lunchtime, and nothing else all day. Every morning I would walk to the water hole to get water for the day. The water was brown and dirty, but it was the only water for a long long walk. My tummy felt yucky all the time, and hungry. I wished Mama would come back. Sometimes I would see kids walking by our village in their school uniforms, and they looked so happy with their books. I wanted to go with them, but Daddy said we didn't have the money. But She changed that.

One day, some people came to our village. They said they wanted us to have clean water, and healthy food, and to go to school. I wanted that, too, so did Daddy. But he said we couldn't, because we didn't have the money. But They said they could help. They used a big word, "sponsorship". I didn't know what it meant, even Daddy didn't! But They explained that it meant every kid would have a person from America or somewhere send money to pay for all those things. A Sponsor would pay for me to go to school and be healthy! And they would write letters so it would be like a friend, not just charity. Daddy wasn't too sure about it at first, but when the people told him all about it, he said he would do it for us. They took our pictures, and we had to see a doctor.

Soon, I heard that I had a sponsor! A lady from America! I drew a picture to send her, and my Daddy wrote her a letter. I didn't learn to write yet. The other kids started getting letters and pictures from their sponsors, and I kept waiting for one of my own. Finally, it came! I saw her friendly smile and learned her name, and felt so special because of her letter. I told my teacher that I wanted to learn a lot so I could make my Daddy proud, and make Her proud, and be a teacher myself someday. Or maybe a nurse. Or something else. Her help has made me healthy. My tummy isn't sick anymore, because I have good food. They put a water pump in our village, so we have as much clean water as we want. And I'm learning to write for myself. I can almost write a whole letter by myself! Daddy is happy I have a sponsor, too.

And today, I would get to meet Her, for real. Not just in a letter. Finally, Daddy wakes up and we get ready. I dress in my best clothes, with my pretty shoes. Then, we hear the car. They're here!! I run outside and join the other kids waving to the people getting out of the car. And I see her. My Sponsor! I'm so excited I can barely move! She sees me and comes to give me a big hug. She gives hugs like my Mama did, like grown up ladies do. I hug her back and give her a big smile. She talks to me, but the translator is distracted with another kid, so I don't know what she's saying, but I know it's good because she's smiling. She goes in her bag and pulls out a little camera, like they use at school to take our picture sometimes. She pulls me close and we take a picture together. She shows me on the back and it's us! Me and Her, hugging and smiling next to each other. I wish I could keep in in my Special Box. The translator is back. He says She will send me a copy of the picture when she gets home. I am so happy I give Her another hug. Teacher is telling all of the kids to line up so we can show what we've learned. I line up and see Her standing in front of me with her camera. I smile extra big as we say our letters, and numbers, and Bible verses. After, she hugs me and tells me she is so proud.

I look and see something muddy and yucky got in her hair. I show her and she nods. The translator says She has an idea. She asks if I can get a towel, and I ask why. She pulls out a small bottle from her bag. She says it's shampoo, and it smells good, and that we're going to wash our hair under the water pump. I laugh, and I'm excited so I run to get a towel. Daddy is standing at the house, smiling. He laughs and is happy when I tell him about my sponsor and her idea. When I come out of the house, it's gotten windy and there are dark clouds in the sky. She grabs my hand and we start running towards the water pump as big raindrops start to fall from the sky. She tosses the towel and shampoo under a hut, and spins me around and around, dancing in the rain. Together we laugh and smile, and dance in the rain, as it washes away the dust and feeds the ground.

I am so happy today. Today is the best day ever, and all because She came to visit. "

To make a difference in a child's life, please visit Compassion. Our goal is to get sponsors for 3,108 children this month, and we are less that 1,000 away!

Edit: I should probably note that all the details about this girl, her life, and her village are completely made up and from my own mind. Don't shoot me if that's not how it really works :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I Survived P90X!

I tried P90X today....and I think I liked it! To learn about P90X, check out this video or go to their website. 

So my gym is about to offer P90X classes, and today they were offering a few preview classes. I really wanted to go, and couldn't find anyone to go with me, so I sucked it up and went by myself.

Now, in my head, it looked like this: It would be a decent size class of really-fit people, and I would strategically stand in the back, so when I couldn't do anymore (which I expected to be about ten minutes in), I could just collapse on the ground and not be noticed. The cost of the class was a ten dollar donation to the American Diabetes Association, so I figured even if I totally failed, at least I could say I tried, and supported a good cause.

Here's how it actually happened: I showed up a few minutes early, because I wanted to make sure I could get into the class. My name was first on the list. I was told the class would be in a little coned-off section, not actually in the class room. I went and warmed up on my favorite elliptical, and ten minutes later the trainer, Ryan, came over to get me, saying it was going to be just one-on-one. So NOT what I pictured! And I told him that, and that I wasn't sure how much I could do, but that I would try my best. As he was asking me what weight I usually use for free weights, two more women came (yay, not alone!). Another trainer also came over, since he was free and one of the women was his client. So two trainers for three of us. We jumped right into it, though it was slightly toned down, since it was an introduction to P90X. That does not mean it was easy, though! Definitely not! I had to lay on the living room floor for 20 minutes when I got home! It was the same tough exercises, just a little slower, to explain the moves. Anyways. I rocked the P90X. Seriously. I did everything he said to, with the highest weights he said to, in the hardest ways he said (I did FULL push-ups. No knees! Well, except that last time...). And actually, I was kinda the best in the class. One other woman was pretty close to me, but I pushed just a little further and did a little more than she did. I did have to take some breaks, like anyone else, but I DID it! And Ryan was proud of us. He said that cardio-wise, we were the best class he had all day :)

My end opinion of P90X: I loved it! I did way better than I expected, and finished the whole thing! The real classes start in October, and I would love to do them, but it's $99 a month. I already spend $120 on personal training, so I definitely can't do both :( I can barely lift my arms, I had to lay on the floor at home before I took a shower, and I know I'm going to KILL tomorrow, but I loved it! It's a good feeling to push your body to its limits and get stronger! And I'm so proud of myself to know that I CAN DO P90X!!! Woohoo!

Also, I got a lunchbox with a snack. It's the little things that make me happy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's a Twitter Party!

Are you on Twitter
I am, but I'm so bad about going on! I should work on that...but if you're there, join the Compassion team tomorrow for a Twitter Party! No calling in or RSVPing necessary, just log on and follow two of Compassion's bloggers: Amy Lupold Bair (@ResourcefulMomwho is hosting the event, and Shaun Groves (@shaungroveswill be chatting and taking your questions about Compassion's work and the impact bloggers are having! The party gets started at 7pm on Thursday the 20th, so don't miss out! Unfortunately, I'm working, so I'll have to just see what happened after :( 

Also, anyone who asks a question or makes a comment, using the hashtag #CompassionBloggers will be entered to win a prize! Plus, you can learn mroe about how to become a Compassion Blogger yourself. For more info, check out Amy's post here

In case you're not sure what's up with all this Compassion talk, let me fill you in! September is Compassion's Blogger Month where bloggers are coming together to break a record: we want to find sponsors for more than 3,108 children this month! We're over halfway there, so please consider joining the network to save children's lives and bring them hope. 

If you're on Twitter follow me @AspiringAshley7 and I'll follow back :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pin for Nithish

Meet Nithish. He's the boy I sponsor through Compassion International. He'll be 11 next month and lives in India.  This week's Compassion Blogging Month assignment gives me that chance to win a $100 gift for him! Will you help me?

Here's how. Head over to the Pinterest Board I've dedicated to Sponsorship and repin the one that looks like this:
Every repin gives me an entry to win a gift for Nithish! If you're not signed up for Pinterest, what are you waiting for?! It's fun and free! I'm a tad bit addicted to Pinterest. It lets me find things I find funny, things that entertain me, as well as keep track of things I want to use for craft projects or ministry events. Really, you can do just about anything with Pinterest! And now we can make a difference for our sponsored children! Right up my alley!

Now, if you'd like in on this deal for your own sponsored kid, you can read the official rules here. Also, fun fact: if you sponsor a child this week, not only will you be changing their life forever, but you're entered thirty times to win them a prize! So what are you waiting for? Sponsor a child today! We're halfway through Compassion's Blogging month and there are just over 1,500 children left to make records and change lives! Won't you join the movement?

P.S. If you join the Pinterest challenge, let me know! I'd love to follow you and return the repinning favor :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

God, It's Not Fair

This is post is part of Compassion's Blogging Month

Hi God. It's me. I've been putting this post off all week. This week's Compassion Assignment. One of few the reasons I'm doing it now is because I challenged myself to complete the whole Compassion Blogging Month, and the new assignment comes out tomorrow. I could say that I've been busy; I worked all week. I could say I was tired; I've been exhausted all week. I could say I was distracted. Those are all true, but  I don't think any of those things is the real reason for my delay.

I think the real reason is You. The assignment is to write You a letter about sponsorship. But what on earth do I tell You about it that You don't already know? Praying for the kids is great, but to do that for a whole letter seems like a Wish List of sorts...not that praying for kids is bad. I just want this to be more than "And bless this one and that one and give us this...."

I think one of the main reasons I've struggled is because when I read the assignment, the first sentence in my head was, "But God, it's not fair!" Because it's not.

It's not fair that these innocent, loving, deserving children are without so many basic needs when I and the people I love have so much. I mean, really. I heard today about a woman who's had 12 surgeries to make her breasts a size M. We don't even know what to do with all our money, and there's kids sick, and starving, and homeless all over the world! This issue, as with human trafficking just make me want to scream, "GOD, IT'S NOT FAIR!" while having a tantrum like a two-year-old.

Because it's not fair that I am sitting here with more electronics than I can count. With dozens of outfits in my closet, yet I complained this morning that I have nothing to wear. With so much food in my fridge and cabinets that it goes bad before I can eat it all. With instant access to medicine and treatment for any kind of ailment. With 4 Bibles on my shelf and endless information at my fingertips. With a safe, warm, comfortable place to live and sleep.

Yet, while I'm sitting here, there's a little boy watching his mother waste away from disease. There's a little girl being forced into prostitution. There's a mother mixing dirt into her child's food to help his belly feel full. There's a brother and sister working for their family's income, instead of going to school. There's a young man looking for hope and seeing only darkness. God, it's not fair.

Where's the line that decides who gets abundance and who goes without? What did I ever do to get in the abundance line, while those kids didn't? And if I can't stand it, how do You? When You hear their cries, see them in trouble, how can You not step in and save them from it? I suppose that's why You're God and I'm not. (Which is good, because I would never be able to handle the stress of running the universe!)

Lord, I know You're a just God. I know You work all things for Your good. And I know that this is a fallen world, but that just doesn't seem like a good enough reason for all the injustice around us. The one hope I have in this confusion of unfairness is that I know You have a habit of using the willing to change the world. And I want to help. Sign me up. I want to fix it. I want the world to be fair. It really irks me when people say "you can't save the world" because why can't I? I serve the One who created it, so why can't I save it? Obviously not on my own, but with Him I can...can't I?

Joseph did it. So did Esther. David. Moses. So why not me? True, right now I have no idea how to. I don't have the resources, or the training, or a full vision (yet), but that's never stopped You from using someone! So I start small. I change the way I shop. I change the way I live in and see the world. I sponsor a child. Maybe right now I'm not saving the entire world. But I'm saving the life of Nithish. Because of my sponsorship, he gets healthy food and water, clothes, school supplies, education and more. His life will be different. And maybe he goes on to do something amazing with his life. He uses the opportunities Compassion gave him and the education he receives to change his village. To make it a safe, happy, successful place. And right now I'm using my electronic blessings and social media to take a stand, to use my voice, so maybe a friend will step in to change a child's life, too. Then my World Saving Power has doubled. If it keeps going like that, pretty soon, I will save the world with You!

Is this why You let the world be unfair? To stir us to compassion, to have a passion to change the way things are? To get beyond our own lives and step into the hurt of someone else's? I wish the world was fair. I wish I didn't know the kind of horrors that happen in this world. But, at the same time, I thank You for opening my eyes to them. For giving me that passion to want to see change in the world and for showing me step by step how to make it happen. Lord, for all the tears and sleepless nights I've had (and am sure to continue having) over these issues, I pray that You would show up and show off to eradicate these nightmares from our world. Because without Your presence, it's all for nothing. My actions will only result in making me sick and tired.

But with You....with You, I can save the world.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Feguerson, Byukusenge, Marioly, Selenia

Today is the official start of the Compassion Blogger's Month! Yes, I've written two posts already about this, but this is the official start, since I've officially been given an assignment. And since I have an assignment, I'm giving you one, too.

Your assignment is to check out the Sponsor a Child page over at Compassion's site. As I write this, there are 86 pages of children waiting for sponsors on the main search page, for a total of 1706 children needing to know they're special and loved. Four of them have birthday's today. Wouldn't it be a great birthday present for them to be sponsored?

So here's what I want you to do. Go to the Sponsor a Child page. Look at these precious children. Look at their sometimes sad sometimes smiley faces and see the possibilities. Check out the different ways of sorting the massive list. Sort by age, country, longest waiting, orphaned, special needs, etc. Notice the ones with symbols on their pictures. Some of these children live in places know for exploitation and abuse. Others live in AIDS-affected affected areas. Still others have been waiting for a really long time. Many over six months, some over a year.

Then I want you to do something. Maybe you choose to pray for these kids. Pray for their lives, their families, their eventual sponsors. Maybe you'll choose to pray for yourself, that God would break your heart for what breaks His. That you would see "the least of these" as He sees them. Maybe you can use the page to learn about the different cultures represented by these kids. Maybe you use it as motivation to write your own post about Compassion, or to join the Compassion Bloggers Network. Or, maybe you will decide to sponsor a child of your own! Whatever route you choose, just do something to make an everlasting impact in the lives of these children.

Whatever gifting you have, you can use it to make a difference. Write, blog, vlog, sing, dance, pray, sponsor, visit...the opportunities are endless if you put your mind to it! So go check out the Sponsor a Child page and see what you come up with to change the life of a child!

Let me know what you decide to do! If you blog for Compassion (or fun) too, let me know. I'd love to follow :) 

Wondering about the title of this post? Those are the four children with birthday's today who are waiting for sponsors.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Represent

Last Sunday, I was teaching my kiddos a lesson about "Secret Servants", people who do good without expecting any rewards or recognition, simply because it's what God says is right. The memory verse was one I know I've heard a billion times in my life, but it hit me in a new way:
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17, NLT)
We're not told to simply do all things for God, but representing God. Just as an ambassador for a country travels the world representing their home country, we represent our true home, the Kingdom of God. The ambassador is seen as typical of what people from that area are like. They are known for making decisions that best benefit their home country. They are the only glimpse of that country some people may see. The same is true for all believers.

In the words of my Pastor from a sermon this week, "You don't work for God, you work with God." God doesn't call us servants, but friends (John15:15). He lets us in on His plan and encourages us to use our gifts with His resources to effect change in our world.

So the question becomes, who are you representing with your words and actions? Would people be surprised to learn you are a Christian based on the 'you' they see everyday? Or do your actions express your passion for Christ?

As I shared last week, this month is Compassion Blog Month! I just keep getting more and more excited about this! Sponsoring a child is such an easy, rewarding way to represent Christ. (Note: This post didn't start as a plot to talk about Compassion. It just happened that way. Sponsorship is obviously not the only way to represent God in your life. It's just one.) For the price of one meal out, you can change the life of a child forever. The money will help send that child to school, provide clothes, healthy food, medical care, and everything needed to help that child grow and thrive! Plus, your sponsorship will open doors for you and your family to connect with another person and family that you may never have met otherwise. There are so many positives, there are really no negatives!

I just bought a birthday present for my Compassion child on their website, and this is what waited on the confirmation page:
Thank You Sponsors! from Compassion International on Vimeo.

How great is that! Made me smile like a dork. So if you're not a sponsor and want to have this kind of impact, head over to Compassion's website to make a difference in the life of a child!

Most of us will have no problem sparing the $38 each month. That's less than $10 a week. A lot of people spend more than that on coffee each week. But maybe you truly don't have it in your budget. Or maybe you're a child or teen yourself, and can't come up with that kind of money. If that's you, I have a suggestion. Find a friend (or two) and sponsor a child together! I even know of several classes that sponsor a child as a group. You all still benefit, and this child now knows that several people love and pray for them! I challenge you to take another look at how you spend your money, and see if you can help one of these children in need.
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