Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Amazing God - His Ranch Memoirs

Hi Friends! Now that winter is here and the ranch is closed, I am making an effort to return to blog-land. I discovered this post that I started writing back in November, just after the ranch season ended. So I'm going to do my best to go back to that day and finish what I started. Here it is!
Today has been an amazing day of remembrance as I look back over the summer, now that the ranch is closed for the winter, and I see the hand of God moving mightily in this place. It seems almost impossible to express the wonders of God to which my eyes have been opened! But I will do my humble best. I can tell you that I have grown more in the last six months than I did in the last four years. Father has overwhelmed me today with a greater sense of His love, goodness, and purpose for our lives as I remember what He has done and realize how He has changed me.

When I moved out to His Ranch in May, I believed that God had opened the door for me to follow a long-time desire He had laid on my heart and I was excited at the possibilities. It was a big step of faith for me that has led to other faith choices during the summer. I was thrilled to become part of the ranch team and to find a sense of purpose that had been lacking in my life for a few years. But I also dragged with me a lot of insecurities about who I was and building new relationships. I had some deeply buried addiction to sinful thought patterns and chronic comparison. These were things I'd been fighting for what seemed like an eternity. Little did I know that God was ready to give them the boot!

He blessed me with a deeper fellowship and accountability in the body of Christ. I've always tended to be somewhat of a loner as an individual and as a Christian. But in my time here I've learned that God has put us in this body to encourage and strengthen each other to follow harder after Christ. We do need each other as believers...we need the prayers, the love, the sharing of provision, the spiritual openness, the differing perspectives, the challenging to move out of comfort zones, the inspiration to be more like Christ. I was able to be involved in a couple different Bible study groups over the summer, which really helped me to become more passionate about living the Word. Each one pinpointed a particular stronghold in my life and as I finally responded actively to the Truth, God brought real freedom in these areas. One study was Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. such a good study that's been around for quite a few years; if you've never been through I highly recommend it. The point God really brought out to me in this study was to accept and embrace the person God made me to be. I'd known for years that I had problems accepting myself and constantly comparing myself to others. I've spent most of my life wanting to be someone else. I knew the truth about this in my head, but for the first time, I realized that I wasn't really rejecting myself; I was rejecting God because He made me exactly who He wanted, and my attitude was basically telling Him that He made a mistake. It would have been better for me to be that other person who I so admired. As if He didn't know what was best for me. I knew I couldn't do this anymore. So I chose, by faith, to embrace who I am, believing that I am perfect in my Maker's eyes. Comparison has lost its power over me. Yes, it still challenges me at times, but I've never been happier to be me than I am now! God also used some of my friends on the ranch to teach me this lesson. I struggled with jealousy and comparison, just as I have in every place I've gone and made new friends. But this time I was able to break out of that and begin to truly appreciate our differences while being secure in who God says I am. Now my desire is to love people more than needing them to love me. And you know what? I've found that when I stop trying to be like someone else or to make myself more acceptable to them, and I am simply true to myself, other people enjoy me more and I have a lot more fun too!

Another very meaningful study was Believing God by Beth Moore. He's used this one to challenge me to actually take Him at His word. And He brought me to the place of stepping out in faith to move a mountain of fantasy thought patterns that have controlled me for years, and I had almost given up on ever being free from it. I can't really explain how, but He made the truth sink in, and I am free! I told that mountain to move, and I've shut the door on it, and I'm moving forward one day at a time, trusting in Jesus to keep me faithful. That old habit just isn't an option any more. It has no place in my life. I know there is so much more to this walk of faith than I have yet experienced, but praise God! I believe that I'm on the path to living it.

Another thing God's teaching me is to sometimes say no to good things in order to focus on the best things, like investing in my relationship with Him. There were times I had to forego a fun activity or a weekend trip because I knew I needed to refocus on God and also recharge physically. You can't give what you don't have. It's been an interesting balancing act between enjoying and investing in great friendships and making space to be still before God.

And then there are the horses. I've learned so much from these beautiful creatures; about myself, about God's dealings with me, about relating with other people. They are teaching me patience and perseverance. Challenging me to think outside the box, and to keep trying new things. Convicting me to not let mistakes or fear of failure keep me from moving forward. I've found a passion here, working with these horses and all the kids. I love the constant interaction with nature, the fun spirit and joy of the kids, the smells of horse and hay, the physical work, even the hot sun and the sweat and the sore muscles.

It's been a wonderful summer, forming a special bond as ranch staff, brought together from such different places, with different gifts and personalities and perspectives. Praying together, talking about spiritual truth, working together for a common purpose, eating together, traveling together, playing together, worshipping together, and just simply living together as part of the family of God, seeking to lift Him up in a dark and hurting world. I have memories I will treasure forever, and I have expectations for God to do even greater things next season! I feel so incredibly blessed to be here and to be loved by Father. I don't know what is ahead but I know He is good, and my life is in His hands. I will try to keep you more up to date on the journey in 2012!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hicks In The City

Last weekend the ranch crew went to the big city....Chicago! After a summer in the country in tiny little Taylor, Missouri, where we we've all become cowboyfied, we made quite a contrast to downtown Chicago, walking around in the midst of its business, sophistication, and artsyness, dressed in cowboy boots and Carhart jackets. Well, some of us, anyway. The spurs were supposed to come too, but they got left at home.
We took our wonderful tour guide, Diana, with us. She used to live in Chicago and knew all the fun stuff to hit up, plus she had her trusty smart phone to get us around the city with confidence!

It was a blast, and the weather was beautiful. We experienced deep dish Chicago style pizza.....amazing.....I will never look at pizza the same way; I have been completely ruined for the ordinary brand. We got to participate in a random drama class historical skit by the river. I got to be the Great Chicago Fire!  We checked out Navy Pier, where we watched a sword swallower, threw a bone for a random human lizard thing in a pool, bought world famous popcorn, and saw a jazz band marching through the mall.

We ate lunch at this restaurant where the staff is purposely rude. They are actually supposed to get tipped for rudeness.

We sat on the sidewalk like bums and people watched. We had lots of coffee and ice cream. And took lots of cool pictures. And walked our feet off. And spent lots of time on the train to and from the city.  We even found some horses!  According to Ben, our equine expert, the artist knew what he was doing.

We got to stay with Ben's brother and sister-in-law and adorable little blue-eyed blond neice. All in all, the trip was a tremendous success.

Family Picture in The Bean!

Our time together as a ranch family is quickly drawing to a close. We end the season a week from Saturday with the annual fundraiser, and everyone besides me will be going home. We hope to be together again next summer, but only God knows what will be. However, we're already making a list for next year's ranch road trips! Let me just say, it has been the best summer ever! Horses, kids, the incredible opportunity to serve God in this special place, the best team of such crazy variety, put together by our amazing Creator, and the freedom to take such random mini vacations!

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Latest Adventure

Look, it's a new post from me! Sorry that I'm so bad at keeping up, ya'll. I'm so busy living life that blogging has fallen far behind. I have much I could tell, but today I'll give you the latest news: I earned my brand! You see, on His Ranch, the rule is that when you fall off a horse, you get to have the ranch brand put on your boots. It's a medal of honor. That doesn't mean we go around trying to fall off. But it is a great point of pride.So last weekend I was gonna take it easy and have some alone time to recharge while the rest of the ranch staff spent some time in Illinois. Saturday afternoon, I decided to go for a horseback ride. I chose a certain horse because I haven't ridden him a lot lately and now that I am pretty confident running on horseback, I wanted to run with this particular guy because he's one of the fastest we have. I thought I'd go somewhere with some good flat out ground for running. So we went up along the edge of a field by the highway that runs through Taylor. I knew that all the horses, and particularly this one, have gotten quite barn sour over the summer. Horses get bored with routine and stubborn about working, just like we do. We've had to help the kids deal with that just riding in the arena during lessons. But each horse also has their own issues about leaving their home turf to go trail riding. All of them tend to do better in a group. They are herd animals and used to being together, so they don't like being taken out alone. And we usually ride in groups, though we should give them more experience going separate. We simply don't have the time and the staff to give the horses as much individual attention and diversion as they need. So the horse I rode out has a bad habit of running full speed toward home and being very hard to control when doing so. As long as you keep him at a slower pace starting out and get a good distance away from home, he will be fine and go forward at any speed you wish. So when we got to where I though we were far enough, I asked him to run. Apparently it wasn't far enough. His mind was on one track. He immediately started veering off into the field. He didn't respond to my attempts to move him back over, and soon we were turned in the opposite direction, racing full speed back towards the ranch. My efforts to stop him were futile. I wasn't that worried about running home; I was just focused on getting him to stop and turn around and go where I wanted. Though there was a ditch between there and home that I didn't want to hit at full speed. So I'm thinking about that and I'm focusing on pulling his head around for an emergency stop. A horse's drive, their "engine", is in their hindquarters. Pulling their head around sharply to one side forces them to disengage their hindquarters and stop. I was a little nervous about pulling him around too sharply because I know he can turn and stop suddenly and I could lose my balance. So maybe I wasn't trying hard enough. But he got partway turned and was headed towards the road, a major highway! We weren't too far off from the road, and at that speed it was coming up fast, so I started to panic, still trying to turn the horse and getting no control. It was at that point where you stop thinking clearly because it's just about too late to do anything except gasp a prayer. That's what I did. Help me Jesus! I saw we were running straight for a telephone pole with two guy wires coming off it, and all I could think was we're either going to hit the pole, the wires, or the road. And then we hit the wires and I went flying. That happened so fast it was almost like nothing. One second we collided with the wire, and the next I slammed the ground with my face. For a moment everything stopped. I didn't black out, it was just like when your ipod or cd skips a beat because you hit a bump. Or like having the wind knocked out of your head. Then I realized I was still cognizant and able to move. I could hear the horse still running away and I was concerned about what would happen to him, so I tried to get up and get my bearings right away, but it was slow going. Once I realized nothing was broken or majorly damaged, my main concern was, what does my face look like? I was kind of mad and embarrassed for losing control of my horse and I didn't want anybody freaking out over me; I just wanted to get home and assess the damage. A couple people pulled over right away to help. Someone came to check me out and then gave me a ride back to the ranch. Someone else caught the horse and walked him back. I walked into Shannon and Susan's house and said, Don't freak out; I think I'm okay but I just did a faceplant off the horse. They took good care of me, helping me clean up and checking on the horse and assessing the situation. Then I went home and spent the rest of the day laying out and nursing my wounds. The side of my face was scraped up pretty good and my lip blew up really huge. My major complaint was my eye. I'm not sure if I hit it or just the bone around it, but it was scratchy and irritated and watering profusely. I scratched the cornea in this eye a couple years ago and it's been sensitive ever since and the original wound site reaggravated a few times by jabs or bumps. Turns out I have a large gash in my cornea. Everything else checks out good and it seems to be on its way to a promising recovery. I also had some soreness in my neck the first few days, which is to be expected from the way I fell. But I went to a chiropractor and he said I'm in good shape for that kind of an impact. He told me I'm tough! My body is taking this extremely well and I have so much to be grateful for! So after a few days of lying around, I'm ready to start getting back into action. I just have blurriness in my eye and have to keep nursing it for awhile. When I think about everything that could have happened, I am awed at God's protection over me. I nearly landed on my head. I could have had a concussion or broken my neck. I could have landed on the road. Or we could have gone in the road and been hit. I could have landed on my face in the field stubble and pierced my eye. I could have broken a bone. It's really a mercy those wires were there, stopping us from reaching the road. Most of the poles along that stretch don't have guy wires. With such an impact, I should have done more damage to my neck or facial bones or something more internal in my eye. I didn't even have a headach or a faceache. No symptoms of concussion. My scrapes look bad but they're only surface. I didn't knock out any teeth or bite through my tongue. So you better believe I'm thanking God and looking on the bright side! I'm not sure what all God has for me to learn from this, but there is a lot of good to be found if you're looking for it. I know it could have been worse. I know that much worse has happened to others. Beloved children of God. And He is no less good in those situations. There's no human answers why such should happen to them and not to me. There's no guarantee that it won't. There is so much of what we see as senseless tragedy and sorrow in our world. God's not playing favorites by keeping one from harm more than another. We simply cannot fathom his thoughts and His ways and His purposes. He is so huge and so much higher than us. Who can fathom the purposes of the sovereign Creator, who breathed out the stars, who spoke and everything came into being, who exists outside of time, space, and flesh? And who can fathom the love of that One who left His glory and made Himself the servant of all, and suffered more than any other man could possibly suffer, all for the sake of redeeming His fallen creatures, while we were living as His enemies? And who can fathom the glories and pleasures and ecstatic joy that awaits every redeemed child of God when we step from life here in the shadowlands into reality and discover what it feels like to be fully alive? To come home to the place King Jesus has prepared for us and the inheritance of forever glory that is ours because of Him! Try to imagine that. Dive into the wonder of it. Can you understand at least a little why Paul said that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that awaits us? Yes, the pain is real and it is huge to us in this world. Jesus never discounts that. He felt the full weight of our pain on the cross. But when we have no answers, and we can't see any good in the pain, and maybe we can't even imagine surviving to come out on the other side of it, know that the One who is the Answer is still here. You can lose everything else, but no one and nothing can ever take Him away from you. He is your life. Even if your worst fears were to come upon you, He will still be there. He is our hope and assurance for life beyond the sorrow and suffering and struggle of this world. That is reason to rejoice no matter what you are going through.
And that, my friends, is some of the thought that has come out of my accident. Deep stuff, I know. But it just goes to show that God doesn't waste anything in our lives. I believe He had a purpose for allowing this to happen, and He had a reason for protecting me the way He did. Even now, as I finish writing, you would hardly be able to tell that anything happened, because I've healed so quickly. But I pray that I won't let the experience fade into distant memory. I have often prayed to live each day with eternity in mind. When something happens that makes you aware of how easily life could change in an instant and how close we are to eternity every moment, that should be a stone of remembrance in your heart. I want to remember. I want to remember God's mercy and kindness towards me. I want to remember that each moment counts. I want to remember that God is good and worthy of my trust, no matter what. Even if this accident had turned out differently. I want to remember that when it's all been said and done, He is all I have, and He is all I need.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer In A Nutshell

Howdy, ya'll, from Taylor, Missouri! Yes, I am still alive. Just livin life out here and keepin too busy for blog land. But I have not forgotten my friends and readers who would like to hear something from me now and then. So for now I'm going to give you a quick summary of the last couple months. It's been full of new experiences!

I have:

Visited Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota, and stood where three states come together (Iowa, SD,and Minnesota)

Gone sailing on Lake Michigan and watched fireworks there

Been in prison(as a visitor. in case you were wondering!)

Gone to Six Flags in St. Louis

Wrecked a fourwheeler

Shot a rifle

Seen the Colorado Rockies on Skype

Rode a horse in a parade

Tried wakeboarding

Baled hay and straw

Built a campfire and cooked on a charcoal grill all by myself

And swam in lakes and eaten lots and lots of ice cream and ridden horses and put kids on horses and got to put my little brother on a horse and lots more!

I also bought a laptop but I just haven't been motivated to sit here and do much with blogs and pictures. I'm posting pictures on Facebook now so check that out. I love my life here and I'm excited to dream more and see where else God will take me!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Day At His Ranch

Okay, I just found this post that I wrote way back in the first few weeks of the season and never finished. So here you go! A little out of date, but this gives you an idea of how the summer season basically went. Now that school has started, we'll be doing it a little differently, but we're planning to stay open through October!

Here at His Ranch, every day is different, so we don't have a problem with boredom. Granted, sometimes we're tired, hot, sleep-deprived, moody, or sore, but life here is generally full of excitement. It's always hard to describe an experience to someone who has never been there, but now that the season is in full swing and I've got a feel for it, I thought I'd take you through a somewhat typical day on the ranch.

We are open for lessons Monday through Thursday each week, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Each weekday morning we meet at 8:00 for staff devotions, usually at the ranch welcome center. We take turns sharing Scripture or something meaningful, and then have a prayer circle to start the day. After that, we talk about the plans and possibilities for that day, until our first session starts. For the first few weeks of the season, we have not had a full session schedule every day, but now we are getting busier. We've started to get a routine down so we know who is responsible for each lesson and generally we will have the same staff person with the same kids every week. Most of our kids and groups will come each week through the summer. We have one-hour long sessions from 9:00 to 12:00, an hour lunch break, and then sessions from 1:00 to 4:00. Then chores are done and we are free for the rest of the evening.

We have a lot of kids that come in ones, twos, and threes. So we usually pair each child with a volunteer for their session. Whoever is not doing the present session keeps busy with other things around the ranch or the office. Then we have a couple large groups that come, and everybody helps with that. Right now we have two groups of kids once a week from Transitions, which is the local special needs program. We also have a group of adults come from there. Last week we started having groups from the YMCA summer program. We had almost 60 kids between the ages of 4 and 11! The number may drop as the summer goes on, but that group will be coming every week. And a group of older kids also come from the Y. Ages 11 to 14 or so. That is a much, much smaller group. With those groups, we usually give pony rides, which means we lead them around on a horse. Depending on the size of the group, the ride might just be one circle around the arena. Then we sometimes get out another horse for them to pet and groom while they are waiting for rides. Sometimes we have someone working with a horse in the round pen so the kids can watch.

With one on one lessons, we take the student to the pasture to catch the horse (unless they are physically unable), and we have them do as much of the hands on work as they are capable of. Together, we groom and saddle, and then, depending on the skill level, the child will either get a pony ride, or they will ride on their own. We aren't giving technical lessons, since no one here is qualified to teach professionally and most of us have very limited horse knowledge and experience ourselves. So the kids who are more experienced riders basically come just to keep up on their riding and have a good time. A few of them even have horses, but come in hopes of gaining more confidence and experience in a safe setting. We are open to all kinds of people. Everyone has needs. Some are obvious, some are not. We are willing to embrace whoever God brings to His ranch, and we pray He will use us to love each one. But our heart is especially for the kids with specific physical, mental, or emotional needs. It is such a joy to watch the freedom and excitement that they experience on horseback, and the special connection that can form between kids and the animals on the ranch. Besides the horses, we have a dog, several cats, and a few ducks that wander around and torture the cats. We also have a goat that has been living away for awhile, because he got loose too often and tore up the gardens, but we hope to find a permanent solution for keeping him here and bring him back soon. Animals of all kinds have a special ministry to a child's soul.

That is where I left off. We did get the goat, Buddy, back on the ranch, and he's still here, though he has a contagious infection, so he can't be played with anymore and we might find him another home. We lost the dog several weeks ago and now have a new puppy named Mia who's cuddly and adorable now but when she's grown she'll be 150 pounds! She's had quite the initiation to the ranch; last week she got run over by the Gator! It's kind of like a golf cart that we use around the ranch. Thankfully, Mia got off with only a bruised shoulder and lungs and should be fine. One of the three ducks, who, incidently, thought he was a cat, was murdered by some creature on a dark night, shortly after the dog disappeared. That was a sad Monday. The YMCA day camp is over for the summer so those kids aren't coming anymore. We will be having a few morning/early afternoon sessions for our homeschoolers and the Transitions groups, and then we will have some late afternoon sessions for the other kids after school. We'll have a lot more time to fill in between, so we plan to work more with the horses and probably go riding more too! It's been a full, hot, challenging, and wonderful summer. We're looking forward to cooler fall temperatures, but I always take Fall in a melancholy mood because I know Winter is coming. But the seasons must come and go and there is beauty in each one. God has promised that as long as the earth remains, the order He has set up of days and seasons will never cease. We see His return drawing near, and we have the hope that when Time has ceased to be, we will ever be with the Lord. Let us hold fast to this hope and look towards That Day when we will see His face!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Welcome Home Kirill

I am sharing this video because it absolutely touched my heart. I'm going to put in a bunch of plugs today if anyone is interested in knowing more of the background of this story and the amazing work God is doing on behalf of the orphans, His special children. If you have never heard of Reece's Rainbow, you need to go to the site and check it out. I'll make it easy for you!

You also may want to go to this family's blog and read the story. I haven't read the whole thing yet myself, but I got enough from my mom to know it's worth reading, and I could just feel the incredible joy in this victory video! This little boy, Kirill, has just come home from Russia to his forever family. His parents had gone through most of the long road of being approved for adoption and all the paperwork and home studies and everything that it takes to bring these children home. They traveled to Russia the first time just to meet him, and then they have to go home and do some more stuff and then go back for the court date. So their second time in Russia, they went to the court hearing and the judge rejected their adoption application. They were heartbroken. All they could do was go home and file an appeal. They finally got a date for a hearing in the Russian Supreme Court. I haven't read the story of what happened there, but they said it was a miracle. I don't think the judges there seemed favorable to approve the adoption, either, but at the end, they did approve it, and now Kirill is home. This is the video of his homecoming and it is so precious! I cried all the way through it. If you would like to read Kirill's story, here is their blog:
This link is for the first part of the story of what happened after they got their Supreme Court date. You can go farther back or read as much or little as you want, but these are the kind of stories my mom and I have been following for a few years now since we found out about Reece's Rainbow and started reading about different families who were adopting. Seeing these things makes me want so badly to go and bring home one of these little angels. God works in amazing and mysterious ways. I believe He may be preparing my heart to do this someday. And if this post leads anyone else to support this ministry or to adopt themselves, it will blow me away, and I will be incredibly humbled and grateful and in awe of God. More glory to God! He is the Father to the fatherless and the miracle working God who uses the weak and ordinary and limited things of this world to showcase His power and grace. May He be lifted up....that is the goal of my life. Please watch this video. God, break our hearts with the things that break Yours.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kids and Tornadoes

What a blessing Father gave us today! We had a special ed elementary school group scheduled to come this afternoon. Last night it stormed, and it was still raining some this morning when we gathered for devotions. Since everything is so wet, the plan was to have the session in the barn. As we headed out to our morning tasks, the rain had stopped and the sun came out. By the time we met in town for an early lunch, the sky was clear! The kids came and we had a great time; we did use the barn but we were able to take the kids for rides outside in the drive. While everyone was taking turns getting a ride, some of the kids fingerpainted on a horse for awhile. Amazingly, we were able to catch Penny in short time and she did great as an art canvas. Penny has only been here for a month and has established herself as boss of the herd. She and the former "herd queen", Glorie, are tight buddies now and they lord it over the other horses and egg each other on, especially when it comes to being caught. One of the other girls and I spent 45 minutes catching those two yesterday. So it was an answer to prayer that Penny was willing to be caught so promptly! After painting, the kids got to try grooming Noah, our three year old. At his age, Noah is greatly curious and can be jumpy and pushy, but he did well for a short time. Some of these kids probably have sensory issues and autistic tendencies, and a few of them were scared to touch the horse, but I think everyone got a chance to ride. All the kids were so excited and it was precious to see their joy and wonder. Maybe some of them had never been near a horse before. One little girl kept saying, "I love horses!" She wants so badly to grow up fast so she can be a cowgirl. We had such a short time with them and barely learned all their names. They won't likely be coming back during the summer, since it was a school field trip. Some of them may get to come back next year and some will probably never be back. We don't know their stories and their struggles, but Father does. It feels like what we did was so little, but only eternity will tell the impact this experience has on their hearts. I only pray they felt the love of Jesus. Overall it was a happy first experience. And the gift was this beautiful weather at just the time we needed. About an hour after the kids left, another storm moved in with heavy driving rain and there were tornado warnings all over the place. We all moved our cars into the barn in case of hail. I was a little late taking my car over and the rain broke loose as soon as I got in the barn. So I ended up running back to the house with a rather useless umbrella and I got absolutely soaked! I debated staying in the barn to see if it would let up, but I didn't feel too good about staying out there if a tornado really did come along, so I made the dash! It was actually pretty fun! And I didn't get blown away or struck by lightning, so it's all good!
We spent a short time in the basement while our area was under a warning, but now as I write the rain has stopped and the warning has cleared. We are so blessed. Thousands of people have already suffered immensely from these tornado hits across the country and things are still hot. I can't imagine what it would be like to go through that and lose so much. It's hard to know how to even pray for those people. I must confess that it's hard to care deeply about what happens to strangers in places removed from me. We need to seek the Lord for how we can reach out to our neighbors. As Jesus made clear, your neighbor is anyone who is in need, who you have the ability to help. I am guilty of standing by and doing nothing far too many times. May God press on our hearts real compassion and mercy for the physical and spiritual needs of people. May He teach us how to love in deed and in truth.

Thank you to anyone who prayed for our group of kids today. Next Wednesday the ranch officially opens for the summer! So please, as the Lord lays it on your heart, keep praying! Pray for the staff, that God will give us the wisdom from above that is pure, peaceable, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Pray for safety for kids, horses, and staff. Pray for God to meet each child here in a special way and that they know they are loved. Pray for great relationships of trust and respect to be built between us and the horses and among the staff. Pray that God gives us the grace to respond well to each character building opportunity, to be broken and humble before Him and each other, and to be poured out in His love into the lives of each person who walks onto His Ranch. Most of all, pray that we get eyes to see where God is working and simply step in to join Him.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


One day recently I was having quiet time and thinking about my future here at the ranch and God brought this old favorite song to mind. That night I listened to it on my ipod and it brought back some precious memories. In August 2005, my little brother Justin was born. God designed him with an extra 21st chromosome, which we call Down Syndrome, and some significant differences in his heart. He was born at home but ended up in the hospital for about the first week of his life, and then had to go back in a second time during his first month. Just about one month after Justin's birth, I left home for a training and service program in Indianapolis, where I would spend a total of ten months. It tore my heart to leave at such a vulnerable time in our family; we didn't know what might happen with Justin and I was scared that he might take a bad turn while I was away. I was very fragile the first few days away from him. About a month or so into my training, Mom decided to send me a letter on tape. She recorded herself talking to me, and she even got Justin making a little noise on there, which was so special to me. But in one part of her tape Mom talked about this song that had become very meaningful to her in light of Justin's situation and all the unknowns. She sang it to me on the tape and it was exactly the comfort I needed at the time. I had heard the song before and was actually thinking about it, only remembering bits of it, around the same time she sent the tape. So, this special song has been in my mind again recently and it's such a beautiful reminder of how God has come through in my life in the past and I can continue to trust Him for the unknowns of tomorrow. So I'd like to share the words with you. It's called My Life Is In Your Hands.

Life can be so good
And life can be so hard
Never knowing what each day will bring to where you are
Sometimes I forget
And sometimes I can't see
That whatever comes my way, You'll be with me

My life is in Your hands
My heart is in Your keeping
I'm never without hope
Not when my future is with You
My life is in Your hands
And though I cannot see clearly
I will lift my voice and sing
Cause Your love does amazing things
Lord I know my life is in Your hands

Nothing is for sure
And nothing is for keeps
All I know is that Your love will live eternally
So I will find my way
And I will find my peace
Knowing that You'll meet my every need

He made you. He loves you. He binds up the broken hearted. He gives strength to the weary and power to the weak. He has written your name on the palm of His hand. He is God, and he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. That is my God, and your God. That is Father. Oh for grace to trust Him more!

My New Digs

So I thought you all would like to see where I call home now! I know it's been a month already; time flies! Sorry it took so long! My good intentions to keep up this blog are lagging right now. But let me put in a plug for the ranch blog, because I have begun writing on there, and as the summer rolls on, the staff are being encouraged to write their stories. So if you want ranch stories, you might get more on that blog than this one. Just go to
Okay, so here you go!

the beds (before girls)

"Cowboy" trying out my bed

Our lovely closet (before)

the beautiful bathroom

stalls for horses, and stalls for ranch girls(it's just so cute I had to put it in)

Our living room

we don't really eat here, but it's a great spot for studying or whatever

little kitchenette area (it's alot messier now!)

the view outside our window

even a tv room we get to use!

the beds now

and the closet now

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The First Two Weeks

So I've been on the ranch for two weeks now and I decided that if I try to get into deep, philosophical musings and spiritual analogies, I will never post anything here! And those kinds of posts can be good sometimes, but what you really want to know is the simple stuff. What have I been doing? How is life out in the real Midwest? Pictures? That would be wonderful. Unfortunately I don't have the computer amenities to transfer my photos from camera to blog at this point, so you will have to patient.

My first few days here were spent unpacking my large entourage and settling in to the brand new girls' bunkhouse. Being the first to set up housekeeping has its advantages! I got to choose my favorite bed and my favorite spot; bed and spot not together? Nothing a little furniture moving can't take care of. I had time to get my stuff organized and out of the way before someone else's stuff came into the mix. Our place is in the basement of the lovely retreat-cabin style house pictured in my last post. When I get around to Starbucks and have the chance to load pics on a friend's laptop, I will post some show and tell. We have a lovely dorm-style room, large bathroom, and our own little sort-of-kitchenette/sitting room with a door to the outside, not to mention a tv room with a piano and a treadmill right off our apartment.

Two of my summer ranch buddies arrived during the first week; I had already met both of them last fall at the fundraiser and we got to know each other a little bit during the weekend. They are both here for the whole summer, and we are getting along fabulously. We've already had some great fun times and great conversation. Our fourth roommate is due to arrive tomorrow night. I have not met her before, but she has spent time at the ranch previously and she shares my name :), so, I imagine we'll all fit together pretty well. Though it is going to be weird calling someone else by my name. We've already been discussing nicknames so that everybody else can make a distinction between the two of us.

So the three musketeers (soon to be four) have been keeping busy with all sorts of odd jobs while our boss-man, Shannon Haerr, operator of His Ranch, has been working tirelessly to plant corn in the short period between rain when the fields were dry enough. God blessed us with about a week of beautiful summer weather, and today the rain and cold is back. But I think most of the planting is done! Pray that the crop will do well this year; the last several years have been too wet.

We have occupied ourselves with:
weeding a large and very wild flower bed by the ranch main entrance.
cleaning the welcome center.
sweeping out the barn (the stalls are another story)
organizing and cleaning in the tack room and feed room
learning and taking over evening chores
cleaning saddles and water tanks
getting to know the horses and trying to practice catching, tying, and grooming (some tries were more successful than others)
having informal horse classes with Cowboy Willie, the ranch's wonderful volunteer horse trainer
watching horse training dvd's by Craig Cameron, world's greatest horse trainer and possessor of a lovely sleep-inducing southern drawl ;)
going to church, Bible study, and a youth get together
going out for Mother's Day dinner as adoptees of the ranch family
going out for lunch
going out for ice cream
going out to Walmart
celebrating a birthday by exploring a nearby town, baking a cake, watching a movie, meeting a friend, and, you guessed it.... going out for dinner. At the coolest Japanese grill
Oh yes, and sharing female bonding time over dark chocolate. What could top that?

Life has been full, exciting, and full of new things. Next week promises to be even fuller, with more new people and new things, and hopefully, still fun and exciting! One thing I can say....I know I'm going to have plenty of opportunities to grow here. And it's not always going to be fun and exciting. And I don't like the sound of that, but it's okay. God knows where I am, He knows where He wants me to be, and He knows how to get from point A to point B. He knows what's around this bend in the road and the next one and the next. He knows how He wants to show Himself in my life and I'm just along for the ride! Pray that I will be soft to His touch, just as these horses must learn to be soft to our touch and submit to our plans for them. Pray that I will trust my Father in all the things I cannot see or know, just as the horses must trust their trainer and rider to guide them and take care of them and keep them from harm. Pray that I will hunger and thirst more for Him and love to be with Him, just as I am hoping these horses will learn to enjoy being with me and learn to respect me as the leader.

Thank you, my friends, for reading and praying. Adios until next time!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

His Ranch!

I know, I said pictures coming soon.... so I'm a little behind. But here you go. These are a few pics I got during my weekend visit to the ranch last fall. I got to help with the annual fundraiser. Just thought you'd like to see where I'll be! Enjoy!

The welcome center

"Sid" the cowboy greeter

The barn

One of the two resident Clydesdales

Pulling the cart

Anneliese, one of my fellow volunteers, leading pony rides

A hay stack made for the kids to play looked so fun!

The house where I will be living

I'm set to head out to Missouri April 29th. That's less than two weeks away! I'm in denial about how much stuff I have to do to get ready. Mom is in denial that I'm really leaving. I have a myriad of little things to do this week, plus three days of work, plus some serious packing, plus a farewell dinner with my friends at work, plus practicing a song with my siblings for Easter, plus trying to spend some quality time with my family....that's a lot of plusses! I am a blessed girl who doesn't often realize what she has until it's time to let go. I don't know how long I'll be at the ranch, but it's a good chance I won't be back home to stay anymore. I feel it is time for this, but I also have a lot of reluctance to leave things as they are and walk through change. My prayer is that this step, and all the steps after that, will lead me deeper into Jesus and will also enrich my relationships, even with my loved ones while I'm physically separated from them. Though we all must grow up and drift apart to different horizons, may He knit our hearts together, may absence make our hearts grow fonder, and may He teach us to make the most of every precious opportunity we have to enjoy each other. Yes, I'm getting sentimental as the time to leave comes so near, but it's true. None of us is even guaranteed tomorrow. Today is all we have. Cherish the ones you love. Cherish the other people God has put in your life for this season. Ask Him how you can invest in each life and live today with no regrets. And pray for me, if you will, that I can do the same. I'm saying these things because I need to hear them and make them reality in my life.

Thanks for reading, friends! Until next time!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dream Big

Hi my friends! Is there still anyone reading this blog? LOL. I know my attempts to keep up with this have been pitiful. I hope to remedy that somewhat as I should have more interesting bloggy material in the days to come. However, I can make no promises. :)

Several months ago I started a post that I never finished. It was basically complaining about the stage of life in which I found myself and how intensely frustrated I was with the seeming lack of plan and purpose when I ought to be old enough to have done something more meaningful with my life by now. I wrote how I feel more confused and unsure of the future now than I did at 18. How I wish God would just tell me what He wants me to do specifically, complete with written directions! I am the only one who feels this way, right? ;)

Now as I look back from the threshold of an open door, I must testify to you that my God is faithful, regardless of the circumstances. He is good, whether I receive the desires of my heart or not. He says, Delight yourself in Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart. I believe that when we make it our pursuit to delight in God, He becomes our greatest desire. And I know that is the one desire that is guaranteed to be fulfilled. "You will seek Me, and find me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord." Jer. 29:13,14
"I will" He says.... it is God's will and pleasure to be found by you and me! He created us different from all the rest of creation, that we might be conscious of Him and seek Him for intimacy. And even as my long held frustrations and impatient distresses fall by the wayside in the wake of a new adventure, God is working a new grace in my soul to seek and to find the real treasure in Himself. After years of wandering and thirsting in the desert of head knowledge, after coming up empty in my relationship with God, the Living Word has dawned on my heart and I am beginning to know Him in a new way, as the Living Bread and Water to sustain my spirit. Perhaps I tasted of this as a young teen, when I discovered a new and maturing hunger for the Scriptures. But now, since I have seen what is really inside me and have tangled with the thorns choking my soil and sucked desperately at the polluted trickle of my self-dug wells.....Jesus Christ has brought me back to Himself and invited me to come to the waters where true satisfaction springs forth. He has opened my eyes to reality, to understand that losing my life means I must lay down my "pitcher" filled with the water that never satisfies me, and come to Him to drink. And I'm seeing that there is life in Him to make my spirit stronger and give me power to overcome the evil one and know that I have everything I need regardless of what I lack in this world's goods or definition of success. This isn't what I meant to write about but it's just so amazing I had to share it! I hope it means something to you, that it doesn't just sound like a lot of abstract, poetic stuff. I'm not sure I can express exactly what is happening, but I just know that it's real, and that no matter where I go in life from here, I'm going after the Living One with all I've got!

Now, to cap it off, I have to share about the incredible door Father has opened for me! For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a cowgirl. I was blessed to be around horses a good bit while growing up, riding with friends, volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, etc. But I never owned a horse or took formal lessons or got beyond the basics. Still, I've never lost the desire to somehow have horses in my life and work extensively with them, possibly in ministry. Several years ago I read a book called Bridge of Hope by Kim Meeder. Kim experienced terrible hurts in her childhood, but God called her to Himself and has worked so much healing in her life, and horses are a big part of what He used to do it. So she started a ranch to help kids like her. She rescues abused and abandoned horses as well. Her books are filled with incredible stories of some of these kids and horses and how they have found healing together. That book touched me and gave me a vision to be a part of something like that. But I didn't really pursue it then, and the dream has been tucked away in my heart ever since.
Last fall I found out about a ranch in Missouri that started because the owners caught the vision of Kim Meeder's ranch. It is a small, nonprofit, family run ministry with limited resources and big dreams. The person who gave me the information encouraged me to look into it, and I did. That resulted in taking a weekend trip to visit and help with a fundraiser at the ranch. I left knowing I wanted to spend more time there, but I didn't have big hopes for anything more than a short-term volunteer thing. My deeper hope, though, was that I could have a paid staff position and be there long term. How exciting to imagine getting into a place like that, where I could start with my limited knowledge and learn everything horse while working and being involved in a purposeful ministry to kids with all kinds of needs! Imagine getting to do what I really want to do, without going to an expensive school. Imagine being able to combine my love of horses with the special place God has developed in my heart for needy kids, especially those with mental and physical challenges.

Long story short, I've spent the last several months praying and planning to give part of the summer to volunteering at His Ranch. Imagine my joy when Father surprised me with an email on my birthday.... an email offering me an indefinite staff position at the ranch! I've gone through a mix of thoughts and emotions these past few weeks as I prepare to pull up stakes at home and step into a new chapter of my life for an unknown time period. But I must return to the truth that my God is faithful and He does have a good purpose for my life and He does not give us random desires that He never means to fulfill. My greatest prayer is that wherever God allows me to be, it is the place where I can best get closer to Him. And whatever happens, it is for the purpose of knowing Him more intimately and being conformed to the image of Jesus.

May we all be inspired to seek harder after God and dream as big as we can, because our God has no limits!

Coming from His Ranch!