Why I ride

Recently I have been thinking about horses, and why they mean so much to me.  This stemmed from a quiz Lauren gave me and a comment that my mom made.  In the quiz, I was asked to state my favorite animal and why it was my favorite.  I said a horse because “they are magnificent, beautiful, powerful, gentle, and they make me, me.  My love of horses seems to have been ingrained into me on the day I was born; Katie will love horses.  And most importantly, I am me when I ride”.   The comment my mom made came from a conversation we were having in which she mentioned that people who are confident tend to stand up straight and not bite their nails.  To which I laughingly replied that I am confident, I just slouch out of habit and the same goes with my nails.  (I have since stopped biting my nails! Yay!).  I later remembered a comment my dad made while we were riding the horses once.  He was marveling over my good posture and asked why I couldn’t stand up as straight as I sit when I ride.  So I began to mull all this over and suddenly everything just clicked into place.  It may seem a small, trivial thing to you, but I would like to share.

When I ride, I am my most confident.  More so even than when I am fabulously made over by my wonderful sister.  When I ride I feel like I can do anything.  I feel beautiful.  I feel proud.  I feel secure.  I feel fearless.  I feel unbelievably happy and at peace with everything.  There is nothing I love more than flying across the ground on the back of a horse, my heart beating in perfect time to the drumming of the horses’ hooves on the ground.  I have a connection with these amazing creatures that I know is God given.  In fact, I have had some of my most raw, meaningful conversations with the Lord on the back of my horse Scout.  I can very easily parallel my relationship with God to a rider’s relationship with a horse.  It is a relationship built on trust first and foremost.  This became apparent to me once when I was riding with my dad and we were going down a steep, muddy bank.  The slope of the hill broke off a couple feet from the bottom and at the bottom there was a stream.  As we headed down, I felt Scout’s hooves slip and slide in the mud as we plunged down the hill.  I had a moment of fear but it was replaced almost instantly in the trust that Scout would get us down this hill all in one piece.  So I leaned back in my saddle, gave him his head, and let him do his thing.  And sure enough, a slide and a hop down later we were in the creek.  I found myself knowing I need to trust God as easily as I trusted Scout in that situation.  It was startlingly clear to me then for some reason.  God has used these animals to teach me many things about him and the way he loves us, and I do not doubt that the horse is God’s favorite animal.  Just read Job 39:19 if you don’t believe me.

But I digress. When I get on a horse, I feel my most confident.  I sit up straighter and I feel a sense of rightness when I settle onto a saddle or the bare back of a horse.   I feel like myself; I have an identity when I ride.  I know who I am and I like who I am when I ride.  I am confident in my decisions I make while I’m riding and I have had to make some very quick decisions.   My confidence on a horse must be a visible thing because whenever there was a “problem horse” at Pine Cove, the camp I worked at for a summer, that horse was entrusted to me.  My barn manager told me that she saw horses respond to me when they refused to listen to other capable wranglers.  That, naturally, made me feel good and reiterated to me my belief that I am meant to have horses in my life.

One of my favorite horses at Pine Cove was a tall buckskin gelding named Watson.  He had a breathing problem and was very skittish, but when I rode him I felt like my confidence transcended to him because he became a more confident horse.  Scary balls flying at him didn’t faze him and he seemed to want to please me.  My other favorite was a short chestnut named Hans.  He was a punk and I instantly loved him.  I rode him on every trail ride, and my goal was to make him a horse that campers could ride.  He was a blast, and a few short weeks later he was transferred to another camp to be used as a camper horse.  I was so sad to see him go, but I was also proud of the work we had done.

Me and Watson.

My buddy Hans

I think that feeling beautiful also comes from feeling confident.  When I ride, I sit upon this extraordinary, magnificent, beautiful, powerful animal.  When I ask the horse to canter and we move out together, I can feel the animals’ muscles bunching and releasing, propelling us forward.  When I laugh or say something to the horse, the ears flick back, always listening.  When I feel the horse responding to my body signals, I feel in control.  When the horses’ mane streams out behind its’ neck, stinging my hands and face, I can only imagine that my hair is doing the same, and how can that not be beautiful?

I remember many times at camp when I would have a clunky helmet on my head, dirt smeared across my arms and cheeks, hair matted, and sweat just rolling down my body, but I never felt self conscious about how I looked.  I felt proud to know that I was able to ride this horse in a rodeo and make her do the suicide run to close out the show, that I could whip around three barrels on her while the crowd cheered us on, that I could proudly carry the American flag on him while we cantered around to someone singing The Star Spangled Banner.  I felt proud.  I felt cool.  I felt confident.  I felt radiant despite, or maybe because of the sweat.

Me and my girl Shiloh doing the suicide run.

Running the barrels with Starla

Carrying the flag on Desperado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I ride, I can almost feel my worries and cares melt away.  It’s totally unexplainable except to say that it is a gift from God.  I talk about things that bother me or worry me with the Lord when I ride, but I don’t dwell on the things that stress me out when I am on two legs.  It’s like I am transported to this whole other place where troubles and anxiety aren’t allowed.  I can’t not be happy when I ride.  And this is true even when I am riding a horse who is misbehaving.  Instead of feeling frustrated or anxious or worried, I feel my determination settle down on me and I am determined to turn any situation into a positive experience for both me and the horse.  And when the horse finally listens to me or responds to me, like I have said before, I feel confident.

My darling Jem

I know that because of how horses make me feel, I will always have them in my life.  They are my God given drug.  They make me laugh.  They make me cry.  They are wonderful.  They are beautiful.  They are kind.  They are trusting. They teach me things about myself.  They break my heart.  They bring me joy.  They allow for me to be me.  They help me.  They comfort me.  They are used by the Lord to draw me closer to Him.

And that is why I ride.

Mischeif Managed

Be at rest once more, O my soul…

I wrote the following testimony several years ago in response to an inquiry into my personal story of loss and hope. In light of the fact that I am about to share parts of my testimony with an audience, I figured I should post the written form again. It is my background, my journey with the Lord, if you will. And while I could elaborate even more, this hits on the “main” point(s). God has taught me so much (and is continuing to teach me) through the absolute highs and heart/gut-wrenching lows of life. He is my rock. He is my hope. And He is my salvation. To God be all the glory.

Being reared in a loving Christian home and community has been and always will be a blessing for which I can scarcely begin to express my gratitude. With my Mom’s guidance, I accepted Christ when I was three. Due to my parent’s wisdom, support, and love I was able to forge through some very difficult and painful times. God in His incredible wisdom knew I would need to be surrounded by His strength and love working through family and friends.

Simply put, childhood was a blast! I have so many wonderful memories spent with my folks and older brother, laughing and growing in the joy of the Lord. I was also fortunate to develop some very close lasting friendships. One friendship in particular has had an incalculable affect on my life.

When I was three my family moved to the L, KS area. Soon after moving we began attending the L.E. Covenant Church. Thankfully my Sunday school class was large, but due to the fact it was primarily populated by rambunctious boys, I quickly became fast friends with the only other little girl. Kristina and I were inseparable. And when I say we were inseparable, I mean it. She became my sister. Most weekends she was either at my house or vice versa. One thing we shared in common was an intense love for horses. It was our plan to one day build adjacent horse farms and raise our kids together. We had both had horses at different times growing up, but whilst in sixth grade we were sadly, both horseless. It was a grievous malady which had to be remedied! So to pass the time until we could amass our herd, I joined the horseless horseman project in 4-H and she rode her neighbor’s horses. Little did we know what life held in store for us.

During one of my routine weekend visits to Kristina’s house, my life was changed forever. After church on Sunday we both decided it would be fun to ride her neighbor’s horses together. I waited while she made the phone call. A persistent voice kept telling me our plan wasn’t a good idea, but I had no intention of thwarting it. So off we went with smiles stretching from ear to ear. My ride was a mare fat with foal. Kristina’s ride was a beautiful, young, green gelding. Even though the owner and neighbor Mr. R, assured Kristina he would lead her the entire time, she still felt uneasy. She came to me and quietly asked if I wouldn’t mind switching rides with her. I told her no; an answer which took me, with the Lord’s help, ten years to make peace with. Kristina and I mounted up and off we journeyed around the back of the house. As I came around the far side of the house Kristina and Mr. R stopped to make an adjustment. When Mr. R let go, the horse spooked and took off. The next few moments were a blur. I looked back to see Kristina lose control, fall, hit her head, and go still. She had hit a small piece of cement in the yard. Having suffered massive head trauma, she never came to, and died four days later in intensive care. God in all his strength, love, and compassion came swooping in to surround my broken little heart.

A week after Kristina passed, my mom and I took a night walk down our quarter mile long driveway to look at the stars, reflect, and pray. While sitting in the darkness snuggled next to my mom, I secretly asked God if He would give me a sign so that I would know Kristina was alright and He was hugging her for me. Instantly the largest most brilliant shooting star I had ever seen shot across the western sky! My mom was looking in the same direction. When I asked if she had seen the star, she said no. That moment was the beginning of God’s healing process.

Over the course of the next several years I became a rather introverted, awkward adolescent. I grew closer to several friends I had had since kindergarten, but I was still trying to find acceptance and friendship from other peers. Through a series of rejections, my confidence plummeted. Not only that, but I was still dealing with the pain of my best friend’s death. My refuge was home and my family. God was still a huge part of my life, but my relationship with Him wasn’t quite my own yet. I was riding on the strength of my Dad and Mom’s faith.

During my junior year in high school I hit an all time low. Sinking into depression, my heart was crying out for joy and peace again. Through the blunt spiritual encouragement of a dear friend, the love and prayers of my parents and church friends, God snapped me out of my funk. He began questioning me, encouraging me to look at the blessings I was surrounded with, and to see His goodness. My world turned from cloudy to sunny! Finally, my heart was beginning to agree with His heart. God was beckoning to me, calling me to trust Him, and my heart was saying ok. I had made a commitment to Him when I was a little girl and through His strength I was going to hold to that.

The foundation of trust and healing that had been laid initially while watching the shooting star, continued to grow. Having attended church camp as a little girl and then later being a volunteer church camp counselor in high school, I was already partial to that form of ministry. After my freshman year in college I got a job for the summer in Nebraska as a church camp counselor and cook. During that summer God taught me to listen for His voice and guiding. He revealed to me through camp teachings and my quiet times what fully trusting in Him looked like. I needed to trust God fully in order to go through the next few years of healing and character growth.

I had built walls around my heart from the rejection I had received from peers. I still thought that if I appeared tough no one would take a jab at me. What is more, I was still shy. My shyness was based off of fear and self preservation. Oddly enough I was self righteous too. Each of those qualities made for one uninviting individual. This fact was brought to my attention by my dear brother. It had become so bad that he didn’t even feel comfortable to be himself around me. His words shook me to my core because I knew they were true. I wondered how in the world was I ever going to be a light for Christ when my own brother wasn’t comfortable around me? Weeping, I cried out to God, asking Him to melt my cold heart. He did. To begin the process, God led me to *Ezekiel 36:26-27 and **Psalm 116. With this new found freedom I wanted to be able to bless others and serve the Lord with gratitude and praise.

In the fall of my junior year at Kansas State University, a friend encouraged me to apply to work at Pine Cove Christian Camps near Tyler, TX. During the application process I saw there were positions for wranglers. As much as I loved horses, I still had a healthy fear of them. For a time in high school I even had a horse, but I couldn’t quite get passed the image of Kristina falling. So, needless to say my horse and I were not a great match. And taking into consideration the fact I hadn’t really been around horses for a couple years, I didn’t know whether I should apply to be a wrangler or not. However, I couldn’t suppress the love I felt for them. Combining that love with the love of the Lord and my new God given freedom to be personable, I applied anyway. I was hired.

Ten years after Kristina’s death (Fall ’98) God brought about final, powerful healing. His timing is incredible. For ten years I hadn’t had any final peace about her loss. Oh, but when God decided it was time, it was like the flood gates rushed open and I was washed away in His glory!

After only two days of initial training I had complete peace around horses. I was no longer afraid of them. When the first week of camp rolled around (Summer ’08) I knew through the Lord’s help and through the instruction of our barn managers, great things were going to happen. However, I still got nervous when thinking of completely inexperienced campers riding the horses. Monday morning came dark and early. While waiting at 4:45 a.m. for my ride to the barn, I looked up into the night sky wondering if God would again give me a sign. I wanted to know the summer would go well. In my mind I thought why should I even bother with such a trivial request. God instantly spoke to me, telling me He wasn’t too big for such a request and to ask. I did. In the western sky I saw the second largest shooting star I had ever seen. Needless to say it was an incredible summer of pouring love into families and staff and wonderfully receiving it back. Several experiences that summer really stand out in my mind, but one in particular made a huge impact. After an afternoon trail ride, one little camper wondered if she could lope her horse. Swanee (the head barn manager at Pine Cove) looked at me and asked if I wanted to take her for a quick turn up the pasture hill, just me and her. We loped off with huge grins on our faces. She was in sixth grade, with blonde hair, and was as sweet as could be. Kristina died in sixth grade, she had blonde hair, and she was as sweet as could be. Praise the Lord for that little ride! The realization hit me, I had kept her safe. God blessed both of us in that instant. The cycle of fear did not have to continue. Indeed, that day God struck satan down. Roaring in his face God declared, “NO MORE!”

With all the blessed healing and lessons learned that first summer at Pine Cove, I still had one more healing experience to go through. In December of that same year, I went to Kristina’s house and to the place where she fell. After ten years, when standing at the sight of the accident, all I could do was praise the Lord for I knew He had Kristina in His safe keeping. Driving to up to her parent’s home I realized it had been nine years since I had been there. Her family continued to attend church, but as her mom G, would share with me, for many years it had been hard for her to see me without Kristina. That was how it should have been. We should have been together. Momma G shared her process of healing with me and I shared with her. With God’s help I finally worked up enough courage to tell Momma G I had said no to Kristina when she asked to ride my horse. Momma G’s response set me free. She said everyone involved had regrets, but those regrets were not to rule over us. We couldn’t have known what was about to happen. Praise the Lord! Our time together reminiscing, laughing, and sharing was such a blessing. By the time I left it was dark outside. On my way home I stopped at the cemetery to tell Kristina about the wonderful day and praise the Lord. While standing in the dark, looking up into the sky I saw the final shooting star. God whispered to my heart it was finally finished.

I am thankful, glad really, I experienced so much pain as a young girl. Am I glad Kristina died? Absolutely not. I hate that she died. I hate the pain her loved ones felt and still feel. But I praise the Lord that through it all He and I have grown closer and closer. He continually works through life’s highs and lows.

Several years ago another childhood church friend of mine was killed in a car accident. For six years during grade school, it had been the three of us in Sunday school, Joslyn, Kristina, and Me. Now, it’s just me. I know without a doubt God has a plan and a purpose for my life. When He is finished He’ll take me home. Life is short. Our relationships and time are precious. With the help of God both can be maximized. Standing in and on the promises of God will heal and restore any broken heart.

God has brought me a long way since I was a little girl of three praying with my Mom. I thank Him for the journey I’ve been through and am excited for what lies ahead. God continues to mold me and correct me, loving me into submission to Him and His plan for my life. Whatever comes whether good or bad I know God will be glorified. God’s love has blessed me with so much peace, joy, and contentment. I owe Him so much. I am excited for the day I will be reunited with my best friend in Heaven where we will praise our Savior together. Only when I am before God’s majesty, casting my crowns at His feet, will I be able to finally show Him the pure love and gratitude He deserves.

Now may I ask, have you placed your trust in Christ? Have you asked Him to be your Savior and Lord? No matter who you are, where you are, or what you have or have not done, God is greater. He is loving, mighty, and holy. God sent His son Jesus Christ so that you may live a life of peace, joy, and purpose. He is calling for your heart. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) He knows you. He wants you. He loves you. He has a purpose for your life. He desires a relationship with you. “Come near to God and he will come near to you…” (James 4:8) God does not lie. “The Lord Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.” (Isaiah 14:24) He is not fickle like humans. He does not change His mind. God’s Word is truth. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33) He speaks and it is so. “But I the Lord will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without delay. For in your days, you rebellious house, I will fulfill whatever I say, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 12:25) Submit to His love. Submission is not an evil word that places you in bondage. When we submit to God’s authority it allows Him the freedom to work in and through us, thus granting us freedom. Allow His truth to set you free from the bondage and pain the liar and deceiver, Satan, would try to keep you in. Christ said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved….The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10: 9-10 italics added) Allow Him to set you free to become who He has created you to be, so that God may be glorified through you, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36) Beloved, God loves you.  “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed- I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?'” (Isaiah 43:10-13) What a mighty God he is. Trust him. Accept his love and strength which will never pass away. Ask Christ to be your Savior.

* Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

** Psalm 116 “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, save me!’ The lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed; therefore I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’ And in my dismay I said, ‘All men are liars.’ How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord- in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.”

Shifty’s War

Happy Independence Day! I feel a Martina McBride song coming on.

When I was a junior/senior in high school , my US History teacher assigned us to complete a World War II project, giving us twelve or so options as our subject. One of our choices was “The Life of a Soldier.” Well….I had recently had a discussion about the HBO Mini Series “Band of Brothers”  with someone, I forget who, and I, being the clever person I am, thought, “Instead of writing a long paper or doing some project, I could just watch TV and report what I’d seen!” Genius! My friends, Alex and Becca, congratulated my genius and agreed to back me up when I suggested this idea to the teacher. I hopped up from my desk and bounded over to my teacher, Mr. Walker. He is one of my favorite teachers I have ever had, but he was always fairly cynical and frank and not always classy in his speech. (In hindsight, this is probably why he is one of my favorites.) I can just imagine his internal groan as I practically skipped to his desk with what I’m sure could be described as a gleeful and girly air about me. I asked him about “Band of Brothers,” he stared at me and approved although I’m sure he was only okay with it because it is a 10 hour series and I would be spending plenty of time on it.

Anyway, I had never seen the series before, and while I probably spent more time on the 10 hours, plus recording the battle information down and describing the life of the soldier, than if I would have just written a paper, it was so worth it! I would say I fell in love with Easy Company, but those words don’t seem right. There are so many people, including Katie and Monica, who have read the books and watched the series and feel an overwhelming connection with the men of Easy Company. These men are not perfect. Honestly, I probably would not have been friends with some of these men because our personalities would have clashed, but even so, these guys are heroes. I am so glad that they have been appreciated through this Stephen Ambrose’s book, the HBO series, and now their memoirs and biographies. It is a beautiful thing to see men who sacrificed so much and fought for their country and the world, men who died and who live on only in the memory of their families and the men who served with them, be appreciated and respected.

This is a really round about way to get to my point: I just read Shifty’s War, a biography by Marcus Brotherton, about the sharpshooter Darrell “Shifty” Powers from Easy Company, and I loved it!

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If you don’t know who Shifty was to Easy Company, he was a Southern gentleman: hard working, humble, and good natured. He was an excellent shot (I do declare!). Brotherton’s book is written from Shifty’s perspective despite the fact that Shifty did not write this. Normally I would have disliked a book like this because I would have felt lied to or deceived since there is no way we could know if Shifty would have saw or heard an event or conversation, but Brotherton gives a chapter by chapter explanation of where he took storytelling liberties. The experience of reading this book is similar to watching the series. For example: A soldier may not have said that one line, but it did happen at Bastogne somewhere, so we’ll put it in this particular scene so people can get a better idea of what the soldiers did and said.

I could keep going on and on and on about why I liked the book, but unfortunately it’s getting late in the day. 4:30 comes too early most days!

Live long!

Lauren 

 

First Half Wranglers 2012

First Half Wranglers 2012

June 29, 2012 was a great day. We got the Ranch barn ready before heading to the Towers to prepare our barn for Castle Rock; Starch had birthday surprises all day long, and it really was the most celebrated staff birthday in Summer staff history to my knowledge; Crunch and I got to ride our favorite horses in the morning, we went to Sonic and saved some cows from death by Hwy 155, and we also found the mecca of all bees near Bone Hill. The wranglers ended the day with spending half an hour to get the horses to the Forest Pen and then partied. Splash, the horse in the photo, is colicking here, but he is just fine now. =)