There is a “nature center” in the neighborhood we are staying in. It’s a little piece of wooded area, a protected reminder of what the land here used to look like before the sprawling houses, manicured lawns, fences to keep everyone to themselves, and all the concrete. I run there on the days I get to but half the purpose of running is to get lost in my thoughts so I don’t always notice. But today I took Asher there so the child can experience something besides air conditioned shelter and I saw. I saw the brown leaves covering the path though it’s nowhere near autumn, heard them crunch underfoot. I saw the trees drooping with withered leaves, ready to give up. I saw the the line where the water in the pond should be, feet above where it is. I saw the sandbar where the water had retreated to expose part of the pond bottom. I saw the creek so dry Moses and the children could cross without needing any manner of miracle.

I felt like I was looking at my heart, dry and withering, little pond of faith shrinking and leaving cracked dry ground behind, like lips split and parched. I looked at the ground and I know, from flash floods in my memory, that a lot of rain all together will not help much; the hardened ground does not remember how to accept the water. It needs a slow, gentle, steady rain that falls for days and days to soak in first, to softly prepare it for the moisture to come. As much as I would LOVE for a swirl of miracles to magically end this chapter in my life, maybe it won’t be like that. Maybe it will be small things, hardly noticeable at first, gentle graces that begin the healing and change.

Send some rain, would You send some rain?
‘Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid

But maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case

We’ll give thanks to You, with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If you never send us rain

(But, Jesus, would You please?)

– Nichole Nordeman, “Gratitude”

I don’t want to give thanks. I don’t want to give thanks for the sun when even the sky seems faded from its rays and my skin feels seared just from walking outside. I don’t want to thank God for providing when it doesn’t look anything like what I want it to. (One of my favorite lines from a song is “This is not what I thought I had been praying for” and I always found the irony humorous…until now.) But I am trying. I am trying because maybe the action will train my heart in the correct response, though it doesn’t feel natural. And maybe it will keep my heart just soft enough to receive the miracle of grace when it comes.