I was running errands with my daughter on Sunday afternoon, when I realized my mistake. Faith and I had forgotten our water bottles-something a desert dweller is never without. I was thirsty, so thirsty my mouth was dry when I tried to swallow. It was the 32nd day in a row that temperatures had soared over 110. Wind blew like waves out of a just opened oven. I licked my dry lips out of impulse, but knew they would just chap. To the east monsoon clouds were building over the McDowell Mountains, and I hoped they would bring rain. It seemed lately though, that even the most threatening storms passed over or fizzled out. Sometimes a few fat drops would hit the sidewalk and evaporate seconds later on the sizzling pavement.
I was not only thirsty but I wanted to see water-not water in the pool, real, natural water. When the passing storm caused temperatures to drop below 100 that evening, I knew I had an opportunity. I wanted to visit my favorite spot in the desert. I knew that there was enough for the hike before the sunset or before a storm would reach us. When I told my family where I was headed, they all wanted to go too. There was a sense of excitement.
We quickly filled our camelbacks and put on hiking shoes and drove out to REACH 11, a desert preserve at the north edge of Phoenix. If you judged a trail by how it looks when you start, you would not choose this trail. A sandy path winds through sparse mesquite shrubs and scorched grass. An old saguaro cactus, pitted with holes from cactus wren and gila woodpeckers, is a sentinel near the beginning of the path.
We started the trail, knowing there was water at the end of our path. We knew that the desert would give way to something that few people know about. The mesquite shrubs got bigger and closer together, and then the path became cooler as overgrown mesquite boughs reached overhead. Tall green African grass grew thick in the shade. Coolness was rising up from the ground in surprising drafts. Rabbits were darting across the path in a crazy scurry to get away from us and we briefly saw the faint outline of a javelina ahead of us on the path. Then we came around a corner and there it was, the pond, a little pond surrounded by trees and grass and teaming with life, in the middle of a barren desert. Dragonflies dipped their tails in the water. The surface of the water was teaming with water spiders and knats. Fish of all size swam to the edge when we stooped down to the surface of the water. In the dried mud around the edge were footprints of desert animals that had come for water.
I have visited this place of solitude for 7 years and have never seen it dry, even in the strongest heat blast. To a desert dweller like me, this is a refreshing sight, to know that even in the desert there is water. There is nothing spectacular about this pond, except that there is not supposed to be any water here.
In the past year it has also become a place of hope for me. I have had desert experiences. I know that there are droughts in life too. Last summer I had come to a desert place in my life. I was burned out, empty. It had been a year of tremendous life change, and my mind and body said, “stop”. When I tallied up the year it wasn’t surprising to find myself in this emotional desert. I had ended a job and my boss unexpectedly died two weeks later. I started my own business and taught myself web design, which sometimes made me want to pull my hair out. I was dealing with conflict with a family member. At the same time, my husband and I had decided to adopt and we had gone through 10 weeks of training and a lot of paper work. Kirk and I were just around the corner from major life change and sometimes I didn’t know if I was ready. I was confident about the decision but not about my ability to be a parent. I was scared.
I was thirsty and their wasn’t anything to swallow, or so it seemed. I didn’t have the emotional energy to lift my Bible and figure out what I should read. I went to a Christian bookstore and found a devotional that looked like it was written for me titled, “Dancing in the Desert”. I started to work my way through the book, knowing that there was water, even if I was in the desert. It took a week for me to finish 1 chapter. I took my time drinking it in.
A close friend knew I was depleted. I don’t remember everything she said, but she encouraged me that God must be preparing me for something. There was a reason for this barren desert.
This is what I found: Rest in God, A path to quietness with God, and a surrender of control. I began to loose my fear of the desert and started to embrace the thirst for God that it was giving me. Slowly, quietly, the cool refreshing rain began to fall. Some of the bonds I was holding onto gave way. I kept on the path and eventually I came to the water.
It was after this time in the desert that God brought Faith and Brian in our home, who eventually became our adopted son and daughter. That chapter would become the most difficult period of my life thus far. I was glad that I had found rest in God and was ready to surrender control of my life. He had work to do in the lives of 2 little kids and he was going to use my husband, and he was going to use me. He used that desert to strip away some excess baggage and strengthen me for what was ahead. My friend was right.
When I visit my pond I think about my journey through the desert. I know now that even when I don’t know what is at the end of a path, I can trust what God has for me.