Stuck in Smithport

What is that in your hand? – Exodus 4:2 (NIV)

After a year and a half of filling the pulpit for a small, local congregation, I felt adrift and useless—that I’d lost my sense of purpose. It didn’t hit me all at once. My last Sunday with what I’d come to call “my little flock” was October 28. The next two months were filled with holiday happenings and a challenging writing course. 

Then the holidays were over and the schedule settled down. Snow swirled outside and the sun, along with my writing muse, disappeared for days on end. The weather was too inclement to walk outside and too unpredictable to plan shopping trips to town. Even my bi-weekly Bible study was postponed until spring. I felt stuck in Smithport. The only phone calls were my daughter’s weekly updates on Sunday evenings and requests: requests from the church’s prayer chain, requests to babysit the grandkids, and requests for milk, eggs, sugar, tomato paste, or whatever my sweet son and daughter-in-law didn’t have for the recipe they were making. By the time my husband, who worked 11-hours days, and I had supper, spent a little time together over tea and cleaned up the kitchen, not much was left of the evening or my energy. After my shower I watched NCIS reruns.

Reruns. That’s what my life felt like. Until God gave me a Gibbs-like smack on the head. 

I was reading Exodus 3 about when God called Moses from leading sheep to leading His people. Moses had spent 40 years in Midian on a quiet mountainside after 40 years as a prince of Egypt. Talk about feeling put on a shelf! 

“What is that in your hand?” God asked him. 

“A staff,” Moses replied.

“Throw it on the ground,” God told him.

And so he did, and it turned into a snake. When God told Moses to pick it up again, and he obeyed, it turned back into a shepherd’s staff. We all know the story: how Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to the borders of the Promised Land. 

But Moses had to first acknowledge what he already had and then let God use it for His purpose.

“What is that in your hand?” God asks me.

And I think about all that my hands touch each day: food, dishes, laundry, a keyboard, writing lesson books, a vacuum cleaner, the phone, my grandchildren’s coats and shoes when they come for a visit, Scrabble tiles and jigsaw puzzle pieces, a pencil for a game of Boggle or Yahtzee!

And I realize I can’t see the trees for the forest. I’m too busy searching “out there” in the big, wide world for my purpose, but it’s right in front of me: taking care of my husband, being available for my children and grandchildren, praying for others’ needs, proofreading my daughter’s papers as she works towards her master’s degree, mentoring student writers through Christian Writers Guild, reaching out to those who read my weekly column and blogs, working to improve the talent God gave me. 

What’s in my hand? 

God’s purpose for me. Not “out there,” “someday,” but here and now. 

Forgive me, Lord, for treating as unimportant what You have put in my hand. Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 3–4.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

The Seed and Me

 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. — John 12:24 NIV

No discipline is pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. — Hebrews 12:22 NIV

It’s cold down here. And damp. And so very black. I can’t tell which way’s up or which way’s down. I can’t see what’s ahead or behind me. I’m all alone. 

Oh, for the day when I lived in a nice, warm, bright packet with my family and friends! It was cozy and dry in there. I wanted for nothing. My shell was smooth and sturdy. Nothing could get to what I guarded within.

But one day a hand ripped open the packet and shook me onto the ground. Then clumps of moist dirt covered me, and I was alone in this strange, cold, dark, place. What did I do to deserve this? I cried. Why me? But no one answered. 

Time passed. I didn’t know when it was day or night. How long? I wondered—and wept. Just when the ground around me became comfortably dry, water seeped through the soil, chilling me and softening my shell. Then one day, it cracked open. Oh, my beautiful shell! Oh, the pain! My innermost being was now exposed to the ugly world around me. 

But I was changing. A tiny green arm sprouted from my insides, and I began reaching, stretching—until I pushed through the soil into the brightness above. Uncurling, I lifted my face. I felt the warm caress of the sun and the whispery kiss of the wind. 

Day after day, night after night, I reached and reached and reached. Then one day a tiny bud appeared on my stalk. Slowly, it unfolded, opening to the sun and wind and rain. 

“Oh, how beautiful!” I heard a voice exclaim one day as I danced with the breeze. 

Do they mean me? I wondered. I wasn’t beautiful as a seed. I only became beautiful when I died to what I was and allowed the soil and water to change me. And when I reached for the sun.

My flower is fading now, but I’m not done yet. Deep within my blossom are countless seeds, just like I was once. Someone carefully removes them, dries them in the sun, and places them in a clean, dry packet. 

 Dear God, I am that seed—falsely content in my envelope world. But You know what it will take to transform me into what You have planned. Just when despair is about to overwhelm me, remind me there is a purpose for the cold, dark, lonely times—a purpose for the pain. Grant me the strength to keep reaching and the faith to believe that someday I WILL bask in the light of the Son. Amen.

 Read and reflect on James 1:2–4.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.