Streams in the Desert

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)

Miracle #3: baby boy

There’s always a day that I look at each of my children and realize the stage they were in yesterday seems noticeably less today. One stage is fading and another is emerging. It’s that bittersweet dimension of being a parent. You have to let go and move forward, knowing change is good and the new phase has beauty not yet seen. I’ve always documented those special days. Your journal, a blog, or a note for you to find someday from me has them all. 

Today, I looked at you, my youngest son, at 17 months. Today I saw less of a baby, and for the first time, I saw the glimpse of a handsome little boy. A little boy who is learning to communicate, to have both joys and fears. Who’s loving new freedoms of walking, using a spoon, and not dumping a plate of food continuously at his high chair. Each time this happens I hold back tears, but each time I see that sparkle in each of your eyes. “Mommy I did it!” Is what you may be thinking. “What’s next for me?” It’s like you can see those emerging tears, and you’re there to make me smile. You see that as your mom, I get scared of unknown sometimes, but I do my best to show you strength. But you, as well as your brothers, model strength and joy every day to me. I learn so much from you already! Look how much God has done in your little life so far. For you specifically, look at the life-changing adventure of 2023 that you and I had. That you were right by my side in a year that pushed me closer to God than I’ve ever experienced. That someday, we can share the story of how we got through that year together. That God created you with a purpose, and every day a piece of that unfolds. As your mommy, it’s the greatest joy to watch every moment I am able. 

Just like each of your siblings, you come with a miraculous story and are apart of a greater one unfolding. You may be less of a baby today than you were yesterday, but I love you more each day!

January blues versus January blessings

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;…” -Isaiah 1:18

January. The month after the excitement of the holidays and the month it’s usually cold. January. The month when the sun seems to shine a little bit less and sometimes when the snow storms begin. January. The most common month of the year that a large number of people experience the blues in one form or another, but it’s the start of a brand new year.

When I heard the phrase “January blues” years ago, I thought it was silly. I didn’t understand how anyone could feel down and depressed about snowfall, going back to school or a new year. All I knew was that as a kid it was usually a bummer when we had to put away the Christmas tree and when that excitement of the holidays seemed to fade. It reminded me of Charlie Brown feeling depressed at Christmas time. It was a real feeling for him and he didn’t understand why, but that all changed when his perspective shifted.

As I got older, I began to experience some of these blues in January. Sometimes for just a day or two, but sometimes at random times for a few moments throughout the month. Was there something about the sun shining less and holidays being over? It was intriguing to me, especially because almost everyone else around me seemed to experience it, too.

December traditions, family, Christmas

Many of us have fond memories of Christmas time as a child. It is full of wonder and of excitement. We remember the smells of our mom’s or grandmother’s baking. We have vivid memories of nativities, of lights, and of stockings that were traditionally displayed each year. 

Thank you for another year

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for another year of life. Thank you for all that has taken place this year—the joys, the adventures, the pains, and the changes. Thank you for your faithfulness, your mercies, and your love. Thank you for never leaving my side, for being my constant, my peace, and for holding my hand through some very tough circumstances. Thank you for drawing me closer to you this year. To think about your power even in the time between 35 and 36 is incredible. Then to look back at over 3 decades is indescribable.

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