Dry Bones

Faith in Jesus is the breath that gets us through the dry, desert places in life.

Faith in Jesus is the breath that gets us through the dry, desert places in life.

Life has been a bit busy during the first month of this new year..but what else is new? I have a lot on my plate but yet I find myself spinning my wheels--not sure if it's the wait 'til the last second philosophy I've always had. I don't know what it is about me but even if I've got a zillion-and-one things to do, and I plan and hash every detail out, I can't seem to focus on accomplishing the tasks at hand until the last minute. I might be a hot mess when finally getting to said tasks but by golly, I get them done and everything always works out. What can I say, I work well under pressure! So now I find myself with a crap ton to do work/creative wise but my mind is all over the place because I feel God doing something new but I'm not quite sure how to navigate it all. Do I jump...what if I fall? Do I continue to wait...what if I miss an opened opportunity? There's so many factors and pieces to what I feel God is possibly doing but I've thought I've felt Him moving before (with the Clark house two years ago) but was obviously wrong and was utterly disappointed in the end. My mama always told me that if I didn't know what to do or where to go, to not do anything, be still and just pray. My praying life isn't what anyone would probably consider to be a traditional one, especially as of late. Maybe I'm wrong for it, I don't know, but I tend to "think-pray" as odd as that sounds. My friend Alex said something a few years ago that I can totally relate to--that in high school, she would pray all day, it was almost like she had a continuous conversation going with God and that's, in a sense, what I do. I have all these thoughts and ideas rolling through my brain all day and during them, I find myself wondering if what I'm thinking is God's Will, or if He is orchestrating the things that I'm thinking. Of course I'll whisper little prayers to Him too and of course I also have those sit down, coming-to-Jesus meetings with Him but mostly it's just a continuous barrage of thoughts and "is this You, God?" prayers. Yesterday Rob took Bo to run an errand and CC was napping so I finally was able to have a little quiet time since I couldn't yesterday morning. I've been reading Ezekial. Have I retained everything? No, not one single solitary bit. I wanted to read Ezekial because of the story of dry bones which I've read (and highlighted in my Bible) before but I wanted to read the entire book to get the full picture of what led to the valley of dry bones. Needless to say, I'm going to have to read the book again when I'm done because all these conversations and visions that are exchanged between Ezekiel and God is too much to keep up with. Nevertheless, I forced myself to sit down and read a chapter yesterday while the house was still and quiet, then I knelt face-down in a fetal position on the living room floor and just stayed there for a few minutes. I heard recently during a sermon (can't remember whose) that sometimes you need to go to God in prayer and not speak, just sit and listen so I laid there on the floor and just listened...to myself breathe. It's so frustrating when you genuinely want to hear from God, are all but begging for some direction and all you hear is yourself breathing. I know I get distracted easily, I know I don't spend as much time in the Word as I should, I know I don't pray like I should, but when I finally still myself and get into a physical position of "ok God, I'm listening!!!", and all I hear is myself breathing, I find myself feeling silly for getting on my face to pray and glad that no one saw me down there. I know it sounds awful but I'm keeping it real. I'm ashamed to admit that when I finally uttered words to God while on my face, I started my conversation with, "if You're up there...". Now I could see someone saying that who truly had never had a relationship or encounter with God but me?! I was raised in church (not that that means a hill of beans but for arguments sake, I know better), have seen the hand of God move in more ways that I can count, but I found myself in a desperate state of "What do you want me to do, God??? What is my next move here?!" The words came flying out of my mouth before I could reel them back in and as soon as they left me, I immediately thought back to the miracle of Bo, and I felt awful for even stooping to that level of desperation and doubt. I know God is there. I know He hears my every prayer (so ironic to see myself type those words because CC had a sticker placed on her shirt at church on Sunday that read those same words). I'm so terrified of making the wrong move and falling on my face or getting my hopes up with one thing or another and what I truly feel God is calling me to is really just my own doing. How do I sift through the muck? I know, I know--most (if not all) would say to be in His Word, meditate on it and He will speak. But where do I even start? I'm in His Word everyday. Am I not in it long enough? Am I not reading what I'm supposed to be reading? Am I not desperate enough to hear His voice? I know He's there. Even though it's my human nature to doubt (and honey, let me tell ya, I am as human and imperfect as they come!), I can't bring myself to say, "peace out God, I'm not going to pass anything by you or acknowledge Your existence". He's engrained in me and always has been even when I've felt so far from Him. I've mentioned in a previous post about me having been in a dry, desert season and that I've finally felt that I'm coming out of it. While I'm not quite completely out of it, as Lauren Daigle's song exclaims, "breathe O breath of God...we call out to dry bones, 'Come alive!'". In my continuous waiting for direction, more than wanting answers and guidance, I pray that God would breathe some life on the dryness of my prayer life and that I can once again feel completely in sync with Him. I know the distractions that need to be tamed and/or eliminated so I guess that's the first step in watering these dusty, dry bones.

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Waiting Well

It's funny how as long as I've been in NY, I've always had a magnolia tree somewhere near me. This shot was from our yard in the cottage we lived in before buying our house 5 and a half years ago.

It's funny how as long as I've been in NY, I've always had a magnolia tree somewhere near me. This shot was from our yard in the cottage we lived in before buying our house 5 and a half years ago.

I'm internally snickering at the subject of this post. "Why?", you may ask. My answer is because my entire life, I've been the one with the least amount of patience. For real. I don't know what it is about waiting but I can't stand it--if something isn't happening in the amount of time I'd like for it to be, I just grab it and do it myself.

But God.

A few days ago I received an e-vite from my pastor's wife to attend the Kingdom Hearts women's conference this year. I attended for the first time two years ago and was completely in awe of the presence and details of God that entire day. I remember the excitement of having a girls day with a small group of ladies from my church and being a bit envious, yet hopeful when I walked into the building and saw a whole slew of vendors set up, wishing I had known about the fact that one could set up shop there. Looking back at my journal from that year, I found my notes from the day of that conference--it was held on April 23, 2016; the day before, I had written an entry describing myself sitting out back here at our house, under our pink magnolia tree watching Bo play with trucks. I wrote about how I had been so excited for that tree to blossom but was disappointed because we had gotten a cold snap (including a late snow) that killed the blooms that were to unfold, but that after sitting there under the tree and studying it a bit, amongst the dead blooms, I could see green shoots and a few traces of pink. "Even in the ugly, there were traces of beauty", I penned. I went on to say that the magnolia, in some ways, was me--that even though I had allowed the enemy or circumstances to take hold of me at times and my trust wavered, I would wither and appear to be drained of life, but when I surrendered to God and put my full faith and trust in Him, I'd begin to be and experience the beauty of what He had designed for me to be.

Back to the day of the KH conference, I walked into the main hall and there, set up as a prop were two wooden pallets that had been handpainted on with the scripture: Jeremiah 17:7-8, which reads, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes, but its leaves will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought nor cease from yielding fruit." The keynote speaker that day was Francie Winslow who spoke on trusting God as well as the condition of our hearts. This morning I sat down with that old journal and looked up the scriptures from that day. I also looked at the sermon notes from the next day at church--my good friend's (now) late mother had given that sermon on Elijah and how God will always provide when he sends us on a mission, how He takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary, how He answers prayers even when we're still speaking, how we are to believe that He will provide and answer prayers, that God orchestrates everything according to His plan, how if we're faithful in little things, He'll give us bigger things, and that He's able to do anything, even what seems to be impossible. Then, I continued to read journal entries from that week which led to sermon notes of the following Sunday which was a sermon by mine and Rob's good friend, Mike who spoke on the subject of "seasons". Something that he said that stood out most to me was, "We need some seasons in our lives where we are drawn to our knees so we reach out to Him, and what follows a desperate season is a season of fruitfulness." WOW. Mind blown. I had no idea that the season that I was stepping into was a dry, drought-filled, wandering, silent, at-times-dark season. I thought I had God figured out, and that Rob, Bo and I were to purchase that old farm house on 34 acres and relocate to Alabama (if you missed it, that story is here) that following year only to have the wind knocked out of my sails just four months later when the deal fell through. I also had no idea that almost a year to the day of that conference, even in my dry season where, though I knew God and was trusting Him on blind faith but not waiting very well, I would be blessed with a daughter, even though I was so apathetic and complacent. 

But God.

So now here I am nearly two years after that conference, with an invitation to attend this year's conference. Upon receipt of the invitation to attend this year, I did some thinking and research, and found myself on the phone with the very sweet vendor coordinator for Kingdom Hearts. Guess who's going to be a vendor at this year's conference? Yep, you guessed it. MAGNOLIA+PINE. I wanted to get a feel for the keynote speaker and her message topic so I looked her up yesterday; her name is Chrystal Evans Hurst and if you're familiar with well-known pastors and Christian speakers, her dad is Tony Evans and her sister is Priscilla Shirer. Anyway, I came across Chrystal's blog and she recently did a podcast with contemporary Christian artist, Meredith Andrews (listen here). Y'all! I started listening to that interview and was glued. They spoke on what it means to be faithful in every season, making room for your gifts (i.e.: how to juggle home life/mommin' and using your God-given gifts and passions), and finding time to rest for it is when you {wait and} rest that you often hear God. It's hard for me to get out of my rut and focus on a sermon at home sometimes but I could listen to that podcast over and over. As we started this new year, I wanted so bad to turn over a new leaf and really get a groove with MAGNOLIA+PINE but of course to still be present at home with Rob and the kids, I just didn't know how in the world I would be able to maintain brain space and momentum. But God, right? This podcast came at just the right time. Chrystal and Meredith spoke about snippets and how so many women feel like it's all or nothing with getting something done. That is totally me! I feel like whether it's a devotional or design, blog post or creative vision, if I sit down to finally get something accomplished--either Bo needs his truck fixed or hiney wiped, or CC is screaming and wants the boob--I lose all concentration and say, "forget it, hopefully I can finally start on _____ tomorrow during their nap". These ladies spoke about how, even if you have a thought, word, vision, whatever it is, and you can speak it into your phone notes, do it! Grab whatever snippet you can and then go back and fit the pieces together. It's so hard for me to imagine myself doing this because I've always been a perfectionist and at times, a bit OCD, but when I sit and really think about it, getting things done in the manner of which they're suggesting is almost like a mosaic. You may be putting tiny pieces of random gibberish together but when it's all finished, it's a beautiful work of art. Such is my life.

I didn't know seven years ago that I'd still be living in New York. I didn't know two years ago that I'd be about to step into a desert season. I didn't know last week that I'd be starting a new year this week and having the sand wiped from my eyes, looking back at an old journal and literally reading the promises of God in my hand writing, in black and white. I say it all the time but when I'm caught up in a lesson He's teaching me, it just absolutely blows my mind. I can't help but feel a little guilty and want to kick myself for the times I haven't waited well, especially during the last seven years. But God. He has been teaching me firsthand His character, His lovingkindness and His grace. I've always had faith and held on to hope but as my dear friend, Shell recently shared, "let us be more aware of Him"; I know He's always working and orchestrating in my life but sometimes I go days on autopilot and not really seeing what He's doing. However, if I just sit for a second and wait...listen instead of speaking...I realize that He's always always always at work, even in the mundane. Even in the desert.

 

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