Deer Prints of Faith
By Rhonda Howard
Our rustic 1830’s log cabin that faces a half-frozen winding river offers a welcome reprieve from the hectic city atmosphere. Sprinkled in the white powdery snow, the river birch and Nuttall oak trees surround our winter retreat like a cozy blanket. I feel good to be away from all the cares of busy middle-class life. Here my husband, the kids, and I can relax as we truly enjoy living in nature.
Hiking the mountain paths and cooking dinner on the fire rekindle family traditions that we looked forward to every year. Carey and Jacob are old enough now to spend the day in the woods with the neighbor kids, hunting for unusual nuts and photographing wildlife. As for me, it is a time to get quiet with God and listen to His plan for my life.
I gathered the firewood and stacked it high next to the stone fireplace that dominates one wall in the living room. The German cuckoo clock chirps every hour on the hour reminding me that time still moves on even in this remote place in the world. I enjoy listening to the owls hooting and the coyotes howling in the cold evening wind. The moonlight against the dark blue sky makes me think of a time when life was slower and gentle. Television, DVDs, and radios are not allowed during our two weeks in this quaint abode. I had forgotten just how good the quiet felt as my nerves settled down to a calm, harmonious peace. I think Henry David Thoreau was right in wanting to simplify and get back to the basics of living. His small cabin by Walden Pond must have seemed like paradise.
Jim and the kids walked into town to participate in the winter food festival and then ice skate on the frozen pond in the town square. Lounging in the overstuffed plaid armchair, I prayed for a while and then started my Bible lessons about faith. Hebrews 10:38 plainly states, “Now the just shall live by faith” (KJV). I wondered if I could ever get to the place where I was not tossed to and fro and governed by my senses.
As I dozed off I was abruptly awakened by the sound of the front door slamming against the wall. I jumped to my feet and turned to see what the commotion was all about. There was a figure standing in the doorway. “Go away,” I yelled, grabbing one of the logs from the bin. As my eyes started to focus, I saw that it was a deer walking through the door. “Oh my, what do you want?” I asked the sweet, beautiful creature. I was glad that she did not answer me. Amazed and confused by her presence, I thought she was very brave. As I approached her she turned and speedily ran back toward the woods. When I looked down at the snow, I saw several pairs of other animal tracks of various sizes and shapes leading to our door. The local animals must have been very curious about us.
While brewing a cup of tea I restoked the fire and sat back down in the armchair. I was certain that God had an important lesson for me to learn by witnessing the boldness of the doe. “This will be fun,” I thought as I pondered what might unfold next. Jim and the kids will be so thrilled to hear about our surprise house guest. Then I heard scampering footsteps on the porch and peeked out the window. Snow-dusted squirrels and a white furry rabbit were rustling through Jacob’s nature bag. He had left it outside on the porch not thinking that the snacks in it provided an easy meal for hungry scavengers. I watched them for a while observing their dinner manners; then I saw my doe poking her head around a tree. Fully persuaded now that she was not there by accident, I waited to see what she would do next, but I eventually closed the curtain and went to bed early.
In the morning I woke to the aroma of breakfast being cooked by my family who then served it to me in bed. “God has blessed me in more ways than I can count, by having such a loving family,” I told them. “You are special, too, Mom,” Carey said while handing me a small pine branch. “Doesn’t this smell amazing?” she asked. I agreed and suggested we put it in the living room for a natural fragrance. “I am taking the kids ice fishing today,” Jim announced. “Do you want to join us?” I explained that I planned to take a walk down the mountain. “By the way, how was your study time last evening?” he asked. I said it was great, but added that I fell asleep rather early. I decided not to tell them about my visiting doe as I wanted to see what God was going to do next. I waved them goodbye and then bundled up for my hike. As I started down the path I saw there were fresh deer prints in the snow. Looking all around I hoped to see what I consider my angel deer from last night. “She must be close,” I whispered quietly to myself. As I strolled through the snow-covered pines, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Stopping for a moment, I waited for the moving object to appear in the open. Up ahead I saw the doe poking her head around the mound of snow by a cluster of branches. “Where are you leading me?” I asked. She stood there quietly for a while, and I walked hurriedly to meet her. Unafraid, she strolled next to me for about a mile. Occasionally she looked toward me with her eyes sparkling through her frosty lashes. Then my gaze witnessed the most beautiful sight ahead of me.
Perched on the snow-covered branch just above my head were a dozen or more beautiful blue and white birds. They were all nestled against one another to keep each other warm. I wished I had my camera; they were so gorgeous and peaceful. Unfortunately, after a few minutes, they decided to fly away. I looked toward my doe in order to thank her for this wonderful gift, but she was gone. Walking a little farther down the path I felt rather cold and decided to go back to the cabin. What a blessing that my doe friend had left tracks for me to follow all the way home.
That evening I shared with Jim and the kids about my adventure and how a doe led me to the stunning cluster of birds. “Maybe she’s an angel,” Jacob said. “But what did she teach you, Mom?” I sat for a moment pondering his question, and then I realized that she taught me a practical lesson about faith. I took my Bible and turned to Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV). My special deer illustrated to me that she was close by when I saw her deer prints in the new snow. Even though I did not see her for a while, I knew she was there. I could sense her presence and be certain I would see her. Then she appeared and led me to the huddling blue and white birds, and her tracks made it easy for me to find my way home.
Faith is knowing that God is there, even though we cannot see Him, and He will lead us to the answers that are coming just around the corner. Faith is the evidence that a blessing is close by.
Rhonda Howard writes from Clarksville, Tennessee, where she tries to spend time with her family in God’s creation in order to slow down and savor the moments and blessings He gives.