Jul 30, 2013

book review // Streams in the Desert

I love to read, but I think even more than my love for reading, is my love for sharing a good book with a friend. I get excited to think about how it will be an encouragement for them. So, on my drive home from work today, I thought of starting a series called Random Raves where I will rave about a book, Bible study app, devotional, etc.  I always love getting recommendations from other people and want to share some of the awesome things that have been a blessing in my own life.

Case in point: 
Streams in the Desert 
(by L.B. Cowman)

I completed the year-long devotional a few days ago and I am already wondering if I should read it again. It was that good. It was the perfect way to start my day . . . or if I was in a rush that morning, a perfect way to end my night.

Streams in the Desert was originally published in 1925 (two years before Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest, which I need to start soon!). It stands apart from the modern Christian devotionals that focus on finding contentment, joy, blessings, etc. Instead, Streams daily deals with suffering. Not always a popular issue in today's culture, but it is so important to get a Biblical view on suffering and pain.

Each reading is composed of a short Biblical verse, followed by excerpts from poems, sermons, or books of Christian leaders of that time who do not skirt around issues such as grieving, death, illness, and pain. And though this seems like the most depressing way to start a morning, I assure you, God used this devotional to bring joy in my days when all that my eyes wanted to see was darkness.

I started the devotional last summer, before starting my new job as a pediatric nurse practitioner. I didn't have many worries last summer since I had finished grad school, got a job, and took a trip to Europe.  A few months later, reality hit me. I was drowning under the weight of always-too-short appointment visits , piles of charting, and phone calls to worried parents. On top of that, I was dealing with my own issues of people-pleasing and perfection-seeking [read more about this here] , which led me to compare myself to the other nurse practitioners and pediatricians I worked with. I would go home every day wondering if everyone realized how dumb I really was.

And on top of all of that, I work with a lot of kids and teens in really tough socioeconomic backgrounds who come to the clinic with issues like teen pregnancy, abuse, depression, anxiety, and suicidality. I would worry about these kids when I left work and would wonder what else I could have said or done for them. Eventually my dreams became scary and work-related, waking me up at least five times per night. I would have days when I would have to go outside after listening to a child with a mental health issue because I would start becoming really overwhelmed. In short, I allowed myself to try to carry a burden that I was never meant to carry. At some point, I placed the burden of those children and adolescents upon me and expected to fix their lives, which I can never do, so of coarse, the natural consequence is anxiety stealing my peace and joy. I became sad all the time and never at rest. I felt like I was always worrying about something.

And all the while (this lasted about 3-4 months), I was reading daily from Streams in the Desert. God had prepared me for my own desert by placing this book in my hands as a "stream" of hope and renewal. And even though my days were still hard, and my tears were still constant, the daily readings would give me glimmers of hope in my dark days. I would be reminded of God's faithfulness in the storm, His active presence in the silence, and His comfort when I was scared or grieving. I was amazed at how perfect certain excerpts where for specific days. In in time, I realized that I had been listening to lies about my own worth as well as lies that I had to "fix" anyone. I learned to surrender those kids to God and trust that they are in the best hands. My own hands fail, but His are faithful.

So, yes, I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone of you would start to read this beautiful devotional. I can see the journey that God has taken me on this past year with adjusting to moving from a city I loved so much (Seattle), starting a new (stressful) job, and going through everyday battles  that we each go through. It challenged me to find joy and rest in Jesus when I myself had none.

Here are just a few of my favorites:
I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see --
Better in darkness just to feel Your hand,
And follow Thee
[from July 25th]
"I willingly bear witness to the fact that I owe more to my Lord's fire, hammer, and file than to anything else in His workshop. Sometimes I wonder if I have ever learned anything except at the end of God's rod. When my classroom is darkest, I see best" -- Charles H. Spurgeon
[from April 12]
"We are doing more good than we know. The things we do today -- sowing seeds or sharing simple truths of Christ -- people will someday refer to as the first things that prompted them to think of Him. For my part, I will be satisfied not to have some great tombstone over my grave but just to know that common people will gather there once I am gone and say, "He was a good man. He never performed any miracles, but he told me about Christ, which led me to know Him for myself."" -- George Matheson.
[from Feb 24]
"The Lord is my shepherd". Not was, not may be, nor will be. "The Lord is my shepherd." He is on Sunday, on Monday, and through every day of the week. He is in January, in December, and every month of the year. He is when I'm at home and in China. He is during peace or war, and in times of abundance or poverty." -- Hudson Taylor
[from Feb 8]
In "pastures green?" Not always; sometimes He
Who knowest best, in kindness leadeth me
In weary ways, where heavy shadows be.
So, whether on hilltops high and fair
I dwell, or in the sunless valleys where
The shadows lie, what matter? He is there.
[from Jan 3]

Are you ladies reading any great devotionals you recommend?

P.S. check out my bookshelf with other recommendations!


  1. I keep hearing great things about this book (my gma has mentioned it to me a few times) and i have yet to read it! I need to jump on it!
    THanks for sharing!

    1. Yes! I LOVED it! It brought comfort and joy to my heart on some really tough days in the last year!

  2. I've heard so much about this devotional and I really think I need to get it! Thanks for sharing about it. :-)

    1. Yes, you should! It was the same for me... I kept hearing about it and now I am so glad I read it!

  3. Awww what a great post!! I'll definitely have to read this devotional. You're right, most of the ones I've read are all about getting to know Christ more, building on your spiritual relationship, finding contentment with life, etc and not very many touch on suffering. It's important for us to understand that we should "Consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds" as described in James, and that our world will not be without suffering. It should be embraced :)
    Thanks for sharing!


    1. You're right, Christy! Its through the days of suffering that we learn more about the character of God. We see that he gives comfort in times that we need comforting.

      I hope you can find yourself a copy!

  4. Hey girl- this book sounds awesome. I really need to make more time for some good reads in my life. I never regret it when I do! I LOVED the Feb 8th quote. I don't know why but the title of this book made me think of this song by my fiancé's good friend Nate Moore- check it out! It's called "Never Run Dry"-https://soundcloud.com/paperlights/never-run-dry :)

    1. Wow, I JUST listened to this song because it was on another blogger's site! What a coincidence! It must have been a song I needed to heart (I LOVED it!).

      And yes, the Feb 8 quote was one that I wrote in my journal and in a post-it to see every day during a season in the last year. it is SO good.

  5. OooO! I have not yet read this devotional =) You should look into Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening." It's my favorite!


I love to hear your thoughts!

Elle Alice