Blooming in the Desert: An Uneloquent Post of Appreciation

The Lord’s kindness takes so many forms.


My 2018, so far, has been full of kindness.  My situation has not yet changed for the better, but it’s as if the Lord is determined to shower me, in the midst of all the chaos and unknowns, with sweet little reminders of his affection.

  • Random strangers shouted, “Bless you!” from across the street, two different times, two different places, as I sneezed.
  • A good friend has committed to checking on me once a week, until I no longer want or need her to.
  • Facebook friends and family were astonishingly generous with their praise when I (uncomfortably) posted a photo of me all dressed up for a night out to see Hamilton with my kiddo.

Small gestures, these, but I have felt them like water on a thirsty ground.  They are reminders that I have value.

Speaking of thirsty ground, one of my favorite places in the world has been offering up its kindnesses, too: the Anza-Borrego Desert.  I discovered it in the spring of 2017, during the superbloom that resulted from unusually heavy winter rains, and it was instant love.

Superbloom in Anza-Borrego Desert

Its 600,000 wild acres of mountains, sand, canyons, and badlands seem to whisper to my soul.  I find I can breathe freely in its wide-open spaces.  (And the night skies, oh my goodness.  The tiny little village in the middle of the desert, Borrego Springs, is an International Dark Sky Community [more info here], so there are no streetlights for 50 miles in any direction.  You’ll never find a more perfect view of the Milky Way.)  So I get out there as often as I can, sometimes to stay the night, sometimes just to take my little Renegade off-roading, but always to hear the Lord and regain a bit of equilibrium.  I dream of building an artists’ retreat there someday – there’s a robust art scene in Borrego Springs – where people can come and be inspired by the harsh beauty of the land.  And, of course, I will use it, too.

The Milky Way from Galleta Meadows in Anza-Borrego

I was wandering around the Borrego Art Institute last summer, and I began speaking with one of the ladies who worked there.  I found myself telling her about my artists’ retreat dream, and the next thing I knew, she was showing me vacant lots all around the area.  We had an instant connection, something that rarely, if ever, happens to me, and I came away from that day feeling the Lord’s hand over me like a warm shelter.  I looked for her on subsequent visits, but I always seemed to miss her – until this last weekend.  I had a tough week and drove out to the desert on Saturday, journal, Bible, and snacks in hand.  I spent some time writing, but as the sun began going down and the winds picked up, it got chilly, so I decided to go check out the latest exhibit at the Art Institute.  And there she was at her desk.  Her cheery “How ARE you?” led to me unloading about my life, which led to her and her coworker praying over me right then and there, which then led to an invitation to her home that evening.  And when I walked in her door, it was as if I had known her and her husband my entire life (in fact, her husband had said something similar when she showed him the photo of us she had insisted on).  Soon I was covered with cats and little, yappy dogs, and a fantastic conversation ensued.  By the end of the evening, this older couple had wrapped me in a cocoon of love and total acceptance, had opened their home to me anytime I should want it, and prayed over me again.  I think that night’s sleep was the best I’ve had since coming to California.  The next morning, I got texts detailing what a blessing I was to them.

Y’all.  I barely know what to do with all this kindness, but something deep in me is so hungry for it.  I, too, am thirsty ground, and here come the gentle, soaking rains.  It feels like I have things to learn yet, but they are not harsh lessons.  I can hardly believe that I might get to learn what it feels like not to be cracked and dry.

“And yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave [me] rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying [my heart] with food and gladness.” — Acts 14:17, New Pellucere Version 🙂

I am so thankful for his kindness.

Love’s a Revolving Do-o-o-r

(With apologies to Princess Ana and Prince Hans, and also to your brain, which now has probably been infested with an earworm)

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the people in my life who have come and gone through the years.  Mostly, I’ve been thinking about the ones who have gone.

Some have gone because they grew into people who have little in common with me.

Some decided my presence in their lives was only “for a season.”  I may or may not have agreed.

Some  were hypercritical/nasty/abusive/negative, and I decided they needed to go.

Some blamed me for things I didn’t do, or they didn’t forgive me for things I did.

Some just faded away.  One minute they were there, and then all of a sudden it was 3 years since we last spoke.

Some passed away or moved away.  Either way, we lost contact.

Some should have never come in to begin with.

There are a LOT of emotions that can accompany the dissolution of a relationship, and most of them are negative.  Fear, anger, blame, bitterness, depression, guilt, sorrow…all of  these come rushing in to fill the spot where the person once was.  You might find yourself reciting a litany of things you could have done differently.  Or maybe you scream and scream and scream at the other person, even if it’s only in your mind.  Or maybe you find yourself defaming him or her to others, or even becoming suicidal.

Here’s the deal:  People are complex, unpredictable beings.  We can never truly know with 100% certainty why they do what they do.  We might understand bits of it…or we might be way off the mark and make judgements based on our own filters.  And these judgements we make don’t exclude us.  For example, your best friend might freak out on you one day and yell at you for an hour about how you always try to make her be someone she’s not.  Maybe this is true, and you do that.  Or maybe something about your personality triggers a deeply-buried hurt she carries from someone who really didn’t accept her as she was.  But in the face of that onslaught, you start thinking she’s crazy, and then you start second-guessing yourself and thinking maybe you’re doing this stuff without realizing it and all of a sudden, ohmygosh, you’re such a horrible friend who doesn’t deserve to have a BFF.  BOOM, just like that, 2 hurting people, because you owned the accusation.

So how the heck am I supposed to navigate these murky waters of relationship, then? 

Here’s the answer:  Love.  Love that holds on loosely, allows people to be people, and continues to love, even when they leave.

Absolutely impossible in our own strength.  Truly, and yet we are told  in the Bible to do exactly this because it’s good for them AND good for us.  “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Pet 3:9, NIV).

I think a part of that blessing we inherit is not having to walk around damaged by negative emotions that take root.  If people want to go, let them go.  Realize that you don’t understand everything, but the Lord does, and He still loves your ex-best-friend.  Be like Him – it has nothing to do with how you feel.  Give those hurt feelings to Him (and don’t take them back!!), and then continue to love your friend by blessing her in her coming and going.  Deuteronomy 28:6 says, “A blessing on you when you go out, and a blessing on you when you come in” (Complete Jewish Bible).  And yes, I realize that contextually, this verse is smack in the middle of an explanation of what happens when you are obedient to God.  I’m not trying to twist Scripture for my own purposes.  I just think it’s a great sentiment and an example of how we can treat the people who come in and out of our lives.  And anyway, doesn’t it make sense that if they are coming in and out of our lives, we’re also going in and out of theirs?  So if we are obedient, we receive the blessings coming and going.  And obedience to God’s word includes blessing those that curse you (Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14, Matthew 5:44).

So let the door revolve.  Thank the Lord for the good things the person brought into your life; where applicable, forgive the not-so-good, and send them on their way with a blessing.  And also?  Don’t marry a guy who proposes 10 minutes after you meet (looking at you, Princess Ana)!

Martians and Mailboxes

Back when people got more than just junk mail and bills via the US Postal Service, I was a letter-writing fool.  I loved to write to friends all over the country – and oh, the anticipation of receiving a letter in return!  Sadly, those days are long-past.  I don’t stalk the mailbox anymore because, really, City Utilities and Sprint just aren’t that exciting. But I do appreciate our modern-day equivalents to letters, things like email and social media messaging.

Wait, equivalents?  No, sorry.  There’s nothing quite like a handwritten note.  So, okay, our modern-day…methods of correspondence?  I guess that’ll work.

As I was saying, I do appreciate our modern-day methods of correspondence.  Just like I kept a box for all my letters back in the day, I keep personal correspondence in my virtual inboxes.  Occasionally, just like with the letters, I go back through the box and re-read the notes people have sent me…which is exactly what I was doing before I decided to write this blog post.  In fact, I’m writing this because of a looooong chain of messages with one particular person.

I have this friend we’ll call Marvin. (As in, the Martian.  Trust me; it fits.)  I began corresponding with Marvin before I ever met him.  He was one of those people who seemed to know everyone I knew and many I didn’t, and his very funny comments kept popping up all over my Facebook news feed.  He was really kind of an odd duck, from what I could tell, but he had some depth.  One day, I read a note he posted to a mutual friend’s wall, and I felt like he had, well, read my mail.  So I messaged him, conveying my appreciation for his insight, and thus began a very encouraging and uplifting friendship.

Marvin is erudite and friendly, creative  and quirky.  His favorite color is tie-dye, and he has a penchant for purple socks and mannequin heads.  (Perhaps best of all, he has a very firm grasp on the intricacies of proper English grammar and punctuation. This, of course, is a prerequisite for my true friends; I forgot to mention my unfortunate tendency to mentally “red-pen” any and all correspondence I receive.  Marvin saves me time and effort. 😀 )  He is truly a unique person – and he’s quite comfortable to be one.  Just watching him live out life as himself has helped me to become far more comfortable with my own weirdness.  He loves people and accepts them as they are, and they, in return, gravitate to him and Mrs. Marvin (who is equally as cool).

Like any oddball, Marvin is sometimes misunderstood by the more “establishment” among us.  I have seen his motives questioned when there was nothing amiss, and I have seen people put strictures on him that were ridiculous at worst, unnecessary at best.  I can speak for his delightfully original character, though.  Is he perfect?  No, of course not.  He gets his feathers ruffled for funny things (like all of us, quirky or not), he eats waaaay too much Tex-Mex (I heard he lobbied hard to have his most recent grandbaby named Chuy), and sometimes he speaks such fluent geek-speak that I have no idea what he’s saying, but he’s the real deal.  You need a friend, he’s it. You need a unique perspective, he’s got it.  You just need a hug – he’s good at those, too.

I want to encourage you to take some time to get to know someone you might consider weird or different.  You may find one of the most genuine friends you could possibly have.  At the very least, you’ll look at life from a different perspective, at least for a little while.  Oh, and I also want to encourage you to comment on this blog – tell me about that odd someone you love.  Unless, of course, you want to send me a letter. 🙂  In that case, PM me for the address, and be sure to include a SASE for a prompt reply.  I’ll be standing by my mailbox, laptop in hand, waiting!

My Yafa Chaverah

Someone who doesn’t know or understand me well was criticizing me to one of my friends once.  Among the things she said:  “That girl doesn’t even have any friends!  Every time I see her, she’s by herself.  She just sits there away from all of us  – what’s wrong with her?”  (This individual, quite the extrovert, was only correct in one of her observations – that I “sat there away from all of them” – but you should understand the context of this.  We were at a 50-hour worship event called Fire On the Altar, and I very much considered it me-and-God time.  I didn’t want or need anyone else around.)

I am, by nature, an introvert.  I am not overly expressive of my feelings, but this does not mean I don’t have them.  I do prefer being by myself to being with crowds of people, but this does not mean I don’t have friends.  The people I love, I love deeply.  And they know it.  I tend to open up a little more to people I am close to, but I am choosy in getting close.

Today I want to honor a woman I consider one of my very closest friends.  After the Lord and J, she is the person I turn to when I have good news, when I need prayer, when I need my butt kicked.  She is my yafa chaverah, my beautiful friend.

We met through a mutual friend at a gathering, where I was (naturally) sitting on the sidelines observing.  She radiated sweetness and strength at the same time, and I was quite drawn to her, something that doesn’t happen often.  She felt the same about me, and we began to forge a friendship by getting together over coffee and just talking.  It’s interesting, because she is a fair amount older than I, in a different stage of her life, and one of those people everyone loves.  But somehow, we have built a true and wonderful relationship.  Her husband travels a lot on business, so those chats over coffee have morphed into what I call our “slumber parties.” 🙂 I’ll get out of class around 9:30 and head over to her house, and we will sit on the couches, bundled under blankets and drinking waaaay too much coffee, until the wee hours of the morning, talking  and talking. Her husband has asked what we can possibly find to talk about for 5 or 6 hours, and we just have to laugh.  We talk about what the Lord is doing, or about our families, or about Israel, or about all the dietary changes I’m walking through and why, or about politics, or about the constellations, or about dreams, or any number of other things.  It takes time to cover all this ground, you know? 😉

One of the reasons this friendship is so valuable to me is because so many of my relationships are the mentor-mentee type, with me either pouring into another person’s life or sitting and receiving from someone more knowledgeable than I.  I love these relationships; each has its strong points, but there are times I need not to be in a “role.”  With my yafa chaverah, we are just ourselves.  We are two women who love the Lord and love each other.  I always come away from our time together so refreshed – and that really is the word for it.  I think it’s because there is absolutely no pretension in this friendship.  I’m not afraid to ask the “dumb” questions or admit I don’t know something; I’m not afraid of what she’s going to think if I tell her that my life honestly sucks right now or that I did or thought something less than Christ-like.  It’s a safe environment in which I can absolutely be myself with no fear of judgement or misunderstanding, and that is SUCH an amazing thing.  I think she feels she has the same with me, and that, too, is amazing, that someone would find a friendship with me to be a place of refreshment and safety.  We have given each other liberty to speak into the other’s life, be it good or corrective (which isn’t necessarily NOT good!) or concerned or questioning.  It’s a beautiful thing.

This woman is a good friend to everyone around her, and she is a good daughter: I have watched her navigate a not-always-easy relationship with her father, in which she has had to make some executive decisions concerning his well-being.  She has never treated him with anything less than honor.  In addition, she is a great example of the love of God: she feeds the homeless, puts together backpacks of food for undernourished children in our area, supports several worldwide ministries, and has a heart to see people moving in freedom.  She has a lot of wisdom, and I have benefited greatly from watching her in action.

I don’t need tons of friends, but it is lovely to have one like this one.  I am so very thankful for my yafa chaverah.