Thursday, November 3, 2011

Part 2: Cultivating Hope in the Desert Seasons of Life

**If you want to read Part 1, go here.**

God Leads Us Into the Desert

"So I am going to take her into the desert again; there I will win her back with words of love." (Hosea 2:14)

God wants to get us away from distractions, to be isolated, show us our own self-reliance, and realize our need for Him. He wants us to spend quality time alone with Him, getting to know Him better and love Him more.

The Desert
So what is the "desert"? It's that place that you're stuck in, where you can't find a way out, none of your efforts help, and it goes on and on seemingly forever. Maybe you can't find a job and you've exhausted all of your resources. Or it's finances; you just can't seem to keep your head above water no matter how hard you try. Or maybe it's a relationship with your husband or your child or your good friend. There's a distance there, or even outright disconnection, and it seems impossible to fix. Maybe it's a health problem that won't go away. Or the loss of a dream you held dear in your heart. Or it could even just be a period of numbness, like life is passing you by but you can't seem to engage in it.

Whatever your "desert" is, the common theme is feeling stuck and thinking that things will never change. It is filled with trials, testing, and even suffering.

Why God takes us
Why does God take us into the desert? Sometimes it's because of our sin that He has us stay put until we surrender completely to Him. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years because of their disobedience to God. Over and over God had to allow suffering before they would finally turn to God. Hosea 5:15 says, "I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me."

God will often allow the desert time because He wants to test and increase our faith. Many heroes of the faith have walked this lonely road- Abraham waiting for an heir and then being told to sacrifice his promised son, Job losing everything he had, Paul's many beatings, jailings and shipwrecks as he shared the Gospel- to name a few.

Many times God uses the desert time to teach us, strengthen our character, rid us of selfish ambition, learn humility and dependence on Him. He uses the desert to shape us into His image. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, and then falsely accused and spent years in prison. But he learned patience, humility, and trust in God during those difficult years. When he had the chance to get even with his brothers, instead he responded with love, saying, "Do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you... So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God." (Gen. 45:5,8)

We will all experience suffering
It's definitely not a popular message, but it's true. God allows suffering to come upon His people. There are some believers that talk about pain as if it is only caused by sin. They say that if you're sick, you don't have enough faith because God always wants you to be well. If you're having a hard time, you just need to believe you already have the answer and then it will come.

But the Bible does not guarantee an easy life for anyone, let alone Christians. In fact in 1 Peter 4:12 it says, "Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you." Even Jesus, "son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered." (Heb. 5:8) We will all experience the desert seasons.

My times are in Your hands (Ps. 31:15)
Recently I read again about Corrie ten Boom (in Life Lessons from the Hiding Place). This courageous Dutchwoman helped hide Jews in her home from the Nazis during WWII. After her family was caught, Corrie spent nearly a year in prison and in a death camp in Germany. Her father, sister, and nephew all died in prison, and afterwards she discovered her release was a clerical error- a week later all the women her age were sent to the gas chambers.

But despite the horrors she endured, she left with a determination that "there is no pit so deep, the love of God is not deeper still." In response to someone saying that it must have been her faith that helped her survive, she said no, "My faith was so weak, so unstable... no, it was Jesus! He who said, 'I am with you to the end of the world.' It was His eternal arms that carried me through. He was my certainty. If I tell you that it was my faith, you might say if you have to go through suffering, 'I don't have Corrie ten Boom's faith.' But if I tell you it was Jesus, then you can trust that He who helped me through will do the same for you."

Corrie's family strongly believed in the sovereignty of God. That "He who is all-loving and always good determines the paths His children take, allowing pain and suffering to come to them for an eventually good purpose... All our times are in God's hands, even the difficult ones."

God chooses to use the desert time- discipline, testing, and suffering- in order to make us more like Him. In Psalm 37:23 it says, "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord." And "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." (Prov. 16:9)

But just as God is sovereign, He is also loving. God is not some distant being that leaves us alone in the world, nor is He an evil dictator that sets out to punish us for every mistake. He loves us, and because of that love, He wants the best for us. However, the best isn't always what's easiest. "Have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?... It's the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects." (Heb. 12:5-6 MSG) Those of you with kids know that you can't give in to every desire your children have. Sometimes discipline and pain benefit them far more than fun and easiness. This is called "tough love."

Part 3: God Has a Purpose for the Desert coming soon!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Silencing Depression: Cultivating Hope in the Desert Seasons of Life, Part 1

Last week I went to a women's conference in New Mexico. Our band, Finding Cadence, lead worship and I spoke at one of the workshops. My class was titled Silencing Depression: Cultivating Hope in the Desert Seasons of Life.

The whole weekend was amazing. The main speaker, Renay West, was anointed and used her testimony as a survivor of childhood abuse to speak about healing and freedom from bondage. The women were incredible worshipers, and they really responded to the services and classes.

I went feeling very dry, but knowing that God had appointed this event, so I expected Him to do something. And I left feeling more hopeful and expectant than I have been in a very long time. Even more, I feel like God began to heal places in my heart that have been open wounds until now. I have been living out what I shared in the class, trying to find hope in the desert. So as I taught, I was reminding myself as much as the women I was speaking to.

Ted recorded my class, but for some reason the tape didn't turn out so you can't hear anything. I'm really bummed, because I was going to post a link for some other ladies that need the message of hope. So in lieu of a video, I wanted to at least write about what God shared with me. Since there's a lot, I'll just post some of it today, and I'll continue with more in the next few days. I hope it encourages those of you desert wanderers.


The Bible says that we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11). So I'd like to share some of mine.

I grew up in a pastor's home. Even though we loved the Lord and served Him, many in our family struggled with depression, including me. I was shy and sensitive. I married my childhood sweetheart at 19, and a year later I had fulfilled my life long dream- to be married to Ted and have kids. That's when I realized I needed bigger dreams. :)

After I had my daughter Emily, I had really bad post-partum depression. I was hearing things, having panic attacks, and wanted to hurt myself. At that time, I didn't support the idea of counseling or medication. I grew up believing that if you had a problem, you "prayed through" until you got an answer. I would pray and pray, but nothing changed. I felt like I was in a deep black hole and no one could help me.

And then one day, God miraculously healed me. I was at the funeral of a pastor who had died very young, and for whatever reason, God chose to touch me that day. It was like a huge cloud lifted and I could see and think clearly again. I started writing songs and poems out of the blue, and I felt peace and joy for the first time in my life.

I didn't have any more symptoms of depression until almost three years later. I was eight months pregnant with my second child, Daniel, and I could feel it coming on like a storm. I recognized the heaviness as it took over, and after my son was born I again had severe post-partum depression, even wanting to die. After five months I finally began an intensive outpatient program, with counseling and medication. Slowly, I started to mend.

I share that because I know so many are living with shame about having to take medication. I know God can heal people in an instant, but so often He chooses to use time and process. I don't know why He chose to heal me the first time miraculously and then later with meds, but I do know He has used it for His glory. I have much more compassion and understanding because I've had to take medication, and it seems like whenever I talk about it openly, other women can freely admit to the same.

After a year of counseling and medication, I started to feel sane again. After that, I had periods of time where I'd struggle with depression, but not to the depths as before. Four years after I began counseling and meds, I had my third child, Timothy. This time around I didn't have any depression, praise the Lord! Things in life were going really well, too. We were raising support to be home missionaries, loving ministry and people. We started a band and I began doing art. We were very fulfilled.

Then things started to slowly fall apart. We couldn't raise enough money to meet our budget, so Ted had to get a second job. The pastor at our church, who we were very close to at one point, left for moral failure. We had to take the money we had raised as a band for our first album and divide it between us, just so we could pay our rent. Our band dissolved, and I stopped writing songs and doing art. Ted continued to try for different jobs that would pay the bills, but it seemed like every door was slammed in his face.

God had spoken such beautiful dreams about what He wanted us to do in ministry and in life. We left our church feeling certain that He would show us where to go and what to do. Instead, we found ourselves wandering in the desert for the past two years. God provided manna for us. I can't even recount how many times someone gave us money or a reimbursement check would show up for something. He has been faithful to provide. But it has been a difficult process of not knowing where we're going, when we'll get there, or how things will be when we finally do.

Out of this time, God began to speak to me some truths about the desert. So when I was asked to speak about depression and hope to the women in New Mexico, I knew what He wanted me to share:
1. God leads us into the desert
2. God has a purpose for the desert
3. God orders a season for the desert
4. God provides streams in the desert

I'll save the rest for later. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

For My Own Good

photo credit

I read a devotional the other day that kicked me in the pants- in a good way. The verse was from Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And it was about how Paul, although doing the work of God, had faced such immense suffering. Shouldn't God's favor have protected Paul from so much trouble?

In my head, I know the answers for Paul's case. His suffering produced character traits in him that wouldn't have been learned otherwise. His response to the trials brought tremendous glory to God, and won people to the Lord. And he was able to lead with compassion because he understood pain. There are so many reasons why God allows suffering. It's easy to see it in Biblical examples.

But in my own life, I've been acting like I believe something else. Like because I want to serve the Lord, everything should be going great. I shouldn't have to wait for His promises. It's not fair. I've been good, tried hard to be perfect, even. I've should have earned His attention by now... And then I recognize my bad attitude and switch to the opposite. I guess because I'm stuck in this rut it means I'm not worthy of God's love or attention. I must be unloveable. I can't do anything for God...

Sometimes I need an in-your-face reminder that I've got it all backwards. In Romans 9:16-17, Paul reminds us that God's promise "does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says... 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' "

I can't be good enough or try hard enough to earn God's blessing. He chooses to love and promise good things to me because He simply chose to. So when I feel like I deserve more, I remember that I can't earn it. And when I feel unworthy, I remember that it's ok because He gets more glory. God uses the weak to display His power.

In the meantime, I remind myself that God loves me. And if He loves me, then He will work all things together for my good. So I must continue to trust and wait until He sends an answer. So really, once again it's about faith that God will do what He's promised. And once again I must ask Him to change me, not my circumstances. And once again I must ask for His grace to cover me while I'm waiting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

From a Friend

A friend of mine emailed me the other day. It was so beautifully written and so encouraging I thought I'd share it...

just wanted to say hi...thinking of you guys today. wish there was a way to "fix" everything for all of us. like a magic potion or something:)

i know your passions are inspired; your dreams are anointed...and yet your hopes are deferred...for now.
may the God of peace soon crush Satan under your feet and may you find the reality of the Glory of God alive and well in your every circumstance.

i appreciate your friendship and your honesty. i admire your strength and determination. thanks for being you.

sometimes God's glory is not easily visible, audible, nor wears the garments we expect; it is often hidden, under heavy rocks, or on the highest hills or disguised as something strange, old, and humble. may God give you new eyes to see the old things and new strength to discover the hidden beauties of His grace and power.

lots of love to you and Ted...

Sunday, July 3, 2011


photo credit

During worship at church this past Sunday, I had a realization. I have been sleepwalking through life for a while. And not just because I have a newborn at home. Of course, there's that. But long before I was even pregnant, I started to fall asleep. Disappointments lead to shutting down tiny pieces of my heart, until I had finally pressed a button to turn it off altogether. Suddenly things I was passionate about didn't seem to matter much. The color and beauty of life faded to a gray cloud that seemed to follow me around. And just like when it rains outside, I got sleepy.

So often music jars me back to life. It almost slapped me in the face that day, and I needed it. As I reflected on the concept of awakening, I began to notice other issues. When my passion faded, so did my identity and self-worth. I was surprised at how they went hand in hand. Confining myself to monotony forced the best parts of me to lie dormant. I kept waiting for circumstances to change, telling myself that once things were different, I'd come back to life. I'd start to create again, be more intentional in reaching out to others, challenge myself to grow and dream. All the ways I feel alive and hopeful.

But when you build walls around your heart, you're not protecting yourself. You're trapping yourself. By the time I saw the truth of it, I was almost paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. Even simple decisions were overwhelming. And I wore shame like a blanket, suffocating my mind and covering the truth. God's truth about Himself, and how He saw me.

I woke up to all of this and cried out for help. I know what God's Word says, but I realized I didn't believe it applied to me. Then I was more ashamed, more self-loathing. But somewhere in that cycle, I decided to try a different tactic. What if I simply chose to believe God, even for just a week? Despite my feelings and recent experiences, just chose in child-like faith to accept His Word as truth for myself. The truth that He not only saved me from something, but for something. That He created me with a purpose in mind. That no time is ever wasted, no situation is ever unredeemable. That He will work all things together for my good. That He is leading and guiding me and will never forsake me. That I don't have to be perfect. And especially that I am His precious daughter, and nothing could ever separate me from His love.

This week I chose to put aside my negative emotions, erosive doubts, and debilitating fears. To once again embrace the God He says He is. And as soon as I allowed myself to just believe it, I felt hope rise up inside my heart. I felt freer, lighter, more awake. I remembered what I always told others- that faith is a choice. It doesn't always make sense. But when you embrace it, that tiny seed of hope grows into assurance and trust and even peace that goes beyond understanding. I'm not fully back to where I was, alive and able to dream with abandon. But I know I've taken a step back in the right direction. My heart has been awakened again.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lift Your Eyes Up

I was listening to this in the car and finally was able to hear past the amazing music to the words. I hope it encourages you today.

Feels like your world's crashing down
And solid ground is hard to be felt
It feels like the walls are closing
And then night has fallen
And the sun is gone, your heart is dry
You need sometime to find God

Come on, come on, lift your eyes up
Lift your eyes up to the hills

Even in the testing fire
God supplies every need in your life
And He'll come like the morning star
And wipe away your hurts, fears
The dark will fall and the light will shine
It's all alright with God here

Here the sun will shine, it's a holiday
It's a brighter day for you

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rebuilding the Nest

photo credit

Last week I found a dead bird on our patio. I looked around to see what may have caused it- no animal bite marks, no broken nest or any shattered eggs. It looked like it had just fallen out of the sky, poor thing. I know it happens in life, that birds die. But it upset me to see it like that, in my yard. I tried not to read into it. But it felt like a bad sign.

Yesterday, my four-year-old took me outside to show me the nest that had fallen. Over the weekend, it had been unusually windy. So it made sense that this perfectly created nest had been blown out of its home tree. Although I knew it wouldn't be used again by any birds once it had fallen, I still picked up the nest and placed it in a cozy spot in our biggest tree. Again, I tried not to read into it. A dead bird. An empty nest. I joked with Ted that maybe God was telling us to move.

Today I went to look at the nest. It's completely destroyed. Last night it stormed. I could hear the rain pounding against the house and the wind shaking my wind chimes ferociously outside. But I still thought the nest would hold together in my tree. It had looked so sturdy, even after falling.

So I can't help but read into it today. You see, lately everything has been falling apart. From big things like our car dying the week after having our 4th child and being down to one income, to small things like our computer and tv suddenly biting the dust. I'm home with the kids, trying to survive life with a newborn and still make time for the others, all while my foggy brain tries to make do on a few hours sleep and roller coaster hormones. It's not pretty, folks. And Ted has spent the last 6 months trying to find a job that will actually pay all the bills, which seems like a monumental thing to hope for these days.

And for the last year, God has been calling us to go in a new direction. But after losing count of the numerous prospective doors shut in our faces, we're left with our heads spinning and wondering if we heard correctly to begin with. So we overanalyze every sermon and Scripture, hoping to gain clarity and direction. We listen to our friends and family recount how God worked it out in their lives. We scour our hearts to see if we have some hidden sin, or have missed a turn somewhere. We question if this is a timing thing, or a big test that we're failing, or if God even likes us anymore.

So back to the bird's nest. It was made with careful forethought. Tightly woven together, with hopeful plans of family and a purposeful future. Made by a creature God Himself said He watches over. But the winds came and knocked it down. Even then, it was sturdy and survived until a heavy storm smashed it to pieces at last. I feel pulverized, too.

But today the sun is shining again. The wind is still, and the ground isn't thirsty and cracked like it usually is in the Texas summer. I can look out the window and see dozens of birds flying from tree to tree in our yard. They seem carefree, completely oblivious to last night's storm. Maybe the bird who lost its nest is already beginning to rebuild another.

There's so much hope in the thought of it. Like the verse God keeps whispering to my heart,
"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand." (Ps. 37:23-4)

And then this,
"The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, an ever-flowing spring." (Is. 58:11)

And another,
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea." (Ps. 46:1-2)

When I take it all together, I'm reassured that He sees. Even when the storms come, even when I'm beaten down and cry out and still have no answers- He is with me. I cannot crush the hope inside me. The ridiculous belief that my God will rescue us. That what He spoke will happen for us. That our present difficulties do not predict our future demise. I'm reminded of what the apostle Paul said:

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed... For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 17-18)

Thank you, God, for once again reminding me to focus my wandering eyes on you. Thank you for speaking to my heart and renewing my mind with your truth. Help me to rebuild my nest, one piece at a time again today.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spark Art & Writing- New Poem

We just finished another round of SPARK, the art/writing challenge. This was my partner, artist Dana Gray's inspiration piece to me:

And this was my response piece:


Love is a swirling mass of colors,
Bliss sweeping us into the clouds
The world disappears as I look in your eyes
We forge ahead, day by day
Partnering together in life's routine
Excitement fades, replaced by something deeper
A less flattering, more solid love
The storms come, nearly knocking us over
But we cling together, side by side
We watch as others separate,
The vivid colors of love fade to gray
Now dissolved halves wandering alone
But we cling harder to each other,
Grateful to be lost together in the storm
As the winds die down, I realize we are scarred
But our wounds have bound us as one,
Healing fuses our bones together
The colors swirl around us again
Renewed love sweeps us away once more

This was my inspiration piece to my partner:

Survival Mode

Where the heck am I going?
Driving blindfolded,
It's hard to stay on the road
Walking zombie, arms outstretched
Snatching anything I feel
Willing this to be IT-
The place where confusion lifts,
Epiphanies rest
Frustration! Agh!
When, oh, when
Will this fog disperse?
Stand on that mountain-rock
Breathing clean air,
Vision restored
I'm tired of drudging in circles,
Survival mode-
Let it end; no more!
My foot is firm, my brow is set,
Refusing to take that sedative
This patient will obstinately
Insist on a change

And this was her response piece:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gifts & Encouragement

It's so much fun to check the mail and realize there's something in there besides bills and junk mail. Gifts! Thanks to the generous artists in the One World One Heart giveaway, I actually won a few prizes, and they're starting to arrive.

And I mailed off my gift, a Hope Jar made especially for Barbara Cagle:

I've been reminded recently how fulfilling it is to encourage others. A little goes a long way, especially when your tank is empty, so to speak. I've been praying for God to open my eyes to the opportunities He's placed around me, and then courage to act on it. Giving friendly smiles, encouraging words, and praying with people has made my life so much more enjoyable. It shouldn't be that surprising that loving people makes my heart overflow, but sometimes I let life distract me. It's so easy to become self-focused and forget that others are hurting.

So to all of you struggling in life right now- let someone know. Let them love you and help you through it. Go outside and enjoy the coming spring, the rebirth happening all around us. Create something to express what words can't for you. And especially, fix your eyes on Jesus. Stay in His presence and cling to His Word. The truth will transform your mind, alter your perspective, and help you rest in His goodness. No matter what's going on, God loves you, hasn't forgotten you, and is with you even now. I pray His peace will rest on you today.

:) Michelle

Thursday, February 17, 2011

OWOH Giveaway Winner!

The One World One Heart winner is : #135 Barbara Cagle

If I don't hear back from the winner by 3 pm tomorrow, then I will choose another winner.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and especially for all of your wonderful comments! They really do make my day, like a Hershey's kiss from each of you. Man, I have been craving chocolate like a crazy person lately. :)

Also, I wanted to let you know that you can purchase a Hope Jar from my Etsy shop, MixedEmotions. Look around there- I've got jewelry, mixed media art prints, personalized decor boxes, and more. I love taking special orders and requests, so check out my sold orders to get ideas, or look through my blog for pictures. Thanks again for visiting me!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Lifehouse always says it so well...

How long have I been in this storm
So overwhelmed by the ocean's shapeless form
Water's getting harder to tread
With these waves crashing over my head

If I could just see you
Everything would be all right
If I'd see you
This darkness would turn to light

And I will walk on water
And you will catch me if I fall
And I will get lost into your eyes
I know everything will be all right
I know everything is all right

I know you didn't bring me out here to drown
So why am I ten feet under and upside down
Barely surviving has become my purpose
Because I'm so used to living underneath the surface

If I could just see you
Everything would be all right
If i'd see you
This darkness would turn to light

And I will walk on water
And you will catch me if I fall
And I know everything will be all right
I know everything is all right

Listen to the song by Lifehouse:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Giveaway- One World One Heart!

It's time again for the annual One World One Heart Giveaway! All it takes to win is to be a blogger. Just leave a comment on each participant's blog, and you'll be entered to win their giveaway. This is a worldwide event, with thousands of people participating! You can go to this website to see the list of participating blogs. This is the last year they'll be doing it, so go sign up!

I participated 2 years ago, and it was so fun! I gave an art pendant away as a prize, and I won gifts from 2 different blogs. Plus, it's so great to look at everyones' blogs and see what people are doing around the world.

For those of you just stopping by, I'm Michelle. Wife to my childhood sweetheart, mom to 3 (my 4th due in June). I love doing art- mixed media, jewelry, crafts, etc.- especially using reclaimed materials. I'm also a musician and I'm passionate about helping wounded people. Which is why...

This year I'm giving away one of my Hope Jars. These are recycled glass jars, decorated with special papers and paints. Each jar is filled with 365 encouraging quotes, Scriptures, and lyrics.
If you're the winner, just tell me your favorite colors and what you'd like inside, and I will make your jar especially for you. Leave a comment to enter the giveaway, and on February 17th, I'll draw a winner. So be sure to check back Feb. 17th to see if you've won!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Holiday Reflections

I really enjoyed the holiday season this year.
Normally I hate the rush and chaos of Christmas, but this time I relished every bit of it.
This year, I was given a few boxes of vintage ornaments, so I decorated every nook and cranny with festive knick knacks.
There's something about vintage ornaments- they make me feel safe and happy.
Everything changes in life, but looking at older holiday treasures reminds me that some things don't change.
The traditions of holiday decorating, gifts, family and friends laughing together- we celebrate these every year, no matter what's going on in our lives.
We always take time to drive around and look at Christmas lights, sing lots of carols, and take a yearly picture with Santa.
I love looking at the kids over the years with Santa. Each of them at around age 2 are crying in the picture, reaching for us to hold them.
Apparently, Santa is pretty scary to toddlers. :)
This year we played it safe and had my dad dress up as Santa. Much better.
It was almost sad to take down the tree and lights. On the plus side, our house always looks much bigger and less cluttered afterwards.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Your Comments Make My Day!