Humble Thanks For Your Gifts!

Humble is the only word I can use to describe how I feel about the gifts that were given to Seeds of Grace as part of a GREAT effort to boost the coffers of nonprofits all around Kitsap County. WE are so blessed to have a community that supports us the way you do!

Our totals are not fully in - we don’t have the matching funds yet from Kitsap Community Foundation, but what our donors have done, is nothing short of miraculous, and the matching funds that will come to us because you chose to give is truly a blessing! For that, I would like to thank EVERY person who donated to ANY local nonprofit through the Kitsap Great Give!

Seeds of Grace was blessed with a grand total of $3,990 given over the past 24 hours.

That amount includes online and offline gifts through the Kitsap Great Give website, as well as gifts given through our Seeds of Grace page.

The gifts are from people located all over the US! We had a total of 111 donations - 5 of which were anonymously given. This tells me that we are making a difference - planting seeds in more than just the ground! Your gifts are instrumental in the growth of this organization, so that we can feed more Sheep!

I would like to personally thank each of you here!

Patricia Peterson • Keith Knowlton • Amy Jackson • Robert Johnson • Darrin Franke • Merile Montgomery • Stephen Vittori • Jeanette Berry • Mandy Dormaier • Joseph Del Grosso • Brad and Rose NORBERG • Lanette Bowling • Daphne Lee-Larson • Alicia Brose • Julian Kohlbrand • Julie Cooper • Toni Woodford • Adam Simmons • Kim Aiello • Sofia Rossoff • Karen Salley • Kim Gary • Jake Parks • Wendy Stanley • KristiAnn Stecker • Richard Thorp • Richard Huddy • Theresa Mills • Gayle Helseth-Kenison & Michael Kenison • Stephen & Deborah Hill • Mercedes Reed

THANK YOU to each and every one of you! And THANK YOU Anonymous!

I would like to also thank every business, organization and philanthropist for your gift of matching funds! Your gifts to our community are appreciated, and we are so grateful for your partnership and investment!

Sincerely,

Karole Lee Johnson, Executive Director

Seeds of Grace; building sustainable, organic gardens in impoverished neighborhoods around the world to feed God’s Sheep

Where Do You Go To Church?

The ONLY question I hate to answer

“Where do you go to church?” I am asked quite frequently. More, I think than anyone else I know – of course, I can’t quantify that, and it is only a guess – but it sure feels like I am asked a lot!

Before God put this ministry in my life, I bounced from church to church, looking for – but never finding a place to call my “church home”. I attended a few, and was never quite “filled up”, as I thought I should be. Perhaps one didn’t greet me right away. Maybe at another I felt as if I were just a number. I had a set of criteria that I used – indefinable and not biblical, yet real enough to me: It could not be too big. It could not focus on money. It had to be welcoming – everybody needed to introduce themselves to me (even though I had a BIG “Back Off” sign painted on my forehead). I was a skeptic. I needed proof – not about God, I totally believed in Him – I needed proof that the people were worthy of my effort, my presence and my time. Big ego, right? I leaned heavily on what I thought to be the “right way” to worship the Lord as it was represented by all the people who went to whatever church I happened to be attending. I was “indoctrinated” into the way that each church did God.  

I settled into one church in particular. I even got baptized on November 17, 2012. My needs were being fulfilled – I was taking all I could get, and giving only what the church asked. If you know me, you know I really like being needed and I like being recognized for the individual need I fulfil for people (especially those I love). As my gifts were recognized and appreciated, my ego was fed. I had become needed.

In the process, I had become one of them; a person who talked a lot about loving others, but until God gave me Seeds of Grace, I had no idea exactly what that meant. I thought that loving others was really only required on the inside of the church. And only when people came into the building did I have an obligation to bless them. We did outreach – but it wasn’t really about much more than filling more seats. I understood that filling seats turns regular people into Christians eventually. Get them in for the coffee and treats, fill them up with Jesus’ food. It is a great strategy – especially for people who want to remain anonymous.

As time went on, I had become a cog in the wheel that kept the appearance of what a perfect church looked like running. The greeting at the beginning of the gathering, coffee, treats, the constant smile, the perfectly put together outfit, using the right vernacular (every church has it), and all of this gesticulation so that our church would get that new person to come back next week. My “obligation” became more to the church than to God. I often wondered if I could be seen as “holy enough” to ever be a part of the leadership team. My desire for recognition became so great that I frequently took on way too much, just so someone would give my ego a little stroke.

As God began building Seeds of Grace, He also began to show me what HE meant by CHURCH as He began drawing me away from “my” church. It was pretty blatant at first – even hurtful. The more I talked about this vision, the more I asked leadership for direction, the more I felt dismissed; to the point of actually telling me that “my” church would never fiscally support my ministry. Hindsight shows me how this was necessary because of my own perception. God needed to show me how all the churches I have attended fulfilled the needs they were required to fulfill by leading me into a deep relationship with Jesus.

In time, I began to realize these groups of people that come together once per week, were really just a group of people; meanness existed, hierarchy of righteousness was a grading tool for worthiness and gossip and lies are just as prevalent, if not more, than outside the walls of the structure. There is not any distinction between them and any other group, except their gathering occurred in a church building on a particular day. I began to realize through my ongoing study of scripture that God doesn’t not require us to go to church every Sunday – but we are to BE the CHURCH as we exist every day.

As Seeds of Grace has grown, I have removed myself from “church” (the building) and God has given me a greater presence in “Church” His community. He has given me insight that I would not have had, if I were still looking through the “church (the building)” lens. He has shown me the value of my gift when He is allowed to use it fully, and it is not restricted by vernacular, laid out roles and other people’s definitions. God has shown me that His Church is everywhere that I invite Him to be and that is my Church Home. Every conversation. Every interaction. Every time His Name is spoken in every conversation. “Where do you go to church?” I am asked… I simply say, “NOWHERE! ANYWHERE! EVERYWHERE!” But that always elicits a shocked look, a patronizing smile, a puzzled nod or a direct challenge to explain my perspective. And then God comforts me and let’s me know that I am exactly where HE wants me, doing His Church.

Where do I “go to church”? I don’t “go” to church at all! Wherever I am that God’s Seeds are being planted, that is my Church – and believe me, His Seeds are planted in more than just the ground. I get to “BE” Church ALL the time!

Is It a Blessing, or is It a Curse? 

Our new building could be considered both, but not if we look at it from a faith perspective.

We received this gift, which likely you’ve heard mention of before (if not click here to find out more). As you can imagine, the past few weeks have been wrought with planning, site visits, moving (some of our stuff), cleaning and of course planting.

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 So far we have made some marked progress. We have had a couple of meetings, our team assigned a building Superintendent for the property, as well as a mural designer, and have already rented it out for a party! We have a list of things to do as long as my arm, which includes things like reroofing the building, installing a new heating system, pulling up the flooring, repainting inside-and-out, renovating the kitchen and removing a dying 180’  Douglas Fir tree.

So, this amazing gift, as free as it was, will cost us a lot of money, volunteer hours, prayers, and likely even some headaches. What do you call a gift like that? I mean, here we have this amazing building on a half-acre, yet it will cost thousands of dollars to bring it to a useable standard!

Here’s what we do: 

Have you ever seen the movie, Faith Like Potatoes? It’s a great movie, filmed in Australia about, well, you guessed it, faith. Anyway, at some point in the movie, someone tells this faithless farmer a story and it goes like this: 

“Once there were these two farmers, who had land right next to each other. There had been a drought in the land, and they both prayed incessantly for rain. The farmer to the left knelt down, fell prostrate, called upon the Holy Spirit, rocked back and forth all day long day in, and day out, praying for rain. The farmer to the right prayed while he plowed his field. He prayed while he hoed the rows. He prayed while he planted the seeds. He prayed every night after he worked and every morning before he went out there again. God answered both of the prayers, for it rained! But who’s field produced food for the farmer?”

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We will pray for rain while we prepare our field. That is to say, we will continue to do the work we can do that doesn’t require a permit, and we will build events to raise funds and we will procure materials right and left, because when the time comes for God to answer our prayer, we believe his bountiful blessings will absolutely overwhelm us.

 He will make it possible to run all of our operations out of this new location, while we also create an educational resource for our community. You see, not only will the grounds incorporate permaculture growth of Pacific Northwest native plants, but that permaculture food-forest will be a classroom for local students participating in our Garden Gnome Junior program. This program will teach aguaponics, classic gardening, nutrition, biology, and chemistry components, permaculture, composting, sustainability and service. The students will opt into this after-school program and will be inspired by, not only those who teach the classes but by each other as they mentor and serve one another. The time God is giving us to do all of the necessary renovations can be taken to fine-tune our curriculum, bring in teachers and create a program that kids will strive to be a part of.

You will see a wonderful mini-campus that is sustainable in itself, serves many purposes in the community, yet is an educational resource for local students. We believe that God will not forsake us by preventing these things from happening. He will provide the money, the volunteers, materials, and time. He has great plans for this building and it will produce a great bounty of glory for Him. 

There are several ways YOU can help. We have these values that we live by: Learn, Give, Pray, Share, Join. 

  • LEARN: Swing in when you are driving by if you see we are there or stop by one of our many events - learn more about what we are doing and how we plan to accomplish it
  • GIVE: Help us by donating to this cause
  • PRAY: Ask God's blessing on this ministry
  • SHARE: Help us to disseminate the information about our programs and raise awareness about what we do.
  • JOIN: Come! Walk alongside us on this journey! Help us build the programs within the renovated building!

These are the things I pray for so that when He brings the blessing of rain, we will be ready.

A Piece of the Pie

Just a peek into new programs at our new location and how YOU can help. 

Garden Gnome Jr.

An opportunity to learn how the Earth provides

Seeds of Grace has been given a building – exactly the building we need to achieve what we have been dreaming of doing for two years now: Teach children about how symbiotic relationships make the world go round.

Our plan is to create an environment of experiential learning in a three-day per week after school and summer program as well as a one week intensive summer camp.

Both of the programs, called Garden Gnome Jr., will teach kids about many subjects, including:

•Aguaponics: How plants and animals get along – Biology. How pH balance, Nitrate, Nitrite, O2, and NH4 are naturally maintained – Chemistry. How plants live on fish waste, fish live on worms, worms live on compost and compost comes from food – Environment.

•Gardening: How kids can grow their own food at home. How to use permaculture systems and companion planting to avoid the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. How to start seeds, cultivate soil to get the best harvest. How and when to harvest what they have grown. How to save seeds from the productive plants to ensure the best garden next year.

•Nutrition: How food grown organically has higher amounts and quality of nutrients. How to use foods to compliment each other and achieve whole proteins from just vegetables that are grown. How to cook foods so that they don’t lose their nutritional value.

•Service: Kids will learn that not only will they benefit from the work of their hands, but their neighbors will also. Food harvested that is not taken or used by the students will be delivered to one of the local food banks

•Business: Hierarchy of leadership will be established – president, vice president, secretary, treasurer with emphasis placed on collaborative leadership styles, but helping students embrace. Students will be encouraged to find a way to sustain their program, whether by selling starts or seeds, or whole aguaponic systems that they can install and train the new owners on. They will be given opportunities to research marketing and methods for best practices for doing the business. Best practices for bookkeeping will be taught and exercised. Good stewardship will be encouraged throughout the program

•Mentoring: Students will be encouraged to work together, mentoring each other – younger to older and older to younger. They will be in an environment where we show by example, the following methodology: You Watch – I Do; You Help – I Do; You Do – I Help; You Do – I Watch. We will empower students to take ownership of their learning by their teaching one another, with only guidance, questions and examples by the team leads in the program.

The difference between the Garden Gnome program and what they have at school is in this program, students are encouraged to learn through experience. The whole space is their learning center. We have segments of hands-on skills, with the opportunity to research on computers and build models and mock-ups of their ideas. We will offer them time to be outside, working either in our hoop house or outdoor garden, or they will have the opportunity to research ways to improve the system already in place – offer suggestions and even make those changes with the blessing of the team.

In this program, students will be encouraged to fail – it’s only fish – its only seeds – They will be taught that failure is not a bad word – that failure is simply a stepping stone to bigger and better things. All of this will be presented from a position of love. When we can show our children – ALL children that we love them, they will make a POSITIVE difference in the world.

This program has already gone through a test, which was deemed successful by the participants, aged 9 – 17. In 2016, we invited 9 students to come to our headquarters located at 865 6th Street in Bremerton and build our initial aguaponics system. None of them knew the meaning of the word, but through providing them with the tools to research (a computer), and asking a few leading questions, they were able to define aguaponics and provide options as to how they wanted their system to look – instant ownership!

This program will benefit ANY school-age student that wants to participate (until we reach capacity), from ANY school district. The after-school program will be offered three days per week for 2 – 3 hours each day to start. The summer camp workshop will be 5 days each 7 hours long. Tuition for both programs has yet to be determined.

Program needs:

We will require computers and workspaces which are portable. We will also require shelving and storage. Our new location will require minor upgrades to bring it up to code, as well as building interior office space, for which we have teams of businesses volunteering their time and licensure, but we will need the materials to actually do the work. We will require tables and chairs (which will also be used for other programs). We will require basic school supplies: pencils, paper, rulers, erasers, whiteboards, easels, and other general class materials. We will need a couple of software programs to help the students with garden design, aguaponic system design, bookkeeping, and marketing. These we mostly already have, but will have to pay additional licensure fees for additional computers.

We would love to offer a stipend to our team members who will take charge of this program. The amount of time and energy that will go into the planning, curriculum building, and actual oversight will be prohibitive to many unless there is compensation. These team members are already ongoing volunteers of Seeds of Grace and know our systems well – but are maxed out on the time they can give without compensation. They will still likely volunteer well over 50% of their time even when they are compensated.

The aguaponic systems will be built from the ground up by the students with a grant that we hope to receive from First Federal Community Foundation. The gardens outside will be a community volunteer effort modeled after our ongoing programs.

We are obviously still developing this as a program, but the best part about that is, YOUR input will help shape it – which means that together we will build a program that will impact our youth in ways we NEVER dreamed!!!

If you are interested in joining the Seeds of Grace team in ANY capacity, please click THIS LINK and complete the form, so we can get the ball rolling – Also, let us know WHICH open house you will be coming to – Let’s start talking!

One more thing - We can't do any of this without YOUR help! Won't you please consider becoming a Perennial Partner? Giving just $10 per month will do WONDERS for all of our Junior Garden Gnomes.

Volunteers: A Resource Worth More Than Money

Today I can’t help but expound on the virtues of dedicated volunteers.  Being a volunteer myself, I hope you will in no way think I am singing my own praises – I am not. I am shouting from the top of Taipei 101 that Seeds of Grace is truly blessed with the biggest hearted, most creative and dedicated volunteers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing!

Truly, when I think about how we have struggled and where we have triumphed over the last four years, I am reminded about how truly blessed we are as an organization. We have teams of people who are chomping at the bit to get into the garden every year… We have more who only want to help with seemingly menial office and administrative tasks and even more who want to help us raise funds by building fabulous events and other fundraising activities.

One such activity recently won Seeds of Grace the top seat – Our small, baby-toddler organization went head to head with some really big organizations – well-established organizations, organizations with much bigger budgets than ours – and WE TIED FOR 1ST PLACE!!! A team of people took a miniscule fiscal allotment and fashioned something that represented our organization to a tee in the most creative way –  Now, I have never pretended to be artistic – I can’t apply the detail required to claim that trait – but when I laid out the idea for entering this contest – which included the general theme for the entry, a team of people came together, added the necessary flits and flares, assembled it and – all while providing the insight and applying the imagination – and made it the winner!

As I reflect on this one single activity, I realize it is a microcosm of how Seeds of Grace has been intentionally grown and developed over the last 4+ years. Not by my intention, though I would love to claim some of the yahoo for its success – but  I had this idea (God-bred for sure) and people, of course sent by God Himself, with skills more detailed and developed than mine have shaped the idea into programs, gardens, aguaponic systems, community education, fundraiser galas and comedy shows, artistic creations that win FIRST PLACE and all in all it is Seeds of Grace. My intention is simply to do God’s Will – that is all I can claim. Those with the detailed thinking – the know-how to build spreadsheets and filing systems, organize people and projects, engineer intricate systems and make flowers out of soda pop bottles – those people are the heart of this organization! Those volunteers have made this organization what it is… a tool for the Lord to use to grow His Kingdom organically… Sustainably.

Humbled. I am again humbled by God’s ever-present, all-knowing and omnipotent grace, which has brought so many across my path. I am so grateful for the ongoing blessing of new faces, bringing with them new ideas and new ways of thinking about how God is using Seeds of Grace to reach into the most broken of the broken. I am always in awe of how he uses resources – so many times without the knowledge of the resource itself (or himself! Or herself!). I am completely honored that so many of the volunteers who have been with Seeds of Grace from the beginning are still here in some capacity or another, supporting the mission to build sustainable, organic gardens in impoverished neighborhoods around the world to feed God’s Sheep. The seeds that we plant in the ground are fertilized by God’s blessing – then the seeds He plants in people’s hearts are grown by the love He shows us how to give.

Stewardship Beyond Minas

The New Year is upon us – in fact, we are 1/26th through it already!!! WHAT?!?! How can that be? This causes me a little stress, when I think about it. I mean, time is a resource, right? It is no less a resource than money. And if I am not a good steward of the time God has allotted me to do the work He has given me to do, is that no less impactful to the Mission He has me on than if I were to blatantly waste the money He blesses us with?

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Over the past several years, God has been calling me to simplify. I think every time I make a (what seems to me to be a) huge change and I feel so accomplished because if it, in a few short weeks, God is challenging me again to let something else go – to create a new habit or break an old one – to reduce my possessions, get rid of my smartphone, or any other kind of intentional action that is designed to create space and time all to worship him at a greater level.

Simplify. I am not sure when it started exactly; before Seeds of Grace for sure. In my personal life, He led me to seek out simpler pleasures – I don’t need the flashy, tourist lifestyle when I travel, I am truly satisfied to be in the culture, spend time with friends and family away from all the bells and whistles. This has served me well when I have travelled abroad for Seeds of Grace.  Anything from meal prep to household décor – minimalist for sure.

And now, as I walk in the midst of my Seeds of Grace day, I find this 1/26th portion of the year that has already passed me by, has taken with it some unrecoverable time; time that could be considered wasted – I am convicted of this daily. Realizing that I only have 25 more of these sections left, it truly causes me to re-think my call to simplify. As much as I am proud of the work I have done, I have so much more to do. As overwhelming as the year ahead is, I also realize I can only do so much!

We are a growing organization – we are thriving in some areas, struggling in others. We could do so much more in 2018 if we had more hands – specialized positions need to be filled ranging from board member, to garden weeder – from admin team to committee chairs – and  EVERYTHING in between. Would you be interested in helping us to reach our goals this year? Would you please join us and help us to better stewards of the time we have been given as it is a resource?

Please click HERE to take a look at all of the opportunities to serve.

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.