glad hope from unpredictable hands

There is a stack of brochures in the little room I now type in. I keep staring over at them, re-reading their invitation to know more about you. If you would like to be informed of upcoming events . . . 

I reach over and turn the plastic holder to face the wall. I can’t keep reading that same brochure over and over again.

It’s easy to think when you make space for God that things will take a truly spiritual turn. Sometimes I suppose that’s the case. But mostly, it’s still just me in an empty room with a stack of brochures I’m trying not to read.

You know things are dire when you turn to retreat center brochures to avoid facing what’s really going on in your soul.

It’s a good thing this place has no TV.

“I’ve often done all I know to do to create space for God. I’ve spent time in prayer I thought was contemplative, I’ve said no to lesser desires to make room for rich fulfillment, I’ve knelt before God with the bread and wine . . . and for all my effort, I’ve felt only increased emptiness. Frustration. Silence. I created space for God and He didn’t fill it.

Or did He, in ways I failed to recognize because I was expecting something else? Or didn’t He, because I was arrogantly working hard, thinking He would be impressed and compelled to show up?”

– Dr. Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams

Perhaps I have been arrogant.

I wanted to take a week, become quiet on purpose, and have God show up in a way I could not only understand but also explain and, if I’m honest, maybe even control.

I waited for a God I could manage. He reveals himself maddeningly unmanageable.

He kills my linear god. Again.

And I realize how much I hate the concept of God “showing up” anyway. As if there is a place where he isn’t and for reasons beyond my understanding, he decides to finally show up there.

God is I AM. He doesn’t show up, HE IS.

Silence and stillness are of great value, but only to the degree that I bring them with me as I enter into relationship. Empty rooms don’t give me much opportunity to love.

He may reveal Himself to me in the stillness and the hush, or he may not. Either way, I have to come out, rub shoulders with messy people and, in so doing, discover my own hidden mess is worse than I thought.

But in that rhythm of relating, if I am in touch with the deepest part of my soul that longs for nothing more than to reveal God, then that messy relating takes a slight turn, away from despair towards glad hope. Not the kind that comes from visible me, but the kind that pours out of Invisible God.


Home. I’ve been back for three days now, tucked into the walls of our house and the arms of family. Today represents a re-entering – a facing of email, of schedules, of life. This does not overwhelm me. Hushing has done its work.

Over time I expect to share more with you about my week away. For now, here are four small thoughts I can put into words:

Getting quiet reminds me that my sin is worse than I thought.

Grief, despair, and lament have a more important place in the life of believers than I once understood.

Broken dreams may sometimes be more useful than whole ones.

His provision of hope is better than I ever imagined.

This is day 29.


  1. says

    Oh, girl. If we ever do get to that quiet, quiet space, we learn a lot more about God than we’d ever imagined–and a lot more about ourselves than we’d ever wanted to know.

    THANK YOU for not liking the “God shows up” line; I thought I was the only one.

    Love you.

  2. Michelle says

    One of my favorites: “Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time.” ~Annie Dillard

  3. says

    I’ve always had that same thing about God “showing up”. You’re the only other person I have ever heard talk about it. So thanks for being a friend to my weirdness (again).

    I can’t wait to hear more about your trip. Your four small thoughts ring so very true.

  4. says

    Ugh. Yes. I took a month long writing sabbatical this year. Holed myself up in a cabin and begged Him to “Show up!”

    He did not.

    But He was. And I learned that after a few days of silence. He was. He is. And He is to come.

    And it was enough.

  5. says

    It is in the quiet moments that He speaks to us and we feel His spirit. But you are right, He is not found in a quiet room, but in a room filled with people for us to love and serve.

  6. says

    Such a great revelation. Thank you for putting it so beautifully and clearly. I have felt the same way many times, but haven’t been able to put it in to words and so therefore lacked understanding of what was going on… lovely thoughts.

  7. says

    “Getting quiet reminds me that my sin is worse than I thought.
    Grief, despair, and lament have a more important place in the life of believers than I once understood.
    Broken dreams may sometimes be more useful than whole ones.
    His provision of hope is better than I ever imagined.”

    These words made me cry – this is exactly where I have been lately. Why do we struggle so much, when we just need to rest in his provision. We can’t “control” the perfect moment with a perfect God. We just need to be available and let him supply the moments as needed. Thanks so much for your insight and wisdom.

  8. says

    After reading this, I feel compelled to say something but all I can think to say is “Oh my.” HE truly has given you a gift with words, words from the heart : )

  9. says

    This: “Grief, despair, and lament have a more important place in the life of believers than I once understood.”

    Despair has been on my mind a good bit lately. And, the power of God in lament. Joy and despair can co-exist I believe. At least I believe they do in me.

    As always, I deeply appreciate your thoughtful words.

  10. says

    Oh Emily, your words coming out of hush are beautiful. How profound the simple is. And more and more I learn that we are all, each one of us in process, its all a beautiful/messy/layered process. Look forward to more of your words.

  11. says

    Oh Emily, I have read here long, but also kept quiet long – but today, my heart skipped a beat at seeing a beloved place you’ve been at! I grew up there and was married at the very place shown in your first photo after working there for three years. Now, I’m in the South and missing that cool air and the leaves that turn in Fall instead of at Christmas. But mostly, I am missing the quiet and beauty that always meet me there. It is always refreshing to my walk with Him – because as you point out so rightly, He is. Love, Monica

  12. Rachel says

    Resonating with the “over and over”. Thankful, even in our “over and over”, He is I AM and turns us over to new grace, mercy and freedom. It can’t be in our writing what we would like to say or others want to hear, but only in what is True. Thank you.

  13. says

    insightful four thoughts, and post, Emily…whenever I have been quiet for a long time, I realize how awful my inner state is, but at the same time as I throw myself upon God’s grace, I also develop a greater gratitude for His forgiveness, and His work changing me because I cannot change myself…Only He can change me – in the deepest and most true ways….no small or quick feat….

  14. says

    It’s been a while since I’ve commented, but this post speaks so much to where I’m at, this whole glorious mess, and I love what you said about how God doesn’t “show up”, but He Is right here, right now, always. I so needed to hear this today. Thank you.

  15. says

    “Broken dreams may sometimes be more useful than whole ones.
    His provision of hope is better than I ever imagined.”

    Yes. I am recently learning these lessons as well. Thank you for expressing this so beautifully.

  16. Becky says

    “God is I AM. He doesn’t show up, HE IS.”
    Thank you for this, exactly what I need to hear today.

    I think I recognize my hometown in the pictures you’ve shared. I had tea with the long horn sheep just last month!

  17. says

    A good word for me as I prepare to go to a retreat / conference as a presenter in a few months. Leaving and reentry after wonderful events can be a shock! Love how you are using the word hush.

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