Yesterday way my 43rd birthday. My two precious friends from high school share their birthdays within a few weeks of mine, and we have a 25-year tradition of celebrating together, especially recently since we are no longer scattered across the Midwest and can easily gather in the hometown where we met. To protect their privacy, I am going to call them Faith and Grace.
The year 2013 has been difficult for all three of us in different, multiple ways - raising teenagers, family tensions, stress, difficulties in the workplace, sickness, death. Faith and Grace were both at my side immediately upon hearing of my husband’s heart attack, even as they were both facing crises of their own that very day. Our kinship has deepened on our desert journeys this year, and though we would sometimes rather life was peachy, we can’t deny that trials has strengthened our bonds.
Sometimes it has felt like a desert journey, leaving us feeling parched, desperate for refreshment and strength from Jesus. Grace, who is also my faithful blog reader, had been exchanging encouragement and quotes from her devotional time as she has plodded through the driest desert of her life thus far.
During this desert time of our lives, we discovered a month ago that we had been drawing refreshment from the same 'obscure' devotional book. I picked my copy up at a book sale (fill a bag for $5) and discovered in January this year that I had picked up a treasure after reading the first few pages. She found her copy among her late mother-in-law’s prayer journals earlier this year. When we finally shared the name of the devotional book we had been reading from, she couldn’t believe it could possibly be the same one. We laughed with delight after I read a page to her over the phone to prove we had been reading from the same book for the last six months or so. Coincidence?
Faith lost her mother this year and is grieving, unable to open her Bible, truly a weary desert traveler. When she heard of the encouragement we had found in this little book, she thought it might be a good place to begin to draw nearer to Jesus in this season of suffering. So we gave her a copy for her birthday gift.
It turns out that this little book, which was obscure to us, is actually a bestseller. Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman, was first published in 1925 and is a compilation of her favorite writings. She was a missionary with her husband overseas until his health declined. Then they returned to the United States where she took care of him until he died six years later. She collected the writings that satisfied her thirst in the dry, desolate days.
Faith and Grace asked that I send a snippet of the theme of the day’s reading to help us easily remember it and keep our bearings on our daily sojourns. I’m going to attempt to collect a few drops from the sparkling clear river of wisdom and encouragement by summarizing it into a concise, simple statement that we can carry along through the desert for sips of nourishment. As we dialogue, I hope to post periodically along this journey that I will call “Sips from the Desert Stream” as we search for joy in God’s provision and purpose in the trials and sufferings of life.