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Trading Palms for Pines, Part Three: A Healing Conversation

It’s impossible to articulate the kind of mind-wrestling that has taken place these last six weeks. The constant back-and-forth and checking in and “do we? Don’t we?” questioning and pros and cons lists. When it came down to it, we had two choices: we could believe God to make a way where there was no way in Maui, or we could believe Him to do it in Bend.

“I know You will part the river to make the path,” I cried out in prayer-frustration one morning, “I just need to know which river to believe You for. Which river do we step into?? Maui or Bend?” And God was, as He sometimes can be in these types of scenarios, altogether silent.

It wasn’t until our line-in-the-sand, no turning back, decision-making deadline 30 days out from my travel cut-off date for this babe that we finally decided to move back to Bend and right back into that suddenly-available house we had rented while we lived here. And no sooner had we said it out loud than the fear began to creep in, and it all came spilling out around 4:45 one morning after another sleepless night.

I had to face the fear that gnawed at me about going back to that house we lived in for ten years – the one that housed all that heartache and unanswered prayer and loss and grief. The one that I fled from in search of tropical breezes and healing for a broken heart. (Spoiler alert: that healing came in the most dramatic kind of way.)

But it dawned on me in that pre-dawn journal-scribbling: Maui has been my anti-depressant these last 4-1/2 years. And moving felt like I was choosing to go off my meds and back to that darkness. I was afraid that all that healing would stay here, left behind and castawayed, waving affectionately from the shoreline as our plane flew off overhead.

I was afraid of going back to that house and, in a sense, going back to that heartache. That moving back to Oregon would also mean moving backward and undoing all the “doing” that God has done. That the dust would settle and this second babe would come and the holidays would pass, and I would be there in that house with everything I ever dreamed up and begged God for and still feel sad and empty.

I had barely penned the words when my mind wandered to Isaiah 41 and all those Dear Monday devotionals I’ve been writing these last handful of weeks. The ones about rivers bursting open in the desert places. Our house sits squarely on Desert Sage Street.

I turned on Pandora to fill the early morning stillness with quiet worship and open my Bible to Psalm 126 when the funniest thing happened: the Holy Spirit took over our conversation. 

“There’s a time to sow and a time to reap … would you do it again? LORD do it again,” the second verse of The King is Among Us by Elevation Worship played in my ears at the exact moment that my eyes reached verse 5 in Psalm 126: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

I finished the Psalm, then opened it in The Message’s version, reading it through a second time when He did it again (no pun intended). This time, as the singer sang the “do it again” reprise, it coincided with the start of verse four: “And now, God, do it again – bring rains to our drought-stricken lives so those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest.”

And then came the moment of truth:

those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing

(Psalm 126:6, MSG)

Amazing, right? But then, a week and a half later, I was right back again to staring that fear in the face. During the day, when I was occupied with chores and maintaining Facebook marketplace posts and checking off the list of things to get done and purging and packing and preparing, it all felt manageable. But at night, with the day done and another day closer to leaving, the fear set in anew. But it wasn’t just that “God are You in this?” kind of fear. It was that same nagging fear of going backward. That same fear I had already broached with Him. The fear that I was choosing to abandon the healing and go back to the grief of death and the mind-state of barrenness.

But that isn’t the way God heals. His kind of healing is not partial or conditional or dependent upon any one geographical location. Jeremiah’s words recited themselves in my mind: “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed.” (Jeremiah 17:14)

And I began to dig.

The phrase heal me means “to sew together, to mend, in the sense of seizing and plucking.” Even further? The root of the Hebrew phrase that Jeremiah uses imitates the sound of a person sewing rapidly.

As I chewed on the words, I thought of the Exodus 15:26 name of God: Jehovah Rapha – The LORD Who Heals. But the Rapha part? The one that talks explicitly about healing? That verb is an active participle, which means it represents an action or condition in its unbroken continuity. So you could say: I Am the LORD who heals continually. Over and over. As often as you need the reminder that you are really, truly healed.

God, do it again.

And then, I let out a deep breath as I paused there in my digging after turning to a healing cross-reference in 2 Kings. It’s a story about Elisha and some men who were discussing their city. “The site of the city itself of it is pleasant,” they said, “but the water is bad and the ground barren.”

So Elisha asks for some salt and cast it into the water source and said, “Thus says the LORD: I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.” And then, the right-to-the-heart power punch:

so the water remains healed to this day

I thought of those bitter waters made sweet in Exodus 15 – the ones that ushered in that continually-healing name of God. The same bitter Hebrew word is used in Ruth 1 after Naomi lost her husband and her two sons and she went back home again empty and bitter, she told everyone who welcomed her back again to call her by that bitter Hebrew word.

That is not your story, I told myself. It’s quite the opposite. Because I left empty and I’m going back with arms full of sheaves and the fruit of our miracle-harvest. I’m going back with a mouth full of laughter and tongue with singing.

We left that Desert Sage dwelling in June of 2014 an empty house. And we’re returning to it a full home and almost family of four, refreshed and renewed as by streams in the desert, with the song of Psalm 126 ringing loudly in my mind:

When Jehovah brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! How we laughed and sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”

Yes, glorious things! What wonder! What joy! May we be refreshed as by streams in the desert.

Those who sow tears shall reap joy. Yes, they go out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, and return singing, carrying their sheaves.

Because then? I was bound up in grief. And now? I’m carrying my bound-up blessing-sheaves home with me.

Oh, the greatness of His glory.

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