John Wesley Braxton fought off a shiver in the cool morning air. Carrying his prized musket, he hurried after Pa stealthily moving through the thick woods at a confident, yet cautious pace.
John Wesley’s excitement pushed back sleep and fatigue. Today was his thirteenth birthday and to note this special day, Pa had uncharacteristically declared a holiday from farm work.
He had hunted with Pa on many occasions before, but today Pa had a mysterious gleam in his eye that he could not quite decipher. They had left the cabin in the pre-dawn stillness and only now was light beginning to outline the towering trees. John Wesley recognized their path was leading to the Mount.
The Mount was an outlook point offering a spectacular view of the valley far below. Standing near the edge, they could see a column of smoke emitting from the chimney of their own homestead; Ma was up and about fixing breakfast for the younger ones.
Pa settled down on a log that Grandpa had cut down and placed there many years ago. The mount might be an ordinary outlook, but to the Braxtons, it was church. From this serene vantage, one could readily see the wonder of all that God had created.
They enjoyed the silence for a long while. Pa rose and spoke without turning around, his voice jaggedly cutting through the stillness. “Son, you’re thirteen today,” he began with an unaccustomed awkwardness. “I guess I don’t say it much… well, maybe I ain’t ever said it all, but the truth is, I’m proud to be your Pa.”
John Wesley’s eyes grew large, but he held silent.
“You’re becoming a man, and I don’t know that I’ve taught you everything you need to know. That’s why I’ve brought you here.”
Reacting to his Pa’s outstretched hand, John Wesley obediently came to his father side. Placing a hand warmly on his son’s shoulder, Pa pointed with the other out toward the farm. “Son, farming is hard work. You know it. Maybe someday, you’ll take over this farm as your own, and maybe you’ll head out to find another place in the world. There’s still plenty of time to think on that. My little brother, your Uncle Daniel, left when you were still little. All this time, I don’t even know if he’s alive or dead. Your Grandma prays for him every day as I reckon you well know. And, well--I do too, I guess.”
“But that’s not what I want to be telling you. I brought you here because from here, you can see the world… and you can see how small you are in it. Farming is hard to be sure, but in doing it, I’ve learned to place my trust completely in God. Son, I can plant the seeds, but I can’t make ‘em grow and I can’t make it rain. I can’t protect the little sprouts from an early frost. All what I’m saying is that God says to trust Him and lay our cares on Him. That’s really the only thing you need to know.”
“My Pa loved this place the first time he laid eyes on it. And the first thing he did was create this ‘church.’ Now it’s not like a church as you’ll find down in Whitewater, but we came here every Sunday to worship just as we do now. Pa had lots of plans to build up the farm, but sometimes a man don’t get to plan all his days. I was just a year older than you are now when he died. I had to take up the farm and help care for Mary Helen and Emma Sue and little Daniel. Now my sisters are raising their own young ‘uns and Daniel… well, I just don’t know.”
“After your Grandpa died, my Ma and me did the best we could; and every night, once everyone else was asleep, I would hear her, on her knees in front of the fireplace, praying for all she was worth. She’d pray, ‘God I don’t know where we’ll find food for tomorrow, but I trust you. You provided manna from heaven and water from a rock; I know you will take care of us.’”
A tear trailed down Pa’s face as he rested again on Grandpa’s homemade pew. “Son, he always did.”
John Wesley took a long, lingering look at the valley. He recognized that Pa had given him a priceless gift today… a gift of faith.
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