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It's been a while! I assure you that Nimrod Outdoors and the Doziers have not fallen off the face of the earth. Well, some days it feels like we have, but really, we’ve just been wandering in the desert.

Although we often see the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert as a negative thing, Romans 8:28 reminds us that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Sometimes God places us in the desert because it draws us away from the rest of the world and makes us more reliant on Him. 2023 has been a challenging year but the growth and lessons received have made the desert a place of sanctuary rather than a place of abandonment. So, what lessons have I learned this year (and still learning) that I can pass onto you?

Well, first, let me give you a quick catch-up and hang-on, because this is going to be a lot crammed into a paragraph! In 2019, God called our family to Elberton, Georgia to pursue full-time ministry in what we thought would be Nimrod Outdoors. We completely remodeled our master bedroom and garage so that we could host men, families, pastors and missionaries and do the ministry of Nimrod Outdoors right there from our own home. Thanks to Covid, it created a huge delay and also pushed M.A. and I to do 90% of the remodel on our own… but thanks to Covid, it was all completed debt free because the construction was delayed just enough that we could fundraise for each project as we went! In 2022, we hosted an insane number of events and trips while M.A. worked a full-time job, and we released his book, The Hands of a Warrior. I was blessed, after 8 years of running Nimrod Outdoors administratively, to begin earning a small compensation, but M.A. still does not get paid and it certainly is not enough to live on. 2022 was a big year because M.A.'s parents also purchased 60 acres in Franklin County, Georgia. At this time, we began to make plans to build our home on a small portion of the acreage while his family would be building a beautiful lodge for the use of ministering to others. Y'all, they sold their home of 40+ years to pursue a place of ministry! Along with other ministry opportunities his parents plan to do at North Fork Sanctuary (the property), Nimrod Outdoors will be able to utilize some of the space for our events as well. In the spring of 2023, we hosted our last Nimrod events and placed a for sale sign in the yard of our beautiful, 1910 farmhouse. A series of events also led us away from the church we were at since moving to Elberton which amid all that, God orchestrated this incredible job opportunity as a youth pastor at a church literally just miles from the property we purchased. And that brings us to our exile. Our house sold and we said goodbye to our amazing neighbors, our chickens, our pig, and our home. We sold a good portion of what we owned and packed the rest into two enclosed trailers and set on our way, each with a suitcase in hand, a box of toys, and a few other things. We moved into my in-laws in Cumming, Georgia while we awaited the completion of the parsonage. Oh, yes! The parsonage.... Liberty Baptist Church, our new church, has a parsonage that is being remodeled and we will get to live in it until our home on the property it complete. What a blessing! It was supposed to be ready in August... then September... then October... well, basically, it is now December and praise God because it looks like we will get to move into this month! So, basically, we moved to Cumming with expectations of being in a house within a month, to end up in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, kitchen-less basement for what started off as a week and ended up being months.

People are created to nest. We desire our own space to make our own; a place of safety and security. And we were lacking that. We’ve been living out of suitcases. Sure, we weren’t living on the streets, but having to claim someone else’s space and their stuff as your own is hard. I craved a kitchen to prepare food in. My husband desired to be in a bed with his wife… but has been on a mattress on the floor due to space. Our kids have slept in beds in the middle of the rather dark basement. They often ended up in the bed with Joee and I or with M.A. on the floor because they woke up scared of the unknown shadows and noises. I often found myself wishing I could send them to their rooms. It was a tight space for 5 people and their were definitely moments we just needed our own space. We’ve been wandering in the desert.

All that to say that the hardest part of this whole experience has been our unmet expectations. But all-in-all, the experience itself has had positives! Actually, the owners of the AirBnb have been the most amazing hosts anyone could ask for! We have gained new friendships and new relationships through this experience and there have been some pretty amazing things God has taught me through it all and I hope to pass this on to you as well!

When the Israelites wandered in the desert, they did not have access to food, but God provided manna every day, including extra the day before the sabbath so they did not have to work gathering food on the sabbath. Although we don't know exactly what the manna was, we do know it was provided among the dew every morning and they were able to make cracker/bread type food from it. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, "And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." I am certainly not comparing these months to having to eat the same manna every day for 40 years, but I have never been as hungry for the Word of God as I have been these last few months. I have finally committed to reading the entire Bible and every day is rich with the taste of His word in my mouth. As I am currently wrapping up the old testament, my Bible is well warn with notes and highlights. Honestly, reading the Bible had always felt like a chore for me, but these last few months, I have found myself truly craving it, desiring it, and having a hunger for it and I prefer living off manna if that means I can be full on His truth. Maybe I needed to be taken into the desert so that I quick craving what I had access to and actually desired what He had to provide.

We also know that the trip for the Israelites leaving Egypt was not easy. God led them on a journey that would protect them from Philistine territory through a hot, barren desert that would significantly increase the time of their journey and not to mention cross an entire sea. But even through the challenges they faced as 600,000 people fled their captives, God was with them every step of the way. These last few months have not been easy by any means. Our journey ended up being notably longer than we could have imagined but through every challenge we faced, we have truly felt God with us, leading us by hand to the next place.

Next, my endurance has increased and my patience has been tested. If you have any experience with weight-lifting or working-out, you can relate to the pain I am about to describe to you. Let’s take a quick detour to freshman year at Brevard College. As a collegiate athlete, we spent many mornings on the track or in the weight room, but I will never forget the first week of pre-season training freshman year when my muscles were so sore and fatigued that I literally could not wash my hair and using the restroom was quite the adventure. I would literally have to fall onto the toilet and then longed for handicapped rails as I tried to figure out how to get back up to my feet. But each workout and each round of muscle fatigue and pain led to stronger muscles and endurance. Eventually, M.A. and his roommate nicknamed me “Guns” because, well, I had Hulk living on my rig

ht arm and Bruiser living on my left. (JK) My point is, it took pain, discomfort, and struggle to eventually provide greater strength and endurance. This is especially true with our faith. Romans 5:3-4 reminds us of this; “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Sure, we certainly cannot compare these last few months of “difficulty” to those who are truly homeless, hungry, abused, suffering loss, and many of the extremely painful trials this world can throw at us. However, 5 people with 2 dogs in a one bedroom basement, that is dark and gloomy, is certainly enough to test even the most patient of people. And through those tests, I feel stronger and closer to God than I was prior to this whole adventure starting.

Lastly, God has been whispering this word to me throughout this season of life;

contentment. Contentment is defined as a state of being where one is satisfied with their current situation. This is something that has been a huge struggle for me lately. I often found myself longing to go back to our Elberton farmhouse. I often found myself dissatisfied with our living arrangements, what was packed in the suitcase, the meals cooked repeatedly in the Instant pot, or the cold shower when I was the last one to hop in. There was a lot to feel frustrated about, especially when coming from a 2800 square foot house where everyone had their own bedrooms and plenty of space. It wasn’t until recently that I understood how the Israelites longed to go back to Egypt. Change is hard and transitions are harder, even if it is being rescued out of slavery and led into the desert. I believe discontentment is one thing the enemy uses as a tactic to draw us away from God, who is where our pleasure should be found. He is the only one that can truly satisfy us. All those things we long for and desire, even if we do achieve them, it is just a temporary fulfillment. Truth is, we can never be satisfied in the things of this earth. It is impossible. We can try to seek pleasure through our relationships, money, status, brand names, job promotions, or simply through the stuff we own. When we reach that “next” thing, we might feel happiness as we are on a high of the “new” but that high quickly fades and we are back to longing for something else. Although the battle against the enemy is ongoing, there have been moments of true peace when I sat at the feet of God with full contentment and satisfaction in being His daughter and holding dear to the promises I have rather than the situation I was in.

I am reminded of these two verses; 1 Timothy 6:6–10 says “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” And 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I am not sure we can ever fully reach contentment while the enemy is on the prowl, but I do know that there will be a day when I will be content. And it won’t be because I gained something out of this world, but rather a day when the enemy is defeated and I sit in the presence of my heavenly Father, entirely satisfied and satiated by Him and Him alone.

As I close, these days have not been easy. My God used this trial, this time of wandering in the desert, to grow me, and that alone allows me to rejoice and be thankful for everything I have experienced and everything I have, even if it is shoved in a suitcase. Sometimes God must take us to an unknown place so that we can fully experience who He is. My prayer for you is that whatever place or situation you are currently in, whether on a mountain top or in the valley, wandering in the desert or thriving in the palace, or wherever in-between, I pray that you hunger and thirst for Him. I pray you can taste the manna He has provided and feel satisfied. I pray in this season; you are still and quiet enough to feel His presence. I pray that through your pain, you build endurance and can delight in the strength you gain through it. And lastly, I pray that you can find gladness in where you are, what you have, and who you are. I pray that you can quiet the voice of the enemy and release the desires the world constantly shoves at you and find rest in the One who provides true contentment.

- Chelsea Dozier

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