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Welcome to the valley.


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“You’re in the valley,”

she says to me, grabbing my shoulders and keeping her eyes on me— they never once wander away from me and find another thing to fix on.

“You’re in the valley,” she says again. “Welcome to it.”

We were standing in the middle of a crowded church lobby. I was rambling on about a boy in a coffee shop who wasn’t choosing me and a plane ticket I wanted to burn and a city I wanted to give up on because nothing feels safe or comfortable or certain inside of the name “Atlanta.” I was home for a short visit. I’d been living in the city for six months— waiting for God to speak and tell me why I was there. I wanted answers from her. Because that’s what you want from a spiritual mentor— black-and-white answers.

I was rambling with the hope that, when I ceased, she would tell me I didn’t need to go back. I could just choose to stay in my comfort zone. I could get a refund for the plane ticket.

“You have had some big mountaintops in your life,” she told me. “God is teaching you how live to inside the valley, the everyday life.”

With a thud of resolution— not the quick answer I was hoping for— I heard her truth: You have to go back. You have to stand inside of this valley. You have to figure out what it looks like to stand still and wait, without ceasing, on God. Even when you swear He isn’t moving. Even when you think He’s forgotten to speak.

I’m learning, as of lately, that God doesn’t give me Hershey Kisses the way He used to.

I mean, He used to give me lots of those and they came foiled in the form of affirmations— you’re doing great. I’ve got you. You’re remarkable. Onto the next thing!

As God and I have grown, and as we’ve both planted roots in the ground and decided not to leave, He seems to deliver to me things I need to chew on and unpack. They aren’t sugary and sweet. They are changes to my character and who I will be in the long-run, not boosts to my exterior that will gain me worldly praise. And let’s be real— refining like this hurts like hell. And the hardest part about refinement? He needs you in one place to finish the work out. He needs you firmly planted, both feet in the ground, and asking no more questions of how long it will last.

But I just want the instant solutions. I want the clarity. I want God to pluck me out of this time of waiting, give me all the answers I am asking for, and then send me on my way to my next adventure.

And so I tell him, “Pluck me out of this time of waiting, give me all the answers I am asking for, and then send me on my way to my next adventure, God. Let’s do this thing!”

But no. He just leads me to Leviticus. Like He is sending me to my room, I get sent to the confines of Leviticus. And Leviticus is not the book of the bible you read when you want to be affirmed or told that you are a good little child of God who can do no wrong. So I stew with the Hebrews. And I grumble. And I don’t understand how, after leaving Israel, that whole nation camped out at the foot of Mt. Sinai for two years. Two years— and they spent those two years resting, teaching, building, and meeting with God face to face. And that just leaves me speaking upward to the ceiling, “No way. Absolutely no way would I spend two years just resting and hanging out. I need to be doing. I need to be going. I need chaos to add order to my life.”

We’d label those Hebrews as lazy in the world we live in today. We would say they were making little progress. And that’s because our culture is fixated on the hustle and the grind and how stinkin’ good you look standing on a mountaintop and getting all the glory. Our culture is slowly, so slowly, convinced and coaxed into the slower, harder things: rest. Community. Questions that cut deeper than “how are you” and “what do you want to accomplish.” Our culture is slower to ask questions we can’t answer (we like the questions we can answer): Where is God? And why can’t I play God? Why don’t things move when I want them to move? How can I escape the valley? I would like to be done with this valley now, so how do I leave? 

I don’t have the answer.

I lift my palms up to the ceiling because I don’t have the answer and I don’t have an exit strategy. I would much rather choose to leave. That’s always what I want to do when change is happening around me that I control: I want to flee. I want to push away. I want to make my own momentum and solve my own problems. But there is a whisper that is stronger than my will to leave, because the whisper knows what I know: you can leave, you can go, you can flee from the light find your answers— but you’ll still come back to the valley empty-handed and tired.

That whisper, it calms me and stills me and begs me to wait, saying, “Stay. Just stay. Something is happening in the valley. Something is stirring and building in your restless soul. Things are being repaired. There are things being released. 

You are not forgotten in all of this, you are becoming something new. Lay down your armor. Meet things face-to-face. Let the work be done. Let the slow and quiet work be done right. 

You are in the valley. Welcome to it.” 

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31 thoughts on “Welcome to the valley.

  1. Hannah, as always, your words are so timely. They are currently meeting me in the midst of an overwhelming to do list and a day that seems impossible. Hard conversations will be had today, tears will be shed (I just know it) and this reminder to just stay in the valley because something is stirring and building is exactly what my overwhelmed little heart needed to be reminded of. Thank you.

  2. Douglas says:

    Hannah, I’m there. I’m right there, and I’ve been trying to leave for so long that I wonder if I’ve ever been anywhere else. The last thing I wanted or expected was for someone to welcome me to it, invite me into this place like it’s somewhere I belong. I don’t want “stay” to be the word. I don’t want it to be the only option, because I’ve been praying for God to show up because it doesn’t feel like he has. At the end of the day, all I feel like I can say is “I don’t know”, and it’s an answer I’m sick of. But here I am, and I wish it wasn’t a comfort to think someone else is here, too, but it is. Thank you. This is not the kind of thing I would expect to read this week, and maybe it wasn’t the kind of thing you expected to write, but I’m a big believer in words. Not idly do yours fall. So, I thank you, and I hope we both find a way out, eventually.

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for these words. These words capture the deep feelings I don’t always understand, the unsaid cries of my heart.
    They give me so much hope…knowing I’m not alone in the valley…knowing there’s purpose in the lows, and the mundane blues.
    Thank you, Hannah, from the bottom of my heart.

  4. Lynne says:

    Beautiful and honest…thank you for writing out what so many of us experience, and yet don’t talk about. And how important it is to be without fixing. I believe that it is indeed where healing is and allows us to fully be in greater ways in future adventures. May we embrace the gifts of the valley.

  5. Julie says:

    Once again Hannah, I am reading my thoughts, again written by you. I am right there and so tempted to pack my stuff and go someplace new. Yet I know that when I get there all my fears and demons will have followed me. I hear the Universe whispering to be patient, which is not one of my virtues! I needed to read this today. Bless your heart and soul for being you! I can’t begin to thank you enough.
    We will get through this valley and I can’t wait to see the other side!!!

  6. Kathleen Fraser says:

    I love this. I love the concept of being in the valley. I find myself there at the moment and now I have a sense of purpose about why. I might not be lost after all. I assume there is a typo in the last paragraph, when you state: “That’s always what I want to do when change is happening around me that I control: I want to flee.” You must mean when change is happening that you can’t control . . . . it’s a universal thing, to want to flee from that. Thanks millions for the reminder that sometimes staying is worthwhile.

  7. ajeeta says:

    Every word of what you have written resonated with me. I had tears reading this. I am in the valley right now and things are not happening. But I believe that this (status quo) is changing me for better, making me more settled and more patient. And when I get those things that I want, I will have greater appreciation for it and will be better equipped to handle it. Thanks Hannah for this beautiful piece.

  8. I’m in a similar place right now. God has revealed so much promises and an amazing purpose and yet I feel like I’m not doing anything about it. Just in the dark room. Just being intimate. Just hanging out. I want to do something to make it come to pass…doesn’t God help those who help themselves?

    Then this came along (thank you, it was really timely), and reminded me it’s not my grand plan. It is God’s grand plan. If I take His plan in my human hands, it’ll crumble and fall. He will make it come to pass…in his way and his time. And my season right now is to be still and know that he’s God and to know Him deeper than what I know. (It is foolish to say to completely know a God bigger than the universe, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful and constantly present).

    There is a purpose why. I just need to be aware of what God’s doing in this specific place and time so I could be part of it. All I know everything will tie in beautifully, even though I don’t understand it at the moment.

    Stay encouraged!

  9. Rudo says:

    Valleys… Good times!

    I cried to him from the ends of the earth. Take me to a higher rock, take me to a higher rock (psalm 61:2). And He did. I’m learning lessons I couldn’t have grasped any other way. At 28 years old, I start chemo in two weeks. Valley or not, I know that His grace is sufficient for me.

    Because His power makes us strong when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:9).

  10. Elaine says:

    Change “Atlanta” to the city where I just moved, and this is how I’m feeling exactly. Thank you for telling me that my time in the valley isn’t going to be pretty like I’m used to, but something important is happening even if it doesn’t feel like it.

  11. Hannah, I just needed to read this today. I have those body trembles right now that happen when you realize God is showing you something and you can hardly believe how lucky you are that God is looking directly at you and giving you what you need. I look forward to following along with your journey, and I sincerely hope that your time in this valley is filled with rest, peace, and good fellowship. May God continue to bless you.

  12. Hannah, this is such a wonderful + amazing piece of advice. Your words perfectly describe this feeling I’ve been experiencing after college and trying to figure out the rest of my life. It’s so easy to get caught up in the next step God has for us, but I think I’ve forgotten that God will bring me to my next step when he thinks I’m ready.

    My heart is slowly feeling so much better about my post-grad journey and taking each day slowly. Thank you so much for your wisdom and I’m so grateful you shared your blog in #Fireworkpeople. I will definitely be returning to read future content! 🙂

  13. Amie says:

    Thank you so much for speaking from the heart. So authentic. I absolutely loved it. May you continue to be blessed.

  14. Pingback: The Valley | alexisnowling

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