Deserts and Dessert

To remember how to spell the word desert, I compare it to the word dessert. Deserts are frugal, dry and arid, so the word has only one “s” versus dessert which brings images of richness, abundance, and splurge.

Life throws us into emotional deserts. Some people experience them more often than others; they are meant to make us better persons. Sometimes they completely transform us and we never see life the same way again.

Alone, for 40 years and in a real desert, Israel formed its national culture and became a nation. We can say constitutional law – the ten commandments- were born amidst the isolation of the desert. Jesus Christ spent 40 days in the desert where temptation, hunger, and thirst prepared him for his breakthrough ministry. We read countless stories about emotional deserts experienced by people who came out with a new perspective in life. We’ve all experienced emotional deserts, but it takes considerable effort to reflect on our lives and learn from others as much as from ourselves. What has the COVID-19 crisis taught you?

Before the covid desert, I spent almost two years at another emotional desert which pales in comparison with this current one. I thought that I was prepared emotionally to handle this new crisis, but there is always something new to learn. The hardships so many people are facing, teach us there is a lot to be grateful for, and that there is a need for us out there; let’s think about that. How often are we able to make a difference in someone’s life? Someone who is not family or friend, but foe or stranger.

I recently watched an interview on TV of a mother utterly anxious for not affording three meals a day for her family. Her words took me back a couple of decades when, after a divorce, I had the same struggles. The challenge, or desert, made me an expert on budget management especially when buying groceries. My oldest son even told me I reminded him of the biblical miracle of the five loaves and two fishes. It made me so proud! Through it all I was grateful for the peace at home, for my family’s health and for all the many blessings bestowed on us. This was just a minor glitch; we were heading in the right direction.

Being Mexican teaches a lot about feeding families and this cultural aspect of my ethnicity came in handy. Rice, beans, tortillas (corn or flour) go a long way, and if you spice things up with some Serrano or Jalapeno peppers even better. Fideo,charro beans and lots of ground beef often saved my days as well as quesadillas, eggs, and drumsticks. My Italian with a Mexican twist style spaghetti is still a hit with my grown kids. I have incredibly fond memories of visiting my seven cousins and staying for dinner. My aunt made the most delicious flour tortillas, tons of them, and served a bowl of refried beans and a bowl of guacamole (avocados are inexpensive in Mexico ) to fill the tortillas. We poured chocolate milk on our glasses and prepared to dig in. Those were the days! I share these personal anecdotes hoping to bring a smile and a message of hope into the grim situation we are facing. Another even more important lesson I learned during those times was that prayer is powerful and never a last resort. If you do not have the extra income to help others, you can always say a prayer for the sick, the poor, the elderly and everybody! Sounds easy right? try praying for 15 minutes a day and you will realize it is not. The world needs our prayers right now.

God manifests himself even more during hard times. Like scripture says, these deserts are meant to test our faith with fire. Being grateful at all times is the only way to experience true joy. Every time I sit down for a meal, go shopping,  open the pantry door, sleep comfortably at night, shower with hot water, and even when I wash my clothes; I’m grateful to God for his blessings. If we pay attention, it is the simple things that truly make us happy. I also realize that God expects me to help others in need. This test, desert, is not complete without some action.

What about dessert? Some might ask.  If we come out of this desert as better persons, dessert will come soon enough.


1 Peter 1:7 – So that the genuineness of your faith – being more precious than gold that, through perishable, is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Featured photo taken by me during my emotional desert in the real desert of Arizona.


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