Frozen Manna

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leslie-verner-frozen-manna3

If you asked me how I am really doing right now, this is what I would say:

“I am lonely.  I am physically weary.  I long for authentic community.  And I miss the days when I felt fulfilled in living out my calling.”

But if you then asked me to climb out of my head, open my squinched-shut eyes and look for what God could be doing in this desert season, I would confess that I feel loved, seen and held.

And I’d have to admit that sometimes God intentionally grabs our hands and yanks us straight into the wilderness.  

Loneliness is natural to the human condition and often necessary to our spiritual journeys.  I struggled with loneliness when I left my family and moved to another state for college, when I began my first job in Chicago as a teacher, when I lived on the other side of the globe as a single woman in China, when I returned home to the states to get married, and as I’ve navigated the shift of identity and calling that comes in becoming a mother.

Sometimes God wants our feet dangling in the air as we clutch the edge of the cliff so we are that much more aware when He supports us, lifting us from below.

For context, I am 39 weeks pregnant, have two little ones under four, and am used to being very capable, able-bodied and driven.  But these days, I congratulate myself if I keep everyone in our home clothed, fed and breathing.  I’ve never felt as depleted as I have in the past few months.   

Having moved cross-country over a year ago, we have few friends to walk with us during this pregnancy.  We have always found our people at church but have visited 11 churches in 16 months and are still homeless.  There is nothing that makes you feel lonelier than sitting in a crowded room full of people for an hour and a half, then walking out at the end without speaking to a single one.

After “dating” a church for nearly a year, we reached the point where we needed to either get married or break up, and we’re facing the sad reality of having invested so much time in a relationship only to move on and start all over again.  We had hoped to stay through the duration of my pregnancy, mainly for the meals and support, but when I sat quietly asking Jesus about this decision, He seemed to say, “Don’t you think I can provide a few freezer meals for you?”

So in the third trimester of my pregnancy, my husband and I made the painful decision to start visiting churches again.  It makes me think about the unsettledness of Mary, journeying to Bethlehem for the census in the final days of her pregnancy, away from all who knew her and everything familiar.  Vulnerable and friendless, I’m sure she, too, wondered if anyone would show up to hold her newborn son.

Before we moved, I discovered that a friend from college lived in the city we planned to move to.  We visited her tiny liturgical church on our trip out to find a place to live but hadn’t visited again.  But my husband and I decided that for the next few months, even though it is a worship style we are not used to, we’ll stay put until we get our bearings again.  We just need a safe place to land for a while.

The service is two hours and our busy kids stay with us through the majority of it.  Shuffling papers, we try and keep up with creeds, sacraments, prayers, blessings, and confessions.  We sing more than ten songs per service, accompanied by a tambourine, acoustic guitar, jimbay, and piano.  Worship is both simpler and more complex than I am used to, but I’m finding the liturgy is like crutches to my limping soul. It is like reading poetry after years of prose.

On our third Sunday there, a deacon approached me, pen and paper in hand, asking for our address.  She wanted the church to provide meals for us when I have the baby.  Jiggling my fussy two-year-old on my hip, I blinked back tears, nodding and thanking her. Of course, I would appreciate some meals.  

Sometimes God uses the practical to caress our up-turned, tear-stained faces with His tender hand.  Water from rocks, manna from the sky, wine from water, bread cakes from bottomless flour and oil.  

Sometimes we need to be brought low so the provision for our simple needs sends us peering up from our prostrate position to see where this nourishment is coming from. Like Elijah lying in the desert, weary from his journey, God sends plainclothes angels to minister to our basic needs for food, water, and rest.

My parents, who live three hours away, unexpectedly offered to take the kids last weekend, giving me a chance to sleep, read, and get a haircut.  And later that week, my friend told me she and her mother had spent Sunday afternoon cooking–for us. Opening the door for her to come in, she tenuously balanced 12 trays of food. I now have a freezer full of frozen manna.

Hagar, running from her unkind mistress, met God in the wilderness. She called God El Roi, “The God who sees me.” In my weariness, Jesus is stroking my hair, reassuring me, “I see you, tired one. You are held, cherished and loved.”  

He is whispering,“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28-30, ESV).

It is us, the lowly in heart, who find rest for our souls. Because our only option is to wearily extend our dusty, empty hands.  

And receive.  

***

How has God met you in the wilderness?

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Leslie Verner
I am a goer who is learning how to stay. I’ve traveled all over the world and lived in northwest China for five years before God U-turned my life and brought me back to the U.S. to get married to an actor in Chicago. I’m a former middle school teacher, mama to three little ones and like American cuisine the least. I currently live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and write regularly about faith, justice, family and cross-cultural issues at Scraping Raisins.
Leslie Verner
Leslie Verner

Latest posts by Leslie Verner (see all)

  • I think it’s Michael Card who sings about true worship coming out of a wilderness experience. And I suppose it’s also true that if we want to experience the joy of finding manna in the dew, we have to travel through the wilderness and be in need.

    One thing I know for sure is that I’ve got to pay more attention to the business of providing “frozen manna” for women in my church when they need it. Maybe that wasn’t the point of your writing this lovely offering, but the Holy Spirit has used your words to give me a nudge.

    Congratulations on your new baby! I am in awe of your prolific writing at this stage of life.

    • It’s amazing how God uses the little things to minister to us when we are weary and have nothing to give. I’m sure so many women would be blessed by you! (And already are by the gift of your encouraging comments!)

  • O, my heart … thank you for letting us in to yours, Leslie. So grateful for manna–frozen and otherwise.

  • Leslie, thank you for this. Your first line is exactly me today. Reading about your frozen manna gives me hope that God would show up for me, too. I’ve found that no matter what struggles or desolation I face, as long as I know God’s here, it’s all okay. Praying that your transition to having three kids would be smooth and that you’d continue to receive manna in many daily moments.

    • Thank you! I wrote this about a month ago, so I can say that the manna just keeps on coming! This week it’s been in the form of a sweet single lady who lives in town who has stopped by to hold my newborn for an hour three days this week so I can get stuff done! And Monday another friend randomly stopped by to take my two-year-old daughter for the morning before she even knew my son had been sick all night. God keeps showing up in very practical ways. I hope you see Him in these practical ways in your days as well!

  • Exactly what we all need to hear in our times of loneliness and wandering. One day at a time, God provides. Thank you for this reminder, Leslie!

  • So full of hope and advice and poetry. God is so good to us, giving us what we need in each season of our lives. Yeah for all that manna. Praying that you find a church that feels like home, good friends, and a moment of peace here and there between the children to keep writing.

    • Theresa, Thank you for your comment. I feel like He is giving me as I need it and not a minute before;-)

  • Mary Gemmill

    Simply beautiful testimony – I am certain God gets great delight in providing for us above all expectation and in surprising us with Joy in unexpected places.
    May He continue to provide for your every need,of body mind and spirit.

  • Keymr

    I love the image of Hagar- fleeing to the desert place and God seeing her there. How often have I fought to not be in the desert?

  • Kathy Forsyth

    I had a similar experience this week. Due to multiple factors outside of my control I found myself with $16.40 in my checking account and $0.40 in my savings account with a week to go before I got my disability check. I asked for prayer from the ladies in my Bible study group about my finances and suddenly they put $69 in my hand. “But, but” I said, “I didn’t tell you all just so you would give me money!” Each one of them assured me that it was a gift from God. I was able to go and get some needed groceries. A few days later another one of these dear ladies gave me a check for $500. Jesus has promised to take care of me and He is really good at it! Praying for you as you get closer to delivery.