In the dark

Storm

I’m not sure how many more blogs there will be. Because it seems as if this blog has been a journey. And perhaps at some point and time, I may actually find my way. I’ve had that feeling several times now. Once, I even typed up a “Gone Fishin'” blog, and was ready to “hang it.” But, more words came. And I guess the reason I mention a possible ending is because of all the darkness. I keep going back to “dark times.” But you know, I think I already know the answer to the darkness. I’m quite sure God has told me what to do about that. But oddly, I see ahead to more twists and turns of this blog. And as I’m being led along, it appears that I’m in a holding pattern of sorts… for now. See, the light shines and beckons me. And if I can just make it there, I’ll be okay. I creep closer and closer, and drag myself to the edge of light, but then something sends me off in another direction. Delayed.

You know, I wrote a book in the fall of 2011. It’s my story… all about God & me. And at first, it was titled, “From Darkness to Light… that they may know.” But the funny thing was, the light was still out of reach. Because on the heels of writing it, I sank to such a depth of darkness, it took some time to rise above it. And so, it was last summer that I rewrote my story. As a matter of fact, I believe it was in July… one year ago. And so, the second draft was called, “My True Deliverance… Wilderness Wanderings of a Modern Day Woman.” And here I am today, still writing my story. But this time, through blog format. And what’s apparent to me today is that I’m still walking in the dark. And despite my best efforts, I persist in wandering through the desert. And so, I wonder. Perhaps what I originally thought was an offering to God… a standing stone to memorialize what He has done for me… is actually my “Farewell.” Because I am writing about what’s closest to my heart and mind. It’s everything that’s important to me… and it’s what I want for my son, and for my family, and for my friends to know. It’s everything I would want to pass on to those I care the most about. My fare ye well, so to speak.

This is what the LORD says: Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. Jeremiah 17:5-6

Do you know what the Arabah is? It’s desert. And this is such a picture of me. For there is still this part of me that places my trust in human flesh. There is still part of me that turns from God. And so help me, I cannot see the good when it comes. I have been dwelling in a parched place, a lonely place, a dark place… but it’s really my own doing. But you know what. I feel more hopeful right now than I have in a long while. I feel the stirrings of revival down deep in my soul. And I can sense the warmth of His light filtering through haze. Yes, hope is taking root. And it’s good.

You know… God called His people out of Egypt. He delivered them from slavery, and made Moses their leader. And after a dramatic deliverance from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, God led His chosen people through the desert on a journey to the land of promise. And at first, the people sang praises to God. But it only took a few days before praise turned to complaint. And then, complaint turned to distrust and disobedience, which kept them wandering the desert for 40 years. And it was through their wilderness wanderings that the children of Israel discovered just how much they needed God.

And then… there’s me. I felt that God delivered me from a place I didn’t want to be, and led me directly into my promised land of Virginia. But in looking back, I can see what really happened. For the footsteps that led me to my hometown really deposited me into the middle of a desert land. Because that’s how I’ve been living the past three years. I’ve been dwelling in a parched land, despite being in the very place I wanted to be more than anything. I could not see the good when it came. And so, praise turned to complaint, and then to distrust, followed up by disobedience to God! And thus, I am in the dark. And thus, God feels distant. And so, it’s here… in the midst of my wandering that I realize the truth. I know how very much I need Him. Because nothing else will work. Nothing. Because when you’re in the dark, well, quite obviously… you need a light. Eventually, you simply get tired of walking blindly.

And here’s the best part… I once was blind, but now I see. And because my sight is restored, I finally realize… there’s purpose to this darkness. See, if I never experienced the dark, how would I ever recognize the light? And the darker the days, the brighter His light burns. And so finally, this wretched soul can see. Because there is light… His light. And because His light is within me, I find that my dark is not so dark after all. And I finally understand that God has been here with me this whole time. Not just in the good times, but also in the center of the storms. He’s here in the midst of the darkness… right here with me… simply waiting for my eyes to adjust.

All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance. Moses responded to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.” And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18, 20

The people feared the thunder and lightning. The dark smoke intimidated them, and so they stood at a distance. But not Moses… He knew it was God. He knew God’s nature, and did not fear the storm. And so Moses went forward… and approached the thick darkness where God was. God was in the darkness. And so, when I have those moments, I must remember. He’s with me… in the dark. And there’s purpose. It’s so that I’ll really see Him. Because when I’m at my darkest, His light shines the brightest. This is when I need Him the most.

And so, like Moses, I shall not fear the storm. Because I know God is in the midst of it. And the purpose of the dark is so that I’ll learn to trust Him. Because when I’m at my darkest, it’s then that I realize nothing else will do. Nothing but Him. Because I need Him, I’ll turn to Him. His light will draw me. For God does not intend for His children to walk in the dark. No, He calls them out of the darkness… into light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light. 2 Peter 2:9

Isn’t it ironic?

It was just under three years ago that God’s favor rested upon me. He brought me into a land (my hometown), of which I was desperate to possess for years and years. I likened my time away to the Israelite’s years of wilderness wandering. I fancied that surely I must have felt similar to them as they anxiously awaited that glorious day… the day when God would usher them into their promised land. And it did happen… for them and for me.

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper.” Deuteronomy 8:7-9

Today, my heart is stirred by this passage of Scripture on more levels than I can describe. Because it speaks of the promised land… a land that I always considered my home. And when I ponder how God moved me from there to here, I now see it’s been more of a spiritual move than anything. Because my relationship with Him has utterly changed since coming back. And it’s through these last few days that my undivided attention has been on His spiritual food and drink. So when I stumbled across the above passage, it nearly leapt of the pages of my Bible. I knew I wanted to use it in a blog because of references to plentiful food and water. But, the funny thing is – or shall I say the ironic part is – I didn’t plan on using last line! Because rocks of iron didn’t flow with what I had been feeling and thinking. But my eyes have been opened… And today, it’s specifically the last part I am captivated by.

This morning, I looked up irony and was surprised by the definition I found. I·ron·y  adjective – consisting of, containing, or resembling the metal iron: an irony color. What? I had never heard of that, and it’s not at all what I expected to find. And so, this new definition immediately brought Deuteronomy 8 to mind… because I remembered… I thought, “rocks of iron.” And so, I saw the truth. Because since returning to my promised land, irony is exactly what I have been mining. Honestly, I have been chipping away at a massive boulder of iron since day one. Because I am here in this land of plenty, and yet, I am not tapping into what’s good and abundant. See, my eyes have been closed. How ironic…

Irony is having your deepest, heartfelt prayer request answered, but upon entrance to your promised land finding yourself in a place you never, ever would have imagined… the deepest of pits. Irony is being delivered to the place you always wanted to return to; however, rather than a heart filled with joy, you find a heart full of bitterness. Irony is that on the heels of God’s goodness, you find yourself further away from God than ever. And irony is finding a home that you just had to have, and yet, there were issues with the well. There were problems with the water source. See, the water was dirty. Oh, there was plenty of it… only it was filled with bacteria. And perhaps what I thought was a coppery hue was in fact irony. Because it is so very ironic that at that time, I had unlimited access to clean, living water… only, I was completely overcome by anxiety and worry over an earthly well. I didn’t have faith in God, rather, I placed all my trust in a bank, and man-made methods, and UV lights, forsaking the One who brought me into the promised land to begin with. Irony is that I was torn up over a well, of all things, and the foul water that housed it… when there were streams of living water directly in front of my eyes. I just couldn’t see it. And so, instead of digging for living water, I mined for iron. And the deeper I dug, the wider the pit became in which I dwelt. Down, down I went as the troubles and worries heaped higher and higher.  Yes, irony is that upon entrance to your promised land you find yourself in the driest of deserts.

Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the LORD. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. Jeremiah 17:5-6

Today, I looked up the definition of well. You know, the place where you expect to find water. And once again, irony abounds. Because according to Strong’s concordance, there are two meanings. One being, a shaft in the ground for extraction of water. And two, a pit, a depression in the earth with no focus on water. How funny is it that the house I wanted to buy within the borders of my hometown had a well full of dirty water… and how very ironic that I was so engrossed by the water shaft in the ground that I ended up falling into the deepest of pits – a depression – and I had no focus on the living water that could have lifted me out.

I bet Hagar could taste the irony that surrounded her. Do you remember her story? She was the servant by whom Abraham fathered a child. See, Sarah was tired of waiting on God for a child, so she manipulated His plan according to her time table. Sarah offered her maidservant to Abraham, and when Hagar actually conceived (which Sarah wanted), she became embittered. See, Hagar was able to do what she had not. And then, Sarah began to mistreat Hagar for the very thing she wanted her to do in the first place! Ironic, huh? Hagar ran away, but encountered the living God through her desert wandering. And by a spring of water, of all places. God sent her back, but eventually Sarah had her own child. Because things became worse, and Sarah commanded it, Hagar had to leave once again.

Abraham sent Hagar and her son away, but with provisions… a waterskin filled with water. They wandered through Beer-sheba, but inevitably, the water ran dry. And this time… Hagar didn’t see a spring of water. This time, she had no hope. And so, the child lay under a tree dying, and Hagar walked off a distance and wept. And then, when things looked the bleakest, an angel spoke to Hagar. He said, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy from the place where he is. Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him, for I will make him a great nation.” Genesis 21:17-18. And that’s when it happened… God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. Do you see? The water was there all along… Hagar just couldn’t see it. Her problems had grown so high, that’s all she could see. Because Hagar was dwelling in a pit of despair, she was blinded to what lie directly before her. And when the scales fell away, she finally saw hope. Because she was in Beer-sheba, which means seven wells. How ironic that Hagar journeyed through the land of seven wells, but couldn’t one of them.

Yes, it’s true that living water is available to us all. But here’s another truth… we must first see! Because living water, like H20, can surely run dry. We have to do our part… we must get up and sustain ourselves with it. Like Hagar did. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. Same thing with us, spiritually speaking. We can be led to the edge of His live-giving river, but only we can take that first sip. What irony abounds in our lives… how ironic that we can be surrounded by God’s living water, and yet find ourselves dying of thirst. May it not be so.

May we refuse to remain in a dry land, and may we open our eyes to see! May we ever dig deep, tapping into the life-sustaining water that runs within us. And when we find it, may we gulp it down…

Again he measured off a third of a mile, and it was a river that I could not cross on foot. He asked me, “Do you see this, son of man?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I had returned, I saw a very large number of trees along both sides of the riverbank. He said to me, “This water flows out to the eastern region and goes down to the Arabah. When it enters the sea, the sea of foul water, the water becomes fresh. Every kind of living creature that swarms will live wherever the river flows, and there will be a huge number of fish because this water goes there. Since the water will become fresh, there will be life everywhere the river goes. Ezekiel 47:5-9

Feels like home to me

“I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:14

The above verse is so very personal to me. Because it embodies what was most important to me just about three years ago. Within this verse, I see my two most pressing prayer concerns at that time… One, I wanted to find God, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind. And the other was like it, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind, I wanted to return to my homeland. I wanted these two things desperately, and now that God has answered both prayers, I believe I know why I sought them so frantically. Because on a deeper level, it wasn’t just my home or the LORD that I was seeking. It was safety. And so naturally, I longed to return to the place in which I first felt safe. A child first feels safe in the arms of her mother or at her daddy’s knees. And so, it was that nest of security that I sought… the nest from which I jumped eighteen years earlier in an effort to spread my wings. And after so long away, it was my homeland I wanted. Because absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? And because there, I would find those I loved, and who loved me back unconditionally. It was security of a homeland I was eager to find.

My mother-in-law made a remark just a week or so ago, and I find it to be true. She said that God has plans for me, but He put me where I would feel secure. And there’s no place like home, right? Wasn’t it Dorothy who sought what was beyond the rainbow, and in the end, she just wanted to go back home. And isn’t it said, “Home is where your heart is.” Don’t we see that cross-stitched on pillows adorning comfy couches in homes across our land? Yes, when you leave your home searching for the rainbow, and end up finding not gold as promised, but an empty pot, you tend to want to go back to where you started. Familiarity beckons, and what’s known calls, and comfort draws you… back to the place from which you were carried away captive… back from the world that didn’t fulfill as you so hoped.

Since coming home, I’ve learned a lot about God. More so than I have in my entire life. And the biggest lesson I have learned is that there’s a hole in your heart that can never be filled on this side of eternity. Some refer to it as a God-sized hole, that only He can fill. And it’s from experience that I believe that. Because it was only by my spending so many years away from home, and my longing for it desperately, that I learned of its inadequacy. If God brought me back too soon, I wouldn’t have realized it. And if He never brought me back at all, why, my homeland would still be that elusive promised land to me. It would still be a plot of soil that I set my every hope and dream upon… it would still be Virginia that I considered my real home today. And not Him, who is my ultimate home and my final destination.

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16

I’ve been home for just over two and a half years now. And the crazy thing is… home no longer feels like home to me. The oddest thing is that what I placed all my hopes on didn’t produce what I expected. And so, that spurned on my search for God all the more… here in my hometown. And it’s here that I found God… where I least expected to find Him. And what He’s revealing to me is that here will never be enough. And it doesn’t matter where here happens to be. Because it’s not there… with Him. He is the only thing that can fulfill and satisfy the deep unrest of my soul. The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully satisfied until that Day, when I am in fact somewhere over the rainbow and in His very presence. Because what I know now is that He is home. It’s not here, in Virginia, but it’s there… with Him.

I was searching for security. I wanted a refuge. And so, I thought home. But Virginia can’t help me with that. Because it’s only Him… the eternal God is my refuge. It’s His arms that are everlasting (Deuteronomy 33:27). And so now, it’s Him that I seek… because He feels like home to me.

One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life… Psalm 27:4

Here

Here is a condensed testimony of what’s happened, and what I believe is happening, through God’s amazing plan.

First, the truth… No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. John 6:44.

February 1997. I became a child of God, and yet I stumbled about for years without going deeper than the surface. I went through the motions (if I went through them at all). September 2004. I came to Pinehurst, NC, and I joined a church. I heard God’s word, and my faith began to grow. However, I moved away for a year. August 2008. I moved back to Pinehurst and joined the same church. I had one full year of pure Bible study and prayer before getting busy. My faith was established and I was full of belief and expectation. Spring 2010, I received a promise through God’s word. I was certain He gave me the following words and knew that He would send me back to my hometown… a place that I had elevated to my very own promised land.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. Jeremiah 29:13,14.

Summer 2010, I did just that. I began to seek Him with all my heart. By the Fall, my search for God was in sincerity. And then it happened, He sent me home. I was settled in my hometown by Spring of 2011. After a while, I climbed a mountain with God, but tumbled down so, very low. Which brings me to today. I am here, in my very own promised land on earth, and I’m still diligently seeking God. It is here, in my hometown, that I have found more of God than I ever could have imagined. My question? Why the wait? Because the truth is, God is the one who draws us. Why, if I became His child in 1997, did He wait so long to draw me to Him? Why has it taken sixteen years to get here? My search for God began in earnest close to three years ago. So why now… and why here?

January 2013. I received my answer. I have a new promise from God… and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Exodus 34:10. This is why now, this is why here. I am among my own people, and some of them may need to know just how big a God we have. I myself need to know. And so, God, with His complex plan worked out all the minute details to bring me to today and my indwelling of my homeland. It’s here that He will do His biggest work in me. Here, among my people, God will transform me… and they shall see. They will know that He is the LORD, for I am the branch of His planting. Here.

And so the transformation has begun. First, confession. HUGE confession. And then, He said get a new spirit. And now, God says, get a new heart… “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart.” Ezekiel 18:31. And oh how I want that new heart. Because for years, my heart has been so hard. As a young girl, I was so tender and senstitive. Why, I would cry if someone looked at me funny! But over time, that heart of mine became calloused. It started when sin came knocking. Oh, no doubt, I became God’s child many years ago, but inside there were hidden things. Darkness that I didn’t lay down at the cross, but rather carried in my heart, tucked away and out of sight. And it’s been killing me, a slow death by way of a hardened heart. Because my heart became so calloused and cold through the years, it really served no purpose other than to pump blood through my deadened body. Essentially, I was of no use to God, because my heart was as hard as flint. But several years ago, things began to change… I began seeking Him with all my heart. And so He drew near to me… but only so near. Before drawing me further into His presence, He had to first clean me up.

And that’s what He did… He told me that He desired truth in the inward part. And it was in my hidden part, that He made me to know wisdom (Psalm 51:6). And after many years, I acknowledged my transgressions to Him. I confessed. Because He tells us to empty our hearts of detestable things and abominations. And then the miracle will happen. God will give us new hearts. But we have to do our part. We have to pour out our hearts before Him, emptying it of hidden things (Psalm 62:8). And then, He will remove the stoney heart out of our flesh, and He will give a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).

I am amazed with God. I am amazed at How He works things out. See, I left home at nineteen but returned as a new creation. I came back as a child of God. And in all my years away, God could have drawn me to Him if He so purposed. He could have brought my dark sins to light while I was living elsewhere… but He waited for the right time. He drew me to Him several years ago, and that’s when my true search for God began. I sought Him with my whole heart, and now I’ve found Him. He’s restored me to the land He banished me from… my homeland. It is here among my own people that He will sanctify His great name. My people shall know that He is the LORD God, when He is hallowed in me before their eyes. Here, He has sprinkled me clean. Here, He has given me a new heart and put a new spirit within me. Here, in my own land, God has taken out my heart of stone, and here in my promised land, God has given me a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36.

God is doing a work in me. He’s waited for the right time so that I could become brand new right before my own people’s eyes. It is here, in my promised land, that I will experience the victory God has promised me, through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is here that I will await the next miracle… for it is an awesome thing the He will do with me. Hallelujah and Amen.