I ended up at an old, familiar place on a Sunday afternoon in January. It was a frigid day, but the sunshine on the snow was beautiful. I pulled out the new devotional that had arrived on my doorstep just that morning. Thanks to social media stories, this devotional was inspired by a post that caught my eye just the prior afternoon. It was posted by my beloved sixth grade teacher. As an eleven year old, I remember wondering if this teacher was actually a princess (maybe that was inspired by the tea party that she hosted for the girls in our class), but she guided me so much spiritually that year. The portion of the devotional she posted instantly stirred something in my heart. If you know me at all, you know that an impulse buy for anything is typically not something I do. The prior day though, I not only added this book to my Amazon cart, but I also threw in $2.99 for overnight shipping. After I saw the purchase confirmation I remember thinking, “Seriously Christine? You’re already not thinking the clearest today, why did you do that?” But, I let it go.

To make a long story short, this devotional was an answer to prayer. Within minutes of reading the introduction, as well as the suggested devotional and aligning scripture, the recent block in my heart and mind came crashing down. January 2023, a year prior, had been by far the most difficult (and tragic) of my life. That story has only been shared with a few, and as God allows, will be shared over my lifetime. But January 2024, this past month, was extremely difficult as flashbacks and reminders took place, just due to the nature of time. If you can imagine a devastating storm that arises on a seemingly calm day, you know the shock. If you go back to that same place that the storm hit a year later, you’ll see the aftermath. While the shock of the storm may be over now, the land doesn’t look the same. There are still broken trees, erosions, and some areas may look entirely transformed. In my mind and heart for much of the month, it was easier for me to see the changes. To feel the pain, and to see the tragedy. I could see the broken trees. I could feel the tearing winds. I could feel the urge to sprint as I remembered the shocking storm that had begun. The dread of knowing this wasn’t just a single attack, but would be a lifelong battle that would require immense strength and help from the Lord. There had been a block to where I was unable to see the glimpses of sunshine, the green grass that was now alive, the few blooming flowers, or the transformations that had occurred over a year. January felt a little tougher than the typical blues for me.

I’ve always been drawn to nature. God’s creation always has a beauty that is beyond captivating to me. I’ve been fascinated with sunrises, with storms, with rainbows, and with sunsets since the time I was a small child. As far back as I can remember, I have felt and heard God speak to me so often when I am outside in nature.

As I read these words in the devotional, stunned at how fitting they felt for my life, as the sunshine poured in through my car window and I could see my breath due to the cold temperature, I felt His presence. God instantly reminded me that no matter what, he has held me all year long. He knows pieces of my life may feel shattered, but every day He helps me pick up a piece, even if small, and give it back to Him. That afternoon He helped me see the transformations. He helped me see the miracles that have happened. The strongholds torn down. The slow, gradual process of healing. He helped me see what I could have lost entirely, but what He spared. He reminded me that no battle is too difficult to endure with Him by my side. He reminded me of His ultimate love and His strength.

How fitting that this book, titled, “Streams in the Desert” had a tie to nature. I’ve seen this book in stores for years. It’s many years old, but ironically was one I always overlooked. It wasn’t until now that God had it for me. And for the times I complain about social media, I’m thankful for the “story” that my teacher wrote about this, and for that urge to add the overnight fee so that I could read this.

So, wherever you are at in life, I would encourage you to read the devotional below. It is a beautiful reminder of His love, even if it feels difficult at times.

“Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” -John 15:2.

A child of God was once overwhelmed by the number of afflictions that seemed to target her. As she walked past a vineyard during the rich glow of autumn, she noticed it’s untrimmed appearance and the abundance of leaves still on the vines. The ground had been overtaken by a tangle of weeds and grass, and the entire place appeared totally unkempt. While she pondered the sight, the heavenly Gardener whispered such a precious message to her that she could not help but share it. The message was this, ‘My dear child, are you questioning the number of trials in your life? Remember the vineyard and learn from it. The gardener stops pruning and trimming the vine or weeding the soil only when he expects nothing more from the vine during that season. He leaves it alone, because its fruitfulness is gone and further effort now would yield no profit. In the same way, freedom from suffering leads to uselessness. Do you now want me to stop pruning your life? Shall I leave you alone?’ Then her comforter heart cried, “No!” (Homera Homer-Dixon)

It is the branch that bears the fruit, that feels the knife, to prune it for a larger growth, a fuller life. Though every budding twig be trimmed, and every grace of swaying tendril, springing leaf, may lose its place. O you whose life of joy seems left, with beauty shorn; whose aspirations lie in dust, all bruised and torn. Rejoice, though each desire, each dream, each hope of thine will fall and fade; it is the hand of Love Divine that holds the knife, that cuts and breaks with tenderest touch. That you, whose life has born some fruit, might now bear much. (Annie Johnson Flint)