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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. 

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.