The Beauty of Debris

threshing floor

Legs crossed Indian-style, palms facing upward and resting on each knee, I sat in the middle of my living room floor meditating. Not meditating as in yoga-meditating but rather a collapsing-in-the-floor-exhausted-with-too-much-on-my-mind posture. {Although, the palms landing upward may well have been some subliminal sign of the surrender that was to come.}

Tears stroked the long hair that clung to my face—hair that hadn’t been brushed in forty-eight hours. With my teenage daughter away at her fathers for the weekend, I had time to think for once.

I called myself a Christian—I wasn’t one. Not really. I told folks I was married but I had no real marriage. I convinced myself I was doing everything I could, the things that were right, but in so many ways I wasn’t.

The insecurities and unmet expectations, the brokenness and shattered dreams, they crashed in on me, right there on those bare hardwoods. The sacrifices, the desperate longing for validation, the desire for revenge. The longing to understand, the temptation to quit—it was all too much. I fought the rising panic until slowly and methodically, I started sifting through the confusion.

That’s how a harvest is sometimes won, the sifting, the beating and bearing down, the necessary separation.

In ancient times, a threshing floor served as a place for farmers to bring their sheaves of grain from the fields to harvest them. They lay the grain out in this high open area, exposing it to the wind. The animals were then brought in, oxen and donkey, these that trampled the sheaves in order to loosen the grain from the husks. Trampled as in a violent tearing apart. The beating down necessary to loosen chaff that blew into the wind, no longer blocking the nutrients inside the wheat berry.

Oh how Satan longs to sift us like wheat, snatching us right out of God’s goodness and his plans. But if we take what remains, debris and all, and we allow this necessary sifting, God protects the good. And he uses it. I’m living proof.

My hurts laid out on that floor stripped me bare to the core just like those sheaves, right down to the real substance hidden deep inside. All those things that had blocked God’s best for me, they poured out real and raw, no longer containable in this open space between two couches, an area rug, and my outstretched arms.

I don’t really know how long I stayed in that position, but it was long enough to finally get things right with God. The quiet surrender that came was much more difficult than the pride-swallowing trek I had made to the front of a church one Sunday morning. That same morning I bought the “all is well” message from an encouraging faith-pusher—the message that hadn’t fully penetrated my heart until this sacred time spent on my own private threshing floor.

There’s a freedom that comes
when you deliberately stretch your dry,
shriveled places
in front of God,
when you’re willing to smooth your pain
in a safe, open area.

Though this was years ago, the impact lingers—shaping my life even now.

The dark days still tempt, the hurts and disappointments great sometimes, but now on those days when things simply don’t make sense I’ve learned to default to the God who empowers me to overcome all things through him. I remember his plan to not only lead me through, but to help me go back and encourage others through their own sifting process.

I share my words, my story, my heart, to let you know I get it. That I understand how the pressures and confusion of life are sometimes great, these jagged edges of the sieve often shaking our faith. But “I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. [And that] when you have come through the time of testing, [you will] turn to your companions and give them a fresh start (Luke 22:33 MSG).”

{Find more encouragement with Jo Ann’s recently released book, When A Woman Finds Her Voice: Using Your Story to Make a Difference.}

34 thoughts on “The Beauty of Debris

  1. I love the words about your hard fought harvest. So, so true. And…whoo hoo! I can’t wait til tonight’s chat. Been eager to learn and share!

    So, a bit of my story? I have been laid off from work for about a year …with no unemployment dollars coming in. There’s been short stints of work and lots of interviews, but it’s been a challenge to find long term employment in my area. (Well, unless I want to go straight commission sales. I almost have taken those ops…)

    Along with that, my hubby, too was laid off last Spring and is now under employed as a night janitor. We have a ton of stuff we can do, but no job matches yet. Not even McDonald’s or KwikTrip… So we search…we wait…

    The hope and encouragement I’d like to discuss is how to handle long bouts of waiting. We are to wait on the Lord himself… That’s instead of His provision, healing, protection, etc. What does that look like in day to day life? I can be patient and do my part in the search, but my creditors do not have the same… “patient” mindset. I have a sneaking suspicion that we can be laid out bare in one area and able to bring healing in another place for others. Have you seen that, too?

    So. Here I am… like a 7-letter Scrabble word and no place to play on the board. I am not essential anywhere and I miss being needed and depended upon. I have found a venue to serve hope and encouragement through volunteering at church and by offering hopeful facebook posts and in creating my handcrafted cards (www.facebook.com/HopeCafeOriginals). There has to be more, right? Am I missing something in the waiting? I truly hope so… <3 Here's a cuppa joy for now… and then high hopes in sharing tonight! 😀

    • What a joy to see you here, Kris. And by the way, I love Scrabble, and I imagine God’s going to find you just the right spot on the board the yields a record score. 🙂 Can’t wait to connect over on the chat tonight where hopefully we’ll be able to take your thoughts a little deeper.
      XO

    • I, too, am in Dire Straits because of being Unemployed for a long time now – not wanted by Anyone – for any of ‘my many talents’ – Truly, I have tried everything – even to rather ‘degrading’ jobs, just to make enough for daily needs, and can’t even get those! – and I learned a long time ago how to ‘live on mere Air,’ so to speak. I guess the days of turning us Old People (am just now 65!) into ‘Soylent Green’ (1970’s movie – Charlton Heston – Be still, My Heart! *wink*) will truly be upon us soon… Extremely Discouraged. Just want to go Home to Heaven. No one Here even cares about ‘my story’ or me at all… (Sorry, Kris and Hubby, for your situation. At least you have someone to share it with… I am Truly ALONE. Yes, I know the ‘God is with me’ part. He may be here, but VERY Quiet and non-responsive, for all I can tell. I do not ever say so much publicly – no one knows my situation – but am at the end of my very frayed rope today, as I tearfully read Jo Ann’s post, and not enough left to tie a knot in to hold onto…) There is NO Chemo for a Broken Heart.

      • Oh Lynden, my heart aches reading your words. Thank you for sharing so authentically. You model courage beautifully. And believe me, folks are watching. I am stopping what I am doing this moment to pray for you. Specifically for you by name, to the One who knows you, sees you, loves you. I pray this moment that He makes his presence very real to you somehow. Praying for your employment situation as well as Kris’.

          • Oh Lynden…Girl, we have to find ways to support each other. So glad you posted here. Praying for you now… Let’s have faith for each other’s needs, ok? May our God fill you with unexpected hope, surprising peace and sweet patience. <3

      • Lyndon, I know how you are feeling. It is so hard to live with a broken heart and daily rejection. For every application there is a rejection. My “friends” backed off when trials began so loneliness is my way of life. I try to remember though that our God is a jealous God. I figure that at this point in my life God wants me all to Himself to so there are no distractions to keep me from Him. But it is so hard, especially on holidays to see family and friends gather and enjoy each other. For I have been told that they don’t want a “downer” hanging around that can’t afford to participate. But guess what? God thinks we are important enough to be molded into the person He wants us to be. My prayers go out to you Lyndon, keep looking to Him!

  2. Oh Jo Ann…how very much this post touches my soul & reaches into my wounded spirit with balm. I thank God for you…
    Thank you for posting this!

  3. Jo Ann, how do we keep the mask off, when sometimes it’s just easier to wear the mask (with some people), then to deal with all the trauma again? I know God what’s me to witness, but sometimes, I rather wear the mask (and not waste my energy), because it is easier to let them be ignorant, then introduce them to my new way of thinking.

  4. I am so glad that I have begun reading your book Jo Ann. It is comforting to know that God will eventually use my trials to help others.

    A little bit of my story. I, after 31 years of marriage, am divorced, homeless and in search of a stable income. My ex husband was in jail for 5 months. While he was there I asked God to show me all that I needed to know about my husband. Boy did God answer prayers. He ran his business illegally, had a couple of affairs that I know of, made plenty of money that I never saw and to top it off my 30 year old son came to me to admit that his dad had molested him for 11 years starting at 6 yrs old. He had been afraid to tell me before. There is more, but I will keep it short. All this while attending church, men’s studies, men’s retreat, morning and evening devotions with me and was buddy buddy with the pastor.

    My son and I have been stripped of a home, our belongings, our family, our friends, income, cars and our churches. At first it was all “why me?” Why would we have to suffer when it was my ex that did the wrong things? Then God started showing Himself in different ways. Providing for our needs through ways and people we would never expect. One example was while we worried about feeding our dogs and putting gas in the car, we found a $100 bill that blew under our gate. I can now attribute everything to God’s perfect plan, whether I like it or not.

    After 2 years we are still homeless and lonely, but I know that God has the perfect job for me, one that will use my experiences to help others. Looking forward to finishing your book. Thank you for listening to my story. Sometimes others just don’t understand.

    • Deanna, I am so very sorry for the pain you have endured–you and your son. Your faith shines beautifully in the midst, though. I thank God that you are trusting Him for provision, direction, and complete restoration. Trusting God when life doesn’t make sense is one of the hardest things we can do, but I believe God will honor that.

      By the way, I have a feeling you’re going to like Chapter Ten of the book. Praying for you as you walk this journey of healing.

      • Thank you for your encouragement. I have been busy so my reading is slow, but I can’t wait to get to chapter 10.

  5. I feel like quitting all the time, in fact, Im closer to quitting than i have ever before in my life been. People say you just need to “surrender” but no one can tell you for sure what that means. I no longer drink, I quit using, I mean what else do I need to do to “surrender” or :”give it to God” No one can even explain those cliche answers. Sure, I have sat here and prayed “God, I surrender, I want to give my life to you” ok, so what?? then what? There is never a response, I read my Bible, pray, but really, I think i would get just as much out of reading people magazine and talking to the wall. It isn’t like people make it sound!! Surrender to him and do his will, yeah I can read the bible, pray, even go to church, and try to live the ten commandments, but its all just a ritual, i can do these things, i can go through all the motions, but where’s it leading? What’s the point? Seems like quitting would be alot less heart wrenching than trying to rely on a god you cannot find no matter how hard you have searched. Just my thought!

    • Thank you for those real and raw thoughts as they express the same frustration as many others, and your willingness to speak what others won’t is liberating in a sense. I won’t pretend to have the answers {I wouldn’t dare}, but I will encourage you with what I know. If we follow the rules and the should do’s more than we seek God himself, we lose the value of intimate relationship with him.

      It seems a mystery, how do we draw close to this invisible God? But how do we get close to anyone in relationship–we get to know them. In your Bible time, I encourage you to find those places that reveal the true nature of Jesus, the Gospels {Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John}. Spend some time there, soak in the stories and let them reveal more to you of this Man you are seeking. From here, allow yourself to be drawn into the heart-relationship that He too is seeking.

      Praying this moment for you. So very glad you are here in community with us.

  6. Ever feel like quitting? Yes, that’s a given. Journey with me three years back. I had everything that mattered the most to me. I raised my daughter alone for ten years. Little did I know that my life would crumble right before my very eyes. When my little girl was ten and was on a sleep over I was overwhelmed with flashbacks from my past. I was feeling alone and scared and I didn’t think my life mattered.
    In my haste I took every pill I had in my medicine cabinet. I bathed, put on my pj’s and was waiting to die.
    As the pills took affect I layed down hoping to never wake up. I layed on the bathroom floor looking for a cool place to lay my head for I knew this was it. I was going to fall asleep peacefully and no more pain. My puppy kept licking me in my face which really annoyed me because I was feeling the sting of death knocking at my door. My breathing got harder to cope with so I managed to get up and lay in bed. Every thought ran through my mind, is this how I want to go? After all, the enemy convinced me I was bad, I was a bad Mom, and every other lie he wants you to believe.
    I then managed to make it to the living room, walked to the dumpster, threw away every evidence of my empty bottles away and barely made it back on the couch. Fear hit me like a ton of bricks, is this how I want my precious kids to remember me? Is God going to meet me on the other side?
    I prayed, not a long prayer but muttered the words; God help me. By then I knew I was in trouble. I was going in and out of conscienceness and my breathing was painfull. I dialed a friend and then dialed 911 but my speech was incohorent.
    Soon the whole rescue squad was at my place. They came, and said we got some disturbing messages on your fb and someone called. I said; I am fine it’s all a misunderstanding. You see I lost custody of my baby girl because of a misunderstanding and I’m just heart broken. They took my vitals and said your blood pressure is really low and you need to go to the hospital. No one could understand what was making my pressure drop because all evidence was gone.
    I was rushed to the ER and in my time there I recall going in and out of conscienceness. At one point I asked the nurse if I was going to live she said we don’t know because we don’t know what you took.
    I fell asleep as I recall and I believe I was at deaths door.
    I had a dream that I was at a cross road and I had to choose a path. I then was repenting to this man all of my sins and He was just sitting there. He wasn’t engaged in my conversation but just sitting patiently. After I confessed everything I thought imaginable I finally heard Him say; As far as the East is from the West your sins are remembered no more.
    The heavens opened and I saw a bright light and I wanted to cross over but before then I saw all three of my kids at my funeral crying and placing roses over my casket. The dirt hit my casket and as I was being buried I still saw my kids faces crying but I wasn’t sad.
    I was not in pain but I could tell they were very sad. I lifted one leg to go to the light then in an instant I realized the man I was confessing everything to was Jesus because I was overcome with love, joy, peace, patience etc… I just knew I was in the presence of a peace that surpasses all understanding.
    I knew my kids would be sad but to be free of the pain that shattered my heart was so welcoming. I stood at the crossroads, one leg lifted until my heart melted. I looked at Jesus and said, I am sorry, please give me another chance here on earth because I have not done what You have asked me to do.
    Purpose sprung within my soul and what seemed like forever was only minutes because when I awoke in the hospital room, a nice nurse was tending to me and my blood pressure was slowly rising.
    Giving up was so easy. Fighting to survive is harder. It’s been three years, I still get sad, but something changed me that day. I realized, God has a plan and a purpose for all of us, but we have to keep our eyes on Him and not the cares of this world. Life is precious and unpredicatable, but it’s up to us to thrive and live with our choices regardless of what circumstances come our way. It is a struggle? Of course in this life you will have trials and tribulation, but don’t fear because Jesus has already overcome and we are overcomers.

    • I’m so very thankful you made the choice to fight for survival. I pray for God’s blessing on that choice, on your family, on your purpose and your future. XO

  7. Jo Ann,
    Thank You for your sharing & encouragement.
    I feel like I am in that place right now as I struggle to pull myself & family members up & stay positive in spite of the attacks of the evil one.
    I was in high end retail for almost 30 years, in about the fall of 2004 I sucked up my courage took a huge risk & made a career change into the financial market. Well beyond my control the market crashed a few years later & life has spun out of control ever since, family issues with sister-in-laws put much strain on the relationships with my two younger brothers. Our parents are aging & I am always the one that has to deal with all the issues usually beyond my control to master in what I see to be a healthy way & Spiritually sound. I feel as though I am spinning in circles most days. I know in my weakness is His greatest strength. But some day’s Jesus with skin on as one person told me would be a Blessing!

    • Marie, you are such a precious soul. I pray that God strengthens you for these responsibilities as only He can. I also pray that you will find the time to lie in His chest and allow Him to nurture your heart. I pray for provision and rest and positive changes. XO

      • Thank You Jo Ann,
        It is such a sweet Blessing to receive the gift of your prayers!
        As I attended Stations of the cross last Friday the Holy Spirit used me in such a sweet way. The Deacon asked if anyone from the choir was present? I would never have raised my hand if I knew he was going to go get a mike and expect me to be the leader.
        But Thank You to Jesus and His perfect gifts as many people were moved and we were able to Praise the Lord with song as we walked the journey of His Passion. Amen.
        So I again say Thank You for your continued prayers as I feel honored and humbled to have this safe place to be Thrashed.

  8. I am in the I quit and give up. To be honest I am angry and bitter. I recently lost a family member to cancer and spent everyday serving her and providing for her house as well as mine with my children bearing witness. I was faithful, serving, studying and using the season as a tool for my children teaching that it’s what we are called to do. It created a battle in my marriage because for that season I didn’t attend church due to the care that was required. Before I knew it I quit hearing from people in the congregation that I felt really cared and loved me. Since the passing it seems life is so far off track I am lost tryig to retrace my steps back. I am discouraged and feel invisible to the world and God. I question after serving and doing what I still feel was total obiedance how come I don’t feel better and closer to God.

    • Oh Rebekah, my heart aches for this hard place you find yourself in. I pray that you feel God’s presence like never before and that His waiting arms will woo you into a closeness that heals, protects, and guides.

  9. Thank you Jo Ann for sharing your journey . As I was reading what you shared It was as if I was reading my own story. I am truly blessed by your beautiful way in which you shared your story. Thank You for your open heart and willingness to touch our lives. God Bless you, Loretta Del Gadio

  10. Three nights ago I laid in the bathroom floor sobbing and praying. I wanted to give up. I cried out to God and said if you don’t do something then I can’t go on.

    Afterwards I felt like God was just waiting for me to give up trying to do so much on my own. My devotional that night was revealing of the lonely place I am in and I relate it to Abram as he went towards destiny without a clue of where he was going from day to day. The threshing floor is the name of one of my old journals. Beating out the self effort and letting our faith alone shine forth as pure gold is brutal at times, but the real blessing.

  11. I love that scripture you shared. Sometimes those words are the only thing that keeps me going. Thank you for writing this post. Just the knowing that someone else out there feels the same way is comforting. ♡

  12. It is Easter night and I find myself wanting to give up trying. I have gone through these terrible trials for 2 1/2 years now. God has allowed me to be striped of everything. I get to the point of thinking that God is never going get me out of this pit. Every holiday I feel so lonely especially when I see the great things people I know are doing with family and friends. Every time I try going to a new church my attempts at joining in small groups and ministries are squashed. It has gotten to the point that my son will not go to church because of past experiences. Sorry to vent, just feeling lonely and lost tonight.

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