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The Risk of Exploration

Updated: May 6, 2020

The Calling

We all want to trust God. But trust isn’t built without risk. It’s that motion forward in obedience, before all the details are clear. I took a step of faith my freshman year of college when I changed my major at Baylor University to Religion. What would I do upon graduating with this major? I wasn’t sure. I just sensed God was leading me. In my obedience, I felt far more at hope of growing closer in my relationship with Him than at risk of failure. That propelled me forward.

My senior year, as I was seeking God for next steps, He spoke to my heart in the form of a thought, "I told him to go to a place I will show him." Upon hearing this, I realized God was referencing the beginning of Abraham's journey, where He called Abraham to follow Him to an unknown land. On this journey, Abraham would discover a promised place of residence, and his identity as a "great nation" would be revealed (Genesis 12:2 NKJV). Although the location was undefined, Abraham's identity in the world was already pronounced and named by God. The calling was clear. Like Abraham, God has called me to first follow Him unto a destination undisclosed.

My calling is clear…


I'm called to communicate God's heart and to teach His people how to form an intimate connection with Jesus and with one another. So that they run the race marked out for them with joy, experiencing daily transformation within their souls, revelation of their true identity, and effectiveness in their God-given mission.

In 2015, God encouraged me to approach Him at the end of each year to ask about my next steps. So that's what I've done. For the last five years, I've paused to ask the Father what He has for me in the coming year. I would then follow His leading of peace and His still small voice of direction. How wonderful are the places where the Father has led me! So kind of Him to take me on adventures I wouldn't have known had I not trusted Him to guide me. Like Abraham, I haven't always known the place, but I've known His nearness.


The Shift

Towards the end of 2019, I sensed a shift was coming. Longing to be obedient, I asked God what He wanted next for me. In response I’d hear, "what do you want, my daughter?" The more I received that answer from God, and in counsel from spiritual leaders, the more it released me to explore the desires of God within me. God was giving me permission.


During this season of responding to the Lord's question, my company, Crossroads Marketing and Consulting, LLC, was in the middle of a contract renegotiation period with Chick-fil-A San Antonio, New Braunfels, & Kerrville Area Market (SANBK). For the last two years, I served as their digital marketing consultant. I didn’t have enough clarity to pull out of the process, so I prayed, “Jesus, if this season has come to an end would you close this door and open the doors I have permission to walk through.”


After preparing the proposal, the day came for me to meet with Chick-fil-A SANBK Area Market leadership to hear their decision. I remember my nervousness when I received the text that we'd meet later that afternoon. I communicated these emotions to God and paused to ask, "Jesus, should I be nervous?" Sitting silently to hear His response of course, I heard back, "No." In follow up, I asked, "Why shouldn't I be?" I was comforted to hear, "Because I am your portion." The Father was referencing Psalms 73:26 to me where the Levite pens, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." In this Psalm, the Levite was referencing his dependence upon the Lord to take care of all his needs. God was his fate. On God He was dependent.


I began our meeting by sharing this word with the lead operator. Little did I know it would encourage him as well. He was in awe of how God provided the encouragement he needed for his own challenges. Our conversation then turned to the purpose of our meeting. He communicated that The Market decided not to renew my contract. My emotions were mixed. It was the closing of an era, but I had joy. Jesus made the path forward clear.


Exploring New Territory

So, what's next? Well, in October of last year, I was offered the opportunity to join the Wildfire Network staff as the Facilitator of Coaching. In this role, I have the privilege of supporting Wildfire Network Mission Leaders in their efforts to further their ministry by helping them mature in their dependence upon the Spirit of God. I facilitate group and one on one coaching sessions where they intentionally listen for the wisdom, counsel, and encouragement of Jesus. After each session they walk away equipped to live responsive to Christ. The result is a thriving leader able to navigate personal transformation and challenges in ministry. I love that I get to empower the Bride of Christ in her God-given mission.


Upon acceptance, I sensed God was going to include something else on this journey. Without knowing what else, I knew my first step forward was to accept.

In late December, Cayce Harris, Executive Director of ONE, asked me to consider joining their team part-time as an apprentice. At ONE, I'm being trained in connection prayer models, equipped to walk people through trauma, and discipled to aid believers in developing a more secure attachment to Christ and others. I'm also working with ONE and leaders throughout the city of San Antonio to build a Leadership Institute. This institute will bring in new perspectives from around the city as we partner with a diverse group of leaders.


The journey is just beginning. But I can trust God in the days ahead because He's been faithful in the days past. I'm maturing, leading, and participating in healthy healing communities. I'm experiencing joy as I share with others what I'm receiving in fellowship with Christ and fellow believers. Moving forward, I'll continue to share stories about the work happening in my heart and in the city in a variety of ways:


  • Email newsletters

  • The Returning to Joy Podcast

  • Returningtojoy.com – My new website 🙌


My goal is to share my joy with you that your joy may also be full. I know that the Lord is with me, but I also want to walk with you in this exciting new ministry season. So thanks for sitting with me and reading this letter.


With Joy,



How you can support me on this journey:


  • Join The Prayer Team - Signup for my monthly newsletter to receive updates and prayer requests

  • Give Financial Support - I'm looking to fundraise $1,500 in monthly support

  • Subscribe To The Podcast - Be encouraged by weekly stories of hope, healing, and joy

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Gabrielle Michelle Leonard

Gabrielle M. Leonard

Founder and Director of
Returning to Joy

Gabrielle Michelle Leonard is a dynamic speaker, facilitator, certified mental health coach, minister, and podcaster. She is known for being a captivating storyteller and bible teacher who imparts practical wisdom that heals the soul.

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