Category Archives: Seriously

Spiritually Dry: When you’re doing All The Spiritual Things… and He still feels far away.

Do you ever feel like you're in a spiritual desert even when you're actively pursuing God? Me too. Then I found a beautiful (and surprising) encouragement tucked away in the Scriptures. It has changed everything. Find strength for your faith in this quick read.I recently read the account in Joshua where the Lord stops the flow of the Jordan River so the Israelites (and the Ark of the Covenant) can cross.

And my brain exploded a little.

Before we get to the brain explosion, let me bring you up to speed. After they crossed the river, the Lord instructed them to set up a memorial using stones taken from the bottom of the Jordan riverbed (where the Ark was held on dry ground as the people crossed). Here’s a quick excerpt from the account:

[Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over.” – Joshua 4:21-23

Did you see it?

He dried it up.

The Lord dried up a path through the Red Sea until they had crossed over.

And He dried up a path through the Jordan River until they had crossed over.

Okay, okay, so the Lord did the same thing in two places. Big deal, right? But, oh man, I relate to the two places in very different ways — and it’s rocking my world (cue brain explosion). Think about it with me:

Start with the Red Sea. We often associate the sea with “the wind and the waves.” You know, life’s struggles. Spiritually speaking, drying a path through the sea evokes images of the Lord making a way through trials, hardship, or distractions. That makes sense. (Also sounds insane and miraculous. But it makes sense because it sounds like something our loving, powerful God would do.)

But now come to the Jordan River. Unlike the sea, we usually associate a river with life and joy. Let the river flow. Streams of mercy. The river of life. But here, God stopped the flow of the river. He dried it up before them. And a dried up river is pretty much exactly how I feel when I say, “I feel spiritually dry,” or “I’m in a dry season.”

Now, sometimes that dry season comes because I’ve been disobedient or stopped investing in spiritual disciplines (reading my Bible, prayer, and worship to name a few) that draw me near to the source of abundant life, God Himself.

But sometimes I’m doing all these things and I still feel spiritually dry.

Today, I see a new possibility. Perhaps the Lord Himself has dried it up before me until I cross over. Cross over what? I don’t know. Not yet, anyway. But, being dried up because I walked away from God, and being dried up because God’s hand is holding back the flow even while I walk toward Him, are two entirely different things.

You see, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years because of disobedience. I’ve known that kind of dried up ground. (Not 40 years’ worth, thank goodness.) Crossing the Jordan River was different. There, they were exactly where they were supposed to be, doing exactly what they were supposed to do. They weren’t in sin. They weren’t walking away from God. The Israelites were walking in obedience. AND BECAUSE OF THAT, the Lord dried up the river until they had crossed over.

I must walk through some circumstances or seasons with Jesus WITHOUT THE FLOW OF THE RIVER, but on DRIED UP GROUND, simply in obedience; simply in pursuit of God Himself.

Why?

“He did this so all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:24

So I’ll know Him, love Him, revere Him more.

It’s lovely to know and love God when the river is flowing. It is something more to also know Him on dried up ground — and through to the other side.

I wonder if anyone else, like me, has found themselves on dried up ground EVEN WHILE pursuing Jesus, serving Him, practicing spiritual disciplines that normally would lead to a rich experience of feeling connected to God — a river of “spiritual flow.” And perhaps when it began to feel instead like dried up ground, we let go of some spiritual practices. I mean, they stopped being “effective” anyway, right?

Well, I guess that depends on how we define effective.

If effective means I FEEL close to God (river flowing), then no. I guess spiritual disciplines aren’t always effective.

But if effective means I AM close to God (whether I feel like it or not), then like the Israelites, I can be on dried up ground right in the middle of His presence and His will.

Okay, okay — dried up ground, flowing river.. who even cares!? Does it really even matter!?

Well, maybe not. But, do I worship HIM or the flow? Do I know and trust Him in the flow and on dried up ground?

Because THAT MATTERS.

I invite you to return to the riverbed. And if you find it all dried up, don’t be discouraged. He is waiting for you there.

You can only carry yourself so far, Warrior.

I went to a women’s conference this weekend. It was the Belong Tour, and to be honest I only bought a ticket because I was SO. EXCITED. TO SEE JEN HATMAKER! There were other amazing women there as well, and Glennon from Momastery even made a guest appearance! The whole weekend was funny and touching; I laughed, I cried… you know the drill.

But, can I be really honest here? I didn’t come away feeling the way I expected. On the surface, I should’ve come away feeling inspired, challenged, pepped up. Instead, I was left wanting. Maybe even let down

I stewed over my feelings. Was I just being overly critical?

The weekend was full of incredible women telling me inspiring things. Honestly, it felt like a big warm bath of positivity. We can do hard things! You belong! You have what it takes! God won’t ever give you more than you can handle! All the love you’re looking for is right there inside of you! But you guys. As wonderful as it feels, if I sit too long in a warm bath of positivity, I will gradually be lulled to sleep.

And drown.

What I realized is quite simple: I really don’t need another pep talk. I don’t need someone to keep telling me how awesome I am. I know it’s weird – what woman doesn’t want to keep hearing she is strong, she is brave, she is capable, she is a world changer? But that’s where my “let-down” feeling came in: I believe it is a great disservice to promise courage, strength, and belonging without a clear and formal introduction to the One who can deliver on those promises. I AM NOT MY OWN DELIVERER.

I heard Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery & Jen Hatmaker speak this weekend at the Belong Tour! So much encouragement! So much empowerment! Inspiration and quotes galore. But there was also something else important. And I didn't even see it coming. Ladies, we don’t just need more pep rallies and positive self-talk. We need our foundation strengthened. We need to know how to study the Bible – God’s Word – so we may recognize in other’s words what is true – and what is not. We need to know WHO MAKES US STRONG. We need to know that actually, God quite often DOES give me more than I can handle, but that He is there to offer His strength to walk me through it.

Christian women, I am speaking to you (myself included) here. I think some of us have become so enamored with these beautiful, good-willed, funny, inspirational women – who even talk about God!!! – that we have gradually, imperceptibly, begun to seek – and even find, although temporarily – life in their words.

You are loved. Yes, you are. God loves you – so much that He sacrificed His Son Jesus for you to have access to that love. THAT is the key. God loves you – and the access point for you to RECEIVE and EXPERIENCE the FULLNESS of that love is Jesus.

You can do hard things. Yes, you can. But where does your strength come from? I can do a lot in my own strength. You bet I can.  But by the strength of Jesus Christ in me, I can bear all things. If you have not experienced what it means to find your strength in Jesus, if you have gone from pep talk to pep talk, devouring book after book, blog post after blog post, inhaling every breath of earthly encouragement you can find, I invite you: Taste and see that the Lord is good! HE is the hero in this story!

You can only carry yourself so far, warrior. And hear me loud and clear: there is no shame in that. We can ALL only carry ourselves so far. THAT IS THE POINT. The victory isn’t in carrying yourself through the battle; the victory is in knowing the Victor: He who has already won the battle on your behalf.

You are strong, capable, and smart. Through a relationship with Jesus, you have access to the very Holy Spirit of God who breathed the Word of God onto the page. Are you studying His Word as devotedly as hers?

If your biggest dream is to be part of Glennon’s momastery or Jen’s tribe, go for it! But, if deep down what you long for is strength that can endure all things, peace that passes all understanding, a courageous heart that does not fear, and a source of active compassion that WILL NOT RUN DRY: then Jesus is who you’re looking for.

Bob Ross and My Messy Beautiful

As we tell the truth about our stuff - the good, the bad, the messy, the beautiful - we'll see God, who loves us so, turn what we thought had ruined us into the miracle that frees us. Looking for a story that could set you free? Don’t miss this read.

Did you ever watch Bob Ross back in the day? You know, The Joy of Painting, Burnt Sienna, White Ochre, and oh the happy little trees…

My brother and I watched him, transfixed, every weekend. Even more than his happy little trees – or THAT HAIR – I remember watching him paint something awesome.

And then paint a huge ugly stroke across the canvas.

Every single time, we gasped, “WHAT IS HE DOING!? HE RUINED IT!” 

And every single time, he turned that mess into a crazy awesome tree or some other unexpectedly brilliant thing – the showpiece of the entire landscape.

We stared at the screen, awestruck. “I thought for sure it was wrecked. HOW DOES HE DO THAT!?”

As a child of about five years old, I had a sexual encounter with a girl in my neighborhood. Because she was also a child (about five years older than I) and was, well, a girl, the situation didn’t match my understanding of sexual abuse. So, I never called it that. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell anyone. It never occurred to me that I should.

This encounter prematurely awakened my sexuality, my sensuality. But, I never processed this as something introduced to me by another. Instead, I owned it. As a 5-year-old, I wasn’t capable of handling this awareness, this awake-ness. I became fixated on sexual, sensual thoughts and play. Over time, I developed a notion of “that kind of girl.” Over more time, I believed I was that kind of girl, and believed my memories were proof I’d been that kind of girl even as a small child.

The shame weighed heavy.

I secretly carried and grew that mass of shame, alone, for many years. Then one day I found myself as a college student in a small Bible study where this challenge was issued: share with the group – bring into the light – that deep, dark thing that holds you captive with shame. I had no idea what to share – not for lack of examples, but more like, “Where do I even begin?” I wrestled through my long, shameful list and landed on what I believed was the pinnacle of my shame: I’d had sex with my boyfriend. As a Christian, I thought it was the most sinful thing I’d ever done and the glaring proof I was “that kind of girl.”

Our intimate circle gathered close, and a friend named Kate bravely shared her story first. She had been sexually abused as a child, she said. By a girl just a few years older, she said.

As Kate continued to pour out her story, nineteen-year-old me flashed back to five-year-old me. My world went off-kilter a bit and tears ran down my face as shame and regret and long-held beliefs about myself began to crumble beneath my feet. Until that moment, it had never once occurred to me that my childhood encounter was abuse. That it wasn’t my fault. That it wasn’t proof of my brokenness, but rather the brokenness of this world.  That perhaps I wasn’t “that kind of girl.”

That perhaps NO ONE IS.

You see, I know something important now: there is no such thing as “that kind of girl.” That kind of girl is a lie we put on ourselves or others that shames and isolates. You know that thing you are owning as proof of your shamefulness? “That thing” isn’t the whole picture.

Kate’s mess, what felt to her like a huge stain across her life’s canvas, became a tree of hope to me. It meant I wasn’t alone. It meant that all these dark stirrings I’d carried alone for over a decade could be brought into the light.

Here’s the big thing about Bob Ross (well, the biggest thing after THAT HAIR): He didn’t redeem his masterpiece by covering up that bold stroke of paint. He didn’t hide it; he finished it.

If Kate had kept her story hidden in shame, I would still be locked up by mine. Her vulnerability unlocked my door to freedom. I am fiercely committed to telling the truth about our stuff because maybe I can be someone else’s Kate. As we tell the truth about our stuff – the good, the bad, the messy, the beautiful – instead of hiding it, we’ll see it finished. We’ll see God, who loves us so, turn what we thought had ruined us into the miracle that frees us – by freeing others. IT’S A FRONT ROW SEAT TO THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BROKEN PLACES.

What’s your story? Maybe it’s like mine, maybe not. What stuff do you own, hold onto in the dark, use as ammunition against yourself?

My story is messy. And my story is beautiful. It’s the messy that makes it beautiful. It’s the messy that makes it spill onto someone else’s page. As my bold, ruinous stain becomes finished, it spreads into a tree of hope whose branches reach another canvas.

Stop hiding. Be brave, come into the light, and paint the bold strokes of a messy, beautiful life.

*Kate’s name was shared with permission. I encourage you to click here to visit her at The Accidental Traveler. She writes wonderful things when she finds time amid her FIVE messy, beautiful children!

I was honored to write and share this post as part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — to learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!  And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, CLICK HERE!

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