Today marks one week and one day since The Great Physician laid His mighty healing hand upon my left knee, moved my hand to it, then led me to move some mechanism back into place – and sealed it permanently. How do I know it is permanent? Because at the late hour of a July night, God changed the temperature outside to that of Spring and the following morning, after feeling the cool air, I was led to get up and go for a hike in the woods. The crazy thing – I leapt to it!
But was it crazy? No, not at all. It was my absolute confidence in the Lord, my deep joy and gratitude over the opportunity to finally be able to do the one thing I feared may be taken from me, due to the injuries sustained to my knee. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: Wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27: 13-14) It takes courage to believe, and it takes courage to wait. And while I waited, I prayed for this one joy and need in my life not to be taken away. I have little else that helps replenish my soul – God knows this. I trusted I would see His goodness in the end.
And goodness, I did see!
I awoke today, Saturday, encouraged to go on another hike; a longer hike, in the same location as last Saturday. Last week, I was very cautious: I took the two short trails only. I went along them gingerly, with great care on my body. On top of that I had my very curious, energetic and strong dog with me; I had to have some semblance of control over him so he wouldn’t run off into the woods. (He’s generally a good hiker and listens, but occasionally get a mind of his own like when he sees a squirrel!)
I am a very adept, experienced hiker and not a stranger to these particular trails, but the fear I was carrying in my backpack prevented me from actually enjoying that initial hike. Regardless, I was so thrilled and grateful to be heading to the woods, I stepped out in Faith to even attempt a hilly hike.
I believe I was sent back out so God could show me just how present he is, and how protected I am. Plus, it seems He had contrived a plan to distract me from any apprehension.
Upon arrival to the park, I knew He wanted me to take the long, more difficult loop. I started out a bit cautious but to navigate this trail I truly had to let apprehension go, so did just that. I let go. Then, I started talking to God. I do this a lot while hiking and in the past, He has shown himself in some beautiful ways. Today was no exception. My eyes were fixed on Him. My ears, listening.
Keep Moving Forward
One way God sends me messages is through deer. I know that at least one herd lives in these particular woods because I’ve seen them, but also know deer migrate. A little while into the trail, I asked God where the deer were; I mentioned I haven’t seen many deer as of late, in general. Oddly, I kept seeing the same bird, a robin, flitting along the trail as though he wanted to be our trail guide. It would stop and watch us, wait for us and even act as though it were trying to get my attention. In my mind I wondered about this presence, and began to understand it, so kept a close watch for where it went and how it interacted.
Near the top of the ridge, I stopped to get both the dog and myself some water. The bird was doing a dance in the air across the trail as though wanting me watch. I leaned down to pick up the dog’s bowl and the water, then packed up the backpack. All the while, I kept hearing faint sounds of twigs or branches breaking. Just as I stood erect, I looked up and saw hope answered: Gliding across the trail, about 25 feet ahead, were three while tail deer. They were as graceful and swift as gazelle’s as they leaped across the trail into the brush. I stood motionless, mouth agape, while also trying to keep the dog calm as not to scare them. I watched the trio rush off to my right, then caught sight of three more deer that had preceded them across the trail, their furry white tails disappearing into the thick tree cover.
In His Presence
I was so completely at awe how quickly God delivered deer for me, I nearly teared up with joy! As we continued up the ridge I heard myself say, “God I’d love to be able to see them again, just to watch them from a distance for a bit.”
After getting up the ridge then back down into the gulch, I felt the need to stop on the footbridge over the creek. I leaned against the wooden bridge and looked out across the rock and greenery; I immediately spotted one of the deer grazing below. It spotted us too. The dog whelped, then scared the poor thing and it leapt over the creek bed, into the brush and up the hill. I happened to be heading that same direction and kept my eyes like flint on the hillside below. I spotted the spooked deer (it was a doe): she was standing still in the tall brush, head and tail down, as to appear like a tree stump (more like a table top at her size). She didn’t move. We passed on so she could go on her way.
Then, on the way back via the same trail, the dog kept sensing something was near and stopped a couple of times. It was after he paused the second time that I saw what he didn’t: across the woods on an incline were at least two deer, feeding behind the trees. I really felt as though I’d hit the favor jackpot at this point. My heart was all a flutter and my joy level, elevated to cup runneth over.
God has used deer symbolically in my life since I first moved back to Ohio in the summer of 2015. To me they represent His majesty and grace and He has shown me his intention when he continually puts them before me is a sign for me to “keep moving forward.” Today, I couldn’t help but stop instead of moving forward – but I am pretty certain I know what He was directing me to keep moving forward in: ministry.
“The Lord of hosts is His name.
16 And I have put My words in your mouth;
I have covered you with the shadow of My hand,
That I may [c]plant the heavens,
Lay the foundations of the earth,
And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ” (Isaiah 51:15-16)
The other signs of Himself given to me today were also “white”: The morning glory pictured above was the only flower anywhere near the trailhead I started out on (where all the white tail deer were waiting). Another, the beautiful fungi pictured below. I also have a love of photographing wild fungi. He showed me that the “white” array of natures bounty represented The Light (Jesus) and Purity (of my walk, plus the purity of my heart – which I continually pray to be cleaned out). God knew I really needed his encouragement and he also knows my love languages! Oh, how great Thou art!
Thank you Abba, thank you, for letting your presence be known today, to this humble daughter and servant. I give you all my worship and praise.