Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter in the Wilderness

The truth is, when I first got back to Ohio, I really loved it. The first and second time. When I moved back from Seattle and spent August getting to reconnect with family and friends and hometown places and traditions, it was a lovely, refreshing little break.

Then I spent a month in Mexico, and when I came home to Ohio again, it was fall. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year and fall in Ohio is unlike fall anywhere else (as I am sure I over communicated on the blog and in every social media post for months.) I was loving the crisp air and the richly painted landscapes and my new, fun soap selling job. AKA: I work at Bath and Body Works but I sort of like calling myself a soap seller. Weird.

Then it was December. There was snow and really, REALLY cold, brutal air. Ice. A million, long soap selling hours. A runny nose.

W I N T E R.

And not just winter. Winter in the NORTHEAST US. #intense

And after spending the last three winters on the west coast, this is sort of a drastic, cruel reality. Even more so when you remember that this is only the beginning, the mild entrance of the real winter that is to come and to stay at least until April.

(It's a brutal adjustment for this little west coast native too)

There is Christmas. I do love Christmas. And especially Christmas shopping. But even that had a rather wilderness feel to it this year considering my Christmas present budget has drastically decreased, making shopping much more challenging and a little less fun.

Okay, okay. I am done with the depressing wilderness entrance.

I say all that to say that I am really here now. Really in the middle of it...the thick of it. This is the part I was dreading. The part of the wilderness when you look around and see nothing but wilderness. A few months ago, I was on the edge of the wilderness. There was still scenery in viewing distance every way I looked except into the wilderness. I guess in a lot of ways it still felt as if there was a way out. I wasn't yet completely immersed in wilderness.

But here I am. No matter which way I look, there is wilderness. Nothing exciting close behind and nothing big and adventurous that I am about to walk into. Just more cold, more snow, more soap selling, more uncertainty.

I guess I am a little less optimistic about the wilderness at this stage than I was a few blog posts back. As is to be expected. But then I am this sort of overachiever, and I wanted to believe that I would embrace every single stage and place in the wilderness....ha. I always overestimate myself. Really though.

So of course I have been beating myself up. I've been upset with myself for not loving it here and embracing every moment of it.

And then in the midst of that. In the midst of winter in the wilderness, I came across this bit of insight in my daily travels through Exodus. I am making sure to read it this time in a Bible with commentary so I can get every ounce of wisdom out of a wilderness experience before mine.

"God did not bring Israel out of Egypt because they had great faith but because of His grace His undeserved favor and His faithfulness to His promises. He built up their faith until they were ready to trust Him and were ready to obey."

And that settled deep in my heart. Deep in my soul and my spirit. That phrase found me in the cold, snowy winter.

The gentle reminder that it's not about me. I guess sometimes that reminder is a harsh one, but then again sometimes it's a relieving one because it takes the pressure off. God did not decide to finally deliver the Israelites because they finally had enough faith or had been "good" faithful followers long enough to earn their deliverance. No. God decided to deliver them because it was time to show them and everyone else who He was. Who He is. The wilderness was about building them up and and teaching them to trust Him and obey Him and to be those faithful followers.

Oh. Well that changes things.

Here I was trying to be this star student in the wilderness. Trying to respond and behave the way I believed I should. The way I was supposed to.  I guess the way one would behave and respond following a wilderness experience, before I even had my wilderness experience.

Geesh. This is becoming a pattern for me. Trying to hurry ahead and finish the work, learn the lesson quickly so that we can just get on with things. Trying to live life on my terms and my timelines. I guess it always goes back to patience with me. Always.

So reading this little nugget of wisdom was sort of God snapping me out of that overachiever, hurrying ahead mindset I so easily fall into. This was Him saying to me that it's okay that I don't love it here. It's okay that I am not waking up every single day with the biggest brightest smile looking around at the cold, vast, emptiness around me and giggling with delight. It's okay that I am often frustrated and bored and lonely and a little mad.

It's okay because that's why we are here. He didn't bring me here because I know just how to handle these sorts of seasons and places. He didn't bring me here because I am a wilderness survival expert. He brought me here because I am anything but. He brought me here because I am NOT that. He brought me here to learn. He brought me here because He is faithful and gracious, not because I am. He brought me here to teach me how to be those things and to show me who He is.

Well. That's a relief. I don't have to live like I have learned a lesson that I am still in the middle of learning. Actually, that would sort of be like being someone I am not. Living and behaving as someone that I have not yet given God the chance to help me be. Actually, if I want to get really honest with myself, it's me trying to be someone super godly and super spiritually mature on my own, without even involving God or His methods in the process. It's prideful to think I can become that person on my own, in my own time, on my own terms. #ouch

So my new winter wilderness goal is to just pay attention to who God is showing Himself to be in my life. To start focusing more on His faithfulness and His grace and what He wants me to learn here rather than being distracted by how unimpressive and mediocre my wilderness performance is. To just be whatever I am in the wilderness and to keep walking. And it is to embrace the wilderness, but not in the way I decide I am supposed to embrace it, just to embrace it authentically. For exactly what it is at whatever place I am in. To embrace whatever I am feeling in the wilderness at any given moment and to allow God to do with that sort of honesty and authenticity whatever HE would like.

To simplify.

Winter in the wilderness has nothing to do with me and EVERYTHING to do with Him.

Time to stop looking around at the seemingly endless, empty, cold, barren wilderness that seems to be closing in on me, and to start looking up into the piercing, blue winter sky that is endless and limitless in an entirely different way. Because God is there in that limitless winter sky. He's waiting for me to look up and see the wilderness from His perspective. Waiting for me to stop walking in circles and losing myself and Him in my own vision of the wilderness. He's ready for me to stop trying to find my own way out of here at my own hurried pace and to let Him choose the curriculum and set the pace for my wilderness sessions.

(Enjoy this overdramatic, photographic interpretation of how winter in the wilderness looks in my head)

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