In Due Season


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Sometimes obedience doesn’t come with an immediate reward, and we doubt. We make the sacrifice in faith that in due season we will reap, if we do not faint, and then when time passes and there seems to be no harvest, not even a small hint of fruit, we despair.

His ways are not our ways.

There is a due season for an apple tree to yield apples, for a cornfield to be harvested, for a baby to be born. And there is a due season for fruit in the Christian life, but it is not a date, or even a month to be circled on the calendar.

He works deep within, planting seeds. And we are promised one day those seeds will bear fruit. But God sees time so differently than we do. The beauty, the bounty He promises seldom comes when we expect it. And it seldom comes in the way we expect it. What if the harvest we are reaping is different that our expectations, our dreams?

His thoughts are not our thoughts.

I struggle to be faithful when I don’t see an answer to my prayer or a result to my work after a time that feels like it should be enough. This morning I faced the reality that a real knees-to-the-ground sacrifice I have made– faithfully– has not had the results I hoped for. In fact, by all outward appearances it has had the opposite result. What’s the point?

Sometimes I’m afraid that I will serve God sacrificially and no one will ever notice– that no measurable, visible fruit will ever be seen. I’m afraid that I will not be recognized for my sacrifice. Of course that’s pride talking; that’s flesh. Flesh says to Erin be the glory and if Erin’s not getting the glory then there’s no point in what Erin’s doing. Pride says I deserve some kind of recognition.

Can I live a whole life of sacrifice and obedience and never receive a moment of praise? Me, whose love language is words of affirmation? I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can do this day after day after day and never see any outward change so that you look at me and say, “Great job, Erin!”

Today God brought me to my knees. He does that when I get freaked out by my crazy, prideful mind. I want to be faithful, and I want to be humble, and I want to be willing to trust and obey for no other reason that to know Him and the power of His resurrection but it is so. hard. Today, hungry for outward change, for applause, I came to my Father and I confessed my weakness– my hunger and thirst not for righteousness, but for my own pride to be upheld, my own name lifted up.

I love my Lord so much. Because in that moment of confession and desperate hunger, He reminded me of this– that He sees me, He knows everything I do in secret, and He favors me. He is proud of me. He has seen the sacrifice, and He will reward me in His time, in His way. He will not forget even one teardrop. There will be a harvest; there is already a harvest within me. My God approves of me, because of grace, because of Jesus– not because of my sacrifice. He delights in me. And He promises me grace and strength, not for a whole lifetime of seemingly unrecognized sacrifice, but for today. And tomorrow there will be new strength, new mercies in the morning.

Today my God reminded me that He is at work within me, in the hidden places, and it’s not important for others to see and approve. And He reminded me that He is at work in other areas, in other places that seem fruitless. His grace allows me to keep discipling my children, to keep pouring into that one hard relationship, to keep teaching those wiggly kids at church– because my eyes can’t see what He’s doing with these hearts, but He can, and He asks me to sow and water and teach and love and let Him bring the increase.

I can trust Him to see, to accomplish the work within, and to bring it to fruition in His good time.

I say none of this to bring praise to myself. My sacrifices are so small, so very meager. I say this to encourage you to keep enduring, to be faithful, to not grow weary, to entrust yourself and that situation that seems fruitless to the God who sees you. If you are a believer in the finished work of Christ on Calvary, then God rejoices in you.

He delights in you.

He approves of you.

And He will make all things beautiful in His mysterious time.

His ways are beyond understanding, His thoughts past finding out.


Of Weak Places and God My Strength


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It’s raining and the hearts in my home are a mess of raw emotions– mostly anger. A contentious woman is like a continual dripping, Solomon said, and I’m sure he was right, but this morning in this house it’s all contention and the dripping outside wears away at us all.

Within minutes of “Good morning,” one child is in tears because of the unkindness of another child. There is blame and yelling and sharp words. Moments later, a Lego creation goes crashing off the dining room table, and pieces have gone missing, and all is not well. Soon no one is speaking to anyone else, and it’s all because of those stupid expensive sharp-cornered plastic pieces. At least that’s my feeling.

Up to my elbows in dishwater, I briefly consider banning all the Legos– just breaking apart the X-wing and the spaceships and the hair salon and the fire station, putting all the pieces in one huge tote and listing them on eBay or giving them away to an underprivileged kid who would actually appreciate them.

With a sigh I decide that’s probably an overreaction.

What’s a mama to do when she woke up too early and felt unprepared for the day even before the kids woke up with their minor major catastrophes? When her heart is just as prone to the temper tantrums and the outbursts of anger and the frustration over the little things?

Last night we talked at Bible study about temptation and attacks and our adversary who sees our new resolve to walk in obedience and attacks with no holds barred. Last night I reflected on how God has been changing my speech patterns and softening them with grace, especially towards my children. Last night when my glass pitcher was knocked to the ground and shattered, I spoke kindly to my weeping daughter– “It’s just a thing. I love you”— and I knew that God has been working in me.

This morning I woke up and knew beyond a shadow that an attack was imminent. I could feel it in my weakness and recognize it in my pride. Oh, how very prone I am to pride. One small victory and I’m quite convinced of my own remarkableness. As the unkind words bite back and forth from the lips of my children, I feel my own anger rising. Here is a chink in my armor– this pride that says that I have mastered my words and surely my children can too.  This taking of credit for the work of God. This unreasonable expectation. This tired frame that is so impatient– that reacts with instant frustration when my children speak harshly to each other.

How can this one, so weak and so easily irritated and wearing armor so full of holes, ever possibly speak life-words to these little hearts? One child a bristling fortress of anger, one child falling into near hysteria, one screaming and taking offense at every perceived slight. And one mama, just wanting to go back to bed on a rainy morning.

This God of mine– He is the answer. Of course. Always. If only I could remember immediately, instead of after the rankling sharp words and the sarcasm and the empty threats have shot from my lips. I can’t be what my family needs, but He can. And He is strength in weakness.

My enemy knows all the chinks– the weak spots– in my patched-together armor, but so does my Savior. And all those holey places have the very real potential to be holy places– to be filled up with the sufficient grace and strength of the God who, as a dear friend used to say to me, knows my dust and loves me anyway. I am not enough, but HE IS.

We sit around the kitchen table with our eggs and bagels and cereal and one giant green smoothie and I read to my children about who our God is:

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
    covering yourself with light as with a garment,
    stretching out the heavens like a tent. . . .
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures. . . .
These all look to you,
    to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. . . .
May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works . . . .
 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord.

Here is the answer, then, to a day started wrong, to a morning when I feel like there is not enough of me to deal with the crises and the anger and the tiredness. My God, who made heaven and earth, who designed with mere words whole ecosystems that intricately provide food and life for huge varieties of created, who set the moon in place and leads the seasons in procession without fail– He knows me intimately and He provides what is good for me as well. He says look to Him and not to the mess of markers on the floor, the missing Legos, the snide comments from the lips of my children.

He provides the self-control for a deep breath instead of an angry outburst when yet another Lego conglomeration crashes from the dining room table, when brothers won’t help sister, when arithmetic is all about attitude problems instead of addition. He gives grace for open arms and hugs when what I want is to push away, to retreat to my own bed, my book, and to ignore and, yes, even to shun my own children. Because my flesh is so weak.

When my armor is more holes and broken places than not, He is there, and He doesn’t just patch the weak places– He becomes the patch for the weak place, if I let Him. My adversary can attack but if I yield to the Spirit of God, every dart aimed at a weak spot in my armor is aimed at the very strength of my Lord, mighty to save.

Today my fight is words and weariness. Tomorrow it will be another battle, but the battle belongs to the Lord. And in this battle, when I am so unable to meet the challenge, when I am aware of my very deep weakness, I am called Overcomer, because of God, who through Jesus Christ daily gives victory– victory over shame, over fear, over loneliness, over grief, over anger, over addiction, over pride– over whatever sin I fall to.

He is God my Strength– my Strong Tower. I run to Him and there I am safe.



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She is weeping.

I just want to be happy, she sobs, and I am silenced by this grief and pain.

What do you say to this one, who is so alone in this world? All the words seem empty. She stands in the midst of a rubble of broken dreams and shattered hopes, the ruins made of poor decisions and bad relationships and a hard past. She is forsaken and alone, and she knows it.

Her face is red and worn from the grief. Tears glisten on her cheeks and words catch in my throat.

I just want to be happy.

I don’t know how to tell her that happiness isn’t the answer, and that a fresh start and a fat bank account and health and people to love her won’t be the answer to her problems. I don’t know how to tell her that we can’t circumvent the grieving and the valley and the desert– that what we need is joy and that joy comes when we walk through, not when we try to walk around or go the other way.

I don’t know how to say these words to one so broken and so lost. I don’t know how much she understands when I look in her eyes and say God sees you and He has not forsaken you. She says she knows Jesus. She fights her demons and falls back into her old patterns and maybe I have been wrong to doubt her faith.

I fight demons and fall back into my old patterns too. Mine are just prettier and more acceptable to my Pharisaical line of thinking. They are still proof of my brokenness.

We are the same here on the level ground at the foot of the cross. We have only one hope. I fumble my words and do my best not to speak in cliches and empty promises. We might seem to be worlds apart but we can clasp hands here and say together what we need is Jesus.

We are all brought by diverse paths to this place– this place where we see our smallness and His greatness. This place where we bow the knee to the King of kings. This place where we must dig deep into the hope of the Savior because there seems to be no hope in our circumstances. This is where we find joy and peace and strength to keep going another day, even when everything around us is rubble.

The world shatters and falls apart, and all the hope we have placed in the things of this world– in our money, in our position, in our leaders, in our friends– all that hope disintegrates like the soap bubble it is. Our happiness comes and goes with the shifting sands of our lives.

But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

He is the same when a husband leaves, when the money runs out, when a child rebels. He is the same when the terrorists attack, when the cancer has its way, when the car crashes. He is an unchanging Rock of Refuge, a deep stream of Living Water, the One who holds us in the palm of His hands, where we cannot be shaken.

How can I tell her all of this, when she can’t see past today’s insurmountable fears?

How can I remind myself of this, when I’m angry or afraid or grieved?

The peace of God that passes understanding doesn’t come because our hard circumstances become easy, but because those very circumstances drive us closer to the heart of Jesus. There is deep peace there, and joy that cannot be explained, that spring from a place completely separate from the temporal and physical life we live here now.

Be anxious for nothing, Paul writes. He says to pray. To give thanks. To think about what is good and true and beautiful– to think about Jesus. And he says the peace will come.

Peace. Even better than the happiness she craves in her loneliness.

She is not alone. I am not alone. Neither are you.

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

From the End of the Earth


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My heart is overwhelmed.

Seems like my state of being most days lately– so many things happening. So many sorrows, hard times. So much bad news. And on the days when everything outside seems okay, my vivid imagination invents all kinds of things to worry about. The enemy of my soul knows my weak spots and he whispers lies and twisted truth, until I am a desperate mass of weakness and weariness. In this heart there is no peace, just chaos.

My heart is overwhelmed.

I have so many questions. I bring them to my Father and I say help me and what about this and I don’t understand. He always hears me, sees me, welcomes me into His presence. He doesn’t always answer my questions. He reminds me that He is God and that is enough. I struggle to believe, to live without the answers. I may be without answers but I am never without hope, without my Savior.

My heart is overwhelmed.

I consider the God I serve, read about Him in His beautiful Word, and I well over. I pray for my eyes to be opened, for the dark to be lifted so I can behold Him with unveiled face. He is glorious in His power, enthroned in majesty. He is steadfast in His faithful love to me, and He is the God Who Sees. He is great enough to juggle galaxies, small enough to capture my tears in a bottle. He is beautiful beyond all description, and an eternity with Him will not be enough to reach the depths of His perfect and holy heart. He sees my fears and He cares about them. His Spirit is my Comforter, whispering peace and words of truth into my wild heart. He is my good Father.

My heart is overwhelmed.

He leads me to the Rock, higher than I. He leads me to His Word and He says, see this: My peace I give to you. He commands me to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God, and He promises the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. He says to me My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness and He gently reminds me to take every thought captive, to think about what is true. And then He shows me Himself: Behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True.

Oh, this God. This God we think we understand. He is sovereign over all. There could never be any end to the praise He deserves.

My heart is overwhelmed.



Sacrifice, Satisfaction, and my Savior


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At the beginning of 2015 I named this year Sacrifice. I knew when I did that that I was opening myself up to all kinds of scary stuff, because sacrifice is a scary concept. I saw within my heart a selfishness and a love of comfort and ease that I knew God wanted to deal with. And on January first, God gave me my word, and I bowed my head and said yes, Lord to the sacrifice.

I had no idea what I was saying yes to. Do we ever? And isn’t it good that we don’t?

Because the first thing God did when I said yes to the sacrifice had nothing to do with me or my behavior or my attitude or my selfish heart. Instead He took me back to the Cross and said here is the sacrifice I want you to understand. For maybe the first time in my life I really stood and looked at the miracle of grace completed at Calvary, and I was so humbled.

It is so easy to grow so cold to truth, to gut-wrenching, painful, horrifying truth– to the Son of God, in all His perfection and sinlessness, beaten and gory and broken and mocked and spit upon. It is so easy to forget the agony in the garden where His flesh cried out against the injustice and the pain to come and yet He said yes, Lord. He thought of me in all my unworthiness and my sinful rebellion and He said yes, Lord.

This is not the place our eyes want to rest. We like the manger with the baby and the angels and the fuzzy sheep. We like the empty tomb. We don’t mind our cleaned-up versions of Calvary, with a vaguely sad-looking European male with a crown of thorns hanging off a nicely polished cross.

I really think our enemy loves it when we clean up Calvary, don’t you? I mean, if we can gloss over the death of our Savior, then it’s pretty easy to start thinking that maybe we somehow deserve a life of ease, or that when Jesus told us to take up our crosses He probably meant to wear a shiny gold one around our necks.

My eyes hate to stare at the cross, because it is not pretty, no matter how fancy the one around my neck is. And the reality is hard. The sacrifice is hard. What Christ did on that cross– we can’t even really imagine it, I don’t think. And He did it for me. The reality is that’s exactly what I deserved– every horrifying, unthinkable, shameful moment of it. All the embarrassment and humiliation, every cruel lash of the whip, the bloodied back and bloodied head and naked destroyed body hanging there for all the world to see. All the grief and heartache, the agony of separation and the weight of sin, the gasping for air– that was what I deserved.

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul!

The thing about the cross is that when I linger there, I realize how small I am, how amazing my Savior is. I love Him more every time I think about it. I type with tears in my eyes because I am overwhelmed by the sacrifice of my Jesus, my Friend. It is here, at the cross, that I become willing to take up my cross. Because how could I say no to someone who said yes, Lord on my behalf? Who endured so much suffering so that I could know Him?

I am learning that there is no sacrifice too great to be made for such a Savior. I used to flinch from sentences like that. I know that in so many ways my faith is untested. I have not had a hard life. He hasn’t asked so much of me. But I stand by that statement, because by His grace He has put a new desire in my heart– to know Him and the power of His resurrection.

A sacrifice is all fire and death and pain. I am so weak. I have prayed so many times this year, Lord God, I hate this sacrifice. I hate that You want me to do this. And He says to lay it down. And sometimes He says it a hundred times in a hundred ways before I finally do. But there is beauty in the sacrifice, as I come one step closer to the heart of the Jesus who died for me, who lives for me, who makes intercession for me.

Tonight we read the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Nothing else satisfies but Jesus. None of it. Not status, not my own works, not a giant bowl of ice cream or a cup of the best coffee in the world, not your approval, not a huge bank account or house or church. Not a closet full of clothes or a body free of rheumatoid arthritis or the two babies I lost or a maid to do my laundry or a successful writing career or kids who obey all the time. None of it.

The only thing that satisfies is Jesus, because He is my righteousness.

He makes every sacrifice worthwhile, every cross easy and every burden light.

Let me cling to nothing but Jesus.

Writer’s Block Haiku


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So I have a bunch of friends who are writing novels for NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been seeing all kinds of posts about it on Facebook. I’m not going to do that because hahahahahaha no. I did, however, plan to blog today, but alas, I am experiencing that evil enemy of writers everywhere. So instead of a real blog post, I present to you (and to my novel-writing friends)–

Writer’s Block Haiku
by Erin Kilmer

my sons are writing
sci-fi masterpieces for
novel writing month.

my husband sketches
and paints and just generally
creates awesome stuff

even my daughter
writes and illustrates little
stories about Bear

my home is filled with
creativity, but all
I made was dinner.





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October 2015 is two hours from over, and it has been one of the hardest months of my life. Some periods of our lives are like roller coasters emotionally, but for me October has been a hurricane– a constant swirl of stress and grief and joy and fear and laughter and loneliness. The calm center has been hard to find on some days.

There are things we can’t understand and times that we battle for one inch of forward ground in a week. There are times to mourn and there is promised comfort for the mourners, but sometimes the comfort is hidden deep in the center of a most terrible storm. There are nightmares that become reality and weeks that seem like years. There are times when tears come so much more easily than words.

God asks me to do the hard thing– brings me to my face before Him, says to really give it up this time. I whisper my surrender, not knowing what comes next. What comes next is eleven days of grief, shock, stress, anger, heartache– but not a return to the ways of before. This is not my victory. This is only His victory. So many tears. So much joy. Perhaps the only real victory.

The kids make me laugh and hug me when I can’t. They want to understand about cancer and death and so do I, really, because who can understand good godly husbands and fathers dying? Who can imagine the laughing face from the wedding pictures silent? I’m not sure we’re meant to understand and the questions without answers are the hardest when they come from a child who trusts. When I’m asking the same questions.

My sorrow and my loss are very small compared to the sorrow and loss of friends I love.

This blog post is my memorial stone for October 2015. I do not want to forget what God has brought me through– the emotional ups and downs, the fight to sacrifice and surrender and give in to the amazing grace of an amazing God. I do not want to forget that in my weakness my God is strong, that He is there even in the desert.

In November we will give thanks.

Forgetting and Remembering


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We are in the Alzheimer’s wing at the nursing home, surrounded by Halloween decorations and elderly people in various stages of wakefulness. My kids perch on their vinyl chairs while I settle at the piano and Art greets the people gathered in a semicircle of recliners with absorbent pads on the seats.

The room smells like institutional food and Lysol and that smell that nursing homes have. The nurse at the station nearby chatters on the phone as my husband announces the first hymn: “Count Your Many Blessings.”

I find it in the book and start playing. He walks around and helps all the residents who are awake find their place in their books. I play through the whole song once and the chorus another time before he’s ready. The keys are smooth under my fingers, and as I get warmed up my mistakes get less audacious. Finally we are ready to sing.

Doc sings the loudest, right on key. He knows all the words of the chorus and most of the words of the verses. I sing, too– sing and play and make mistakes and smile because if there’s one place where they will love you anyway, it’s the Alzheimer’s wing. We do two more songs, and Art shares Scripture, and then we finish off with “Trust and Obey.”

I am playing through the song while Art finds everyone’s place again, but the residents can’t wait for everyone to be ready. By the time Art’s back at the front, half of them are singing– Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey! They have amazing voices. We sing all the verses.

Art closes in prayer and gathers books, and Pooka walks around and shyly shakes everyone’s hands, and I do too, complimenting the ladies on their sweaters and their fingernails. Some of them have no idea we’re even there. Others aren’t sure who we are but are very glad to talk to us. A few remember us from last time.

“I love to sing,” one lady tells me, and I say I could hear her singing every word. She talks to me about my children and how great they are. I tell her I know.

“Hey, don’t we have any candy?” another lady is asking one of the nurses. “These kids need candy!” I reassure her that my children will be okay, and that we need to go now. Waving goodbye, we leave the residents to their televisions and puzzles and craft projects and whatever else they do to fill the long, lonely, confused days.

As we make our way down the hall, someone is still humming “Trust and Obey.”


Porketry in Motion . . .


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So. Things have been a little serious around the ol’ blog lately. And that’s okay, because I believe that what I’ve been posting has been important. Because life is hard sometimes, and I’ve been walking a hard road, and many that I love have been walking hard roads too.

However, there is a time to laugh AND a time to cry, and today at Together for Good I have officially declared it A Time To Laugh Day. And so, as promised to my Facebook friends, my Bible study girls, and my children, I present . . .

Ode to a Pig

A love song, by Erin Kilmer
With special guest artist, Uncle Arty

Artwork by Art :)

Oh pig, the odor from thy farm
Doth lack in any type of charm.
But we forgive thy stench, oh beast,
When thou art served as heav’nly feast.

Thy hams make Christmas full of cheer,
And when thy sausages come near
Our mouths would fill with songs, ’tis true,
Were they not filled with bits of you.

Thy chops! Thy chops! With applesauce
Attest, oh pig, thou art the boss,
And were thy roasts no longer here
‘Twould be a darker, sadder, year.

And now, oh pig, the grand climax:
That luscious cause of heart attacks!
That greasy joy, that salty meat!
That tasty, wondrous, fatty treat!

Thy bacon, Pig! That glorious fare
That brings us hope in the despair
Brought us by skinless chicken breast
And salad greens with lemon zest—

Thy bacon, Pig! ‘Tis gluten free!
No nuts encroach, nor yet dairy!
‘Tis good with eggs, with toasted bread,
Oh Pig, for worthy cause thou’rt dead!

I love thee, Pig! I take this vow
To ever love as I love now;
For though you’ll nevermore awaken,
Your sacrifice hath brought me bacon.


Desert Places


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She came, as she journeyed, to a desert. She filled up her pack with all the comforts and survival gear she could stuff into it. Her pack was heavy but she bowed beneath the load and took a step into the sand

“You know,” said her Guide, “You don’t need that pack. I have everything you need, and I’m not going to leave you.”

She smiled. She said she believed him, and she opened up the pack and took out a few things– her extra sweatshirt, her snowshoes. “Hold on,” she said, digging deeper, and pulled out her supply of hot chocolate mix and some hand warmers. She handed them to the Guide.

Yes, her load was definitely lighter now.

So they walked on. And the sun shone hotter and hotter, so she drank from her canteen, and she put on her sun hat out of her pack, and slathered on sunscreen.

“You know,” said her Guide, “You don’t need all of that. I know where to find water. I will provide it for you. I will lead you to it. I will make sure that the sun does not harm you. You are so weary, under that heavy load. Why don’t you leave it behind?”

“Yes, you’re right, of course,” she said. Her Guide was always right, and he knew the best ways through the wilderness. So they stopped, and she took off her pack, and she pulled out her iPod and her cooking pans and her life jacket and her knee pads from junior high volleyball and her second pair of hiking boots and a very small spare bottle of water she found, and she handed it all to her Guide, and he took it, and they trudged on.

The wind came up, and the sand blew around, and sometimes in the sand she couldn’t see the Guide at all. But she knew he was there, and she kept following the path, and struggling under her pack. And every now and then her Guide would bring her to an oasis and she would be refreshed, and drink deeply, and rest. She learned to love her Guide, to trust him. But she had not come to the end of the desert yet, and eventually they would leave and face the sand and wind again.

Now and then the Guide would point out how well he was able to meet her needs, how she didn’t really need her pack, how it was just burdening her, and she would pull something out and hand it to him. But she still clutched her pack to herself. It was her protection. Its contents made her feel safe.

“You are safe with me,” said her Guide.

“I know,” she said. But she could not give up her pack.

And then one day, she tripped and fell. Face down in the desert sand she struggled for air. Her pack– her heavy burden pressed her down. She breathed dirt and dust, shame and fear. She could not get up.

Help me,” she choked out in a desperate whisper.

And her Guide was there. He lifted her to her feet, and he said to her, “Do you see how this thing you are trusting to help you survive is destroying you?”

And she said “Yes.” And she wept. Because her burden held what she cherished, and though she saw its harm and she hated its ugliness, she loved it too.

The Guide built a fire, an altar, and she shrugged off that ugly burden and heaved it onto the flames and wept. And then she ran free.

But it was still the desert, and now, like a mirage, she would see the beautiful appearances of the contents of her pack, and she would desire them. Her skin cracked in the dry air; the sand stuck to her and rubbed her raw. She was so thirsty. Her Guide gave her water to drink, but sometimes she would see the roadside peddlers, selling packs just like the one she had burned. Some days she found herself shouldering the pack again, burdened under its horrible, comfortable weight.

And so every day the Guide brought her back to the altar and she surrendered the pack to the fire. And he gave her water and bread.

Her clothes became tattered and gray in the constant painful dust of the desert. She pulled them around her, trying to shield herself from the sun and the wind. Her hiking boots wore out, and her feet stung and burned, and she was angry.

“I had new clothes, new boots, in my pack!” she complained to her Guide. “You said you’d lead me out of this desert, but here we still are! And I am nearly naked, and every day we burn another burden and sometimes I can’t even see you! What are we doing here?”

“You know,” the Guide reminded her, “I have new clothes for you, if you want them.”

“Your clothes won’t protect me like mine would!” she accused. “Your clothes don’t shield me from the grief and sorrow and death and pain, from the hunger and thirst of this desert!”

“No, that is true,” the Guide agreed. “But they will clothe you in beauty. And they will protect your heart from bitterness and your mind from lies. You will know me better, if you wear the clothes I prepared for you.”

And so she wept again as she took off her tattered protective gear and stepped into the clothing the Guide provided for her. And she ran in freedom, for awhile, even on the desert pathways, as her love for her Guide grew.

But they came to a valley, a deep ravine where no sunlight came. She was so afraid. She looked for her Guide and could not see him, but he had left her a Light. And so she made her way slowly through the valley where the shadows were. The desert wind blew, and her eyes stung with sand and with tears. She cried out and begged for her pack, but every day there was the altar and enough bread, enough water.

Sometimes caught a glimmer of her Guide, and sometimes he sent a friend to help and to comfort. She learned to listen for the sound of the tiniest trickle of water, a stream in the desert, and to drink deeply, to revel in every drop running down her throat. Some days she could barely move, so her Guide would carry her and give her water and medicine until she could walk again on her own. And daily he promised enough for tomorrow. She began to love her Guide more strongly, to trust his care for her.

And then one morning, she laid her pack– it was smaller now, but it still sometimes reappeared as she walked– on the altar, watched it burn, and turned to go, only to discover she could not move. Her feet were buried in the hot sand, hot though it was dark and shadowed.

“What is happening?” She cried in fear, in frustration. Her Guide came near with a whisper.

“What if I asked you to stay here for awhile?” He asked her, and she was afraid.

“I can’t! I can’t!” she protested, “I’m so thirsty! So weak! I need sunshine and water. I need cool breezes and warm blossoming daylight. I need to climb the mountain, stand on top, see you clearly instead of through this dust and sand and horrible darkness!”

This is the place you will see me more clearly,” the Guide said. “I have a plan for you, and believe me when I say that it’s a good one. You will be fruitful in this desert.”

“How can anything be fruitful in a desert? Won’t you save me? Please? I know you can get me out of here. You have everything I need to bring me to green pastures and still waters!”

“Yes, but I also have everything you need to bear fruit in the desert, to be a friend to those who walk this way after you. Will you stay? Will you let me plant you here?”

“There’s no rain, no water! No sunlight! Barely even a glimpse of your face! And you took my pack!”

“There is water, deep below the surface. You must trust me. You must seek it, dig for it, right here, by this altar, in this dark desert valley. You will find it. And you will be fruitful, here. I promise it.”

And she bowed her head, and the tears fell in the hot, dark sand, and she said, “I will stay.”

And for one moment the wind stopped and the dust settled and she saw the face of her Guide, and love shone out of his eyes, and she saw her own scars marring his face, and the sight gave her hope.

The wind came back, the stars disappeared, the darkness covered her, but in her mind she could still see that face and it gave her courage. And so she opened her eyes wide and dug down deep for water and for hope, and waited to see it again.

“Yes, I will stay,” she repeated.



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