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 | By Alison Blanchet

Sacrifice Leads to Blessing With a Good Girl Named Nellie

Last fall, our family acquired a dog. While my husband and I had begun to consider that our kids were at the right age for this responsibility, we hadn’t spoken of this to anyone and definitely had not begun to look.

Yet one Saturday morning in July, I received a text from a family with a picture of a German shepherd mix and the inquiry, “Do you know anyone who might want to welcome a dog who is great with kids?” They explained that they were preparing to be missionaries overseas and could not bring her with them.

A flurry of messages back and forth described Nellie the dog as an almost impossibly perfect fit for our routines and environment. A weekend visit confirmed that Nellie would be a welcome addition to our home. She never barked, maintained admirable self-control when The Toddler waved a cheeseburger in front of her face, and she seemed to know exactly when the kids needed a snuggle. It seemed like she had been with us for years instead of days.

At this point in the story I always tell people that there was a plan for an older couple to care for Nellie if my friends couldn’t find a family — they were not going to put Nellie in a shelter! They’d just hoped to place her with a family with children.

Nellie’s first family made many heroic sacrifices when they answered the call from God to be missionaries and left behind so much of what was familiar to them. They told us that saying goodbye to Nellie was one of the hardest moments, but that our family welcoming her was one more example of God’s faithfulness.

Nellie has continued to be the best dog — unflinching when The Toddler trips over her and staying at our son’s side when he had a nasty virus a few weeks ago. I’ve never been an animal person, and originally I was only thinking of the kids as we began our conversation about dogs and pets. But, I can honestly say that Nellie has been a tremendous blessing to us all.

Every time I see her comforting our kids — or adult friends who now ask to visit Nellie when they’ve had a hard day — I’m reminded that we received this gift because of a big “yes” another family gave to God.

Lent is a season of sacrifice. We’ve all heard that we should examine our lives and consider what is distracting or keeping us from a deeper relationship with God, and look into what we can “give up.”

Nellie is a daily reminder to me that sometimes what’s hardest for us to give up can be a tremendous blessing for others. It might be something very abstract — like the money we spent on Starbucks each week could be redirected to feed a family in a developing country for a month. It could be something more concrete like the clothes we’ve had in our closets that we haven’t worn for years, which could outfit a person in need of basic necessities. The time we spend binge-watching Netflix could be used to visit with a lonely neighbor or tutor students.

While giving a beloved family pet to another family is a unique situation, Lent is a terrific season to ask ourselves not just what we might be called to give up, but who in our lives can be blessed by our sacrifices.

Alison Blanchet lives in Panama City with her husband and three children. She works as a therapist for children and teens. Email her at