Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Swallowed Whole

Welcome to the first-ever Hear It, Use It community at Graceful! I've been writing these Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday posts for just over a year now. It's been a fruitful way for me to take what I've heard either in the reading on Sunday or in the sermon, ponder it a bit as I walk through my day, and then write a reflection. The process helps solidify the message and makes me more inclined to take it with me throughout the rest of the week...and beyond!

With some gentle prodding from my friend Kim, I decided to launch a link-up community around the Hear It, Use It theme (knees knocking!). I welcome you to blog about what you are hearing from God, how he is whispering (or yelling!) to you and how his words are impacting your life. Feel free to write about what you hear in church on Sunday or a verse that you've been reading or pondering on your own during the week. Also feel free to come back a bit later in the week to link-up if you are not quite ready now (I'll leave the Linky open until Friday).

A few housekeeping details: please link to your actual Hear It, Use It post, not just to your general blog address. That way if readers come by later in the week, they can pop directly over to your relevant post. Please also link back to this community, either by using the button (located to the right in the sidebar) or simply a text link. And lastly, try to visit others in the community to offer encouragement – and to hear what God might be saying to you there, too!

Lastly, a huge smiling thank you to both readers and linkers – you give me the courage to launch this endeavor!

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I felt pretty cocky the morning I hoisted my pregnant self into the front seat of the U-Haul, rolled down the window and waved goodbye to my parents and best friend. I was sad, sure, but I was also smug. My husband and I were adventurous: we weren’t content to settle into the same-old, same-old. No, we were taking to the open road, heading over hills and plains toward Nebraska and a brand-new life. I felt like a pioneer, bouncing on the springy truck seat like a bonneted wife on the wagon bench.

The first three weeks or so in Nebraska were great. We painted the baby’s nursery, stocked up on diapers and hung the mobile over the crib. I ate barbeque ribs for the first time, avoided gargantuan grasshoppers that sprung from the hostas and spent afternoons reading beside Blue Stem Lake.

And then came the baby. Noah wasn’t at all what I'd expected. Instead of a burbling bundle of sweet-smelling joy, I got a red-faced, scrunched, screeching howler monkey. I had birthed my worse fear: a colicky baby. Noah cried non-stop, a high-pitched, hyperventilating wailing that simply would not cease, no matter what we did to comfort him.

To make matters worse, two days after we got home from the hospital, Brad went to work. And so I was left alone with the howler, day in and day out in an unfamiliar city, an unfamiliar state, an unfamiliar landscape, my family 1,500 miles away and not a single friend within 600 miles.

Like Jonah, I found myself in the midst of a violent storm. And like Jonah, I refused to acknowledge the root of that storm and chose instead to bury my head in the sand:

"Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep." (Jonah 1:4-5) 

Like Jonah, I ignored God. In my defense, I’d been ignoring him for decades so it wasn't a departure from normal behavior on my part. The difference, though was that my disregard for God hadn't mattered before the move to Nebraska. Back then I was firmly in control.

It wasn’t until I was stripped of my securities – my place, my family, my friends, my home, my job and my self-worth – and was left vulnerable and defenseless that I began my slow turn toward God.

At first I tried to fix the problem myself. I enrolled in a yoga class, took up scrapbooking and attended mom’s club meetings at a local church. I filled my life with more and more stuff, more and more distractions, and then wondered why I still felt such loneliness and despair. Finally, worn and defeated, I succumbed to depression.

I’d like to say that my return to God was dramatic, a lightning-strike realization that only God could save me from my reeling hopelessness. But it wasn’t. It was painfully slow. So slow, in fact, that I didn’t even realize it was happening at the time. It wasn’t until much later that I looked back at those early years in Nebraska, and realized that although I hadn’t even considered asking God for help, he’d intervened nonetheless.

The fact is, I was Jonah – pig-headed, self-reliant and utterly in control. Until I wasn't, that is; until things fell apart and the wind blew in gale-force fury and the seas erupted in frothy tumult. In the end it wasn't a fish that got me. The great plains of Nebraska swallowed me whole. And I was spit back out believing, redeemed and reborn.

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Your turn – link up your post below...I can't wait to read how God is speaking to you this week!  [Note: if you are here to link up or to check out the other participants, and you see nothing below, it's because I am having trouble with the Linky -- or, I should say, Mr. Linky is having trouble with his new server! I apologize. This is my life, people...I start a new linky community on the exact same day the Linky Man goes to a new server...and has trouble!]

Amy Sullivan  – (February 13, 2011 at 9:03 PM)  

Michelle,

So glad that Kim encouraged you to do this link-up!

I loved your first paragraph. I could almost see you sitting in the U-Haul. Oh, the feeling of being all alone in a new place with a new baby is something I know well.

Being self-reliant is something I pride myself on, but it is also something that also gets me in trouble.

I'm looking forward to reading more from others!

Jen  – (February 13, 2011 at 9:08 PM)  

You, know, I have to say, I think those slow turns are what makes those life-long changes. Little by little, He tweaks our hearts, making them more like His.

Cheryl Smith  – (February 13, 2011 at 9:16 PM)  

Love the badge Michelle! Working on my post now... will link soon.

Leslie  – (February 13, 2011 at 9:50 PM)  

For some reason your story reminded me of this verse:

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiates 3:11

You may feel as if the changes in you were painfully slow (and believe me, I often feel the same way about myself) but we cannot fathom the things He is doing in our lives, from beginning to end. Or His timing.


As for my post for this week, it is very simple, just some photos and a verse that sang to me. But they say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? : )

Kim  – (February 13, 2011 at 11:05 PM)  

I wonder if Noah came a little early after all that bouncing on the springy truck seat like a pioneer woman! :)

Sometimes God's intervention is spectacular. Sometimes it's quiet and unassuming. Always it's powerful, which your story proves.

Dayle  – (February 14, 2011 at 5:53 AM)  

I love the new series, Michelle, and this first installment, as well. A blog party is a great idea. I hope to be able to squeeze in some time to join in before Friday. If not, I look forward to linking up at some future point. God bless!

Heidiopia  – (February 14, 2011 at 5:59 AM)  

Yay, Michelle! I'll be back to link up later in the week-- great post!

Nancy  – (February 14, 2011 at 7:42 AM)  

That slow, painful breaking down of self-reliance feels an awful lot like the slow, painful breaking down of scar tissue. It hurts. I know--it feels like I've been in rehab for the past couple of years as God patiently and lovingly is working on me to teach me that I'm not in control; He is. Linked with a lesson I learned at the end of last week. Lovely seeing some familiar faces here.

A Simple Country Girl  – (February 14, 2011 at 9:58 AM)  

Hey Michelle! It all looks great.

Love your story and the lesson.

Blessings.

Deidra  – (February 14, 2011 at 12:59 PM)  

Yay! You have a party going on!

I really love that story. And I'm so glad God brought you here. I like to think it was just for me. ;)

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus  – (February 14, 2011 at 1:28 PM)  

Fun, fun! I totally spaced this off today, Michelle. It's so exciting to see all the excitement here today. Yay!!!

And, as usual, your post has me nodding and laughing and laughing some more. The howler monkey thing? You crack me up.

Laura  – (February 14, 2011 at 1:51 PM)  

Oh, Michelle! How fun! (I mean the linky thing, not being swallowed whole) I"m going to have to get in on this soon.

I can't imagine having my first child in a vacuum like that. Even surrounded by family I remember holding my baby, watching Oprah, and crying.

Life never quite goes the way we think it should, does it?

Tiffini  – (February 14, 2011 at 2:39 PM)  

I just wanted to give you a hand..knees knocking and all:) for sharing your heart and then opening a door for others to as well.
Even though I don't comment every post...I read most all of them and I love your words...just wanted you to know...happy valentine's day
xo

Jennifer  – (February 14, 2011 at 3:15 PM)  

My husband and I also made a journey across country, away from family. I, too, was excited for the independence and a chance for Matt and me to do something as just a couple. And I think that sometimes, God uses that time when we are away b/c we can't play, what should be our dependence on Him, on other people.

Thanks for inviting all of us to join you! I love your link-up!

Amy Sullivan  – (February 14, 2011 at 5:36 PM)  

Oh Michelle,
Did you close the link-up? I did link-up, but I wasn't able to bounce around to others until now! So sorry I didn't get many visits in. Next week, I will start earlier!

Graceful  – (February 14, 2011 at 7:59 PM)  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Graceful  – (February 14, 2011 at 8:00 PM)  

In case anyone is wondering...I did not close the link-up. Apparently my link host has transitioned to a new server today, and he's having major problems! Just my luck, eh?! I apologize for the inconvenience -- I hope he solves the issues soon (at least in time for next week's!). Thanks for your patience...

Connie Mace  – (February 14, 2011 at 8:08 PM)  

"The great plains of Nebraska swallowed me whole. And I was spit back out believing, redeemed and reborn." Love this! And the howler monkey too:)

Looking forward to linking up!

Patrina's Pencil  – (February 14, 2011 at 9:31 PM)  

Redeemed and reborn... haha - in Nebraska! You have a very special flair for writing! Trully enjoyed this piece. Skipped over here from 'a simple Country Gil's place... thanks for sharing. What a neat idea you have started here. Be encouraged!

Blessings
Patrina <")>><

tcsoko  – (February 15, 2011 at 1:37 AM)  

Thanks for hosting the link up - it was really fun to go and see what God is saying to others. He is so gracious that he speaks to us as individuals in tailor made ways. I hope your Mr Linky problem doesn;t cause you too much stress!

Lyla Lindquist  – (February 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM)  

Hey Michelle, your Linky seems to be fine, took mine and I can see the others, but your blog did eat my comment earlier.

Just so you know I didn't link and run...

Great post. But I do have to wonder, what kind of folks reproduce howler monkeys? And great to see the good crowd linking with you!

Laura@OutnumberedMom  – (February 16, 2011 at 2:14 PM)  

Michelle, this is a great idea! I would have loved to jump in this week, but it's the "Week of the Rough Drafts" for this English teacher, and life has almost nothing else in store for me. I'll be linking up next week, I promise!

Your Noah and my #1 son had a lot in common! What a time ... I remember it well.

amandatdodson  – (February 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM)  

Better late than never to link this right? I'm so glad you're doing this! Hope you have a great weekend.

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