On the first day of the year I tend to feel relatively reflective. Especially this year with the nature of 2020. I think the challenges we’ve all been walking can cause us to dread the future, or long for it.
But I’ve found for myself that the simple joy of living comes from two places. Number one, my comfort rests in my salvation in Jesus Christ:
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NKJV
Second, my joy comes in remembering the blessings and the great stories from my family and my life - memories from yesterday, and memories from the distant past. I think of wrestling in the living room with my brother. I think of the family Christmas traditions and Thanksgivings where we ate way too much pie and played Monopoly well into the early morning hours. I think about the people I love who are no longer with us on earth.
I remember the trips we took and fish we caught and the hikes we went on. And I treasure the steady rhythm of the year marked with specific seasons: Winter Christmas tree hunting, Spring livestock being born, Summer camping trips, and Fall hunts. It puts a smile on my face just thinking of it! And 2020 had many of those things even in the midst of all the weird stuff that took place.
Sometimes we have to look backward in gratitude before we can look forward in anticipation and expectation.
The past several weeks I have been working on a piece of artwork that means a lot to me personally. You know I love to draw wildlife and my favorite animal is the Mule Deer. I’ve drawn many of them including the famous Buck Norris. But my love of mule deer started when I was three years old.
The year was 1986 and I went with my dad to see my grandparents while he tried to fill his fall buck tag. I had asked dad as we headed out, “what do you call a great big buck?” He was preparing to hike the same hills he did as a kid. He thought about my question for a minute. “He’s called a Granddaddy Grandpa buck”, he said, trying to come up with something reasonable to tell a small boy.
While dad and grandpa were out, my grandma told me if grandpa and daddy pulled the truck in to the field and drove up to the apple tree in the back by the barn, they had a buck to skin. She had me convinced they would be successful and I watched out the window all day. Sure enough, mid afternoon they pulled in to the field and drove slowly up to the apple tree. My little legs ran to them as fast as they could go and I arrived just in time for them to lower the tailgate. My eyes grew wide as I saw the largest rack of antlers I had ever seen. “Dad, is that a granddaddy grandpa buck?” I asked in wonder.
“Yes he is”, dad said with a knowing grin.
All growing up, my brother and I called this deer “Sam the buck”. I don’t know where the name came from or why we called him that. That was just his name. He was the buck of a lifetime and to this day my dad, brother and I stand in my dad’s trophy room from time to time with our arms crossed, staring up at that giant deer that scored over 200 inches, and tell the story again and again.
He is an Oregon Treasure. And bucks like this are one of Oregon’s best kept secret. I‘ve decided not to let anyone tell me there’s not big bucks in Oregon! We just have to work hard to find them.
So it’s stories like this that ground me in gratitude. They remind me there are always good times to come. Your today will become your memory tomorrow. Will it be a memory you can smile at?
Sometimes we go through things that we can’t smile about. But it is certain that God never wastes anything. He will bring beauty from ashes. If you’re going through something difficult, know you can turn to Him, count every blessing, and receive your hope back. Receive Jesus - He’s waiting. You will have struggles in life, but this life is temporary. We can look backward and see His faithfulness. And we can look forward in hope. We have eternity to look forward to.
So why does a wildlife artist share this with you? Because art has a way of sealing those memories and centering us back to our foundation. I know this drawing is 34 years of memories in the making - one giant buck, a sunlit fall afternoon, grandparents who are in heaven now, and a dad who’s eyes still sparkle when we tell the story of the wonder on a little boy’s face when he glimpsed the giant buck of a lifetime. So here is my attempt at commemorating a story that makes me smile and reminds me that life is good and it’s a gift in every way. This is my brand new drawing, “Oregon Treasure”:
This is why I love to hang artwork on the wall. I hope my memories and passion can help you capture the same feeling and look up in expectation instead of head hung down in despair. One thing is for certain - peace is still available. It is found in the person of Jesus. And it is found in the untouched beauty of the wild that He has created for us to enjoy.
Much love and hope to you in 2021! It is an honor to have you as a part of my extended family. And if there’s any way I can serve you with a wildlife scene that can help center you to the goodness that is still all around, please let me know. It would be an honor to connect with you!
Happy New Year!