Ever wonder if God has a grand design for your life? I know I do. I often wonder (especially during rough times) what the plan is. I’m learning to trust the details to God and wait to see his design.
Saying Yes When I Want to Say No
‘Dear Mrs. Ojeda,’ the letter started. ‘Our group noticed on your resumé that you enjoy birds and other animals. We think you should teach a class on animal tracking (and maybe birds) at Grand Canyon National Park for outdoor school.’
I laughed and gulped a bit when I read the students’ letter. Animal tracking? Me? I had no idea how they determined from my resume I would have any qualifications for teaching them how to track animals. But when a group of students writes a sweet letter (even if an assignment prompted the writing of the letter), I can’t refuse.
‘Dear_______,’ I wrote back, ‘I would love to teach a class on animal tracking (and maybe birds) at Outdoor School.’
Finding the time to learn more about animal tracking while preparing to take 40 teenagers camping for a week would prove challenging. As I prepared the database for student planners, I struggled to come up with three objectives that fit the theme of ‘Grand Design’ for my animal tracking class.
While packing supplies for my other classes, I mulled over what I knew about animal tracking. I worried about how to fill three and a half hours of class with the tiny amount of information. As I packed gear for leading another group on an extreme hike from rim to rim, I launched a few prayers heavenward. Prayers for safety on the hikes and prayers for teaching classes I felt ill-equipped to teach.
Who Pooped in the Park?
Before I knew it, I stood in front of nine eager students, all waiting for me to teach them how to track animals. “First of all,” I explained, “I don’t know a lot about animal tracking.” A groan went around the picnic table. “All I know, I’ve learned from books.” I held up a picture book. “So we’ll start by reading a book together and see what we can learn together about tracking animals.” They nodded their heads, looking less disappointed.
“Who Pooped in the Park?” I read the title out loud. The boys laughed and the girls shook their heads in disgust. By the time I finished the story, I felt better about teaching the class. “Let’s go see if we can find some scat,” I said.
“I saw some after breakfast,” a student told me.
“Take us to the scat,” I said, “and we’ll figure out which animal left it there.” Before long, we gathered around a pile of scat and entered into a discussion on how you could tell what a deer ate, and which season they had left the scat.
“What animal left these tracks?” another wondered. “Look at the trail of tracks leading into the forest.” We gathered around and compared the tracks to the illustrations in the book.
“Those are definitely elk tracks,” one of the girls said.
A lonely bugle note startled us.
“Yep. Definitely an elk,” I said, pointing to a majestic elk walking through the forest less than a hundred yards away. We watched in awe as he lifted his head and called out again.
“If you count the tines on his antlers, you can get a rough idea of his age,” I said.
“I see nine on one side and eight on the other,” one of the boys with binoculars said.
“That means he’s probably about nine or ten years old. Did you know they lose their antler at the start of each winter and grow new ones in the spring?”
“Really? Why?” a girl asked.
The Grand Design
“Another good question,” I said. “Why do you guys think elk lose their antlers in the winter?”
“They probably weigh a lot,” one of the boys said.
“True,” I said. “I’ve heard they weigh almost 20 pounds each—that’s 40 extra pounds they’d have to carry around.”
“Yeah,” another student chimed in, “they probably don’t need that extra weight when they’re trying to survive and it’s snowy.”
“Another good point,” I said. “I’m always amazed at how God designed animals. He gives them what they need, just when they need it.”
As I said those words, I realized their truth in my life, too. Although I hadn’t had time to prepare extensively for a class in animal tracking, I had found a book at the last minute. Even though I didn’t feel confident about teaching a subject I knew little about for almost four hours, the time flew by as we wandered around the forest looking at scat, tracks, and animals.
I might not always understand God’s design and plan in my life, but time after time, I’ve discovered he always provides what I need, just when I need it.
Taste and See
In a world that teaches evolution as fact and creation as fiction, we hope to instill a sense of wonder and appreciation for God’s grand design in our students. A God who designed elk to shed their extra antler weight in winter can help us shed the baggage we carry around, too.
The God who designed the seasons and provided the means for animals to survive and thrive despite the changes can help me survive and thrive despite the changing seasons in my life.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalms 34:8
How have you seen God’s grand design in your life?