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.