Summer brought a wave of homesickness.
I'm a northern transplant down here in the south, and sometimes these roots start aching for familiar soil.
So I boarded a plane with four kids in tow, five counting the one nestled safe in my belly. And then we drove seven hours to the Sandhills of Nebraska.
"The Great American Desert", so named by Lewis and Clark. And it feels like a desert this year, parched dry and windy hot.
We pull off the highway and wind our way to the end of the road, to the gently sloping hills of our family ranch. Where time seems to stand still, it moves at such an unhurried pace. Where the only sounds surrounding you are nature's voice.
And it seems God is louder here, too.
This is where I really came to know Him. As a girl who read her Bible like a novel. As a girl who would walk for hours in the meadow, just listening to His voice, singing her heart out unrestrained, dancing on the prairie for the audience of One. I look back and marvel at the way God romanced me here, at the thrill of that first love.
But I didn't always appreciate being in the middle of nowhere, completely surrounded by a Great American Desert. I remember despising it at the time, longing for more excitement, crying and schaffing at the loneliness. Wondering when my dreams would finally be realized.
There is a verse that God winds around my heart whenever I come home to these sandy hills,
"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor [Valley of Trouble] a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt." -Hosea 2: 14-15
I didn't appreciate my "desert" then. But I wouldn't have had roots that were so deeply tapped into the well of God's love, if it hadn't been for those desert days. The intense heat of this life would have destroyed any shallow faith.
God romances me in the desert. In the barrenness. In the dryness. When I'm empty and parched from going around in circles and just wishing for that promised land. When my heart is aching with loneliness and I see no end and no way out.
It's here in the desert my soul learns to pant after Him. Where my roots cry out for rain from Heaven. I learn dependence. And He becomes my only source of nourishment. My first love.
He leads me to the desert for that very reason. It's here I will strain to hear His voice and it's here that He will speak tenderly to me.
And just as He leads me into it, He promises to lead me out of it, into my garden, my door of hope.
And I will "sing as in the days of my youth". His love will be my song.