when you’re in the desert.

Photo cred: Wikipedia Commons.
Photo cred: Wikipedia Commons.

A little over a year ago, I wrote the following post entitled, “On Not Buying Business Cards.”  And it was an appropriate step, at the time.  I found myself following a dream, seemingly for the first time: I’d write and I’d speak, I told the world around me.  I’d embrace the New Reality.  I’d be the primary caregiver for my son, and somehow, somewhere along the way, I’d finally, once and for all, learn how to be.  So I renamed the blog “be, mama. be” in an effort to learn how to rest and be in the present moment: I liked the figure of repetition within the name itself, perhaps believing that with mere wordy return the main message would begin to seep in.

And while I had an overall idea of the encompassing journey ahead, I didn’t count on the bumps in the road: I didn’t count on the loneliness that would ensue.  I didn’t think about the fact that it would take time to start over in a whole new vocation, that I wouldn’t be hired on the spot just because I declared it so.  I didn’t imagine the hurt, the loss, the anger and the bitterness that came with transitioning out of the world of ministry.  I didn’t dream of the desert.

Because sometimes you find yourself in a desert, even if you don’t realize that’s where you’ve put up tent.  You realize you’re parched and you yearn for answers, but you find that you’re still too exhausted to even pursue a drink.  Because when you’re in the desert, all you can do is receive – but oftentimes there’s not a burgeoning population around you to offer you a trickle of their canteen, like you’ve see in the cartoons.  So you take off your sunglasses, and you and open your eyes wide, wider still, squinting against the accusing sun.  You try to observe and absorb the Beauty of barrenness around you – the prickles of the cactus and the perfect periwinkle blue of the sky and the endless, sun-soaked landscape.  But you’re just not there yet.  You’re still sitting in the desert, and it just feels really hot and really dry and really, really hopelessly, forever. 

And that’s okay.  

Maybe, had I seen a psychologist, he would have deemed it depression.  We would have talked through the pain, and I would have chugged down a Happy Pill or two every morning.  Or maybe, had I seen a spiritual director, she would have called it just another Dark Night of the Soul.  I would have likened my situation to Mother Teresa, but I wouldn’t have liked shelling out $75 every month, because truthfully, I’d want to want God.  And I just wasn’t feeling it, because where was He in the midst of the anger and the sadness, the hurt and the bitterness?  Where was He when I stopped being the one to call, when I didn’t receive phone calls in return?

Because maybe it was just a transition.  And maybe with transitions comes loss, and it’s a loss that we have to sit in and with, between and before.  In the barren desert, we have to lean into the stages of grief: we feel denial for our pain and isolation overwhelms (1).  Anger rears its ugly head, again and again and again (2).  We make bargains with ourselves, with the “if only’s” my new form of communication for what I could and should have done (3).  And then we’re sad.  We’ve always prided ourselves on being a really good friend, so we never expected friendships to only last for a season.  We thought when we communicated Call me, I can’t call you that they’d call.  We shed tears and we mourn the loss, not necessarily of people, but of this past season of our lives, of all it represented (4).  But then somehow, somewhere along the way, between central Oregon and the Sierra Nevadas, acceptance arrived (5).  We began to drink again, we began to feel filled.  We felt the weight slowly lift itself from our shoulders, and we sensed an emergence of peace.  We entered into New Life, all over again.

We began to journey out of the desert.  

So I bought business cards – because it was finally time.  Because I found insides ready, in a kind of, mostly, sorta type of way.  2013 was the year and time to let my heart heal and hurt, to sit in the pain and slowly begin to put my finger on my real identity, the identity that doesn’t involve my vocation, that isn’t determined by the amount of money I bring to the table every month.  For my identity is peace and joy, and my identity is celebration with childlike glee.  And this I’m now ready and willing and eager to share with the world around me, as a writer, as a speaker, as a musician.

This I’m ready to lean into.

What about you?  Have you ever experienced the desert, and what, at the heart of it all, is your identity?  

22 thoughts on “when you’re in the desert.

  1. I’ve been in that desert too, Cara. Your post reminds me of one of my favorite little blurbs:

    Lord I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better I’d have come running with a bucket. (Nancy Spiegelberg)

    I try to remember to carry a bucket with me. 😉


    1. Yes – here’s to leaving the desert, Callie! Isn’t it interesting – at least for me – that I wasn’t able to put words to it until the other side.

  2. You just put words to where I’m at, and have been for a few months. Thank you for the reassurance that it’s ok, that it will pass and that a new reality will come forth in its time.

  3. Have to admit, I stared inordinately long at the submit-order button on my business card purchase the other night. All the feelings of incompetence and my classic Type 5 fear of looking foolish almost had me X-ing out. I was literally yelling to my husband in the other room, “You think I should do this? You don’t think it’s pretentious or stupid? Should I do this?!” To which he exasperatedly responded with a resounding “YES!” (Which I rightly interpreted as: get on with it already Crazy). This desert certainly has its share of tricks and mirages.

    1. CHEERS to business cards, and to the desert full of tricks and mirages – love that line, Aleah! ps: I forget …are you going to FFW? My friend Micha was like, you are going to make SO many connections there, so you have to have business cards. And really, it’s probably time for both of us, regardless of festival. 🙂

      Cara Meredith

      be, mama. be. carameredith.com

      1. Yes, I’ll be there and that’s what pushed me to finally just order-the-damn-cards-already too! 😉 Would love to connect while we’re there. Thanks for being vulnerable in this post so I could enjoy the release of a “me too!” moment, friend!

        1. Absolutely. We’re hosting a party one of the nights …and I think the Red Buds are as well. Anyways, for sure, let’s connect! I’ll email you my # right now. xo.

          Cara Meredith

          be, mama. be. carameredith.com

  4. I feel this, too! Getting burned in the desert, thirsty for Him like never before. Congrats on taking the next big step!

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Shannon – it’s hard getting burned in the desert, as you said. Here’s to sunblock for the next time we find ourselves there???

  5. My desert was called Surrender and I’m finally moving from there to my promised land of Hope. It was difficult to write while I was in the desert, but I’m finding now the words just keep coming. Funny, the desert didn’t change my identity, it only made me more comfortable being who I’ve been created to be. Sometimes I’m afraid of the calling…

    I shared your words on Twitter and Facebook. 🙂

    1. Thanks Jennifer – for your thoughts, for sharing, for it all! I too wouldn’t say that the desert changed my identity …but it certainly clarified it. And what a good thing that is. 🙂 Glad to connect!

  6. Cara, This is so good. I can relate on so many levels if I began to write, it would be a book… bc that is what it would be. My whole adult life has been one transition after another, most of them chosen transitions, but always including unexpected challenges and growth. I agree with you last comment reply, the desert doesn’t change your identity {when it is founded in Christ}, but those desert do help to mold us. And if we let them, God can use them to refine us. Thank you again for sharing you heart. {visiting from West Coast CB FB group!}

    1. Oh, thanks Angie – I’m so glad we’ve been able to connect on this! This too is in the ruminating stages of a book, with thoughts of change and transition at the center (and how that ultimately coincides with the desert). Anyway, in this together!

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