Metal Deers and Sharing Stories

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything here. And because of that, this post will mostly be an attempt at getting down some thoughts that have been brewing for a while. So, here’s a warning: it’ll be lengthy and hardly profound.

This fall has been one of the most tremendous seasons. I feel so stretched and challenged and despite my lack of patience and despite my so often ungrateful heart—The Lord has been gracious and kind and answered so many of my prayers. Prayers whispered against cotton pillowcases late into the night. Prayers mixed with tears and a heart that felt forgotten. I am constantly being reminded that He is provider.

I started a new job at the Nashville Zoo. Which is still the weirdest job I’ve ever had. And I was pretty sure my job facilitating economic education simulation programs (That’s a mouthful, right?) for fifth graders was weird. Especially considering I knew nothing about economics. Though it’s not at all what I had envisioned for after my AmeriCorps term, I am recognizing the areas of my personality, heart, and skillset that can be stretched and grown in my mostly database entry position. As a lover of people [and someone who loves talking to people] I find myself bursting with unused words at the end of the day, but even that is a lesson to be still and know that He is God. And on the up side—I do get to see cute baby animals on occasion. I have also been given some incredible writing opportunities completely out of the blue. I’ve had a lot of fun with those and enjoyed tapping into my creative side. Though it’s been challenging to meet deadlines while working 8-5, I’ve done more than I thought I could and the writing process feels as if I am breathing after a long time of holding my breath. Oh, and I’m going back to India [at no expense to me] to do some writing for an organization’s video project. Oh, and baby Ruby? She was born and is beautiful. SO MUCH IS HAPPENING.

This past summer, I prayed that The Lord would provide me with a table surrounded by people who would love me, challenge me, do life with me, and make me laugh. Though not verbatim, that was essentially my prayer. And it has been answered in such a tremendous way. Over the last few months, I have grown to know, cherish, and be encouraged by a group of individuals I didn’t know four months ago. God’s timing is impeccable. And I am so thankful for new friendships—for new brothers and sisters who are willing to push me closer towards a radical, deep relationship with Jesus.

I’ve been wrestling for a while with what it looks like to be a transparent follower of Christ. To be honest and open and vulnerable. And I think, for me, it’s a constant dance. I would love to be able to paint some beautiful image of what learning to share my heart and fears and insecurities looks like—but I think the most accurate description would be me flailing my arms everywhere to some 90’s boy band song. Or maybe some sort of interpretive dance to I’m Like a Bird by Nelly Fertado. I feel as if vulnerability is something I believe in. And something I used to talk to my Livingston girls about really well. But is maybe something I don’t live out in the way that I should. Because really—even when it looks like I’m being open and honest about where I am—there’s so much still under the surface. Like some underground spring ready, at any moment, to burst forth from the dry earth.

But more than just the parts of my heart I’m hesitant to reveal (perhaps even to myself) I have really been reflecting on how transparent I am about what God is actually doing in my life. The small whispers or the big reveals. The molding and the teaching and the way He challenges me to be braver than I am. I’ve been challenged lately that our lives are truly meant to be testaments to a living God who speaks, heals, listens, and extends grace.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t share about those things enough. By sharing, I’m realizing we are able to spur each other on. And though hesitant at first, all I’ve been able to think about for two weeks is how I need to share a story of what He’s doing in me.

I wrote not too long ago about how right before I turned twenty-four, I kept hearing the word ‘Brave.’ Not being a naturally brave person by its normal definition, I felt this appropriate. It kept coming to me—over and over again throughout the day. In my prayers. As I wrote in my journal. So, long story short, I was like—cool. God’s going to teach me what it means to be brave this year.

One day I was driving and I felt in my spirit that I needed to go to Target.
Buy something that will remind you of my provision, I heard inside me.
I’ll be honest. It seemed like a dumb idea. I had forty dollars in my bank account and certainly didn’t need any more material objects to clutter my living space.
Am I really supposed to do this, God? What am I even supposed to buy?
You’ll know when you see it.

So after much contesting (because I’m stubborn like that), I walked into Target. Now, this story is much longer and funnier and eventful, but for the sake of space and your time, I’ll tell you this: I walked out of Target having purchased the ugliest most hideous, $16 metal deer figurine you’ll ever see in your life.

So, I owned an ugly deer. It sat on my bathroom counter and every day I remembered that God had promised to lead me somewhere. And more than once I laughed at myself, wondering if I had heard God’s voice or mine.

Not long after my birthday in September, I received a letter in the mail with a verse: Joshua 1:9. But my dear friend had changed the word “courageous” to “brave.” When you study the root and history of the text, the two can be interchanged. Brave. Brave. Brave. It kept being thrown in my face. Accompanying the letter was a necklace with a small deer charm. Getting crazy, huh?

To make the story even better, the next day, I received a call from an old family friend—the director of camps at Deer Run Retreat. (Notice the Deer part there?) After much prayer, they wanted to extend me the opportunity to write the Bible Study curriculum for this upcoming summer camp. The theme? “Be brave.”

Last night, I sat across from Mr. Fred and his wife—two people who have known me since I was a toddler. They have journeyed with me as my heart for ministry has grown. They have stayed up with me late into the night—listened to me share my struggles. Taken care of me when our entire staff was struck down with RSV one summer. They’ve both taught me how to love on children. On people. How to teach and lead and speak from a place of honesty and love. How to be discipled and how to disciple others.

And as we sat there eating pizza and discussing the theme and potential directions for the curriculum, all I could think about was how humbled I felt. How unprepared and undeserving and honestly how little I actually knew about writing any sort of study curriculum. I thought about the children—over 2000 of them that would soak in the lessons I’d prepare. And honestly, I got really afraid. Really insecure and overwhelmed. But also, there was such extreme joy being able to reflect upon a beautiful orchestration. God had paved a way—prepared my heart for the moment when I needed to say “yes.” Needed to agree to more than what I thought I was skilled to do.

I’m learning that so much of being brave is actually just being willing to say “yes.” It’s preparing your heart to be open to the Lord’s tasks when he prepares them and presents them in front of you. It’s not always somewhere you need to go. Sometimes it’s staying still long enough to hear his beckoning.

And I’m learning that when God encourages us in these ways– we need to share them. Because God is truly great. In every sense of the word. And his greatness deserves to be known.

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