the inspire shop

holes // a devotional

devotionaltiffany garzaComment
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He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-4

As child, I cannot recall wearing or tearing a hole in my jeans – ever. I was not the adventurous type. I did the normal kid things, like riding bikes and rollerblading and climbing trees and hopping fences. I skateboarded and played on jungle gyms and ran through fields.

But holes seemed to escape me, perhaps my days of reading and creating outnumbered those of activity or my balance and careful nature kept my clothes intact.

It was not until I started answering to Mama that I noticed the knees becoming worn in my pants. A slight discoloration at first, leading to more - until the thinned out fabric finally gave way to tears. Days spent playing “mama monster” chasing kiddos around on all fours and horsey rides and all sorts of acrobats around the house have played in to my new fashion statement.

But so much more during this time tore than the holes in my knees.

Answering to Mama has been a journey of God healing  and showing me what it means to be a daughter and his child and challenged me more than anything I have known. Perhaps it is equal part responsibility and understanding how big my impact is on my children for their lifetime, along with understanding God as father more and my place as his daughter and trusting him in this parenting endeavor. 

The friction on my jeans has been correlated to the friction of my heart, as the Lord has softened it and continues to mold it as a reflection of his child; showing me what it means to take the lowly position of humility and obeying him. It is has been filled with lessons of letting go and trusting. A deeper faith in the letting go. Letting go and allowing laughter to be the best medicine ringing through our home as the holes form and rip. As I watch my children proclaim scriptures to each other and believe God for the impossible and believe in the prayers that they pray. Their faith is ever increasing mine.

As summer gives way to fall and my jeans are ready to make their entrance, I find comfort in the holes and worn out look they have embraced. Sure, I will grab a few new pairs, after all the workouts this year it is more like a need, but there is nothing like the familiarity and comfort of an old pair of worn in jeans. 

In seasons to come with my ever growing children, playing on the floor will surely give way to drop offs for practice and homes of friends, wearing out tires, instead of jeans. So for now, these holes are for the taking. They are mine. Given to me by the grace of God, as he has gently showed me how to lean into play and laughter even when I have been tired and weary to the point of falling asleep on the floor for just a few moments until some realized my eyes were closed. They have been worn throughout the transformation process, as the Lord has showed me what it means to be his child. To have child like faith.

Here’s to seasons and changes and embracing the brokenness and beauty that stems from the growth and work put into each one.

// DIVE DEEPER

+ Read Matthew 18:1-5. Notice how it starts with the disciples asking who is the greatest.

+ Research the status of children in Jesus’ culture. How were they valued or undervalued? How does this affect your faith and understanding of what Jesus was referring to?

+ When you think of child like faith what words come to mind? Is there a current situation where the Lord is cultivating child like faith in you?

 // PRAYER

Praying you can count it all as joy as your hardest days wear out more than just your clothing. Praying you can see where the Lord is opening your heart to his compassion, even when it feels like it is tearing beyond repair as he enlarges it in ways only he can. Praying you have the perseverance to keep going when things start wearing out, knowing that God is for you and goes before you.
 

hand wash only // a devotional

devotionaltiffany garzaComment
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Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. John 19: 1-3

Our dishwasher has been out of service for more than a month and still has a few more weeks according to our property management company before it will be fixed. It sits in its spot a bit mocking at its lack of ability to be used what it is meant for. I stand in front of the kitchen sink a bit longer to wash each dish we use and have recruited Penny to dry them, minus the knives and sharp objects. She actually seems to enjoy it, happy to be able to do something a bit more grown up than her usual pouring of the milk at dinner and clean up.

I smiled as I remembered our dishwasher breaking at our previous address around this same time just two years earlier.

Two years earlier. Two years earlier as we had settled into our new routine as a family of five, having recently adopted our youngest. We were settling into life without social workers or home visits or extra forms to fill out at doctor’s appointments and breathing in his new legal name.

Things were settling.

Ry had turned one, though still not sleeping through the night, which unbeknownst to us would not happen until he about 18 months and after the birth of his brother, and was starting to get a bit more self sufficient.

I had been sitting at my desk, typing away through Savoring the Year, pressing keys and enjoying the quiet of Jude napping while Penny attended summer camp at her preschool when I got the call. It was from a friend, asking if I would be able to watch her daughter while she got things back on track in life – a short term care, not fostering but the county would be involved.

Ricardo and I prayed about it and this is one of the heartbeats of our family – to be for family, to build up families and love them wherever they are at.

We said yes.

After a week of going back and forth with the county, we now had four children five and under, one with extensive trauma that we had yet to see but knew was a possibility. As the trauma surfaced, I did everything I knew to do to keep everyone safe and getting her the help she needed.
And the dishwasher broke.

I had three children running around the house with our littlest trying to tag along, piles of laundry and now piles of dishes to wash by hand, along with the usual stack of baby bottles. Never in my life had washing dishes seemed so daunting.

Our closed kitchen made it impossible to see what was going on in the other room. Whether cooking or prepping a meal or cleaning up, the walls made it impossible to see what all the shouting or loud bangs were from. Perhaps another head was being ripped off a Barbie or crayons were being yanked out of hands or a coveted toy was now belonging to someone else. It was hard to say.

Being up every two hours with our son, on top of a four year old who refused to sleep, turning on all the lights in the house and walking up and down the halls, doing extra dishes had never been such a task to complete, all the while trying to quickly wash and dry in order to mediate in between fits.

It was a season of learning what it means to say yes and what it means to love without boundaries. It was a season of seeing brokenness – in our own home and in the lives of those around us, sometimes as if looking in to a microscope.

I had been told during the five weeks she was with us, to not be taken advantage of in the situation. Something that had taken me back after the words left her lips and made my stomach turn to knots and a thought that never had occurred to me. Love is not about being taken advantage of it. Love is about giving, even when it hurts and sometimes looks like washing dishes while keeping everyone out of harm’s way.

When I think of loving like Jesus, I see him nailed to a cross and being spit on and misunderstood by many. I see his hands nailed to a cross and giving and giving and giving when it clearly hurt because he knew what no one else understood – that giving when it hurts to those who are hurting is what love does through the power and strength of God alone. Despite our pain that lasts for a short while, resurrection lasts an eternity. Love has the power to breathe new life into those who are hurting and bring them to the feet of Jesus.

While dishes are not my favorite chore by any means, I will take laundry over dishes any day, they are definitely easier this time around. I am more than thankful for the open kitchen where the dishwasher sits, awaiting its replacement and for the four children running around our home as dishes are being hand washed. And for the perspective that the Lord continues to give and seasons that come and go and remind how fleeting life is, yet how powerful the word yes can be, along with gratitude for all of the modern conveniences.


// DIVE DEEPER

+Read John chapters 19 and 20.

+As you read, soak in the humility and endurance Jesus showed in the name of love. Is there a situation you need to love well, even though it may require humility and endurance? Pray about how to do it.

+Situations can be the same, yet the dynamics and circumstances can vary greatly. Has there been a time of similar situations with different circumstances? What have you learned from them? How has love or humility been a factor?

Bonus: Read John 19 + 20 through using the SOAP bible study method

 // PRAYER

Praying that you would have the wisdom and discernment to love well those around you, whatever that looks like in your life. Praying that despite obstacles or what others say, that you would follow God’s leading to know when to move forward with yes and when to say no. Praying that you would have perseverance to keep going when it is hard and the tiredness sets in and the grace and encouragement to give to others as they press on in love.

Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, August 2018. Join the adventure to be the first to get it straight to your inbox, along with other fun tidbits from the shop. 

new pavement // a devotional

devotionaltiffany garzaComment
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Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:9

I drove down the repaved highway. Years of repairs and traffic had been completed long before I had finished my errands and headed home. Do it Again by Elevation Worship played over the speakers. I sang along.

You made a way where there was no way
And I believe I’ll see you do it again. 

As the lyrics came out of my mouth, years of traveling this freeway filled with its old potholes and few lanes, which I rarely travel anymore, flashed in my mind.

I was sitting in the passenger’s seat or in the backseat going to or from school or heading to a friend’s house. I knew the hours of traffic long before Google Maps could predict it. I knew the nooks and crannies that had formed in the road causing our little car to bump and bob about in the lane. I knew the billboard ads and theapproximate ETA as little landmarks faded behind us.

As we drove, thoughts of jumping out of the car and ending everything would tempt me. If only I had the nerve to pull the handle. But I did not. I could not even unbuckle my seatbelt for that matter. I was angry and had little hope for future endeavors, despite good grades in school and great friends. 

Driving down the new pavement over fifteen years later with such a different perspective made the lyrics that much more alive and well. Everything the Lord has walked me through - from repentance to giving me the grace to forgive in order to bring much needed healing I never knew I needed to showing me the power of transparency - made it a bit unfathomable to think of where I had come from all those drives ago.

The Lord had made a way for me, where I could not have seen or even understood in that season and I cannot help but thank him for that today. It is not because of anything I did but because of how he lavished his love and forgiveness on me before I deserved it. The same love and forgiveness he offers to everyone, including you.

The thing that sticks out most in this season is the thread of God’s faithfulness. I prayed during those drives to a distant God I had heard about and believed in but whose heart I could not fathom and still cannot fully grasp. But prayers from my broken self lacked hope and were prayers of release from this life. Prayers for death.

I am thankful that the Lord knew better than to answer and turned everything that had died in me and breathed new life in my lungs through his Spirit. As we enter into a season of opening our hands and trusting God with our schedules and finances and all the in between, I know he will make away. He is faithful and has been, long before I really knew who he was. I am looking forward to seeing him do it again.

*If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please look into programs to get help, like Mercy Multiplied and the National Suicide Hotline. You are worth it. 


// DIVE DEEPER

+Do a word study on faithful in Hebrew (blueletterbible.org is a great resource for this).

+How have you seen God’s faithfulness in your life? In this season? Make a list of tangible things He has done. Praise him for it.

+Is there anything that is holding you back from fully living (i.e. unforgiveness / unconfessed sin / anger)? Set aside sometime this week to pray about anything that is hindering you. What is your next step?

 // PRAYER

Praying you would take time to see God’s faithfulness played out over the course of your life. Praying you would see how he has been there since your birth and has made a way for you since. Praying your hope would be renewed and restored as you allow him to continue to trust in him and truly know he is faithful – he will never leave of forsake you, friend.

Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, June 2018. Join the adventure to be the first to get it straight to your inbox, along with other fun tidbits from the shop. 

the good in others // a devotional

newsletter, devotionaltiffany garzaComment
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My husband celebrated his 30th birthday in May and surprised us with a family trip to our favorite spot. We had breakfast at our childhood donut shop and then were off to a fun thrift store in Santa Cruz. We made our way to Pizza My Heart, his favorite pizza place and hung out at the Boardwalk, where our two oldest were able to dabble in their first game of mini golf, while our younger boys played in the fun mirrors.

We headed to Monterey, stopping at the local produce stand for veggies and a few of the fresh strawberries that lined the drive there. We ran around Dennis the Menace Park, where our youngest took a small nose dive on the bridge that involved some blood and a bandage. We had dinner at In N Out - after the electrical fire was put out - and went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the morning.

As we left the aquarium, we drove past people riding Surreys, something we have wanted to try but the ages and stages of our family seemed to always be off. Driving along, a family with children similar in age rode past and inspired us to try. We found free parking and went on to do our first family ride along the coast. It was beautiful and fun and as we rode, we did not notice the point where my husband’s jacket, which held our car keys and his wallet, fell off. It was not until we neared the rental shop, my husband realized it was missing and ran the entire way back, only to return empty handed.

As I explained to the gentleman at the rental shop, he spoke of the citizens there and was certain that the community was good and full of good people. He had confidence in them. It seemed like a rare belief. He went on to share a sweet story of losing his brand new I phone and someone returning it to the police station. He searched his stash of chargers to see if one fit our phone, since our phones were nearly dead after losing our charger in the hotel the night before only to find it just as we were checking out that morning. Unfortunately, he did not have one to fit and then went on to call the police station to check if the jacket had been turned in but to no avail.

We sat at the café for lunch, thankful to have my wallet – a rarity - as my husband called to get our car unlocked, in hopes of charging his phone in case anyone tried to call with the found jacket. We sat and laughed at everything over paninis and cheesecake bars and prayed, as our kiddos grew restless from lack of sleep.

The sweet tow truck driver showed up quickly and opened our car, offering water and even his own cash to us. The same situation had happened to him, although he was without cash to get anywhere, so he understood where we coming from.

We walked back the path we had ridden on without any luck but with more hope, as a few more citizens we talked to reiterated the same mantra: the people were good. With that, we headed to the aquarium in hopes of finding a place to charge the phone.

After everything was said and done, my in laws drove over three hours to give us our spare key and buy dinner for us at Pizza My Heart. We started the drive home when I saw a Facebook message on my husband’s phone as it charged.

Someone had found the jacket. 

That someone lived in the town we were approaching and met us at a gas station, delivering everything intact. She did not speak English but her son translated how she had been running along the path and found the jacket. As she was about to hang it on a tree she, realized it had something in the pocket. She found my husband’s number and tried calling but no one answered. Her daughter found him on Facebook and was planning on turning in the jacket to the police department the next day if she was unable to get a hold of him.

We were thankful, to say the least, for this women's goodness and an answered prayer.

God is good is phrase I have heard over and over in and out of the church. A mantra in it of itself. One that I continually use when strangers comment on the ages and number of my kiddos whenever we go out. God is good.

Throughout scripture we read that the Lord is good, of his goodness as part of his character and who he is. When we dive in to the Hebrew, the word ischeced, meaning faithful, merciful and loving kindness.

God’s character is good and being made in his image, we have his character traits. He lavishes us with his kindness and goodness, even before we ever deserved it because he is good. Scripture tells us that no one is good, not even one. We are not good in terms of sin but we are seen as God sees Jesus when we believe in him and that alone makes us good.

It is when we taste and see that the Lord is good that we are able to start grasping just a piece of who God is. When we stop taking what others are telling us and start believing and living it out for ourselves. We can know about God but when we get to know God himself, everything changes.

// DIVE DEEPER

+ Read Psalm 136. As you read about the goodness of God and what he has done in the past, take a moment to reflect about how God has been good to you.

+ Has anyone told you that God is good? What does that mean to you? 

+ How have you experienced his goodness? How have you seen it played out in others? Is there anyone who comes to mind who exhibits God's goodness? Find a way to let them know. 

 // PRAYER

Praying that you would get to know the heart of God and what his goodness entails. Praying that his mercy and goodness would follow you around this week and your eyes would be opened to how he has been and how he is currently working in your life. Praying that you would desire to know God’s heart rather than what you have simply heard about him.

Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, June 2018. Join the adventure to be the first to get it straight to your inbox, along with other fun tidbits from the shop. 

Meet Elizabeth Greenough

inspire gatheringstiffany garza
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I am so excited to introduce Elizabeth Greenough. I had the pleasure of getting to know Elizabeth during our time together as we brought Inspire Gatherings to the Mercy Multiplied home in Sacramento. She was always smiling, ready to get crafty and fun to be around. And a fun fact, she is one of the first girls to go through every session.  We spoke about partnering up afterwards and I am thrilled to be able to partner with her as she goes on to other adventures in life and would love for YOU to be a part of it, too.

Elizabeth is raising money for a mission trip to Uganda and has made some exclusive designs available in the shop whose proceeds will go directly to funding her trip. You can purchase some of her cute designs here or donate directly (see bottom of post).

Without further ado, here is a mini interview with Elizabeth.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you are passionate about these days.

My name is Elizabeth. I’m 21 and am currently living in Texas.  I am super passionate about the transforming power of God’s love and his truth that sets us free. I want other people to know the rich inheritance they have in Christ. This is part of what fuels my passion to GO and serve in other nations and places. To be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To share the good news, speaking truth and life into the hopeless, heal the sick, to be love and to show love to all I meet. 

What was your first impression of Inspire Gatherings?

I loved loved loved the Inspire Gatherings! I've always been one for crafting and doing art, and it was awesome to not only be filled with the word of God but to be able to make something in remembrance. I feel like some much of the time my art is actually an altar to remember what the Lord has spoken to me.

What was your favorite session and what made it stand out?

My favorite session was the last one I did, which is when we painted canvas. It was the hardest for me because it wasn't a thought out art piece, so making it perfect wasn’t possible and it wasn’t the point. The art that came out was directly from my heart and from what the Lord had been speaking to me. It is such a beautiful representation now of the season I was in and I cherish it!

Why Uganda?

I went to Uganda two summers ago now and when I went I was pushed outside my comfort zone and was given so many opportunities to grow and learn and it ignited an even deeper passion in me for ministry. It was that summer that I saw the harvest of so many seeds that had been planted come to fruition. I was so honored to be apart of the work the Lord is doing there. I knew before I left last time that I would be back and although I was unable to go last summer, I am beyond excited to head back this summer!

What is the message and heart behind your designs?

The designs that I have made are simply the words the Lord has been speaking to me so much in this season of life. It's a season of transition, adjusting and preparing all at the same time!

The words are

FAVOR - because it is so clear that the favor of the Lord is on me and it is the promise he has given me to be reminded that I will be provided for in EVERYTHING. No detail will be missed.

JOY - Something the Lord is teaching me to carry always. We can find joy even on the hardest day’s because we have such a faithful God. I don't want to be so bogged down by the cares of the world that I miss the opportunity to find joy in the little things.

JESUS COME - This is a phrase began a constant part of my dialogue with the Lord during the last bit of time at Mercy. As I continued to open my heart to the healing he was doing, these were some of the only words I could utter. 

mugs by elizabeth.jpg

IT IS FINISHED [ED] - This piece became very personal for me because I definitely wasn’t sure I was ready to share this part of my story. But for many years growing up I struggled with an eating disorder. It wasn’t even a year before I went to Mercy that I realized the severe consequences of the choices I had been making and even began to see some of them. After graduating with the program I have really wrestled with walking out the freedom I have found and then one day as I said these words the Lord highlighted the word finished to me but in the way it is written in this piece. I also felt like I needed to look up the Hebrew word for it is finished which happens to be tetelestai. 

As I explored this word I came across the word being defined as “paid in full” and the Lord whispered to my heart that he had paid for my struggle and bondage to my eating disorder in full and there isn’t any reason to go back. This is something I have to hold on to know when things become challenging. So the [ed] is this picture is to abbreviate my eating disorder and it represents the work God did on the cross to set me free. 

Anything else you would like to share?

I'm super thankful for this opportunity to be able to work with Tiffany. She has been a huge encouragement to me to pursue the art and the ability that Lord has given me! I am expectant and excited for all the Lord is going to do this summer in Uganda!

How can we donate directly to your trip?

1. Go to http://pidw.org

2.  Click the Donation button in the top right hand corner. 

3. Click the DONATE NOW button on the left. 4. This will take you to the billing page choose fund and scroll down to SHUPAVU. 5. Complete billing information 

6 . Please remember to type ELIZABETH GREENOUGH into the comments section.

A special thanks to Elizabeth for sharing with us. I hope you are encouraged by part of her testimony and what God is doing in her life. If you have any questions or would like to connect with Elizabeth on her journey, you find her here: 

Facebook @elizabethsexpedition   

Instagram @missionunstoppable_

Blog: elizabethgreenough.wordpress.com

tea party manners // A DEVOTIONAL

devotional, newslettertiffany garza
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The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8: 1-3

I watch my youngest sit at the table with his siblings who are older with more understanding and skill set and coordination.

He sits down. He wants to partake. Today is an impromptu tea party with homemade zucchini bread and frozen blueberries.

His siblings use their manners to the best of their abilities to pour tea in to their little plastic tea cups. My daughter pours tea in to his cup. He stands up on the bench and throws his body towards the creamer. Everyone has something to say about his behavior.

Sit down, please, I urge. He listens but still tries to grab at the creamer. I take the creamer and pour some in to his tea, which pleases his momentarily.

This is his first official tea party invite to the table. He has been a bystander from his high chair in prior tea parties.

He reaches for his tea cup, spilling some on himself and grabbing his sister’s while he is at it and drinking hers, too. He laughs and enjoys his seat among his siblings.

Wet and covered in zucchini bread crumbs, he stands and sits and grabs and partially listens to the cries of his siblings to stop and be careful. I watch their interactions just a few feet away as I redirect him, too.

As I watch, a reminder of what is expected of us in the Church comes to mind. A reminder of maturity. Of whether we are drinking spiritual milk or have moved on to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2). Whether we are graced filled with those who are dabbling in milk and coming into faith or whether we are full of cries of judgment for their lack of manners and character and posture.

We come to the Lords table and enter the faith at different points. With different scars and wounds and trauma. Some have dabbled in Pandora’s box and unleashed the unknown into their lives, only to have the grace of God fill in those spaces and claim victory over those tragedies and we are to love them. Right where they are at, wherever we are.

It takes time to learn and grow and process. How we respond to others is an indicator of our heart and a true indicator of what we are eating; solid food or milk. Sometimes we are not old enough in our faith to understand it and cannot handle the pushes and grabbing but as we get to know the heart of God through scripture, He softens our hearts and gives us wisdom and understanding because man does not live on bread alone but every word of God. If we are living on God’s word, we are soaking in his truths and it will not return void.

Inviting others to our table, to the Church, can look like a mess. It can look like miscommunication and misunderstandings and bad habits. Our response to a situation is going to be a reflection of Jesus and hopefully an accurate portrayal.

In our Foster Care training, they reiterated the importance of keeping ourselves at a homeostasis emotional level despite children getting angry and spiraling because if we are both spiraling we are not going to get anywhere, except angrier and adding more trauma to child who already has experienced trauma. The same is true with any relationship, especially as a Believer.

Our ability to keep our homeostasis in situations is vital. Keeping the peace and ushering in those to the Table. Showing them how to eat and sit and love by example as Jesus ushers in healing.

// DIVE DEEPER

+ Read Deuteronomy chapter 8. What does it look like to be "living on every word of God'?" How might this change your:  thought life / physical body / relationships / etc? 

+ Take time to think about your heart towards Believers, non – Believers and God. Are there areas in your heart you need to ask God to remove or add to? (i.e. judgement, compassion, critical thinking, anger, fear, etc.)

+ Is there anyone you have wrongly judged or ushered away from your table? Pray about reconciliation and how the Lord would use you in their life. 

 // PRAYER

Praying that the Lord would soften your heart to opening your table to someone who stretches you and for the strength to love them well in the name of Jesus. Praying you would see how the little things play out in your life and that you would walk in such a way that you would be moved to compassion over judgement and love over fear. 

Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, May 2018. Join the adventure to be the first to get it straight to your inbox, along with other fun tidbits from the shop. 

trains and tracks.

tiffany garza


Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.


Isaiah 40:28-31


Lately, sanctification happens around the train table. With three little boys, a lot of time is spent gathered around the it in the living room. There are tracks to be built and the speed trains to be gathered and cabooses to be found. They practically dance around the table, finding the perfect pieces for their train, knowing exactly which ones they need.

Often, they call me over to help build the track after they have started one. I join them, usually gripping my coffee to keep it out of reach from my youngest, who is naturally bent at spilling my room temperature coffee and is the reigning champion for most coffee spilt as a toddler.

I take a moment to evaluate what they have so far: pieces tend to be obscure, leading to nowhere and without room for growth. Then they start with their requests: a bridge on one side and the roundhouse on the other, despite it not fitting in with their laid out plans and get frustrated when I have to move it to accommodate.

The Lord is always so gentle to teach where I least expect them and our train table is not an exception.

A few reminders from around the train table:

You can't build when others are tearing down. 
Despite our best efforts, no matter how many blocks we stack, when someone is continually tearing them down we simply cannot build, like my 18 month old son who thinks it is hilarious to take pieces from his brothers’ track. It may last for a season or until we remove ourselves from a negative situation or until the Lord gives us victory over it. Following the Lord’s leading will allow us see, perhaps we just need a little perseverance to see it through.

Sometimes you have to be the one who stops and picks up the pieces necessary for building. Stopping can be the last thing we want to do but is necessary.
While others continue to move and grab, putting heaps of pieces together, we may need to stop for a bit or a season to pick up the right piece. Whether stopping for time to heal or grow or dive deeper or just take it all in. There’s a time to rest that we should never neglect. We have to put things down, sometimes reluctantly from our tightly gripped hands, to usher in the peace of rest, which gives us the strength to pick up what others (or ourselves) may have misplaced or put aside.

You have to know which pieces you have in order to start to build. Knowing your inventory, you must use the correct pieces at the proper places accordingly. 
Knowing what we have in front of us is vital. Starting a project takes knowledge of inventory, what we have versus what we may need and seeking it out accordingly. Perhaps the Lord is calling us to do something but we first need to develop a skill or step out in faith. Building a functional train track involves the right pieces in the right places, and the same is true for the Church. God has given each person gifts and talents and when they are placed in the proper place, his Church flourishes.

When pieces have gone missing, you may be the one called to find them. 
The Lord left the 99 to go after the one missing sheep and at some point we may be asked to go, too. Perhaps a lonely neighbor or hard to deal with family member or an angry co-worker. We are called to love recklessly, which is not always easy and we may want to turn our backs and sail off for Tarshish like Jonah but God is faithful as we trust him to guide us as we follow him.
 
 // DIVE DEEPER

+ Is there anything you need to stop doing to allow for rest in the Lord?

+ Who is one person you can show love to in a tangible, unexpected way today or this week? 

+ Block out time on your calendar for prayer this month. Praise God for the master builder and creator he is. If you do not know what gifts or talents you possess, use this time to ask God what they are and how to use them for his glory. 

 // PRAYER
Praying that as you go out this month that the Lord would reveal blue prints to plans in motion that you have been building on or are starting to build. May the Lord show you where he has already been building and the fruit of it as you place pieces down. Praying you would hold your plans loosely as he does the Master Building, knowing full well what is to come and how to connect the pieces accordingly.


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, April 2018

blooming hope.

tiffany garza


Seconds after finishing up paying for my groceries, I glanced over at a cart full of pretty-much-dead-plants on clearance. Just a dollar. Smiling apologetically at the lady behind me and the cashier for my last minute purchase, I quickly grabbed a sparkly pot with a shimmering snow flake decoration, claiming to be a mini white rose plant, and handed it to the cashier. She looked at me extremely surprised at my choice and went on to tell me with hardly an ounce of hope in her voice, unconvincingly, that perhaps with some water it could come back.

Her comment made me smile and hold back a laugh but the heaviness of her lack of hope vibrated inside. She could not see it. She could not see the hope that was there. Her eyes had not been trained to see what was to come or the future, only what was visible: the two drooping buds among the brown, dry leaves. And her actions reiterated what her eyes saw.

I took the little plant home and gave it some water along with some necessary pruning, before settling it in to its new home on the ledge of the kitchen sink. By the end of the day, the drooping bud was no longer down cast but up facing the sun.

The bud has sense bloomed and new buds have formed and bloomed, as well. Slowly but surely, life has been flowing through its little leaves and flowers and though it may not be the prettiest of plants, it has been serving as a reminder of God’s redemption and hope.

Even when we were dead in our sin, God saved us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, not because anything we have done but because of his mercy. There are seasons where certain situations seem dead and we may believe the lie until God opens our eyes, graciously showing us what he has been working along. There may be pruning of dead parts and the need to add life giving substance to our lives in ways only God knows. And then after some waiting or a long waiting, we are given the gift of seeing the birthing of what God had in store all along. His ever perusing, never giving up love that overflows with hope.

Praying as we enter in to Spring and the plants start blooming around you, that the Lord would open your eyes to something in your life that seems to be dead and show you how to approach it. Praying you would have the wisdom and discernment to act according to His leading and have the endurance to keep going forward, even when onlookers tell you it is impossible and hopeless. Rest assured, God will surely show up and be glorified through the process.
 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, March 2018.

on tasks.

tiffany garza


I lead my son out of my daughter’s room, telling him again he was to be cleaning up the play room, not his sister’s room. His task was the play room and sister needed to clean her room. As I the words rolled off my tongue, the Spirit gently reminded me of tasks that were for given to me.

Various conversations earlier in the week pointed to this fact. Others were not given it. I was gifted to me. Others could walk away and surely had but this one was mine.

As I listened to the More to Be Podcast this week (which I highly recommend if you have not had a chance to listen to yet) they spoke of the same reiterating topic of serving where sent, even if it's hard because we were the ones who were sent there. We were the ones chosen for the task at hand and with God given strength, we can accomplish it.

It’s always fun when God sends reminders, some as loud as flashing neon signs and others as quiet and gentle as the morning dew.

Praying that whatever tasks you are working on and God is leading you to that they will be illuminated with God’s strength and perseverance. Praying that you would encourage others as they go about theirs, finding small ways to help and keeping them in prayer through the duration. Praying that if there is task you have been avoiding that you would find the footing to tackle it this month and watch the Lord do the heavy lifting. 
 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 8-10


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, February 2018. 

the best is yet to come.

tiffany garza


Looking back over the course of the year, it has had some amazing highs – our first family vacation to Disneyland, bon fires on the beach, adopting our youngest who has started walking and officially in toddler mode – no more babies in our home, my husband leading the campus church, and starting Inspire Gatherings and so on. And while it is has been awesome, it has definitely been full of hard; a word I do not like to rest on but one that has been in my vocabulary more than I would like to say it this year. 
 
I entered the year tired. Scrape me off my bed tired. I had done blood tests and ultrasounds before Christmas of 2016, which thankfully revealed nothing more than what my OBGYN referred to as post pregnancy regulation of my menses, after experiencing excessive bleeding and fatigue. I was thankful, despite the oddness of being three years post pregnancy.
 
In the fall, as the cool (for California) air came, I grabbed a pair of pants that to my dismay, no longer fit – the only other time this happened, I found out I was pregnant and this clearly was not the case. The dentist appointment I finally rescheduled after delaying for over six months revealed a cavity - my third cavity ever, which came as a surprise since I could not even feel discomfort from it.
 
These quickly became tell tale signs of the tiredness and the less than stellar routines it had produced, not to mention all of the chocolate chips I had been eating through it all.
 
My morning routines more common than not, were waking up to kiddos asking for breakfast or crying - a lot of crying in January with colds and sickness. A good part of the New Year, my sweet husband let me sleep in until he went to work in the morning, leaving my quiet time until afternoon naps on good days and morning runs hard to come by.
 
Through it all, God has been faithful and good. Despite the tiredness, he always gave strength and the reminder that he is not bound by time and bible studies are not mandatory in the mornings (though my favorite) and a sweet friend who seemed to be like my personal prayer warrior for the year. Not to mention my mom and mother in law who cleaned our home and babysat more times than I can count. As I lay on the table waiting for the ultrasound in regards to bleeding, the Lord whispered, be still and know that I am God. And as I stepped out in faith leading Inspire Gatherings, God spoke about setting tables for his kingdom and provided everything that was needed and more than I could imagine; one of the sweetest gifts he has given besides my family. It has been a slow and small year, the exact words He gave me to usher in 2017.
 
By God’s grace and what feels like a small miracle, my energy levels have been back up and to my own surprise this anti-gym girl currently has eight weeks in as a gym member, waking up at what I like to call dark o’clock for bible study before working out, before the kiddos wake. My pants are pretty much fitting and my chocolate consumption is at an all time low. And my teeth are getting a better brushing and flossing, in case you were wondering.
 
Friend, I have no idea how your past year has been. Perhaps you are finding your pants are on the tighter side or maybe this year has been one for the record books, wherever you find yourself today, I pray that you see the goodness of God throughout the past year and praise him. Praise him for the strength that he has given you to prevail and the perseverance to see things through and the grace he has given despite your short comings and the blessings he sprinkled along the way through friendships and prayers and the gift of a new day.
 
God has been bringing Jeremiah 29:11 to mind the last few weeks, so I wanted to pass it along to you. It is one that can be cliché in its over usage but a reminder of what God intended from the beginning of creation. His plans have always been for good, for our good. While Adam and Eve brought sin and death in to the world, something that we bring into our own lives at times, God is always good and always working out good – even when we fall short eating too much chocolate - for those who love him (Romans 8:28).
 
Praying for you as the year unfolds. May you embrace the year with open hands, actively seeking out the goodness of God daily, even when it is hard. Even when the enemy is telling you otherwise. God is good. God is faithful. 

If you need a little reminder of who God is, here is a teeny sampling of scriptures that touch on it. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, January 2018. 

trees make shade. 

tiffany garza


I had been asked over summer to do a little Christmas project for the girls at Mercy Multiplied, which I happily agreed too, assuming it would be done long before December approached. But that did not happen, so this past week I finished up our Inspire Gatherings for the year and went on my way wrapping up some Christmas cheer, with some bumps along the way. 

As I had prayed about what to do, this message of trees and growth and shade came to mind, as trees are such a part of American Christmas celebrations, so I thought I would share it here with you, too. 


In the bible, trees are often used to symbolize a person being rooted in God and righteousness. Someone who is truly growing in relation and faith with him. Someone who trusts in him.

As trees grow, some lose their bark like the sycamore, redbud, silver maple, shagbark hickory, and birch. This usually is not an indication that anything is wrong, rather a visual sign it is outgrowing its skin to allow its trunk to enlarge. However, in some cases, it can be harmful if insects or cold weather attack in the process.

While we are growing in to our relationship with God and learning his heart and hearing his voice, we are shedding our old self and growing spiritually. Our eyes are being opened to sin in our lives, healing and forgiveness that needs to take place and we start producing fruit of the Spirit. The enemy will try to squeeze through the cracks during this process of growth telling us lies and bringing up the past, just as insects and the cold try attack the tree, so we must focus intensely on the Truth of God’s word.

The interesting thing about trees is that as they are growing and maturing, they are constantly giving to others. They make shade for the beasts of the field and provide food for animals and places for birds to make their homes (Daniel 4:11-12). They become a gathering place for others.

This is the sort of life that God wants to instill in each of us. He wants us to be thriving and growing in him. Constantly learning more about who he is and revealing those characteristics in ourselves in order to be able to set us free from lies of the enemy and be a source of freedom for others. He wants us to be fruitful trees that are planted in the house of the Lord, drinking of his life giving water.

Praying that your roots would continue to grow in Christ and that you would seek him and find him and bask in his grace this Christmas season.Praying that you would make shade for others as you follow him. Praying that if have never experienced Christmas in the light of Jesus that this year you would have new eyes to see the beauty of the God of the universe being born on earth to die for your sins. All because of love. Because he loves you. Here's to roots and growth and Christmas.

He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.  Jeremiah 17:8
 

If you would like to dive deeper in this short study, you can download a study guide for free here


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, December 2017. 

God gives good gifts.

tiffany garza

God gives good gifts.

My mom graciously gifted the kiddos a jump house for Christmas. It has been one of the best gifts they have received, hands down, next to the swing set Penny got for her second birthday from my aunt. The kiddos have played endlessly this year throughout the superfluous winter rain and the blazing summer heat. It has been the perfect inside energy outlet for them, bouncing away the morning and in to afternoons, while I finish dishes or drink my coffee or play mama monster alongside them, chasing them around it.

God has reminded me about his good gifts over the course of the year. As we took a step out in faith and moved to a new town, in to a house we had not seen until the keys were just about in our hands, God said he only gives good gifts. As my mom questioned whether it would smell like cigarettes or what the condition of the carpets would be and I wondered about the exact layout, God kindly assured me he only gives good gifts. When we walked through the doors of the home for the first time, I nearly cried as it was practically the exact layout I nonchalantly prayed months earlier for, at the mere idea of moving - not thinking it would be anytime soon. It was the layout of the last home my family had lived in before my parents went their separate ways. It was open and spacious with plenty of room for the kiddos to run and play and eventually hold the jump house. Another good gift.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

As we enter in the season of thanksgiving and gift giving and start thinking about what we should tuck under our Christmas trees and what we would benefit from receiving, there is a sweet reminder of hope that has been poured in to our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), one the best gifts we have received. The truth and comfort and freedom that we find in the Holy Spirit through the power of God, after Jesus rose from the grave and went to be with seated at the right hand of God, is nothing short of spectacular.

A friendship that is covered in grace and presses us deeper in to the very heart of God. 

Praying that whatever trials or circumstances you are facing that you would know that God only gives good gifts; knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame (Romans 5:3-5). 


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, November 2017.

Jumping.

tiffany garza


I posted on Instagram a few weeks back about a little something that has been in the works for the shop. Something that I have been dreaming about putting together all year but as the dreaming has become time and effort and coming to fruition it has been harder to step out and actually pull the trigger

After listening to the Feather's Podcast by Abiding Ministries (which I highly recommend!) God keeps bringing to up the need to JUMP and need for risk and growing faith. An opportunity to really trust him. 

I am so excited to give you a peek at what this little jump looks like. It feels like a day at the lake, hanging out on the dock and running towards the edge. And as you are just a few steps from the edge, your stomach is filled with butterflies and mouth full of laughter as your hair blows behind you and you take the leap in the water, holding your breath. Yes, it's pretty much like that.  

We are introducing Christmas Infographs in to the shop in less than a month! 

They are perfect to send solo or tuck in to your Christmas cards. There will be options to download and print yourself or have us print them for you, along with a spot on the front for your pretty Christmas picture.

And my favorite part, there will be kits to go along with them, complete with everything you need to make them yourself and start a new tradition. Making our own Christmas cards has been a date night at home tradition for us over the past several years and we want to pass that along to you. My favorite part is being able to look back at our family's highlights over the years and tucking one in to each of the kiddo's baby books. 
 

Kits will include a personalized Infograph, some yummy Gobena Coffee (as an adoptive mama, I love the heart and everything about the coffee. Check them out if you haven't had the pleasure)  5x7 paper, envelopes, washi tape, custom return address labels, and more. You get to choose whether you put on a Christmas movie or listen to classic Christmas carols as you craft away. 

This should give you some time to review the year and get started, right? Follow along on Instagram to see how the kits come together.

And if you need another fun reason to join in the fun, proceeds from each Infograph and the kit goes towards funding Inspire Gatherings for the coming year. 

Is there anything God is asking you to take a risk on? Maybe putting your heart out there for foster care / adoption or a new friendship or a big move? Perhaps quitting your job and taking a year off like a sweet friend recently did (you can read about her journey here) or starting a new ministry or inviting a family over for dinner. Praying that whatever God is calling you towards this month, how ever small or grandiose, that you would walk in faith and trust him as he goes before you. 

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, October 2017. 

Enough.

tiffany garza


My daughter and I have been reading through the Never Girls series; she was gifted the first collection at for her birthday. We found the rest on our local library’s ebook borrowing system and have been reading them at bedtime and throughout the summer days. As I browsed for the next book, I came across Jennie Allen’s newest book, Nothing to Prove available in audio. I clicked borrow and have been listening to it over the course of the week, namely as I have been sanding and painting a few fun tables I found at thrift stores. Listening to her read as white paint brushed over the wood, filling its pours and the grooves. Covering over the scratches and little dents of its past life.

I think that is one of my favorite parts of old wood furniture. Its past life. Somehow dents and scratches came. Some can be sanded down enough to never be seen again; others stay, adding to its charm and my favorite term, its rustic character.

Jennie Allen read aloud, her words piercing as I painted. Truths of scripture pouring out and reminding me what it means to be enough. That is the premise of the book: We are not enough but Jesus is enough.

It is about leaning in to our weakness to find his strength (2 Corinthians 12:11) and our identities being tucked in to who Christ is, hidden in him (Colossians 3:3).

One point struck me, as more white paint gathered on my brush:
I am realizing it's not my curse that I believe I am not enough; it's my sin that I keep trying to be.

Pride can easily be entangled in being enough. When we are enough we simply have no need for God but in our weakness and firmly rooted in our identity in Christ, we can walk in confidence that God will always be enough, so we do not have to.

When we allow ourselves to repent for our feelings of inadequacy, changing the focus from pointing at ourselves to pointing directly at God and allowing God to bring about his sufficient grace and fully embrace that he is enough, we do not have to be.

We may not feel good enough as a wife or friend or mother or daughter or co – worker but God is enough and feelings are never facts. So much so that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. When we rely on him, we are enough for his purposes. 

There is not a measuring stick or comparison to be enough for God. There is just one you and an ocean full of grace and love.

What would it look like to fully embrace God, allowing him to be enough? May we walk in grace this month and know that God is enough, so we do not have to be. May God guide you in your weakness that he may be greater, showing his glory through you. 
 

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, September 2017. 

On the table. 

tiffany garza

I was invited to the Friends of Mercy Luncheon this past week, which is a time to learn more about the organization, learn about how we can help and meet the girls and take in the beauty of the home that draws them nearer to Jesus. My team joined me at the lunch as they had yet to fully see the home and all the details. We enjoyed croissant sandwiches and salad and heard a few testimonies of those who were in the home and had graduated. It was a simply sweet time, full of excitement from the girls to the overcrowded guests in attendance.

As I sat down to eat, the reminder of setting The Table came to mind.

The first time we brought session one of our Inspire Gatherings to Mercy Multiplied, we carefully put our supplies down and got everything situated in its space. We took each handout and canvas and water cup and laid them in each place setting. As we set the table for them, the Lord sweetly whispered, you’re setting the table for them, as I set the table for you. 

Jesus tells us in his Father’s house there are many rooms and he is going to prepare a place for us. Luke 14 points us to the parable of the feast. We are all invited to the feast; into salvation and relationship with Jesus. Yet not all who are invited will come.

Throughout our days, we are also putting out place settings and inviting others to the feast. We are given opportunities for others to come to know Christ. Some directly each day – our children, our spouse, our significant other, our extended family or co-workers, while others are indirectly or even unnoticed. The cashier at the grocery store or the librarian. The uber driver or waiter. Our everyday actions reference this invitation and either shows its glory or otherwise.

We all have opportunities to invite others to our table. To The Table. How we send out the invite and how we set the table matters. How we love is intricately woven in to the threads of the napkins and coils of the place mats. How our actions follow in step with our Lord can be reflected in how full our glass is, whether brimming to overflowing or running dry. We get to choose with each passing day what our table setting looks like and whether we are truly living in the sweet spot. 

Praying this month you will see ways to invite others in to the little things around you, ultimately showing love and pointing towards Jesus. Praying you will send out invites to the feast, opening up your table, despite its small size or mismatched dishware or lack of décor. It’s the invitation that is the key and heart behind it all.


Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God. Luke 14:1


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, August 2017. 

on encouragement.

tiffany garza

In college, I wrote a small thank you to a professor telling her thanks for all of the work she had put in one of the classes I had taken from her. It was so much work and so much to learn and so much for her to teach and to grade. When I transferred schools I had to retake the class. Same book. Same amount to learn but hardly any teaching occurred that came close to my previous professor's. I felt sorry for the other students in the class who were trying to figure it all out and had no idea what to do. This was where my note was born and sent it out to my teacher in full thankfulness for her efforts.

Later, a friend mentioned that my professor was really encouraged by it and placed it on her desktop as a reminder while she was going through the daily grind. I had no idea the impact that it would make for her and did not think she would remember me.

Encouragement is a powerful weapon and should be used and given accordingly.

Scripture is filled with encouragement and hope and healing and daily reminders of who we are in Christ, should we take time to read it and soak it in and let it sit on our tongues. Allowing our hearts to feel the truth and not just sit in our head.

It is for the days you look in the mirror and see how thirsty you have become. How dryness has dulled your skin, leaving craters and color lacking. How your once overflowing cup has become dry as the desert and there is still laundry to fold and lunches to be made and dishes in the sink waiting to be scrubbed.


It's God's love that truly quenches our drought through his Word and of those around us, should we allow it to penetrate deeper than the page, which in turn allows us to pass it along, heart to heart, in action and truth to others.

Praying your heart would be fully open to encouragement on both the giving and receiving end this month as you take time to read truth in scripture. Praying that you would take a moment to send a few words to someone who needs a little refill in her cup, whether it be through letters on a screen, words over the phone or snail mail. May your cup be filled this month as the Lord directs your steps.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. Proverbs 16:24


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, July 2017. Subscribe here to read it first. 

flowers and identity.

tiffany garza

Our house has been filled with a teething toddler and infant. Needless to say, sleep has been off and on and off again. The other night, our almost two year old refused to go to bed, so with the warm spring weather outside, I opted for a walk around the neighborhood in the wagon – soothing for him and sanity on my part.


The neighborhood has surely grown on me, since our move here in October. Mini roses line the walking paths in yellow, white and pink hues, matching beautifully with the variety of flowers our neighbors have planted. We walked and waved to fellow walkers and gleaned a few roses from the path as we went, decorating the Radio Flyer in flowers.
 

In the morning, my oldest son immediately took notice of the small arrangement I had made with the flowers (he has an amazing eye for detail), and looking up at me after asking where they came from said, “You’re a Flower Mom, right?” squinting his eyes to make a point. “You love flowers.”

I laughed and agreed and admired his sense of detail and curiousness and desire to know me.

It is in these small gestures that we are known. Who we are and what we like and what we are about. Sometimes others point them out in ways that are unfitting and not accurate and give us definitions that do not define us, while at others they pin point us.

Yes, it is sweet my son calls me Flower Mom but others are not as sweet. Our identities can be easily weaved in to conversations or by accomplishments but God keeps reminding to keep my identity firmly planted in him, no matter how sweet or harsh the words of others may be. Our identities are established because of the God, who sent Jesus to die for us. To ransom us from who we once were and to bring us in to his fullness.

May you go out this month with a smile and your identity written on your heart. May this month be a month of pressing in to who God says you are; slowing down enough to stop and smell the spring roses and hear his heart for you.

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.
Song of Solomon 4:7


Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, May 2017.

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 garza4 Comments


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.


-interview-

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.
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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 NicoleComment

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.