Our Duck Commander

7 yrs may seem like a long time for most of you, especially if I asked you to recall what you were doing…

Richard and I laugh and look at each other confused and somewhat sadden that we know exactly where we were 7 yrs ago, most because it seems surreal.

Its hard to pinpoint the moment that we identified ourselves as parents, honestly, we still would struggle saying 7 yrs ago.  When we share stories with friends or new parents,  we always joke that we are lucky Cayden can’t remember that far back.  Really, we are.  It was hard to have a baby away from family and even though we had amazing friends who embraced our new titles, none could relate with us. 

The disruption to our social life, our sleep routines or the sudden wake up call to real life was extremely challenging. We thought we were ready to take care of someone else since we took such good care of our needs.  After Cayden’s birth we realized that we were babies, raising a baby and it was scary.

As Cayden grew his first year, so did we.  We learned, developed new skills and reach important milestones with him.  The most memorable one was getting our little guy sleeping through the night. It took a dear friend telling us that our sleep routine was in need of a big change.  Apparently stashing bedding for which ever parent lost the rock paper scissors tournament each night was a red flag.  Many nights were spent holding his hand through the crib and crawling on hands and knees while holding our breath in hopes that we would escape his room before the other parent gave up and fell asleep without us.

Our hearts ache when we recall the expectations we had for him when he was just 19 months and we were trying to figure out how to live inbetween the hospital and Ronald McDonald’s house.  He was a champ and rarely threw a fit and rolled with the punches.  He just wanted to be around his mommy and daddy and forgave the moments when we expected him to act like a 5 yr old.  He would lean in and hold us when we would rock his sick new baby sister.  It was in his second year of life that he was in the beginning stages of learning how to be who is down to the core.

Cayden is a caretaker.  He is compassionate, many times giving more of himself then a child much older would be willing to give.  Most of all Cayden affirms to us time after time that God was placing alot of trust in the little man that would make his parents understand what unfailing love and grace would mean and also the little man who would be there to help his guide his sisters through life.

 Almost every morning of spring break was met with him in the kitchen making his sisters breakfast and begging me to please let him make me coffee while I relaxed on our slow mornings.  One day while sitting on the couch nursing his baby sister I looked over my shoulder to find this sweet picture.

One Saturday morning Cayden knew his worn out parents were exhausted and trying to prolong their time in their bed, so he walked in, grabbed his baby sister and said, you guys go back to bed I have her.

At a very recent doctor appointment that required all siblings to attend, it was revealed that Ezzy was going to have to have a throat culture, something that makes her break out in a sweat and tears roll down her face.  She immediately looked down after the doctors words were uttered and after seeing his sisters fear, Cayden said “wow, Ezzy, you CFers are the braviest people I know, I could never do what you guys do”.  Her head raised, she smiled at him, turned to me with the tears sitting on the edge of her eyelids and opened wide.

To be honest friends, his heart, his kindness is something that I don’t think all came from life lessons from his parents.  We are imperfect, broken people, who struggle just like you and unfortunately make mistakes along the way.  BUT I will tell you that dedicating his life to Christ as a baby, praying specifically for him in ways that God told us to pray for absolutely developed a maturity that doesn’t reflect his age.  He knows when his mom reaches her limits and will offer help when I least expect it, let alone from him.

His recent emergency surgery to remove pieces of his ear plugs left us with a little guy that was terrified, but hid his nervous energy with silence and a somberness that left the hospital staff in awe.  When most kids would have been lashing out at a stressful event (trust me, I heard 2 other kids loosing it in the pre/post op area) he was leaning into me and asked me to pray with him.  After a mother’s prayer, that most definitely goes to the front of the line was said, I had a little man tell me he was ok because he knew “God was going with him”.

I have learned many critical lessons from the little soul that entered the world on 3-23-2008.  Some are wrapped in guilt and remorse but for the most part come in packages bursting with Joy and as I watch him discover who he is.

Driving home one day from the gym I was listening to the Moody Bible station and the topic was directed at moms with littles.  The speaker was explaining how important it is to not get wrapped up in the difficult years of childhood because those are the years we are forming the future…to understand that by the time the teen years start, our influence of parents declines.  When I added up the years until he turned 14, I realized that I had only 7 more years left with him.  I almost hyper ventilated in the car.  Shortly after Cayden told me he really wanted to go with me in the early am and teach me all that he has learned on his swim team.  Richard was shocked I was willing to get up at 5:45 am and drive us to the pool, but I told him what I had recently learned and didn’t want to miss this opportunity to respond to his heart. It will be one of my favorite memories with him because I learned from him what a patient teacher his is after he helped me work on certain strokes and flip turns.

Cayden currently spends his waking and sleeping moments dreaming of living the life of an outdoorsman.  Our dear friend Ken exposed him to the world of duck hunts and Cayden has forgotten his life before being a duck commander.
 Ken told us that we needed to return the bbb gun we got Cayden and get a .22 for him instead, since he was going to be a duck hunter for the rest of his life.  I decided that we can wait for one more year before he gets a .22 or see if he can save up by selling the furs.  Joel showed him what fun it is to take a walk, aka a marathon in the woods and run trap lines in hopes that he will have trapped a mink and ermin.
 Our son loves this life so much that his birthday party this Saturday entails him and a few of his buddies running the trap line, shooting bbbs and skinning a land otter.  I literally had to get consent from all the parents’ who’s little guys would be exposed to Cayden’s idea of fun.  He has learned to respect the land and sea and I do not doubt that he will be an abundant provider for his family.

Cayden desires his friends to know who God is, so much so that he had me call our church office to get enough invites for his entire class.
 He wanted them all to know about our church’s largest outreach event.

We couldn’t be more proud of the little man that is growing up and succeeding in life even with parents that still say “sorry dude, we are learning with you” after a time out and listening to God correct us which results in us apologizing.

My little guy is reading at a 5th grader level and he is only in first grade! I just spoke to the student teacher who helps with the science part of the day and was informed that Cayden will repeat verbatim what is explained and then demonstrate his accurate understanding of the new concept.  I know that whatever Cayden sets his sights on in life that the determination, compassion and willingness to think of others before himself will be integral to his success.

William Cayden Harney, Happy Birthday my 7 yr old!!!  Thank you for drawing us closer to our Abba father as we learn to lead you to him and also let you grow and dream in this big world!


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor bedsides God’s throne.  Think of the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up”

-Hebrews 12:1-3

I was told not to long ago that these verses were critical for me to read in regards to the kingdom work that is being called of me to do. I didn’t go to read it right away, mainly because I didn’t like that I was being challenged to lean into something really difficult.  Today I grabbed my bible and read these verses and realized why Ken was telling me to “check them out”.

As I have read posts in the last few days from his former students, basketball players, church members, fellow missionaries and friends I know that his time here on earth could be described as a marathon.  This marathon required endurance, endurance that resulted from unwavering faith.

I have been blessed to be under his leadership for the last 3 and a half years.  I didn’t realize how much of an impact he was going to have when I met him again in my adult years.  At first our relationship was just worship team members.  Then as things changed, he called me up one day and said, “ok, you want the job?” (in reference to the worship leader position being vacant).  My answer was a simple yes, without missing a beat he said “welcome to the battlefield”.

The battlefield is real, in my naiveness, I didn’t really understand what I was entering.  But like any good captain, he made sure he didn’t leave a soldier behind, let alone a new one.  There began our relationship that I hold so dear to my heart.  Even before the news of his sudden death I knew what I was to Ken, me and Ken, we were family.  I don’t have to convince myself of this, because thank goodness his stubbornness to conform to the world’s need of immediate communication led to his stone age mindset as he called it, which now allows me to pour over emails from him.  After sharing with me his heart when he was asking me to press into the difficult he would tell me “hold tight” “God is not done with you yet” “it will be another win for his kingdom” and at the end he would sign Your brother.

The kingdom, God’s kingdom is what motivated him daily.  As I read the stories people have written or the memories people have shared about him, I am encouraged that people saw a man who desired to do God’s work, no matter the weight of the calling and he did it with joy that only came from knowing this earth was not his home.

He was there when we had our ups and down with Ezzy, the scary times when we were on the cusp of going to the hospital.  He was there when we found out about our last little surprise baby.  When I was terrified of the outcome, he would always point to Ezzy and remind me that God’s hand over her life has been miraculous.  Ezzy’s story was one that he loved to share.  It was one that encouraged him to be bold in his walk and stand on the corner of jefferson and tongass holding a sign saying “choose life”.  
He asked us if we would join him, after kicking our feet,ww put aside our fear to step out and be very public of our views and joined him.  He had doughnuts in hand and a smile on his face as we stood with him.  When we made shirts for Ezzy, he was on of the first to buy one and later told me he loved wearing them on his charters during the summer because it was an open door to talk about God.

 He cared deeply for our little girl, so much that he decided to start training to run the 1/2 marathon in May for her, something that would take alot of effort since he hadn’t run anything over 2 miles since the last 1/2 marathon 2 yrs ago.  

My entry into the long distance running world only happened because he saw me running one day.  Out of the blue I received an email that said “hey your stride looks great! you should do the totem to totem” (our local 1/2 marathon).  I laughed at him, the longest I had ran was a 10k and that was my freshman year in college.  I was currently a busy mom of 3 and didn’t see it happening. After much encouragement and training, I found myself in a new relationship with him, Running mentor/coach and student. I recall one day, I was a mile out from finishing my run and he must have seen me, pulled the car over and chased me down to run and talk with me.  He wasn’t in running gear, but his excuse was “hey I haven’t run with you yet”.  Many of my early, early am runs where interrupted by a couple honks and a long arm covered in a camo jacket waving me down as it passed, he cheered me on whenever he could.  When I hit a wall on my runs and convince myself that I can walk for just a few seconds I hear him standing over me, looking me sternly in the eyes and saying “never walk! walk is a four letter word to runners, just keep moving”.  I almost gave up 2 wks before the 1/2, I was worn out and 11 miles did me in. I whined in an email to him and within an hour, I found myself on the phone being gently talked off the ledge.  I finished strong that year and I owe it to a man that believed in me and taught me some important skills that I share with other runners.

Richard and I ran with him just before he left for his recent trip.  We parked out past mountain point and ran to the federal building (6miles).  We started to harass him about his long hippie hair and he whipped his hair side to side and said “no way, I can’t even put it in a scrunchie”.  That was him, he always had a quick response and could add his humor to something.  During that run, he did what he does well, TALK…I on the other hand can’t stand talking during runs.  I was so nervous that I was going to slow him down, but he kept saying, “take the lead, you’re setting the pace”.  We talked about a few things, he again was teaching me some things about running and before I knew it I was chasing him the last .5 mile.  Afterwards I reached for my water bottle and within a few seconds it was in his hands, after a drink he said “hope you aren’t sick”.

The news is devastating, its hard to wrap my brain around it.  We spoke on the phone the day before he left and he asked me to pray for him as he got ready to be in the trenches with all the other people standing on corners, standing up for the sanctity of life.  He asked if I could get a picture of Ezzy for him, he wanted people to know about my precious little girl.

Our family has been blessed to know an amazing faithful soldier for God’s army.  The relationship we all had with him is different.  He would show up, sometimes call before he did and I would be rushing around trying to clean up the unending mess a family with littles makes.  After a few times of apologizing to him, he told me “sarah, you will ruin your ministry with other moms and wives if you try to keep up a spotless home, acting like you are perfect”.  Those words stung, but looking back, they are true aren’t they? When I was yet again apologizing for my children not fitting in the perfect little mold I desired for them he told me, “I love coming over here, if you guys had a reality TV show, I would watch it”.  His time over at our home allowed us to see the many different layers to him.  When we needed prayer, he was over late praying with us, when we needed guidance in a tough situation, he was there working it out with us, when we needed just plain fellowship, he was there sprawled out on my couch, after I of course reminded him yet again to take off his shoes 🙂

After Ya’el was born he was so excited to bring over a gift he had for her.  He gave it because it matched her namesake from the bible.  That little toy hammer is going to always be in our family.  It the moments of seeing our challenging 3 yr old test our limits, she gained a nickname from him.  Whenever he saw Kyre, he would say “hey squirt”. She would stare up at him and respond “me no squirt” with a scowl on her face.  Yet when it came time to say goodbye, you could bet she would run and wrap her arms around is legs.  Ken broke his rule of taking little guys on hunts this fall when he let Cayden join him on a duck hunt.  I was informed after by Ken that my son caught the bug and good luck.  He told me I now had a duck hunter on my hands.

Ken decided to reach out to my husband when he realized that Richard wanted to really learn how to provide for his family and gather on land and see.  Richard could not contain his excitement when they went on their duck and geese hunts. Those hunts yielded some of the best jerky.image

When the news finally sunk in the day after I realized I would no longer have our long chats, I knew I needed to grab a book and start righting down the memories or better yet the many charges he had for me to do in my ministry.  I don’t want to forget.  His time came too soon.  His life has many ripple effects, the stories are going to keep coming for days, weeks, months and years as we all start working through the shock and grief and start remembering that we too have been promised the same inheritance that Ken has received.

If you knew Ken, then you know he desperately wanted you to know WHO God is. He wanted to pull as many people from the dark and bring them into the light.  He wasn’t ashamed to take a stand and tell people the black and white, the concrete truths of God, he didn’t sugar coat things, sometimes leaving people to think he was rough around the edges at times.  Ken just wanted to advance God’s kingdom and knew time was of the essence.  If you knew him you also know his motto was “are you going to fish or cut bait?”.  I lost track of how many times he asked me if I was willing to do the difficult by saying, “sarah, what are you going to do? are you going to fish or cut bait?”.

Well Ken, I’m sorry I didn’t get to tell you that you are more then my elder, running coach, mentor, discipler, friend or brother, instead you are a Hebrews 11 man.  I know this is one of your absolute favorite chapters in the bible, because you would point me to it when it came to matters of FAITH.  As I read it yesterday I added your name to list of great examples of faith that are listed in this chapter.

I am clinging to the promise that as I carry out the tasks you asked me to do with courage, that I can be another ripple in the kingdom that you fought for.  As I talk with my children and we share our memories of you that they will be wrapped in joy because we know this life on earth is a mere glimpse to our life in eternity.  We found a moment of laughter to break up the sadness as we knew that after you ran into our makers arms that you then sat down and asked all the burning questions you loved to pose when we would get into theological debates. Our hearts ache, all the way down to our cells. Ken, you have left a void in our lives. I’m so thankful I snuck this picture of you and Ya’el just before you left, because it is who you are!

Recently at fellowship thing with some members of the worship team Ken felt called to sing and play the guitar for us.  Something he doesn’t do often, if ever.  He plays bass, but dabbles in the guitar and drums.  He will be the first to admit that he isn’t a singer, but my heart is holding on to this endearing memory of him singing with a pure heart this song.  Listen to the words, ask God to open your ears and heart, you too will then realize why Ken was so on fire for God. He kept his eyes on the champion who perfected his faith. http://youtu.be/9rZ8k9m2hwo

So friends, what are you going to do? “are you going to fish or cut bait?”