Posted in Motherhood, Photography, Writing

Finding Splendor in Time

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I dug up the rocks and plopped them in a bucket, leaving digits in our front yard. Churned up over and over by the farmers in the hopes our soil would eventually swallow them, but the stubborn rocks still prevented the football games I’d imagined here. I stretched the kink out of my back, as my husband, the builder, wants to take my picture. I pose with my shovel.

“My country girl.” He laughed and shook his head, not understanding why I like to play in the dirt. I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal, while he’s a “we’ll just hire someone to do it” kind of guy, but somehow in our zooming twenty years of marriage, we fit like the soil hardened around those large rocks jutting my yard.

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Bella joined me. I told her to search for dinosaur bones, and she’s delighted.

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The next day, Colin and I drove the ATV to the river to look for fossils. I’d read shark teeth were found there. We dug in spots at the edge of the dark water only finding the treasure of each other again.

“Momma, we need to get a metal detector. Imagine the pirate treasure that could’ve washed up here from the ocean,” he said. Several times metal detector comes up as Colin often does when his pubescent mind wants something.

“Colin, you need to learn to live in the moment God puts in front of you, instead of yearning for something better.” I found a piece of driftwood. “Here, look for driftwood if you’re tired of digging in the sand.”

“But it’s just wood,” Colin said.

“It’s a piece of art, wood that is shaped and preserved by the salty waters.”

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We hiked along the beach and woods searching for nature’s art, spotting large cat tracks, coyote, raccoon, deer, wild hog along the way. A wildland recorded as scary to the white settlers. A place the Native American’s hid. A land we love. He made me laugh. A twig snaps. We spun around. My middle son Christian snuck up on us in full camouflage.

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“You guys need to clear out by 6:30pm,” he said walking toward us. “I’m hunting wild hog tonight.”

I stepped back knowing he’ll scold me for wearing perfume and leaving a trail along the beach. He walked on without noticing.

“How much time do we have?” I said.

Colin glanced at his phone. “Twenty minutes.”

I sighed.

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Our twentieth wedding anniversary snuck up on me this week. Earlier, Jay suggested dinner out. It seemed casual. We glanced at our sick Bella on the sofa snuggled with Nick, my eldest son. The builder wanted time… my time. I agreed to go.

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He pulled into the Ritz at Amelia Island. “Can’t we go to some small seafood place on the beach?  Someplace dark and intimate.”

“Nope, it’s a special night tonight,” he said.

We sat in the lounge. My black pants were a little short as my ankles peeked out. It was too cold for the dress I bought. I tugged my pants down to touch my ankle boots. He handed me a glass and we toasted our twenty years. The guitar player played our song, Someone to Watch Over Me. Gershwin’s words bring my late twenties with them. I didn’t think I needed him then. I just wanted him.

Today, I know I need him to watch over. He shoves the gun and radio in my hand before I head to the woods, while I roll my eyes. He yells at me as I dive off the ATV when it starts to tip over. While I never worry about dangers, he keeps a lookout. While I like to do the work, he tries to make life easier by hiring the help.

At the Ritz, he kneeled on one knee. His lip quivered. He opened a box. I stared at the contents afraid to touch the too much. “Will you have me another twenty years?” he said. Tears filled his eyes. He was more nervous than he was asking me the first time. He’s tried to build a perfect moment.

I lifted my weathered hand… artist and mother…hands that are washed too much. He slipped the ring on my finger, and I saw the remnants of our dig still under my nails after all the brushing. I’m embarrassed.

“That’s your original diamond, just a new setting. I built it myself.” He’s proud. I told him I’m relieved he didn’t trade up my diamond. “I wanted to build on our foundation,” he said.

I glanced at the ring and see my ankles sticking out again. I remembered the scolding I gave Colin to enjoy the moment in front of him. I forget my fingernails. Stopped tugging at my pants. Gratefulness pinks my cheeks. I lowered my hand and looked at my treasure. A treasure I found drifting by when I was picking in the dirt of my career. In him, I’ve found splendor in the grasses of time, in the plucking out the rocks so the roots of love grow deep, and in the simple moments that drift by.  

He lowered his glass. “I reserved a room on the ocean, but since Bella’s sick I didn’t think you’d want to stay the night, but we can get room service. Spend some time alone before going back.”

I smiled. “That sounds perfect.”

 

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Posted in Book Recommendations, Writing

From the Book Barn:

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I picked this one up at Long’s Christian bookstore, and haven’t put it down since. Colors of Goodbye, by September Vaudrey is a story about a mother mourning over the sudden loss of her artist daughter. It is gut- wrenching so grab the box of tissues, but illustrates the profound way God brings beauty and hope from extreme pain. Hope you enjoy it.

Posted in Christian, Farm life, Women, Writing

I’m Full of Bull!

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At the farm, there’s a gentle bull in the pasture behind our house. Some mornings he’s standing there by the fence looking through the french doors at me. I step out onto the porch and sweet talk him. If we’re by the fence, he’ll trot over and without warning give you a lick across the face and neck with his enormous tongue.  It’s gross, but you can’t help but walk away feeling loved and a bit sticky. He’s a new Brahman bull the farm has acquired from a ranch in Texas.

While the other bulls buck each other over territory and food, he meanders away, not wanting to participate in the conflict. He not only stands out from the herd in behavior but in his appearance as well. He is pale in color and has an enormous hump on his back that looks burdensome and painful to carry.

            I’ve nicknamed him Ferdinand after the once controversial classic children’s story, The Story of Ferdinand the Bull, by Munro Leaf.  Ferdinand is a bull who’d rather smell flowers in the paddock than fight with the others. It’s a Bella fav.

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I find it intriguing how much we can learn from a bull. His breed is named after the Brahmins who were Hindu priests. It’s ironic considering the Brahman is looked upon as sacred in India, the Brahman breed is the largest source of meat for carnivores today. Due to their thick skin, they are resistant to extreme heat and pestilence. They also do well in extremely cold temperatures.

Traditionally, the Brahman bull is used in a sport called Bull-butting. It is a ferocious game between two bulls until one falls to the ground disabled or gives up and retreats. To prepare for their sport, their bodies are strengthened on a diet of milk and honey. It is beyond my comprehension how so many people enjoy watching sports involving hurting animals. If there’s one thing I would change about this world, it is purposely hurting the defenseless for pleasure, power, or convenience.

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Yet, we have become a world of bullies haven’t we? One can scroll through Facebook and find political rantings written in a way that shames those who have a different viewpoint on the matter.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything political or responded to anyone’s comments. God impressed upon me it’s not my place, for I’m His. He doesn’t want me to lose my clout by being a lout (sort of speak. I tried here.)  I’ve been obedient, but I admit, some days it’s not easy. I pursued a Political Science degree in college, and I was raised in a very political family that loves a good debate, but then there’s Jesus. He didn’t waste breath or influence on politics. Although He had the power to overthrow the Roman government, He used his energy and His influence on Kingdom work alone. I love that about Him!

 

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There is also body-shaming going on throughout social media. It’s another kind of bullying it’s just hidden under self-promotion. I was blessed to see what that does to a woman whose breast was chopped off, whose hair and eyelashes had fallen out, and who felt she lost everything that made her a woman. My sister Tricia died of breast cancer in 2014. One night, I found her sitting on the bed staring at a friend’s sexy pictures with tears in her eyes.

“She’s supposed to be a Christian,” she said. “Does she even know how this feels to someone like me?”

I snatched her phone away. “That’s it!” I said. “We’re having a friend deleting party!” I deleted all the women from her friend file who made her feel inadequate. You see, the enemy tried to use those pictures to steal her light, but he didn’t win.

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I say I am blessed to have witnessed this because it gave me a love for women and their struggles. I know the women who reveal their bikini-ready bodies, are not thinking about how this affects women who are hurting, women who can’t lose weight, women who are sick, women whose husbands find them unattractive, but I plead on their behalf that you remember to love them by considering their feelings. We need to be more outward- focused in a world focused inward.

On the flip side, we Christians have to stop being so easily offended. We tend to live with our hearts outside our chest, which causes them to get bruised and banged up. In defense, we want to stand up for ourselves or our Lord, while God is saying “it’d be better for you to get out of My way.” There have been times I’ve wanted to stand up for myself because I felt attacked or accused unfairly, but you know what? God’s got my back.

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We as Christians should carry our cross of self-denial like Ferdinand carries that large hump on his back. We should learn from a gentle bull not to bothered by the heat of politics or the pestilence of a self-obsessed culture. Just as he gives kisses to a carnivore like me, we should be willing to love those undeserving as well. When we see some bucking going on, it’s best to get out of the way and mind your own Kingdom-building business. The cold don’t bother Ferdinand, so don’t let the times people are cold bother you. Allow God to thicken up your skin and see yourself through His eyes.

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Momma often rolled her eyes and said “Bull!” when she felt we fed her a tall tale, or she used the cliche’ “He’s full of bull,” meaning he’s full of you know what (wink). I no longer subscribe to those cliches. Don’t go offending my bull now, Momma! In the case of Ferdinand, I hope someone thinks I’m full of bull, for he’s a bull with a lot of heart. See you soon Ferdinand.

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Posted in Christian, Minsitry, Writing

If the Chestnut Tree Could Talk Week 4:

 

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Over the last three weeks, we have been letting the Chestnut Tree speak to us. If you have missed any of the valuable lessons in my previous posts, you can scroll down to the older posts and find them there. Today, the Chestnut Tree wants us to understand how fruit is prepared.

 

  1. Chestnuts grow within a spiny green burr, which protects the nut while it grows. Once ready the burr pops open and the nut falls to the ground.

 

The Chestnut Tree wants us to know that sometimes God places us in a shell as well. This is where God prepares us for the work He’s already planned. When we are tucked in the shell of preparation, we are usually unaware of what is happening. We may even look at the tasks as beneath our capabilities, but it is in these humbling, menial tasks, God is laying out the groundwork for our futures. When we are ready God opens up the opportunity and we are released to follow His plan.

Motherhood took some surrendering on my behalf. The two things I missed the most were business conversations with colleagues and the creative fulfillment my career afforded me. Looking back, I’m so thankful I surrendered to the call of being a stay-at-home Momma, for God presented volunteer opportunities which helped me discover what He poured inside me when He made the me I truly was.  I’ve discovered my passions.  If I’d continued working, I wouldn’t have discovered my love for Bible study, art, interior design, history, or writing.

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Last weekend at the farm, my sister- in- law Prem and I were washing the dishes.

“If I had a business today,” I said. “I’d hire a mother of multiple children before anyone else to be my assistant.”

She nodded. “Multitasking skills.”

“Exactly. Did you know how many things you could get done in a day before you had your second child?”

“No, I didn’t,” she said.

“And with four, the list grows.”

After experiencing one year with my three boys in school, I felt God telling me to bring them home and homeschool. I admit, I fought the idea at first. I didn’t want to homeschool! I’d just pointed my wings to Starbucks for girlfriend coffees, but one night, I invited two sisters over for dinner (Lisa Mann and Liz Hammond). We sat around my dining room table and Lisa told me she homeschooled her children.

“Why would you do that?” I said. Lisa explained all the benefits and suggested I read, So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling? by Lisa Whelchel.

The next day, I purchased the book and read it in two days. After that, I read another and another. I researched it online and searched homeschooling organizations in Orlando. Soon, I could barely contain my excitement. I was going to be a homeschooling Momma! Somebody give me a lab coat. In my imagination, we’d be in the forest collecting bird eggs and plants. We were going to experience some real- life learning. It was going to be an adventure.

The reality was long days in my upstairs classroom feeling suffocated, but within those walls God was preparing me to write, bringing us closer together, and sparking my curiosity in everything.  As I taught my children, I was being prepared for the freelance writing assignments I have today. I look back fondly on those two years now. My boys and I grew so close and that closeness has survived time.

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Today, I see positions God is putting me in, which I know are shells of preparation, and I’m a more willing participant because I know I’m going to fall into some fertile land when my shell pops open.

What about you? What in your life do you feel is menial or beneath your station? Could it be God preparing you for something bigger? Can you look back and recognize where your preparation occurred, for the work you do today?

We have one more week with our Chestnut Tree… See you there.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Christian, family matters, Farm life, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Writing

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk Week 3

 

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Many times when you plant a young tree you stake and tie it, so it has a support system for growth, but a Chestnut Tree shouldn’t be staked and tied when it’s newly planted unless it has an immature root ball.  A Chestnut Tree needs the movement to grow. When a Chestnut Tree sways in the wind, it stimulates its roots to grow, and also allows the trunk to become thicker at the base. This movement creates a healthy tree.

This brings us to the third thing the Chestnut Tree wants to tell us:

 

III.  When planted if a Chestnut tree is tied and staked tight, it will never grow roots and a trunk that can weather the storm.

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My son Nick came home from FSU for Christmas break, not looking healthy. He’d lost weight, and his eyes sunk deep into his pale face. Each morning, he headed out the door and didn’t return until late. Everything in my Momma body screamed something was not right. One afternoon, I received a text from his roommate’s mother, who was hosting a brunch for all his high school friends.

“Nick brought me flowers but didn’t stay for the brunch. He didn’t look good. I hope everything is alright.”

That night, I texted him demanding he come home immediately. I met him outside and he followed me in.

“Sit” I pointed to a dining chair across from me. I leaned over. “What’s your GPA?” I said.

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His eyes teared up. “I don’t have a GPA, Momma. I received a call on the way to the brunch. I’m on academic suspension for a semester.” He spilled the whole story. He couldn’t handle the 16 hours I made him sign up for in his freshman year. He found himself buried after the hurricane when a week of makeup work was piled on top of his regular week, which started a cherry-picking of which class he’s doing well enough to skip, in order to catch up in another. He’d always been good at school, and now he sat across from me with his tail tucked between his legs. He was having an identity crisis.

“I stayed up all night studying and vomited on test days. I panicked and then I made stupid mistakes, like forgetting to email my speech to my professor, which earned me a 0 on the whole project.” He shrugged. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

I recalled a conversation with my husband Jay, during Nick’s senior year.

“I’m concerned life’s been too easy for Nick,” I said. “He’s never failed at anything. He’s always been a good student, good at computers and editing, he’s talented in art, he picked up a guitar and learned how to play. Everything he touches turns to gold. I’m scared when he does fail, he’s not going to know how to recover.”

“He’ll be fine,” Jay said.

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I’ve gone over and over in my mind the picture of my boy. I think of mothers who have heard worse news from their boys, like the parents who showed up for parent’s weekend only to find their son died the night before from alcohol poisoning. This could be so much worse.

He hung his head and promised to pay us back. “Maybe I’ll just quit college and work for Dad, I can learn the business.”

“No, you’re not. You’ll untuck your tail and try again. Look, I can handle bad grades. I’m not happy about it, and we did lose money, and I’ll admit I’m a bit embarrassed to tell family and friends, but that’s just my pride and money can be replaced.” I reached for his hand. “To be honest, I’m relieved it’s not something worse.”

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Life is messy. Sometimes, we have to flap in the wind to learn how to weather the storms.

My son is flapping in the wind like those Chestnut trees on the farm. He’s learning how to weather the storms of failure, criticisms, and a confidence beating, but the roots of humility, perseverance, and faith will spread. His trunk will strengthen. Too often as parents, we tether our children too tight to our aprons strings, and they never learn coping skills. The best lessons we can teach is how to turn to God when they’re in trouble, and how to learn from failure.

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Nick is reading Discerning God’s Will, by Richard Case and journaling. It is a crash course on hearing God’s voice. He is on academic suspension until summer, when he will start again with a clean slate.

“I’ve been praying about my degree. I pray a lot in the car. God will show me what to do, for now, I volunteered to work for a guy starting an oyster business,” he said.

He also has an interview with the city of Tallahassee to volunteer for several organizations this Friday and is re-thinking a business degree.

“Would you guys be okay, if I just pursued my passion in Marine Biology?” Something, Jay and I talked him out of. (Momma has had to take some responsibility. No judging. I’m a work in progress.)

Nick is spending a semester spreading roots and growing a thick trunk so he can bear fruit no matter what storms come along.

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What about you? Do you see failure as hopeless? Or do you see it as an opportunity for growth and change?  Next week the Chestnut tree wants to tell us what protects them until they are ready to nourish others. Have a great week!

 

Posted in Christian, Writing

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk Week 2:

Don’t you love it when God speaks to you through nature? I don’t recommend putting nature above the Word, but He does reveal great wisdom through His creation. Last week, we started to hear from the Chestnut Tree, if you missed it, you can find it in the previous blog post. This week we will continue to listen to the wisdom this tree speaks…

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Life Lesson 2:  You must prune the little sprouts at the bottom of the tree in order for its energy to be used in growing fruit at the top.

The Chestnut Tree wants us to know that as followers of Christ our energy should be used in creating fruit, not wasted on the sprouts. Have you ever heard the expression “If Satan can’t tempt you to sin, he’ll make you busy.”? He would love for you to waste your talents on meaningless busyness. This is a constant battle in my own life. I get opportunities thrown at me from every direction as I’m sure you all experience. If you spend all your energy on too little of too much, you will be throwing your pearls to swine. We must remember to prayerfully seek God’s will of where He wants our talents and time to go so we can grow fruit that points towards heaven.

Currently, I am wife to Jay, mother to three teenage boys, and a three -year old daughter. I am writing a memoir, keeping up with a blog, and on the writing team for She Leads Daily. I lead a women’s Bible study, keep up with a pet-filled home, and on weekends you will find me working on a painting or heading to the farm. It’s a full life…an abundant life…a blessed life.

How do I get it all done? First be clear, I’m a work in progress, but God has given me three time-management tools that I utilize. The first is to start your day with a quiet time. I awaken before Bella, grab my coffee and spend time reading the Bible and praying. This has become so important in my life. My mind is sharper and I’m more focused on the “have to” list.  I don’t look at this as a check-off item, but the time I savor with the Savior. It is a treat to start the day in peace and spend time listening when your days are full.

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The second time management tool is to pray before committing to any opportunities that come your way. Recently, She Leads Daily underwent new ownership. Throughout the holidays, I leaned toward ending my writing job with them once the new editor took over. I prayed about it, knowing my decision was to be rendered by Sunday. I worried if I spent time writing for SLD, that would be time away from my blog and book. I also feared running out of inspiration and creativity.

Saturday morning, I attended a women’s conference at my church and the speaker, Christi Haag said several things that resonated with me. First, she said to extend grace, “always pour out grace.” The new editor for SLD needed grace in the form of a writing team. The speaker also challenged us to “do things afraid.” If you do things afraid, your stepping out of your comfort zone and God will strengthen your faith. I needed to trust God would work alongside me and see to it I didn’t run out of time or inspiration. The last thing was, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 New English Standard. By putting God first in my daily routine as I was already doing, time, productivity, and inspiration will follow.

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The last time management tool is to get out your cutting shears and cut away at time-wasters — any activity that lacks eternal value. Take notice of what activities in your life are time-wasters. I want to be clear we all need activities that relax, refresh and we enjoy, that is not what I am referring to. I’m describing the afternoon we stop our work to check out Pinterest for just a few minutes, which leads to insecurity about our wardrobe, leading to an online shopping spree including price comparisons, then…awe what’s that?  I see there’s a picture hanging on the wall behind the model, I have to have it, search for it, I know it’s somewhere, I knew I’d find it! Oh, but Jay will kill me if I spend that much on a painting…I could probably paint that, but I don’t have time to paint it…go to eBay and find it used…hours later no luck. Instead of cooking dinner for the family, I’m standing in the line at Michaels buying the canvas, that lands in the closet for a rainy day project.  See what I mean? Waste. As you can see I speak from experience. I found myself frustrated and anxiety-ridden when deadlines popped up. I locked myself in my office feeling blocked when God shined a light on how much time I wasted surfing the internet over silly non-eternal stuff. Don’t waste your life. Get out those shears and cut away those little branches so you can utilize your energy on something that will produce a more satisfying fruit with eternal value.

What about you? Is there anything you need to clip away from your life in order to release your energy toward something eternal?

Next week, we’ll examine what happens when you stake a Chestnut Tree too tight. See you by the Chestnut.

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Posted in Writing

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk…

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For the month of February, I’d like to allow a tree to speak to us. Each week, we will glean wisdom from the Chestnut tree. Small Chestnut trees flank the winding lanes of the farm, a project Becky (owner) started when we had hogs, “for you finish off a hog with chestnuts, it makes their meat taste oh so good and juicy.” (I’ve heard over and over) The farm’s focus is no longer on hogs and those small trees have yet to produce many nuts, but they are finally green after a season of looking like death on stalks.

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I love spending time with Becky. One afternoon, I jumped on her ATV, and we set out to trim the little sprouts at the base of her trees.

“I don’t know Becky, they’re not looking too good,” I said while snipping the little sprouts.

“I’m hoping they are going to spring back eventually. I had a Chestnut Tree specialist come and tell me how to grow them,” Becky said. Along the ride, she shared some interesting facts about the tree she’d learned from that specialist and I couldn’t help but hear the life lessons the Chestnut trees told.

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Life Lesson I.

When a tree is newly planted it may turn brown for a season as it adjusts to the shock of being planted in new soil.

Last year, I started a women’s Bible study on Wednesday nights. I’ve admitted I have no idea what I’m doing and asked the women to extend me a learning curve, but I’m stepping out in obedience. The girls are just happy someone is willing to lead them. Besides, I bribe them with deserts. Throughout this process, I’ve observed women from every race, age, and background sit around the table with their arms folded across their chest, and as they become comfortable and trust in the process of sharing, literally unfold themselves on the table. God is growing their faith and their brown leaves are turning green before my eyes. That is enough for me to continue leading just to be a witness to it all.

Throughout 2017, “Fear over faith” became my motto. God presented opportunities that took me out of my comfort zone, a couple of speaking opportunities, a writer on assignment job,  joining an art league and submitting my work, but as each opportunity presented itself my faith grew.  It is good to step out of your comfort zone. It turns a brown, withered faith into a fresh green one.

Are you feeling brown as you are newly transported into a new town, job, ministry, as a new mother? Do not give up hope. Trust in God’s plan and prayerfully seek Him for your confidence in your new placement.

Does your faith feel withered and worn? Do you need to set your feet on the unfamiliar soil in order to bring back the spark of your faith? Ask God to present opportunities for you to grow.

Meet me by the Chestnut next week!

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