A few nights ago I said at the dinner table that I wanted Winnefred’s wedding journals to reach more people. They’re all kinds of cute and happy — a spot of sunshine for couples to remember their special engagement season. It’s spring after all, so why not put some ads on social media for brides-to-be? But these days have been weird for business owners — I’m just going to say it. To sell or not to sell, that is the question! How can we be sensitive to our surroundings but firm in our faith and endeavors? Especially in my lane that straddles wholesale and retail sales…which is another story. But I have found this (sometimes dry) wilderness to also be an extraordinary watering of the Holy Spirit. A relinquishing of grasp wrapped around my own watering hose. A reminder God makes the seeds grow.

Later that night before I could launch my advertising plan, I received a message from one of our amazing stockists. It was an order for 40 wedding journals! F O R T Y, not 30, not 50.

40: a number Biblically significant and the actual sum of our year, 2020.

Not to mention Isaiah 40 is my favorite passage. We see this number repeated throughout Scripture — a signal for us to press into it more.

Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights.

Elijah survived 40 days without food or water.

Noah lived on an ark while flood waters raged for 40 days and nights.

Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights, even through temptation.

And so on…These are just a few of the trials and temptations God’s people faced throughout Scripture. Their humanness and sin tempted them into relying on their own strength to make it. But God tells another story through them — a story of life, redemption, and provision only He gives. And He’s telling this story through us today. These days we are just as easily faced with temptation to believe if we try harder with our own strength, resources, and boot-strapped mojo — we will succeed. The world tells us to worker harder, longer, for success and glory — All! Our! Own! And we’re convinced to believe it sometimes. But I’ll let you in on a nugget I’m learning…God delights in us working hard for His kingdom, but we are not created to work alone, or work for self-proclaimed victories. The truth is we are not self made. We too are created beings with the opportunity to co-create with our Maker.

We plant. God makes the seed grow. We harvest. But we cannot take all credit for the crop. God is at work in us, through us, with us. Even in dry lands of trials, waiting, temptation, down right struggles — He is still Emmanuel. His Name is God with us! We are never alone to fight our battles or celebrate our victories. Even in the middle of a pandemic when areas of life feel like empty fields, He is at work.

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t work hard for something we believe in, or to survive for that matter. But the root — our motivation transcending current circumstances — matters. I’ve been asking myself again a lot lately…what is my “why” for what I do? I’ve heard many times that those with a “why” can bear most any “how.” (I googled for the source…it’s Friedrich Nietzsche). Why am I planting? Why are you planting? It’s a question worth asking in both dry wilderness and rolling streams.

God whispered for my hands to set down the garden hose when 40 journals went out the door in a day to homes in places far away. The seeds had already been planted, and He was doing the watering. So my hands were left open with humility and gratitude because of these gifts. God reminded me He is in control. As I surrender the seeds — the very products we create here at Winnefred Austin — to the Lord, He alone is able to grow them in ways in line with His plan. For His kingdom. Just as it says in Isaiah 55:11, a verse scribbled on my studio white board — When God sends out His Word, it will produce fruit wherever He sends it! Even when we think we’re planting a tiny mustard seed, little do we know what God has in store for it and for our faith. The same is true for us, friend — for you. There is so much more to come than we can see today. Good things take time. Good seeds do too.

 As I packed up the box of 40 journals, I looked down at my shoes sitting beside me. The sole had the number 40 printed in well worn blue — my shoe size. Yet another reminder no matter where I walk, God is with me. Through every step and every trial He is making a way through the wilderness. So we can walk in the wilderness trusting God. Like the hundreds of magnolia blossoms adorning the tree in my front yard — ready to burst open any day now — we too can wait with eager anticipation of new life. Undiscovered beauty. Growth to come.

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