The One Thing You’ll Learn from Spiritual Deserts

{by Tammy}

Acres of Bermuda grass thick as carpets, safe enough for bare feet to tread without sticker-burrs attaching to tender toes, surround me like one big back yard. Some winters, leftover Rye grasses sprout. Those are the winters, ‘though landscapes turn brown and vacant, Rye shimmers like a jewel of emerald green, stretching long and towering like a green ocean tide. When the northerly winds blow, they roll wave upon wave as if God is stirring them upon a beach and I’m receiving the fruits of His labors.

But winters are short-lived here and Rye only comes if we leave the heads on long enough to go to seed. Eventually the carpets warm to a Granny Smith shade when the season turns. That’s when our work really begins.

This is where I live, on a farm where I’ve chunked enough hay bales to be infatuated with our hay accumulator. Even though I’m able to man-handle a Dodge 3500, I never fancied myself a farm girl. Even my friends chuckle when I regale the tales of farm life, because I don’t look the part. I’m still not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Despite my ability to drive a John Deere tractor with finicky gears, this place was my desert for three years running when we first moved here. I complained, belly-ached, and gnashed my teeth. There were days of beautiful sunsets where I ran outside to capture something to remind me Who made all this.

driveway at sunset

My family gave up things to be here. When we left my dream house, we were on a spiritual high in the clouds with God on a new adventure. And I thought: milk and honey are sure to follow. We came here to take care of my sick Granny and live in the great wide open. But I ain’t gonna lie. While breathing in tufts of hair from 30+ cats in a dark house with canned jars dating back to the 80’s still sitting in the cupboards, I lost it. Not only had I fallen off the clouds with God, something died a horrible death.

I’d like to say I made quick recovery, to wow you with my super holy powers. Truth is, I groveled in three years like it was forty, proving I wasn’t any better than those Israelites.

I much prefer Moses, Joshua, and Caleb’s plan of taking the promise land when first laying eyes on it. Because everything in the desert is thick and caked with millions of particles. Even words of encouragement are reduced to small slivers along this dry and crusty place. Solace, only a slight quenching of shade during a small window of any day. Sand dunes of time slip ever so slow here. This is where I have been separated by the harshness of the elements, even as I stood side-by-side with someone. Because this is a journey into the heart and soul. This is where unbelief dies on the barren floor. This is where I came to know my stiff-necked ways, grumbling for comfort, where I grew tired of waiting for God to come down from the mountain.

It wasn’t forty years; but it was enough. The honeysuckle which had grappled with our fences were cut out. One of the defunct chicken houses was dismantled for scrap. Cows made a re-entrance one year to help graze the overgrown pastures. During the drought of 2011 a pond was enlarged. Tractors, hay balers, rakes, trailers, and various farm other equipment were bought to improve and maintain the land. Each accomplishment, a crawl.

Through it all, I’ve come to know that deserts and wilderness’ are refining dust storms with blinding surfaces in the hard unknown. This is where I found the dull parts of myself, the pointy and poke-y parts, the edges needing to be smoothed off by iron. This is where I went blindly, begrudgingly battling myself more than anything. And is that not the perfect reason for desert’s and wildernesses? To battle our souls? To be prepared in faith, for more?

And when it’s over, and it will be over, I want to encourage you with this warning: be ready. Because one day you’ll stand on the banks of the Jordan spying out the land and you’ll scarcely believe your eyes. Behind you is a soul, smelted of unbelief, doubt, and nay saying. The desert wilderness purified you in ways you never volunteered for, but are necessary for this next thing. Your faith has grown from the gritty surfaces and now, it’s time to take some land. You’re finally ready to occupy where He’s been taking you all along. There may be giants over there, but you’ve discovered you are a dragon-slayer. And if there’s one thing you’ve learned from the desert it is this: wherever He is leading– you will go.


a3ba1-img_19552b-2bcopyTammy’s white-knuckled philosophy on a particular denominational doctrine fell apart shortly after her life did.  She’s learned inter-personal relationships can both wreck you and build you up. She is passionate about communities finding one another and is a renaissance woman who’s scattered pigeons at Notre Dame, swam the coral reefs of Okinawa, scaled fortresses in Nuremburg, and viewed the Eiffel Tower safely from the ground. She is a poet at heart who writes, sings corny jingles, practices faith outside of institutions, homeschools for now, throws her head back when laughing, talks her family into hair-brained photographs, and occasionally drives an old John Deere tractor in tim-buck-two. She’s a writer whose the Visionary for this ever-evolving site, Blog Editor and Co-Conspirator with Amy and the team. {Her journey is found on her personal blog, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.}

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19 Comments on “The One Thing You’ll Learn from Spiritual Deserts”

  1. This is AWESOME! Every. single. word. Wow!!! Thank you! You spoke to the depths of my soul this morning, Tammy. My wilderness isn’t a place, but a people. Four of five kids with significant, long-term illness, and navigating the teens and early 20’s with sick kids has been/is my desert, the place of my refining, where I’m learning to lean hard and go deep and seek the joy God has so graciously sewn into every precious minute. Easy? Not even a little But worth it? Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I wouldn’t have chosen this desert, but I wouldn’t trade the life I now live for the life we lived before this hard place either. It’s rich here in the messy midst.

  2. THis is so beautiful and honest that I scarcely have words. The desert is no one’s choice but we come forth with purified and the fragrance of Christ filling the air.

  3. Tammy-the touching part is the giving up of the comfortable for the uncomfortable. I don’t know that I could have done it all. Look at where you are now, what you are doing, how you are reaching so many people. Much Love!

    • Michelle, my sister who’s been my best friend since the day you were born {except for those years I got all bossy-momma on ya}. You are the secret jewel that makes me rich.

  4. Oh, those wilderness places you describe have such a familiar ring to them, Tammy. I, like you, raise my hand to be counted among the forty-year wanderers. And like you, I would never take back a day of it. Preparation rarely seems a romantic business, but when you know it’s GUIDED? When you believe it will all turn out for your GOOD … ?

    Well, it’s like remembering the pillar of cloud and the fire by night which we are never without. NEVER.

    Beautiful glimpse into your life. And into your heart. *Thank you.*

    • Kelli, I went back and looked at old posts {some over a couple years old} and saw your face there encouraging me on. Thank you. 🙂

  5. Thank you do validating my own perception that I am no different than the Israelites. I read the Action Bible each night to my boys and I was struck with the insight that I am no different than the Israelites. I think that is what is to be gleaned from the Old Testament.
    Anyway, my desert has driven me to seek God in a way I never have before. But, don’t know what to do with the desire to just go somewhere or something so I can be alone. I know I am an introvert and that I am energized by being alone, but trying to balance this with work, raising two grandsons, and a relationship with my husband.

    • Debi, yes, there is such a need for balance in our quiet lives so we can be rejuvenated. As for being like those Israelites, I speak for myself. 🙂 There was a time in my young converted live that I’d marvel at how stiff-necked they were never assuming in my exuberance that I too could be just the same. But then, I was faced with my own and well, the rest is history. 🙂 And bless you for raising your grandsons. I hope you find some quiet balance.

  6. Oh, Tammy! Yes! Smelted… that is the perfect word. Such terrible questioning difficulty brings such unbelievable true joy and peace. Heart Hugs, Shelly ❤

    • Shelly, I marvel at your strength. May that true joy and peace be with you. Heart hugs, to you.

  7. This one is just my absolute favorite. Love your heart, your perspective, your FAITH in the desert places. One of the many reasons I call you sister.

    • You are my co-laborer and dreamer….I am watching what God is going to do with you. You bless me.

  8. Deep truth laid bare as the desert wasteland itself. Tammy, as one still wilderness wandering, looking up yearningly at the high places, and oh so weary of kicking dust and sand, this speaks to me of a soul who knows those places well yet (most importantly) is crawling out with chunks of grace mined in the dark places.
    You inspire me to believe for better, to hold on in hope for change to come, to cling hard to God’s hand in the arid, barren places until I can see streams in the wasteland too, because He puts us there for our ultimate good and His refining work cannot be rushed.Thank you! 🙂 x

  9. Tammy, I tried to comment yesterday, early morning, but got distracted with something. I am coming back to say… this–girl, THIS is so beautiful and poignant and a little haunting and I read a little spunk in it, too. You, the farm girl learning to be strong. I see so much of myself in you. You wrote some things here that are like the frayed edges of a much-loved, worn blanket– something I lay under every night, but something I’ve lived with daily for so long, that I’m not sure I could describe those deep places within if I tried. Thank you for doing it for me. Man, it’s like you know a thing or two about the desert. Or, something. *wink*. With all my heart, I love you. to the moon and back, right?

    • Nacole, I was just talking about you with my sister and how much we love your writing! She’s also reading our eBook, the one that still blows me away to be sharing pages with you {and others}. 🙂 Also, thank you for being such a true gracious friend who isn’t scared off by all my rough edges. Yep, to the moon and back, friend. So glad you are in my life.

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