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Desert Faith

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Moving to the eastern plains of Colorado brought me more than I expected: the excitement of decorating our first home, landscaping part of our acre of weeds, meeting new friends, finding a church, enrolling my son in school, and finding activities for my preschool daughter.

Desert living was nothing like city living.

Yes, there is desert in Colorado.

We fought for living space among the native animals, amphibians, and insects. When our car heater stopped working, mechanics uncovered five pounds of dog food inside. Pesky field mice stashed it. Coyotes cried at night, their screams scared my kids—and me. Moles invaded my vegetable garden. I never caught them, not even with the best underground traps. Once, a huge centipede wiggled across our carpet while my family and I watched a movie. My kids and I screamed as my husband Derek grabbed a shovel from the garage. He chopped the ugly thing in half. It kept crawling in two opposite directions. Yuck. Another time a baby bull snake coiled up and hissed at my son, who slept at the foot of our bed. Thank God our dog let me know something wasn’t right.

How did these creatures get in our house? We never figured that out.

Every morning, my neighbor’s this-is-your-5 am-wake-up-call rooster sounded his alarm. A couple hours later my other neighbor’s pet donkey started his song. He stood on top of a dirt mound and brayed like he was king of the hill. I could write a book about adventures of the farm animals, barn owls, jackrabbits, fat toads, and droves of mosquitoes.

However desert living wasn’t all animals and insects. Thunderstorms with one hundred mile per hour winds tore through our community, carrying tumbleweeds, lawn furniture, and an occasional trampoline. Rain turned the clay soil into a mucky mess, staining everything orange. Thankfully, amazing sunsets, bright stars, lightning shows, and my flower garden brightened and colored my desert experience.

Until darkness settled in.

I no longer saw beauty in the desert. I saw night. I felt like someone turned the lights off in my heart. My faith faded like a sunset.

I missed city life. I missed conveniences. Traveling thirteen miles to Wal-Mart® one way wore me out. I resented living 50 miles away from family and friends. Then I felt guilty. I told myself, You should be thankful you own a home.

After a year and a half, I couldn’t pretend I was happy anymore. My relationships with new friends and neighbors soured. I usually got along with everyone. Now I felt like Tiffany the Troublemaker.

I left my Bible study group because I felt misunderstood. I pulled Hannah out of her two playgroups. Socializing became a burden. My son Justin, who was in third grade, started experiencing bullying at school. And his teacher harassed me, calling me weekly to tell me Justin was too talkative during class.

My husband spent every Monday night at his mom’s house to attend his men’s Bible study, which made me feel even more isolated. How come he could stay connected with his friends and get a weekly break and I couldn’t?

As much as possible, I avoided people. Whenever I wanted to work in my garden, I first checked to make sure no one was outside. I wanted my space. An acre wasn’t enough.

Whenever I prayed, I felt like God didn’t answer or even care. I figured He allowed me—a prodigal daughter—back into His family, but that He withheld blessings because of my rebellious years.

The color of my thoughts? Pitch black. But I didn’t care. I thought about giving up on God again, but one thing stopped me: a tiny seed of faith.

My faith, even if weak and flawed, reminded me of all that God had done for me. For my family. For my marriage. To be honest, I didn’t like remembering. I felt like I had a right to be upset and complain. People mistreated me. We struggled financially—others didn’t. My son didn’t deserve to be picked on. I was offended with God. But something kept my smoldering faith alive: the memory of where I came from: An even darker pit.

My two choices: Let my faith completely die. Or remain faithful to God in my midnight hours.

I didn’t like either option. I wanted God to move first. Then I would follow. But God is God. He didn’t comply with my demands to change my circumstances or relationships.

After a couple months of wrestling, I broke. I poured out my pain in prayer. I held nothing back. I was going to be real with God—or be nothing at all. I had no idea what would become of me. For all I knew, I could be struck down dead after such complaints. I just remembered my life without faith was far worse. Far darker. I couldn’t win over the night without clinging to God.

Over the next few weeks, I continued my honest dialogue. I started reading the Word again. I felt light enter in my heart again. Isaiah 43:19 spoke to me.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

God used my dark desert experience to reveal His presence to me. In my loneliness, He came near. I danced before the Lord, sang songs, fasted, and read his Word as a love letter. I started journaling and writing devotions. Prior to this, I never wrote. During this time I couldn’t stop; the ideas kept coming. My desert home became my sanctuary. Behind closed doors, God’s love started to bloom in my heart.

I love how May 1st’s Streams in the Desert describes faith, as I often need the reminder.

Faith does not say, "I see this is good for me; therefore God must have sent it." Instead, faith declares, "God sent it; therefore it must be good for me." Faith, when walking through the dark with God, only asks Him to hold his hand more tightly. — Phillip Brooks

Today I live in the city again. I cannot imagine not living in the desert for those two and a half years. Because there among the winds, rodents, and wildlife, God showed me His faithfulness. In the desert, my faith grew. I’m thankful God didn’t answer my prayers according to my wishes, instead He gave me what I needed the most: His love.

Tiffany Stuart is a freelance writer, speaker, and stay-at-home mom of a tween daughter and a teenage son. Her passion to see women free from shame and embrace God's love. She and her family live in Colorado. She enjoys blogging at Tea With Tiffany and her newest blog, The Shame Factor.

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Amazed by the beauty of Pikes Peak, Tiffany Stuart and her family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She and her husband Derek eloped to Las Vegas in 1991. Yes, an adventurous start to marriage. Today, she's an active mom of a funny teenage son and a joy-filled preteen daughter. Want someone to cry with you? Tiffany will be right over. Some of her greatest memories include talking and praying with cancer patients and incarcerated teen girls. Her favorite hang outs are the Goodwill for more books (which she doesn't need), Starbucks for fellowship or freelance work, and her recliner or back patio where she watches and listens to songbirds, journals, and blogs from her laptop. She writes and speaks from her heart to encourage women. Visit her website for the latest updates on her ministry.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Desert Faith

by Tiffany Stuart time to read: 5 min
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