Updated: Feb 8, 2020
For the past two years, the Lord has taken me on a journey that I now understand was designed to grow, in me, an unshakable faith in Him, in the gifts He’s given me and a deeper trust in the plans He has for me. I know people have had to endure much harder things than what I've had to endure, but for me, it's been the hardest two years I’ve ever walked through and, strangely, it’s been the most rewarding. I guess you could say it sent me hiding into a cave of sorts. You know, those events in life that knock the wind out of you? When things take an unexpected turn that you never could have imagined? I’ve always thought it was odd when people would say they were grateful for the challenges that life has brought them. I wondered how on earth they could possibly go through something so hard and reflect on it with a word such as "rewarding"?
I get it now.
The way God works in my life, I should have known He was getting me ready to walk into something. But this time, it caught me completely off guard. When the Lord gives me a message for someone, it typically means I'm going to walk through it before the message ever even hits their ears. Just before beginning the two year journey of reading through the entire Bible, we had been praying about something as a ministry. One day, as I was praying, the Lord instructed me to get out a piece of paper and begin writing. That kind of specific instruction has only happened a few times in my life - where there was a clear command in my spirit and I know I had to pay attention. I hadn't had any plans to write, but the Lord did - which means a few things to me...write it down, pay attention and then pray, because the instructions on the page in front of me are from the Lord. I was driving at the time I heard to write, so I pulled over, found a scrap piece of paper and began to write what God was speaking to my heart...The next two years will be a time in the wilderness. Not as you would expect, wandering, as the Israelites wandered, but it will be like a time of testing, as Jesus experienced during His time in the wilderness.
I looked at what I had just written and I honestly didn't understand it. After-all, I was getting ready to embark on an amazing journey of spending time in the Word for two years. How on earth could that be like a testing in the wilderness?
I quickly found out how it could be. When you jump with both feet into spending time in the Word and into walking in obedience with the Lord...a couple things begin to happen. One, the enemy begins to take notice. Two, God allows and/or actively takes you, Himself, through a time of molding you and your character. Sometimes those things are tough and make us want to run, other times they hurt and cause us to melt into a heap of tears. But it is times like these that are what ultimately get us ready for the bigger thing God has in front of us, that we likely can't even see at the time. The stories of Elijah and Esther in scripture, oddly enough, were sources of significant comfort to me during this time, helping me understand pieces of what God was and is asking of me. It was through the words written in Elijah's story in 1 & 2 Kings, Esther's bold stance before the king, and the different lessons through my dreams and whispers heard from the Lord over the past two years, that I've begun to see, understand and fully embrace what the assignment is on my life and just why I needed to go through what I was going through.
Elijah lived at a time when it wasn't popular to worship and obey the Lord, but he didn’t let the pressures of those around him keep him from delivering God’s message of truth. He had an incredible faith in the Lord and followed the instructions he was given, standing boldly in the face of enormous opposition. He was often hated and accused of being the cause of suffering as a result of it and in his humanness, there were times of deep discouragement and even running.
Esther, who found favor in the king's sight and became the queen of the Persian empire just in time to be used by God to save her people, was the only one that could approach the king. Despite any fear or desire to run that Esther might have had and in a bold move that required an enormous amount of courage, Esther stood before the king, asking him to save the Jewish people. Her courage was rewarded and the king honored her request. It's a story of a queen who was in the right place, at the right time – put in place by God – to save her people. "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish." (Esther 4:14)
Both lives paint a picture of the trials that can and do come when boldly walking with the Lord...the running and the bouts of discouragement or fear. And both paint a picture of what God can do through a person who has been tried, tested and is willing to rise to the challenge. It's an inspiring picture of two people who made the choice to stand up instead of run or cower.
Those words the Lord had me write on that scrap piece of paper two years ago - they all came true. My time in the wilderness kicked in and the trials began. The testing began. Shots were fired. One right after another until I began to feel lost and alone, finding myself hiding in my own modern-day cave, crying out to the Lord. I began asking Him why and questioning who He saw me to be. On one particularly tough day, I got a text out of the blue from a friend that said “call for an Esther Fast, He will give you the answer then.” She had no idea I had been crying out to God for a specific answer, so I knew immediately in my spirit that God was asking me to do this. As I studied about what Esther did in preparation before approaching the king, I realized the fast involved three days of no food or water. Nothing. I really dug in to make sure that was what the Lord was asking of me since I had just found out I had low blood pressure and wasn’t feeling in top form. As I prayed, however, I realized that if the Lord was asking this of me, then He would give me what I needed to sustain my health during those three days.
The morning I began the fast, I turned to where I had left off in scripture the day before and the verses I read were Luke 12:29-31 “do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after those things and your Father knows you need them. Instead seek His kingdom and these things will be added to you.” Talk about confirmation! I believe the Lord gave me those words in scripture to speak specifically to me about what He was asking of me...Seek my kingdom, I’ll give you what you need.
So I began the fast...and I’ll be honest - it was really hard. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes, if the Lord asked me to. Did the Lord answer the question I was asking? No. At least not in the time frame I expected. But over the following six months He slowly began to roll out His answers, one by one.
Three days of the Esther fast...it made me weak so He could make me strong. It slowed me down so I would sit longer with Him and truly know His voice. It was part of my training ground in the wilderness, to help me better understand who God made me to be. Elijah had to know, without a doubt, what he was called to and had to truly trust what he was hearing from the Lord, because he wasn't delivering a popular message. Esther had to believe that God would use her and give her the radical answer she was seeking because her life and the lives of her people depended on it. And that’s what I believe the testing is all about for us...trusting and knowing the heart of the Father in all we do, in spite of the trials that come against us. It's allowing the Lord to remove the things in us that don't belong, strip us down and then reshape us, making us into a "stronger, bolder, more deeply trusting in the Lord" version of who we used to be. In both these stories, when they were ready and the time had come - the Lord called them to rise to the challenge - and they arose.
This new season is about arising for me. To stop running. Or stop curling up in a corner. The Lord showed me that season is over and I believe it's over not just for me, but for all of us. Because when we run or curl up, we give the enemy a point of entry...our hurts turn into a form of mental warfare or simply shut us down - neither of which are from the Lord. Often we beg the Lord to take us out of the wilderness we are in, instead of asking Him to turn the desolate places we are walking through into something that produces life - into a garden...His garden. It was in the wilderness after all, that the devil unwittingly moved Jesus into experiencing the truth about himself - and His identity and relationship with the Father became a reality. Time in the desert teaches us who we are in the Lord and strengthens our ability to walk in it. With each and every moment we seek the Lord, a new bloom is produced and another attempt from the enemy to whither us fails.
The definition of arise is simple enough - get or stand up. Rising out of a defeated position and walking straight into the challenge of what God is asking of each of us. Standing up in full confidence, armor on, believing that He would actually use you or me. The reality is, much like Elijah’s story, the enemy is hot on the tails of those running in obedience after the Lord. It isn’t really a question of if the arrows are going to come flying at you. The real question is, what will you do when they come your way? Will you run to the cave, curl up under a tree and give up? Or just maybe this is the season that we will arise. Trusting the Lord deeply, knowing our identity in the Father and looking for the flowers in the midst of the desert lands.
Maybe someday I'll be able to share with you the story of my time in the wilderness, but for today, my focus is simply on the flowers that are blooming in the desert. Eyes up and on the Lord - It's time to arise.
ARISE AND BLOOM
I'd like to use the end of this story to introduce you to one of the "blooms" the Lord showed me in my time in the wilderness. It's something He began for me during the Esther fast that I hold closely to my heart - titled Rhema & Logos...
As I was praying one day, I heard the Lord whisper to my spirit, asking me to begin drawing out my prayers each morning. It seemed like a strange request and I wasn't really sure what it meant, but I was absolutely willing to give it a try. In that moment, I committed to the Lord that I would spend my time with Him in a new kind of way...longer, more focused, quieter in talking and louder in listening. I committed to dig into His Word, letting Him speak through my prayers. With my journal in front of me and pen in hand as I prayed, I drew the images that formed before my closed eyes...over 600 images up to this day. Each image has a message the Lord whispered to my heart and has served as a guide to me through my two years of trials and testing in the wilderness.
In doing this project with the Lord, I've realized that these prayers and visions aren't just for me to hold onto. The images, scriptures and messages that the Lord gives me each morning may just be a "bloom" for someone else walking through their own wilderness journey. My prayer is that they would be the encouragement needed to lift someone up from the ground, out of the cave and into a standing position before the king. So...I'm going to step out of my "cave", arise, and begin to share each week the things the Lord puts on my heart and on the pages of my journal. For whoever needs it..."for such a time as this."
Fun fact...as I was writing the beginning of this story, the song that started playing...I Will Rise.
Rhema & Logos postings can be found on Instagram under the username RhemaAndLogos and on Facebook at Rhema & Logos Whispers.
"The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing..." - Isaiah 35:1-2
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Rise, let us go from here. - John 14:18-31