From My Pen...

I'm a journaler. I like to journal about life, love and my Lord. I also love technology but busyness keeps me from being as tech-savvy as I'd like to be. This blog gives me a chance to play computer and learn a few new tricks along the way; all the while serving as my 21st century journal. A journaler is just a writer by another name and writing defines me almost as much as my faith does. I've always had a desire to blend my faith and my writing into a ministry of encouragement. This blog gives birth to that desire. Be blessed as you read these weekly devotions taken from the pages of my old-fashioned journal.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Redeeming the Barren Places: Part 3 - BEAUTY IN THE BARREN PLACE


Is that the best one can hope for in the barren place? Growth? Growth is painful – it hurts. My youngest had “growth spurts” that resulted in unbearable pain. He would awaken from the barrenness of deep slumber crying heart-wrenchingly as the growing pains disturbed his rest. We would rub his legs and arms wishing we could alleviate his pain but knowing we could only try to ease it. The growth chart on the wall would prove out the growth in a matter of weeks. What hurts him caused him to grow. God allows our hurt, eases it with His presence, knowing that what hurts us will grow us. But I don’t think growth is all that comes from painful barren places. I think that you can experience beauty in the barren places. I know I did – eventually.

It made me smile. But more than that it made me throw back my head and laugh the hearty, medicinal laugh of Proverbs 17:22. Those in the vehicles that passed by must have thought me daft because it happened, quite literally, on the side of a road on one of the bleakest, barren stretches I have ever encountered. At my feet and scattered over the barrenness all around me were cushions of beautiful and delicate pink flowers on beds of greenest green surrounded by rough stone as far as the eye could see. I threw back my head, looked into the heavens, declared “I get it, Lord” and I laughed. I mean REALLY laughed! Just before I aligned my camera on the beauty at my feet and snapped a self-portrait. No not a selfie! The camera was pointed the other way but I saw myself in that little patch of beauty. I was starting to bloom in my barren place. A beautiful thing was being awakened in my spirit and it took a barren place to bring it out. I would not have noticed those tiny, delicate flowers in a lush and colorful flower garden but there in the barren place as I looked around I saw splashes of beauty everywhere. I laughed until my eyes leaked – more tears – the good kind.

Carolyn Arends said it and I echo a resounding AMEN! “Laughter is a form of worship. A good laugh is a release – even if only for a moment – from worry, strife, and self. It is a sudden, often unbidden confession that someway, somehow, all is well, or at least there is hope that it can be.” My laughter that day on the barrens was the holiest form of worship I could render in that moment. I wonder if passersby recognized the God-moment in that unusual scene. No matter! I’ve appeared foolish to some for much less significant moments than that one. Days later when I gazed upon the printed copy of that photo and recalled that moment of release; that moment when God brought me back from the exile of my barren place I was reminded of Psalm 126. “When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”

Barren places are a beautiful thing when God resides there.
Are you in a barren place and growing?
Look closer.
See the beauty and remember…
“Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning.”
Trust me; I know!
The day has dawned for me again.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Redeeming the Barren Places: PART 2 - GROWING IN THE BARREN PLACE


People think nothing grows in barren places. They are wrong. You just have to look harder to see it. Brave little grasses and flowers often poke their way up through fissures in concrete, asphalt and yes even rocky crevices. I once saw a beautiful deep purple pansy in full bloom in the middle of an asphalt driveway - talk about a determination to grow! The crack was miniscule; the driveway was otherwise without life (barren) and the pansy was healthy. Things do grow in barren places. I know this in principle; have even experienced it a time or two or three but have never analyzed it the way I have now. In truth it is only in hindsight I see it. At the time it just hurt to poke my head up through the unforgiving hardness of the barren place.

There it was on the side of the most barren place we had encountered that day. We were scaling an incline of shale that was hard on the feet and the tender flesh of my palms as I slipped and slid my way to the summit of that day’s hiking trail choice. It was an ugly thing; gnarled and as grey as the landscape – mostly. We both spotted it at almost the same instance and reacted simultaneously, laughing as we did so. Then the inevitable picture followed and in it you can see what I mean. On the very ends – new growth – green and vibrant. I cried when I had finished chuckling. I looked at hubby and declared, “That’s me, isn’t it?” My barren place had been grey and bleak but I had grown. For a long time I could only see grey but then I began noticing the green.

I had deep strong roots. I know that now. Godly parents set me down in deep rich soil. They established me in the faith. They taught me how to nourish myself. Long heartfelt talks with “My Father” and long hours spent searching His Word. Corroborating with the most godly man I know; my husband spent hours helping me sort through a lot of emotional turmoil to find ways to best navigate the difficult days of my barren place. He was, and is, my “iron sharpening iron.” Tears cried (via telephone) on the shoulder of a good and godly friend; a life-giving watering that helped empty my heart of hurt and my tear ducts of their overflow. Thank you, Jacquie, for your unending patience in listening to the woes of my barren place. Every woman needs a friend like you. Little kindnesses from unexpected places were my sticky notes from Heaven. These were little patches of sunlight that pulled my head up through the fissures in my barren place. Buried under the dark weight of the barrenness not much happens but when you start to sense the light of day again you can’t help but strain toward it. Growth happens in barren places.

Daniel and his three Hebrew compadres encountered captivity in barren Babylonia. They had deep roots and they withstood the tests of a barren place. It got hot and vicious (furnaces, lions, you know) before it got over but these men grew strong in God and became men of renown and influence until even today the account of their barren place fuels my own determination.

My Friend,
Don’t curse your barren place.
God has a plan.
Let your roots do their work.
Nourish yourself in God.
Draw strength from godly companions.
See God in the little things that light the darkness.
Grow where you are.

 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Redeeming the Barren Places: PART 1 - BARREN PLACE


I felt as though I had been exiled in a barren place. Perhaps the Babylonian Captivity is a bit of an extreme parallel but I could definitely relate to the declaration: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” In my barren place my soul was held captive and I wept as I remembered my Zion.

What sent me to this barren place is maybe not as important as the being there.

We all experience barrenness of spirit. I have lived through drought. I have had my seasons. I know what “parched” means. But, most often before barrenness took hold I would find myself at a sweet oasis prepared just for me. I would drink from the spring and be refreshed.

This time it went deeper; lasted longer. This wasn’t a dessert place to quickly pass through; my spirit was drying out. I could feel the cracks forming, then the fissures. Living Water was nearby; the scent of it in the air. I was in a fog as to why I couldn’t get near enough to slake my thirst, to saturate my dryness. Instead of sunbaked sand my spirit felt like pressure-formed granite. That’s why when I saw my picture I could relate to what I saw. God hovered near. I was ever aware of Him and never doubted that His hand was in this – somehow. I just didn’t get the “why” of it. No matter.

A cry for release brought a gentle whisper: “not just yet” then “this too is a season, it will pass – hold on Child.” That was it.

Some have their fiery furnace trials and He is their fourth man. Some have their flood waters and He keeps them from going under. I had my barren place. It was a stark, rocky crag and He hid me in the cleft, covered me with His hand and spoke in a gentle whisper just ‘hold on.” So I did. I didn’t know what else to do. It was all I could do and in my darkest hour He held on to me with His strong right hand.

A barren place.
Do you know what I mean?
Did my overdone imagery ring a bell?
Are you there?
It doesn’t matter what puts us there.
I have my circumstances; you have yours.
God is near.
You will feel His life-giving touch again.
I know.
For now…
“Child, just hold on.”

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Intro - REDEEMING THE BARREN PLACES

We absolutely love trekking around seashores and beaches and barrens bordering the ocean. It's cathartic. We love to beachcomb for sea glass and driftwood and seashells and coral. We've found bottles with notes in them, golf balls, miniature vessels released with tags to track them and a scattered dinky car. You'd think we'd found Hook's treasure!

On our jaunts around the shoreline of the beloved "Northern Tip" this summer I took my old-fashioned camera even though it was more cumbersome to carry them my iPhone. I'm not a photographer - not even an amateur one but I love to take pictures. It's a family thing - just ask the Andrews clan. From our old "110-print-your-own film" to our "digital snap-all-you-want" we are always taking pictures. So the time came to review the cache of summer photos stored on my trusty SD and three particular barrens-inspired photos captured my heart, my imagination and my spirit. I even named the Photos - called them a series, no less. A true photographer would probably scoff at my pathetic attempts but those photos have reawakened the muse in me that busyness had sent into hiding.

I have sat entranced, staring at the images on the screen and I have pondered the hardcopies I have held in my hand, printed to fit on to the pages of my journal; and in both instances I have been captivated in the most therapeutic God-moments imaginable. I have dubbed my three-photo series "Redeeming the Barren Places." With the lords help I will attempt to unfold my personal journey to doing just that. I am ready, Lord, here goes...