Nearly two years ago I finished writing the last sentence to a 5 week Bible Study called, Filled: His Presence, Our Purpose. I had an invitation to submit it to Lifeway for publishing without an agent. I submitted the formal proposal with confidence, and received a thoughtful rejection letter with the suggestion of rewriting it as a trade book, and not a study book. In addition, they wanted me to “grow the platform”. “Ladies aren’t buying Bible Study books to do on their own. They buy them when their churches are hosting a Bible Study, and those are mostly the ‘big name’ writers”, they said.
I processed. I cried a little. I stuck out a stiff upper lip, and carried on. I resigned that it wasn’t God’s timing. It still hurt. It hurt deeper than I cared to admit to even myself. And so began my ever slow leak that resulted in burnout.
In June I return to the wilderness of Alberta each and every year. I go to the same spot. The same stream. The same rock, and look up at the same mountain. In returning, I usually hear a Word from the Lord that will define my year. In June of 2017 I heard the word “teaching”. I nodded and said back to Him “Ohhhhh so you’re going to have me teaching this year”? His response: “You will teach, but more importantly this year it’s going to be me teaching you”. My response: “Uhhhhh……that might not be fun”.
It’s been a hard year. It’s been a year of band aids being pulled off, of my marriage drawing to light things only God can change in me, and mostly a returning to the beginning of where things began. The wilderness: A beloved, sweet and sometimes painful place.
Two important people in my wilderness experience (both ladies) came down with cancer. One just passed away. Another is treasuring each day God gives her until he takes her home. It’s shaken me to my core in ways I hadn’t imagined.
I’d given up hope for a moment. I started to believe that maybe I’d heard it all wrong. That what I worked so hard for, didn’t really matter. And I stepped into a cave. The cave became a place where I licked my wounds, I contemplated, I’d sometimes come out and sit at the entrance of the cave and stare up at the night sky and have conversations with God. Sometimes I’d let very close friends come to the entrance and sit, but never for a long time. I needed the solitude so I could come to the place of reconciling.
In the spring of this past year, while preparing to teach a workshop in the Smokey Mountains, I sat on a rocking chair on the front porch of my hotel, and watched the sun slip behind the rolling, tree clad hills of Tennessee. It was there that God started whispering to me about going back to the beginning. To where life really began for me: The wilderness and the theme it’s played in my life.
Today I went to met with my pastors for a morning meeting. We were studying a passage that included the words “a desolate place”. Our beloved lead pastor, Will Browning looked at me and with a light in his eye said “I wonder if that’s wilderness”. We all joked about my obsession with wilderness and moved on. This afternoon they emailed me with encouragement to start writing the thing that’s been growing in the deepest places of my heart: A book on the wilderness journey and knowing God intimately through it.
The outline had been sketched throughout the year, and today I started writing. Today I leaned back in my wooden seat, sipped my Pink Drink at my local Starbucks, stared at the outline on my computer and with tears I saw her for the first time. I saw a sonogram of this new book and with the sonogram, I saw renewed hope.
Bareness has been a topic I’ve touched on in my closed circles. I’m processing not having a baby of my own. But when God told me I wouldn’t have a baby (He had to tell me twice in two different years for me to really believe it, and once was before I even met my husband), He also told me that the things I create (books, images, messages to speak etc) would be a birthing process and my greatest joy.
And so here I am again. Just a girl. Now in my late 30’s. Processing. Creating again because there’s something intrinsic in me that says if I don’t create, I am losing and missing a part of myself, but more importantly I’m missing out on an amazing adventure with God and knowing things about Him that I won’t know unless I obey and create. So folks, here I am. I’m returning to the wilderness.