Thursday, October 31, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Grace

Five Minute FridayIf you had told me nine months ago when I first ventured into this Five Minute Friday escapade how delightfuly addicting it would be I’m not sure I would have believed you. If you had told me I would meet and become friends with some amazing women who I would never know except through the view of my laptop screen, I would have laughed and brushed your idea aside. If you had told me that those friendships would deepen and grow; that some of them would become as important as my real life relationships; that in nine months I’d be sitting across the table from a Five Minute Friday friend in my kitchen? Well, we’d have probably not been talking anymore.

But God is amazing and has His own plans that are far larger than mine. I have made tremendous friends through this wonderful online community and am thrilled to be sharing my kitchen table with one of those friends tonight. Can I tell you that this doesn’t feel like meeting someone for the first time? I feel like I’m saying hello to someone I’ve known for a while. Having Karrilee here tonight makes this kitchen into a sacred, shared space. I’m so blessed. This is the joy of this community at its best – finding and making friends that will become a real part of our lives – because of our shared faith. Because of His love.

Because no matter where we are; no matter what distance separates some or all of us, this is a fellowship of friends that gather here to write into the wee hours of the morning; then reading each others words and sharing encouragement as we go. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This Week: Grace

Go

This word tonight hits me hard. I’ve been writing so deep into the desert journey and so much of that space is intertwined with grace. Grace given and grace received. Lessons learned. Another step grown.

And yet, there are times – even now – when I feel like I’ve not learned a thing. When the edges around me that should have been softened and smoothed; rubbed to a finished shine by these experiences and glowing with grace – they’re still as hard and sharp as ever.

Just tonight, stepping to the door – the door that wasn’t supposed to be knocked on or had its bell rung because, hello, the light’s off – opening the door to small voices calling “Halloween” instead of “trick or treat” and I have a flash of irritation and annoyance. Why are you here? Why don’t you know the code that says don’t come when the light is off. Why ….

Why am I sitting here with a large bowl of candy if I didn’t think anyone was going to come by? Why can’t I smile kindly into small faces that are reveling in the pure joy of wandering about for candy and just give a kind greeting back? Without feeling that pang of exasperation. It’s such a small thing.

And it’s the small things that undo me. How many times to I stumble through my day tripping over opportunities for grace to abound and instead fall flat with impatience or anger. I am more ungraceful in my living than I would like to be and I am not proud of it.

My heart’s desire is to be an extension of the grace that was given freely to me – because so much has been given. I want to live my life in the grace by which we stand. Rejoicing and hoping and giving thanks in Him – the giver of all grace.

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How to Join

Want to know about Lisa Jo Baker, how Five Minute Friday got started, and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Goodbye to You – Leaving the Desert

I am at the end of the desert again. It hardly seems possible. I feel like it was just two days ago I was desperately seeking encouragement from fellow writers for the unthinkable undertaking – wondering if it would be possible; wondering if this was something I could accomplish; feeling so much like He was guiding me in this direction; yet letting all my doubts and fears flow over me like water over polished rocks. Thank you for coming alongside with me.

This experiment of words, this retelling and recounting of the desert journey – it stripped me bare again. With over twenty-two thousand words I unfolded myself like I never thought possible to an audience that may or may not see this. I trust God to guide the readers here who need to see these words. And I am left with a similar feeling as before – when it was time to walk out of the desert.

I am not sure if I am ready to leave.

That may seem a strange thing – coming from a thirsty, tired, worn out desert wanderer. But here’s some of what echoes back to me from that time:
in quiet moments
i learned to love the desert.
found grace in the desert.
found the heart of my God in the desert.
found the voice that spoke to my soul
in times of need
and painful want.

there is so much want.
i want. we want. she wants.

i want to divest myself of all the wants
and simply be.

to discover the purity of
my mitochondrial existence
that comes
when want dies
when i die
when it is no longer i who live.

surrender

it's that simple.
so simple.
letting go.
There is truth in this: things are simpler in the desert. When everything is ripped away and you are left with barely necessities in your hands – and hands holding family – when you literally look to God for your daily bread and daily breath, your communion with Him is tight and close and your walk is intimate. You are at your Father’s feet and in His presence with every inhale and exhale – seeking His face and His will as you make your way through plains and passages; placing one foot in front of the other; just moving forward. When you come to the edge; standing there looking out into the rest of the world – full of promise and bright fulfillment – it’s hard not to see it as clutter for a moment. Noise. Distraction. Necessary interference that comes between your heart and the heart of God. How will you hear Him without the stillness of the desert to focus and hone your listening skills? And then I remember again:
it is the desert
and the still small voice
in the midst of the storm
that will quiet me
and sustain me
through whatever's next on this passage.
Part of the desert journey is learning to listen. Part of that intimate fellowship is knowing His voice so keenly that you can discern it in and amongst the chatter and noise of the everyday outside the desert. Because we must leave. It is not our call to stay. Our call is to go and to tell. To share. It is the sharing of ourselves, of our tangle, of our messy, everyday stories that brought us into the desert and the ones we lived through in the desert – this is what we need to tell now. This is what I need to tell now. Because through the telling and the sharing and the revealing of our hearts and the work that He is doing in our hearts; His healing; His miracles; His grace – this is how the world will be changed.

This is part of my secret that I get to tell now. Now that you have read my words and heard my stories. I still haven’t given up hope that I can change the world. I don’t believe that it’s going to be in a large and mighty way – I don’t believe that’s my call. God knows me too well for that. He’s taking this desert walking woman with a passion for words and story and asking her to tell, share, and reveal in small moments and small ways. And somehow in His hands, this is going to change something. This is going to change everything.

It’s going to change my world.


I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Want more in the 31 Days of Lessons in the Desert series? Just click here! During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Growing – Not Just Going

“Ah-ha” moments often come out of the blue and catch us off guard; smack us upside the head; right-size our world. I had a revelation like that deep in my desert time. I was reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door for the hundredth (two-hundredth? three hundredth?) time. My favorite author. Her popular children’s series. The following books perhaps slightly less known that the first title, A Wrinkle in Time. Same characters. Same idea. Good vs. evil. And this time, with a cherubim – and that one not how you might imagine it at all. In the final part – the one that always grabs me up tight by the throat – Meg is desperate to save her brother’s life and must convince the farandole inside one of his mitochondria to deepen and accept its role as a mature fara. While this plot point standing alone may not make sense to the unread, what I want you to hear is the idea of growing deeper.

Deepening may have been one of my most important lessons from the desert. When the realization sunk in that I needed to be listening and learning in the desert. Stop being angry. Stop flailing about. Be still. Hear what He had to say. This was my turn to deepen and sink my roots into His heart and into the experience of what He was teaching me. This was my crossroads.



This revelation changed everything for me. Although I was sometimes still impatient and frustrated, I looked at the desert with renewed purpose; with eyes opened to new truths – the most important truth: He was going to renew me in the desert and make the changes in me that had been a long time coming. The changes that would transform my life. All the lessons that had come before shifted into focus with my transformed view.

There will be a tipping point for you in your desert if you allow the Lord to work in your life. I understand that in the beginning, it doesn’t seem like there can be purpose in the dryness or a reason for the suffering. But all these things work together to shape us and create us into the person that He has in mind – the person He wants us to be.

Maybe you’re standing at your crossroads today. Is it time for you to deepen? Is it time to release the anger and be still for just a moment?

Allow yourself to take time in His presence and ask for the reason behind your journey. He is with you here and has placed you in this time for a specific purpose. God will not leave you alone on this journey, and He will not leave you without answers, if only you will seek His face.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation! Want more in the 31 Days of Lessons in the Desert series? Just click here!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Friends & Family on the Outskirts Wish People in the Desert Knew

This is somewhat less familiar territory for me, and yet I know I’ve been in situations where someone I know is the one in the desert and I’m the one watching them walk through it. I think it becomes a bit different after you’ve been a desert walker yourself – you never quite lose the feel of the grit between your toes or the pounding heat on your head. Metaphorical as it may be, you just don’t forget. Nevertheless, I want to tackle the outside looking in because of the numerous wonderful people who came alongside me and my family while we were in the desert. Several of these thoughts stem from conversations I had with them.

Add caption
I can’t imagine how hard this is, but I wish you would just talk to me. Communication is a big one. It’s painfully easy to become swamped in the everyday of the desert and not come up for air. Not because you don’t want to, but because there are times that it takes everything you’ve got to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. The people in your life who are close to you, the ones Dr. Brene Brown talked about being your “move-the-body” people, can see this happening. And they want to be there for you. But they love you and respect you enough to give you the space you need. Let me add that they also love you enough to come on in if you’re quiet for too long. These people are intuitive and are watching you. They’re waiting patiently for an invitation to come in and bless you, but wait too long and you may be getting a blessing you didn’t see coming! Talk to them and share your burden. Friends like this were made for times like these.

I love you. I don’t care if you’re broke/not dressed up/having a bad hair day/been crying for three days straight, I just want to go out for coffee – and I’m treating. I don’t know about you, but when I was in my desert I found a million reasons not to see people for something as simple as coffee. I didn’t have anything appropriate to wear, I couldn’t even afford coffee, I looked like a wreck. The friends who came for me anyway – who said, “yes, I hear you, but we’re going out in spite of that” brought such moment of joy into my life. They lifted me out of the doldrums and the minutiae of the desert for a few hours and refreshed me. I’ve had the pleasure of pulling a friend or two into a coffee shop for an hour or two for a break and it is such a genuine joy for the giver. When you’re not in a desert, being a small oasis for a friend who is can be such a privilege. Desert walkers, think about this the next time a friend asks you out. God may be laying this outing on their heart – this may be their opportunity to be His hands and feet to you. Don’t allow this blessing to pass them by.

I see you. When you’re overcome by adversity in the desert, there are times when you want nothing more than to know that others still remember who you are – that they see you – not your circumstances. They do. Friends and relatives of desert walkers see nothing as clearly as the ones they love. They see the troubles that surround them and pray without ceasing that those times would end, but true friends never stop seeing the ones they love in the midst of the maelstrom. There isn’t any easy way to express this other than to say – you are seen.

I’m ending this post in the same way I did yesterday. Because they are attached. Because this is so important – no matter what side of the desert you’re standing on. More than anything, time and patience and valuable friends in desert relationships. Be patient with one another and have an abundance of grace. You can never go wrong with grace.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation! Want more in the 31 Days of Lessons in the Desert series? Just click here!

Monday, October 28, 2013

What People in the Desert Wished Their Friends and Family Knew About the Desert

This mouthful of a title came to mind when the leader of a writing group I was in recently published a book about sickness. I thought her book – and its companion title – offered some great insights into how people and their situations are perceived when they’re sick and how they wish people would really see them.

I had some similar thoughts about living through a desert experience, and had similar conversations with friends who had both been through their own desert journeys or watched loved ones walked that road. These are some of those thoughts from one side. I’ll visit the other tomorrow.

When you’re going through a desert time in your life: lean financial times, an unexpected health scare, the loss of a loved one, an overwhelming amount of stress – it can be anything – there are some things that you may wish those around you just knew without you having to say it out loud.

Sometimes I just need to be alone. This may be especially true for the introverted desert traveler – myself included – but when the situation around you is stormy and chaotic, it can be very helpful to have some quiet time to process the situation. Some friends and family find this disturbing. They want to help. They want to reach out. They don’t want to see you suffering or spiraling into a depression. But unless your desert is actually depression (and it’s very possible that it can become a symptom along the way), it’s okay to want some time alone, and to say that out loud. Quiet time allows you to reflect and plan; meditate and pray; breathe and regroup. If you have a friend in the desert and they ask for some space, be willing to give it to them. Don’t abandon them or become offended by their asking. They love you and appreciate your being there for them, but they need some time to process this on their own too.

Sometimes blessings will come that others won’t understand.
Some of the hardest things to hear when we went through out desert times were people being upset about good things that happened to us – mainly because they didn’t have context. We went for twelve weeks without any income before my unemployment finally kicked in. When it did, there was some retroactive pay involved. When we received that money, one of the things we did was replace a piece of furniture that was a hand me down on its last legs. We got a very good deal, but some people seemed to be very offended at the idea that a family who was supposed to be short on cash had a new sofa. When my husband won the grand prize at a men’s retreat that allowed our frighteningly bald tires to be replaced, there were murmurs about where we got the money for such great tires if we weren’t working. You won’t always know how God is choosing to bless your friends who are walking in the desert times, but be sure to rejoice with them. Blessings don’t mean that they’re not also struggling, and those blessings are like little oases that keep people’s hope alive in the dry times.

Underneath the dust of the desert, I’m still me. If you’re in the desert for a long period of time, it becomes very easy for friend and family to see the circumstance more than they see you. I believe this stems from their care and compassion and a desire to see you in a better situation, but it can be so frustrating when all they want to talk about is the struggle you’re going through. For those friends, desert walkers are living that struggle in the most intimate way – day in and day out. As much as we love someone to talk with us to carry the burden, it’s also refreshing for someone to just talk to us like we’re not going through a big mess. Talk about hobbies, sports, movies – whatever you talked to us about before. We’re still interested in those things, and they can do a great deal to take our mind off the mess – if only for a moment.

Walking out of the desert doesn’t mean everything becomes ideal in an instant. This is probably one of the biggest lessons I can share. It’s an amazing, beautiful thing to come to the end of your desert journey and walk into the next land that the Lord has for you. But no matter what your journey was – and especially if that desert involved finances of any kind – there’s going to be a rebuilding period. If you’ve been grieving the loss of someone in your life, you need time to heal and begin to understand what living your life without that person in it now means. If you’re dealing with a health issue, you need to go through treatment and recovery, or learn what living with a chronic condition entails. If you’ve been in a financial desert, you have a list of things that you’ve been holding off purchasing that need replacing; have savings that need replenishing; need to re-establish what living on a real budget feels like; and maybe even have some small loans that you need to repay. The end of the desert is wonderful, but there are still some more steps until restoration is complete.

More than anything, time and patience and valuable friends in desert relationships. Be patient with one another and have an abundance of grace. You can never go wrong with grace.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation! Want more in the 31 Days of Lessons in the Desert series? Just click here!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Lesson from the Word: Psalm 27:13-14


I saved this verse for last because it has been an anchor for me for many years. If memory serves, I connected with this verse in my early twenties during a difficult time. It may have been on a plaque in the Bible bookstore I worked at, at may have come up in a Bible study or at church. I honestly can’t remember. But I know that’s it’s been highlighted and underlined in whatever Bible I’ve carried for a long, long time.

It gives me hope because it speaks not just about the comfort and care that we will receive in our heavenly home – that place where I should ultimately be focused – but also here on earth – the place we must live through until we get home.

While I cherish the security of knowing my heavenly home and ultimate destination, there are times – especially in the desert – when you long for reassurance that God hears you now and will not leave you here on this mortal plane without some encouragement. His blessings and assurance in the desert times and in times of plenty is the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. And no matter what season we’re in, we simply need to wait patiently on Him, with courage in our heart because He will answer.  He will always answer.

Wherever you are today – whatever season you are in – whatever part of the journey you are on; I pray that your heart is strengthened as you wait on the Lord.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation! Want more in the 31 Days of Lessons in the Desert series? Just click here!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bounce Back Saturday - See Awful as Awe-full

It’s the final Bounce Back lesson for this series. It’s hard to contemplate that I’ve almost made it through the entire month of days; writing (or posting – on those days when I planned ahead) every day. That thought ties into today’s tip so well.

#60 – See awful as aweful


There were times throughout this month when it physically hurt to go back in time and contemplate the past and everything I had been through (we had been through). I struggled again; came to realizations about things I needed to let go of; and made some significant life-changing decisions. These were good moves – and very necessary – but there were times where, frankly, it did feel awful.

The author encourages us though, to consider those moments with curiosity and a welcoming heart. I would ask you to consider the lessons God is asking you to learn and lean into those lessons to see what He has in store for you.

Remember when He said this in Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

He didn’t say it was going to be easy. He didn’t say it was going to come without some work. He didn’t say it was going to happen without some shaping and sacrifice.

By living with the intent to acquire more wonder we might just find that life – even in the midst of desert times – can become more wonderful.

Here’s something that will inspire a little awe and make you think again about what the desert might be doing for you. I love these guys – the Skit Guys. And no matter how many times I watch this one: The Chisel – I always get a bit choked up (It's eleven minutes, but it's eleven good minutes). Imagine that it’s you – not Tommy – God is having the conversation with. Tell me that’s not a little awe full.


I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation! Want more in the 31 Days of Lessons in the Desert series? Just click here!

Friday, October 25, 2013

You Own Everything That Happened To You ...

A friend at the Allume conference posted this quote and I just love it - had to make an image. I'm really looking forward to hearing Anne Lamott next Wednesday, and while I don't think I've written critically about any one person on my blog or otherwise, I'm going to tuck this little bit of truth away for the "just in case."


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Together

Five Minute FridayTonight they are there. Live and in person. The FMFParty. The Flashmob. The Allume Conference. Greenville South Carolina. I am at my desk. Not there. And as happy and excited as I am for all my writer friends, I’m not gonna lie – there’s a little part of me that wants to be there! Right now. With them. This year is not my year and I know it. I’m really okay with it. I have a few things (cough, cough a few?) that I want to get under control before I go there. I’m assured from the tweets and the Instagram feed that walking will be involved and I’ve talked about my struggles there. I’d like to be able to walk around Allume when I go. So I’m hanging at home in my comfy clothes and no makeup with classical music on the radio and dreaming about next year’s autumn in the South while keeping my feet solidly and happily planted in this present.

Because no matter where we are; no matter what distance separates some or all of us, this is a fellowship of friends that gather here to write into the wee hours of the morning; then reading each others words and sharing encouragement as we go. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This Week: Together

Go

Tonight I must marry the beautiful experience of the Five Minute Friday – write for five minutes on a given prompt with the other beautiful experience of the 31 Days project – write for thirty-one days straight on one topic. My planning and organization has brought me this week to speaking of things that I let die in the desert time in my life. The letting go of feelings, attitudes, behaviors, that did not align with what God had in mind for the woman who would walk out of the desert.

I wonder how to resolve that theme with tonight’s prompt.

But perhaps I’ll change the route just a bit, since I am the author after all, and tell you of something that did not die. Something that struggled, withered, suffered, but then flourished, grew, and ultimately blossomed in the desert.

My marriage.

Being married is hard work. In any circumstance. Being married when you’re working, healthy, happy, have good relationships with your respective families, are financially secure, and can take a moment to enjoy your life together can be hard work. Try doing it when you’re broke, unemployed, estranged from your family, sick and awaiting further diagnosis, probably a little depressed, and can’t afford to even leave the five mile radius around your house because you can’t afford the gas.

My husband and I have been together for just shy of twenty years. It’s been a long haul – and the three years on our desert journey may have been the longest of them all. But we learned so very much about ourselves and about our relationship during that time. I’m not an expert by any stretch, but here are three things that I picked up along the way.

Have some grace – when stress is high and everything is piling up: bills, dishes, laundry, tempers – this is the time to breathe deep and extend an extra measure of temperance and I love you to the one you truly do.

Hug tight –
when life starts falling to pieces around you, sometimes literally, hang on to each other even harder. The comfort of your physical presence to each other will make a world of difference. Sometimes I wrapped myself into the comfort of his arms just to keep the constant call and rasp of the “necessary” at bay, if only for a moment.

Have each other’s back – when you’re in a desert situation, there will be enough predatory creatures and folks who act like vultures ready to pick your bones dry and tear you apart. Be each other’s best friend and champion. Defend each other from invaders. Be there to lean on if the other one gets tired on the journey or discouraged along the way. You will get through this if you share the burden.

There were times in the desert where I wondered if we’d make it. We were strained and sometimes fought over the smallest detail. But God wrapped His arms around us and gave us the strength we needed to survive. By keeping our eyes and our focus on Him, we endured this trial. And walked out of the desert. Together.

Stop

How to Join
Want to know about Lisa Jo Baker, how Five Minute Friday got started, and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation! Want more in the 31 Days of Lessons in the Desert series? Just click here!

Without Reservation

As I considered this 31 Days project; what I would write; what it would mean, the Lord laid something on my heart – before my words flowed out and I began to number the days in the desert. It was something I hadn’t even considered, something that seemed so small to me because I didn’t think about it anymore.

Do you remember back on Day Two when I asked you to remember the dotted line? I’ll give you a moment. I know I’d probably have to go back and look if it wasn’t my story I was telling.

The catalyst into my desert journey was a job. A job that was supposed to be good and turned out to be bad. A job where my dotted line manager had started out as a friend – so good a friend, in fact, that people said we acted like sisters. They said she was like my little sister.

That friend who was supposed to be as close as a sister and near to my heart was a huge contributor to my leaving my job. I felt she betrayed my trust and the balance of our work relationship and helped create the situation that spiraled me into my breakdown. It’s fair to say that when I left I hated her. Truly, deep in my heart, ill-wishing, hated her.

Over the past three years, hate faded as God and time healed my wounds and as the desert sculpted me into a better person. I simply didn’t think about her anymore with any kind of emotion. Or so I thought.

When I shared this idea with my husband – this writing about my desert journey – he asked, “and are you going to say anything about –“ and threw her name out. “That bitch? Of course.” I froze. It was reactionary. I hadn’t said it with anger or contempt. It just came out. Exactly. Like. That. And that’s when I knew that I wasn’t as done as I’d thought I was.

In the quiet way that He has, God asked me to consider this before I undertook my journey to write into and about the desert. If I was going to do this, I needed to let her go. I needed to forgive her. Completely. Without reservation.

I think part of me died a little inside again – I hadn’t realized I’d been holding on, but I felt justified in the remnants of my anger. After all, hadn’t I been wronged? Hadn’t I been lied about? Maligned? Remember what they put me through – what she put me through? I didn’t owe her anything, much less forgiveness. And it’s not like we’re in touch. She wouldn’t know one way or the other so who cares?

My diatribe spilled into the gentle silence of His peace and returned my answer.

Let. Her. Go.

With the tenderness of one who has been ill-used by friends and wronged by many, the Lord asked that I forgive and that I write her to let her know. Not to rekindle ties, not to reestablish a relationship, but to let this last vestige of justification go – to let this last lesson sink in. I had until the end of the month to get my heart in order and find my way to forgiveness, or my Lessons From the Desert would ring with the hollow insincerity of someone seeking her fulfillment; her justification in places other than in the one place where I know that I am.

Therefore, since I am justified, acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God through faith, let me grasp the fact that I have the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy peace with God through my Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One.
Romans 5:1 AMP (and personalized for me)


I did not anticipate the emotional toil revisiting the desert would bring. I could not imagine what it would mean for me (and even for my husband) to relive these memories and feelings; writing hard into them each day; striving for the truest most transparent telling in order to breathe life into the lessons. It has exhausted me and yet I feel unbound and free. Once again, I did not see this coming.

I write to tell you I am posting a letter today. A letter to the dotted line. Nothing complicated – just a brief overview of this calling and the acknowledgement that I have forgiven her. She may not know it needed to happen. She may not even feel it was necessary. This is not about her. This is about my heart before God and my lessons in the desert. As I say goodbye and shake the sand off my feet for a final time, I can move forward in His love knowing that I have been obedient in my calling.

This is only one of the many paths I will walk in my lifetime, but in the here and now, I feel I can truly say to the desert: I have fought the good fight, I have finished this race, I have kept the faith.


I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Binding Up My Anger

I don't remember anger in my home when I was growing up. I don’t remember my parents fighting. I don’t remember yelling. I don’t remember an atmosphere strained with tension or antagonism. This is a good thing.

It is a good thing because my childhood was happy, I was loved, and there was no need for anger. Except that people do get angry, and I didn’t know how. I don’t remember anything specific being spoken out loud, but we didn’t yell, we didn’t argue, we didn’t oppose. I imagine my parents will have different recollections than I do, because I’m fairly certain I was a nominally normal child who got into the usual amounts of trouble and went through a hollering period, but when I started to find my way into fitting into to the family and the flow of life it included the belief that it wasn’t okay to get angry.

There were times when this left me feeling voiceless and unheard in situations that felt unfair or unbalanced. Friends and other people around me seemed comfortable raising their voices, or at the very least, raising their hands and saying “no, that’s not okay with me – you’re crossing the line – you’re making me angry.” I declined. To do so felt impolite and inappropriate. Standing up and raising your voice made you stand out and made people look, and we never really wanted people to look.

I can distinctly remember the first time I raised my voice in public – loudly, vehemently, and inappropriately – I was a freshman in high school and I was breaking up with my boyfriend. Out loud. In the bus terminal. In front of everyone. It raised eyebrows and dropped jaws as I let loose with a monologuing stream of – I don’t even remember what – just that it unloosed something in me that had been bound up tight for years and the look in the eyes of my peers that said, “maybe we won’t mess with that one again.”

Over the years I found my angry voice more and more. It grew more confident and more prolific. Tinged with a biting sarcasm and stinging dry wit, I could be counted on to be withering, defiant, and reductive at the drop of a hat. And it wasn’t just my voice that grew; there was something that blossomed with the anger – something that I began to hang onto. Something that felt strong and powerful; that looked at the softer emotions like compassion, kindness, patience, and gentleness with disdain and contempt. I did not want them. I did not want to be weak. Other situations and relationships fueled my anger. Hurt, betrayal, disappointment, and abandonment contributed to convincing me that I needed my anger to protect me from those who would hurt me more.

It might surprise you how much a person can hide anger. I wasn’t miserable. I was generally happy, my life was moving along, I was in a good relationship, my family and I were close and supportive, I had a strong circle of friends, I was active in the churches I was involved with – I eventually became a mother. But beneath all of this growth and happiness, anger boiled beneath the surface – just a hair’s breadth away. Very few people saw it – only those closest to me, my family, were the unfortunate few to bear the brunt of the flames as they flared. And though I knew it was a problem and openly acknowledged it, I wasn’t able to let it go.

Anger had become a crutch for me. It was an anchor and a stronghold. In precarious situations, I could access those powerful feelings inside myself and become buoyed up to face challenges and onslaughts. So often, I tried to write it off as righteous anger – being inflamed over the “right” kind of problem; not wanting to give in to being a doormat for someone’s bad behavior; protecting my heart from further hurt.

What a farce.

The only thing the anger did was consume me bit by bit and slowly but surely begin to singe and burn the ones around me.

The turning of the tide came through possibly the only way it could have: my daughter. My anger had crashed over her one time too many and I realized I was giving her an awful reflection to emulate. As I was learning to change and give thanks in the midst of the desert, I was reminded that my strength was not found in the stronghold of my anger, but in my God who does not need to thunder and storm to speak His power.

Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12 MSG


He also reminded me:

In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15 NJJV


This lesson is not complete. I hesitated to write it because of that. But a conversation with my family in the car on the way to school encouraged me that I have come a long ways – perhaps long enough to encourage someone else. When asked “How Mama was doing with her anger?” My daughter responded with a measure of hands. “Here’s where you were before,” she said – stretching her hand to the ceiling of the car. “And here’s where you are now,” her hand somewhere behind my seat, “see – you can’t even see my hand! That’s how far down you are now.” My husband’s smiling nod of agreement confirms that while I may not be completely reformed, I am on my way.

Unfettered anger blazing unchecked – it’s another thing I’ve left on the sands of the desert. I may spend a lifetime learning the details and nuance of this lesson, but I’ll take that measure of my daughter’s hands as a milestone worth cheering for now.


I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Behind the Scenes – Family Matters


Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement.
― Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays


I am happy to share this picture today. More happy than you can ever know. This was Father’s Day earlier this year. Out of the desert in a happier time. Brunch at the always fabulous Hob Nob Restaurant and then a walk in Wright Park on a wonderful June day. My husband, his parents, and our little monkey bella of a girl. Family. Just as it should be.

This is what the picture says, but what we write here at Behind the Scenes – it’s about the story behind the picture. And this is the week I write hard into my desert journey: about things I let die in the desert.

What this picture doesn’t tell you with its soft lighting and happy smiles is that there hasn’t always been soft lighting and happy smiles in the relationship I’ve shared with my in-laws. And before you shake your head and tell me everyone has a few bumps with the in-laws and laugh that it’s just par for the course and normal, I have to tell you very firmly and quietly, no.

There is no course I could have charted or predicted that could have been less par or further from normal than the one that ensued between me and the family my husband calls his own. We have been together for nearly twenty years, and of that time, a huge majority – too much in all honesty – has been spent in stiff, uncomfortable get-togethers, chilly silences, and long stretches of flat out not speaking to each other. To be exiled from one’s family is one of the most heartbreaking things to endure – whether that estrangement comes from their doing, your doing, or as in so many cases, a combination of both.

The multiple fallouts between my husband’s parents and myself led me through torturous hours of introspection – why didn’t they like me? Why couldn’t they love me? There was medication and therapy. Long, winding sessions with a trusted girlfriend. Several sitdowns with all of us around the table. It often led to reconciliation, but those compromises seemed to crumble under the slightest weight.

Struggles like this can never be borne on the shoulders of one party. I don’t know their whole side, but I can image they had their own set of contemplative questions: why doesn’t she trust us? Why can’t she be more open? Why won’t she just talk to us? I know there was an acre of pain they suffered through.

After the last split, I think we had both given up hope that we would ever come to an understanding again. The precipice we toppled off of the final time came in the midst of the desert time, and I was too wounded, too emotionally exhausted, too devastated in other areas of my life to pick up the family banner and try to climb the hill again. I lay down the flag and walked away. It was years.

Through the stilted silence of that time however, my husband’s parents never ceased to do one thing. They never stopped living their love for us. They never stopped being there. Their unceasing generosity – even in the face of our relationship that had been damaged, seemingly beyond repair – is a significant part of what sustained our family through the desert times. Without them, we would not have made it through.

This is the week I write about things inside me that had to die in the desert. A desert wanderer cannot carry the kind of baggage that a cruise vacationer or plane traveler can. We are leaner, sparser, stripped down. We do not carry luxuries.

The anger, resentment, frustration, and other bad feelings I had carried against my in-laws like so much excess baggage was left in the open sands of the desert I walked out of. There is no room for that in the life I hope for now. There is no space for such feelings when I want to cultivate a real relationship with people who are the parents of my husband and the grandparents of my daughter.

Forgiveness has poured out on both sides, but it is less important who did what and who wronged when, and more important that we are working together now to build a friendship and relationship that will begin from right here. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen. God’s grace flows through, around, and over all things – covering the history of hurt and washing it away to leave something new, something clean, and something that will be – as my mother-in-law wrote to me the other day after reading something I wrote, quietly ordinary.


I'm linking up with Crystal Stine and company today; joining the Behind the Scenes link up. A place to make a connection beyond the Pinterest perfect ideals; to look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it.
crystalstine.me
I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Love & Redemption – Lessons from the Life of Gomer

ChasingHistoryLinkUpIn keeping with my desire to connect with the Chasing History link up while doing the 31 Days, I had to find another woman in the Bible who dealt with desert times – literally and metaphorically. What came to mind was a verse that had been part of a study at church last year (in my desert time) that felt like it had leapt off the screen at me; demanding to be looked at; demanding to be read; asking me to consider it as a message from God about my own experience.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

Hosea 2:14-15


To be honest, I was a little reluctant to own that verse because of the context (I mean really Lord, I know I’ve had my troubles, but I wasn’t that far gone!), but then I felt Him prompting me to look a little deeper.

The romance between God’s prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer is not just an incredible love story and true romance, it is a beautiful metaphor of God’s love for Israel, and by extension, for the world that He created and came to save.

Despite having a husband who adored her, Gomer gave into the pull of her human desires and followed the trail of gifts, jewels, and food that were given to her by the many men – other than her husband – who came calling for an opportunity with her. She listened to their smooth whispers and easy lies and allowed herself to move from cherished wife, to unfaithful whore, and ultimately to slave who no one wanted.

At the lowest point in her life when she had lost everything, when her very dignity was stripped from her, Hosea, her faithful husband returned and redeemed her from slavery. He took her home, continued to love her and cherish her (as he always and faithfully had), and kept her close to his heart.

In looking deeper at their relationship and how it illustrates God’s faithful and continuing love for us, calling us and looking for ways to draw us back, I had to ask myself the hard question: so maybe I wasn’t a prostitute, but surely there were things in my life that were drawing me away from God as surely as Gomer’s sins pulled her away from her husband.

There’s nothing like a long space of empty silence to allow you to contemplate the things you’ve been carrying, and during the course of my desert journey, I realized that there were things that needed to go.

If you walk in the desert for too long without food or water, you will surely die. And in those quiet times over the years that were the desert for me, I realized that there were things in my life that I had been carrying for too long; things that kept me from being the woman that God had designed me to be; things that needed to die.

All of a sudden, I began to see those verses in a different light.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

photo by Greg Shields via Unsplash
Though the desert is a place to let things go and to let things die, it is also a place for hope. Sometimes God can speak to you in desert times like in no other time in your life. He knows that these are hard times, and He will speak gently and tenderly to you. And the Valley of Achor – its name means trouble – God will make that trouble into a door of hope, and restore vineyards (blessings and abundance) when the desert time is over.

Consider what things you’re carrying that you might need to let go, as we walk through this week of things that God helped me let go of – things that God allowed to die within me during the desert, so other, better things could be reborn in their place.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Lesson From the Word: Isaiah 41:10

I joined Bible Study Fellowship for the first time during my desert time and was blessed to be in the first year of the study of Isaiah. That study – that book – was so deep and rich for me. Every lesson brought something new for me to learn.

In this passage, the Lord is spoken of as Israel’s kinsman redeemer (like in the book of Ruth) who is her strength. In speaking of Israel’s enemies, the victory coming to her by the hand of God will be so decisive that those enemies will not be able to be found. It is also in the chapter that Israel’s exile is referred to several times I metaphor as a desert – and that God will answer, refresh, and restore Israel from this desert.

Given my position and the metaphor I found myself living through, this was an amazing comfort.  

What hope does this give you in the midst of your own desert time?

photo by hotblack
I'm joining again with Sarah from online writing group, for her Sacro Speco (Sacred Space) linkup. Other images for inspiration will be there if you'd like to visit.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bounce Back Saturday – Find Your Bounceable People

This past week was a challenge for me to write as I dealt with different relationship issues from the desert time. Some good, some hard, but all with important lessons that are tied into this Saturday’s Bounce Back Lesson.

#15 – Find your bounceable people

In the Bounce Back book, the author cites Aristotle who speaks of human creatures as biologically social animals – our “first instinct” is to be near and around other people. She goes on to talk about how in the middle to trauma and crisis, being around other people may not be the first instinct that we respond to.

photo by manuere
I know that was true for me. Time and again, I folded into myself – hurting, feeling beaten, feeling vulnerable, not willing to risk another step out, not wanting to hear another person reject me (for whatever reason). But so many studies – and so many experiences tell us that hiding away is not as healthy as seeking support. The key is: where is that support coming from?

Salmansohn references Dr. Dina Carbonne of Simmons College who studied the secrets of people who were successful in rebounding from crisis situations and difficult times. She consistently found that “Resilient people identify those who are available trustworthy, and helpful. Then they go towards this light.”

The people that care for us and help us are the light at the end of our tunnel.
So when you’re deep in the middle of the muck, how do you determine who’s good to be around and who you might want to call later when things are better? Think of the people who are cheering for you not to just get better or to get out of whatever circumstances are weighing you down, but cheering for you to become the best person you can be through and in spite of the circumstances. Who makes you happy to be with? Who do you miss the moment that they’ve walked away? Who do you find yourself wanting just one more hour with when you’re having a really good conversation?

These are your bounceable people. This is who to surround yourself with.

Balance is important, so while you’re in a desert time or going through a rough patch, make sure you have enough time to yourself for reflection and relaxation – but be very sure to give yourself time with your bounceable people – whether via email, Facebook, on the phone, over a cup of something warm and soothing, or just hanging out on the couch together.

Going through the rough times together will deepen your relationship and strengthen your bond in a lasting, meaningful way.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Laundry

Five Minute FridayIt’s these moments towards the end of the week that I find myself looking forward to; giddy with anticipation like a kid a Christmas. That one night of the week when my phone goes wild and blows up with Twitter notifications followed by the sudden hush when the prompt is revealed and all the writers duck out to do what we do best. It’s a fellowship of friends that gather here to write into the wee hours of the morning; then reading each others words and sharing encouragement as we go. Yes, this community opens wide and invites you in to share. Come and visit and read. You will be blessed.

This Week: Laundry

Go

There is a growing list of things I have a hard time doing. Or cannot do in some cases. Simple, ordinary things that should be mere moments out of my day. They are not. Putting on shoes. Loading a dishwasher. Standing in the shower long enough to wash my hair and get clean. Everyday household chores and personal care-taking routine that are taking on new meanings as I learn to reschedule and re-time this living of my life.

This is part of getting older. This is part of having a chronic illness. This is part of life.

This discovery of things I cannot do well emerged in my desert journey. The beginning tell-tale sign: one joint in my thumb that would not stop its ever thrumming ache. The ache that spread from one join to another, until it was a systemic waterfall of inflammation and pain and things coming undone.

When things come undone, there are things you have to let go of. I am not good at letting anything go. I’ve written here and there about my habits of keeping things forever and a day. My Instagram feed is a testimony to decades of post-its and pens – held for some mysterious purpose that I must be withholding – even from myself. My Facebook laments cleaning out bags and bags of Bath & Bodyworks products well past their expiration. And those are just things – never mind hurts, heartaches, and wounds of which I cannot speak. No. I do not let things go easily.

But when walking and standing are issues and doing them for longer than five minutes is a challenge, some things have to go. My house is not as clean and tidy as I would like; as it used to be. Dishes sometimes pile up longer. Laundry manages to get clean, but does not move much past being clean in the basket – folding has gone by the wayside.

I could allow myself to become buried in shame and piles of clean, fresh laundry. Or I could give thanks for the things that remain.

photo by cohdra
  • The lessons that linger from those desert times – the reminders of God present in my life and the lives of others – working miracle upon miracle – even in the smallest detail.
  • The husband who lives marriage vows and love out like a verb – driving relentlessly, though it is, in itself exhausting; carrying the chores of feeding and cleaning upon those broad shoulders, and still finding time to rub mine when the pain escalates and overtakes me.
  • The daughter who is learning compassion as she watches her Mama struggle with the everyday – learning to pitch in more and be helpful – gaining maturity as she takes things into her own hands and grows her responsibility.
  • Friends who reach in and across from real life and through screens and in letters to hug, encourage, sustain, and pray – taking time from their own lives to pitch in, lend a hand, never forgetting that I do things a little slower, a little softer these days.
These everyday graces are my focus. As I turn with my laundry basket full of clean clothes and warm napkins and rest it on the end of the bed once again, I realize that this new way is not a bad way – just different – and this slower, softer way I’m making in the world allows time I didn’t take before for giving thanks and seeing miracles. And I’m okay with that. 

Stop

How to Join
Want to know about Lisa Jo Baker, how Five Minute Friday got started, and how to participate? All the details are here. No editing or second guessing. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation! Want more in the 31 Days of Lessons in the Desert series? Just click here!

Throwback Thursday – A Tribute to Women in Community

In July of 2012, I was still in the middle of the desert. The middle of anything may be the hardest parts. No edges to cling to. No horizons. No landmarks. Just the immense, reaching spread of the continuing journey. The middle is where hope begins to wither and die. Where your determination to learn the lessons begins to wane. Where you just want it to be done.

In the middle of my desert (and the middle went on for quite some time), there were so many women friends who came alongside me in various ways. At first this surprised me – because of my history and struggle with relationships with woman. But then it blessed and overwhelmed me. What I share here, is my recollection from the immediacy of that time where I try to say thank you for all that was given to me. Like I mention, I couldn’t name names for fear of forgetting one sweet sister, but if you think you see yourself in my words, you’re probably right.

Yes, I've tweaked this quote just a bit to make it feminine ...

She Comes Alongside (July 2012)

The road in the desert is nothing if not relentless. This vast, aching emptiness where I see nothing; hear nothing; feel nothing - but the pain from my wandering.

Then out of the nothingness: she comes alongside.
A breath of air - without which I could not go on.
A sparkling shimmer of water - without which I could not go on.
A prayer when I cannot utter a sound -  without which I could not go on.
A glimmer of hope for the future - without which I could not go on.

I am not one given to many friendships. I do not give myself easily or willingly. Befriending me is sometimes like putting a bow on a porcupine. Or conversing with a mad hatter. Or asking a cat to come and sit with you. Right now. I am careful. I am tentative. Don't let the fact that I can speak easily about things make you think that I'm telling you lots about myself. I'm probably not. Not even like this - in my writing - where I'm likely to slip and let something through. All I'm saying here, is I'm not easy. And that's on a good day.

But it's not been a good day has it?
You might have picked up on that.
It's not been a good day - not in that sense of the word - for a really long time.

And I'm trying to find a way - and there really just isn't any good way (but I'm trying)
to pay tribute
to these amazing women in my life
(oh you have no idea how incredibly amazing)
who are, with God, carrying me through this desert time in my life.

They call.
They write.
They email.
They like my silly Facebook posts.
They ask how I'm doing.
They make me beautiful handcrafted things.
They pick out wonderful cards that say just the right thing at just the right time.
They let me cry in restaurants.
They send me salty seeds.
They love me even if I can't cry.
They send me crazy Axl Rose videos.
They set themselves aside for me.
They set their pain aside for me - and some of it is some really big-ass, gut-wrenching pain.
They move on with me.
They rekindle friendships with me.
They grow with me.
They swear with me.
They feed my body.
They feed my heart.
They feed my soul.
They pray with me.
They pray for me - that's a huge one - HUGE.
They cry with me.
They laugh with me.
They never seem to laugh AT me - which I just don't understand.
And they love me.
Which I really, really, really don't understand.

This road is relentless - yes it is.
And it's teaching me a lot.
Some of its good.
Some of it - I don't get.
Some of it I may never get until I get to ask God face to face.
 

Some of this relentlessness is just killing me.
And maybe there are parts of me that need to die.
So they're dying here on this long desert road.

But then there's the part that's moving on.

And the part that keeps going on down this hard, 

relentless, unfounded, undiscovered desert road
is going
because of
the ones who came alongside.


And I'm not going to try and list you
because I know I would forget one of you.
And then I would feel like a weed on top of everything else.

But if you have.
You know you have.

And I will
never
ever
ever
forget
that you did.



I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Gift of Empathy

Suddenly this is all too hard. I am tired of putting up walls. I want someone with the strength – and the honesty – to break them down.
― Jodi Picoult, Vanishing Acts
I find it a bit embarrassing now, that I cannot recall the specific moment when we went from being merely passing hallway hello friends, to the kind of friends who hold tight in the midst of a whirlwind; grasping hands and locking eyes; each urging the other to hang on. Just hang on.

Perhaps that’s the problem with getting two introverts together. Two introverts who have hidden sides that no one believes (or wants to believe?) and who have spent enough time living behind the fa├žade of what should be (or what they would like us to be?) are tentative when testing the waters of friendship. Will this work? Can I trust? Will she understand? And then, the sudden dawning that happens across warm drinks as something breaks free and you look up laughing and say, “What? Not you too?!”

This is the kind of friendship that feels like it’s lived longer than it really has. It’s only grown through a matter of years, but each of those years could hold two or three on their own. We share the kind of time where we sit down for coffee for an hour or two, and then suddenly glance down as our husbands ring us both, delicately asking if we realize that it’s been four hours already, and are you thinking of coming home any time soon? In conversations, we’ve uncovered revelation after revelation of similarities – nothing I would have guessed or even been able to foresee. Our faith anchors us, and she often surprises me with a Psalm or a verse at just the right time – this is a friendship about details and being aware of God’s prompting to ask and check in.

I try not to live with too many regrets. I want to own my mistakes and move on. But I wrote the other day, while emailing her saying that I wished this friendship had started sooner; that we had found this kinship before walking into the desert where things were so hard. In her wisdom, she responded that God’s timing being perfect as it is, He allowed us to come together at just the right time – when we had common ground (hard and dry as it was) and could skip right over the shallow stuff and get right into the nitty gritty and have a friend who could understand, listen, and relate.

You see, she’s walked a desert of her own – one strikingly parallel to the one I was in – and we’ve been in this together. And one thing I’ve learned and come to cherish is the voice and ear of one who’s walking with you. People who love you and support you are tremendous and such a blessing, but when you are truly raw and drawn out, there is nothing more comforting than the understanding through experience of one who truly knows the aches and hurts of your heart, the stress of your mind, and the fear that wakes you in the early hours of the morning. Whether that desert be extended unemployment, illness, a death in the family, a loss of relationship, recovery from an assault, a family in crisis, or a combination of these, it is empathy that speaks to the brokenhearted like nothing else.
Photo by Rebekah Ellis


Not everyone who walks through a desert time will have the gift of a friend who has a similar situation. It will be a blessing if you do. Perhaps you’ll find someone who has been there before, and you can share you pain from the perspective of experience. And if you’re struggling with this now, consider that God may be preparing your heart to minister to someone who may be coming into your life, who will be going through something very close to what you’re walking through right now, and who you’ll be able to share with, and pray with, and encourage as they make their own way through the hard paths in the desert.

And for you, my wayfaring, desert-walking friend: I am ever grateful for the Lord’s timing in the crossing of our paths. You have been a refuge for me in the darkest of times; a shelter where I knew I would be understood – even when I have been at my most undone. There are things we have shared that cannot be understood without this walking, and although I would not have originally chosen this path, I would not undo it for all I have learned and for what it has brought. I stand at the edge of the desert waiting and watching. The light is lit. The path is marked. I know you are coming soon. I pray that His timing for your lives will be unveiled; that your time in the desert will come to a close; and that you will join me in the rest that comes in the oasis.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Behind the Scenes – A Bench Gone Cold

photo by Rebekah Ellis

 One of the most difficult things to discover is that not everyone you think of as a close friend is going to walk through the desert with you. I wrote yesterday about the kind of people to be wary of as you share the difficulties that arise in your trials. It’s the hardest thing to discover that one of your friends with whom you thought you shared a “move-the-body” relationship with might actually be someone who could bring more pain.

In one of my writing circles, we’ve talked about benches as analogies for relationships. The idea that benches are places to sit and talk, that they are relationship builders, that they are a place to welcome one and all. And when you find someone to sit on the bench with you, you have found something good.

When I crashed head-first into the desert, I had a small core of bench-sitting friends – a tight knit circle that I laughed, cried, and shared everything with. These were my morning, noon, and night people. The ones whose families I celebrated holidays with, who I went to church and served with, and who I laughed, sang, and read with.

A few months into my desert experience, we had an unfortunate series of events brought on by the fact that we are all human, we all make mistakes, and we all fall down. But the chain reaction of miscommunication and misguided attempts at understanding and reconciliation only created a larger rift, and before I knew it, our friendship had been torn apart and I was on the outside looking in. My bench had grown cold; frozen over in the winter of discontent.

I have always struggled with relationships with woman – and have sometimes been surprised at how many women I know say the same thing. We women, who have such a capacity for compassion, kindness, and empathy, can also be cold, cutting, and exclusive. If we’re not careful, our indifference towards each other – even if unintentional – can leave rifts that are miles wide.

That’s what I found in the midst of an already trying situation: a rift, a tear, a separation that left me alone and without connection; without the anchor of my bench people. I withdrew for months, afraid to let myself even speak the pain out loud. When I finally characterized it, this is what I said:
in the end

there is a loss that pulls at the heart –
an echoing of memories not made;
commonalities never to be discovered;
paths that will no longer be crossed.

it is a slow death –
the final breath of a candle's flame:
shimmering in a moment from light to dark,
till nothing remains but ash and smoke.

the lingering is the worst.
an empty pain of the might-have-been;
hands pressed against glass
looking within – ever without.

ties that bind are severed by
ragged edges of promises not kept.
in the end, only
vestiges of brilliance within the darkening shadows

I was surprised how many people this resonated with when I shared it. I didn’t say what I was writing about, I simply put it out there. Whether losing a parent, suffering from a miscarriage, or going through a difficult divorce, people found a connection in my pain.

It carried on. I felt this with me physically for months on end – a tender raw spot that would not heal. One of the hardest parts was the not knowing. What led here had been misunderstanding. And it had not been resolved. One day, I felt brave enough to confront it. After writing draft after draft of a letter – seeking the right tone and praying desperately that it would be received with the good intentions in my heart – I sent an email to the women who had been my bench mates. I dared to hope.

God’s grace went before me, and two of the relationships were restored. It took some time and some extensive conversations, but we have come back into a place of real friendship and support, and I believe we are stronger for it. Our lives have moved on, and though we don’t travel in the same immediate circles that we used to, there is a new constancy between us that I cherish; a knowledge that we have been through the fire together.

One relationship has not been restored, and I struggle with this on a regular basis. There are choices we make in our friendships – as mentioned in yesterday’s post – and sometimes the choice to protect your heart has to come first. It doesn’t mean you love someone less or that you’ve stopped caring for them. You just have to love them differently – perhaps from afar for the time being. I still pray and have hope for restoration.

When I consider these things, I think about the Lord’s desire, His hope, His longing for restored relationships of all kind.

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. 
Is anything too hard for me?
Jeremiah 32:27 ESV

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, 
forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 
Ephesians 4:32, ESV

So be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) 
even as your Father is all these. 
Luke 6:36 AMP

Nothing is beyond the reach of His miracles, His compassion, and His mercy. Do you have relationships that need to be restored? Have you lost a bench companion in your desert? If you lay these prayers of restoration from your heart before the Lord, He will not leave them unredeemed.

This post today is dedicated with thanks and love to the two women who came through the fire with me in the desert time. I am so very grateful to have you both in my life and so blessed that we have been restored to one another. Thank you for allowing me to share this difficult time – I hope that our experience will encourage others who are walking a hard-worn path. Your friendships are an integral part of my life, and though I don’t see you as often as I used to in person, you are always in my heart.

crystalstine.meI'm linking up with Crystal Stine and company today; joining the Behind the Scenes link up. A place to make a connection beyond the Pinterest perfect ideals; to look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!