the inspire shop

new beginnings & coming soon

tiffany garza

Driving around the neighborhood, sparks of color have been found among the trees as pink and white and purple blossoms enter in. All the while, the calendar states it is merely the middle of February. Perhaps it is the abundance of clouds and rain this winter but it seems a little early for their arrival. Despite my usual love for their elegance and grace as spring is ushered in, this year it seems to early and out of place. But they are declaring in their sweet and soft voices of the newness to come, as does the sun, boasting its extra minutes of light.

So much beauty and birth still to come.

This season has been about birth and newness on more levels than I could possible keep record. The summer brought a season of hard and love and the fall ushered in one of surprise and shifting, as moving boxes filled our garage, while newborn diapers and more social workers graced our homes.

Transition has been a key word in my vocabulary, more than I thought was possible but with each use, as it has rolled off the tongue, God has showed something of himself and brought us to place of truly open hands to his leading.

Now, new birth and life is coming. Blossoms lining the road ahead as we go.

Today is the termination of parental rights for our littlest son, as we are in the process of adopting Ryland's biological brother. We are thankful to tuck four littles in to bed and kiss four little heads good night and surprised by God's grace to allow us one more of his.

We moved from our homiest of neighborhoods, following God's leading throughout it all (perhaps I will share details later) and starting to build an extension of our church there.

And then there is this silly thing that I really questioned God's timing about. With four small children and starting a new church in a new community, is it really time to start something else new? Clearly the answer is yes, because time is his and he gives and makes time for things that his heart is for, should I have the obedience to trust and listen.  

As I mentioned months ago about starting a small creative business to support women coming out of hard places and trafficking and addiction, it is now on the cusp of its birth. As products are being listed and the website is almost tuned and women are coming together to be the hands and feet and encourage and inspire others,  it leaves me in awe and wonder at what God will do, all the while worshipping and cultivating thankfulness.

Everything is under construction at the new website. I had debated keeping the blog or including it in the new site, so when I did not renew the domain over the summer and the new owner wanted several thousands of dollars for it, I got my answer.

So this is me tying up the last bit of ingracealways and heading over to more new things. If you would like to continue along, this is where you can find me. 

Here's to blossoms and new beginnings.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43: 19

meet julie steck, an interview + no more secrets

tiffany garza

I met Julie and her friend, Jennifer in the hotel Starbucks when I attended the Allume Conference last fall. I ordered a drink and was planning on taking in the downtown view from the outside patio, soaking in just being there  across the country - childless, without any expectations and a God adventure on my sleeve (I have found it is easier to be open to these sorts of things when traveling alone, be to it to the grocery store or library or across the country, wherever it leads)  but as I waited for my name to be called, I started talking to Julie and Jennifer.

They invited me to enjoy the morning with them on the patio and I agreed. They were sweet and real and hospitable, even in an unfamiliar Starbucks. We spoke of God and life and our children and the fact we had no idea what we were doing at this conference, all as first time attendees but knew that this is where God was calling us to at this moment in time.

Julie is one of those easy to talk to people and real and deep and speaks with love and grace. Her heart is in each word she says and her authenticity is evident. She cares for her family and people and what God is doing in each person.

She shared about her book she was working on and we exchanged contact info, as we indulged in the last of our drinks and parted ways.

We have stayed in touch and she was gracious enough to share part of her journey in the Hearing God series at the beginning of the year. And now I am super excited to announce that the message that God has put on her heart to share, which is never easy to share, is being released today in her first book, No More Secrets: Set Free from Fear, Shame and Control by Discovering True Grace.

I was blessed with the privilege to get an advanced copy of the book a few weeks ago and read it through in one night. I love Julie's honesty and transparency to be herself and share issues that she has overcome through Christ. We do not all have the same struggles or the same fears but her message reaches past the actual struggle to the freedom from whatever is holding us back. Freedom that is found and rooted and Christ. Julie was sweet enough to let me pick her brain about her new book, so without further ado, here she is.


How did God lead you in to compiling your experiences in to a book?

Writing is how I process. So during this year of intense struggle, I filled my journal with thoughts, prayers and examples of all God taught me through His Word. I started blogging again and shared some of my journey there. One day I was sitting at the computer and I heard the Lord say, Ok, I want you to compile it all. I thought about it for weeks, and I couldn’t shake the sense that I was to turn this journey into a book.

I didn’t know if compiling it was for my continued processing and healing or if it would one day be a published book. So I just kept taking the next step. When I finished compiling everything I had written during that year, and read over it all several times, I put it away for a few months, continuing to pray for God’s guidance.

One day the next step was clear: find an editor. I found a writers’ group nearby, and so decided to check it out. My first time there, I hoped to just observe, but quickly found out I was the only one with material to read. Before I started reading, I told the leader, “I feel like God is asking me to make this a book.  So I want you to tell me if you think it has that potential.” When I finished reading the first chapter, she confirmed, yes, this could definitely be a book.

On the way home, I was unable to contain the tears from spilling down my cheek, totally overwhelmed at what God had put in front of me. The publishing process itself made me want to quit so I tried complaining to God about how I can’t do this. After I finished whining, I remember Him saying, But do you trust me? I decided then, my job was to write and what happened after that was up to Him.

Now here we are. He provided a wonderful editor that challenged me and pushed me to be more specific about my struggles. He carved out time for me to focus on finishing this project and I look forward to seeing what He does with these words.

"We think our church friends only want to hear the good stuff. We think we need to be strong for them and not let them see us hurting. Now we don’t have to wallow in self-pity, but we can be real. We must be real. We all need a place to share our brokenness, our temptations, and ask for prayer and help to overcome.: (No More Secrets) How has letting go of your fears and shame changed your friendships and yourself as a friend?

It’s funny you ask about friends. Circumstances in my life have changed so much over the last year that it’s actually been a lonely time for me. That plus all the time behind the computer it takes to write a book, I feel like my personal friendships have suffered.

I will say that the year I wrote this book, I identified fear of man as a big stronghold in my life. I care about what people think of me and I hate it when my actions negatively affect someone else.  

Sometimes even our obedience can do that. The Proverb says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We sharpen each other while we walk out what we sense God asking us to do. God had to break this fear of man in me so I will look to His approval over the approval of my friends.  This has hurt a few friendships lately and been very difficult.

"I just have to trust Him. Words that are so much easier to write than actually live out each day. To just keep walking when the road ends takes faith." (No More Secrets) What does trusting God look like practically in your life now and how has that changed since you were younger?

I would say earlier in my walk with God I had a set of expectations of how, when, and where I wanted God to answer my prayers. I expected Him to do certain things and when He didn’t, I grew frustrated.

I’ve learned to turn my expectations into expectancy. He hears my prayers and wants to answer me. He just may not do it like I want, when I want. Expectancy knows He will answer, and is eagerly on the lookout for how that will play out.

How have you grown since writing the book?

Oh goodness, I’ve grown leaps and bounds in this whole process. Dealing with fear is an on going process for me, rather than a once-and-for-all done deal. It seems to come in waves, but I’m getting quicker at recognizing fear’s footprints and dealing with it before it paralyzes me.

What is your biggest take away for readers? 

As long as we walk this earth, we’re going to be tempted. Often this temptation comes in the form of what we thought we could never do. Temptation itself is not sin, but temptation is not something to take lightly or think we are strong enough to handle. It wants to destroy us!

I love my husband’s illustration I share in the book about living life in a round room. A round room has no corners. Everything must be brought to the center and dealt with. It’s much easier to handle difficult issues when we know exactly what we’re dealing with.

This topic isn’t talked about much in the Christian community, especially when it comes to thinking too much about the opposite sex. That’s almost taboo. My prayer is that we can find the courage to talk about these issues and get them in the light. I see affairs affecting more and more families and it all starts in the mind. We have to figure out how to handle our thoughts and the temptations Satan sets for us, otherwise they turn into sin and eventually death.

A special thanks to Julie for sharing her story. You can find more about Julie on her blogFacebook page and of course in her book available on Amazon. 

back in to the rhythm

Tiffany Nicole

I have heard people say gifts and talents change over the course of time and for some, perhaps that is true. But I have come to find that it is more like a funneling system. Putting in all the things you have tried or want to try and experimenting and seeking God through it all. Everything goes down but not everything fits. Not everything fits in to our lives, in our schedules or makes sense in this season. But at the core, the core of our being, are things we were designed to do that make us feel fully alive. We may suppress them or deny them or confuse them with something else that pays better is more conveniently located but they are still there. Just waiting. Waiting to spring to life. Waiting for birth.

I like to think that the roots start somewhere in childhood, intermingled in the day dreams of what you wanted to be when you grew up and in the ways you spent your time and the hobbies you pursued and the classes you looked most forward to or the things that came most naturally. The things that kept you up at night trying figure out or explore or work on. One more brush stroke. One more pitch. One more song. One more equation. One more mile. One more speech. One more. One more.

The words discovering and yourself , when put next to each other, have always seemed so silly, with an awkward connotation; as if you are a thing you have to explore and in the background the song Normal, from Nightmare on Puberty Street plays, questioning "Am I Normal?" It is here that you lose the best of yourself, taking yourself for granted because those things are easy and everyone can do them.

But the reality is,  not everyone can do that and those are the things that make you, uniquely you. And some discovering is in order. An uncovering and prodding and digging of sorts. It is coming to a place of truly understanding yourself. Coming to understand what makes your heart jump and what makes your eyes take a double look and what makes you feel most alive. What makes you pray harder and takes you out of yourself. What makes you feel closest to God and makes you depend on him more. Doing what you love and loving what you do. There is a reason. And for some, you may earn a paycheck from it and for some you will never see a penny and it may cost you everything but gives birth to life, truly living and that is worth it.

For me, writing is one of those things. It reminds me of all the words out there to play with that are at my fingertips. It is inspiration bouncing around thoughts and grabbing my phone to write them down before they fall off the edge. Writing is engrained somewhere in my DNA, next to ice cream lover and doodler and maker of sorts.

There are seasons of blank papers and others brimming to overflowing and it has not always been so clear how it makes me tick but that has been part of the process and prodding and fun of discovery. The light bulb turning on and God's guidance and confirmation. 

It is the breaks that so often give way to the birthing process. Breaks are good and essential but always a tell tale sign when you get back to it. It could be the realization the project / work / job / hobby / insert something else here, was not life giving or needs to go in another direction or something you truly missed. An absence in your soul.

And for me, with each key hit, it is as if rainbows and sunbeams are bursting from the key board and life is coming back in to existence, back in to the rhythm. Not always. But those days are the best. 

Here's to funneling and prodding and discovering. 

whole: five minute friday

Tiffany Nicole
I have yet to participate in a Five Minute Friday post. A post where a word is given out and you take five minutes to write whatever comes to mind right them. Just five minutes and no editing. Timed writing always seems to make my head swirl and lack focus, an area that needs improvement, so I finally decided to give it a try (though I thought I had before). Not to mention, Ricardo challenged me to post something this week and I always love a challenge and I have missed setting time to write lately. So here is what whole and five minutes look like to me.

My birthday weekend was spent with a suprise-ish trip to Redding, complete with an Art Sozo class and trip to Bethel Church, staying at a cutest little Air BnB, with an amazing view of the city. I had never heard of a Sozo, ultimately thinking were doing a similar art concept to Paint Night. They have a picture to draw and show you step by step.

But that is nothing of the sort and we were in for a fun surprise. As it turns out, a Sozo is about healing and wholeness and God bringing out it all and when you add art to the mix, it is a canvas for him to show you in a visual form. Always healing.

Our first exercise to use the paint involved colors and shapes and God showing what four feelings were revealed in each. Anger. Peace. Sadness. Joy.

For me, sadness was not being whole Sadness was all things blue and in the shape of a macaroni noodle. Little semi circles, incomplete and lacking wholeness.

Being whole is a process of healing and God and self reflection. It is being empowered and driven towards God and people and loving yourself right where you are at. Something God has taken me through and continues to draw out. 

You can join the fun with #fmfparty here.

r is for repentance.

Tiffany Nicole

John the Baptist came before. He prepared the way for Jesus. He was not the one but pointed the way to the One who was coming to take away sin. John preached of repentance and baptism. He came eating bugs and honey and clothed in animal hide. He was not adorned in fancy robes and tassels telling of his position, rather wearing what God had provided and adorned.

John taught repentance to all who came out to the desert to see him. When the Pharisees and the Sadducees - the religious leaders of the time, those leading the synagogues and teaching God's people - came to see him, he tells them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3: 8).

Repentance is an important factor in being in relation with God and bearing his fruit - doing his will. Lacking repentance builds blockages that only asking for forgiveness can tear down. Repentance comes when we are willing to lay down pride and accept responsibility and turn to God.

Communication with God is like a stream, rushing through its path, free flowing and following the grooves of the earth, while our sin and unrepentance is that of a dam, blocking the water's flow. With each new dam, our communication is coming to a standstill, while our hearts are hardened from God and our prayers hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

In order to bear fruit, we must search our hearts and be open to repenting and hearing God.

We must be full of humility to confess our failures and short comings and whatever leads us in to sin. Without humility, our relationship with God can turn in to an elephant in the living room sort of thing, where issues are not addressed and we distance ourselves from his love and grace and mercy, cutting ourselves off from communing with him, our life blood. Our ears close off to the still small voice of the Spirit and our hearts reject his promptings.

We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of  (Romans 3:23) but He is faithful and just to forgive if we turn and confess every unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Jesus died for our sins, paying our debt before we breathed our first breath. When we trust in Jesus, we are washed as white as snow, though repentance is still needed.

Praying that whatever your state of communing with God is, that you would take a moment to ask if there is anything that needs to be confessed and forgiven. Praying that your heart would be open to the leading and discipline and grace that is poured out and that you would be strengthened and renewed and refreshed.

Praying that God's kindness would lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4) and that his favor would be your desire. Praying that your prayers would not be hindered but rather powerful and effective as you surrender yourself to God. Praying that you would be obedient in his leading and that you would bear fruit, whatever exciting adventures God has in store for you.

Here's to repentance and bearing fruit.   

healing prayer, how to + printable

Tiffany Nicole

I came across healing prayer at a women's retreat several years ago. It was the first time I really encountered God. Me and God. Not something that was revealed through bible study or through another person but through prayer. A vision.

Prayer is the communication language with God, though the Spirit will intercede for us where words fail. Prayer is powerful and integral in relationship.

It heals and restores and cultivates faith. It is an intimate practice of all who take part, in private or community, with the Creator.

There are so many ways to commune with God. Prayers are memorized and recited. Scriptures are prayed. Our petitions and joy and grief come to life off our tongues. And each has its own time and place to orchestrate and play its melody.

This healing prayer is my "go to" prayer when something is bothering me or there is an issue that is reoccurring. It never ceases to amaze me the way God reveals himself through it and the beauty and restoration that emerges out of it. I tried to Google the prayer to find its origins but I was at a loss for who wrote it, so this is what I took away from the retreat and how God has revealed it to me.

I have heard of people being healed physical and emotionally from it. From molestation to marriage issues to not feeling worthy or accepted to undiagnosed bleeding. If there is a feeling or a deep rooted issue that you would healed, this is it. I have lead others through this without a feeling in mind or asking for healing for myself and God showed me something that was lingering and healed it, too. That is the kind of God we serve, who knows us better than we know our own infinite selves, who knew us before we were born.

Here are the steps to walk you through the prayer.

Make sure you have enough time to go through this and are free from distractions / interruptions, asking the Spirit to lead.

If you are facilitating, you can have the person or group raise a hand as they go through each question to signal they are finished or say done. A question can be talked through if you are going through it with someone to get clarity if something comes up before moving on to the next step, as long as they are okay with sharing. This is a very intimate time of prayer.

I like to start by praying verses to clear and focus my mind on God, decluttering thoughts, such as: 

Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ - 1 Corinthians 10:5

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Each question is being asked to God. You have to quiet yourself to hear the response. I promise he will answer (Jeremiah 33:3).

1. Is there anyone I need to forgive? Is there sin I need to repent of? If a name comes to mind to forgive, write it down and pray how to reconcile, do so in you heart now. If you need to repent, do so now. This is crucial in the process to be reconciled to God and others. 

2. What is the emotion am I feeling? If you do not know what exactly is ailing you, ask God to reveal the words or issue at hand.

3. When was the first time I felt this? A memory of the first time you felt whatever emotion / situation will be revealed to you. (i.e. the time you were angry, lied to, etc.)

4. What is the lie? A lie is buried beneath the feelings that you have believed, whether known or unknown. 

5. What is the truth? The truth will be revealed. This is where the healing takes place, whatever God has in store for you. It may be a truth through scripture or other means.

Here is a simple 5x7 printout if you would like to have it handy as you go through it. Click to print.

Praying you have eyes to see and ears to hear. Praying you can see through the eyes in to the Spirit and not focus on what the world sees, for the world has missed Him. Praying that both eyes would be focused on the Spirit to see the things of God, for one cannot focus each eye on different things at once, lest your eyes grow cross and seeing becomes unbearable.

Praying you would receive healing from the Lord as you seek him and that you would hear his heart for you, as you enter in to forgiveness and repentance. Praying you would be healed and show others the way.

Here's to healing and renewing. 


tiffany garza

Pocket Blessings is a once a month craft night whose goal is to impact in the community for Christ, one handmade blessing at a time, while connecting crafters and willing learners. We would love to have you join us. 

We meet. We snack. We craft. We hear a little of God's word to sweeten the night. And then we give the crafts away to groups in our community, with a little verse + covered in prayers.

On the first of each month, from September to May, a craft will be posted with some instruction and scripture to guide your night but don't be confined to our ideas. Be creative.  

Interested in starting a Pocket Blessings craft night in your community? Here is some info to get you started. 

Want to share your projects? Use the #pocketblessings hashtag on Instagram. 

Current Craft:

Past Crafts:

pocket blessings: hearts of hope ornaments

tiffany garza

Happy November! We are getting our sewing needles and thread out this month for craft night. We are cutting and hand sewing these simple but so pretty heart ornaments. A similar tutorial can be found here for the general idea of construction.

Fabric: scraps are perfect
Needle + Thread / sewing machine
Cotton balls / stuffing
Embellishments: buttons, ribbon, bows, beads, etc.

Hearts are my favorite shape and can be found doodled on nearly any paper that comes in contact with my pen. Hearts are a symbol of love and a word used to say how much you like something. They can represent the center of an object or the soul and often tied to feelings depicting what we are all about.

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45) and this month our prayer is to speak hope in to the hearts of those who are hurting. Hearts of hope.

 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Hope that only comes from believing in Jesus. That can be held on to during the most crucial points in our lives and in the most blissful. Hope that turns the mourning in to dancing and puts a new song in our mouth. It is the hope that does not make everything okay but that never gives up. That restores and renews. The hope that changes everything.

When we hope in Jesus, our lives change in ways only God can imagine, as idols fall and the cross is continually picked up, with new eyes to see the landscapes of a gifted life worth living despite circumstances.  Hope that reveals patience during trials and develops a conversational life of prayer.

Praying that your heart would be full of hope as you trust in Jesus and that it would be interrupted with hope if it has yet to be and that you would in turn bless someone else. Praying that you would find peace in the midst of life and comfort in the quiet to rest and refreshment in the beauty of things hoped for.

We are using these tags (1.5" x 1.5") to attach to the ornaments as we give them away. Click to print. 
For more info on Pocket Blessings, click here. If you are hosting a Pocket Blessings in your community, feel free to email with any questions or any way we can be of service.

shoes + sole hope

Tiffany Nicole

Growing up, my toes were slipped in to pink jellies in hot California summers and covered in black clogs for church (they were comfy) and orange sneakers to run across the play ground. High school had me sporting another pink shoe, this time a pair of Converse and these days comfy, grandma flats (as my sister lovingly calls them) are my favorite. I have always had shoes and more than one pair at that. And that seemed normal. Nothing to question or think twice about.

Until I heard of jiggers and learned the detriment they caused little feet worlds over, as Sole Hope spanned my computer screen a few years ago. It's simplistic message and need, coupled with  the heart and story behind it broke my heart.

I rang in my birthday that year with their Party with a Purpose. Friends and family came over, jeans and milk cartons in hand, ready to trace and cut shoe patterns for children who knew the pain of jiggers first hand, burrowing deep in to their feet.

It was humbling seeing everyone so focused and willing to help. And the next day, the scissor cutters could hardly move their fingers but they said it was all okay in the name of Jesus. Sweet sarcasm, sweet friends. That being said, fifteen minute station rotations is recommended to get the full experience, just in case your party goers are amazing, hard worker ,enthusiasts like mine.

Meeting Drew, one of the co-founders, at the Allume Conference brought Sole Hope to another level this year. Witnessing first hand his passion and heart driving the movement as he spoke about what it is all about and how we can partner with them was humbling still.

He stood on a chair in a crowded room. Raffle participants waiting in a lounge filled with sweet delicacies to see if they were the winner of an overflowing gift basket or the IPad, all generously donated. His words were real. His heart on his sleeve. To help the children. To be Christ overseas through giving and support. The raffle prizes seemed hollow and empty in the context of his heart and message.

This month the 10 for 10 program was launched: a way to ensure each that pair of shoes cut will be fully funded to completion - from sewing and all construction, which takes place in Africa, to finding ten toes to protect from jiggers. With just $10 a month, you can ensure a pair of feet have something to slip into, to run in, keeping them safe from burrowing jiggers.

There are lots of other ways to use your resources to assist them: donating common medical supplies, purchasing items from their Amazon Wish list, be a voice of hope by letting others know about what is going on, shopping their store and of course praying for them.  

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24

I am not affiliated with Sole Hope or anything of the sorts. Just someone who believes God is using them to do his beautiful work. Praying you would seek a way to be of service to them, whatever it looks like for you. Praying you would do something.

Here's to being of service and spurring one another on.

cross country trust building.

tiffany garza

The Allume conference has came and past. A whirlwind of take offs and landings, business cards and name badges, roommates and chocolates, speakers and an out pouring of encouragement.

When God calls you to the other side of the country, leaving your three children and traveling alone for the first time, it is quite an adventure and a constant reminder of his provision; Jehovah - Jireh. An entire exercise in trust, something God has been working on in me this year.

Trusting God to lead and for me to follow.

Trusting that whatever God had for me during this time, it would be just what he had planned.

Trusting that everything would be secure on the home front.

Trusting that I would make my flights and find the connections, despite my lack of direction and the playing of musical gates with the airlines as they decided which one was now best.

Trusting I would make it on the correct shuttle to the hotel and not on the one that stood waiting long before I was there.

Trusting my rotating roommates would be genuine and not on the creeper side.

And God came through. My husband rocked the home; complete with Chick-fil-a and night feedings. I made each flight, even though one was overbooked and my seat was TBD and I was the final person to board. The shuttle came on time, despite a delayed flight. My roommates were the sweetest women, more than I could have imagined. And peace lavishly covered each day and hour.

The speakers were authentic and held beautiful incites and truths but it was the conversations with women from across the US (and Canada) that sewed the conference together so eloquently, along with those on the planes and streets. The way God brought each one together at just the right moment. One Spirit lead conversation after another with threads only God could sew. Another reason to stand in awe and wonder at him. Life's trials and journey's exchanged; meeting one another as words formed pictures of days past, now redeemed and hemmed in hope and sent with encouragement. Seeing glimpses of the Masterpiece coming together this side of eternity.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways submit to him,    
    and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

This verse has been embedded in this year and a constant encouragement throughout the days for I could never understand it all.

Praying whatever you are holding in your hands that you would give it to the Lord. That you would trust he is working out everything for your good and know there is nothing you can do to slow it down or speed it up or work out. He is in control of even the smallest of things because he truly cares for you - his child. Praying your eyes would be opened to the areas where trust is lacking and that you would jump in with both feet covered in faith and radiating in his peace.

Here's to more trust and adventures. 

pocket blessings I popsicle quote signs

tiffany garza

Happy October! Another month and Another craft. We are excited to make these fun, little signs. A few popsicle sticks, glue and stamps and you have a cute way to encourage someone.

Signs are a perfect way to label something. They tell you exactly what the contents are and what is expected to be inside. For some, comments and descriptions of others easily roll off the tongue. Peace maker. Encourager. Holy roller. Some you expect and still others you could never fathom. Words attached to you by someone without your approval. And sometimes it sticks. Other times it bounces.

You know, the woman with the gap between her teeth, who always seems to get lip stick on it.
And the other one, who is just a little too friendly and loves wearing pink shoes.
No, it's the one who always talks about her dog, has really frizzy hair and kind of chunky.

And the opinions of the Proverbs 31 Woman is always an interested topic.

She is the epitome of what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus.
She is not a real person.
How does she do it all? She does too much.

Commentaries and bible studies go on about it. About her. Her character and wisdom and family and work life all simplified in to twenty two verses, overflowing with goodness and purpose and drive and fear of the Lord. And how we can be like her. How you can be like her in your everyday life, doing your everyday tasks because face it, she is pretty fabulous and those labels would look great on you, too.

But you are you and in true Dr. Seuss fashion, there is no one YOUER than YOU. And you are pretty awesome, my friend, no matter how awesome someone else is.

So our hope with this craft is to dissolve the labels that others have given us, whether good or bad and will hold up ones that God has given each of us. Ones that encourage and ring truth to our souls. That allows each inhale to be our breath alone and for that to be sufficient.

Praying that you would focus on who God says you are and not what others have labeled you. Praying you would see the beauty in yourself and the way you were so carefully made.

Here is a simple picture tutorial. Let me know if you have any questions. I have been in to a neutral pallet lately and loving the simplicity but the sky is the limit to the design. I am quite sure glitter will make it to craft night, along with some paint to liven them up.

More info on Pocket Blessings here

Happy crafting!

pocket blessings: 2015 launch + september craft

tiffany garza
As we launch the 2015/ 2016 year for Pocket Blessings, I am super excited to introduce you to the newest crafting members coming alongside us with their inspiration and talents. They are super sweet and super crafty and it is a blessing to have on the team.

We have been busy meeting and planning and praying about what God has in store for this year and we are excited to be apart of his plan. And of course, to get our crafting on and meet new friends along the way. 

This month we are decorating glass baby food jars with fall paraphernalia. They are cute and small and just the perfect size to add a tea light to. We layered: fabric cut to fit, pretty metallic fake leaves, twine, ribbon, buttons and lots of hot glue to jazz up the jars.

They are also a great reminder of the simple truth: to be the light + to shine.

Shine because our light has come. Because Jesus came in to the world to show us the way in to his. And now we are called to reflect him. To stand for what he stood for. To live and love as he did.

Reflecting Jesus is different for everyone but looks the same in essence. Everyone has a different skill set and different influence but are called to do the same thing: be like him. 

Whether it is caring for patients at a hospital or teaching children in school or taking care of your own littles, love looks the same. To come along side and listen and serve and teach the truth.

Praying you would reflect Jesus as you go about your days and that you would be a constant source of encouragement and love to others, pointing them to Jesus. Praying you would truly shine. 

For more info about Pocket Blessings and how you can start your own, click here.

pride + sewing.

Tiffany Nicole

The first thing I ever sewed was a hand print of mine in third grade. Each student carefully traced her hand in pencil on muslin fabric pulled tightly through an embroidery hoop, stuffed it full of cotton filler, and then sewed it closed. It was a Christmas present for our parents. It marked the beginning of my sewing adventures.

For a few years after that I thought it was a cheating to sew with a machine, so my cousin and I sewed clothes and blankets and pillows together by hand. Eventually, I caved and the new found speed made projects a breeze. And more years went by and I majored in apparel marketing and design with pride leading the way.

I had been sewing for so long in my own self taught way, that I did not care too much for learning new things and trying other techniques and improving upon my skill set. I blocked my own growth, all while paying for the classes.

In our faith journey, it can be similar. We know the routine and the answers and the rituals. But we lack the techniques and proper use of the application to apply teachings to our daily life.

We forego mastering button holes and lapped zippers and French seams in order to stay on the sidelines within our faith comfort zones. We do projects that do not stretch us.

We sit in church and miss the opportunities to grow our faith. Miss the opportunities to know God on an intimate level. We miss the glimpses of joy that comes from knowing God and following his leading in to the unknown. We miss the intricacy and details that make up the garment and that gives it its lure and luster. We miss the transformation to reflect Christ.

The bible is pretty self explanatory about pride. A few examples:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor. Proverbs 29:23

Pride prohibits growth and learning. It causes one to be so full of self that eventually something has to give. Marriage. Job. Finances. Being so focused on ourselves and how good we are, shuts our eyes to see others and destroys relationships and lives. It is the humble who admit they are wrong and can build from there, along with God's help.

Praying your eyes would be opened to the pride in your life, from the grandiose to the minute. Praying you would not think of yourself as higher than you are but would put others ahead and be willing to be last.

Praying that you would have wisdom to see the pride before the fall and would be caught up in mercy and humility instead. Praying you would grow in meekness in ways you have never known through uncharted territories and under explored truths.

Here's to less falls and more humility. 

on waters colors, teaching + trust

Tiffany Nicole

One of my favorite parts of the day is the watercolor session with my four year old, when the boys are mostly napping, after we have had our bible study and with a warm soy chai in hand.

Months back I came across old watercolors from a fashion drawing class in college I could not have disliked more - drawing is not something I excel in, even remotely, though my teacher was highly gifted and sweet. Showing me strokes that flowed off her fingers like it was nothing only to have mine end up with tangles and knots that have way too odd curves. Give me stick figures any day.

But on that day months ago, they seemed intruding, especially after watching Penny dapple in her set days prior.

And so it began. A time of mixing and playing and practicing and brush strokes and water and colors of the rainbow strewn about. Neither of us an expert in the area but enjoying figuring it out and experimenting none the less.

In our Christian walk, we tell ourselves we have to know so much in order to teach anything. We have to be able to say the Road to Romans and have bible verses memorized and be a theologian to share the gospel. We put ourselves down and do not teach others because we are never qualified enough. We lose out on wisdom gained from others and vice versa because we are too afraid to share.

I find great amusement in the way God has wired us and the lessons he teaches us at different times. No matter how long we have walked as a Christian, everyone is at a different level in various areas of their faith. In fully surrendering and trusting God.

Some may have been a follower for decades but have never learned the truth that God will provide because of self sufficiency in material possessions, until a great loss occurs later. Others struggle to trust God with their family, knowing whatever happens to them is in God's control. Or perhaps trusting with their children, that God has in store for their future. And still others with jobs or school or past traumas. And the list goes on.

But we are always in a place to learn and grow and prosper in the Truth. Sharing is the key. And teaching what you know thus far is imperative.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

It is trusting God that we can share our stories and share the failures and the triumphs and the redemption and teach others what we have learned through experience. It is trusting God that though you struggle in an area in your faith, knowing that he will be faithful and continue to work complete his good work in you.

Praying that though it may seem like it is something you can hardly teach due to lack of skill set, that you would pray for guidance and wisdom and that you would dabble in it together anyway, learning together as you go. Because that is how faith grows and community forms and how God answers. 

Praying that when it seems like you have nothing to give and nothing to teach or the energy to think about such things or the time to prep for them that God would wrap you in his truth and bind them around your heart and you could not help but speak of what you have seen and heard. 

Here's to more trust and teaching. 

questions & answers.

Tiffany Nicole

At the beginning of the year, our two year old request of new carpet for our rental home was answered. Upgraded carpet that does not match the bedrooms (which turned out to make the installation easier) but that is besides the point. My husband had the day off and took our oldest out on grocery shopping adventures during the process and I stayed home with our crawler, confining him to the bedrooms.

As the old padding and carpet was taken out and the new ones put down, I was able to get to know the workers, who were impressively speedy and knew exactly what they were doing.

As the last of the carpet went down in the hallway, the gentleman blatantly asked, "How did you get all this?" This referring to our home and possessions. 

I was taken off guard and wanted to laugh - several thoughts going through my head at once. You mean all this second hand / free / nearly free stuff looks like something worth having?

And of course, he then followed it with, "You do not look very old."

Enter more head laughter. And thankfulness to God for some great genetics and grace to answer the age question for the millionth time. And then a quick flash back to a few months prior when another gentleman asked, "why are you doing this?" Why would I go out of my way to perform a random act of kindness to people I do not know and probably will not see again.

It was there in these split seconds that we all have a choice. We can shy away or we can could be honest. We can cover up our faith and take the credit for the hard work ourselves or we can praise God for his blessings.

"Because of Jesus," I awkwardly, practically blurted. "He's the only reason I have anything in my possession.  He's the reason I do what I do."

Before then, no one had questioned my motives so bluntly.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:2

Paul tells Timothy to share the gospel and be prepared. It is so easy to be caught up in our own to-do lists that we miss the opportunity to be fully present. We have not prepared or studied or it is too awkward and no one wants to offend. But you may be the person who plants a seed and points them to the truth and turns a sinner from their ways. The person who leads them to correction and openly rebukes in love and encouragement.

Praying that at the height of your success and the climb there, that you would give the glory to God. That he would be your reason for the goodness in your life and the motive behind why you do what you do. Praying that those you interact with daily or in passing would see the difference in you. That your joy would overflow and that you would always be ready with an answer for the reason of the joy that you have.

Praying you would have an opportunity to share your faith this week and that seeds would be planted and hearts would be opened and eternities changed.

Here's to pointing others to Jesus throughout your journey.  

in to the ministry.

Tiffany Nicole

When my husband was called in to ministry, the first thing I thought of was our family and how this was going to change our dynamics, enter negative connotation here. When we first became Christians, one of my first thoughts was that I would never want my husband to be a pastor. It would be far too much work with little pay and too much strain on our family.

Would God call him in to ministry to negatively affect our family? No. Would my selfish desires say yes? Most definitely. It was a little death to my preconceived notions of our family unit and would it should look like.

Thus far in the process, it has looked like some late night classes and homework on weeknights that may bleed in to the weekends but ultimately, it looks like us sacrificing a little time together now, for benefits in to eternity. It is having God given boundaries and letting of our expectations. It is not guarding our family but welcoming others into it. 

I recently listened to a past sermon of Francis Chan's where he spoke about being "on mission with his family." He went on to say how his mission in life was to follow God's direction, not having his family be the primary focus, and in doing so, his family had a closer bond. He was not putting family down but rather elevating God before it. Idols can be found anywhere, especially in the family unit.

And I think that this is the point God has been bringing me to with my own. The point of ministry and life colliding. That is what life is all about. And not just for pastor's or their wives.

 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6: 6-7

As Moses was preparing the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, he reminded them to impress God's word on their children and talk about what he had done, that it would be impressed on their hearts. It was to be consumed in every part of their day and lives. Simply living out their calling to follow God daily. We are still called to do so, as well. Living out our faith and weaving it in to the ministry of our lives alongside our children. Truly showing them what it means to go and make disciples and how to share the Word and how to listen to God.  

Praying that your family would be driven by the passions of God and glued together through his Word and what it says to do. Praying that you would not be held back by thoughts of time lost while ministry and life is happening around you, while someone's eternity is being changed.

Praying your family would be a group of people built to spur each other on, stretch each other beyond measure, demonstrate love and forgiveness and encourage each other to follow God's will in to whatever ministry it may be. Praying that if you are not blessed with a family seeking the Lord together, that God would provide them in his own way - with a beautiful community for you.

Praying that whatever your family looks like that your goal would be to seek the kingdom first. That your hearts would be set on things above and God would raise each member up to bring up others who revere God, multiplying your family's legacy on earth and in to eternity. Praying that you would not get so focused on the small things that you lose out on the bigger picture things later.

Here's to family and ministry and God's will. 

from generation to generation.

Tiffany Nicole
My grandma is known for her spaghetti sauce and scrumptious salads. Friends and family adore her time in the kitchen spent simmering a batch on the stove, which perfectly accompanies all the fresh, colorful vegetables cut just the right size to fit in your mouth, smothered in her homemade dressing. It is a staple to our family and our kind of comfort food. I grew up with my mama's yummy, mastered version of the sauce and now that we are grown, each of my sisters and I have learned the recipe, putting our own twists on it, respectfully. And they are all quite tasty but truth be told, there is nothing like grandma's spaghetti and salad. I am sure it has to do with all the love she puts in it as she stirs and chops and the years she has to put in to perfect it.

Recipes and traditions and sayings and mannerisms span generations. Generations of the same last name and the same way the Christmas tree is decorated and how the Thanksgiving turkey is prepared continue to span over space and time.

The old Testament is scattered with generations and monuments of days long past and the stories and miracles behind them continued to be told long after they occurred. And the sole purpose of the monuments? To tell of the greatness of God.

After Joshua leads the Israelites in to the promised land, God instructs him to have twelve men from the tribes of Israel to pick up stones from the Jordan River, which they had just crossed over on dry land, to make a monument (Joshua 3-4). And I love how it states the reason directly after:

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God. Joshua 4:24

The entire purpose of the monument and miracle was for everyone to know the power of God and that they may fear him and then Joshua five starts off with how kings from the surrounding areas "hearts melted and they no longer had courage to face [them]."

People heard about what God had done and feared him. They saw what He was capable of doing. And our testimonies have the same power and purpose - to turn others to God and His glory. When we fail to share our testimonies, especially between generations in a family, there is a loss of wonder and awe in the almighty God. A loss of the tangibility and closeness of God's ever constant provision and guidance and healing power.

Praying that you would empty yourself of any pride or fear or worry and focus on bringing glory to God through your story. That you would share it when the time arises with whomever God leads you to. That you would have your monuments out on display for others to see the powerful God we serve. 

Here's to generations and telling and glory. 

right side up.

Tiffany Nicole
Growing up, my mom had to constantly remind my sisters and I to keep our feet on the ground. Eight legs were constantly in the air and knocking in to each other and key boards and her pregnant belly. Cartwheels and hand stands were in our blood and our feet could not help but point as we meandered around the house on our hands, seeing everything upside down. I could be found watching my favorite TV show, while doing a headstand by the couch, seeing how long I could last before my head would turn red, and glancing at the clock to see if any words could be spelled out.

There was always something so mesmerizing about seeing the world upside down. Maybe it was the different perspective. Or the sheer fact it was counter intuitive. Or perhaps it was the mysteriousness of seeing things in ways they were not intended to be seen.

Being in the world is like walking around upside down. Seeing things in a way opposite of God. Opposite to his teachings and hopes and desires for us. It is being removed from our creator.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Scripture tells us not to do the things that are so common to our culture and nature.  To not concern ourselves with the latest trends of clothing or adorn ourselves with hair styles that takes hours to do and maintain or point out what is wrong with everyone else but to instead focus on God and pursuing a gentle and humble spirit (1 Peter 3:3).

It is a continual process of praying and studying in order to keep our minds fixed on things above and persistently focusing on God's word - not the world's. It is learning how to keep our feet flat on the ground despite the constant urge to lift them, allowing temptation to get the best of us.

And the more our feet learn to stand firm and the more we stay right side up, the more we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions and our will becomes one with God's.

Praying that your mind would continue to be renewed and transformed with the things of God - with everything that is just and lovely and pure and holy. Praying that you would be able to see the world in a way that you have never experienced and that it would change your thinking and ideology.

Praying that scripture would be on the forefront of your mind and that every thought would be made obedient to Christ as you go about your day, for his glory alone.

Here's to feet and ground and standing firm.

This post is shared at: Grace and Truth Link Up

pocket blessings l may craft

Tiffany Nicole

You are not defined by your bookmark. You know, the place that changed you. A pivot point in your life. The mark that took a piece of your innocence and part of your heart and misconstrued memories. Or captivated you with so much beauty that you were never the same. That made you a better person and showed you truth and drew you closer to God than you had been before.

Bookmarks. We all have them in our story but we are not to be defined by them. Over and over scripture tells us who we are, whose we are and gives us promises of it. In Christ alone is our hope and identity found.

This month for Pocket Blessings we are designing fabric bookmarks. They are simply two pieces of fabric sewn together, about 2" by 7" (you could use paper or other medium), punched a hole with a crop-o-dile and added a tassel for some fun. There is a great tutorial here for how to make cute little tassels to attach, should you choose. There are lots of options for decor but I kept these pretty simple. 

On each bookmark we are writing one word that symbolizes what our marks should cause us to do. Letter stencils come in really handy here if you prefer something other than your own hand.

Rejoice.You need not hide it or be ashamed of what you have been through.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4

Shine. God has carefully crafted a path for you via Jesus, now you need only shine and be an example to others.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. Isaiah 60:1

Love. Because Jesus has shown you how,  you can.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16

And of course, some tags to attach with the verses. Click to print. I cut mine in to flag shapes but the options are limitless.

Praying that whatever bookmarks you have in your life would be seen as beauty. That they would show others the glory God has revealed to you through them. Praying that you would truly believe who God says you are and that you would lead the way for others to seem themselves in the same light. That you would rejoice and shine and love in what God has done in spite of the bad and the good.

Here's to transforming bookmarks to beauty.

For more info about Pocket Blessings, click here.  

on the sidelines.

Tiffany Nicole
Standing on the sidelines has always come across to me with a negative connotation. You are not participating in whatever is happening on the playing field. You are an onlooker merely watching events unfold before your eyes.

My husband, brother in laws and  friends recently participated in their first half marathon and I had the opportunity to be on the sidelines watching. Watching others running to the finish line. Watching as the runners heard the applause and encouragement from their loved ones on the sidelines. Claps and praises. And how their faces were instantly filled with smiles and appreciation and motivation to keep going.

So often we watch others as they achieve their goals and instead of encouraging, we try to tear them down - half heartily believing they can achieve the goal and in our hardest of hearts, even hope they fail.

Paul tells us in first Thessalonians to encourage one another and build each other up (5:11). To cheer each other on from the sidelines, building each other closer to God through words of encouragement.

It's about being the encourager in your marriage to your spouse. It's encouraging your children and friends and coworkers and pastors and baristas and gym buddies. It's witnessing what God is doing in their life by pointing it out and continuing to give God praises for working through them and pushing them closer to him because of it all.

It is encouraging each other in our faith daily from the minute to the grandiose things. From praying for each other to texting verses that God puts on your heart. From writing a simple note to a phone call. It is reflecting Jesus and listening to the truth of the Holy Spirit, who is constantly cheering us on for God's glory until we make it to Glory.

Praying that your words would give life to others as they run the race with perseverance. That your words would keep those around you running to the things of God. Praying that you would be the encourager that others need, always building up.

Praying that as you run the race that God would provide those around you to be the encourager that you need to keep pressing on and fulfilling the callings he has so intricately made you for. Praying that you would run with perseverance and when you find yourself on the sidelines that you would encourage those around you. That you would strengthen one another and be in unity.

Here's to sidelines and cheers and building up.