Hope In the Barren Desert

In a season of doubt, in the barren desert, who can hope? Trouble’s gloomy expression, my default, what do I have to offer?

That’s the thing my pride doesn’t want to admit–it depresses me that I am depraved and worthless–but if I allow myself to embrace it and accept God’s grace, it is freeing–so I admit, I have nothing–I come to the table with nothing.

And if I come to the table with nothing, knowing I have nothing to offer God, then I am poor in spirit.

And isn’t the only way I can learn to be or to become poor in spirit–to know that I have nothing to offer–isn’t it through suffering?

But oh–this body–this sick skin I live in does not like to suffer.

“…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Rom. 5:2-5 (emphasis added)

And hope does not disappoint…

I am always so afraid within the fragile, confused walls of my heart that hoping will disappoint me. Why don’t I just take the hope being offered me? Why is that so hard?

Why would I choose to not believe? Like the man who, seeking help for his son, when confronted by Jesus about his lack of faith, said to Jesus, “I do believe; help me with my unbelief!” I am this man. He and I are the same. Jesus sees straight through me, and I am undone and I beg him to help me believe. I beg for help.

So I persevere, and I stay in my context…I don’t run away. I hope for a better way to live this life, the way Christ would. And I hope for a better tomorrow in that great, glorious kingdom where for eternity there’ll be no more pain or suffering.

But in the midst of illness, in the middle of God-forsaken, barren desert, and long nights of pain and sin too grotesque to mention–when my spouse and I have reached our fleshly limit and can bear no more suffering, when we lash out at one another in bitterness and grief, how can I hope? When all seems lost to the human eye, tell me, what then?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from the place from which I carried you into exhile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

This, in this barren desert, in this wasteland, this is when I rely on God’s plan, not my own.

This is when I surrender my emotions and pain-feelings in the moment–this season–and relinquish all to Him.

I allow Him to write the story of my life and I trust, and I hope in Him, my Father, my only true one.

I say “Yes!” to God! Yes, Father, I will hope, I will trust in your plan and your promise for my life, in the midst of circumstances that don’t feel like hope–I will persevere, I will trust and by your grace, I will hope–only because the blood ran for me–only by your grace.

And it is because of that bloody, sacred tree, because You were the ultimate sacrifice, because you laid down your body, that I have a hope.

You prayed for a way out–you asked, begged God in the watch hour, ’til sweat and blood–brought forth by physical distress–oozed from your pores. You still said it–though you were tormented in your body, mind and spirit, though you hoped God would pass the cup from you–you said, “Thy will be done”, and you went to your death, praying and believing that if God sacrificed you, splayed your body out, tormented on a skin-splintering, bone-crushing cross, then He has not put more on you than you can bear, and His glory is shining greater than you can see in this moment of flesh and blood.

And because You did this–not easily, like rain filling a puddle, but with flesh-grueling pain, more like Earth’s crust breaking and shifting, a violent, hurculean rumbling force in it’s wake, exerting it’s force against the grain of nature, destructive to man’s way, transforming what was naturally in place by fleshly law and rule, and breaking down walls, ripping the veil from my face, ripping away the sin-barriers that keep me from you–because You did this, because You went before me, and I haven’t endured anything that you haven’t already endured, I have a hope.

I have the hope of glory–the only hope worth having–the hope that when I come out on the other side, all that is broken will be whole, all that is painful will be beautiful, all that is mournful will be joy, and all that is weeping will be gladness and all that is suffering will be at rest.

Some scripture to meditate on–it’s a little long, but worth it–as I went through this scripture today, it really ministered to me–I pray it does the same for you:
*all emphasis on scripture has been added

“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law, but to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Rom.4:16

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2-5

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we await eagerly our adoptions as sons, the redemptions of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:18-25

“Even youths grow tired and weary , and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”…Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. …We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:13,14,19-20

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be made like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Join us at Ann Voskamp’s site for The Practice of Hope, reading other Christian sisters’ and brothers’ struggles and insights…

also linking up with Imperfect Prose:


So much to be thankful for this week…while it’s been a rough past few weeks of illness and things seemed to be falling apart…I am always amazed that at those times God seems to answer the most prayers, and seems to be the most near.

I am overwhelmed with life right now, so I’m quiet and reflective, and there is not really a story in me today, just a desire to live out my story and not just to write about thanks and grace, but to bathe in the joy and to swim in the grace…to live the grace. Sometimes this may mean writing less, and having less to say, and listening more.

So this week, I’m not struggling to keep my head up out of the muck–I’m drowning in grace–in a way, it’s a choice, and in a way, it’s just an answering to the weight of God’s glory, like the bending of a tree in a hurricane.

“If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking…”
My gratitude:

#259 my hands being in dirt–fall flowers and a deep breath of change

#260 for the ability to take a moment to be calm and at peace–to just rest

#261 husband taking me to buy flowers to make my yard beautiful

#262 a lazy nap in the hammock with husband on Sunday and really doing Sabbath rest

#263 his response when i ask to make a request: “I’ll take care of it” and my relief…this shepharding that i need, and why did i ever buck it?

#264 a family day at Mr. Simmons’ work–more fun than four girls can imagine with rides and all the jumping and ice cream a kid could want–and how it’s different this time and my admission, “You have never been more attractive to me than right now, because you provide our family with all this.” and his “really?”

#265 working together as a team to make the day as enjoyable as possible in the heat before packing up and hiking back to the van for the long drive home

#266 knowing that things are easier because i am submissive out of respect and love for my family…not out of the need to follow a rule…this is grace

#267 God blessing us financially to be able to buy all we need for school

#268 the first day and no crying and we have actually been productive–maybe i can do this schooling thing after all

#269 a few books that are missing from our order…knowing that everything will work itself out and worrying will not help

#270 Lilly getting an infection and me having to stop and all of the resulting time spent rocking and soothing, cheek to cheek and feeling her go limp asleep, safe in my arms

#271 that she always prefers me–no greater feeling

#272 Lilly grinning up at me with those wide, red plump lips, that smile that seems to take up her whole face, gleaming angelic joy, her on her new little throne and training to be a big girl

#273 me coming out of the woods with a 3 ft tall Spider Lilly and bulbs to plant and husband, riding the mower, looking at me shocked, “where did YOU come from?”

#274 happy work, all of us together

#275 girls helping me place bulbs deep in the ground–me working hard to snatch a last bit of light and lush, bright lillies to go in the holes–so they can wave to the road from their post in front of the picket fence

#276 how Lorna comes and tells Ivy she can go take a break while she finishes up the watering

#277 planting and digging ’til i can’t see, raking dirt, seeing the grass comb back and fluff up green, lillies looking out from the dark, settled in their homes, a candle brought by daughter my only light

#278 sheets, blankets and toys coming out of washer smelling clean

#279 scrubbing dried banana out of rugs, soaking stains and making everything clean…lighting candles when everything is laid bare and peaceful

#280 thankful for the healthy body with which to serve and to make home a haven

#281friends who aren’t going anywhere, who forgive and let me forgive back, and the great solace i find in this

#282 how Lilly’s small, light voice keeps sing-song calling out in the afternoon to her eldest sister: “Lo—na” (Lorna)

#283 how Bella says very matter-of factly to her sisters when asked to do something, “Sorry, I gotta swing”

#284 a late night run with an old friend, talking into the wee hours of the morning like teenagers and knowing that she is more family than she is friend. that God keeps blessing me with good friends

#285 how he keeps pulling the bible off the shelf and bringing it to the table night after night, never giving up on us, even when we are unruly, irritable and tired. how this soothes me.


In the harshness of dark and responsibilities weighing heavy–they all have had baths, supper finally eaten at 8:00, teeth brushed, and now time for prayers and a story–I try to make sense of time and how it seems to rush away from me, leaving me here, empty, with all my stress and worry.

I am trying to get everything done so that when they at last fall asleep, Mr. Simmons and I can watch a movie, snuggled up.

But I hear squealing coming from their room, and I realize that he is not cooperating with the plan. I peek into their room to see what the commotion is, and see pillows being flung, laughter escaping little mouths, and eyes wild with excitement. He is in on it too.

I could get annoyed at the plan being sabotaged, as I have in the past and tell everyone to calm down so that my nerves can rest. But I don’t. I have learned a new motto: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em–at least when it comes to the lighter issues of life, and when it applies, and I whole-heartily believe it applies to pillow fights.

So I join in on the pillow sacking, and the girls run from me, in squealish fright, eyes wide with merriment. Mr. Simmons grabs a pillow and sacks me and I stand bold and pretend to hit him with all my might. (Of course, we all hit Mr. Simmons harder than we do each other because he can handle it–isn’t that the way with Daddies and heroes?)

While Mr. Simmons is preoccupied with being tackled by eight tiny hands–even little baby Lilly, who we heard grunting in her crib, wanting in on the fight–I run and retrieve my camera to capture the moment. Lilly toddles over, unsteadily holding baby-sized pillow over her head, mimicking her sisters in their ambush.

As Mr. Simmons becomes too tired to continue, and the room begins to quiet, all three oldest girls are in a trio huddle, and I try to snap a frame of them, only for them to fall backwards in giggles on the bed.

I capture their sweet giggles, as Mr. Simmons stands in the doorway watching. Ivy has a contagious, innocent laugh, her body slumping back with the limp happiness, reminding me of the sweet gigglish bunny of the cartoon Robin Hood. She rings pure joy, the echos reaching my very soul, and I know…this is what life is about. This is contentment, this is savoring the moment, this is wisdom…slowing down just to hear her laugh, just to taste the sweet joy of them, their faces all flushed tingling happiness.

My gratitude:

#236 tree tops bowing in storm, the way i do before God and His mercy

#237 pine trees swaying–one last dance before winter’s bareness

#238 wings flapping past window pane

#239 from my perch at sink, a close-up view of tiny bird on her wire perch–her distinct lines, soft belly hair, and ruffled, white-streaked tufts of mohawk adorned head

#240 how the green lush is greener against the grey sky

#241 grey skies that lend to me staying in my context and settling into family games inside while it pours outside

#242 feeling useful

#243 that i can again do tasks for my family that require a lot of me

#244 making food to fill their bellies while Husband practices guitar with eldest daughter and little ones play with dolls

#245 that they are learning music together

#246 pinkness of salmon

#247 a new food and fitness plan for me, bedtime routine for all 6 of us

#248 that he read scripture before family card game on our Labor Day together

#249 candles’ soft glow on table

#250 children’s laughter and my learning to just let go

#251 tiny brown paper heart handed to me in the middle of my chaos of emotions and her angelic voice, “i love you”

#252 Husband calling into work and spending the whole day being lazy with me, just for us

#253 napping in the hammock with Husband, reading aloud together “The Mystery of Marriage”

#254 being on time

#255 peacefulness

#256 realizing that i long for home when i’m out and the familiar smell when i walk through the door

#254 date night twice in a week’s time

#255 Husband taking me to Joann’s and buying craft supplies to keep my mind off things

#256 us reading scripture at the supper table and him choosing the Psalms because he knows that it soothes me

#257 the two of us, one, praying together at bedtime

#258 Lorna’s prayer: “God, thank you for everything we have, and without all the things You have given us, we would be very poor. Please help the children in Africa, and Brazil and Australia that don’t have anything to eat and please give them more than just one room in their home and take care of them. Amen.”

Counting 1,000 grace filled moments to be thank for…with Ann…you can too: