the wilderness

[the proud smile of a boy who lost his first tooth]

It has been a while since I have written my heart out here. I have always been a "writer". As a child my days would be spent writing lists, stories, letters, love notes to my mom and dad, apology notes that I would slip under my brother's door when we were in time outs (he would often tear them up and slip them back under mine, prompting tears and lament), and journaling. In my college years, journaling became my peaceful place. The place where I could process life and ponder all of those deep parts of life that I was diving into. I still journal daily. It is a huge part of my daily quiet time.

My latest "quiet time" routine is waking up before my kids, which if you know my daughter, you know that this is EARLY. It is a discipline because I love my cozy bed, but this time has become honey for my soul. And, this is a season where my soul needs every drop of honey it can get.

I sit down with my journal, my Bible, and a copy of the book Jesus Calling. I start by reading a couple Psalms. They settle me in a way that I cannot explain. I often feel like a tortured soul - I feel everything pretty deeply and I process everything (if not out loud, then in my head). And, these fellas who wrote the Psalms make me feel like I am in good company. Any scriptures that stand out get copied into my journal, and then beneath them I begin to list what is truth in that passage. Then, I list how those truths impact me now - in the moment and in this season.

Next, I go to the day's Jesus Calling passage and I look up the scriptures connected to that days passage. I copy those into my journal and do the same thing - write what I know to be truth and what it says about God/Jesus. Then, I write what this means to ME.

At this point, I try to sit for a few minutes and just listen. I recently heard an amazing woman speak on prayer who gave the analogy of sitting down to lunch with a dear friend and having so much to share, but saying, "You go first." I try to say to God, "You go first. I know you have something to say to me and I want to listen." This is a super hard discipline for me. Super. HARD. I am such a do-er. I am twitchy. It is hard for me to sit still. Really, really hard to quiet my mind. It takes a lot of prayer and discipline to sit still and listen. But, I am at a place in my life where I feel a bit like a toddler who has this amazing mother who is going to hold me still until I stop flailing. My soul feels a bit like a flailing toddler sometimes and God comes near and holds me still. It is painful but I am committed to learning to be still.

Lastly, I pray. I write my prayers. I write my thanks and my fears and my questions and my ponderings. Sometimes it feels like I write my guts out. Lately, I have felt like that is the only writing I can do. When it came to sitting down to blog, I was just so uninspired. I treated it as a sabbatical and felt that I would know when I was supposed to sit back down and blog. Today was that day. I was so inspired by another woman's story and willingness to share her journey that it hit me that this journey of mine just may resonate with others. There is courage found when we feel that we are not alone. Isn't it comforting to commiserate with other mamas about sleep deprivation? You walk away feeling normal. Because in the darkness of that room, with the crying baby and the heavy eyes, you do feel so alone, don't you. You feel like you must be the only mom who cannot get her baby to sleep and you wonder what is wrong with you or this baby. But, in the light of day - in that moment where you hear the TRUTH that you are not alone - there is a special kind of freedom. That has always been my favorite thing about blogging. I love the tips and recipes and ideas, but it is this moment of soulful humanity connection that I love more than anything.

So - I am committed to writing a bit more. My hope is that out of this story of mine, other souls will take courage. More importantly, as God's hope shines out of this story of mine, others will take courage in leaning into this same God.

Where I am right now is "stretched". I am stretched to the place that feels like the end of my rope. And, I am learning that the end of my rope is where God lives. We are in a place of transition, and it feels a bit like we are the Israelites wandering through the desert. I read this passage from Psalm 105 the other day:

"...He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night.
They asked, and he brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.
He opened the rock and water gushed out;
like a river it flowed in the desert.
For He remembered His holy promise given to his servant Abraham.
He brought out His people with rejoicing,
His chosen ones with shouts of joy;
He gave them the lands of the nations,
and they fell heir to what others had toiled for -
that they might keep His precepts and observe His laws." - vs 39-45

This passage has God's faithfulness all over it. He led His people through the wilderness with this cloud by day and fire by night. He provided food and water for them. He eventually leads them to the promised land - land that they did not toil over.

But, they were wandering in the desert for a long time. If you know the story of the Israelites you know that they live this sort of schizophrenic posture of gratitude and angst. Hmmm, sounds familiar. For in my own life, I live these moments of gratitude and recognition that God is here and is providing for our daily needs. But, the angst is lurking there too - when I look ahead of the cloud covering today or the fire lighting up this moment - it's darkness ahead. In that darkness fear and uncertainty lurk. I see that faith journey that the Israelites were taken on, and how they were walking behind God's very presence as a guide both day and night. I am sure that they had to fight to keep their eyes in the moment or they would freak out. The view of the wilderness stretching before them was staggering, I am sure. I love how this passage says, "They asked and He brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven."

Wow. It is my prayer that my heart and mind would have an aching bent towards God's precepts and laws and desires. That I would see when my eyes wander from the cloud and fire. God is leading us in our own "wilderness" and we are seeing His hand in our lives daily in radical ways. He is the same God who leads, protects, and provides for His peoples' needs.

That is the truth. I have to wash my mind daily in that truth.

My sweet son recently lost his first tooth. It was so loose that when he would eat it would wreak all sorts of havoc on him and he was in pain. It was time for that baby to come out. He attempted pulling it out himself, but then in tears announced that he really wanted his Papa to help him pull it out.

They sat on the couch - Callen straddling my husband as he wiggled that tooth and gently worked on getting it out. Man, that tooth was stubborn. It did not want to come out. I could tell my husband was a bit flabbergasted at how long it was taking. My son sat there with tears streaming down his face, breathing through the pain, watching his Papa stare into his mouth with fingers twisting and pulling.

In the midst of it, Callen reaches up and grabs Drew's face and with his two hands cupping his daddy's face, says:

"Papa, thank you for helping me.
I am brave, but I need your help.
And, this is exciting."

All of this is said with tears streaming down his face. We choked back our own tears and affirmed him for his bravery and told him it was our privilege to help him. (This boy is such a gift and precious sweet spot in our days!)

Eventually, the tooth came out and there was a pretty huge celebration because it was quite the labor of love.

The next morning, I was in the kitchen finishing up my quiet time and I had this feeling of frustration at the wilderness journey that we are in. I feel ready to be to the end of it. God very gently nudged my mind back to the moment on the couch and spoke these words to my heart:

"Ali, you are on my lap. Your tooth is loose but it is not an easy one to pull out. I am holding you and I am helping you. You ARE brave, and it will come out. Just rest on my lap and let me help you. Thank me for helping you. And, this is exciting."
Humbly, I look to His face with tears streaming down mine. Thankful for His lap. Thankful for His hands. Thankful for His help. And, thankful for this journey that is exciting and teaching me so much.

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