Why You Need to Build a House and Plant a Garden Right Where You Are {even if it’s not exactly where you want to be}


I’m starting to disguise my blog post titles because I know you’re all thinking, “Wilderness schmilderness” right about now, with all my posts about thrashing my way through this period of uncertainty and the unknown. But I’m a big advocate of the, “Write what you know, write where you are,” philosophy, so I’m going to keep writing about the wilderness until…well, until I’m out of the wilderness.

Honestly, I wasn’t going to post at all today because I didn’t think I had anything to say. Since I’m all Relaxed Blogger Woman now, I was feeling okay about the no-post Friday.

But. As I was doing some research for a soon-to-be-mentioned project (f.y.i. not a book deal…cue depressing music) yesterday, I came across some Bible greatness I simply had to share.

I’d just Googled “Bible verse about God and plans.”

[By the way, this is how I roll with Bible study. I don't use a fancy concordance, and I don't know my Bible nearly well enough to pull verses out of my elbow. So I type in phrases like, "the thing Jesus said to the blind man," and "what was the bird that the Israelites ate in the wilderness?" and up pop a bunch of links that are usually spot-on. Google is my concordance, and it works out rather well.]

Anyway, I vaguely remembered a verse from Jeremiah about plans, and I found the one I was looking for, but what I didn’t expect was the gold mine of wilderness-related treasure that precedes that verse [there's a lesson here, I think: Always. Read. The. Context].

Turns out, Jeremiah wrote a letter to the Israelites, who were spending seventy years (insert quick prayer here: Lord, please don’t give me a 70-year wilderness) as exiles in Babylon. And this is what God told his exiled people, via Jeremiah:

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you in exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

Now, there are two ways you can interpret these verses. There’s the Negative Nelly approach, which goes like this: For the love of the land and the sea and the sky above, I’m going to be in the wilderness for so long God’s telling me to settle down and find wives for my sons so I can have grandkids here? Lord have mercy, no!

Or, there’s the Glass Half Full approach: Well, clearly I’m going to be in the wilderness a while, so I might as well quit whining and at least build me some houses and plant me some gardens and do something useful with my time while I’m waiting for God to do his new thing. 

Friends, I’m going out on a limb here. I’m going with the Glass Half Full approach on this one.

You can pick yourself up off the floor now.

Seriously though, I’m trusting that God won’t have me in this place of uncertainty for seventy years. But for however long he has me here, I’m going to be productive and accomplish what’s within my control. I’m going to build some houses and plant some gardens and eat the leafy, luscious, organic produce that’s available right here, right now, smack in the middle of the wilderness.

Because this is what I am learning: the wilderness can be a wildly productive place…if we let it.

Here’s the hard truth: We will all, every last one of us, face unpleasant, challenging, distressing, downright depressing situations in our lives. No one gets through this life unscathed. No one walks through heaven’s gates without having stared suffering in the face and without the scars and bruises to show for it. No one escapes the wilderness.

But life cannot grind to a halt during times of disappointment and duress. We cannot up and quit. We must press on. We must build our houses, plant our gardens and eat what they produce. Because here’s the other lovely truth that goes hand-in-hand with the hard truth:

The garden will produce, even in the midst of the wilderness.

God will provide, even in the midst of the wilderness.


God made a gracious promise to his people exiled in Babylon, and it’s the same promise he makes to you and me, wherever we may be exiled today:

“I will come for you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place,” God said. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:10-11)

God will come for you and me.

He will not leave us or forsake us, ever.

He will prosper us, not harm us.

He will give us a hope and a future.

God provides in the wilderness, when we can’t see for the trees and the brush and the darkness. God provides when we step out of the wilderness, into the wide-open space of a hope and a future.

God provides.


What To Do When God Tells You to Trust


I laid awake under the light blanket, the sharp scent of marsh and salt and sea wafting through the open window. The house slept, blinds whirring in the light breeze like a buzzing bee,  shadows from the streetlamp sashaying across the walls and ceiling. And in that quiet moment, two simple words dropped into my mind, boldly, confidently.

Trust. Me.  

I’m not one to look for or even put much validity in signs. I’m a realist to the core, which means my default is skepticism, doubt. When people tell me they’ve heard from God or received a sign from him, I don’t doubt it’s true — for them. But I don’t ever expect God will speak so obviously and clearly to me.

Yet in that moment as the shadows skittered and the moist sea air scented the room, I knew this much for sure: those two words I heard ping into my head near midnight in a rented beach house? Those two words were straight from God. I knew this like I know my own name.

He spoke two words to me as clearly as any words I’ve ever heard out loud.

Trust me, he said.






This summer I spent July and August waiting to hear from my publisher about a new book proposal. The process moved slowly, from editor to editorial board to publishing committee. I was impatient for an answer. That night, as I lay awake in our vacation rental, I assumed God was addressing that waiting period. I figured he was saying, “Trust Me in this process, with this proposal.”

That night I had God all figured out.

And I was wrong.

God wasn’t talking about those summer months, that time during which my book proposal was being considered by my publisher. No, God was referring to now. This time. This wilderness — the period of uncertainty after the publisher said no. The period during which I can’t possibly see around the next bend. This season in which, for the first time in years, the future is frightfully unclear. God said Trust Me for this time. For now.

On that sultry July night in Rhode Island God saw the wilderness season that was coming. And so he gave me those two simple but powerful words, knowing I would remember them and remember the night he spoke them to me so clearly.

Strangely, most days I am trusting him. And for a girl who has always had her ducks in a row, her path clearly marked, her route determined ahead of time, the fact that I am trusting God in this season of uncertainty is nothing short of a miracle.

True, some days I falter. Some days I whine and demand an answer and fret late into the night. Some days I succumb to that panicky urge to “do something,” to do anything that might fix this situation, eradicate the uncertainty, set a clear path. On those hard days, I remember the words God gave me in July. And I repeat them under my breath like a mantra. Trust me. Trust me. Trust me. 


Most days, though, miraculously, I am doing just as he said. I am waiting, abiding, with bold and hopeful confidence. I am keeping my eyes open and my ears tuned in eager expectation of the new thing he is about to do. Is doing.

Trust me, he said.

I will, I answered.

I am.

When Milestones are Measured in Millimeters

Meme and 50 Women

My parents have been visiting, so we’ve been enjoying dinners out, walks with the dog, trips to Barnes and Noble to ogle my book on display, viola concerts by Rowan, and reading on the back patio during a week of unexpectedly warm temperatures. My routine is topsy-turvy, I can’t remember what day it is and it’s […]

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A Husband’s Response to “Worth in Work”

two windows2

A couple of days ago, when my husband asked if he could write a post for my blog, he made me promise I would publish it. So today I somewhat sheepishly and self-consciously welcome Brad, who has written a response to my post last week about my worth being too connected to my work. Last […]

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When You Are Called Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Hildegard of Bingen

It was Day One. I sat at my desk, a typed list of 50 women at my side, my laptop open in front of me. I was ready, poised to embark on an eight-month research and writing project for a book about women in Christian history. I glanced at the first woman on my list […]

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Weekend One Word: New


  And a quiet reminder, friends? I’d love to hear the story of the faith heroine who has most impacted your journey. Consider entering the My Faith Heroine contest. The deadline for entries is October 22 — details here.  Sign up to receive posts by email {and get 3 free chapters from my forthcoming book, […]

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When You Mistake Your Work for Your Worth


When I  tell her in an email that it feels like I’ve got a cinder block sitting square on my chest, that it’s felt this way since I heard The Bad News three days before, she answers back in a flash. Cinder-block-chest calls for radical self-care, she says. What are you doing to take good […]

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For When You Fail to Love Well {or, More Accurately, When You Fail to Love At All}


As a kid I was always a little afraid of the Ten Commandments. They seemed so grave, so foreboding, so be-all-and-end-all. In my mind I imagined the Ten Commandments to look a bit like tombstones, carved into great slabs of granite, hanging ominously over my head and haunting me with the threat of eternal damnation […]

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Why You Can Believe the Wilderness is a Place of Wild Possibility


A couple of weeks ago the Nebraska Synod bishop preached at my church, and toward the beginning of his sermon on the Book of Numbers, he said something that immediately caught my attention. In fact, one second after he said it, I grabbed a pen and jotted it onto my bulletin, and then I leaned over and […]

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Weekend One Word: Strength


And a quiet reminder, friends? I’d love to hear your story of the woman who has most influenced your faith journey. Would you consider blogging about her and entering your story into the #MyFaithHeroine contest? Entries must be submitted by October 22 – details here.  Sign up to receive posts by email {and get 3 free […]

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