Last weekend, Alan and I drove to church separately. We do that often since I rarely wake up early enough to leave on time, which bothers Alan. He so badly wants to be on time.
Oddly enough, I needed to be extra early to work the nursery that morning, so it was just J.D. and me in the van, and we were even earlier than Alan. I was doing well, zipping down the highway. I didn’t have the radio on, and J.D. was extra quiet. Naturally, I began to get lost in thought.
I live lost in thought. It is such a large problem that my children have taken to coaching me as I drive.
“Don’t miss your turn, Mom!”
“Mom, were you supposed to turn there???”
“No, thank you, I know exactly where I’m going. It’s okay.”
They aren’t being sassy or anything. This is actually what is required to keep my mind from drifting. It is a sad piece of business, but it is my reality. I think it’s a writer thing. Surely all writers are dreamers. How could you ever come up with ideas if you aren’t constantly meditating, dreaming, reading, studying, or wondering??
The big boys were not there to keep me grounded that day, so my mind began to……
I looked out my windows at the brown, brown, everywhere nothing but brown. The California drought situation BOTHERS me. The parched ground, the water restrictions, the bone dry ponds, and the wildfires are like obnoxious little yappy dogs to me. Drought feels like a sign of God’s disapproval and not his blessing.
I don’t know why this state isn’t praying harder for rain, but we need to stand in the gap for them. You know they grow all of our food. These are wonderful farmers, teachers, doctors, and tradespeople. I’ve met many wonderful people since moving here. The Californians I know love God and are good people. These sweet friends have been a blessing to our family and an encouragement in a time when I needed it badly! I hope you will join me in praying for rain!
As I looked around me in dismay at the dry, brittle ground, I suddenly noticed that there are still small green valleys.
“Oh, the valleys are so green!” I thought, “How have I always missed this? The mountains are ugly and brown, but people love to climb them. We love to be on the ‘mountain-tops of life,’ and yet it is in the valleys where the growing takes place. Hmmmm There is growth in the valleys, and the higher the mountain, the colder one becomes…..”
As I became even deeper engrossed in my thoughts, I whizzed several exits past the exit that I was supposed to take in order to be on time for nursery duty….
“The highest mountains are so freezing that they are covered in snow, and you can die up there. How like people. Too much success and too little humbling, and we become proud,cold, and hard and can’t grow at all, like a mountain top! This is like the rich people who have been wealthy for so long that they have no empathy for the poor, the healthy that do not sympathize with the sick, the supposedly morally upright who despise their weaker brothers.
But in the valleys of life, that’s where we grow! That’s where we remember what pain feels like. Love grows that way.”
Now let me stop and clarify here that I was only thinking all of this in my head and not saying any of it out loud, so officially you can’t classify me as crazy.
“But wait a minute. It’s not a perfect analogy because some valleys don’t feel green at all. They feel like hard, spiky ground. Hmmmm…”
And I am sorry to tell you that I didn’t resolve the hard, spiky feeling of the valley to the lush, beautiful valleys that I saw around me until later because right about then, I noticed that I was in an area that I do not recall ever seeing before.
“Oh, MAN!!! I missed my exit!!” Now this is where my thoughts became very much out loud. I process problems out loud, and I do wish I would learn to be quieter about it.
I took the very next exit, only to discover that it was just another major highway, with nowhere to turn around. I ended up in some town I’d never heard of before. I took a U-turn. I made my way back to the main road.
To make a long story a little shorter, I’ll just tell you that I proceeded to take yet another wrong exit because several exits have the same name. Seriously. It was a rough morning.
I pulled into the church parking lot only a few minutes later than I had intended to be, scolding myself with, “I have got to pay attention,” over and over again, but my take away lesson was two-fold.
- We grow more in the valleys, of that I am certain.
- Most importantly, one must FOCUS on the task at hand. Do not look to the right or to the left. Just pay attention, or you will end up in Castroville. Focus. Focus. Focus. Forget multi-tasking. Just pay attention.
These are the sort of lessons that dreamers must sometimes learn more than once.
And now, let’s talk about the hard, spiky, or sometimes even drowning feeling of the valleys.
There are valleys in life that do not feel like you are growing at all, but the fact is that growth can be painful. Sometimes, when it rains, it looks like the rain has destroyed the flowers, but without the rain, the flowers will die.
Pain isn’t always necessary for growth, but no one can avoid pain in life.
It’s how we respond to it that determines if we look more like a green valley or a rocky valley. Do I take the bad things that happen to me, internalize them as lies, and allow myself to become bitter?
We all walk through valleys, but sometimes we find ourselves in pits or sinkholes. That is not the same. When we are in a pit, we need to call out for help.
Never believe that things won’t get better. You never know what’s on the other side of that mountain. The top of the mountain might not be the best place to grow, but the view is something worth seeing, and you’ll build some crazy-strong muscles trying to climb it.
If God says it, you can believe it. Let’s go climbing!
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (KJV)
…16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. 29He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.…