In the Unchartered Wilderness

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“I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart. There I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor [troubling] to be for her a door of hope and expectation. And she shall sing there and respond as in the days of her youth…” Hosea 2: 14-15 (AMP)

A_Michaela-750I used to romanticize the journey, with its dips and swells and valleys and mountaintops. I laced up my hiking boots, packed a picnic, saw the long and winding road ahead (insert crooning Beatles here), dotted with wildflowers. 

That was my thing. The journey. I was a sojourner. But then my boots gave me blisters, as I kept walking and walking and walking. The food ran out and I had to learn how to forage. The journey was no longer full of anticipation or adventure. It was arduous, nerve wracking and long.

I was a wandering, broken down heart, lost out there, with the sticks and stones and dried up riverbeds.

There was no way out.

Recently, after two years of sobbing and labouring through the woods, I plunked myself down and spoke these hoarse voiced words: I give up.

In this place, where knees meet ground and arms hang slack, I have discovered something.

Here, I let God into all the wafer thin places, uncurl fists and adopt the Esther attitude: if I die, I die.

If I break, you mend me.

If I seek, I will find You.

I’m expecting my second child, and the fatigue and fears have crept their way in with regularity and boldness. I’m tired of edging my way forward, toe by toe. So, I throw tantrums. Rightly so, some might say, as I push through another pregnancy and attempt to hold my sick little girl in my arms for a few moments before she chokes. I try hard not to whine, but before I know it, I’m letting my voice warble with these words: God, I know you are doing something here, but I can’t see it. It’s hard for me to believe you for good things. And I know it’s not even your fault. I am just doing this all wrong and messy.

In my weakest moments, I want the before and the after, not the now.

Truthfully, what I really want is to take my eyes off of Jesus and do it myself. I would do it faster and better. I wouldn’t let myself go through this.would hack through these bushes in the wilderness and hitch a ride to civilization. 

But that would be the fast track to heartache. I’ve been trying to do it on my own with a hefty dose of stress and anxiety—and it’s brought me to my knees. Ann Voskamp, in her One Thousand Gifts Devotional, asks “Are stress and worry evidence of a soul too lazy, too undisciplined, too keep gaze fixed on God?”

God and Ann’s words reminded me of the importance of gathering manna.

In Exodus 16, this mysterious manna, or “what is it?” was fuel from heaven for the Israelites. A white flaky thing, sweet like honey, bland like a cracker. If they took more than they needed for the day, it would rot.

God commanded the Israelites to gather two quarts of it, stick it in a jar, and show it to future generations so they could see the bread that God fed them while they wandered in the wilderness.

Forty years of living off whitish, sweetish manna in the desert. Their daily bread, their portion.

I’m finally learning that it’s necessary to gather my manna portion every day. It’s something I’ve been too lazy, tired, or depressed to do. I thought I could just get by without it. With those mumbled prayers and weekly bouts of worship, I drifted by, my hands and mind tangled up in medical appointments, and the daily grind of maintaining my daughter’s health.

Now, after my morning care-taking routine with my daughter, I flop onto the couch, put my feet up on the coffee table and open my devotional, the Word, my journal. And I wait. The fine pages of my Bible flutter as the fan blasts air around the room. I wait for Him to direct my eyes, because they are weary and sometimes blind to His goodness. He faithfully whispers the words that I need for each day.

“You shall be blessed and it shall be well with you…your children will be like olive shoots around your table…May you see your children’s children.” Psalm 128

“We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.” Psalm 66:12

And in the evening, I read through Amy Carmichael’s words, or nestle into bed early with ice cream and a chapter from Shauna Niequist’s book, Bittersweet.

Here’s the thing. We can yell at God and ask Him where He is, and why we feel He isn’t listening. We can say words with weight to them and watch as they fall like dust, slow and empty. The cycle will continue, until we simply walk away.

If, however, we learn to see, hear and sing with new eyes, ears and songs, if we learn that this manna will sustain us each day, we will thrive. We will long to gather it in the morning and the evening.

We will settle in the wild places, sustained and well fed. We will build a home in the midst of our brokenness and uncertainty.

He loves to make a way where there is no way.

I can now look down at my pregnant belly in wonder and peace, and with a deep breath say: God, my mother flesh doesn’t know how to trust you very well on this journey, but my mother spirit knows Your voice. 

Make your home in me, so that I may plant my roots in this landscape, in all seasons, steady and secure in your love. Teach me to trust you here.

For You will let life abound, off the map and in the chaos. You will let us feast on the dew of the morning and the sweet black of night. 

You will let us fill our cups and bellies with all that we need for each day.

And You will come equipped, to our lacklustre, broken spirits, put a stake in the soil and build us up amongst the ruins.

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Michaela Evanow
I’m a wife and semi-crunchy mama of a girl and boy. After doulaing in Vancouver, I became a medical mama when my daughter, Florence Marigold, was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy—a muscle wasting disease. I have a nomadic heart, though I haven't left our home in years. I adore Eastern Europe, India, thrifting, coffee with cream + honey and global maternal healthcare. I write about the messy, salty glory of mothering a terminally ill child and finding the goodness of God in grief at MichaelaEvanow.com
Michaela Evanow
Michaela Evanow

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Comments

  1. Heather Kuhns says:

    Thanks for sharing this Michaela. I have Sunday school to teach tomorrow and want to read this to the girls.

  2. Lovely post…
    Just what I needed for this phase..

  3. Colleen Connell Mitchell says:

    I have just been having a long conversation with myself this week about how I balk at being present to the now. How I cope with my pain and brokenness by thinking forward, beyond, ahead. And how exhausting it is to live that expectation every day, that you can somehow make it right by leaping one step ahead of God. Thank you for these words that have confirmed and articulated what was taking shape in my own heart. And for reminding me that it is in gathering my manna that I plant my feet in this day, this time, this moment and trust in Him for tomorrow.

    • Ann Voskamp (love her!) says “the mind would rather fret about the future or pine over the past–so the mind can cling to it’s own illusion of control….what if I didn’t discount this moment but counted it for what it is—God here?”
      Such amazing insight.

  4. Megan Gahan says:

    “In my weakest moments, I want the before and after. Not the now.”

    Oh, goodness, don’t we all?

    There are just buckets of truth here my friend. It’s hard to know what to say in the hard places, but you express so much wisdom from the depths, when most of us have to be out of it to before gleaning a shred of perspective. But you seem to have heaps of it and that is why I love hearing your clear voice calling us to build our homes in a wilderness of uncertainty. Your words a gift and a light to so many. Beautiful, as per usual.

  5. Amy Hunt says:

    Oh, girl! I hear your heart and find a kindred spirit in these words. Lifting you up and crying with you. I wish I could sit with you all day and listen to your heart. {hugs}

  6. Bev Murrill says:

    There are no answers for your pain, only more questions. Maybe it’s not enough to say He is your answer, but then… He is… and I think it’s ok with HIm that you go in and out of realising that.

    You Journey Woman, your journey will lead you along many paths, but no path will take you away from the ONe who loves you… we are among the great cloud of witnesses who stand with you in your pain and who wish and pray you didn’t have to walk this road. xxx

    • Yes, Bev, it’s a tough road, but there is so much comfort and love drawn from this deep well here. He is my answer, He is enough, even though I wrestle with it all. xo

  7. Bev. Nash says:

    Oh so rich, and so true! Your writing was was my devotional today! I am lost and I am found. Found in Him, in a place of trusting Him and believing with all heart and soul that He is truly good!!! In the Shelter, in the Secret Place, in Immunity. Love the scriptures you brought out. What treasure! What promise! You are such a gift to me!

  8. pastordt says:

    Beautiful essay, Michaela. Praying for you as you walk out the remainder of this pregnancy!

  9. Thank you, Michaela. Beautifully written truth.

  10. As usual, you make me sigh and exhale “Amen.” Love you sister friend.

    *rubs cocoa butter on your belly*

  11. Claire De Boer cjdeboer says:

    “If, however, we learn to see, hear and sing with new eyes, ears and songs, if we learn that this manna will sustain us each day, we will thrive. We will long to gather it in the morning and the evening. We will settle in the wild places, sustained and well fed. We will build a home in the midst of our brokenness and uncertainty.”

    You are just amazing, girl. I’ve been trying to walk alone lately because I think God has deserted me or I’m not “doing it right,” but it just doesn’t work, does it? Thank you for these beautiful, blessed and authentic words today. xo

    • It took me years to figure it out. I felt so deserted. Sometimes we come to the very end, and then we stop and turn around. Only to be brought back to the very end of ourselves all over again. That’s what’s happened with me! This pregnancy has been the final straw that broke my back! In a good but hard way. It’s amazing how 10 or 20 minutes of time set aside for Jesus really changes us deeply. Love you Claire! xo

  12. Carolynne Melnyk says:

    Up lifting words and encouragement for the day. It is easy to slip away from our/my morning devotional and when we/I do, I know it. It is nourishment at its best. Thank you!

  13. Helen Burns HBurns says:

    ‘Make your home in me, so that I may plant my roots in this landscape, in all seasons, steady and secure in your love. Teach me to trust you here.’… these words are piercing my heart and causing tears to flow. I needed your hard fought wisdom greatly this morning and it came as a gift from your heart. Thank you… I love you xoxo

  14. “For You will let life abound, off the map and in the chaos. You will let us feast on the dew of the morning and the sweet black of night.” YES. Secret are the ways of God – how he feeds not only the ones in the center of the map, but also those who have somehow fallen off the edge. There is always feast. There is always life abounding. Even in chaos.
    And yet, dear Michaela, I hope you give yourself grace in this season. For what you are going through is HARD. And it’s okay to admit that. I, too, have walked the path of chronically sick children and all their needs amidst a houseFULL of competing responsibilities. For me, it was hardest when I was pregnant and nursing. I hear your voice lifting in trust to God, and I think it beautiful, but I also want to extend a word of peace and grace to you. Know that you are not alone. That you are held in a loving community here and that you are carried on our prayers. Give yourself the space to grieve if you must, knowing that dancing times will come, as well. We walk beside you, friend. Always.

    • Kelli, it is true, the ways of God are secret…but “There is always feast.” Oh, I love that. It is hard, this road, and grief is hard too, experiencing it, again and again. I suppose part of this post was laced with grief. All too often I experience it, and there are days that I don’t experience enough of Jesus.

      Thank you for your words and strong arms, and for being a part of this community that carries me. It’s amazing. You’re amazing! Plus, I’d love to hear more of your family story sometime…Much love. xo

  15. Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

    Oh Michaela, your words are full of depth and beauty, and they have encouraged my weary soul today. Sending you love and prayers as you walk through your wilderness.

  16. Anne-Marie says:

    Amen, Michaela, yes. So so easy to try. But a severe grace to be in a place where there is no try left, and we can only rest on the moment by moment sustenance. Thank you for the reminder that we must stop to gather it. I keep thinking on ‘faith is the evidence of things unseen’. Hoping for you that this wee babe makes some of the unseen visible.

  17. Nicole A. Joshua says:

    Michaela, I breathe in deeply these words that are a sacred prayer. Your words wash over my being in profound ways as I hear you speaking God’s words of assurance and blessing. Thank you for being the well out of which I drink God’s living water today. Bless you, Shelovely.

  18. Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

    “Make your home in me, so that I may plant my roots in this landscape, in all seasons, steady and secure in your love. Teach me to trust you here.”

    Oh this. Michaela, this post is stunning.

  19. Heatherdawnkuhns says:

    Love this ma’am. Thanks for sharing

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