Archives for posts with tag: Faith


IMG_5451Each fall a beautiful day arrives with just enough chill to remind me of Friday night football games. Of new notebooks and pencils for school. Of a new season and a chance for new beginnings.

A chance to remind me of my one-word theme for 2015: start.

In January I realized I had saved my favorite journal – a treasured gift from my husband – for seven years without writing a single word in it. What if my penmanship was messy? What if all I could think of to write was a shopping list?

I vowed to start a project that really stretched me and to start kicking fear out the door. I told myself I’d start acting like this life here is a gift, and I really don’t have a moment to waste on worry or self-doubt or unforgiveness. I would simply have the faith to start.

So, as insignificant as it sounds, I gave myself permission to use the journals I loved but had been saving. I even took some to work, and I filled them with to-do lists and story ideas. Each time I turned a decorated page, I smiled at God’s gift of artistry.

I started writing a book with a friend, and we’re beginning the process of trying to get an agent to represent us. We had talked about this project for a few years, but this was the year to take that first step. The year to start.

It’s also the year to start paying attention to the things that make life harder and begin to find solutions. I panic about driving in the snow, so maybe when our oldest graduates from high school, we should move closer to where I work.


I knew it was a good word. I just didn’t know how much it would shape me. I didn’t realize it would give me the OK to try, and I didn’t know how powerful that would be.

In a few days, when the sun shines and the breeze is just the right temperature, I hope you’ll recognize the beginning of this new season. I hope you’ll start, too.

13Nancy Gullo will tell you she isn’t a great gardener. She bought azaleas and put them in heavy shade, for goodness’ sakes.

And she didn’t spend much time decorating the old coffee can she has sitting on her bench in Bloomfield, NY. Just a simple white label that she wrote on in cursive: Leave your prayers to be lifted to God.

So, in her eyes, the sliver of her yard that touches the post office’s parking lot isn’t perfect, but it welcomes all of us even in our imperfection and brokenness. It offers a respite from the sun, the sweet scent of flowers and a place for a weary soul to rest.

It meets the need for hope and grace, and it meets that need now, today.

Gullo has a theory that if something like visiting a friend comes to mind more than once, she should probably go visit that friend. She shouldn’t put it off or wait for an invitation.

I tend to hesitate. I want the right words for the sympathy card, the right recipe for the meal. I worry and fret over being perfect when I should really be concerned about being punctual and about being present.

Showing up at the right time to carry part of the burden. Showing up to say how proud I am of an accomplishment or a milestone. Showing up in time to grab my friend’s hand and walk the road together.

I couldn’t tell you much of what people said in the blur after Daddy died, but almost 14 years later, I still remember being surrounded by love and carried by the strength of others in the days and months that followed.

Gullo’s garden is beautiful and serene, and it is perfect.

It’s perfect for all those who have sat with heavy hearts and asked for the healthy delivery of a baby, for their husband to find work and for their friend to feel better.

It’s perfect for the kid who wanted a prayer to pass a test and for the old biker who was thankful for a place to sit for a spell.

It’s perfect because it’s perfectly timed and perfectly placed.


Sharon Garlough BrownEditor’s note: This is the final piece in a series of four author interviews.

I first fell in love with Sharon Garlough Brown’s story in Sensible Shoes – a work of fiction full of spiritual truths. That book introduces readers to four strangers who meet at a spiritual retreat center and begin to learn the value of community and of spiritual practices like walking a labyrinth and praying the examen.

Hannah is a pastor on a forced sabbatical. Meg is a widow haunted by her past and struggling with an empty nest. Mara has experienced a lifetime of rejection and now is in a difficult marriage. And Charissa is a graduate student who desperately wants to do what is right.

Their stories continue in Two Steps Forward, which releases in October and offers plenty of truth of its own.

I feel like your characters in Sensible Shoes became my friends, and I’ve been wondering about how they are all doing. Are they all included in the sequel? If so, do they share the spotlight like they did before – or does this book focus in on one character in particular?

Yes, Two Steps Forward follows the stories of each of the four main characters in Sensible Shoes. It picks up right where Sensible Shoes ends, with Meg on the plane to England.

In your first book, we saw how each character had struggles and spiritual lessons. What are some of the issues we’ll see them deal with in the sequel?

One of the differences with Two Steps Forward is that the characters are no longer participating in a retreat together. So the question is, what will they remember (or forget) about what they’ve learned, especially when life falls apart? The primary theme of Two Steps Forward is persevering in hope and trusting that somehow in the midst of the mess, Jesus comes to reveal his presence. Since transformation is a slow and non-linear process, you’ll see the characters wrestling with some of the same issues they struggled with in Sensible Shoes: perfectionism, anxiety, rejection, grief.

One of the things I enjoyed about Sensible Shoes was that it combined a great fiction piece with solid spiritual practices that I could put to use in my daily life. Is there more of that in this book?

Yes! Though Two Steps Forward does not contain teaching handouts like Sensible Shoes, the spiritual disciplines are embedded and integrated into the story. You’ll get to watch how the characters are practicing the disciplines they’ve learned. A study guide is included at the back of the book, with opportunity to engage with reflection questions and spiritual disciplines.

how to fight fearWhen Benjamin was 3, he asked for baby alligators for Christmas. Then, around the age of 5, he wanted a bat house for our back yard. And now, at 7, he’s interested in having his own beehive.

Outwardly, I play the role of supportive and inquisitive mom but my husband can tell you how I threatened to put our home on the market four years ago when a bat got in our house and how last week I screamed and ran from a creepy silverfish that I promise was coming after me. But since Benjamin’s interests are great and noble, I downplay my fear and try not to taint his opinion.

Fear is tragically contagious, and it can drain the joy out of life and take years to recover from. I don’t want to be the one who introduces that in his life, or in the life of anyone else. That’s why I reached out to Sweet Beez, a nonprofit that puts bee hives on roofs in the Rochester area, and asked if they might let a curious 7-year-old come see what they do.

A few weeks later we found ourselves with about a dozen people on top of a once-bustling warehouse tasting honey and listening to volunteers talk about the importance of bees. It turns out not all of their bees made it through the rough winter, so they would be adding new bees to a hive that night.

Would anybody like to put on a jacket and veil and help?

how to fight fear
how to fight fearMy son was the first to reach the jackets. A few other adults followed, but none got as close as Benjamin, who wore man-sized gloves that went well beyond his elbows and helped empty the bees out of their traveling case.

Bees flew all around his head and hundreds more buzzed mere inches from his fingers. But Benjamin wasn’t shaken. He had listened to the seasoned beekeepers, and they told him he wouldn’t get hurt if he put on the protective suit.

It made sense to him to trust those who really knew. It made sense to choose faith over fear.

I was glad we had come – and glad that confidence and courage are contagious, too.
how to fight fear

Your dance mattersWith a husband motivated to sample European cheeses and little boys itching to be outside, we found ourselves at the public market on a Saturday winding through the booths of apples and leeks and spicy pickles.

The crowd flowed by the bell peppers and the pineapples and the asparagus and eventually pooled in a small circle around a man singing and playing the guitar. A woman with red hair and bright blue leggings started to dance, her movements as wavy as her hair. Even though she drew our attention, she seemed to not need an audience. She seemed to just need to dance.

A little girl, I’m guessing about 6 years old, made her way closer to the musician. At first she swayed in her long, dark coat. Then, she danced, too. Sometimes she imitated the woman across from her, but mainly she moved her own way.

A toddler in a stroller started smiling and then waving his arms at the woman and the musician. And his mom sat next to him and tapped her feet.

Isn’t it always this way?

One brave soul begins to dance and that gives others permission to take a chance, permission to be vulnerable and share their art. One man takes to the podium and shares with the world his dream of a day when all are equal and that gives others confidence and direction.

One mother says no more to addiction and abuse and generations are changed. One co-worker pulls up a chair and tells us we can do better than this I’m-rushing-but-I-can’t-keep-up life, and we all sigh and relax our shoulders. We start to spend more time and money and grace on people.

One person issues the invitation and others, buoyed by her courage, begin to dance. It works in a group of millions, or hundreds or two because when we share – our art, our story, our truth, even our struggles – it strengthens us and our faith.

It reminds us we aren’t alone and our dance matters.

It matters among the beets and the carrots at the market. It matters at home, in the coffee shop and in the cubicle. It matters in the pews, in the studio and in the seat of the tractor.

It’s always this way. Your dance matters.

your dance matters


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