Archives for posts with tag: Faith


A few weeks ago I was chopping carrots for soup while my mind stewed over hurts, over wounds and worries.


I wasn’t ready to forgive.


How would this turn out for him two years from now? Twenty years from now?


How many times must I, the one who knows what is best, reach out?


I knew many of the answers, even before the questions were finished. Of course forgiveness matters as much for me as for the person I am angry with. Of course I need to trust God with today — and with tomorrow. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that day that real-life, practical faith was inconvenient.

I like faith better in theory and at a safe distance. I’ll pray for those in prison and those far away who suffer from drug addictions. I’ll talk all day long about the beauty of grace and God’s love for all of us, and I will tell you how I love a great redemption story.

But can I be real honest here? Faith can be inconvenient when the one who needs grace and compassion lives in your home, when the one who hurt your feelings is a person you usually hug. And, yes, I love a good redemption story, but we broken and bruised humans can make a lot of mess before the story makes its turn for the better.

There, in the mess, is when it seems easier to walk away, more convenient to hold a grudge and tally the score. That’s where I was that day chopping carrots.

I was right, and I had been wronged. I could teach him a lesson about his mistake, or I could show him how to live in grace and help him write his redemption story.


I could be right or I could do what’s right.


By the time I moved on to chopping the celery, I had my answer: faith — even though it was inconvenient. Because when it is most inconvenient, it is probably the most needed. For others and for me.

IMG_9027IMG_9014For almost two years I talked to the boys about the Great Salt Plains in Oklahoma — how we would leave the trees and hills of Tulsa and trade them for the red dirt and flat, fertile plains to the west.

I described to them how you can watch a thunder storm careen across the sky for miles without buildings and lights spoiling the view and how, when we got to the salt plains, we would see the white stretch out all the way to the horizon.

Still, when the dirt road ended and we passed through the gate, they weren’t sure what to make if all that salt. It was overwhelming.

We brought out our borrowed shovel and began to dig shallow holes. We poured water down the sides and caught glimpses of sparkling crystals. The boys filled one plastic cup with treasures and started on another while I looked at their smudged faces and their shoes caked with mud and salt. Our tires were white. The knees of Jessie’s black jeans were white.

Everything was white because there was an abundance of salt. Not a salt shaker full, acres and acres full.

The Christian scriptures tell us that people of faith are to be light and salt in this world, and in all these years that I’ve been reading that verse, I’ve pictured salt on my dinner table. I’ve thought about salt’s importance in preserving and seasoning, but I’ve visualized it as small and scarce. I forgot that it fills oceans and seas and mines — even a portion of the plains in my home state.

I forgot that there is plenty of salt for purity, for sharing the flavor of compassion and grace. If we want, the salt that was once used to bind people in an unbreakable covenant of friendship could overflow on our tables and in our lives.

And the light that shines in darkness? The symbol of God’s love and hope? It’s plentiful, too, year after year after year.

That changes things for me. It shifts my thinking and my fears.

Unlimited love. Hope. Purity. Healing. Grace.

And suddenly, like the boys, I’m overwhelmed.


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.


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