Whether you're expecting a baby, making a career leap, taking care of elderly parents, or rising from the ashes of grief, life's always coaxing you to grow. To leave your comfort zone. There's something amazing about life, which refuses to keep you stagnant. Oftentimes, you become complacent or life forces you to make changes.
The wilderness journey is about transformation. For you, it could be a personal, spiritual, or professional drought. A desert season of confusion, frustration, and unproductivity. It's an in between stage. Something significant has ended or begun. Yet it provides opportunity for expansion, wisdom, and joy.
A sacred wandering awakens you. It connects you to your authentic self. It can empower you to find your voice. To enlarge your vision. To nurture your soul. To create healthy boundaries. To bravely try something new. It validates your struggles. Like a caring friend, it helps you get through whatever you are going through. Most of all, it can spur you on to grow your faith in the dark.
The Story Behind the Story
As I reflect on the past three years, I'm filled with gratitude for my writing journey. Crafting each page of Sacred Wandering: Growing Your Faith in the Dark has been a unique experience. It's been a long, drawn out process. In other words, turtle slow.
Some of my author friends write very fast. It has me in awe. Whether you write fast or slow, there's no set way. For me personally, slow and steady wins the race. Sometimes, great things come from percolating. Our words and ideas must marinate. Yes, patience is a virtue. Oftentimes, our timeline doesn't go as quickly as planned.
It's kind of like the Israelites who had a pity party complaining about not having enough food. Moses encouraged them to stop having a hissy fit. He told them to be grateful for the manna. Like clockwork, God gave it to them daily.
In April 2016, when I felt called to write this book, it was no easy task. I was desperate for the Lord's will. Not just for myself, but for my husband, mom, and dad's life.
I had been at a stubborn standstill; personally, professionally, and spiritually. I felt lost. Disappointed. Defeated. Disillusioned. I lacked a clear direction. In my journal, I wrote, “God, where are You? Why have You been silent?”
Following my three book launches, I hit a dry spell. I couldn't write. There were no words. No inspiration. No motivation. Very unproductive.
Beyond writing concerns, I felt stuck with a life that I didn't choose. Living with fibromyalgia is complicated. Usually, depression goes hand in hand with chronic pain. I had little control over it. I felt stuck in a body that went haywire. Stuck with physical suffering. Stuck with a disability. Stuck being home full-time.
Overwhelmed, I reached a breaking point. Everything around me began to unravel. My life was in a major transition. And I didn't like it one bit.
My husband, Tony, lost his job on the same day my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. Both were devastating to me. Hearing the horrible news felt like someone punched me in my gut. I couldn't stop the tears. My heart hurt badly.
After Tony had been laid off, he started job hunting. We were in the midst of a financial crisis. As the bills grew, we were beyond stressed. In the meanwhile, my mom and dad battled nonstop health conditions; brain cancer and Alzheimer's. Seriously, on the outside our circumstances looked bleak. On the inside, I cried, “Lord, I need you now!”
Desperate times call for desperate measures. In a last-ditch effort, I decided to spend 24 hours in fasting and prayer. Although, I'm a big believer in prayer, I wasn't one for fasting. For starters, my fibromyalgia and hypoglycemia were good reasons to avoid it. Who has spare time for a flare up?
Perhaps, to those who don't know me, it may seem like a lame excuse? For those who live with chronic illness or a vulnerable immune system, you understand that it doesn't take much to land you in bed for days. Even from minor changes in your diet or activities. Welcome to my fibro world!
Determined for a breakthrough, I began fasting and prayer. For me, it meant unplugging from social media. To carve out specific time to spend in the Word. To listen to soothing worship music. To pray throughout the morning, noon, and night. To consume fruits, vegetables, and almonds. To hydrate with plenty of water. To enjoy the outdoors and sunshine. To journal. To be still. To press into my heavenly Father.
My soul focus: Less of me and more of Christ. It also meant to pray, plead, and cry out to Jesus in desperation. To ask Him to reveal Himself to me in a tangible way. To give me wisdom, clarity, and discernment. To meet me face to face. Earnestly, I prayed, "Lord, show me Your glory."
My fasting and prayer was a sacred moment. The supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit came upon me. My anxiety melted away. Peace filled my weary soul. Repeatedly, the words “sacred wandering” came to my mind. I had no doubt, Christ birthed something new. He gave me the book idea.
The next day, the most amazing thing happened. Tony received calls from potential employers. We were both delighted! I knew it was no coincidence. Rather, it became possible through my fasting and prayer.
Something else happened. It was unexpected, but I wasn't taken by surprise since I do have health concerns. When I awoke, I was very ill. After spending 24 hours fasting from regular solid food, I suffered nausea, dizziness, a migraine, and fatigue. A major fibromyalgia flareup.
Despite my horrible symptoms, I didn't regret my decision to fast and pray. After all, it was for a higher purpose. In the greater scheme of things, being knocked down in bed for a day was for a good cause. The sacrifice was well worth the pain. Ultimately, by the end of the week, my husband obtained full-time employment. See that, fasting and prayer works!
I wish that I could say I felt led to immediately write my book. Or the words smoothly flowed. However, that wasn't the case. Not by a long shot.
Instead, I experienced nonstop writer's block. No matter how much effort I put into my book, I hit a dead end. In frustration, I struggled with ideas, sentences, and chapters. Mystified, I didn't know how to move forward.
For four months, I wrestled to follow God's call to write this book. While I couldn't explain it, I knew that I was stuck in a rut. Plagued with confusion, I tossed my writing project onto the back burner.
In the summer of 2016, a new opportunity arose. It was beyond exciting for me! A dream come true. Following numerous interviews, I was offered a full-time position as a licensed makeup artist and esthetician. I wasn't sure if my body could physically handle it, but I wanted to at least try.
Based on my lengthy education and experience, the benefits and salary were outstanding. I got caught up in the money and glamorous title. Stubbornly, I told God, "I don't want to write another book. It doesn't offer dependable income."
On occasion, we can justify doing things that Christ never asked us to do. We can wrap it into a pretty package. There are moments we fiercely want something. We want it so much that we may try in our own flesh to make it happen. We strive to set things into motion.
We may desire to start a new business. Move out of state. Plan a vacation. Tie the knot. Start a family. Remodel our home. Or return to college.
The more we dwell on our hopes and dreams, we want God to want what we want. If or when it seems like He came through for us, we consider it a blessing. We believe He answered our prayer. Or we may say He provided for us, but we justified our actions, which may not necessarily be part of His plan.
Instead of praying for God's will to be done, we find ourselves dead set to make our will be done. We want our way and we want it now. Some of you will relate to this. You're nodding your heads.
Others may flinch in denial. The truth can sting. It's not always easy to admit that we can step out of the Lord's will when we want our own way. Yet, these are teachable moments to grow our faith in the dark. To live and learn. To be spiritually strengthened. To deepen our trust in Him, especially when His will and our will are opposite.
When I reflect on why I felt the need to work outside the home, it was due to pressure. Intense pressure. Daily pressure from the world. The can't sleep at night kind of pressure. The type that impelled me to make decisions based on my uncertainty and fear.
In our household, we were distressed about our lack of income. Financial stress is real. It can cause people to do things they would normally never do. Chronic stress can tear marriages apart. It can divide a family.
In essence, I accepted the job in effort to help my husband with steady income. After all, we needed to make ends meet. Nowadays, one spouse working isn't enough. Most husbands and wives must both be employed to keep financially afloat.
God Can Birth Something New
Usually, when we're not walking in God's will, unexpected mishaps can occur. Our refusal to follow His will can catch up to us. Disobedience may cause self-destruction. Or temporary hardships. There are consequences for our choices when we veer off God's path for us.
During my first week of employment, I sustained a back injury. Not only did my low lumbar throb like a toothache, but my fibromyalgia symptoms increased. Initially, what had appeared as a godsend – a good paying esthetician position - turned into a glamorized stock person. No sooner had I began my dream job when it abruptly ended as a nightmare. Not exactly what I had hoped for, especially physically suffering.
Isn't it odd how Christ can get our attention? When He slams a door? Sometimes, He will speak louder if we missed His subtle cues. Completely unaware, we take wrong turns. Accidentally, we nosedive inside a ditch.
Talk about a humbling moment. A wake-up call. When tears slipped down my face. When I couldn't sit, stand, or move without excruciating pain. When every muscle in my body was on fire. And I hurt all over.
In defeat, I questioned how I landed into a mess. Verbally, I beat myself up for making a mistake. For misunderstanding God's plan. For venturing outside of His will. I felt like a failure. I had one heck of a pity party.
Venting. Screaming. Sobbing. Dripping snot from my nose. Yes, sometimes, us Christian gals can find ourselves in quite a pickle.
When we come to the end of ourselves, we find Jesus. When we come to Him in our brokenness, His grace is enough. Despite our free will, wrong turns, rebellion, poor choices, or going astray, Christ will never let us go. He leaves the ninety-nine sheep (His children) to find the one who's lost (us). And He carries us through the wilderness to do a mighty work within us.
The Bible says, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” Matthew 18:12 (NIV)
God pursues us. He pursues us in our brokenness. He pursues us in our mishaps. Despite our rebellion or resistance, He pursues us to the very end.
Christ is unrelenting. He will stop at nothing to save us. No matter how far we fall, He gently picks us up. In our desperation and neediness for Him, He's here with us. It's during our messiest moments when He wraps us in His tender embrace. When He joins us on this sacred wandering to grow our faith in the dark.
It's a wilderness journey of tested faith. A desert season of thirsting for more of Him. Long walks, hand in hand, when He showers you with His infinite love. When your heart overflows with gratitude. When you come to see your heavenly Maker with new eyes.
The sacred wandering cannot be rushed. It is a life transition. It requires patience and endurance. There are valuable lessons to be learned.
The purpose is to spiritually strengthen you. To teach you. To prune you. To refine you. To transform you. To mold your character. To release old habits. To let go of the people, places, and things preventing you from fulfilling God's perfect plan.
Trust when you release the old, Christ will do something new. Healing is on the other side. As you bravely trust in Him, He will make a way for you in the wilderness. Lean on God's promise that declares, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
Our mishaps and pain are not in vain. God will use it for something good. He will birth beauty from the ashes. “In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord. Isaiah 66:9 (NCV)
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