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!