I stepped outside tonight to let the dogs out and I breathed deeply of the night air.
It's December in Texas, so there's a chill in the air; a hinting at Winter. However, I grew up in Ohio (right on Lake Erie), so blizzards and 6 foot snow mounds are a true demonstration of Winter in my mind. What I'm fortunate enough to experience here in North Dallas is but a glimpse of the havoc I endured growing up in Northeastern Ohio.
I've lived in Texas for almost 5 years. While the winters are exponentially different from what I'm used to in Ohio (and even in Pennsylvania where I lived for 15 years prior to moving to Texas), they are still cold and crisp. The coldness takes your breath away at times, and the minute I step outside on a particulraly cold night, my mind is cleared.
For some reason, this is when I feel closest to God. This is when I feel most likely to hear His voice.
In the stillness, in the quiet, this is when I am most caught off-guard and stilled enough--even if only for a moment--to hear Him. There is definitely something to be said for being surrounded by nature-His creation. Without the distraction of all the noise the world has to offer, I feel my most primitive, if that even makes sense.
2020 has created a pause for us to ponder. We've questioned, weighed, evaluated. I know I have. My way of life was abruptly halted and the word "pivot" will forever be synonymous with this past year (and Friends, of course). Every area of our lives required rethinking, recalibrating, and rebooting. To be honest, my Spirtual life took a hit. I understood what "deep-water faith in the shallow end" looked like--or so I thought--and then when I was faced with unprecedented challenges I realized I was fooling myself into believing I was deep-sea diving in the kiddie pool. The truth is, my faith had never been challenged in this way before. I hadn't realized how much of my faith was based on the known and comfortable life I'd been living. All the sudden my cheese was not only moved, but squashed. I figuratively ran in circles trying to cling to the facade that was my security and in the process, struggled to hear God.
We're now 9 months into this "reset" and a "new normal" is establishing, but I'm not sure I want a new normal. Or even my old normal for that matter. Is normal really where I want to find myself? Normal by its definition means typical, expected. Is that what living for and like Christ should be? Normal? Expected? I want to live for the Supernatural. The unearthly that can only be brought about by God. Yes, I love traditions and the comfort of the known, but I don't want my relationship with God to be falsely based in my human expectations. Where does that leave room for God to work?
This coming year will look different for all of us. I'm hoping for my family that means better than what it was before. No longer do I want our Spiritual lives to look like a weekly to-do list with boxes to check and chores to cross off. I'm praying for the freedom and allowance for God to step in and work miracles in our lives each and every day--and eyes to see them. I'm praying for a renewed passion within my marriage and a hunger for God's Word in our family. I'm praying for children who live to serve God and look for opportunities to do that as Joe and I lead by example.
I pray for a foundation built truly on the Rock and not a false sense of security that topples like a game of Jenga when one piece is shifted.
That's my prayer for this year. What's yours?
Fall is my favorite season. It always has been.
It’s not just the beautiful brilliance of the changing scenery around me that draws me in, it's the feeling that fall stirs up inside of me that I love the most. For years I’ve tried to name that feeling, but I’ve failed to come up with the right word…the best I can do is to describe it.
It’s an excitement, an anticipation, a renewal, a hopefulness, a refreshing spirit that overcomes me in a settling, peaceful kind of way. It’s this mixture of anticipation and settlement that defies my vocabulary. What word describes both excitement and calm at the exact same time?
I think for many of us, fall is our favorite season. Change is in the air and we are able to sit back and quietly experience it taking place. We marvel the changing leaves, and even though they change every year, somehow the process never loses its magic.
We feel the days getting shorter and air becoming crisper. We know winter lies ahead and we try to hold on to the last of life that remains around us. Fall is winter’s nesting period. It’s like a gathering feeling inside of us…taking it all in before the earth lies dormant under a blanket of frost and snow.
I think we're able to enjoy the changes of fall because we count on them. They aren’t unexpected but anticipated and we know what lies ahead. If only all changes in life were the same. If only we could plan for them and enjoy them, but as we all know, much of the change we experience in life is unexpected.
Anything that stays still too long becomes stagnant. I love summer, but the reason fall stirs my soul is because it's a change from the season I’ve been experiencing. God requires our souls to be stirred in order to help us experience new things and grow.
Unfortunately for us, change is not always in our control. When God calls us to new seasons, we are often reluctant to follow Him. It’s hard to go willingly when we can’t see what lies ahead. It’s hard to trust in those scripture verses we have hanging on our walls when God makes them personal by stirring up our circumstances.
Sometimes I sit and think about what it must have been like to be Mary. Mary was a young girl, newly married, with her whole life ahead of her. I think many of us can relate to the excitement and anticipation she must have felt—that feeling where all you can see are the possibilities of the future—all of them bright and shiny.
It’s the lure of hopefulness from innocence not yet lost. It’s an emotional high…a weightlessness…before gravity sets in. I imagine how she must have felt, discovering she was with child, knowing she had yet to consecrate her marriage.
The fear… the confusion…the heaviness of an unplanned child and the unfathomable circumstances that she faced. In that moment, facing Joseph, not knowing what was happening or what lie ahead… how defeated she must have felt.
Most of us might relate to that as well—that feeling of despair when unexpected change wipes our hopefulness away like a tidal wave without a moment’s notice. All at once, we can become crushed.
But Mary and Joseph could not have known what greatness was to come to such an ordinary couple who found themselves in such extraordinary circumstances.
Yes, we can look back now on the very same circumstances described above and exclaim them as “extraordinary” and “miraculous!” Why? Because we know the end of the story. We know what lied ahead for Mary and Joseph and all God’s children thanks to the birth of the unplanned baby, Jesus Christ.
But we cannot forget that Mary and Joseph had to live out their faith first. They had to believe in the message from the angel. They had to trust in God and lean on each other during what must have been a very difficult time for them. They surely had to withstand the judgement of others and undoubtedly had moments of trembling and wavering like any young couple would, because they were human, just like us.
Can you imagine their conversations with one another late at night as the baby grew inside of her and they looked down together, rehashing what the angel had said? They knew what they had heard but still wondered how it could be.
I am certain they had moments where they broke down praying for strength, asking for help, begging for understanding from those around them. God had pushed them out of their comfort zone, knowing if they remained faithful to Him, He would follow-through on all His promises and good would come.
And we are no different than Mary and Joseph as we face unexpected changes in our lives…many of which seem unfathomable at first sight. When we're faced with the diagnosis, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a divorce, a world-wide pandemic….any time the future we saw gets smeared or rerouted and we lose hope because we no longer have the clear vision of what’s ahead, remember it’s all an optical illusion anyway.
While we may be able to depend on winter showing up and enjoy the changes that come with fall, only God really knows what lies ahead for us.
We can be shattered by the fear of the unknown or we can take a lesson from Mary and Joseph and we can trust and remain faithful. While they may have had moments of uncertainty and fear, they chose to trust in God’s words and remain faithful to His plan. Now we look back on their story and see God’s greatness and gift to the world.
God continues to mesmerize us with the beauty of the changing seasons. We have learned to count on his faithfulness as summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter. Like Mary and Joseph, we need to learn that we can count on His faithfulness through all the seasons of our lives, knowing He is the author of our stories and the scripture verses we hang on our walls can be trusted through all the changes we face in our lives.
May we believe in the miraculous process of change and trust in His love always.
Sara L. Gleason is a mom to two amazing kiddos, Max and Hope, the lights of her life. She is a 5th grade ELA and Social Studies teacher in Conneaut, Ohio. Sara writes on her Facebook page MAXIMum HOPE.
She found her faith later in life through some of life's toughest circumstances, but is forever grateful for God's goodness, protection, and love. She received her Master’s degree from Liberty University and specialized in Christian writing.
Her greatest hope is that by sharing her stories, insight, and God's wisdom, she will somehow make a difference in people's lives through God's grace.
I was equipped for an excavation... cold drink, hair in a ponytail, gloves, tools, hat, and bucket. It had been a minute since I was in the garden.
My sweet husband offered all the easy ways out. He offered to have his friend spray our yard. He would trim the vines as he urged me to sit and relax and not work too hard.
As sweet of an offer as that was and oh-so-kind of him wanting me to rest, I knew—oh did I know—that everything that was before me was going to be beautiful, rich, and deep, and there was no way I would trade it for rest.
I had been waiting for this day. I'd be set apart from the busyness and craziness just to sit in my messy garden and be on my face with the Master Gardener.
I knew what I had done, what I allowed, and I was ready to look it straight in the face and tackle it. Deep down in the secret places of my heart I recalled each decision I had made to neglect my garden. I traded time in the garden for something else.
Dollar weed loves to creep in one particular corner of my yard. I am combative about dollar weed. If I’m pulling out of my driveway, dressed up, late to a meeting, and I spy one of those little green circles popping up, I stop and pull it. My husband insists that spraying would solve all of my problems, but I know better.
Dollar weed (very much like pain in my life) can be topically treated with chemicals.
Like my fear, like my pain - I can topically treat it with chocolate, shopping, once-upon-a-time a bottle of vodka and other shiny things of the world, but like the chemical that hits the top of the weed, nothing penetrates to the root like the hard work of digging, pulling, yanking some more and even at times violently, surgically removing the entire long root system of the weed.
Pulling up dollar weed is not easy friends. Every single time, the place where I begin digging is not even where I end up. Let me say that again: Where I begin digging is never where I end up.
I thrust the shovel deep into the dirt and navigate under the surface as I pull and yank and ultimately find myself across the yard in a whole new area at the root of the problem, or in this case, dollar weed.
Ugly weeds look like anger, unforgiveness, laziness, selfishness, lustfulness, and other things straight from the pit of hell.
These weeds are always rooted someplace deep and hard to get at. Doing the hard work of digging it all out is a lifesaving, life-changing gardening tip that is worth tucking someplace safe in your heart, friend.
All throughout God’s word we see beautiful language of this in practical and tactical verses like Hebrews 12:15, Ephesians 3:16-19 and Romans 11:16. For the sake of our time together I’m leaving these here for you to look up and sit in—maybe even in your own garden—and ponder.
While we know God’s word as tactical and practical for life, more than anything God’s word is beautiful. The Gospel is above all things beautiful.
The beauty of an almighty and sovereign God who loves us enough not to let us stay rooted to things that will harm us is nothing short of beauty. It’s his grace in our lives to reveal root-y sin. It’s his grace to yank and pull in places in us and till out the hard stuff. It’s actually his wrath to leave us to our own devices rooted to yucky things in gross places.
The hours spent in my garden are full of decisions. Weeds need the most intentionality to dig out the roots. My vines just need redirecting on most days, and some things just need to be dug up and moved like my buttercups.
Buttercups self-spread and in a blink they are all over my yard running wild and rebellious. I dig them up and put them back time and time again. My vines and climbing things often are so powerful and strong all they need are redirecting and instruction on where and what to climb.
Oh, but those weeds! Every time they have to come up from the root and that is the most time-consuming of all.
Decisions in my garden can be the difference of life or death. Every decision we make is a step towards maturity or insecurity. Our hearts, friends, are garden-rich with soil, bursting with beautiful blooms, vining and climbing beauties with many landmines of ugly weeds.
Time spent with the Master gardener in honest, brutal examination is hard—maybe painful—and may take some time to dig out, but so very worth it. Snipping at my roses, trimming my vines, and deadheading my blooms- it all looks very brutal to the casual observer.
I’ve learned that every snip, every trim, every whack of my blade sends a signal to the plant to grow—grow and bloom and be beautiful! Be what I created you to be.
Snip, grow, prune, grow, cut it back, grow, trim, grow.
One of the healthiest things we can do as women, as followers of Jesus, is to get out the tools—and I mean the really sharp, scary tools—and start digging and trimming.
What lies ahead?
All the fruit Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22-23
All the beautiful blooms of: healthy relationships, healthy time management, good sleep, gut-busting belly laughs and soul purpose rooted in the person of Jesus Christ.
And joy! Ridiculous, unexplainable joy. Joy from the Lord that has absolutely nothing to do with our circumstances but everything to do with who we are and whose we are.
Don’t Avoid the pain Paul tells us in Romans that power in God’s economy comes from suffering. Power in our economy comes from avoiding it at all costs.
Whatever you do, don’t avoid the pain, do the hard work and dig deep, sister. It smells lovely on the other side and the view is beautiful.
The entire two days I spent on this particular weekend reminded me of so much truth — truth I knew theoretically, but had laid down for other things.
Hard truths like the reality that I let my garden go, that I let go of the best things for merely good things and the price was high and the work was brutal.
Shifting my rhythms.
Making new commitments to spend a little time in my garden each night.
Saying no to things and people.
I cling hard and honest some days, chasing down time in my garden to keep the evil one from taking too deep of a root. It keeps the vines from becoming unmanageable, the roses blooming, and the whole garden popping with life.
All of this is ours by daily pulling out the tools, daily getting on our hands and feet, getting dirty and just sitting in the garden with Him.
Danielle is a wife, mom, writer, and career mentor who is passionate about advocating for women, especially in the corporate space. She often speaks and writes on topics of faith, motherhood, and leadership development, unpacking topics such as diversified leadership, the importance of female mentorship, and developing female leaders especially in male-dominant spaces. She hopes to help women grow into the leaders and influencers they were designed to be, both at home and in the workplace.
Beyond that, Danielle is the founder of The Brave Collective. When I first read her mission and sensed her passion for God's daughters, I was blown away at how similar our goals were. After much discussion and a growing desire to partner in some way, Danielle is merging her creative passions, focus, and talents with She Heard, LLC to be a member of our team! We are beyond excited to welcome her aboard and to watch as God works through her to bless us and our community of women, and to bring glory to Him.
Specifically, Danielle will be overseeing the blog and our social media channels as well as marketing, branding, and creative strategy. I can't wait for you to get to know her better! Will you join me in welcoming her?
I'm so excited for what God has planned for us in the future and I'm so happy to be in this community with women who love the Lord and live to serve Him!
Get to know the She Heard Team HERE.
*This is an excerpt from She Heard Magazine. Subscribe HERE today to read more encouraging and Godly articles like this one every quarter!
This space is reserved for Founder Mandy's perspectives and viewpoints of Scripture. Man is fallible, but God is not. It's strongly encouraged that you study the Scripture for yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in your understanding.
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