The good desert.

From Michelle.  12 June, 2011.

Dear friends and family,

Today is a good day, my birthday.  Greetings have arrived from around the world.  I feel loved.  Tomorrow we celebrate my son and my brother.  The week will be capped off with the two year anniversary of Steve’s accident.  It is a week, in other words, to take stock, to count blessings, to look back at a two year journey.

Two years is an artificial line to draw.  The experience is, of course, folded into an entire life.  For me, the journey began several years prior, in what I came to call my “good desert”.  The desert has been less the location of my testing, and more the story of a God who has proven faithful.  Because even deserts can be good with God, precious even, if we can embrace what they have to offer.  In a sense, I began training years before.  A wise friend sent my own words back to me the other day, words I wrote describing the beginning of that desert road.  They still apply today:

“The soul, too, has a long list of travels, cultures, homes.  I call it the “good desert”, this latest place I have been wandering for several years now, prior to the accident.  It is a desert because the Lord has been working on my weaknesses.  This is not an easy flourishing but a hard and determined growth in a dry soil.  I have just enough water, but never too much.  Friends leave fast, so that I must rely on him.  My strengths don’t help me here.  I have to exercise the weaker muscles, those neglected because I did not need them where I flourished.

In this patch of parched earth, I am getting stronger.  Mostly, my strength is not my own.  So, I call it good because I have to lean hard and push deep.  My soul’s roots spread wider, plummet depths hitherto unknown to find water.  I am happy with a few precious drops.  I learn to obey in order to survive.  I am disciplined by the absence of ease.

Perhaps I was training for now.  Well acquainted with the ends of my own reserves and the beginning of his, it is all too familiar to open my hands and simply receive.  I am not running in circles of worry, trying too hard, tiring myself out.  I am doing what I can.  He will do the rest.  I am prepared for a long journey.  I do not expect an oasis.  But I know there will be enough water for the trip.

This is the gift of the wilderness, finding the end of yourself and the beginning of him.  When I am riding on my strengths, when life is plentiful and abundant, I am quick to forget who carries me, who provides.  Even as the landscape grows harsh, it takes time before I kneel to ask for help.  But I have been wandering for awhile.  My eyes have grown accustomed to the sharp reality of my weakness, his strength. I can live off of him for a long time.  Forever.”

Today, as I take stock, I give thanks for the blessings of the wilderness.  I am reminded of the value of the training, the preciousness of my thirst, the evolution of my trust.  Without the desert, I would not know the presence in absence and the abundance in scarcity.  I would not know with equal depth the eternal yes holding steady no matter the landscape.

I have been blown away lately by the reflections of A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God (free for your Kindle).  In it there is a prayer that is well suited to the dry conditions of the desert, to thirst.  It is my birthday wish.  It goes like this:

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and left me thirsty for more.  I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.  I am ashamed of my lack of desire.  O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.  Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed.  Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.  Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, come away.”  Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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  • Marty

    Happy Birthday, Michelle
    We hope you are doing something special for yourself.
    Jim and Marty Schmidt

  • Meilivos

    Gefeliciteerd lieve Michelle! Ik hoop voor je dat je lieve jongens voor je zongen, een taartje voor je bakten en extra lief waren. De rijkdom van kinderen….
    Mei Li

  • Sara R.

    Happy Birthday, dear Michelle!

  • Anne Richards

    Michelle …. Happy Happy Day!!!

    I am sure you will be well celebrated in CO… enjoy Heath, Tom and their darlings.
    Much love   Anne and John xoxo 

  • Sherry

    Happy, Blessed birthday Michelle.  Missing all of you so much.  Sherry

  • Kfeltz2lido

    Happy Birthday, dear one.  You are greatly loved.  You inspire me.
    Love in Christ,
    Karen from Fairhaven Church

  • Kikomnl

    i linger on your words michelle. “presence in absence and the abundance in scarcity..”  your words meditative :) praying you have a BLESSED day and week with all the life celebrations. MUCH love.

  • Jocelyn_aromin2008

    Happy Birthday Michelle! Thank you for sharing your thoughts…you are an amazing wonan of God… I am reminded of Psalms 73:25 which i also love to sing – “whom have i in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that i desire besides You.” … When we have nothing left but God, we find that God is enough.

  • Roger and Jerri Oliver

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Michelle. Thank you for the gift of your letter. As always, it is inspiring.
    Roger and Jerri Oliver

  • Caroline_cliff

    Yes Yes Yes! Amen, Amen, Amen. Happy Birthday dear friend and may your time away from us be a time of refreshment.

  • Roger Bartholomew – UCM

    Happy Birthday Michelle. Yes, the difference of the good desert and the desert of The Wasteland is the life-giving water which is suppled by God. TS Eliot penned: ”

    What are the roots that clutch, what
    branches grow  

    Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,                                  20

    You cannot say, or guess, for you know

    A heap of broken images, where the sun

    And the dead tree gives no shelter, the
    cricket no relief,  

    And the dry stone no sound of water.

    There is shadow under this red rock,  

    (Come in under the shadow of this red

    And I will show you something different
    from either  

    Your shadow at morning striding behind

    Or your shadow at evening rising to meet

    That is not the desert where we want to be where at best, only a shadow exists to protect. It is the living water from the Almighty that we live for – every drop. May you and Steve and all your family experience it abundantly. 

  • PsBryant

    Happy Birthday, Michelle.
    Thank you once again for your wise words.  You always inspire me to go deeper in my own journey.
    What great words and the prayer that give me hope and encouragement when I am in the “desert ” places.

    Praise to Father ,Son, and Holy Spirit
    Pam Bryant 

  • Rebecca

    Happy Birthday, dear Michelle!  Your words touched my soul, as always.  And pointed me to the amazing love of God, as always.  love, Rebecca

  • Betsy

    Happy Birthday Michelle!  Such good reflections.  Much love to all of you!  Betsy and Lucas King

  • Carol Kuiken

    Thank you so much for the way you share so deeply Michelle.  We do continue to pray for all of you and pray your birthday was special this year.  Love you –

  • Baby

    My eyes are welling with tears as I go through the prayer.  You and Pastor Steve are well loved by God and have witnessed God’s abundant love as I listen to him during the Sunday services.  Happy birthday and we reassure you of our continued prayers.

  • Debbie Vizcarra Simsuangco

    Thank you Michelle for always blessing us by writing from your heart. By sharing your desert, as well as your crests and valleys with us, you have allowed us the privilege to pray with you and for you. 

    Belated birthday greetings to you…and my love and prayers as you mark important milestones this season. May you continue to delight in the Lord and He in you.

  • Greggfarah

    Thanks, Michelle!

  • Linda Muench

    Oh wow, that is so what I feel right now in my life.  Not really desert, but just a longing to know God on a deeper level.  I just finish C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity and he says to really know someone,  you need to spend time with them.  No other way to know God deeper and better than to spend time.  Thanks again Michelle for your words.  Bless you and your family.

  • Delores Topliff

    Excellent profound post. I was privileged to be a member of Tozer’s Ave. Road Church, Toronto, the last 6 mos. of his life when I was a univ. student there–wouldn’t take anything for that experience, glad you enjoy him, too.
    Blessings and love to you and yours (& hugs to Darren & family when you see them, and from them back to you).