Finding Rest in the Middle of a Desert

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23)

It has been a hot minute since we started our journey to living in a tent. The Lord truly has been our Shepherd, guiding us and showing us the way. Little did we know that we would be led in the desert, in Death Valley of all places! As it says in this passage, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Sam and I have felt nothing but peace since being here, neither of us are fearful. Isn’t that strange? We are not fearful of what may come because His rod and His staff have given us comfort.

When we first arrived in Pahrump, NV, we had to find a spot to set up camp and then put the tent together. This took us the entire afternoon in the blazing heat. The tent was fairly easy to set up and the instructions were not hard, but with each step, we had to drop what we were doing just to walk back and see what the next step was. It was very time-consuming and the most frustrating part, doing something we were unfamiliar with in the heat. I am sure it will not take so long next time. We then had to get organized and make it feel like this is home. We were exhausted from our journey and just wanted to crash. All I wanted was a shower and sleep. Not necessarily in that order.

Once we got our camp settled and organized, we struggled to figure out what to do next. We looked at each other and said “Now what?” For the first time, we did not have an agenda nor a growing list of to-do’s that we needed to keep up with. It is a very strange feeling to not have anything going on. We are used to waking up to get ready for the day, be responsible adults and go to work. We typically work 8 to 12 hours out of the day, by the end of our shift, we are so tired all we want is to go home and change into something comfortable. But the bills are paid, the light is on, and the water is running. We sit down and think “Will I ever get a vacation?” Only to repeat again tomorrow. I’m sure you can relate.

It took a few days for us to get a routine established. Our day typically starts at 6 am, we unzip the tent to let the breeze in, and then bring out all of our solar powered lanterns outside to sit in the sun all day. Next rule of order is to make coffee, do our devotions, and read together. By the time we are finished, it is about 9 am and the heat of the day is already upon us, with the rest of the afternoon to do what we want. Sam might catch up on the news while I tend to the laundry or the dishes. Life has suddenly gotten very slow around here. After a week of living like this, I’ve learned that we are in a season of rest. My idea of resting would not be in the desert! If I had a choice, I’d choose a spot in the middle of the woods next to a stream with plenty of shade. Kinda like in the Psalm 23.

It’s funny how God will use a desolate, remote area to still and silence us. When I think of being in the desert, I think of hopelessness and desolation. Life does not spring from the desert. It’s hot, dry, dusty, no water source and not much happens. When I think of living in the desert, I don’t get very excited, I’ll be honest. When we first got here, we met a lady who LOVES the desert and loves searching for rocks. I had never met anyone who loved the desert so much. I decided to try to see things with a different perspective.

With this change in perspective, although it’s hot, dry, and dusty, I couldn’t help but notice the mountains surrounding us. They are so majestic! In the early mornings of the day I see the pastel blue and purple and pink peeking over the mountains giving a nice silhouette, and the silhouette of other campsites in the distance. At night, the sky is a fluorescent color with the sun behind the mountains to the west, giving the mountains to the east a rosie shade. It is worth taking a break and staring for a while. I’ve realized this is my absolute favorite part about being in the desert. With the sky is so clear, it’s hard to miss the stars. Not too often would I look up at the sky when we lived in the city, living a busy life. It’s hard to notice the sky when there is so much light distraction. It’s been awhile since I actually paid attention to the sky or even noticed the stars.

The first night we were here, I heard the distant call of coyotes. This happens every night. Is it strange to say that I find it comforting now? When I wake up, I hear a rooster crowing in the distance. I’d never heard that before so now I know what it’s like to live on a farm. Just the other day I saw a road runner zip through our camp. The only time I’d seen a road runner was on a cartoon on Saturday mornings.
We had heard that wild horses were around this area but hadn’t seen them until one morning we were running out for breakfast. Sam looks to his left and says “Hey, there’s the wild horses! Should I pull over?” The answer was obvious. How often do you get the chance to come across wild horses in your lifetime? I honestly thought they were extinct and that all horses were domesticated.

We also met the local mice. Don’t worry, they didn’t come into our tent. They smelled what we were making one night in our vestibule and came out to maybe get some too. I haven’t seen them since. They were bigger than what I’m used to and their tails had a little poof at the end. No, they were not rats, these were mice. They reminded me of the mice in the Disney movie The Rescuers. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the wildlife around here, except the mice. They were way too comfortable sitting next to me for my liking.

I don’t think I would have really appreciated all of this if we weren’t in this position to slow down. If I was still busy, working my normal job, I would have noticed the sunset and maybe the sunrise but wouldn’t have time to really take notice and appreciate the world around me. This has given us an opportunity to really dwell in God’s presence. Sometimes throughout the day, I’ll complain to myself that it’s too hot, it’s too dusty, there’s no shade, yada yada yada. But then I ponder all the simple things I took for granted and realize that even though our situation may feel hopeless at times, God provides. I know our situation is unconventional, but God is not limited to a box and He is rich in mercy and grace.

Perhaps you feel as though you are in a desert. Maybe God is trying to slow you down too to appreciate the little things surrounding you.

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