'For a long time now, Ive been trying' to figure out this ole rigamarole...' (one of my favorite Chris LeDoux lines), that rigamarole being how to bond and connect with my girls. They were locked into 'Girl Meets World' and Taylor Swift. In case you didn't catch it, I'm a Chris LeDoux fan. He would roll over in his grave if he was stuck in a "Taylor Swift, Girl Meets World"... world. Then add to that Youtube, bloggers, and Apps, and I was lost, and beat. I had been robbed of too much of the influence over my children.
Maybe I wasn't assertive enough. Maybe I should have put my foot down. Maybe this... maybe that... Maybe, the Lord was leading me down a path, because one day... and for a story for another day... I bought a kayak. Not for the girls, but for me. I paddled. And paddled. And like Forrest Gump, I just 'kept on going' until one day... one of the girls wanted to go with me. And we paddled. And paddled. And now we have several kayaks and a fleet of paddle boards. But, make no mistake about it, we are not experts.
To channel Yoda, 'Expert, I am not.' I am not one of those guys... you know... I call them 'intimidators.' Too often, they either intentionally or by accident, intimidate us from doing or trying things in life. Unfortunately, that means we sometimes don't try those 'things' with our kids. I am intimidated by the guy in the muscle shirt with the six pack abs. Mainly because he makes me look fat and out of shape... well, um... maybe its not so much that he makes me look that way, as it is that standing beside him would make it obvious that I am fat and out of shape. I am also intimidated by the survival guy on television that walks through the desert for three days, eats dried rat turds for supper and drinks his own urine. Why? Why? Why? I am also intimidated by the thru hiker who works and trains hard to span the Appalachian Trial and I am equally intimidated by the folks that climb Mount Everest, or most anything over about 45 feet. Truth is, most everyone can suffer from some form of intimidation... and it is a natural emotion. Trouble is, the devil can and will use intimidation to keep us from trying.
My dad was not an outdoorsman. The only time I ever remember going camping, my cousin Jim took me. My dad took me dove hunting a few times, and we went on a charter deep sea fishing trip a time or two, but there was never much about the outdoors in our relationship. No, this isn't some 'my daddy didn't love me comment'... I am making a point: I was not raised to be an outdoorsman. Fact is, I am a regular guy, who happens to kayak across the Everglades and cross the Mobile River Delta with his daughters. My dad didn't teach me how to do those things... that was not our relationship.
The more I paddled with the girls, the more I realized I was regaining some of my influence over them. Tapanga and T Swift couldn't fit on the boat, so they never got to go with us! Then, the Lord started working on me. He opened my eyes to see that I could use the natural media he provides.... nature's interweb.... the great outdoors, as common ground with my girls. But, I was scared. I'd never camped much. I'd never cooked over a fire. I wasn't even sure I could build a fire without 6 gallons of gasoline and three Sunday papers. I was full of doubt, intimidated by those television guys who jump from helicopters onto a glacier and spend 3 months living off two wheat thins and yellow snow, and their six pack abs. 'Nope... I'm sorry God, but that ain't me", I silently refused his lead.
Thankfully, he never gave up on me. He won't give up on you either... ever. "He will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6. You see, He opened my eyes and made me realize that my girls had never been camping either. I could spend three hours setting up a tent and have two poles and 7 stakes left over, and tell them I was a master tent builder... and they would know no better. I could serve them blackened ground beef (as in, burnt) and call it 'Camp Fire Rock Meat" and they wouldn't know that I was no Emeril. You see, they have nothing to compare me to. As it turns out, my intimidation was really nothing more than selfish pride. And God told me to set it aside. "One's pride will bring him low." Proverbs 29:23. You see, I was pridefully low, in that I thought I could never measure up to my girl's expectations. Truth is, I was already failing to meet them. They wanted a daddy who would engage them. I was slowly withdrawing because I was intimidated by T Swift and all her friends. God set me straight.
And so it began... our first few trips were simple and easy. We tore plenty of stuff up. Got too cold... got too hot. Set a few things on fire. Burnt lots of food and stepped in an ant bed or two. But, we smiled and laughed the whole way through it, and we have some great stories. Now, we are a little more adventurous and a little more experienced, but we are still not experts. We are not intimidators, either. We are just a father and three girls who want to fellowship together and find common ground in God's great outdoors.
And so now I feel burdened to help other men and women do the same with their kids. We must regain the influence we've lost to modern distractions. I don't command my kids to put down the iPod. I take them to a place where it won't work because there is no electricity... that is half the battle won. The other half comes with a lot of help from the good Lord, and some good practical advice from some of my buddies. So, through this forum... Shepherding Outdoors, I want to encourage you to get outside with your kids. Regain your God ordained influence in your kids life. "Teach them the way they should go." Proverbs 22:6. And don't be intimidated.... if we can do it, you can too. Along the way we want to share our stories, and we want you to share yours too. We'll post some helpful hints and some good tips too, but the journey is the important part. Post pics, leave comments and spread the word... but most of all, seize what is rightfully meant to be yours, and influence your kids to the exclusion of pop culture! Values, morals, life lesson and faith are not dead... as long as you teach them! Share your story. Someone will be affected by it. I hope you are touched by ours.
God bless... now let's go, shepherding outdoors.
Hannah and I were married in 1998 at The Cottle House Bed and Breakfast in Andalusia, Alabama. Our wedding was the first event ever to be held at The Cottle House... her father, George, once offered to write us a check if we would simply go to the Probate Judge and marry. I doubt he actually meant it... and while I've never watched our wedding video and I only remember a few of the things we ate... the memories are still priceless. I'm glad we didn't take him up on his offer.
Our courtship, and "The Early Years" of our marriage are chronicled in various stories published here, there and everywhere. As are the many accounts of adventures we've shared with our children: Bay, Cape and Banks. How did they get their names? Well... there is a story about that too. You'll come across it sooner or later. I hope you enjoy it... and many others to come.
I post content here on this website and on FB and Instagram at Shepherding Outdoors. We also have a Youtube Channel by the same name. Come on and go with us, as we go shepherding outdoors...