"Faith is a muscle. It grows in the face of struggle."
I'm familiar with waiting, but didn't recognize eclipsed hallelujahs ... until now.
There are Hallelujahs sprinkled throughout life's journey, blessings that cause your heart to spontaneously pour out a shout of praise. A smile creeps across your face, giving evidence of an inexplainable, unexpected joy. In these moments, the only appropriate response seems to be a shout of Hallelujah. Sometimes it is inaudible. Sometimes it is through tears. Sometimes it is a song. However, when joy is realized it is unstoppable -- no matter the response.
The tragedy is when joy is unrecognized. How does that happen? I think we are unaware of eclipsed hallelujahs in life. A shadow casts itself across our hearts, obstructing the joy from shining through. We get trapped in busyness, life, loss or even tucked-away hope. Although at times the hallelujah is simply waiting to be released. Its reality isn't diminished, it is only hidden, waiting for the appropriate time to shine.
Laying on an ultrasound table staring up at an empty womb, patiently waiting for the tech to take pictures in order to analyze where the pain was coming from, rips at the heart of someone familiar with the word infertility. The pain buried deep in the heart threatens to be greater than the possible disease. Good news comes - no cancer. Bad news follows - "no wonder you never were able to get pregnant. Your ovaries are severely polycystic."
Hunting season easily becomes an oasis that quenches unrealized hope. In truth, hope was long released some time ago, giving way to the reality of filling time with endless hunting adventures that consisted primarily of a party of two. It's easy to get lost, find life lessons and bring home lasting memories after spending time in the wonderful wilderness of nature. So Troy and I continue on, dreaming of the next adventure, just me and him.
Autumn air has a way of filling a hunter's lungs with new hope. The crispness of a cool morning, causes breath to expel leaving a trail of fog floating away almost unseen if not for the truck's headlights. A quick run-down of supplies is made, checking to make sure the important necessities are packed for the morning hunt.
Bow - check; Release - check; Headlamp - check; Snacks - check; Safety harness - check, etc.
The soft crunch of frost laden grass announces the hunter's arrival. Darkness blankets the early morning hours, providing a shield to both prey and hunter. As I sit alone in thought, the veil slowly lifts as Dawn makes her appearance and daylight breaks through. The stage comes alive as each woodland creature plays a part. The birds bring a song. The pheasant's cackle announce distance movement. A Tom responds from his roost. The rustle of leaves reveal a bushy tail. The hunter watches and waits for a cue to reach for her bow. The right cue doesn't always come, but the hunt is never wasted. In the lifting of darkness this morning, the hunter is reminded of unexpected joy that has broken though. A soft hallelujah from the heart pours out.
Rewind to a little past a month ago, during elk season. Elk is my unicorn. Each year, I'm hopeful that my first archery bull will be taken. Each year, as the season comes to an end, I am left looking forward to next year. This year was no exception. However, something was different this year. After helping to pack out two elk, my appetite had increased more than expected. I even complained about getting out of my sleeping bag in the morning because my stomach muscles hurt so bad. Age is blamed for taking a toll on my hunting aspirations.
Upon returning home, the truth for the orange juice and potato chip feasts came to light. Staring at two straight lines where previously one always appeared, had me repeating over and over, "What? Really? What?" After years of wearing the label of childless, I was now the proud owner of a new title ... mom. An hallelujah slipped out. The eclipse dissipated in an instant, stripping away the infertile title. Pure Joy!
Fast forward back to whitetail season - Sunday, November 6th.
Sitting alone again in a tree stand, I let the beauty of the woods wash over me. It's been an eventful day already. Troy spotted a huge muley at first light and Evan made quick work of a spot & stalk hunt. I welcomed a quick break to help with the recovery and picture taking. Turns out, all I was allowed to do is take pictures ... being pregnant for the first time has already prompted caution from the Hubs.
My reflections of the day's events are interrupted by movement across the meadow. A shift in weather has the deer moving early tonight. A solid eight point buck is making his way down the tree line and has me studying him closely. He's young. I resolve to not reach for my bow and settle in to enjoy the show. At thirty yards, he stops and surveys the woods for a solid five minutes. I'm getting irritated slightly since I decided to give my bladder a break before 5pm. It is approaching 4:30pm. He now seems relaxed and I wait for him to move on so I can climb on down undetected. I'm not that lucky ... he decides to bed twenty yards from my stand, looking out to the field where Vapple attractant was put down the day before, as if guarding his prize. What?! For thirty minutes I watch and patiently wait for him to move. Finally he ventures on, letting the woods envelop him up, safely out of my arrow's reach.
As daylight begins to fade into the golden hour, the woods come alive. A rattling sequence brings in a few smaller bucks and I'm hopeful that a shooter buck will make an appearance tonight. I resolve to rattle again thirty minutes before last light. A big bodied deer appears on the distant edge of the meadow before me. I reach for my binoculars which confirms it is a buck and he is a shooter! I allow myself to quickly glance at his antlers and see multiple points and mass, indicating it is time to reach for my bow. As he makes his way directly towards me down the tree line, he stops briefly to check a scrape. If he continues down and cuts to my left, I have a clear open shot. If he cuts into the tree line, I may have a chance as he steps into a small clearing but I'll need to take the shot standing up. With my Hoyt Carbon Spyder now in my hands, I know that I need to slowly stand up to be ready. The buck is closing in and at twenty yards stops, cuts to the right into the trees and I find myself drawing back as he crosses the biggest tree. One more step and he is walking into the clearing at ten yards. At full draw, I see fur through my peep, make the most awful grunt sound which somehow works to stop the buck in his tracks. Settling my pin on vitals, hugging tight to his shoulder due to a slightly quartering to me shot, I watch my arrow find its mark. The buck bolts into the open meadow and I watch massive antlers disappear over the hill fifty yards away. He never appears again.
The heavy mist hanging in the air slowly turns to rain and I offer up a prayer of thankfulness. I hear myself calling Troy as if in a dream, and the words pour out, "I just shot a BIG buck. Can you come help me?" They are just finishing hanging Evan's buck and I can hear the excitement of them getting to help with another buck. What a day!
After waiting a while in the stand, darkness and rain begin to fall over me. Climbing out of the stand, I make my way out of the woods to get out of the rain and wait in the truck for the guys to arrive. Nervous about not actually seeing or hearing my buck go down, I opt to wait for the guys before attempting to trail him, hoping it's the right decision with the possibility of a blood trail getting washed away.
With headlamps lighting the way, the three of us crest the hill where my buck disappeared. As Troy reaches the top, he's the first to say, "I see white belly!" My buck had only run about 70 yards and expired quickly.
As I reflect back over the last several months, I can honestly say that moments of joy have shined through at just the right times. Yah, I may have complained about not getting my elk this year, but God is faithful in supplying our needs. *We didn't need two elk in our freezer. It is full now with just the right amount of meat to get us through feeding us for another winter - or two. It's possible that this baby may slow us down next year during hunting season. We'll see.
I don't have answers for why God chooses to delay joy at times, but I do know that his timing is perfect. It's hard in the waiting but I've heard recently that "Faith is a muscle. It grows in the face of struggle." Beloved reader, there's truth in that. Whatever you are waiting on, struggling with or hoping for, remember that at some point, a hallelujah will break out. Will you recognize it and rejoice in it?
P.s., I think I'll name my buck this year ... "Hal"
*Wait until you hear the story of Troy's elk. Coming soon!
From the Draw
A website devoted to sharing bowhunting stories. From the draw in the mountains to the draw on paper, the moments live on.