Understanding Seasons of Solitude & Separation

Sacred Separations


There comes a time in life where you may suddenly find yourself  in a season of solitude and separation.

A season where you feel very much alone.

Often, the season arrives unexpected.  A loss of a relationship, a move to a new city, a new job, the loss of familiar community, or the beginnings of unfamiliar life responsibilities. During these times it becomes vital that we understand what God is doing in our lives, or we will soon grow discouraged and weary. This a time where choices are made, and courage is required. A place where faith must be forefront, and feelings set aside.  Ruthless trust will have to be at the core of your relationship with God.

Your season of separation is sacred to God.  It is in these solitary seasons, when you find yourself in lonely spaces, that God is reaching to do some of the deepest work in your life.

Alone at Your Jordan

Oswald Chamber’s refers to this season as “the time in your life when you must face your Jordan alone.” The Jordan River in scripture represents a time of separation. This is the place when Elisha was separated from Elijah. Elisha was losing his mentor, his pastor, his friend, his community, but it was time for him to walk alone.  In the final moments between them, Elijah asked Elisha to decide what he wanted in life. Elisha had to make a choice. Elisha chose well, and received a double portion anointing on his life. God will also ask us to make choices in times of separation. The decisions we make during these times will serve as a catalyst for our futures. Choose well. This experience must come, as Chambers says, it is how we grow.


Solitary seasons serve eternal purposes.  When God seeks to birth something new in your life, a season of separation will occur. Scripture gives us many examples of this pattern.  We see it in the life of Moses, Ruth, Elisha, David, Paul and others.

Times of waiting and walking alone with God, always precedes times of birthing. Solitary and lonely seasons become the great spiritual incubators of new life.


The Great Lie

But here is the danger; this is the easiest season of your life to abort. When we find ourselves in a lonely season, our souls become needy.  The heart then becomes vulnerable to any number attachments, attitudes, or unhealthy alternatives. The heart does this fill the space inside us that God is excavating for Himself. The heart is also seeking to avoid the great lie- that you are destined to be alone in this season forever, and it will serve no purpose. That is the great lie inside your season of solitude.

God will use times of separation for consecration, set apart for a special purpose, but the enemy will want you to feel only isolation. Self pity and bitterness will try to find a place in your season.  Instead of listening to these lies, allow yourself to feel the enormous pleasure of being set apart by God, and be full of expectation for the promise the season holds. Remain in an environment where truth can be heard in order to steady emotions and receive all that God has for you.


If you are finding yourself in a lonely season of solitude and separation, here is some truth you need to hear today:

Do not believe the great lie.

You are not alone, and this season is not forever.

God is closer to you than ever before.

 You have been chosen.

You have been separated unto God, by God.  

God is calling you up to higher ground.

And it starts with an exodus from old things.

You have a great purpose, and He will get you there.

Read Priscilla Shirer’s resolve about this season and make it your resolve. You will soon find this season over, and find yourself on higher ground, where the air is clear, vision is sharp, and your relationship with God is deeper than ever before.


Your One Word Matters

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It’s that time of year when many will choose One Word as a theme for the new year they are entering.  I personally have found this to be a significant way to bring focus and guidance to a fresh, new season of life. Last year my One Word was Courage, and it served me well as I meandered around many first-time life experiences.  I was stretched and pulled far out of my comfort zone, and my One Word was with me on that journey.

I started thinking about my new One Word back in November while contemplating the dawning of the new year. I tossed around stellar words like Engage, Purpose, and Freedom.  Although those words hold with them great promise, I could not confirm that they were the direction in which the Lord was taking me.  Then one day, I heard my One Word in use, and that’s when I knew.  A missionary I was speaking with was referring to another woman who was serving in the field when she spoke it:

She’s very intentional in her life.”

 In that moment, it sounded like the most beautiful compliment I had ever heard.  She said “intentional,” but I heard worth, value, and wholehearted.  I held on to the feeling of that moment, and I knew whatever it meant, I wanted to be intentional in my life.  The word kept rolling around in my heart and mind, until at last, I spoke it out:  “My One Word is…Intentional.”  My spirit sealed the deal.

For me, to be intentional will mean going slowly in a fast world.   I want to guard against the propensity to squander both time and thoughts and to get waylaid by the busyness of life, causing me to lose sacred moments – moments when life gives me possibility and I can make a difference, or I can miss it.  Thinking longer before words spill, holding each moment close before it’s gone.

At times I wonder if God looks down and sees me as the proverbial bull in the china shop of life, excited and anxious about many things, yet could it be I am only  intentional about few?  Christ was intentional.  He was intentional with his time, intentional about the people He spent it with, and intentional about His ministry.  We never see Jesus in a hurry; He intended to make a difference, and so He did.

I want to be intentional in my relationships.  In my marriage, making sure that I am making it my first priority. With my daughters in these last years at home with me before life causes flight under their wings.  Intentional with my son in this last year before he becomes a teenager, enabling him to cherish childhood before it passes.  Intentional in my responses to young missionary girls when they are asking questions about life.  Intentional in my classroom of young, impressionable hearts.  Intentional in my time with God, and in His word.  Being intentional  means remembering that time is passing.   Intentional; nothing wasted, fully engaged, and on purpose.  I will couple my One Word with this one verse:  Psalms 90:12 , Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  

What about you?

My daughter asked me, “How do you know for sure, Mom?  Did God really give you your One Word?”  I explained to her that it was just how I chose her sister’s name.  With another daughter on the way in a succession of females with names starting with the letter R, I was on the hunt for the next name.  That is, until I heard the name Mikaylah.  I didn’t just hear her name, I felt it.  In the deep recesses of my soul, her name was symphonic.   You may hear many good words, but there will be one that you feel deeply, with your heart and mind confirming. Why does it matter?

Friend, God sees your future and knows just what rod you’re going to need in your hand to cross that ocean called 2014

It will become a singular focus point when everything goes dark, and at times it will.

It lifts you back up when you are down and reminds you why you are doing what you are doing when you forget, because we do forget.

It helps you to fall forward into hope instead of backward into despair.

Because we know at times the enemy will  bring other words to flood your mind like incompetent, failure, or loser.  At those times your One Word will be there also.  It will whisper back to you as it did to me last year; whenever I was afraid, I heard it:  “Ruth, remember…courage.”  Yes, courage; thank You God.  Your One Word matters.

Will you ask, pray, and consider what your One Word will be this year?  Bring focus and growth into your new year; instead of having twenty-five goals, choose One Word through which all of those goals are filtered.  And when you have it, I’d love for you to share it with me.

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ONE Word, Courage


Courage. That was my one word for this year. And from the moment I picked it, it has been my mental guardrail, a filter to which I would process my thoughts, a walking cane when I was knee deep in incompetence and wanted to buckle. It was my forward motion signal when my emotions said run-fast-the-other-way.

But then, after “practicing courage” for a few months, there it was. A little muscle of real courage. A little seed of courage growing deep in the soul. A new muscle that came from pushing hard again and again. Courage was growing! Tasks still flinging fast at me, doubts still throwing punches in my face, but now this courage was there helping me steady the course of my days, courage was rising up and helping me walk through paper walls of intimidation. My sister asked me, “do you struggle with fear?” I respond, “of course I struggle with fear”, but then I added, “I just don’t let it stop me anymore”. That was my “little courage” talking (happy face).

If I am honest, I truly didn’t think having chosen one word for the year was going to mean very much. I mean, I didn’t even read the book on it. Don’t you have to read the book on a thing for the thing to work? I just chose my word in January when my Facebook lit up with friends choosing their special words for the year, and I wanted to join the conversation. I wonder where others are with their words; my word still has a firm hold on me.

Having all this new courage started to feel so good that a few months into this one word thing I shouted to God, “God! I have courage now! I want to change my word! I want to change my word to….. (are you ready for this) Ad-ventuuuure!” Poor God, all I put Him through, yet He is so patient with me. And I hear God’s response, “slow down little one, you still need courage”. So do you know what I did? I kept my word but started praying that God would send me on an adventure. Now mind you, I am in this Hobbit reading and watching mode in my life that’s flaming this idea of adventure. One particular scene of the movie has had me gripped for months. In this scene, Bilbo wakes up to his now empty, quiet hobbit hole after the chaos of the evening prior, an evening of uninvited guests, dwarves and wizards that are planning to slay dragons and reclaim their “rightful inheritance” (something we ought to consider doing). Mr. Baggins had gotten his wish to stay behind and in a couple of life changing contemplative moments, he just stands there….and stares his quiet life of comfort in the face. Suddenly it occurs to him. He wanted more. We have all lived that scene haven’t we? That place in our lives where we ask…is-this-all-there-is?

Courage had me wanting more.

So I began to ask, to pray the foolish adventure seeking prayers, and I sensed His pleasure. I think those are the prayers He loves the most. I pray and wait. Now, mind you I have no clue what I am waiting for. Suffice to say it was exciting just to pray for an adventure. Then it happens. A call, an invitation to go further than I’ve ever gone before, more often then I’d ever planned to go. Pieces of a fragmented puzzle I let die long-long-long ago, the young couples dream of travel and ministry and everything that wasn’t was now …a real possibility. So of course with my sense of courage and adventure I say YES! Yes, to this invitation, yes to this new path of going to faraway places taking God with me and letting Him decide how things will unfold, and I will just keep saying yes.

Except one thing. It starts occur to me. Do I actually have to leave home? I mean, did God have to answer that prayer so fast? What if I fail? What if I didn’t in reality want to go that far away from my hobbit hole? What if a dragon of a situation rises up and I decide that adventures weren’t all they are cracked up to be? Or worse, what if a dragon slays me! I’m like Bilbo, I like my 5-6 tidy meals a day, my comfy oversized chair to read in, my 2pm cup of fresh brew. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that when you go seriously far away from home things change. I live quite comfortably. I prayed for an adventure from my big comfy couch with a hot beverage in hand, it seemed safe at the time. What if I see things I didn’t want to see? What if images of starving children disturb my already sensitive sleep? What if my heart breaks for broken humanity and I come back all messed up? What if I can’t do normal things- normally anymore…….ever?! Denial is easier when you don’t see things for what they truly are. And then fear begins to rise, and to my sinful confession, my fear is always coupled with anger, and here goes more confession, the anger is usually directed at my husband. And here come the angry words. Why did I have to marry a man that wanted so darn much from God? What’s that man asking God for now that all this is happening?? I mean, why couldn’t he be happy with good enough…ever!? Doesn’t he know that wherever far away places God decides to take him I usually get dragged along with him?? Nobody asks me what I want! Funny how fear changes the conversations in your head.

You see, fear wanted me to change my one word from courage to another two-syllabled word starting with the letter C…..comfort. Yes, I like that word. Comfort! And I hear that Voice again…”No little one, your word is not adventure, and it’s not comfort, your word is still courage, just courage”. So I ask God to forgive me and send the husband out to start looking at pretty suitcases.


Sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is simply hope again. To believe God for the impossible like you once did long ago before all those harsh disappointments took you down. I encourage you if you haven’t done so, choose your one word. Let it be your compass during your blurry days when you forget why your even here. Then ask God for wondrous things. Chances are God will couple your one word with just the right experiences to make that word a big reality in your life. Pray the seemingly foolish prayers (He loves those kinds of prayers). Those prayers will be heard by a good and wise God that is ready and willing to both hear and respond to the wildest tucked away dreams of your heart. And if you remember, pray for me, I’m going on a little adventure, and I am going to need a lot more courage for now on.

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The Good Stuff Happens Today


Have you ever read a book that took complete hold of your attention within the first few paragraphs? Well I hadn’t, until recently. Cold Tangerines, by Shauna Niequist. It’s an easy read, it’s light and cheerful and makes the perfect summer book. However in the first few pages Shauna outlines the premise of the whole book which has to do with enjoying and celebrating each day, however she had me at chapter one, the chapter on – waiting. Shauna describes how she spent most of her life “waiting on her big moment” you know how life gets better after this or after that. She went on to say that the day came that she realized years were passing as she was waiting for her big moment, and that the only thing her days consisted of was going to work and coming home. That made me laugh. And made me want to cry to because I got it, all too well. She wrote that unless you won American Idol or something huge like that that maybe there wasn’t any big life altering moment waiting on us a million days away. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book but I came away with everything I needed to know in that first chapter.

I am sad to say I have bought into the urban myth that “the best is yet to come” so much so that I missed a million God moments in all of my yesterdays. No doubt that God has great things in store for us in the future, but that should have been a given. What made this subtle lie even more real to me was that I am married to visionary……and visions happen in the future right? So I started very young practicing this “waiting” and just living for something else to happen to me other than what was happening to me right now. I can cry just thinking about it. The concept of celebrating today seemed ridiculous, I mean unless it was a child’s birthday or a special anniversary, my todays were just well slightly boring, and if the big stuff happened later than what was the point of focusing too intently on today right? Wrong, oh my, so so wrong. I threw out that theology like an old rag and everything is different now. I began to realize that God was not holding out on me. He was not holding my joy and happiness hostage like some carrot on a stick with a false premise that if I behave well today that one day I will attain life’s big moment and true contentment. The fibers and quality of life happens today, but nobody told me that. Every sermon I heard seemed to point to the future, and let’s be clear, the future for really good well behaved people. I saw myself disqualified daily, slowly losing hope. My days were hard. My days were full of little kids, little money, and a lot of work and because I wasn’t bursting with joy like a good christian, I was slowly disqualifying myself for my big moment so what was the point of trying anymore. Dangerous living like that.

My perspective has made an important shift to looking intently into my today to find life. To find what I call- heaven winks. Today I can cultivate beauty with my hands and words enriching the lives of those around me, which enriches my life. I practice gratitude by counting gifts He scatters for me to find like a big scavenger hunt. Finding God in the mundane has made me feel like I bought these amazing new glasses that help me see the wonder of a day that the God of the universe planned for just for me. It’s like a gift that I get to unwrap and see what unfolds. Not all my days are filled with amazing things but I am learning to appreciate each moment and I find God a whole lot more now. Turns out He was lurking everywhere. Now I take deeper pleasure in our family meals, I plan our family outings with a little more creativity, I relish when the rain comes, I look for more gifts to jot down in my gratitude journal, I ask God more questions through out my day. We chat a lot more now me and God, because we live deeply interwined in all my current moments and I don’t want to miss anything.

Goodness, why had I not seen it before. In scripture God calls Himself the great I AM, not the great I Will Be. He wants to dazzle me today, comfort me today, teach me today, bless me today, use me today. But now it takes practice. See it’s hard for me to break old habits. It was easier for me to just let my days pass with my half hearted attention, after all , the good important stuff was going to happen later anyway. The reality is, we don’t find what we don’t seek, so unless a person is fully aware that God is wanting to invade their current day, this 24 hours, they are not really looking for it or living for it, so we miss it. I know this new habitude will take me a life time to practice, but I am glad for it. I am challenged and awakened now to the possibilities. Even in my hardest days I have a deeper sense of hope, a clearer perspective. So what about you? Have you bought into the urban myth that all the best of your life happens in some future moment that you have stopped seeking to fully live today? Don’t buy it friend, the good stuff happens today. Seek for it, open your eyes to it, ask God to show you, let him dazzle you with rain that comforts, sunshine that warms, books that lead to adventure, hands to hold, friends to love, meals to share, children to teach, examples to model, tears to shed in prayer, whatever today brings take hold of it, because God is wanting to cup you in hands and draw you close and breath life into all your moments of today.

“seek and you shall find” Mathew 7:7

Linking up:

GraceLaced Mondays

When Simple Changes Everything

gospelWhen you have been in the church a long time, you end up hearing a LOT of sermons. I have heard thousands. A couple of years ago I started feeling as if I had heard every sermon ever preached, and they no longer moved me. It seemed like all the messages were promises for a better future, but nothing about dealing with the hardships of today. Messages titled, “The Best is Yet to Come” …yet to come…always yet to come…never here. Then I heard the how “attitude determines altitude”, and thought that if that statement was true,  I’m about as high on God’s list as the earthworm. So I gave up. Then it happened. I finally said it out loud, “God, I stink at being a Christian.” I explained to God that I honestly did love Him, I even missed Him. I just had no skills in the spiritual growth department, and that quite frankly, I was too tired to try anymore. He would have to accept me and not ask too much. I was surrounded by capable Christians that were exceptionally good getting His job done. I just wanted God to focus on them. I was doing good to get two loads of laundry done in instead of one (and that was rare).

About this time, I ran across a little book about a Christian psychiatrist that was not getting the desired results in his severely depressed patients. So he decided to take an unorthodox approach to try to remedy them and prescribed them to read Psalms 23, five to ten times per day – slowly, and out loud. His patients did as the doctor prescribed and had notable success in their thinking, life perception, and emotions. Fully aware of my spiritual anemia, I thought that is not too hard,  I could do that. So I did. It was not long before I started feeling a little awakening in my soul. I ended up camping out in Psalms 23 for months, then slowly gravitated to other Psalms but refused to go further. I did not want to hear all the do’s and do nots, the great commission, the commandments – all those things I couldn’t do. I only wanted to hear about how the Lord was my Shepherd and that I would not want, that He would lead beside still water and that He would (eventually) restore my soul. It was close to a year before I was even willing to move out of the Psalms. It was what I needed, and I sensed God’s pleasure.

I started digging a little deeper into “simple spiritual practices” that I could apply to my life. It was about this time I ran across Ann Voskamp’s book 1,000 Gifts. No explanation needed. I started scribbling on pieces of paper throughout my day, little things for which I could find to be thankful for. My heart again began to respond to these simple practices. Dark clouds over my head would start to break up allowing some rays of sunshine to pierce through my afternoons. Then one day, I heard a sermon from John Piper about the dire need for Christians have, to listen to the preaching of the simple gospel. “When was the last time you heard the simple gospel?”, He would ask. I figured I already knew that message, that it was time to grow up past that, the problem is I went so far past that, I got lost. So I grabbed my ipod and started listening to simple messages of the gospel while I folded clothes. The power of God is in the gospel and listening to it again felt like a blood transfusion. Jesus said, “unless you become like this tiny child you will not inherit the Kingdom of God”, it was then I realized that small children had all the spirituality they would ever need in just singing and knowing “Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so.” Although there is so much more to know, that is all anyone needed to know.

So now when I go throughout my day you’ll see me lugging around my big old red bible, looks very spiritual, but really all I’m doing is gleaning and grazing off my Psalms though the day, it comforts me.  I also have my gratitude lists growing here, there, and everywhere, counting gifts so to avoid how easily I count other people’s gifts instead of my own. And lastly, I remember to not only listen to new messages from great preachers but to  listen to the simple gospel that still holds within it the power to change lives.  Be encouraged if you feel a million miles away. We’ve all been there.  Hideout in the 23rd Psalm for a while, start scribbling lists of things your thankful for, and here when you have time, take 10 minutes to listen to the raw gospel message and let it revive your soul.  Keep gleaning fields, even seemingly empty ones, He always makes sure you find something if your looking.


Four Things You Need to Know When Fighting FOMO { fear of missing out }


Have you heard of FOMO? The Fear of Missing Out. FOMO is very real, and it’s affects can be debilitating. For starters, we are born with the seed of FOMO and need to have tools to fight against it early. Wasn’t FOMO the reason Eve ate the one piece of fruit that was off limits? She didn’t want to “miss out” on a chance to be more like God. Isn’t FOMO the reason we all wander off in certainty that we will find that missing link? The sad part is, as Seth Godin illuminated in his recent blog post about FOMO, is that our social networking sites have heightened the power and effects of FOMO by a million times. Just as there are warnings on the side of cigarette cartons about “smoking this or that may cause cancer”, there should be a warning on Facebook that says – “Warning -Facebook may cause The Fear of Missing Out”.

So how does FOMO work? And who does it affect the most? As far as how it works it may look like this. You’re home alone, you have an opportunity to have some much needed quiet time, time to reflect, time to heal, time to rest. The enemy of your soul sees this and immediately enlists FOMO to launch an attack. You sign on Facebook or your social network of choice and there it can begin. Every single one of your 539 friends are having fun, buying something new, on the vacation you desperately needed, enjoying that great new job, or at a party with 539 other friends you don’t have. Or how about the couples that are in love posting of their “love photos”, or that girls night out post where everyone is ….skinny. Urgh. As a mom of three teenage daughters, I am most sorry for them because at least when I was growing up FOMO attacks were limited to the here and now. I was able to leave school and leave it..them behind and not spend four hours at home looking into the lives of my school peers via social networking sites.

The Fear of Missing Out affects the best of us, but those who battle insecurity or are in transitional phases of life may be plummeted by FOMO the worst if not careful. FOMO is just a little seed but the crop it yields is ugly. The fruit is envy, jealously and discontentment. So how can we fight back against FOMO? A wise blogger once told me “knowing is half the battle”. So here are four truths to KNOW every time you feel tempted to plunge into FOMO:

  1. As far as Facebook is concerned. Facebook is not Heartbook. It’s FACE book. Where folks put on their “best FACE” and show it off, and that’s okay. Be the friend that celebrates with them. Be the one that says “good job!” “your beautiful!” “way to go!” When you practice being happy for others, you SLAY the monster of envy in one clean sweep.
  2. Everyone one of us is either in storm or coming out of a storm. Resist the urge to feel envy when you see those appearing more fortunate. Those people, skinnier, happier, richer, having more fun with more friends than you is a tailored made illusion for you to grow in discontentment and stunt your growth. Don’t buy it.
  3. Everyone is struggling in their own way, not just you. As Seth Bodin worded it so craftily “Everyone who is selling you dissatisfaction is working for the own selfish ends”. Like the photo of the horse with blinders, put your blinders on, don’t look to the right or to the left, and stay on the track your on. Be the kind of person that doesn’t get distracted easily. Wear your horse blinders proudly.
  4. Lastly, when we find ourselves in a season of acute loneliness and hardships it is then we are fully postured for an intricate work by our Maker. To be empty, fully empty, is the position He leads us into in order for our vessel to be fully ready for the new and fresh. So often in failing to realize this and reaching to be filled outside His plan, we abort a work of a master plan. In filling our empty hurting souls with envy at the ridiculous tactic of FOMO is to possibly foil the very work of God. Learn to embrace hunger and loneliness as steady and trustworthy companions leading you to great and new fields.

Be encouraged! God is doing something in your life, in my life…embrace your season of empty. A great filling is on its way for those who can wait and resist FOMO! And when that new season comes…blog about it. Leave some truth on the ground for others to come behind you and glean from.

"So she went , and came, and gleaned in the fields…" Ruth 2:3


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