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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. 

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.