You Know What I'm NOT - What Am I?

I am not a Polyanna. And I am not a prosthelytizer. I am not a bigot. I am not your judge. I don’t think of you any differently because you are a millionaire, or because you are homeless, in back of my office – in either case, if I see you are in need of a pair of socks, I will not deem either one of you worthy, or not. It’s not my job. If I have socks and you need them, they are yours.

Here’s the thing; I was once the one needing socks. I know what it’s like to be in that place. I don’t like asking for help – and sometimes, you simply have no choice… because your feet are pretty cold.

Seeds of Grace has an opportunity to change lives. I have heard from some that our structure (our open door policy) is not necessarily “Christian”. I have been asked why “that person” or “this type” of person is welcomed as a volunteer. I have been asked “how come we bring gardens there?” And about whether or not some people “deserve” the efforts, energy, time or food we harvest.

It’s taken me a lot of years – I am hoping it is only half of my life – to get to a point where I could humble myself and ask for help. It hasn’t been easy! It has required a TON of grace – if there is a measure of such. It required so much self-evaluation and self-forgiveness.  You see, I was stuck in this cycle: I’d screw up somehow – then try to cover it up with a lie, or some other sin – then shame and guilt would kick in and I would punish myself with seeming self-deprecation, but all that was, was the negative messaging I had grown up with, which caused me to desire to prove it wrong, by coming up with another scheme which would guarantee me some sort of worthiness in a man’s eye – then I’d screw up again, which would continue the cycle.

But someone acknowledged me. Someone reached out to me and allowed me a glimpse into the possibility of beauty through the Lord. At one point in my life – perhaps several points, I won’t know for sure until I get to Heaven – God’s hand reached into my world and made a change in my heart. It was likely through non-judgmental and unconditional love of some stranger. It was likely through the act of giving without the expectation of reciprocity. Someone’s act of generosity changed the course of my life.

My story isn’t much different from many others; except for the fact that many do not have the opportunity to respond to a kindness. Many don’t get a glimpse of a different life. Many simply have to trod along, carrying the unbearable burden of their sin, because no one loves them enough to simply smile, look them in the eye and ask them their name.

I am NOT a Pollyanna – you see, I believe that all people have the power to change the course of at least one life, simply by that gesture. I believe this because I am proof. I am not a proselyte. I will not make anyone’s change of faith a condition of being in my life, or me being in yours – because someone did this for me. I am not your judge, whether you believe as I do, in the ever-loving presence of God, or not. I love you either way – because someone loved me without judgement. I am not a bigot… I have been discriminated against – I know how it feels because someone saw past my economic stature, my personal life’s choices and showed me a kindness. I believe that our hearts are the same. We have hurt. We have celebrated. We have been broken. We have loved.

As a faith-based organization, Seeds of Grace is obligated to God’s vision. Our reach goes beyond those we feed with food – we plant seeds in more than just the ground. So, whatever your belief – wherever you are in your life – however you judge yourself, I want you to know you are welcome here. No one will tell you that in order to help us feed God’s Sheep, you have to believe in God! You have the power to change a life with your gift, and we would absolutely appreciate being a conduit for the benefits of that gift, so that together, we can change the world – one garden at a time.

I am unapologetically a follower of Christ. I accept that we are all sinners; and because He calls me to love you – I do! And not because of ANYTHING you do for me. Because Christ has already done everything I need!  Love God. Love people. This is The Way. The way I follow.

We believe that everyone has value. God has given everyone a gift to give. That He sends those gifts to Seeds of Grace, in whatever form they take, will ALWAYS be considered a blessing. We welcome all. ALL. We don’t believe we have to be perfect to show and share the love of Christ. If you believe that, well…..

Unscheduled and Unintentional Summer Break for The Sower

When we first started the monthly newsletter, which we endearingly call The Sower, we committed to sending it out by the 14th of every month. Obviously this has not happened over the past couple of months. I want to tell you that I'm sorry for that.

I also want to tell you how I truly appreciate your grace, understanding, and forgiveness. Your support humbles me. Truly.

I don't want it to seem like I'm making an excuse, however there are some very good reasons why you have not received updates from Seeds of Grace in your email inbox.

The first reason is that we have been extremely short-handed with people who like to do administrative tasks for us. This shortage is being alleviated, and we are building our teams, however we always need more people to help us do everything that needs to be done to feed God's Sheep.

Another reason is that my grandchildren were here with me all summer long. If you know me, or are friends on Facebook, you very likely saw me posting photo, after photo, after photo of them and all their shenanigans. We had an amazing summer. We did many Seeds of Grace activities.

The truth is, my grandchildren absolutely loved being in the garden. They didn't mind coming to the office to help me with various tasks, or organizing….. But what they really loved, was helping me to take care of the Lion's Park Garden, by doing the watering, the weeding, even planting and harvesting. They were so proud of themselves when they took the food to the Bremerton Foodline. They loved putting it on the scale, checking the wait against what their numbers were, and making the necessary corrections to the books at the Foodline – joking with whomever had the duty of logging in our harvest.

My grandchildren came on a couple of garden re-builds; they came out to a couple of First Harvest Celebrations. We had a visiting troop of Girl Scouts come to the Lion's Park Garden to learn about the planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. My grandchildren taught them. They showed the Girl Scouts each of those tasks and then they allowed the Girl Scouts to do those tasks themselves. It was an amazing site for me to behold - a child mentoring a child. Apprenticing, discipling, whatever you want to call it, this is how kids learn the best.

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So many wonderful memories were made this summer with my grandchildren. And, I can't wait till next year!

Hopefully between now and then, we will have a lot more team members who can help to free up my time, where things like this newsletter do not get neglected. I know you want to know what's going on with Seeds of Grace. Honestly, I want to tell you. It's always amazing. It's always big. It's always growing. Just the way God planned it.

So, here’s a little note of encouragement for you – if you are looking at our big, big world and all the problems… all hope is not lost – we have a future generation that is amazing… Once, as one of the girls and I had our special time together – (it tended to be in the garden that we would have wonderful conversations) – we were chatting about how she wanted a cell phone… I was making suggestions as to how she might earn some money, and show her parents that she was responsible… Somehow the conversation wrapped around to growing food and selling it… then she said, “but I don’t think I would ever sell the food that I would grow, Nana. Because I am sure there’s someone around my house who might need it and can’t buy it.”

The Way God Turns It All Around

You know about spiritual warfare… I know you have experienced some form of it. All my life, I have, and for most of my life, the evil one has succeeded in pulling me away from the Lord through my lack of faith… But lately, I am being tested more, in ways that I could not comprehend – in years past anyway… I mean, I would have never chalked it up to being tested by the lord, or tempted (and falling to that temptation) by satan, (no I will not capitalize that name). I simply would have called it Karma, or fate or some other “spiritual” attributive nomenclature.

But spiritual warfare exists. And the entity that declares it has been pretty busy with me lately – some categorically outrageous happenings (a car accident I was in, a parasite I was infected with and a rare tropical disease that invaded my body) to some truly benign and even comical (yes, I laugh at your failure, satan!) interruptions in my day, all keenly designed to detract from the work that God is not only doing in me, but also through me with Seeds of Grace!

The antics are disguised as something seemingly benign when taken individually, but as a whole, they could sideline many facets of this organization – even this whole organization! For instance, there were a couple of grants and gifts that I was sure Seeds of Grace would receive that we did not… and I honestly thought that the future of our organization depended upon them! Moreover, when they did not come through, I was crushed – almost taking personally, the denial of funding! Nevertheless, God came through in ways that were completely dissimilar to what I expected; there is simply no way I could have seen this result!

I found humor at the end of my day today, as I looked back through it and saw the many ways that the evil one tried to derail the work we are doing – because just as the problem came to being, God’s solution was right there! To start, we received a call from our soil supplier that they were unable to screen our organic soil due to all the recent rain… No soil for a garden build… That’s bad… But THEN I got a call from the lumber supplier that all their trucks were broken down, and would not be able to deliver our lumber until next week! No lumber to build the raised beds… That’s bad…. And finally I received a call from the team lead, saying that she needed a root canal – No lead to run the build…. That’s BAD!!!

I’m not going to lie… at this point, my blood pressure was a little bit elevated… just a little bit – but after putting out the word on social media, then calling my husband (who “happened” to have a day off for doctor’s appointments) and connecting with others in this amazing circle of beautiful givers, God has surrounded me with, EVERY SINGLE ISSUE DISIPATED!  Seriously! You can’t make this stuff up! And it happens ALL the time!!! The garden build will happen just as planned and I imagine satan as the cartoon villain, snapping his fingers saying, “dagnabbit! Foiled again!”

I have come to accept it as a way of life – God’s miracles… I am not complacent, by any stretch of the imagination – I just KNOW His faithfulness – I know He will ALWAYS come through! It isn’t really a question of MY faith… It is that He has established this record of dependability in and throughout every aspect of my life, but especially when it comes to Seeds of Grace and our garden builds… NOTHING satan can do will stop the Lord, when it is HIS will!

I’ve got my Full Armor of God: My helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, sword of the spirit, belt of truth, shoes of readiness and my shield of faith – I am ready for whatever satan has to throw at me, big or small… AND I am grateful – ever grateful for the blessing that this ministry brings me daily!

Transparency in Leadership

You really don't know the damage you're doing by not being transparent

As the founder of a faith based organization, I am held (by my own values) to a certain standard of transparency. I don’t hold other organizations to these standards, however, I do sometimes have to ask the Lord’s forgiveness for judging those organizations for their lack of transparency.  And yet, I think even more important than the transparency of the actual organization, is the need for transparency of that organization’s leadership.

That’s it… I think…. Maybe. I want to share with you all that I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am accountable for my mistakes. I talk them over with my board, and anyone else who may have been affected by my error, and I do my best to rectify it, as soon as possible.

All of this simply adds to my frustration; the lack of accountability of other individuals, who have said or done things which have directly affected or had the potential to negatively affect this ministry. I’m not going to lie… it really makes me mad! Couple this with personal attacks on my character – which honestly affect me less than what they might for most people, but when those attacks have an effect on this ministry – I believe my anger is righteously justified.

I have never hidden that I am a young Christian. Only 4-1/2 years since my baptism – only 4 years since God laid this ministry on my heart.  I can’t outrun the brokenness that I lived in up to that point. My personal struggle is real, as I learn how to relieve myself of the anguishing guilt of every mistake that has run through my head over and over, even as I give it to my Savior, and receive His Grace.  Which doesn’t mean I still don’t live in brokenness… I am a sinner, and I struggle daily with sin!

What we don’t need is the leadership of other NPOs (churches and otherwise) in the area, tossing around untruths about me, or Seeds of Grace. Especially individuals of faith-based organizations. I am still very young in my walk with the Lord, that my brash boldness sometimes gets me into trouble. But I have no qualms stepping in front of a rude, steam-rolling and foul-mouthed attack to defend this ministry, that God gave me personally, with every last breath.

Here’s a thought…. How about we walk together, doing what it is that we do best – you know, that gift that God gave YOU, and that He gave ME, and then more of the people that HE actually wants us to help will get help, and less of them will fall through the cracks! 

I have been warned about people with less than pure intentions. I honestly didn’t give any credence to these warnings! Why would anyone want to stand in the way of feeding hungry people? But those people can’t stand the idea that someone whom they perceive as not having the “right” kind of relationship with “their god” could be successfully fulfilling the requirements of the mission that God laid on their heart.

I don’t know about being successful – but I do know that people who didn’t have fresh vegetables and fruit yesterday, have them today. I also know that hundreds of people are given an opportunity to give to their community in ways they have never imagined.

I am just putting this out there – I am not scared by much. My past life – the one before I knew Jesus as my Lord and Savior gave me experiences most people could probably only dream of in their worst nightmares. I’m pretty sure that the Lord allowed me those experiences so that I could face these attacks today. I’m not backing down. I will continue to obey the Lord and the work He has me doing, and He justifies me by continually growing Seeds of Grace. It is so much bigger than you know…

 

It Only Takes On Person, Doing One Thing

We just walked through a really long and difficult process as a country in this recent election and I have seen so many of my friends divided and even watched as their relationship dissolved in a mass of unforgiving, graceless opinion, that in the end changed no one’s mind. I am so sorry to see that. I have certainly had my opinions about the outcome of the election – and I’m not going to lie – I have some fears.
I wonder what it would look like if we set aside our fear. The fact is, we are all in this together. And political opinions that differ are no reason for us, as individuals to stop doing the work we have been called to do…
This is a critical time where we will be called upon to help each other like we (the generation after the baby-boomers) have not done before. Social services, on the cusp of being cut drastically, will create a greater need for those of us who can, to step up and do what we can. Human Services programs will require the help of the private sector to keep running, and those organizations that bless with teaching how to sustain one’s own welfare while providing the necessities, (food, shelter) are the organizations that will make the greatest impact in the coming economy. This is not a fear tactic… it is simply reality. There will be people hurting… in a way they have never hurt before.
And now enter Seeds of Grace. We are at the cusp of beginning a new year of operation – April will mark the 4th year since God laid this ministry on my heart! WOW! 4 YEARS! In case anyone forgot that story, you can read it HERE. My point is, that so much has happened – truly not because of my hands, but this has become a movement in our community! This movement has been embraced by some and completely shunned by others… As it grows, I see a fear in many, of its progress.
This is a grassroots movement. People either fear these movements or they embrace them. Fearing them is mainly bred of the fact that they can’t control their direction. This is typically the basis for the fear of anything… It is the reason so many people are upset and angry about this recent election – they fear what they (or their political party) can’t control.
The thing is… Nothing has really changed. There are still hungry people. We are still living in a broken world, depleting resources in a way that affects every human in it. We are still in need of each other as individuals! We can’t count on the government to take care of us – no! Our job is to care for each other as much as we can, with the gifts with which we have been blessed – using them for a purpose greater than ourselves.
I am hoping to get you involved in a community movement that I think you will want to be a part of. We help educate people as to the benefit of healthy eating, while providing food banks, soup kitchens and school back pack programs with fresh, organically and sustainably grown produce. We are completely volunteer run and funded by the community in a grass-roots manner.
I am just one in a group of Bremerton citizens volunteering for Seeds of Grace to re-build our existing gardens, or building new ones. We have a team member that offers gardening classes also. We have the aguaponics team, comprised of self-led students who will change the world.
We can be just like those kids. They know that each voice is worthy of being heard, but also that their actions speak so much louder than their voice ever will… Here’s what you can do to make a difference:
Make a $5 donation. Even just $5 will help! And if you feel this is a cause you could share in good conscience with your friends, ask them to give $5 too! www.dreambigaskbold.org/donate
Share. If you like what we are doing, and can’t necessarily help, please give someone you know an opportunity to bless those in our community by sharing this email with them! They may not have heard of Seeds of Grace, and have been looking for a worthy organization to donate their money or time to.
Come alongside! Register to help with one of our many gardens this season! It only takes as much as you have the ability to give… But commitment is a must! Even if you only commit to one hour per week, we will count on you! Here’s where you will register: http://www.dreambigaskbold.org/new-garden-build
Sign the petition! Make your voice heard in a positive way. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/presidents-salary-suggestion-seeds-grace-would-make-great-use-those-funds
The efforts of the communities in this region have been rewarded with 11 gardens over the last three years, resulting in hundreds of pounds of produce for our friends and neighbors all over Pierce, Mason and Kitsap Counties. With our help, so many people in our neck of the woods will benefit from these gardens.
Can you please commit to helping us?
We thank you for your dedication to our community and to your neighbors as your help doubles our efforts to feed God's Sheep.

Hope in the New Year

Beginning the New Year - Albeit a Little Late...

When 2016 started we were walking through some turmoil – the previous year was so successful, Seeds of Grace was becoming well-known in the community, people were reaching out to us and we did not have to “market” the gardens… And as is the case for so many upstart businesses, nonprofit or otherwise, there was a lot of fear of that growth by the board of directors.

This is not a bad thing… As I was told by one of my well-respected mentors, we were stretching past the capacity of those on the board, and we needed to stretch into a new board. A board who could grasp the vision that Seeds of Grace is simply not just building gardens.  Which we are! We do well! But that’s not all we are… and in order to accomplish all we desire to accomplish – all that God has placed before us, we needed to change out the task-oriented board to a board that is governing, making policy and building our future.

This is what we have been doing over the past year – not just building gardens, but building an organization that doesn’t just fly by the seat of our pants! We are building a strategic plan, revamping our by-laws and building our board continually! (We have a couple of open seats remaining…. Would YOU like to join? CLICK HERE if you would.)

Our plan extends beyond this garden build season! We actually are looking at 2018, 2023, 2028 and beyond! I, as the Executive Director, am not alone in the operation of this organization… there are quite a few people much smarter than me who are helping me now, and I could not be more thankful! God truly knows how to bring people to the task and put a fire under them, so that the mutual vision actually has God’s Glory at the center!

Every day I wonder how God is going to direct me, and every day He is faithful to do so! Every day I pinch myself at what He has done this far – and I do my best to name it all, so that I NEVER forget that there is NO WAY I could have done any of it on my own. So, crazy busy? Yes! Thankfully, I am still crazy busy!

What an incredibly tumultuous year we have had! I have seen so much! Learned so much! Walked through so much! And I can’t wait to see what God brings this year! Happy 2017, Friends!

Pesky Mosquitoes in Mexico Give Me a Dengue Present

Lots of wonderful gifts came from this trip to Mexico! And among them was a notoriously ugly little virus, courtesy of a pesky little mosquito – YES, I’m talking about Dengue Fever!

I was just fine, flying home – with my detour through Tijuana to visit my gran~girl (which didn’t happen, by the way). I was a little tired when I arose to go to work the next day … and I simply attributed it to the long, arduous and very eventful week previous. 

But Wednesday morning, I woke up, came into the office and felt like I hit a wall – chills, fever, every joint aching, nauseous, and extremely drained.  I left work about 10 and went home and slept – for hours and hours I slept. I awoke around 4, went out to get a bite to eat and went directly back to bed, where I slept for the night. The next day, I awoke with a rash and my rings were cutting into my fingers… I could not move without hurting… but I tried to go to work nonetheless…. I made it until about 9 that day.

Friday I got online and did a bit of research… My on-the-phone nurse resource from my insurance company was less than useful for this disease, except to say exactly what Google says – and so my research led me to an Ayruvedic website for some remedies and perhaps a faster healing than the projected 7 – 28 days – give or take…

I ordered my potions (a bunch of dried and powdered herbs that I planned on mixing then steeping in a tea) through the smile.amazon.com site (Seeds of Grace may as well profit from my illness) and took advantage of the 1-day shipping offer they had. I received my potion ingredients on Saturday and immediately made a cup of tea.

It’s been two full days of tea and I can honestly say my symptoms are nearly gone. My rash disappeared yesterday. My rings went back on this morning… My fatigue is so much less. And I only have the stomach issues to deal with now… I plan on continuing this treatment for a few more days until I am completely back to normal, but I tell you what! This stuff did the trick!

Well, I really have to give credit where credit is due – I asked so many people to pray for me… Truly, if so many had not interceded on my behalf, I know I would still be so, so sick! But God is so good – and faithful – and able… And anything that made me well came from Him! He led me to the Ayruvedic website – when my brain was too foggy to even try to work on seeds of Grace stuff.

I have heard many say that this disease causes all manner of long-lasting side effects… Thus far, just a slowed rate of typing is all I can figure – but I am evaluating myself – and we all know how skewed those results can be. I am going to trust that God’s plan is for me to heal as completely as He needs me to heal in order to do the work He has for me to do… And I am going to thank YOU for your prayers! There really is so much to say for prayers! Truly! Thank you!

Mazatlán Update: An Almost Ruined Adventure

I simply can’t hold back from sharing the great news from Mazatlán! God works in ways that overwhelms me, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am so much more than humbled. This trip did not start out how I would have planned – not at all… But God’s redemptive power has turned it all around, ripping what could have been a pretty big failure, into a wonderful win. 

This is how we mix concrete in Mexico.... Escuinapa Fence Build 10/31,2016

This is how we mix concrete in Mexico.... Escuinapa Fence Build 10/31,2016

Miscommunications, a broken bone of a key team member and a couple of pretty dumb mistakes on my part could have totally ruined the trip – And I freely admit that at one point I was questioning whether God actually wanted me here in Mazatlán. A combination of a calamity of errors worked together by the evil one to create chaos, disenchantment and frustration for me have brought me to tears more than once on this build – but God’s purest love and blessing turned those tears of anger and self-doubt into tears of amazement, overwhelming joy and a wondrous awe of His power, grace and redemption.

Adam - the nieto (grandson) of Caesar, helps where he can - ALL DAY!

Adam - the nieto (grandson) of Caesar, helps where he can - ALL DAY!

This was the first trip where there was no team from the US – we were meeting a team from Tijuana and a couple who came down from Washington on their own to work on other projects were able to help us as well. I was a little nervous, because communication for this trip was not exactly what I had planned – We couldn’t seem to connect on things like the timing, material procurement, budget, etc. 

But I got on a plane last Saturday morning anyway to begin this journey of building 3 gardens for in some of the most impoverished areas around Mazatlan.  My first stop was Tijuana for one night to visit my granddaughter. Unfortunately, miscommunications and misunderstandings prevented me from seeing her. If you know me, you know how that could have a tendency to throw a wrench into every bit of my being – and it did… I was consumed by sadness that I didn’t get to see her…. But I tried to take encouragement from God’s word as I sat in my hotel waiting for the call I thought would come (letting me know when we could connect) but it never came, so got on the plane the following day and headed farther south.

Staying encouraged as we baby the truck on the highway - trying to make it back to Mazatlán.

Staying encouraged as we baby the truck on the highway - trying to make it back to Mazatlán.

Upon my arrival in Mazatlán, I was taken to the rental car agency – you see, I had decided to rent a car at the last minute that because Mike had broken his ankle and was unable to drive. He is typically the one to take our team where we need to go to do the work we need to do.  At the rental car agency, (a very reputable, international company of which I am a gold member) I was told that my prepayment was not enough – that I had to come up with not only $600 more for the rental, but also an additional $1,200 would be attached to my card as a deposit. After two hours of discussing this through my limited understanding and use of the Spanish language regardless of the evidence I presented them that I had paid for insurance and car rental already, I gave up in total frustration, and asked them to take me back to the airport so I could get a cab.

Once I got back to the airport, I was taken directly to a cab, I asked how much for a ride and I gave the driver the address where I was staying. His price seemed a little steep, ($40) but at this point, I was on the verge of tears, so I just agreed and got in.  The driver’s English was pretty good, so I vented a little to him about my rental car experience and he was quite empathic, even a little indignant about my treatment…So, I was thinking, “this guy is nice, understanding and encouraging – I’ll give him a good tip”.  I started digging into my wallet for the amount we agreed on plus a tip, while I was making sure he was following the google route to Mike and Gaby’s that I had on my phone. However, what I didn’t know was that at the airport there are procedures to follow for taxi drivers, and he didn’t not follow one of them. He should have sent me into the airport to get a slip – which would have sent me to the next driver in the queue, and likely would not have been him. That slip would have had so much information on it that I would come to need later in the evening –

We finally arrived at Mike and Gaby’s and I was so excited to finally be there; excited to see their girls and excited to get my mindset shifted and ready begin the work I was here to do…About an hour after my arrival, as we were chatting in the living room, Gaby noticed that the cab driver was back. He asked for me, so I went out and he handed me my wallet…. My heart about stopped while my mind went into a racing mode I could not follow.  As he was telling Gaby how it came to be in his possession, I was checking the pockets to make sure it still had the cash I had brought down for the trip and that my credit cards were not missing. It appeared ok, so I thanked him profusely and went up to my room. It was at this point that I realized that I didn’t have my phone either. Then I made a more thorough search of my wallet to find that most of the cash was taken, and only a few dollars were left inconspicuously rolled into a $100 bill – essentially tricking me.

I’m sure you can imagine the sinking feeling I had… Horrible, sinking feeling. Sick, really.

I am not afraid to tell you that at this point, I honestly thought the trip was over. I could only think through in my head all of the mistakes I had made and how I could have done this so differently. I could only think of how badly others would judge me – and not matter what they will. I was so afraid of the gossip and rumors that people would start spreading about Seeds of Grace due to my mistake and lack of judgement. I called my husband first. His encouragement helped me stay above the pit of despair I had started tumbling into.

That evening I put out an email to a few of the supporters whom I thought would want to help. I honestly and painfully recounted the details above and awaited their judgement…

In the meantime, I slept and arose early to go to Escuinapa to begin building a fence. Alejandro, my trusted friend and mentor here in Mexico came alongside me to help me for the week. Of course he chastised me for not allowing him to help me at the airport – he totally would have picked me up and would have been my personal escort and driver – I simply didn’t think of it.

During the next two days, Alejandro and the Escuinapa Feeding Center Lead, Caesar, worked hard to dig the holes to install 14 fence posts. Caesar’s wife, Dominga kept us nourished and hydrated. That two days, I was the only gringo, and as a result, my Spanish vocabulary increased dramatically… I started feeling some encouragement, seeing some progress – but I still didn’t know if we were going to be able to do all the things we wanted to during this trip. Then - Alejandro's truck broke down... Ugh! I am embarrassed to say that my faith of God's support of this trip was at an all-time low.

I checked my email nightly and noticed that people were beginning to respond to my email plea for help, and could tell that God was working – he always is, I know – but He was really working to encourage me…

By the third day here, my help arrived from Tijuana.  They would have been here Monday, but a miscommunication led them to believe that I would not be here until Tuesday evening – Anyway, they picked me up on Wednesday morning and we went to our other gardens to check on the systems there – to find that they were not doing nearly as well as we had expected.  We cleaned, adjusted, made lists of supplies and materials, went and purchased those supplies and materials and by the end of the day, we had one system completely up and running at Valle de Urias.

Melons at Valle de Urias

Melons at Valle de Urias

That evening I checked my email and found more people had faith that God’s work would not be thwarted by my mistakes or the evil one’s shenanigans… more donations had come in. I was starting to have so much more hope.

Thursday (WOW! Thursday’s already gone!) we were joined by a couple I know from Washington who were here for other reasons, and together with the Tijuana team, we competed the system at Genaro Estrada… Although it is much smaller than we had thought, it will begin producing food within the next 6 weeks.  The smaller size is a blessing though – and truly advantageous for Alejandro. He will be learning the system and this smaller size will make it much easier for him to make progress – less overwhelming.

The complete system at Genaro Estrada - Just waiting on the fish and plants - We'll come back on Saturday to finish.  Left to Right: Alejandro and his wife Laura, From Washington are Alicia and Kyle Brose, from Tijuana YWAM are Mauricio, Rachel, Allie and Jackie - then Me!

The complete system at Genaro Estrada - Just waiting on the fish and plants - We'll come back on Saturday to finish.  Left to Right: Alejandro and his wife Laura, From Washington are Alicia and Kyle Brose, from Tijuana YWAM are Mauricio, Rachel, Allie and Jackie - then Me!

Today our plan is to finish the fence at Escuinapa and get some trees and seeds in the ground there.  We have plenty of hands to do it, so we will be able to have finished two of the three new gardens we had hoped to complete while we were here. We could not do the third, due to the sheer amount of cleanup that would be required for the land – more industrial than our other locations.

But all in all, my guilt over the mistakes I made early on in the trip has been replaced by hope and gratitude.  God brought people together, many of which had never set eyes on each other before, some who had met years ago, through other random encounters and a few who are good friends. We quickly formed bonds that will last us our lifetime – I know this. I have seen God take what I thought was going to be hopeless failure because of my mistakes and cover it all with His loving Grace, then create a situation that can only be celebrated for His sake. Truly, I have never been more humbled. Truly, never more grateful.

We have more work to do here – A LOT more! And it will happen over the span of the next several years – and I know that the plans of God are bigger than anything satan can throw at us in his attempts to thwart those plans. I know that the harder satan tries to thwart the plans, the more we need to rejoice, because that is evidence in itself that we are making progress for the Glory of God. I know that with the help of several – because of God’s inspiration, this trip was indeed successful, and I know that God has shown me that no one does the mission alone!  

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world John 16:33
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37
ather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and calamities; 2Corinthians 6:4

Change is GREAT!!!

One of the things I learned in my Bachelor’s Degree program at Bastyr University was that I had a tendency to get stuck… stagnate. I did not like change of any kind, even though to an outsider, it may have appeared that I adored chaos – Well maybe I did – and maybe chaos and change are not the same thing… Anyway, for me, Bastyr was more of a personal journey than an education – a really expensive personal journey.

I resisted any kind of upset in the way I thought things should be done. I was, at that time a very black and white thinker and I would challenge anyone who thought differently than me. I was intolerant and my filters were nonexistent. I didn’t make many friends at Bastyr – and in fact I am sad to say that I am not in touch with any of those I did consider my friend while I was there.

It has taken a lot of time, but the program I was in, Applied Behavioral Science, was a pretty major catalyst that directed me to a closer relationship with The Lord. That is a story for another time – what I want to share about that education is because of the process I walked through to learn how to embrace change, I now see it as a healthy and very necessary part of my existence.

One of the times I was in Mazatlán, I realized that God recreates the flora and fauna of every beach with each and every tide – even each and every wave, I finally saw the artistry behind His Plan. I saw His brushes sweep across the horizon, racing toward me in a rolling ribbon of white foam and the picture never stayed the same from one moment to the next! I saw how I thought at the moment I fit into that picture – only to have HIS delicate touch create a scene around me that is nothing like what I would have thought…

My vision and His for my life were starkly different – And I could not articulate my vision, so I simply had to release myself to the ebb and flow of His tide and roll with it – as it were. These are the nebulous (in my view) little things that have put me where I am today… subtle little changes or huge, drastic changes – some noticed with excruciating pain and others not even noticed at all… and then all of a sudden I am looking back on a ministry that God put on my heart 3-1/2 years ago!

And when I look back, I jokingly say, “if someone would have told me that 3-1/2 years from now, you will be the executive director of an organization that plants gardens all around the world”, I would have told you, “You’re crazy!”. 

I don’t know How God changes me exactly – I know it is through the influence of many I consider mentors and friends, leaders, pastors and those He has me here to serve! I also know it is through His pruning… He has pruned many from my life which has made me more productive for Him. He has created a prosperity for this organization that boggles my mind! So humbling that so many trust me to be a good steward. But I know this ministry has been in the works since the beginning of time – or at least the last 15 years! 

When I think about resisting change, I find myself so happy to admit that the ONLY thing that doesn’t change is Jesus, and if I didn’t seek to lean into change, I would not have discovered the beauty of being in deep relationship with Him. Today, when I fear change, I cast that demon out in His name and charge ahead, and in obedience to my Lord, seek to grow through the changing circumstances He presents, because only the evil one would want the stench that comes from being stagnate

I’m Kind of All Over the Place Today!

You have seen me vulnerable from time to time, and believe me – it is never my first choice to lean into that state of being… I mean, really? Who does? Vulnerability can take you by surprise, though! And when it does, for me anyway, a couple of things happen –

I get a visceral reaction – my mouth gets dry, my heart starts beating, I may or may not be fighting back tears, fight or flight mode kicks in and here’s the crazy thing… This feeling of vulnerability doesn’t always stem from ugly encounters, offensive behavior or being threatened… I just had an epiphany! I have experienced these same exact reactions when great and wonderful things happen too!

For instance – just this moment, even as I was writing that last sentence, I received a call from my husband’s work number – Well, of course all kinds of thoughts flash through my head in the split second it takes to register who is calling and the sideways thumb slide you have to do on your smart phones nowadays; you see, a call from my husband at work is a VERY infrequent occurrence – and given the nature of his job, it could very well be bad news, though there have only been a very small percentage of the very few calls that I have received which have been bad news… Still and yet –

But I digress – After that initial minor visceral reaction, and finding that my husband is in fact, just fine he congratulated me… “What for, Honey?” I asked – “Well, for getting recognized by the CK Reporter for being the Best Local Volunteer!”. Immediate tears flood my eyes as my mouth goes completely dry – my heart is racing and I lose my words – which if you know me, is quite a fete! Even in that moment my bladder seems ready to burst… I guess that might have been too much information, but the same probably happens when I am scared out of my wits too – so… (more of that honest vulnerability).

 

Once I got a grip, if that’s what you call it, I could only thank my husband for taking the time out of his day to call me and be the first one to tell me that kind of amazing news… You see – just thinking of how proud he is of me sends me right back into that visceral reaction mode… my hands start shaking with joy. My heart beats faster with an intensity of growing love, like we had when we first met 15 years ago. It is crazy how God built us – but it works! 

Maya Angelo once said, “People won’t remember you for what you said, they will remember you for how you made them feel”. Over the past couple of weeks, women whom I consider friends, (though mostly we are new in our friendship and had not really crossed the line into really intimate and personal conversation) have come to my office for a visits. I think God had something in mind when He brings people together, because in the midst of the short visits, we expressed some very different, but difficult situations we were dealing with – and in the midst of our telling – were experiencing that visceral, whole body feeling – as if the pain we were speaking of were occurring for the first time. And we comforted and encouraged each other; each in turn able to bless the other with godly advice directly related to our own past experiences, that obviously God had allowed just for these moments.

As these women left my office, I pondered Maya Angelo’s words; because of the way my friend had made me feel – And today I again understand the profoundness of that quote. I am so gratefully humbled by the news my husband gave me… These visceral reactions – well, they are pretty great! And for good or for bad, they serve a purpose, in God’s crazy composition of our lives.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1

I Thought I Would Whine - But On Second Thought... Thinking about how I have been served

I had a couple of articles written for this edition of The Sower – both super! One was a not-so-pretty evaluation of a relationship that went awry and the other was an article about whining – mostly my whining… Both articles are nixed – scrapped! Thankfully so! Instead I am writing about service.

In the Philippines, I am staying with the benefactor of Seeds of Grace here. Her name is Christy. She offered to host me at the home of her father, in the heart of Manila. Christy comes here a couple of times per year for several months at a time, to help her father who is in his late nineties. He doesn’t get out much – well, at all – and while she is back in the states, she trusts the care of her dad to her housekeeper, a lovely, 71 year young Filipina named Conchine.

Many tasks need to be done that Conchine either is not equipped for, or doesn’t have the authority to do and if they are not emergencies, she must await Christy’s return. Christy leaves her husband to come and see to her dad, because 10 years ago (today, September 8 is the anniversary) Christy’s mom passed away and it is her duty as the eldest daughter to do so.

I have learned a little about the culture since my arrival two days ago. Not nearly as much as I wish to learn, but enough to know that this culture deeply respects their elders. More than that, those in the business of service have a near reverence for those they serve. Truly, a close example would be that of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples! This is how dedicated those who serve others are in this culture.

As I arrived late Tuesday evening, Conchine was the first one out the door to greet us, trying to take my bags from my hands and the hands of Christy’s neighbor and friend who was our driver… All I see is this beautiful little woman with a very crooked neck trying to show me hospitality.  However, as much as I didn’t want to share my burden with her, I had no choice in the matter. She drew my bags into the door and locked it after us then shyly took the luggage to my room. These bags were heavy! They were a burden to me!

Left to Right: Jonathan, Dennis and Manny of the Seed Project, Christy Hipolito (Seeds of Grace), Conchine, Me (Karole Johnson) and Miguel De La Rosa, Christy's father and my host.

Left to Right: Jonathan, Dennis and Manny of the Seed Project, Christy Hipolito (Seeds of Grace), Conchine, Me (Karole Johnson) and Miguel De La Rosa, Christy's father and my host.

She waits on me, hand and foot – continually filling my drinking water, making sure there is hot water for my bath, serving food all day long (excuse me – I can’t say no!), all while she keeps this home spotless. She awakens before the rest of the household and makes sure that food is out for breakfast. She makes sure the bathroom is cleaned after nearly every use. She lovingly cares for Christy’s dad as if she were his daughter too.  She is subservient to Christy (10 years her junior) in a respectful and admiring way.

Christy treats her so kindly, too! Culturally there are certain boundaries that must be maintained, but there is no lack of love and appreciation between these two. It is a bond of mutual trust that I see, and I wonder where that has gone in my own culture.

We have eaten out a couple of times, and the service at the restaurants (which spanned from the McDonald’s-like Jolibees to a very nice and quite authentic family-style meal in a northern province where the property is that Christy has given Seeds of Grace) the service was wonderful! 2 – 3 people watching to see if there was the slightest need and filling it before there was any request from the table. This is not a well-off country! These employees appeared so happy to be doing what they were doing and so grateful that we were there, in their restaurant eating the food that was their privilege to prepare and serve.

This attitude is missing in America. From the top of the White House to the McDonald’s counter girl; there is really no one in service anymore. (Save for those in the military – but I exclude them for the purposes of this article – it simply doesn’t apply). What I mean is, from the president on down the line of political representatives and even those who are not elected but work in some capacity in government (again- besides the actual military personnel who will receive a dd-214) across the gamut to those whose job is in some field of customer service, people no longer understand the concept of service. They no longer get that they really are in the employ of others, and if they do their job unsatisfactorily, or in some way lose their dedication to the service trade they should no longer do it. Instead I see these people acting as if they are entitled to the position, asking for a raise and treating me, the one who pays their salary in some form or another (my taxes or payment for the services themselves), as if I am obligated to continue to do so without question regardless of the service I receive.

If I expect more from the president or another public servant, I am looked upon with contempt, called names or ostracized altogether. If I expect more from my local Starbucks partner or McDonald’s employee, I fear what may end up in my burger or cup. 

You might be wondering what on Earth this has to do with Seeds of Grace… Well, maybe it doesn’t – except that I am going to learn by the example of Conchine in her service to me and others. Today, when I came back across the street from getting a manicure from one of Christy’s friends, I was struggling to put my slipper on. You see, I didn’t want to mess up my nails. What did Conchine do? She, in her tiny, 71 year-old frame knelt down and put my slipper on my foot… first one, then the other – without question. She simply did it. My thanks seemed to me a meager compensation for such a grandly, subservient yet honoring gesture. She is not a slave, she chose this as her career. She loves what she does, and goes the extra mile in so many ways! So, what does this have to do with Seeds of Grace? Well, this is how I will serve. This Jesus-like example is what I want to follow – to learn. This is the direction I will strive to go for the sake of loving the community I am in. I believe that God let me experience this so that I can grow into being more like Him. And I thank Him for the vividly explicit example in my opportunity to learn.  

The Power of Restoration

The Power of Restoration

There are worse things in life than losing a friend – I mean, when there is a falling out, disagreement, betrayal or some other conflict that separates two people who truly loved each other. There are far worse things than losing that person… the one on whom you counted to lovingly hold you accountable, give you feedback on new things you are trying and encourage you when you are struggling. I have experienced far worse things than a dispute that has the power to tear two people apart, who have leaned on each other through intense difficulties, cried on each other’s shoulder when walking through grief and sought out that one person, because the good news was so amazing and they should be the first to know.

But then again…. Really, there isn’t.  When we lose someone we love, through the death of their body, we grieve and we walk through it. Yes. It wracks us – frequently at first, but trailing off with time. We cry – a lot! We don’t do it on anyone else’s timeline – we do it at our own pace. But eventually the great memories we have of our time with that person, overcomes the heartache of grief more often than not. And you begin to laugh more than you cry; smile more than tear up; sit gratefully for the time you had together, more than you yearn for their presence again. Closure occurs.

When a conflict or whatever, causes the destruction of a friendship, there are so many factors coming into play totally affecting your ability to walk through to healing. Our hearts grieve just as with a death, but there is also hurt feelings, anger and a complete sense of disorientation. That person you loved still has the same phone number; they still live in the same place; your other friends speak of her and what she is doing – without you. The pain is more prevalent. Her presence is all around you, but you can’t reach out for a hug – even though she’s the first person you would turn to if this situation occurred with one of your other friends.

You can’t grieve. You are too afraid that if you do, there could never be healing. Grieving is associated with closure and you don’t want closure. Closure means there is no hope for the friendship’s redemption. Your heart doesn’t stop hurting… You don’t stop crying.

There may have simply been a situation that though was fairly innocuous – perhaps there was something you could have done differently, and you tried to be accountable for that – but it wasn’t enough. Your attempts to work through it are met with contempt and accusations about situations that are twisted out of proportion… and the pain of those accusations cause you to either defend yourself or back off and hope they see reality soon… And either thing you try is misinterpreted.

So, you realize the only thing you can do is lay your friendship at the feet of the Lord.  Pray for His restorative power because He is the only one who knows the whole story. He knows both sides. He sees the blind spots of each side of the conflict and can see how Satan will use those blind spots to pit these two friends, who together made huge inroads for God’s Kingdom, against each other.

God begins to show you, besides those things that you were accountable for, what you could have done differently; just little things – but along with everything else she was dealing with, those little things were extreme and impactful for your friend. He shows you, though you may not have realized at the time, other things going on for her that were huge stressors. They may not have been between you and your friend, but in her personal life. Perhaps you didn’t understand the intensity of these situations, or maybe she wanted to keep what was going on to herself, for whatever reason. He shows you how she was trying so hard to keep it together for the sake of everyone around her, and the things that you were responsible for – that you would normally be able to discuss, work through – were the very things sending her over the precipice – and all she could see as she fell was your actions – real or perceived. But He shows you this. He comforts you with this, and then He begins to encourage you to pray for her.

And you pray for others surrounding her to be able to speak God’s love into her. God leads you in how to pray – even the words to say in your prayer. He blesses you daily with affirmation that you are good enough – that what happened is not big enough to cause this and in His time He will in fact redeem this friendship. And in the meantime, He blesses you with other friends to lean on. But no one is the same… No one really can take her place.

Months go by, and you still have the hurt, heartache and confusion, but God’s love and comfort has substantially lessened that burden – especially when you specifically ask God to take it from you. All the while your love for your friend is ever present and represented in your prayers for her. You still filter things through a lens of, “what would she think?” Your pastors encourage you the way that pastors do. You complain to those who are now closest to you how you miss her. You wonder if she misses you.

And one day, she rings the doorbell.

God is good.

This is only one instance where God’s faithfulness restored a relationship I thought was irreparably broken. I know I wrote about my relationship with my dad at one time. That was the hope I held onto… If God could restore my relationship with my dad, this relationship would be restored too!

He has restored other relationships too.  Friendships are being rebuilt in ways that have caused my heart to wonder – in utter gratefulness – but wonder nonetheless… How does God know my heart requires that particular person, right here, right now? He has given me exactly the words to say to humbly and from the heart ask forgiveness – I have, myself cause a lot of heartache.

I think there is an urgency with which God is restoring and building up Christians. I think He is indicating how near His Kingdom really is. All the relationships that Satan is targeting are necessary to bring more of God’s lost sheep into His fold. You know how Jesus sends his disciples out two by two – and how Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 4:12 “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” I think we need each other’s strength to guard against that evil who uses even God’s Word to subvert the mission we are on.

We need the accountability partners who will help us to see when our ego – and our (very human) self-serving tendency – is overshadowing the work we need to do for the Lord. And those same accountability partners are the ones who push us to work harder, encourage us to encourage others and bless us with a steadfast love so that everything we are doing is a blessing for our Heavenly Father.

I continue to pray for her – my friend – among so many others… because that is what we are called to do. Even if now, days after our reconciliation, she is again distant and not nearly as friendly as a couple of days ago – I am going to continue to pray for God’s ever-present grace to fill my heart – and fill hers. And maybe that was the missing link… Maybe I simply couldn’t see her needs because I didn’t pray for her more when we were close. I know it can’t hurt to pray for everyone more, though. 

So, I will pray and watch. If God can heal this broken relationship between two broken people – He is capable of healing everyone’s broken relationships. He will restore our hearts to one another… What does that look like in a broken world? What bounds can hold us apart when we receive restoration through the power of the Holy Spirit and link arms together, in defiance of Satan?? Truth – And – Grace

The Inspiration of Children

I am sure you have all been in a situation where you are totally amazed by kids who did more than you ever expected… You may have thought them geniuses in that moment! As a mom of 6 kids, spanning over 16 years, (so for the last 36 years, I have been raising kids out of my house) I am surprised by so many of my kids, their friends or my sibling’s kids by their brainiac-ness… I am totally humbled by their ability to grasp concepts that are totally foreign to me…

I remember a time when my eldest son and I were both in college at the same time, him at UW and me at our local community college, OC. We happened to be taking the exact same general chemistry course. At one point, he came home for the weekend and we were both studying for a midterm on the exact same content – He scored a near perfect SAT score and was on a full ride at the time.  Needless to say, he was helping his mom with the concept of stoichiometry and reactions. I was so lost – but us studying together brought me this secret joy… Anyway, I did pick up on a couple of points and felt as if I might not be as bad off as I had originally thought but I was still nervous. As I took him to the ferry on Monday morning, him on his way to take his test, and after I dropped him off, I’d be taking mine, my stomach was sick with worry and stress – and I asked him, “Sonny, don’t you ever experience test anxiety?” He answered, “Yeah, sure.” So I asked him, “What do you do to deal with it?”  He looked at me with the most quizzical look on his face, and I am sure he thought it was the dumbest question he had ever heard, when he replied, “I take the test!” With that he got out of the car and ran to catch the ferry – as I sat numbly pondering his answer…. Of course! Take the test!

A foreign concept – not ever being proficient in school, and tests being the BANE of my existence – I had no idea that the solution was so simple – you can only do what you can do. In fact, it has been 13 years since I received my Bachelor’s Degree and I am only just now realizing the truest impact of that statement. “You just take the test.”  

Well, recently we started a program called the Aguaponics Apprenticeship Program. Let me clarify one thing – Aguaponics is the Mexican term for Aquaponics which although is a word, is not yet in a dictionary. That was simply a justification segue. 

Anyway, we started this program and the kids who have opted in are absolutely amazing! If you have not yet heard about it, please take a look at the overview and contract they signed HERE. You will be amazed at their dedication. We have had a couple of meetings so far and their ideas and inspirations have totally blown me away!

They call themselves the “Deep Roots”.  I call them my free thinkers.  They are lightly directed – more guided – not just by me, but by their parents, their relatives, their friends and mostly their own ingenuity to find the questions that will guide them to the solutions – eventually bringing the team full circle to building their “own” aguaponics system at the Seeds of Grace Headquarters.

Their drive for a solution is their own curiosity – fed by the curiosity of their teammate… Have you ever witnessed children – aged 8 – 16 working as a team? Cohesively? Each feeding the thought process of the other?  I truly believe this is God’s intention for our living… His model for our sheer existence… That’s how these kids are operating!

They are not even close to the solution – the one that we know they will arrive at. But they are working toward it in a way I have never experienced before. I had this idea of how it would work…  but it is doing so much more that I could have even imagined. These kids are developing an aguaponics system that will feed 60 – 100 people per week at a local soup kitchen. They are thinking about all aspects of the project, including the type of fish that will best suit the system; the type of produce to grow; the way the plumbing will work; how they will fund it, how to sustain it, how to grow and how they will multiply it to different locations. These kids, are researching the absolute best way to achieve the goals they set for themselves in the most collaborative way.

I would love to invite you to come and take a look at what these kids are building. And I would also ask you to consider supporting their project with your skills, your materials, your prayers or your financial backing. Please contact me for more information about the program and how you can be involved.

Epiphanies About Grief – Is It Strictly About Death and Dying?

When we are grieving, what happens?  Common knowledge includes what is outlined in “The 5 Stages of Grief” (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, 1969) and “The Seven Steps for Handling Grief; Because You Care” (Barbara Russel-Chesser, 2014) among so many other wonderful writings on the subject.  In a nutshell, they pretty much say the same things – great information, disseminated a little differently. 

Here’s the thing about grief that we tend to forget…. It isn’t all around death and dying. And the reason I write about this subject is far from simple…

This is all stuff covered in your basic high school level psychology class. So if you were one of the “lucky ones” to get into Psychology, these things should be common knowledge… Our life is partly steered by the circumstances that occur around us, and partly steered by our choices… and half of the time (not a scientifically proven statistic, but it makes sense to me) we lose in the process… What we lose could be big – a person, our home, a job – or it could be what some would consider “less” in this relative world we live in, based upon one’s own sense of value.

“So, what does this have to do with Seeds of Grace?” you may ask. Well, an epiphany I had a few weeks ago directly related the feelings I have been experiencing around some particular situations I have experienced while acting as the Executive Director of this organization, and what I have been feeling around the upcoming anniversary of my dad’s passing.

Many of you know about how God restored mine and dad’s relationship – truly a miracle that you can read about HERE. So grieving his death was really the first true understanding of loss I had experienced. I have lost others in my life – but theirs was more of a celebration of their transition into the arms of Jesus. I think the difference was that I was so shocked, sad, angry, confused and disappointed at myself for not hearing the voice of God earlier – so that less time could have been wasted in my angry, unforgiving and hurt state and we could have had more time enjoying each other when he wasn’t sick.

… And back to how does this apply to Seeds of Grace….

Over the last three years since this ministry was launched, I have seen so many people coming and going through what feels like a revolving door – people who step in, sign up, become overwhelmed, disgruntled or disenchanted then step back out. Typically, they are people who want to make a difference in their world, community or just their own hearts; who could directly relate to the mission of Seeds of Grace in tangible and profound ways. But my tendency to “Dream Big Ask Bold” (a directive from God Himself) had an effect, that would cause these great-intentioned hearts to become disappointed in me, themselves or some phase of the process.

I have experienced every stage of grief with each of these losses… I feel personally responsible for the inability of these people to give the way they felt drawn to give. I feel as if I have betrayed God in the process – as I have not been a good steward of His blessing. Some of those times, in my naivety, inexperience and (Christian) immaturity, I know that my lack of communication about the details and expectations was directly responsible for this exodus. The loss of these people all have been, or are still in the process of being grieved by me.

Sometimes the loss is of a particular space for a garden or partnership that didn’t evolve. Sometimes the loss is for an opportunity, which I can see upon looking back, was a door opened by God.  Sometimes the loss I grieve is simply for the ability to claim naivety – which is peeled away daily by the fire that continually tests my metal.

My heart aches at the loss of my dad… some days it is simply crippling. I can’t even take a step forward without feeling intense regret and responsibility for this loss – but then God’s presence and comfort overcomes with a more rational thought process. God reassures me that the growth He blessed me with during my estrangement from dad, would not have happened if our relationship had not undergone this…  He also ensures me that HIS timing, and not mine is the determining factor…

And the flipside of the epiphany is this: As I have walked through all of the challenges in the midst of learning what God needs me to learn to lead His ministry, He has actually shown me in very practical ways how these losses have actually benefitted His purpose – His plan… He uses people in this process, as examples for me to follow – My sister, whose daughter died of cancer – my friends who are walking through similar changes as me, life’s challenges prevalent daily.  I watch them all overcome, while leaning into God and gaining strength – while learning themselves what it is that God needs to teach them through it all.

So this grief, while totally justified, ends up being a catalyst into that next phase of development … of me… of Seeds of Grace. The final phase of grief is triumph. TRIUMPH – for even though I might consider something a loss – and grieve it – God always wins! And there are always triumphs… but they are not directly proportionate to the loss – no indeed! They are great triumphs! If measured in amount, it FAR outweighs, outlasts and outperforms the grief it resulted from. The one last thing that God always ensures me of: He can restore these broken relationships… He can redeem friendships, past opportunities and He can grow hearts past the hurts, making stronger the because of the grief.  He already has!

A Phenomenal Inspiration Leads To Phenomenal Opportunities For Local Youth

I am constantly surprised at the direction that Seeds of Grace is being drawn by God. It is truly never-ending!  I don’t know if that speaks to my lack of faith, or the intensity with how deeply I am enamored by Him… but nonetheless, the daily miracles I am allowed to witness as He builds this organization to feed more and more of His Sheep truly humbles me… The sheer enormity of His reach – the vastness of His love – the depth of His plan… He is so much greater that we can know!

Over the last few months, I have really been feeling a strong pull by the Lord… It was a feeling that I recognized well – as it is that feeling I get, when God is telling me I am ready for something new… Let me tell you, with all the turmoil and frustration I have been experiencing over the last few months, I honestly and from the very depths of my soul, dreaded what it might be… And then again, upon further reflection, I wonder if that dread is the reason I could not achieve clarity until now…

Anyway – reflection, quiet time, long prayer, submission and asking God for wisdom in all areas of my life usually brings me to the place where I can hear Him… Where His plan overcomes mine and where I see the direction that I will turn, or the new branch of the vine that He is developing.  

This is how Seeds of Grace has grown from the get-go… You know the story; one garden was all it would be, as far as I was concerned.  One garden in Mexico.  And now look… 

I find that I continue to say that – “And now look”.  And next year, when God adds another facet into the mix, I will look back and say it again, year after year.

Well, He has added another program to His ministry… I have written about the aguaponics program that we will be installing behind the new office at the Seeds of Grace HQ, right? This new facet will be a sort of combination of what we are doing throughout the organization already – but with a twist… He is combining what students are doing in our gardens with how our gardens are sustainable due to the community’s commitment to volunteer with how the program works in Mazatlan.  He is creating a mentoring program that will not only teach students, aged 10 – High School Graduation, how to think freely, creatively and critically, but also how to solve problems that may range from an interpersonal conflict with a team member to project budget shortfalls and everything in between!  Oh goodness, I am super excited about this one!

I’d love to share more, but without board approval, I would be remiss in my duties as the Executive Director. That the program will be approved, I am sure – but the process is a process – and a process which requires protocol –should be routed through that protocol… SO I am not going to tell… But I will say that your kids will LOVE this opportunity.  And I will also say, keep your eyes peeled… if you are on Facebook, like our Seeds of Grace page… And be sure to encourage your children, your friends and your nieces/nephews or grandchildren to apply when the opportunity is publicized next week… WE ONLY HAVE ROOM FOR 5 STUDENTS.

In the meantime, God continues to open doors and bless lives – and we have yet to harvest one pound of produce so far this year!  Isn’t that amazing? How He plants the seeds in more than just the ground?

More Blessings Than I Could Possibly Know

I have told you all about the process by which Seeds of Grace was born… How God laid the vision on my heart… He has corrected a couple of my misconceptions about that vision over the past nearly 3 years, and He has created something so much bigger than I could ever have imagined.  I haven’t shared all of the miracles He has provided – mainly because most of them I don’t even know about yet…

You see, He keeps showing His amazing and all-powerful goodness in a kind of drip-like fashion… We know He planned everything when He created the world… He even knew how He would have to bolster my faith tipping me from doubt into obedience.

One of these miracles actually didn’t have any real direct relationship to Seeds of Grace.  You see, God totally redeemed a relationship that I had mourned because I honestly believed that it would never be restored. 

Oh my heart ached, at the thought of never seeing my dad again – yes, my dad…

Years of abuse in a dysfunctional family had taken its toll and after I confronted my dad and his denial, I cut ties… for my own safety, mental health and spiritual wellbeing, I stepped far back from my family. I was ostracized by siblings and tormented by my parent’s friends because they couldn’t possibly believe my accusations against my picture perfect dad… My heart broke at the thought that several doors of people I love would be closed to me forever. This is typically how those kinds of things go.

So, fast forward about 11 years, and I start hearing God’s voice – Even before the feeding center building mission trip – God had started teaching me forgiveness.  Through messages at church, through my Biblical studies and through conversations with people had put into my life, since I had started deepening my relationship with Him – the messages were so clear… learn to forgive.

The first person I forgave was myself. I have made so many mistakes in my life, hurt so many people. My own dysfunction was deeply ingrained and I worked through many years of counseling and self-discovery.  And God was with me through it all. The next people were all those people who took advantage of my brokenness through my adult years – ex-boyfriends, ex-husband(s) and many others who had used me.  And God was surely with me through it all. 

Then He really started putting my dad on my heart.  I felt the pull toward my family, but I could not bring myself to let go of my pain… the suffering of my heart almost felt better than the fear of facing him. I had already mourned him, because I knew that I would not be welcomed at his funeral when the time came. I didn’t want to forgive him, because that left the door open to more pain, more rejection and mourning all over again.

But God’s faithfulness is so much bigger than my fear – and He was with me through it all… So then comes our very first garden build in Mexico.  April 2014.  God spoke to me in a way I did not expect.  As I cleaned up metal scraps from building our shed, I tossed them into the scrap pile.  As I threw a handful of pieces of square and round tubing into the scrap heap, I heard, “Don’t throw that away, Seeds of Grace can use that”

Of course, I stopped, looked around and wondered who may have said that.  I went about the business of building the garden, the shed, the fence and cleaning up the scraps, and as I threw another handful into the scrap heap, I heard that voice again… “You can use that, Karole. Don’t throw it away. Seeds of Grace can make money from it.”  In my head, because there were so many people around and I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy, I asked, “is this you, God, or is it me?” He said, “You can make jewelry out of it and sell it for Seeds of Grace.” 

I knew it must have been my own head making this conversation up, because I am not a metalworker – I have no tools, I have no skills – and just as I was making that argument, God interrupted with, “No, but your dad does.”

I dropped the scraps into the heap and I went for a long walk.  I tearfully asked Him how it is that He can expect me to do this thing? Why now? I am too afraid. I am still too hurt and angry. God simply reassured me in a loving caress that opened my heart.  And then He said, “Now, go tell someone so you are accountable.”

Man!  He asks a lot! But I remember a wise man once telling me, “God gives you a little responsibility to see how you do, and then your big responsibility will follow”. I honestly thought the task of building this garden was the big thing to follow… but nope! God’s plan is so much bigger than I know…

Don’t ask me how I was able to transport a box of metal tubing scraps home through all of the crazy security, but I was.  And once home, all I could do was make excuse after excuse, day after day about how I didn’t have time to get out to my dad’s. Until one Thursday afternoon, I happened to be picking up my daughter from school and I heard God very clearly tell me to look into the back of the truck.  I did, and there was the box of scraps – I had no more excuses.

As I drove out to dad’s, I felt the usual dread whenever I would go anywhere near there, but God was comforting me. I could feel His presence. He gave me courage… He gave me peace.

I believe that God had been working on dad’s heart too, because when I pulled up and parked my car, he stopped his riding lawn mower and walked over me. My daddy embraced me and asked me to forgive him. In that moment I felt every bit of anger, frustration, fear and pain melt away. I also was totally filled up with the most wonderful love! 

It was two months later that my dad had a heart attack, and all I could do was praise God that He restored our relationship, because the subsequent surgery led to the discovery of terminal cancer.  My dad died a year later. And I was able to nurse him, love him and pray with him. I was able to ask him what he thought God gave him this extra time for.

I was able to tell my dad this story about God’s miracle – about how He used Seeds of Grace to redeem our relationship. About how God wanted me to really know my dad… the one that God knew…

I really miss my dad.

The Realities of Running a Non-Profit... It's HARD!

I have a tendency to utilize this space as a means to show my vulnerable side - and today's issue of the Sower is no different. I want to let you know about this road I have been on.  And I want to share with you how much of a blessing it has been for me, but by the same token, it has truly been the most difficult thing I have ever tried to accomplish in my life...

From the blessing perspective, I have learned so much; not only about myself, but about how to run an organization such as this.  God has shown me, through some really tough times, that by faith He will carry me and I will survive.  He has walked me through conflict brought on by my inability to separate Seeds of Grace from my personal and spiritual life. And because of Seeds of Grace, a relationship with one of my family members was restored – redeemed, really – bringing Him SO much glory. He has been faithful with His promises and given us miracle after miracle in spite of my failings.

I don’t think for a moment that I am immune to making mistakes or bad choices.  I certainly have made more than my share, for sure! Without seeming to make light, I absolutely see where spiritually, forces are set against faith-based organizations whose mission is to do God’s will, fulfilling His purpose and building His Kingdom.  We have had our setbacks, and we have worked through some pretty difficult problems as a team – some of the setbacks causing severe conflict.

What an ugly word!  No one wants to hear about or discuss the conflict within the walls of a small organization, right? Or do you?  The fact is, we are all a bunch of people who are trying to do what we believe God has called us to in the best way possible.  And sometimes, I think my way is best – and it turns out to be so far from best that I am blinded to the conflict that is being caused. I am ashamed to say that this has happened a few times within the board of Seeds of Grace.  Because of my misinformation, misguided interpretation of God’s direction and mostly, my lack of experience as an executive director, I have directly (though never deliberately) caused dissention. This is hard, because I don’t want anyone to think that Seeds of Grace is unworthy of your trust, your faith, your attention.  I don’t want there to be any impression that we are incapable of building this organization, or undeserving of your time, donation and prayers.

On the contrary, I am hoping my vulnerability will encourage some of you to reach out and help me to learn my job better. I am hoping that there will be a deeper understanding of the passion that drives me, and a desire to help me to direct that passion so that this organization benefits in ways that surprise us all in a year – 2 years – 5 years!  I am hoping for the right people to be led to the door of Seeds of Grace who have the experience we need to take the momentum we are growing on and develop the strength of bandwidth to take us into the next ten years (and beyond) of garden building. 

I believe that is how God envisioned Seeds of Grace! But he chose me to cast that vision to the world, and to start this organization within my community – and I need help. I can’t promise that I won’t ever make another mistake. But I can promise that I will learn from every single mistake I make!

We have an organization whose time is now and our teams are dedicated to feeding God's Sheep! The gardens in the works for our community, let alone in other countries will provide fresh fruits and vegetables for hundreds of people, adding to the hundreds of pounds of food already harvested.over the last two years. Our plans for expansion of the programs in this region and around the world will knock your socks off! And I personally invite you to come, with your skills, your drive and your knowledge and help lead us.  

If you would be willing to join the board of Seeds of Grace, or come alongside us as an advisor, committee chair or in some other capacity, I would love to hear from you.  Please contact me directly: Karole@DreamBigAskBold.org