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Reflections from a Tree-stand

As I sit here in the peaceful mountains of West Virginia on a picturesque crisp, clear, 20 degree morning, I am once again reminded of the incredible beauty, majesty, power, and goodness of God. Once again, like most every morning in deer season for the last 40 years, begins with relaxing in my perch amongst the trees well before sunrise. Slowly light and color rises above the mountain tops and the mysterious world around me slowly begins to appear and take life. The woods comes alive as birds sing, crows caw, turkeys yelp, coyotes yip, deer bleat, and squirrels scold. Every morning is filled with anticipation and dreams of a trophy buck slipping through the trees and your crosshairs coming to find their mark. Each noise and movement cause our hearts to jump and beat out of our chests. Every deer we see is just as exciting as the first and it never gets old and boring. The memories are priceless and each day brings a new experience and increased learning. Some days follow the script but most days bring surprises and catch us unaware. In a moment our fortunes and emotions can turn, change, and switch as nature is unpredictable and uncontrollable.

Our lives are similar coming with big dreams, high expectations, and they seldom go as we anticipate. Major life events such as graduation, marriage, and the birth of a child bring large and maybe unrealistic ideals and expectations. We have our “big” ideas and lives planned out but each day can remind us how little we have control of, as we get somethings right and many other things wrong. Our expectations in the morning are often different than the reality sunset brings , but the lessons and memories last a lifetime

As a parent we want our children to experience the best things in life. For me that meant that one of the greatest experiences and blessings I could give and experience with my child was to take them hunting. We created many memories but I soon found out that my dreams and hobbies were different than there’s I was driven, a perfectionist, and maybe those high expectations made the experiences less enjoyable. Needless to say I think we all do that in a well meaning way. We want our children to succeed but how do we define success? In hunting that varies greatly. To some hunters being successful means getting the largest buck or one that fits a certain criteria. For another it may mean just harvesting an animal or the experience alone, being with friends etc. we make the mistake of putting the same criteria for success on each other as each is unique. Even though my children no longer want to hunt ( I don’t get it) I need to embrace their dreams and who they are rather than trying to make them in my image, suffocating them.

During the course of our West Virginia adventures my friend and I recruited another buddy who was just as nuts as us to join the annual tradition of our

WV expeditions. We had many years of great experiences, friendships , and success, but honestly the best part was just being together. We were each different and unique but instead of trying to change each other we just found humor in our differences and in our idiosyncrasies. One day that relationship ended and we couldn’t go back and change the past. Our longtime partner and dear friend had moved on to better hunting grounds in eternity. I look over right now, at this very moment and I can see his treestand Often I come and reminisce, creating traditions to honor his memory and life. When you find yourself in a place that you can’t go back there are memories you hold as priceless and there are also regrets. For me being able to take my friend on his last WV hunting trip and assist him in getting his final 3 WV deer was a priceless experience and memory. As I sit here remembering I can’t help but shed many tears. Tears of gratitude but also tears for his wife and 2 daughters who were left with lifelong wounds that were bigger than I could have ever imagined. Life often seems cruel and unfair, I surely don’t have the answers. What is important and what matters? How can we love our families and guide them in our imperfections?

Proverbs 24:3 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."

As parents I believe guarding our children's heart is the most important task we have been given. I know this verse seems to be referring to us personally as individuals to guard our heart but I believe the concept remains the same for us as parents as scripture would affirm. Our job is to keep the what is good inside our child’s heart and to continue to pour truth and affirmation in. There was so much about a child that Jesus loved and valued and often reminded us of the importance of being as a child. We have the unique responsibility and privilege of building up their hearts so good flows out as a natural response. It is not making a child in our image or as we like but in the image of Christ and in the unique attributes he gave them. We need to be present in their lives and affirm them for who God created them to be. To love them and show them that value has little to do with accomplishments, accolades, performance, getting good grades, being the best athlete, winning every race, but in finding their uniqueness and living free as Jesus designed them.

Often we feel, especially as fathers, that being a good parent is providing material things, like wealth, a nice house, plenty of food, etc. as a result we work ourselves to death and are not present in their lives. Children just want us to be with them, affirming them and their value, teaching them Truth. Isn’t that why Jesus became a human, so He could be with us? I see that as what a child and really all of us want. Someone to be with them, present, not just giving them stuff, telling them what to do , but to walk with them. Being a parent and loving as Jesus taught and modeled takes sacrifice and presence. It’s not a hallmark card or something we say or trying to change someone but walking with them, side by side. Not always something you say but something others can feel, that you are with them regardless. That may be what I learned and loved most about hunting with my buddies. We all come to a point where our opportunities are gone or become limited. As a parent this can be the hardest season of life, seeing your child make hard choices and there is little you can do. In reality this may be your most important time of influence as you can love them unconditionally, accept them where they are so they know that wherever they go you are going along. You may not agree, can do little to change their minds but you want to be with them.

This week I am grateful as I reflect on thanksgiving that God came down and became flesh in Jesus so He could walk with me. I need His presence every moment. It is why every morning comes with anticipation and why every night , regardless the outcome ,it was a good day walking with Jesus. I still have 2 empty deer tags in my pocket but that could change any second, just like life. This is the day the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!

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