Desert Journeys, Part 1

Desert Journeys...a faith journey through the desert of adversity and sanctification.

Once upon a time… It was September when we moved into our dream home – our dream life up in the Appalachian Mountains. The pretty log cabin sits quietly on several acres of land and is surrounded by forest on three sides, with a beautiful view of the mountains from the cozy back porch.

Butterflies, deer, bunnies galore – were there to welcome us when we arrived to this haven, and when the quietness of the place seemed almost deafening compared to the city sounds we were so acquainted with, the crickets seemed more than obliged to serenade us with melodious sonnets of Nature-Song.

Desert Journeys...a faith journey through the desert of adversity and sanctification

I remember waking up on our first morning in that cabin. The sun was just coming up over the mountain and as I turned over in my bed toward the window looking out to the backyard, I noticed two beautiful horses. They belonged to our neighbor, whose land comes right up to ours on the east side of our home. God had sent these two beauties to greet me and as I grabbed my phone to take a picture, I thanked the Lord for this unexpected early morning treasure.

Later that day the clouds moved in and it rained for two weeks straight. I had never seen or heard anything like it. It rained so hard that the sound of it pounding on our tin roof was almost overwhelming. This meant we were stuck inside, unable to explore our land, so I spent the time unpacking and setting up house.

It was pure bliss making this house into a home for our family. Each box that I unpacked represented another step forward in my goal of gifting my family with a serene little haven in the mountains. I worked each day putting things in the new places, arranging furniture in a way that when the weather turned cold we could all gather around the soapstone fire-stove and drink cider, tell stories, and read books. I placed fluffy, overstuffed pillows on the furniture and I laid a bear-skin rug in the middle of the floor, along with candles on every end table so that our evenings could glow incandescently.

Desert journeys through the deserts of adversity and sanctification.

We moved here from the Midwest. It was there that I met my husband, married him, and then had children. We began our life together in a lovely tri-level home in the middle of the city. I really loved that house, but after a while, having the kitchen on the top floor and the family room on the lower level, I felt a huge disconnect: it seemed we were never all on the same floor at the same time. It simply felt too spread out.

Our move to this cabin would prove to be a huge change for us. Country life was just what we needed, and having everything on the same floor, except for the loft, caused our family life to change too – for the better. A closeness, a togetherness – drew our little tribe into a cocoon of familial bliss and we loved and lived and thanked God above.

Desert journeys...a journey of faith through the deserts of adversity and sanctification.

Eventually the rain stopped. As the sun lit up our world, we couldn’t wait to get outdoors and explore! The mountains were alive! You could smell, taste, and hear the very essence of life, and you can bet we soaked up every single bit of it. We were like sponges soaking up the wet, the alive, the moist. This land – God used it to breathe new life into tired souls. We walked the trails, we smelled the flowers that were everywhere, and we embarked on this new and unchartered adventure – and it all just filled us up in places we didn’t know were empty. And each night as we pillowed our heads, I thought to myself, “Thank God. We. Are. Home.

Home…it’s what we make of it. It’s not a particular building or piece of land. It is family and love and unity, and whether we are in a house or a tent, in a sky scraper or a motor home – if we are together, we are home.

But the truth of that last statement didn’t really take root within my own heart until just recently. Because recently something happened to our comfortable little world and God, rather unexpectantly, told us to get up with only the clothes on our backs…and go.

And so we left it all behind, for now, temporarily. (We think this leaving our beautiful world is only temporary, but the truth is we don’t know.) Will God lead us back to our mountain? Definitely maybe. But for now we go. We trust. We obey. And LOVE guides us through sandy dunes and dry places.

Desert journeys...a journey of faith through the deserts of adversity and sanctification

The promised land…

Is mine an actual place? Or is it a spiritual destination to which I will finally arrive after trekking through the deserts of adversity, sanctification, and death to self?

Perhaps it is both geographical and spiritual in location.

When the Isrealites were in the desert – in that place between bondage and freedom, hopelessness and promise – were they able to see beauty there? Did the parched ground and dry air blind them to the desert hues, preventing them from pouring praise out of tired lips?

Desert lust – the lusting and craving after more…it is sin in the basest form. It is too easy to complain and want something more or different, and the backdrop of of a wilderness lends itself willingly to such stubborn unyielding. But to gather the manna and lean on Grace so we can be thankful for the familiar – and not tire of it – well, this is simply the miracle of gratefulness. So, when the tumbleweed is blowing around the vast and empty spaces of time, I, this desert traveler, am reminded that I can become light and weightless and acquiesce to the breath of God – that holy breeze, as it blows down on and across the circumference of my desert body.

Will I bloom here? I wonder. Will I yield to such a degree that God will touch my cactus heart and transform it into magenta flowers that grace dryness with life?

In the Chilean desert, a climactic event takes place when there are unusually high amounts of rainfall: a blossoming awakens the dry places and the Atacama Desert gives birth to flower babies that soak up the expanse with vibrant color. Orange and purple and magenta breathe new life into the dead places. But what about me?

Desert journeys through the desert of adversity and sanctification.

There is a wilderness in my heart – not just in my life. These wild places are aching to exchange the bleak for the pretty. But this journey demands a daily faith…even when things are slow. God says that I should pay attention to the cloudy pillar by day and the fire by night, so as to be led safely on to better places. He says I need to pray for DAILY bread, among other things. Daily, not monthly or yearly. That means ditch the planner and trust Him to give me and my family what we need…today. This daily asking and trusting – it is a lesson in faith that feels uncomfortable, yet, everything within me knows that my itsy-bitsy, not-even-the-size-of-a-mustard-seed faith – needs to grow…big time.

God set me here, right here, and I want to grow right on into my Promised Land. And I want my kids to see how big God is and how faithful He is to answer our prayers and meet our every need. I want to be like one of those desert trees that Providence places in the desert to provide shade and moisture to other weary travelers.

You see, He says to me, I will “guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” (Isaiah 58:11)

And I believe Him. But I’m not sure what comes next, and that’s okay.

Desert journeys through the deserts of adversity and sanctification.

So, I sow in tears, fully believing I’ll reap in joy. I sow seeds of surrender that involve the laying down of stuff, people, and control…putting it all on the altar of God. He tells me to leave it all there and trust as I place my foot within the footprints of the Shepherd to walk the road He leads me on.

Maybe you’re in that in-between desert place too? God bless you and give you the grace to see His hand in EVERYTHING.

I want to end this blog post neatly and place a pretty bow on top, but I can’t because our family is still on this journey. All I can say is stay tuned…to be continued. Peace and grace to you.