I’ve always said that if a person’s soul can have a landscape, mine would be like the north side of the Capitan Mountains. The shapes of the hills against the sky, I have them memorized. It’s sweeping and lonely but there’s nothing out here to distract you from the sky. The sky is the great variable in life here, it’s the determining factor in success or failure of all these family ranches and the many lives of cattle and wildlife. Not much happens on the ground in a year, but we hang on the changes of the sky. It’s those months of the year when it doesn’t change at all that worry me.
Funny that the sky is what we all seem to depend on but we can’t control it or even predict it. Even though every person out here has a weather app on their phones and watches the news just to hear the weather report, we laugh to ourselves because none of those things can tell us what we wish we knew. Is the sky going to change today?
Day after day after day of hot wind and clear skies through May, through June, and now through July has put the range in a tight spot. We’ve seen a few storms come through. But the days following a light sprinkle are dry, hot, and clear and have been too many. We have dried up.
What does that feel like? Well, it’s desperate. Like any gal, I blink longingly at pictures of landscaped yards with flowers and sod grass, with a cozy patio and a beautiful little fire or water feature. I water the yard sparingly, knowing irrigating a lawn in the middle of nowhere, growing grass that nothing is going to eat, seems somehow a waste of resources. Makes for a poor home-maker. But I can’t help it. My yard is sorta sad. I keep it alive, just hoping the sky will change. It’s dried up.
There are lot of things you let go of in desperate circumstances. Appearances are the first. What used to be a ‘scenic view’ of breath-taking majesty is now just thirsty rangeland. And the ranch life follows suit. The romance of a cowboys job shrivels to just maintaining water lines, fences, and feeding cattle. He trades his view between a horse’s ears to day after monotonous day of looking through the windshield of dusty feed truck. Waiting for the sky to change, because the land is lifeless. Dried up.
We like to think of the earth as life-giving and nurturing. But ranch life out here has taught me otherwise. It’s the sky that gives life and nurtures that life on the earth. And if it doesn’t change, everything is just dried up.
Pressing on despite the unchanging summer sky, we function on less, and less, and less. Desperation tends to fog the mind. I know. I can’t forget the feeling of the hot, dry earth or the merciless wind that always comes to lick away whatever life was trying to hang on. Cattle don’t go far from water in their pastures because there’s not much point in wandering around where there’s nothing to eat. Even chollas start to wilt and hold back their blooms, because those that dared to bloom learned the hard way. The wind stole the petals from their roses, never to be seen again. They, too, dried up.
As I write, I feel tears rising. Because this is the way it feels for the seemingly long season of new parenthood. I never anticipated the limitations I would voluntarily accept because I love the little ones. At first the sacrifices were no big deal. I could adjust. But the sky just wouldn’t change, the demands kept coming like the hot, dry wind, and I dried up. Dropping the pretense of having it all together today, I wilt. I need a little time alone. Denied. I want to gather with the crew. Denied. I want to work alongside my husband. Denied. I need to put some miles on my mare. Denied. Denied…denied…for one reason or another, these things I think I need to stay alive don’t come or can’t get to me. Like the clouds that sparkle with lightening on the eastern horizon at night, what I need is too far away to help. Not dead yet, just …dried up.
Perhaps it’s something else for you. A long dry season that came in the form of a health issue, a floundering relationship, a difficult job, a financial failure, an addiction…Maybe you feel that same desperation that forces you to live on less, and less, and less and you don’t think you can hang on another day without blowing away. Maybe you function on so little of what your soul really needs that you don’t even look alive anymore, like the pedestals of grey that are supposed to be green gramma grass plants. When we look at rangeland that has this affliction, it’s very hard to believe it can come back at all unless…unless you’ve seen it before.
The resurrection of dry rangeland begins when the sky changes one hot afternoon. Clouds will build and do nothing, one here…some there. They just look impressive as they roil and climb into the stratosphere, their dark undersides anchoring them to their shadows. Then clouds form over the mountains and it rains up there. Somehow, even though the cattle still haven’t seen green grass since October, hope returns to the people on the ranches. We know it’s coming, we just don’t know exactly when or how much.
In the month or two until autumn, it rains enough to green things up. After a good rain, the grass is lives again. You can almost hear it reaching upward with a shout of relief. Two weeks and it’s tall enough to wave in the breeze. Give it more time and it will head out and leave seed for next year. The sky changes every day, bringing out the best in the earth. Finally. The cattle trek to water as they graze, ending up there with full bellies to drink deep and lay down and rest.
I didn’t write this to subliminally blame God for making us suffer while we wait for Him to come through. I’ll let you in on a secret that I have found. When I’m wholehearted in what I do, when my commitment is whole-hog-or-none to Jesus Christ, I become an oasis.
At a well in ancient Samaria, Jesus met a dried up woman. “Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I will give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I will give them will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4, v. 13 and 14.
Let’s not read that so fast. Let’s go over it one more time.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I will give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I will give them will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
God doesn’t wait for you to get desperate and then come to your rescue, like the sky over the north side range. No, it’s His intention for you drink the Living Water, and to become a spring, welling up to eternal life. He intends to remain a steady, unfailing source of life for you through anything.
“Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by the springs of water, which yields it’s fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither-whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1, v. 1,2,3
In my adventures of motherhood, as I bend and try so hard not to break when my wants and needs are denied, I am learning this secret: “I’m not saying this because I’m in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4, v. 11, 12, 13
Too often we take only v. 13 as an empowerment message from God meant to be on our terms, but the context is so important. Whether it rains on time, or not at all, we have a spring that never runs dry. And this is how we thrive enough to share life with others, and not just stay alive but grow, too. He’s the secret.
It is Himself that gives you that can-do attitude in the face of anything. Never again will you have to look at your soul’s landscape and lament that the sky isn’t changing. If you have Him, you won’t be living on less, and less, and less but more, and more, and more. This is what I have found in Jesus-abundance of life despite the limitations of the season I’m in. I never have to live another day dried up.