Leaning into God in the Desert

woman sitting in the desert

The Tears of Blessing

I was sitting in church, and before I knew they were coming, tears were rolling down my cheeks. As the worship team started singing, the tears began flowing. I didn’t even know why at first. It was like my heart knew what God was about to show me before my head did. As the verse turned into the chorus the tears kept flowing at a rate I could no longer sing along. I let the words wash over me as moments from the past four years flashed in my mind.

Some of the best things in my life have happened during the past few years. In the same bundle of blessings came the most confusing, difficult, questioning moments of my life.

In our first year of marriage, my husband Matt and I went to Nepal on a mission trip. While we were there, we both knew without question, that God had called us to adoption. Fast forward 8 years, and the Lord opened doors for us to add a little tiny Ethiopian girl to our family of 4.

We loved her before we ever met her, and two years later, we brought her home. As a 9-month-old babe, she had experienced more change and loss in her little life than most adults I know ever do. She amazed us with the ability to adapt to a new life with a family. 2 boys and a precious little girl, we were pretty certain our family was complete!

Three years later, in late 2013, we learned of a pair of infant twins in foster care who needed a forever family. God asked us if we were willing to go there with Him, again. In faith, that God would provide all we needed to parent 5 kids, we said “yes”.

In 2014 one-year-old twins join our family. They had arrived in the world at 25 weeks, micro preemies weighing in at under 2 lbs each. Medical needs, isolation that NICU life brings, foster care…they too had experienced an immense amount of loss and trauma in their first year. They brought a lot of laughs into our lives, and we grew more in love with them every day.


In the two years that followed, hands and heart full to overflowing, I found myself unraveled, broken & scattered. I loved each of my kids SO much. The trauma that my 3 kids from hard places had experienced, was beginning to rear its head in our lives. 4 out of my 5 kids have a lot of challenges day to day. Long days of intense and challenging behaviors undid me. Advocating for their needs was an everyday task. My energy levels were depleted, my brain fried, emotions raw. I felt like I might fall to pieces at any moment (and I did, often). My brain was full of questions.

Would I ever feel the same as I did before?

Would I ever be that girl I used to be again?

What had happened to me? Where did I lose myself?

Would I ever not feel totally exhausted?

Will I ever get through a day without losing it?

Would my kids ever become manageable?

Why did my friends with kids seem to handle life so much better than me?

And, the big one…Did God give this job to the wrong girl?

It was too big.

Too much.

Too heavy.

Too hard.

I would sit on my bed, in tears of guilt and disappointment in myself, telling Him, “Lord, I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do this well. I really thought I could, but I have nothing left.”

My sweet, encouraging, godly friends assured me, that God had not make a mistake. And, I really wanted to believe them. I begged God to strengthen me, restore me. I filled my calendar. I filled it with things that I thought would help me feel like we had it together, and I was doing something more meaningful than hanging on by a thread.

The Lord gently encouraged me to hang on; To keep trusting Him with my family through this hard and dark place. I was to keep believing that He called me to mother these particular kids and that even where I failed, He wouldn’t. I was reminded to keep spending time in His Word and let it revive me.

So, I did my best to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but I was frozen in my state of overwhelm. There was no white space on my calendar, and I had no capacity to process how to get unstuck.


In April 2017, I reached out a medical professional, because I was convinced I’d developed ADHD. I was in a fog. I couldn’t remember anything and was forever walking into a room and asking myself, “why did I come in here?”.  I asked my mom, “have I always been this way?” She assured me, while I’d always been a bit of a “free spirit” I did not struggle with focusing as a kid.

At my first appointment the “professional”, listened to me. She told me she believed I was experiencing secondary trauma. That the trauma my children had experienced affected them very deeply (which I knew).

She reminded me that the work of mending little broken hearts is physically demanding and that helping brains heal from trauma is heavy work. She told me what I already knew, but needed an outsider to say. She told me that my family had very unique needs and demands, and it was ok for our family’s version of thriving to look different than those around us. She encouraged me to clear space in my life for recovering and maintaining this life. She sent me on my way with some tools to make adjustments to my life. God used that conversation to empower me to make some very needed change.

Leaning In

In the months that followed, my “hang on” turned into “lean in”. I prayed for a lot of wisdom. I asked God to show me what things needed to stay, and what I needed to clear from my life. I asked him to show me how to say no to good things.

We needed more space in our life for thriving, for me and my family. I asked him to show me what was working for us and what was not. I kept leaning in, sitting in faith, that God was a good God, who loved me, loved my family and had good beautiful things in store for us. And He showed up. He gave us insight on what adjustments to make, and slowly, we began to stabilize.

It became clear to me, as I sat in church that Sunday, listening to that song with tears on my cheeks.


When I thought I lost me

You knew where I left me

You reintroduced me to your love

You picked up all my pieces

Put me back together

You are the defender of my heart


Right then, I realized it. He had done it! Little by little, in the past year, He had put me back together. I no longer felt the dark fog gripping me. I no longer felt unraveled by the end of every day. He had taken my efforts in faith, to make space, and he filled that new space with peace & beauty. Instead of the heaviness of comparison, I felt free to choose what’s best for my family & their needs. He helped me find myself, when I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel that way again.


All I did was praise

All I did was worship

All I did was bow down

All I did was stay still


Friend, if you are walking in a dark time, may I encourage you? Lean in. Lean into your faith in our good God. Ask Him to show you beauty in where you are. Keep offering Him your worship. Continue (or start) praying for strength & wisdom. Give Him your heart & your time. It will not be worthless. He has shown himself over and over in scripture, to be faithful, and that He does what He says He will do. His Word reveals that He has everlasting kindness toward us. He sees us.



So much, in fact, that He did not leave it up to us to save ourselves but sent His one and only beloved Son to save us.

Not a Fairy Tale

My life has not miraculously become an overnight fairy tale. My kids still have hard stories. Advocating is still daily work. Behaviors are still intense and needs are high. It’s a daily fight to walk humbly in faith that my assignment from Him is right. However, I’m no longer stuck in the fog of overwhelm and I’m free to make choices that help us thrive, instead of being driven by an overloaded calendar that did not serve me or my family well.

I have found that my own plans work best when I live within the limitations and strengths of my own personality and make plans that suit my particular circumstances. I am not like others; my family has different parameters of need. I am quite free to do what is best for us when I plan for our family to flourish with all of our uniqueness in mind.

― Sally Clarkson, The Life Giving Home

When I asked the Lord to put me back together and was faithful to make room for Him to work, He did. He gave me the wisdom to see where I could make changes. I learned to not fight against our unique needs by forcing my plans for what I thought would make our life meaningful. Instead, I found beauty in embracing them and creating space in our life and home to serve our needs well. I had felt lost in the fight, but He never lost track of me. And friend, He knows right where you are, too. He has never lost track of you, and He will put you back together, too, when you let Him set the course.


Scriptures to cling to in the desert:

Psalm 119:50 “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your Word has revived me.”

Psalm 141: 2 “May my prayer be counted as an incense before you; The lifting of my hands as the evening offering.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. “

Romans 12: 1&2 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

Philippians 4:11-12 “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who gives me strength.”

Recommended reading:

The Life Giving Home by Sally & Sarah Clarkson

Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson & Nathan Clarkson

 Lyrics for “Defender” by Rita Springer


About the Author:

Eryn HeadshotEryn Kesler has been married for 18 years to Matt- the best thing that’s ever happened to her, is mom to 5 amazing kids, is a recovering overscheduler and wedding & portrait photographer in Brush Prairie, Wa.


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