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Intimacy is Intentional.

tiffany garzaComment
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If there has been one thing that has been a resounding cymbal in my life recently, it is that my relationship with God is sacred and needs to be valued.

I will be the first to admit that I have a difficult time putting God at the beginning and center of everything. It easy for me to wake up and rush into my day without ever thanking God for the air I woke up breathing. It’s easier to make a decision in the moment that feels right than really seeking God for his wisdom on it.

I know from experience when I’m not placing God at the center of my life, I’m going to struggle more than if I would let him in.

Read that one more time.

Did you catch the word more.

I know I forget even when I am walking with the Lord I will face trouble. However because I have Him I am not crushed, perplexed, or abandon.

The way The Passion Translation puts 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

"Though we experience every kind of pressure, we’re not crushed. At times we don’t know what to do, but quitting is not an option. We are persecuted by others, but God has not forsaken us. We may be knocked down, but not out.”

Knowing all of this leaves me with a choice. To continue to try to do things on my own, or to lie down at his feet and allow him to work in me and through me. I would much rather have the latter of those two. In this season I feel like I’m learning really practical ways that I can connect with the work without it feeling like a burden. I’d love to share just three of those with you and maybe you can find one that will help you draw closer to the Lord.

1.      Doing a devotional/bible study

Right now I am reading through a devotional called 100 Days to Brave by Annie F Downs. I absolutely love her books and would recommend them all! They have carried me through so many seasons. This one is written as a devo page or two long that you can read pretty quickly every morning or night. I prefer to start my day with the devo and even try to read my before my feet ever hit the floor. 

If you’re not looking to buy a devotional or study there are plenty of free downloads on the Youversion bible app.

2. Journaling your prayers

When I am feeling really heavy and I want to draw close to the Lord I love to grab my journal and pour out my prayers and my heart in my journal. I love actually writing them out because it gives me the ability to go back months and years down the road and see all that God has accomplished.  This is another great way to start your day, waking up thanking God for that day (so much changes when we start each day with a heart of thanksgiving) and pouring out every burden you have. If your mornings are too busy, take a few minutes every night to reflect on your day and thank God for what he has done and pray for anything on your heart. Try it for a week and see how it feels.

3. Art and the Word of God

One of my favorite ways to meditate on scripture is to embrace my creative side by turning what I’m reading into a piece of art. For me, this usually looks like calligraphy or watercolor. Feel free to use whatever medium of art is most comfortable for you. Not forcing something that feels unnatural. If art is not your thing, you may not connect to God in the way and that’s okay. If you haven't tried though, I would really encourage it. Breathe, slow your mind, ask God to reveal more of the scripture and let your mind paint the picture for you. If you try this at all I would love to see what you create. Please share it with us!

Connecting with God on more and more intimate levels is a process, and one that takes time. I’m thankful we are on this journey together. We may not be where we want to be but we are getting there together.

I’m so excited to see what we learn this month as we continue to discuss creating foundations with our creative devotional study.

Let’s dive in deep, lay it down at his feet, and see just how much freedom we can experience in the loving arms of the Father.

All my love,

Elizabeth


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// About Elizabeth @etothegreeno

22. Artist. Writer. World Traveler. Light Giver.

May my life be a constant reflection of the goodness and faithfulness of Jesus. May the work he has done in me be a testimony of provision and favor.

Submit, surrender, believe.

tiffany garzaComment
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If you know me, you may know that I am a very black and white thinker. This has not only served me well, but it also hindered me from overcoming certain beliefs and lies. This month we have been talking about the word RENEW.

For as long as I can recall I felt like in order to experience renewal I had to go from one person to another in a single action; that I could be instantly renewed if I just prayed and asked God to heal me or take away my negative thoughts. Come to find out that’s not at all how the process works.

Renew is defined as the processing of making something new by resuming an interrupted activity, re-establishing relationship, or repeating an action. None of those would make you believe that to be renewed is a onetime process.

It’s an everyday choice; it’s showing up on the hard days, on the good days. It’s believing in the truth even when it feels a million miles away and like you can even fathom reaching it. For me it’s believing in God - that He can do what He says He can, that He is making me into who He has called me to be.

He’s shaping me into the women of God that I never thought possible.

I am the pot in the potter’s hands.

I am the vine being tended to by the vine dresser.

My process of renewal isn’t coming outside my relationship with Jesus. At least the process of renewal that is helping me fulfill my purpose.

For me it all started with making the choice to establish my relationship with the Lord after years of running and living like an orphan. That place left me feeling broken, miserable, and honestly hopeless.

Friend, if you feel like you are lacking purpose, if you feel alone and burden, ask yourself what are you allowing to renew your life? I believe we can use other things to renew us that are not healthy. Maybe we believe alcohol will help us to feel satisfied. Maybe it’s even things like shopping for things we don’t need, saying yes to everything to help us feel fulfilled.

What I am trying to say here, beloved, is that we have a chance to decide what we give ourselves too. And sure we can choose the things I listed above, but speaking from personal experience those will not satisfy. They will not bring contentment, joy, peace, or the person you are designed to be.

Here may be another slightly controversial and difficult statement. We can’t have both. The bible is super clear about being in this world but not of it. As hard as it is (speaking from 100% personal experience here) we have to learn to lay aside the things that are not helping shape us to be more Christ like.

Easier said than done, right?

Welcome to the process of renewal. The choice to submit, surrender and believe that with him, all things can be made new.

I feel so challenged by this, friends. Challenged because there are still things I am laying down and learning to surrender.

We have the opportunity to be renewed day by day.

We get to choose.

Let’s choose together friends to lay our lives down for a purpose and a calling so much bigger than we can create for ourselves. Let’s give the Lord the opportunity to come in and renew our hearts and minds and lives to be more centered on Him.


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// About Elizabeth @etothegreeno

22. Artist. Writer. World Traveler. Light Giver.

May my life be a constant reflection of the goodness and faithfulness of Jesus. May the work he has done in me be a testimony of provision and favor.

give yourself time.

tiffany garzaComment
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A couple of months ago, a friend & I walked into a clay shop and before me were (what seemed like) endless options of clay items that I could paint. A Sloth. Plate. Box. Mug. Any animal. Ya know, all the things. The list goes on and on. 

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After debating and picking up many items and then placing them back on the shelf due to my indecisiveness, I opted for a coffee mug. However, the process really just began at this point.

From there I received the quick run down, things to do/not to do to help make for a smoother time and better finished product, including the encouragement to put on an apron since it was bound to be a messy adventure. Next, I stared at all the color choices. 

I’m pretty sure they had every color shade imaginable, with or without sparkles of course.

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At last, every decision I needed to make was complete and it was time to sit down and paint. I took a deep breath and began.

I knew the general idea of what I wanted the final product to be, but I was oblivious to what the journey would be to get there.

Ya know, paint bottles that didn’t want to disperse paint. Paint smudges. Running out of a specific color. Smeared words. 

But as I pushed through and continued on, I started seeing it all come together.

Finally, I arrived at what seemed like the end but that was the point when I had to leave my mug behind so it could be glazed and go through the fire...it had to be transformed just a little more so that it could truly sparkle and shine.

The overall theme displayed on my mug became a great representation of the overall experience and it sure does apply to the journey I’ve personally been on, and perhaps you have, also...either now or at another point in your life.

Just as a caterpillar goes through the process to transform into a beautiful butterfly, and like the process I walked through with my mug, we each go through a process as well when we’re being refined and transformed into the best version of ourselves. 

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Does it happen over night? Absolutely not.

Is it painless? No.

Is it messy at times? Sure thing.

Are there things along the way that represent smudges or smeared words? Oh sure there are.

But is it worth it to give yourself time and see what comes from it? You bet.

Trust the process, friends.

You’re a beautiful work in process, and you’re worth every single second it takes.

Much Love,

Taryn 


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// About Taryn

Insta: @taryn.it.upppp

I’m an almost thirty year old gal who has experienced the radical transformation that only Jesus and His love can bring about. Although originally from Ohio, I now live in southern Tennessee and have added the phrase ya’ll to my every day vocabulary. ⠀

You can usually catch me singing along to most any song that comes on, sipping a chai tea latte at a local coffee shop, or enjoying time outdoors which is where I connect with God the most! 

art + worship.

tiffany garzaComment
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For Christmas last year, my husband gifted me a fancy, journaling bible that had just released. Another bible was a sweet surprise but something I did not know how to use, as I have a few for unique purposes but this one did not fit into a category.

Early this past fall, I stumbled into bible journaling on Instagram. I had not heard much about it or understood what it was but one post caught my eye: mother – daughter bible journaling sets.

My daughter is a born creative and I knew I had to do this eventually - when she was older. But as I thought about it and saw all the beauty of the bible journaling community, I opted to gift her one for Christmas.

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This made me think about my own fancy, journaling bible with its gold embossed cover and pretty lettered pages that I had started using for my afternoon readings through Proverbs.

Its pages were straight and neat. Almost too pretty to touch with a brush or felt tips. The initial thought of covering its pages with paint and color were a little daunting, as I did not want to ruin it.

But the idea of the mother – daughter set kept floating around and so I went for it, just before purchasing one for her.

Taking the leap and making a mess of the page with paint and lettering was more fun than I had anticipated. Especially, the first time we were able to sit down together with our water colors and colored pencil and illustrate God’s word. To my surprise, my daughter decided to paint, in biblical order, descriptive pictures from the text – from Noah’s ark to Cain coming behind Abel to murder him (I was a bit shocked by this one, though the illustration was well rendered AND she quoted the exact verse).

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It was a sweet time and exciting to see her actually reading the text as she painted, something I had not considered when I had chosen my favorite translation for her bible, the ESV. It has been a beautiful outlet for her and I am thrilled for this little adventure we are on together, as we worship together in the truths of scripture and art.

Worshipping God can come in many forms, from art and bible journaling to hiking and prayer. Praying that if there is anything that you have been hindered or put off doing to worship God that you would push yourself to it and go there, even it is messy and feels like you are ruining the very thing that you are trying. Praying that you can laugh as you learn from the process and embrace the joy that is to be had there. Praying that Lord would guide your steps as you take them and that you would see Him in light as you worship.

//DIVE DEEPER

+ Read Psalm 148. *Use the SOAP method for a deeper study. Download it for free here.

+ Is there anything that you have wanted to try? Is anything stopping you? If so, take time to pray about it. Find time this week to do it or set a date.

+ Is there anyone you can invite into it? 

Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, February 2019. Join the adventure to be the first to get it straight to your inbox, along with other fun tidbits from the shop. 

get in the boat

tiffany garzaComment
There was an astonishment that came over me as I realized how the Lord has answered so many of my prayers. (4).png

As I was lying in bed last night, I closed my eyes, tears leaking out of the corners. I was frustrated, discouraged, hurting and kind of lonely. It stemmed from a way too hectic schedule and from missing my time with God. Then out of nowhere - God gave me a vision. Consider yourself warned, it's an odd one. It made me laugh out loud and the tears suddenly stopped as I looked at the sight behind my closed eye lids. I saw a helmeted turtle standing upright in a boat, out in the middle of a body of water. Seems logical, right? It really made me laugh and then made me wonder. I asked God what it was supposed to mean and the interpretation came immediately. 

I was to slow down and get in the boat... Whoa. It was so clear. And so totally opposite of what I've been doing. And just like that, things suddenly got a little bit clearer and I thought back over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been moving one-hundred miles an hour, tying to get as much done as possible. Running here, running there. Doing this, doing that. Saying yes over and over and over again. I’m just trying to paint a picture - probably one that many of you are familiar with in your own life. Then, suddenly, I hit the end of the day and I realize I haven’t taken any time to sit down with God....once again. Day one, day two, day three. The pattern continues until I honestly feel like I can’t breathe.

I got frustrated with God...how on earth do I find the time? How exactly am I supposed to get in the boat? What about the things still moving around me? 

Get in the boat, He gently replies

So I did. 

I got in. 

I’ve spent most of this week sitting in the boat with Jesus and listening to the soft beckoning of His voice that comes through reading His word and drawing closer to His heart. 

Let me tell ya, friend

It’s been SO good. 

The world around me slowed down. 

The pace of life didn't seem so fast.

I could breathe more clearly. 

My thoughts were re-focused on the Lord and my prayers began to take on deeper meaning. 

I'm learning that as God continually prepares me for something bigger, there will be trials. This is one of those times I believe He is asking more of me.

There are and will be seasons when it's hard to hear His voice...but He is always there and ever so patient with us. 

All He is asking is that we take the time to get in the boat and He'll take care of the rest.

Who is jumping in to the boat with me?

Let’s ride it out together, friends!


Hugs,

Taryn


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// About Taryn

Insta: @taryn.it.upppp

I’m an almost thirty year old gal who has experienced the radical transformation that only Jesus and His love can bring about. Although originally from Ohio, I now live in southern Tennessee and have added the phrase ya’ll to my every day vocabulary. ⠀

You can usually catch me singing along to most any song that comes on, sipping a chai tea latte at a local coffee shop, or enjoying time outdoors which is where I connect with God the most! 

Evidence of a Changed life

tiffany garzaComment
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It’s been nearly one year since I made a declaration of my new found freedom while completing a nine month (and one day) Christian residential treatment program.

I never thought I would end up in a treatment center for an eating disorder, depression and anxiety feeling suffocated by life, let alone in a treatment center at all.  Yet here I am, having experienced more of the Lord, more joy, more freedom, and more heartache and pain than I imagined.

 Even though this last year of freedom didn’t look remotely like I imagined it to, I can confidently say that I am not who I was; I have grown, I have changed.

 Sunday I came home after church and lunch with a friend and felt an overwhelming presence that had me ugly crying at the goodness of God and it was the most beautiful thing. I sat in complete awe of the amazing work that he has done in my life.

Right before getting out of the car, my friend and I began sharing parts of our stories with each other and a simple “see ya later” turned into a twenty five minute conversation. My heart began to break as I recanted a time in high school where I was so broken and hopeless that I sat on my bed with a bottle of pills ready to end my life. The intervention of a friend that day and the grace of God is the only reason I am able to still draw breath on this day, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

As I spent that afternoon reflecting on what the Lord has done in my life I decided to take a peek at my old journals: my pre treatment college days, during treatment and now. There was an astonishment that came over me as I realized how the Lord has answered so many of my prayers. Let me tell you, it took work, and grit, steadfastness and faithfulness in the process. But what I asked of him, he guided me to.

 I started off praying in 2017 for breakthrough, for freedom from sin, for a realization of his love for me, resting in him, THE LIST GOES ON.  I didn’t imagine that those prayers would be answered in the way they were. It took me stepping completely outside of my comfort zone, moving to yet another state thousands of miles away from my friends and family to look at my life and choose healing, freedom, and Jesus over the ways I had found to cope.

In these past two years I see the way the Lord has continually be faithful to answer the prayers, desires and hopes that I have brought before him. As I reflect, I realize I understand his love in a completely new and beautiful way now. I am able to find rest in him and know I don’t have to prove myself to him. It didn’t happen overnight, it didn’t even happen in nine months honestly. It is this constant growing and learning.

I am not sure where we began to believe this but the process isn’t “one and done.” It is not a microwave, and there is no quick fix for learning and believe truth. For most of my life I had this thought that there was something wrong with me and that I should have had this figured out already, I should be “fixed” and I was completely missing the point. As I surrendered and gave way to the process I found more growth, more freedom, more joy than I had in my life. Did this mean that every issue I dealt with, every lie and every sin feel away? Uhm absolutely not, but there was something different.

I’ve walked as a different person these last two years. I will not fully understand or know the Lord until eternity but I’m content with surrendering my life to run after the Lord and his heart.

When you pray dear friends, do not be discouraged if you don’t see the fruit, sometimes it comes in the most unexpected ways and sometimes it takes time. But be faithful, be obedient, and be expectant. He hears you.

Challenge: There is something so beautiful about looking back and seeing the Lord move and show up. Find a notebook or journal and begin to write down some of your prayers or at least the things you are praying. Next month, 6 months from now, and next year look back and check in on how you have seen the Lord move in those areas. Watch him show up, he is MORE than enough for everything you are facing.

All my love,

Elizabeth


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// About Elizabeth @etothegreeno

22. Artist. Writer. World Traveler. Light Giver.

May my life be a constant reflection of the goodness and faithfulness of Jesus. May the work he has done in me be a testimony of provision and favor.

why.

tiffany garza
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For as long I can remember, why has been a choice word. Questions coming one after another. I love back stories and the reasons behind choices. There is always an action or reaction or cause and effect, whether conscious or unconscious. It just is. When I could muster up the courage, I could ask why, though my shyness hindered my analytical nature growing up, diving deep into pointless and futile thinking patterns.

I have been told that my questions can be intimidating and perceived to some as interrogation, though that is not my intention or heart in the slightest. The statement itself caught me by complete surprise, as they rolled off a friend’s tongue. My curiosity is just in full effect and I love a good story, especially those who are willing to share and be transparent and honest and open. It is the depth and realness that questions beckon us into, should our answers be truth filled.

I see it now in my oldest son. Questions that he is brave and bold to ask anyone who will listen and answer him. His little mind soaking in what is being told to him. His eyes listening intently as he is conjuring follow up questions.

The why dives me deeper with God to questions about why he did what he did. Things that I may never know on this side of heaven but none the less lead me into other studies and other questions that he does graciously answer in the time I have given to it. The constant leading and inquiries that arise keeps the light burning.

The Lord graciously urges us to ask and seek and knock. We ask our questions, which become an adventure as we dive in to scripture and study and prayer and fasting. Asking and seeking. We have the opportunity to invite others into our questions. We invite them into the study, to come and search with us. We seek the Lord together as our questions are answered and the door is opened to his presence. To his goodness and mercy and love.

As this new year is unfolding, full of possibilities and new questions to be asked and sought after and doors opened, I pray that you would be able to see where the questions are leading you and the answers would be ones that lead you to the feet of Jesus. Praying that you would invite others into your questions, no matter how silly sounding or too small, because relationships build off of questions and answers, as does our faith. May your curiosity and faith be renewed and perhaps the answers that you believed to be true in the past would have new light shed on them, as your faith deepens in the coming year.

//DIVE DEEPER

+Read Matthew 7: 7-12. Then read it again, letting Jesus' words soak in. Highlight any words that stand out. *Use the SOAP method for a deeper study. Download it for free here.

+ Do you have any questions about God or your beliefs? Write them down and pray about them this week. Find someone to talk about them with. 

+ Is there anything you are asking or seeking the Lord right now? Schedule time this week to pray specifically about it, Invite a friend to pray with you and for you through it. 

Originally posted in The Inspire Monthly newsletter, January 2019. Join the adventure to be the first to get it straight to your inbox, along with other fun tidbits from the shop. 

new to the team // taryn

tiffany garzaComment
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Hi friends!

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to get to hang out with y’all on the blog!

You may remember my social media posts back in November when we were journeying together to find the joy in everyday life through the #findthejoytoday movement! Speaking of that, how’s that going for you? Are you still striving to find the joy on a daily basis, even if all of your feelings/emotions convince you there are some days that just don’t contain any joy? I promise you, there’s something joy-filled in every single day...let’s keep looking for it together! Deal? 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in continual processing mode all month long. That seems to be pretty common at the beginning of a new year as we anticipate what this year will hold, in comparison to what last year or the years before that held for us, and setting goals for personal growth the months to come. 

Last year was one for the books, as I finished my year long journey in a Christian residential treatment center. However, It wasn’t just treatment. It marked the beginning of a life transforming relationship with Jesus that radically rocked my world and showed me what life with Him looks like. It wasn’t easy by any means, but to be equipped to continue walking out my freedom and healing on a daily basis made it all worth it. 

All month long, I’ve noticed the theme of prayer popping up every which direction I turn. It’s almost like the Lord was setting a challenge before me to turn my prayer life up a few notches.

In taking an honest evaluation of that area of my life, I realized how little of time I was spending in prayer. It seemed to be like my times of prayer was me advising God, directing God, making suggestions to God...ya know how we do sometimes. However, there was very little time spent just hanging out in His presence and adoring Him and not just throwing my requests at Him. 

Don’t get me wrong. He is ok with us presenting our requests to Him, but for me that’s what my prayer times became about....constantly asking and rarely thanking. Talk about a heart check!

So, in that, He’s challenged me to set aside a certain amount of time every single day aside to just abide in Him and converse with Him like I would a friend.

He longs to be in communication with us. 

We’re His children and He’s head over heels in love with His kiddos. His heart swells with pride and increased love when we choose to boldly enter the throne room and sit at His feet without an agenda. Just unrestrained time between a Father and His child. Wow. 

I’m leaving you with a challenge to simply spend some time hanging out with Jesus in prayer. Maybe that’s something you already do. Awesome. Perhaps you can add in an additional time of prayer today where you focus more on listening to Him speak to you rather than you solely doing the talking. 

Or maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum and you haven’t stopped and prayed for months. It’s ok if that’s where you’re at, but He’s longing to hear from you. There’s so much grace being lavished on you and He’s extending a listening ear and warm heart. ️

 I’m praying for you, sweet friends! We’re all on this journey together!

See you again soon!

Love,

Taryn

Insta: @taryn.it.upppp

P.S. The breathtaking view in this picture came about as I took some time one morning this month to just be still and pray as the sun was rising over the mountains. It was almost like He was saying “hey, thanks for hanging out with me this morning. Here’s this for you to enjoy while we spend time together.”

How cool is He?!


taryn.jpg

// About Taryn

I’m an almost thirty year old gal who has experienced the radical transformation that only Jesus and His love can bring about. Although originally from Ohio, I now live in southern Tennessee and have added the phrase ya’ll to my every day vocabulary. ⠀

You can usually catch me singing along to most any song that comes on, sipping a chai tea latte at a local coffee shop, or enjoying time outdoors which is where I connect with God the most! 

new to the team // Elizabeth

tiffany garzaComment
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Hey y’all!

My name is Elizabeth and I feel so privileged to introduce myself to you all and journey with you as we dive into faith, freedom, truth, all the things! I hope and pray through my post that you will feel seen, known, loved, and inspired to continue to press on in whatever season you find. May these words not only be encouraging but bold, faith-filled, and challenging.

To start off I thought I would share a little about myself so you might have some context for what I share down the road.

Is that okay with you? (I know I can’t hear you audibly respond but I LOVE to pose questions as I write!).

I always have a hard time finding a place to begin when I share my story with people, so let’s just jump right in.

…Young Elizabeth, she felt broken, hurt, and like she could never amount to anything. These lies began to shape her life and caused her to see no hope, or purpose for her life. As a teen she struggled with suicidal ideation, self harm, and an eating disorder. Trauma from her childhood caused a lack of trust in other people and feeling like she didn’t belong. Years of being perpetually stuck in these lies really took a toll. In her second year of college she began to feel like there was absolutely no hope left and was content with death. Through faithful friends and mentors, she was able to accept that she did not want death to be the outcome of her actions and decided it was time to get help.

Sharing my story with people is not something I felt comfortable with for so long, even after going through a residential treatment facility and finding freedom that I didn’t have for so long. I was ashamed and felt like I wasn’t bad enough off to need help (which is a lie that I believed for SO long). I am thankful that was able to receive support and counseling through a Christian treatment program in Northern California. During those nine months I grew in my walk with the Lord, learned to replace truth with lies, and realized that I am more capable and stronger than imagined.

In the last several months there has been a stirring in my heart to talk more openly about the things that I have experienced or walked through. Because the thing is, we cannot grow if we are sitting in darkness, and the only way to come into the light is to be HONEST and VULNERABLE, which let me tell you friends: it can be so challenging.

Nine out of ten times it is not always comfortable in the moment to expose the things you have struggled with or are struggling with, but there is FREEDOM in doing it. A freedom that we cannot find when we are hiding in the dark.

And if we are on the topic of HONESTY, I really find it much easier to hide in the dark. But is gets uncomfortable, and scary, and I know I need to crawl back out into the light. We can’t stay where we’ve been and continue to do the same things we’ve been doing and expect to see change.

I hope through my honesty, vulnerability, and walking in the light that we can grow. Grow in truth, love, freedom, service. This life is about so much more than being freed for our own sake, but experiencing freedom, reconciliation and the gospel so the others can experience it too.

I am so looking forward to talking with you more, sharing more of my heart and seeing what the Lord does. Keep an eye out on The Inspire Shop’s social media for some posts from me and check back in February for my next blog post.

 All my love,

Elizabeth// Insta @etothegreeno


elizabeth.jpg

// About Elizabeth

22. Artist. Writer. World Traveler. Light Giver.

May my life be a constant reflection of the goodness and faithfulness of Jesus. May the work he has done in me be a testimony of provision and favor.

the other side of the road.

newslettertiffany garzaComment
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Just over two years ago we signed the lease and moved across the river. For years I heard where the road had lead but never knew how to access it or where I would end up if I actually made it there. 
 
Our first apartment upon moving into the neighborhood over a decade ago, backed up against the river, giving a clear view of the road on the other side. As we walked or rode our bikes along the river's path, taking in the gorgeous view of the sun setting on the water and fish jumping, while listening to the trees rustle, cars meandered along the road on the other side. 

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Almost an unknown answer to my ongoing wonder, the Lord placed us on the other side.
 
The road is one lane on either side, marked with curves and potholes. Lots of potholes and bumps. With new development going in, the little road has been going through some repaving and potholes have been filled and bumps are not so bumpy. 

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Farms and houses frame the side opposite the river. Old trees line the road, branches hugging each other from side to side, creating tunnels where city workers have shaped the branches to allow cars enough clearance.
 
Knowing the road now has brought to life what I had been told but never before understood. It was not something I cared enough about to venture out to or something that captivated me fully. Just something that would lightly peek my curiosity with each passing car.
 
Now it is my favorite to drive, only after the initial time it took to get to know its curves and turn offs and stop signs. It makes driving a bit farther but worth the extra time in beauty, prayer and worship and photos can hardly due it justice.                             

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Direction and guidance can be explained to us until we have an understanding but it is not until we go there - until we dare to venture to roads untraveled, the places that creep us out or are hard to get to or take longer than anticipated - that we can fully comprehend the paths that lead there. And the beauty that it holds, despite the navigation it entails. The getting there.
 
Coming to faith was a process of getting there. Of understanding how my thinking had been biased and the freedom that came with it was not entirely for the good of those involved like I had believed. It was a process of crossing over from death to life, which has become a process of moving from shallow to depth.

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As we savor this Christmas season and celebrate the birth of Jesus, I pray that you would see the roads that the Lord has brought you to, the ones that were meant to be untraveled and those that he turned into roundabouts in his grace and the ones yet to cross. Praying that if you have heard about Jesus and his love that but have never understood it, that this Christmas would be the one that changes everything as you meander over to the other side. Praying that if it is depth that your faith is lacking, that you would have the courage to dive in, truth in the faithfulness of God.
 
May you celebrate the season, knowing God is with you.

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//DIVE DEEPER

+Read Matthew 1:18-25. What is the meaning of Emmanual  (vs. 23)?
+ What is your understanding of Jesus as Savior this Christmas? Do you know him as Emmanuel or something else? Find time to pray about it.
+ How would / does knowing that God is with you change the road you find yourself on today?

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

refinishing + imperfections.

tiffany garza
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Two years ago, as we settled into our new place, I started the hunt to find a table that would fit our family and allow space for others. We had outgrown our old one, as our crew climbed to six members. With more room to now hold a big farmish - style table, I set to work finding one that would work in our budget and space.

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Finding a used one was a must or building it myself, as spending a small fortune on a table that was going to be surrounded with toddlers was just plain silly seeing markers and toys and scratches are just part of the day to day. I did not need another thing to steal my joy about as it got loved on a little too hard by small hands.

I found one on Craigslist and sent an email to the seller who had assured me it was grey. My husband, along with a sweet friend, picked it up together since it was so large. Purchase was on contingency: as long as it looks good. They brought it home; sizing was perfect, only to find out the color was purple, not grey.

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It had great bones, so we kept it.

My mom and I painstakingly went to work; sanding down what turned out to be about ten coats of thick, purple paint.

As the coats of paint came off, blemishes and imperfections that had been hidden were now in full view. Exposed. I was surprised and excited to see some of its history being uncovered; the herringbone pattern that lay beneath, marked with dents and crevices. Some were so deep the paint kept them filled to keep them flush with the table top and others were lifted with a bit more sanding.

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As this processes unfolded, the Lord started speaking about those who would gather around our table, no one coming would be perfect - everyone has scars underneath. It was another reminder of the healing process, how it takes time and prayers for scars to be healed. Some go through life without healing their scars and come to table after table with their scars hidden under pretty smiles and clothing or in full view but not ready to take the time and effort it takes for the healing to restore them.

The table is an intimate gathering of people. Sitting next to someone and sharing a meal. Have you ever had a dinner with someone you hardly knew? It can be uncomfortable at times because of its intimate setting; sitting across from someone, making eye contact, sometimes searching for conversation in the pauses. The table spans every race and color and gender and anything else that can separate because food is essential to live. It unites the human race. Everyone needs bread. Everyone needs the Bread of Life.  

As we sanded and stained and primed and painted, I prayed over the table. For the people who would gather around and share meals with us. For our family and friends and extended loved ones and those we had yet to meet and those who had previously called the table theirs.

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The table came together, by God's grace better than anticipated and with more effort than I would have liked to have given; a hodgepodge of sorts just in time for hosting Thanksgiving that year, perfect for feasting weekly on Taco Tuesday and coloring and playing board games and all the in between. And built benches to match but that is another story.
 
Praying that as you gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving this month that you would take advantage of the opportunity to invite others to your table, really inviting people in. Praying that you wherever you find yourself, that you would be open to hearing and listening and focusing less on the preparations and decorations of the feast and more on your heart towards each of the guests around you. That your heart would be prayerfully prepared first and foremost before the turkey is ever put in the oven. Praying that you would see that the space you make at the table for others is more valuable than anything else you can offer.

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

christmas photos to remember

tiffany garzaComment

As we jump into the holiday season, our Christmas infographs and cards are back in the shop. Infographs have been a fun tradition for our family, as each person shares a favorite memory and top three facts for the year. The perfect snapshot to remember as the years go by. You can get your family memory train rolling with a free download of our Reflections of the Year.

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What I love about Christmas cards are the memories behind getting those pretty pictures that leap from the card.

On our first family picture shoot our daughter, who was one year at the time, hardly lifted her mouth for a smile. My mom commented on how she wasn't smiling in any of them, which I was a little bummed about. But that was just her personality and I was just happy to have her in the photo.

That is the point, right? To have everyone in one photo; a family portrait.

In the past few Christmas card pictures there's been some fun faux pas, which make me smile, especially since hardly anyone noticed until I commented on it. 

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2014: We left Jude's shoes in the car that we had just taken to the mechanic for a tune up and wouldn't be back until after our scheduled photo session. Enter red socks for the picture. 

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2015: Jude's sock came off, along with his shoe and didn't want to take the picture. So if you look closely, he's sockless and his shoe is just about to fall off. A little trend here with his shoes (and shoes in general with our kiddos). 

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2016: Penny told us she had a snag in her tights as everyone climbed in the car to take our photos. As we backed out of the drive way, she had completely demolished them at the knee, leaving a gaping hole. Enter good design to cover it, at just the right spot. 

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2017: Skyler wanted to runaway. THE. WHOLE. TIME. See his running pose?

Family pictures capture each personality, which is a family at its best. So these days, as long as the gang's all here, it hardly matters exactly what they are doing. Though a smile is appreciated and rewarded with lollipops or Trader Joe’s Candy Cane JoeJoe’s. 

 What's your favorite family picture? 

not so shiny.

tiffany garza
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Some things make you feel a little more you than you may have been before.

For our anniversary this year, my husband and I did a little shopping and came across a pair of Converse in my size and for a third of normal retail price.

Converse were my jam in high school and early college until my feet started bothering me and shoes with words like comfort in them filled my closet and were reminiscent of a grandma, as my sister told me.

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By God’s grace my feet have mostly stopped bothering the last few years and I wore Converse for the first time in perhaps a decade, though I cannot recall exactly, on our family outing to celebrate my father in laws birthday this past July. He treated everyone to a local theme park. On the way there, as my in laws caravanned alongside, commented on the amusement of the progression of my feet on the dash, a bad habit I try not to do.

The comment made me laugh as I had been shoeless until our nearly two and a half hour drive came to a close and then the familiar laces made their way through the loops and it felt a little like channeling my sixteen year old self. Though my sixteen year old self went all over looking for pink converse because black ones were too common and when the pink faded, fabric markers revived them and kept good company with the song lyrics and quotes already on the rubber.

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Something about new shoes never feels fully comfortable to me. Especially Converse. My friends and I would purposely make them dirty to break them in. Taking away a bit of the shiny, white soles as we laughed, stepping on each other’s feet.

Wearing new shoes all day around the park felt a bit off. A bit too clean. A bit too shiny. Lacking character and miles walked. No indents marking the corners but with each step, sweet memories of the kiddos swarming their grandpa as they headed to rides and attractions, slowly but surely helped break them in just a bit.

Growing up, things always were physically neat and tidy in our home. Organized and in its place. But sixteen found me without a stable home and life was anything but clean and organized. Perhaps that gave way for my lack of taste for clean shoes. The desires to match the messiness of my heart and life echoed on them, too.

Even after the Lord has healed the broken years, there is something comfortable about dirty shoes that makes me breathe a bit easier. Feel a bit more free and are reminiscent of an old friend, ready to go even if years have gone by since the last conversation. No obligation to upkeep them because the mess is their upkeep. That is the way they look their best. To the person who likes pretty shoes, you may never understand and that is perfectly okay.

As we come to embrace who we are and are comfortable in the way the Lord has created us, there is freedom. I do not speak of soaking in our sin, rather who we are as people, people who feel and have emotions that sometimes look grimy due to things in our past that have occurred and are hard to understand how it affects us like it does and soaking in God’s grace as he continues to renew us day by day. People who love themselves and love God and are cultivating hearts of compassion for others. 

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// REFLECTIONS

+ What is one physical thing that brings life and a smile to your face? Take a moment to thank God for it.

+ How have you seen God use a person, place or thing to aid in your understanding of how He has worked in your life?

 // PRAYER 

Praying you would have the freedom through Christ to be yourself. Praying you would enjoy the things you like and that God has made and said are good, despite what others may believe. Praying the Lord would show you how he created you and how you are wired and that you can live life to the fullest because of His love for you.

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

here's to adventures

tiffany garzaComment
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The word ADVENTURE has been imprinted in my vocabulary in a way of making transitions and life feel that much more bold and audacious to the everyday grind that tends to come to mind. So when I came across this “every day is an adventure” stamp on birthday shopping trip with my daughter, it instantly became part of my collection and has widdled its way into pages of my Find the Joy Today notebook.

When I speak of adventures and wish others well on their adventures to come, it more of an invitation to view what is to come with that fierceness and fervor that seem to vibrate off of the very word. This connotation that things will happen but everything is okay and we can laugh and wait for the next segment because it is all part of the adventure and our mind set is right there – fixed on an adventure, not what lies ahead. And if we happen to on that adventure with Jesus, then we can be assured He has us in the palm of his hand and will never leave or forsake us.

Adventures tend to look like days and moments of ordinary. If we look at it under a microscope or a strip of film, it looks like nothing more than dishes and bed time routines and work but in the bigger picture - filled beginning to the end - it looks like a hero coming to save the day and His army leading people into love and freedom by cooking meals on every day dishes and creating safe and loving environments for children who have never known love or routine, tucking them into beds each night. And the job, it is the thing that pushes us into people we may not readily desire to be around day after day, who are different than we are but who God uses to shape us, as we willingly love whoever we come into contact with in that particular moment, knowing it is who we are being sent to.

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Adventures look like relationships, which is probably why I love a good memoir, steeped with honesty and depth. The best novels and movies are the ones with the deepest, well developed characters; the ones who make us cry when they leave or mess up or totally blow it and finally get it together. The ones we are rooting for and can relate to because they remind us of ourselves or our little brother or Aunt Mae.

Adventures hardly come with rock climbing gear or kayaks, though that is what everyone may be telling us that we need, along with hopping on a plane to go far from wherever it is that we are located.

But what really is adventurous is daring to live right where we are. With people who really know us. People we are going to see and again. People who can root for us and tell us how it really is and if we have broccoli in our teeth.

Because a new scenery maybe enticing but our same heart, our same memories, our same hurts and fears and insecurities will be in tow wherever our longitude and latitude ends up.

The greatest adventure may just be the one back to ourselves. Back to Jesus. The one back to the people who share our same blood and dimples and at one time perhaps the same last name; back to where we started in the town that was always too small with nothing to do.

Running back to the arms of Jesus, as he heals the parts that have died in the adventurous days of failure and heartbreak and sorrows and let downs. Adventures of this kind take bravery of soul and feel like a knife to the heart, dying to ourselves to freely live.

Here’s to adventures and living with courage.

Praying that wherever your adventure has you currently, that you would find thankfulness there in the moments that are joy filled and those that seem half empty. Praying you would have eyes to see what the Lord is teaching and using and guiding you into. Praying that whatever you find yourself, that you would trust Jesus through it all, healing and reviving and breathing life in your soul for the adventures to come.

the art of pruning

tiffany garzaComment
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Counseling has been a word that seems to be stemming from every angle the past few months. The theme of the Feather’s podcast this season is counseling and friends are going through counseling, we have been loosely counseling married couples this year and seemingly everywhere else.

In order to make room for counseling in our lives as my husband starts his Masters in Family Therapy, the Lord began pruning, leading us into new season marked with transitions. Removing what will no longer be fruitful in this season. Things that have been good and fruitful in the past have been trimmed for good measure and lightening branches to allow for growth in the future.

When pruning fails to happen, growth is stunted and the fruit cannot grow to its fullest, sweetest flavor – if at all. Pruning keeps the tree growing; no longer weighed down by branches that only take away from development.

But it is the timing that is everything. The Lord knows when to take it away. He knows the proper time to trim that will not injure the tree. Pruning at the wrong time can leave the tree open to disease and infection and ultimately lead to death instead of growth.

That is where I praise the Father for knowing exactly what we need, when we need it and following in obedience to his guidance. Knowing He knows when to let go before wounds and disease form; even if the act of letting go feels like the heart is physically breaking.

Transition has been a key word in my vocabulary the last few months. A pruning of sorts. Transition was coming and then it came and then again and still is settling waiting for the next. As the hours went down to part time and school bells rang into session and we hung up our hats at our church home where my husband pastored, the transitions came. Branches were cut off.

Anyone knows transitions take time and when they come, one after another, after another, it takes more time to settle in and figure out the ebbs and flows and to and fros. The scheduling and times and dates.

It is like a dance of slow feet with the loosening of each branch. Learning the sound of the music as instruments in the orchestra change, adding a violin and taking out the tuba, all the while the beat slows as branches fall. Learning how to get from one place to another in this sort of dance becomes an unhurried process of feet gliding and toes fumbling into each other but one that the Lord has been cultivating trust in who He is. Inviting us to be still and know that He is God.

Lighter and lighter; the branches are pruned and dropped to the ground, allowing others the space and time to grow and flourish; to bear more fruit as we learn to dance to the new beat.

Praying you see the Lord in whatever season you are in, whether in the dance of growth or finding your steps during the pruning. Praying you are able to let go in the pruning and see what the Lord has for you, even when you do not see what is next or how everything will work out.

back to writing

tiffany garzaComment
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I had been writing and blogging regularly over two years ago until our seasons changed.

I sat with a pile filled with more loads of laundry than I can recall on the playroom floor, folding as I watched the kiddos run around outside through the sliding door. I had been writing daily through the Savoring the Year, a goal to write for 365 days. I had prayed about whether it was even feasible and the Lord had urged me to try.

But as I sat on the floor that day, around 30 days in, I knew it was no longer feasible. Our schedules had turned upside down with our friend’s daughter staying with us unexpectedly and anyone who has had four kiddos five years and under and one with trauma can relate.

Folding laundry tends to lead me to prayer in its therapeutic form of sorting and categorizing each clothing item. As everyone ran to the swing set and grabbed a swing, whether or not I should continue became the prayer. Quitting is not something I like doing, especially after getting into the groove of it all. Writing is something that has brought me to life and changed my relationship with God in unexpected ways. I did not want to give it up.

And he did not ask me to.

He ever so gently responded to my prayers with a simple question: which is more important people or writing?

Clearly the underlying issue was not about giving up but giving in. Knowing what was worth more and diving into it during that season. Hanging up a few words for the opportunity to love and allow Him to break my heart in ways I never knew possible.

But now, the Lord has continued to bring back to life the words that had fallen short with lack of sleep and schedules and dishes. Urging me to write again, even though in some regards I would rather keep them to myself and unwritten but they keep piling up like all the laundry waiting to be folding. They continue come.  

I have given you the gift to write. Writing motivates and renews the Spirit like food, He assures me; even though I know the truth in His words from what feels like a lifetime ago. And what are gifts given to do, except to give them back to God and share them with others.

Keep writing - there is beauty here, he whispers again.

So, here it is. Back to writing as regularly as that means for now. Praying that you find some beauty in what God is doing and continues to do.

May the words of our mouths and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in His sight.

// DIVE DEEPER

+ Read 1 Peter 4: 1-11. Do you know what gifts the Lord has given you? Are you living out of them?

+ Are there any gifts the Lord has been bringing up for you to share with others? If so, what?

+ Pray about how you can use them to build up the Kingdom.

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

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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.