Natural Lifemanship

After a morning of review and questions and a demonstration at the Natural Lifemanship Fundamentals training, it was already time to go in with the horses.

The black and white Gypsy Vanner, Louie, clipped grass, pawed rocks and mouthed a halter on the ground, completely oblivious to me. The sun felt hot on my shoulders, but not hotter than my face. I felt eyes on me, felt where the plaid shirt and cowboy hat was, the only eyes who would really know what I was doing.

I was the first one in the pen, wired with anticipation and urged in there first. It was afternoon of the first day of training and I knew what to do, I knew how to do it. Get connection. Get his attention at least. Have an ear, an eye, his head turn towards me. In the demo, Tanner had gotten him connected, close by attachment and after some time by detachment, also. The big horse, who hadn’t been still the whole morning became quiet, standing in the center of his pen, leg cocked, head relaxed, while Tanner walked around. I watched the horse subtly follow him around in the circle. A nearly unrecognizable cock of the head to pick him up in the other eye. A little swivel of the ear. I knew I couldn’t get that. I didn’t have the practice or the time. But I understood, I’d done a lot of parts of this, I’d been successful. I knew that feeling when the horse first stopped and looked at you.

But I carried a lot into that pen.

My lip was raw from biting on it. The last 24 hours had fully revealed the absurdity and desperation and hopelessness of my situation. This was the step out of my life that I needed. But I carried that desperation, along with unstoppable questions about this Natural Lifemanship work with me. Attending the training was a push toward moving forward, something I finally found that gave me a taste of hope. Of change. Of changing others, of bringing them hope, too.

I kept looking to Tanner, wildly hoping for him to say something, as the horse continued to ignore me. The horse finally responded with mild resistance, lazily walking around his pen as I put pressure on his hind end. When he stopped at the gate and began pawing rocks again, ignoring me, Tanner finally came up to me.

“What are you working on?” he asked.

“Getting some connection.”

“What do you think Louie is feeling?”

He didn’t seem very anxious to me. “I think he’s annoyed,” I replied.

Tanner looked like that was a clue. “What kind of statement is that? Doesn’t that put all the judgement on you?”

Hurry, change your answer. “Maybe he’s anxious.” Tanner nodded, and I think he probably said more, started talking about how to add more energy, but everything caught and clawed in my chest and all I could think of was I always do that. It all comes back on me. I always turn the judgement on myself.

He said something about not being task oriented, about looking for the connection and not a specific behavior like turning to face me. It’s all about relationship. I fumbled around with the lead rope and adding pressure and got Louie to respond a little. But he got stuck again at the gate, his head thrust over it, pawing the metal bars loudly.

I wanted to slow down, back up, start over with an assessment, a baseline instead of jumping right into it, but I wanted to touch the horse. Pet his shoulder. I asked Tanner but he brought more questions. Was it safe to touch him? Why did I want to? What would that accomplish? And how would the horse feel about it?

My words tripped over themselves and I couldn’t answer the real reason. I just wanted to pause, slow down. Get grounded. I touched him anyway as the thoughts still came, as I reached out for the only thing familiar: the strong, solid side of the horse. Damn the horse in this little moment, it was safe for me to be next to him while I caught my breath. In that moment, I saw all of the ranch horses, all the ways I worked with them, knew them. Pixie pawing at the wall and tugging on her tied lead rope. Rocket’s soft eyes as he turned to me from trotting loose around the arena. Tex nearly kicking me on the lunge. Donny gently flexing his sorrel nose towards me.

I wanted to show them, the eyes watching me, that I brought all those horses and all the people that stepped into the arena with me. I was here for them. So that I could do a better job. Somehow add enough time to care for the horses, to be fully present with the people. Somehow this would change things, fix things, fix horses. Validate me and all the work I did.

I scratched Louie’s haunches as he continued to ignore me and I remembered to breathe.

Tanner talked to me about the pressure, about something else but I didn’t hear a word of it. I wanted to say I know this, I know how to do this, wanting so desperately to prove that I did. That I understood. That I’m good with horses. That the 98 that I take care of are in good hands and I can read them and I know something. But the concept of “task-oriented” was spinning in my head, spilling into more, carrying a wider meaning.

I swung the lead rope. I followed the horse, like I’ve done a million times. I willed his ear to flick to me, to give some indication that he saw me and recognized my existence.

And I felt the undeniable pull of the other trainers. The other participants.

How do I do this so you are satisfied? How will I be able to take the pressure from you off? 

The pressure for me was not getting the damn horse to acknowledge my rope-swinging presence, but to do a good enough job. To give them the answer they were looking for. To complete the task to their standards. To know all those horses and people who come into contact are somehow not made worse for knowing me, being dependant on me.

I completely lost sight of the horse in my desperate attempt for approval.

Tanner gently said I’d been in for a while, that more people needed a turn.

“I know, I know,” I choked out. My failure clawed around me and it was not the failure to get the connection with the horse. Moments before, he had given me an ear, good enough for him and me and the time.

Tanner suggested I find a place to end on a good note and I never wanted to get out of somewhere so badly. Don’t make me stay in here, I wanted to say.

The sun was beautiful and bright and the grass fresh and green but it all swam around me as the ranch and my old job and my family and all that I mistakenly put my identity in waited for me outside of the pen, waiting for me to fail.

I was going to fail no matter what.

Let me out of this pen, I can’t be in here with it, with you watching, with such a simple task completely un-doing me.

I “found a place to leave on a good note” and I think I was still breathing while I avoided everyone’s eyes and found a quiet spot and sunk down into the grass while the tears burned their way out and I quickly brushed them away.

How long was I in there?

My whole life? 3 years? 20 minutes?

Someone brought me water and I sat and watched everyone else for a long time, until my heart slowed down and I think I could walk again. Everyone else tried more than one horse but there was no way I was going back in another pen, even with that sorrel that looked like the easiest one.

In the end, the training was life changing, like Corey said. When I slept on all that and all the information, found a clearer head, I was inspired by the possibilities of Natural Lifemanship. For horses, for relationships. For healing and growth and renewal. God and Christ and redemption runs through it all, and is at the heart of it. God desires that connection and relationship more than we could ever know, and that’s where new life comes. Horses bring it out, reveal patterns, show stumbling blocks. The possibilities for programs are endless.

One of the Natural Lifemanship principles is that horses are not mirrors, like some people say. That black and white horse with the feathered legs let me see something, though. Somehow through the hot sun and the trainers with all those years of experience I clearly saw how desperate and consuming my desire is to know if I am enough.

I didn’t answer that question, but the horse started the conversation.

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Natural Lifemanship

tearing down realities

I’m not on the throne in your kingdom.

This thing is bigger than idols, though there are idols.

I have created a reality where I can’t win. Where God can’t win. It’s a kingdom built around lies. It is a prison where truth comes in as weak trickles, loosing their power by the time I reach for them. The rules are different here, the laws are not God’s laws, not even the world’s laws. The deception is complete.

Months ago, Tim had a vision of a woman locked in chains in a pit. (El roi, the God who sees me) And then Jesus tearing the bars off the pit, tearing the chains off in his mighty power, and setting her free. It was such a powerful image, one I needed so desperately to hear and see and believe.

The belief has been the struggle.

Last night, driving in the gathering dusk on icy roads, I got the same image, but she – I  – was still in that pit. The chains were gone, but it was so dark and cold and lonely and I was trying to cover myself with a tiny square of a rag.

Later, Jesus said I don’t want to come give you the comfort of a larger blanket. I want to take you to a place where you won’t need it.

What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? What fellowship can the light have with darkness? (How can I bring you peace and comfort when you choose to live in darkness?)

There were 3 songs about his kingship and authority and thrones and altars.

And God showed me this land I live in, this place I’ve created is built on a lie. Just like no lies can stand against the truth of God, I’ve created a kingdom, an alternate reality, where none of his truths can stand up to these lies. Everything that happens, the things people say and do, the words I read, are filtered through lies. They get twisted, they get thrown out, they don’t apply to me. They can’t apply to me. I built a throne to my misery. I deserve it. I can’t escape, I shouldn’t escape, there’s no way to escape. The lies shut me up, keep me in the corner, keep me moving and functioning as they destroy me from the inside out.

God showed me it’s a whole world. Towns built to bitterness, places I can go to torture myself, lies about my identity continually reinforced.

Beauty is devoured and doesn’t last.

Hope tastes stale because there’s no truth behind it.

Loneliness rules the streets.

The will to get up and get out has been crushed, and is continually crushed.

There is no strength, nothing of holiness and goodness that lasts. It is all so fleeting. Truth and hope and grace will not last the night.

But God…

But God shone his light on the devils’s schemes. He revealed the world, the lies, the way it works, the reason my attempts to escape have been so puny and unsuccessful. I can’t just try to find a way out, I have to leave it all behind. I can’t attack one lie with a truth, I need to filter everything, all the time through the word, the truth, of God. I can’t let it come in through the atmosphere of this world I’ve made. When God said take every thought captive, he means to me, right now, every damn thought.

Is this true?

Then walk in it.

And yes, this all seems so simple and obvious and has been told to me a million times. But it always got swallowed up by lies. It was eaten by the beasts of my unworthiness that were strengthened each time I rejected the truth of God for their lies. Every time my heart grew weak at the sound of their breath in my ear. Every time fear ruled my heart.

The foundation of these lies was one that I hear time and time and time again:

No one is coming for you.

It is devastating in a hundred ways. You are not worth coming for. You are not worth saving. You are not worth pursuing. You are too much trouble, too much effort, too damaged, too unstable, too much of a predictable failure. There’s no help for you. If you want out, you have to do it on your own. You have to do everything on your own.  He tempts me to get up, try it. And laughs at my failure. See, no one’s coming for you.

But damn it, it’s the biggest lie.

My Jesus came for me. He left heaven for me. He took these lies and this sin and this alter to destroying myself and overcame it. He finished it. He said “I will tear down this temple and in three days rebuild it.”

He will rebuild me.

He will build his kingdom around me and in me and through me.

I need to live in the world where I am worth coming for. I have been saved, I’m being saved, he will always be rescuing me from the clutches of death and sin and the broken world.

Let the King of my heart
Be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from
Oh-oh, He is my song
Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh-oh, He is my song

I have been running to mountains of rejection, drinking from fountains of unworthiness. Hope has been proven in vain in this world, and the fire of the will to fight has been utterly put out.

But my God is a fire starter. He’s a rescuer. He’s the light. The way, the truth. And I will need to cling to that truth and learn to hear the truth, really hear it in my heart. I will need to learn to find the beauty. I will find my song again.

He is my song. I will sing it to myself, sing it to the darkness, sing victory over lies.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

tearing down realities

Battle Scars

I have scars.

Some are noticeable, the reason I didn’t wear sleeveless shirts for a very long time. The reason I started drinking when I stopped making them for a time. Some are faint, very faint now, though they go deepest to me. Some are lined in neat rows. Some are meticulously random. Some are 15, 16 years old. There’s a big gap of time, marking freedom, and then some are shamefully recent.

They are permanent. They are a reminder. They are forever a part of me. I have wanted to cover them – to mark off the area – with a tattoo. I have wanted beyond words to have Him just take them away. Make them invisible. Heal the skin so I wouldn’t have to carry them with me. So I wouldn’t be reminded. Or tempted. Or both.

I have wanted to use them, somehow, for good. For healing, helping, proof that someone is not alone. But any mention of the practice in random conversation makes my breath catch in my throat. I can’t breathe. Can’t speak. My heart pounds in my ears and I am frozen to the spot. Never mind if it turns personal. So they have been left unredeemed.

Shame grips me like an icy hand. I play with the idea and become locked in the desire and then crippled with the shame.

Unspeakable.

Untouchable.

Inescapable.

I have been searching for ways out of this pit. I was disgusted to find myself here again, adding up behaviors and thoughts and practices to self-diagnose what has never “officially” been diagnosed. Depression. So technical and worldly but an explanation other than one that I am just a hopeless mess. Angry and ashamed and confused I wondered about the where and when and how and why. And I wonder how much of that I need to figure out before I can unravel the twisted mess my mind is.

But God… My faith. The Holy Spirit. Jesus. He’s here and he gives me grace and mercy and words and little bits of hope along this path.

“Chase it down,” I’ve been told. “Press in through the crowd, just to touch the hem of his cloak.”

But, unless you’ve been here, you don’t know how impossibly exhausting that sounds. Getting out of bed is exhausting. Picking up laundry off the floor, pulling weeds in the garden, even everything tiny is wearisome. Some days 3:00 – time to get the girls – comes and crushes me to the ground under the heel of promised failure and unworthiness. And getting that healing from God? That touch I know I need? Those answers and that sustaining hope and whatever other marvelous and beautiful things he has for me seems so far away. Past the ocean of my unworthiness, my practices of speaking horribly to myself, the automatic way I always turn away from his holy face because I don’t think he could even bear to look at me.

But that’s not the truthWhat you see and feel is not true, it’s not the way I see you.

I know that. I know all these things.

But I don’t believe them, I haven’t been able to. Maybe I’m just a failure, or maybe there’s something in the way.

And still, my mighty and endlessly patient God is here, right at my side when I dare to turn to him. He offers words of wisdom, and peace, and peels back the layers without me knowing until he suddenly moves a mountain. And I see the evidence of his working in the rubble, how he has masterfully staged this undoing with a thousand little acts and whispers and prayers and words.

That Sunday night, obedient to pastor’s charge to come for prayer every time but still reluctant in my heart, still wanting to run, I stood at the front. And they prayed.

I know God moved, and it was a good prayer and something felt different but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Until, back in my seat, continuing to pray, I suddenly became aware something felt lighter. Unshackled.

My wrist. My arm. My scars.

They had no more weight.

I did not feel anything about them.

Blissful nothingness.

And then, we sang a song. The Holy Spirit song, that had one line that shot a holy truth right through me:

My shame is undone.

The shackles of shame, that kept me in fear, kept me silent, fed the fires of my unworthiness, were broken away. The beast of shame, with hot breath, will no longer stalk me. The shame was tied to those scars but also to the very thoughts and temptations, the desire to ask for help but finding the words caught up and unspeakable. Also to being stuck back in the pit with the reactions and feelings I hate but am surrounded and stalked by. It shackled all the darkness together, and kept me silent and hiding and believing I could never make it to the cloak of Jesus or walk out whatever came after.

But now it is undone.

By the grace and mercy and unfathomable wisdom of my heavenly Father.

The term “battle scars” has been tossed around but I’d always rejected it. To me they were inescapable and undeniable proofs of failure, of utter weakness, of desperation, of the evil in my heart winning. Of everything shameful.

But take that shame away and maybe they can be battle scars. If I pick up that sword and point it at my enemy, if now the beast of shame has had its teeth kicked in and breath knocked out and power gone, then maybe.

Maybe my God, a creating God, a God who turns water to wine, blindness to sight, life to death, can turn shame to battle scars.

I’m going to find out.

Battle Scars

Brave

It is hard to be brave without hope. Maybe impossible. Without something to rally to, build forces behind, drive you into the darkness and fear. Hope fuels courage, fans the flame. Without hope, bravery is overcome, the breath is stolen from it’s chest.

For me, to be brave means being able to look at myself in the mirror and finding even a bit of worth before I turn away. It means getting out of bed. It means turning to face the beast on the days I can feel the hot stench of his breath on my neck. And on the days the claws are deep in my shoulders, it means asking for someone to stand beside me, sword drawn. It means bringing holy order to the chaos of my swirling dark thoughts. I had to find courage to even consider I’m worthy of healing, of mercy, of my Father God just looking at me. Bravery means turning the shame of my scars into testaments of grace. Believing they will be signs of overcoming, of rescue, of life instead of death, no longer memories filled with guilt and desperation. A wild-eyed, restless hope believes one day I will trace the scars with the sweetness of victory, slowly forgetting the bitterness of defeat.

My Christ can do this. My savior came, and still he comes, to redeem.

Buy back. Exchange.

All of me.

The parts I hide, that I am terrified of, that I am chained to, that I hate but hold close.

“It is finished,” He says and bravery means believing that, claiming that, living that, testifying that to the darkness, finding the breath to scream it to myself.

The beast that stalks me, that I can hear breathing hot and heavy, that I have never really stared down but know intimately, is not bigger than the God in me. But I forget that. I forget that, and then faith is lost in the haziness and fear. Hearing him behind me, his padded paws circling just outside of the firelight, the inevitable heaviness of his sudden pounce as he knocks my breath away wears at my resolve and puts out that fire of hope. I don’t dare to believe I can escape him, never mind turn and fight him.

But my Jesus says he’s overcome. Again he tells me it is finished. There is nothing more for me to do but hope. Stand firm. For I am not the one who shrinks back and is destroyed, but the one who stands firm and is saved, he promises me. And he tells me he is the only one who can speak holy, pure, truth. The hope and courage he offers me is untainted, untouched by even my shame. Holy. Righteous. Victorious. He says this word is my sword. This faith is my shield.

Today I was brave and I remembered what hope was. How to sit, if even for a moment, and feel peace. To be able to do nothing but remember how to breathe in grace. I’d forgotten about it, that it even existed, that I could even taste it. Forgotten how it felt, without fear and shame and self loathing coiling in my back and shoulders and the tension bound painfully in my head. He looked at me and told me I was brave and it caught me off guard;  I was surprised by the light, surprised by the fire of hope coming back to life. The words I spoke, so insignificant on their own but carrying the weight of confession were words spoken in courage.

All I could speak past the shame gripping me were tiny details.

Not about the days I thought about it, fantasized about it. Maybe, deep down, I thought it would keep the beast away or maybe draw him in for the final kill and I could be done with this struggle. I couldn’t show them the small red cuts, carefully made to look accidental, randomly matching the various bruises and cuts from working at the ranch. I couldn’t say that I wanted them lined up. All down that soft inside of my arm. Orderly and painful and bleeding and bringing such horribly sweet relief. How I carefully unwrapped the new blade to his straight razor. How in some sick way I was glad he bought it a few months ago. How I know pocket knives are never sharp enough. How now, as I write these words they tear in shame but I feel the power of this act leaving. The control it has over me loosening. The darkness fading softly, ever so slightly. I can dare to look around for that beast, because I don’t hear his snarl, even from the shadows.

Use that sword on him, my God says quietly. Draw his bloodWound him. Chase him back. Turn that energy and those thoughts and that hate towards your enemy.

You are not the enemy.

You are mine. Redeemed.

There is darkness to be defeated, to be driven back, to be torn down, but it is not in you.

I am here and waiting and ready to overwhelm you and turn those smoldering ashes of hope into a roaring fire but first you need to put down that blade and pick up my sword.

 

Brave

finally

The vet held up a large syringe filled with bubble gum pink liquid. “Is pink your favorite color?” Heath joked. It was hard to hear over the sound of the wind behind the house, by the apple tree and round bales. I managed a smile and shook my head. My favorite color is dark blue. The color of the sky before dawn, on bow watch after a long night. Deep and smooth and promising but not quite full of light.

Finally.

Last night she texted me a list of horses to be sold, that we had to catch in the morning. At the bottom was Montana- put down.

I felt a lump in my throat, but I thought bitterly, finally. And of course, the decision was made without me. But it was a decision I wanted to have been made for months. Nearly 5 months, by my count. I texted her back quickly. When? I want to be there if I can. Will it be Heath? I wanted it to be him, but mostly I needed to be there at the end. I think he would know that, and he knew her struggle. Our struggle.

I wasn’t sure if it would be him, or even when, until he came mid-morning, to my relief. He smiled when he saw me and Jon and I think I smiled but I looked out the door to where she stood. We were trimming horses. The cold was seeping though my sleeves, around my neck. I was angry with the cold, biting wind, with having only half an hour to catch 11 horses by myself earlier, with her ordering to give the pregnant horse grain like it was my fault I didn’t know that, wasn’t already doing that, was perfectly capable of giving her adequate care.

I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, but I fought back tears a few times. I hastily wiped them away as I walked to get Montana, standing in patch of sunlight, her body rocking as she struggled for each breath.

She told Heath to listen to her lungs and give his opinion. I brought her to the far side of the arena and he went to get his stethoscope, but he said to just me, “I don’t think I really have to listen. But I will to make a good show.” He listened, and shook his head and said to her, “She doesn’t have a lot of function, especially on the left side.” Yes, we’ve tried everything. He asked to do an autopsy, to see what was going on. She agreed, and I was glad. I wanted to see too.

They decided to do it up behind the house, for the people who pick up the large animals. Heath was going to sedate a horse that needed shoes pulled and wouldn’t stand, so I took Montana up. Again, I fought tears as we walked along the road, in the sun that was finally warming up. But I was glad, relieved, that I could be here. That I could walk her up and be there with her.

She eagerly clipped fresh shoots of grass that were just turning green. A taste of spring.  A bit of new life.

I sat against the apple tree, hood pulled up against the wind, watching her pull the short shoots, willing the sun to warm me up, be warmer than the bite of the wind. After several minutes, when Heath didn’t come up, I tied her to the swing and went back to the arena. They were helping hold the sedated horse up while Jon pulled a shoe and trimmed her.

Finally, he was ready. I climbed fences and walked through the mud while he drove around. Montana had pulled loose of the swing, but was grazing and hadn’t gone far. I walked her towards his truck while he got the syringe, filled with pink.

He searched for her vein on her neck, stuck the needle in, pulled back so red blood mushroomed into the syringe, then pushed it in.

He took the lead rope from me. “When she goes, she may go over fast.” Montana stumbled a few steps, then fell. And lay still. I bit my lip and the wind was making my nose run and my eyes water in spite of my efforts. I stared at her still body. Finally.

“You spent a lot of time with this horse, didn’t you?” he asked. I could only nod, looking at her lifeless body.

Heath went back to his truck and got another syringe and stethoscope and large knife as I pulled the halter off her head. I tried not to touch her nose, feel her warmth. He checked a few things, pushed in the other syringe, looped the stethoscope around his neck, his fingers fumbling to fold the collar of his green coat over it.

“Are you sure you want to watch this?”

“Yes.” I was sure. “I want to see.” I want to know you were right, I was right, you are trustworthy and knowledgeable and I am right for trusting you. I need to see.

He cut into her. Pulled skin back, pulled her foreleg away. He looked to me before he went further. “Some muscles may still be twitching. Or her heart may still be beating a little bit. It happens, sometimes with euthanasia.” That’s okay. She’s gone now. I understand. This is not the hard part.

It took a while to get down to the lungs, cutting through bones with crunching from what looked like bolt cutters, and pulling out ribs. He pointed out bruising around the lung cavity, and how jaundiced she was. “Her liver was really going.” He got down to the lungs. They were a mess. Hard and dead and fibrous and filled with foam. He cut sections open to show me. Only a very small section was healthy and pink.

“She must have looked like she was drowning.”

Yes. She did.

He worked and cut and hauled out both lungs onto the ground with a grunt. “The hard part about horses is everything is so heavy.” The right lung looked just as bad, if not worse. Sections of black, dead and hard areas, almost none of it heathy. He pointed out how floppy one side of her heart was. “It was working super hard. It shouldn’t be like that.”

“Do you think all this if from when she got sick?”

“I do.” There were no masses or tumors or abcesses, but something happened that time she was so sick.

He finished up, after looking at the liver and part of her stomach, and checked for anything else out of the ordinary, then heaved the lungs back into her chest and pulled her leg back over.

I was shivering. I knew I’d be cold the rest of the day. Heath looked at me, “You must be freezing.” Once before, on another windy winter day, he’d offered me gloves as explained he had dozens of them from the clinic. But I had just stuffed my hands in the sleeves of my coat.

“Do you have room in your truck? Can I ride back down with you?”

“Of course.” I pushed aside the equine medicine textbook and empty syringe containers. The truck was warm. We made small talk on the way back down, and I asked him to come in to explain what he found to her. So it wouldn’t come from me, I didn’t add.

He talked for a few minutes, then left, with a wave and a smile. Jon and I went back to trimming one more horse and after he left I did chores, still shivering, the cold down into my bones now.

When I locked up and left and drove back to the house, I noticed a weight off of my chest. A relief. A burden that had been constant for five months was gone.

Montana was gone.

Finally.

finally

In stillness and storms

I was having a moment.

Hot tears of frustration could not be held back anymore. I was crouched in the corner of the kitchen, feet bare, a cabinet handle digging into my back, feeling the fever that has been with me for 4 or 5 days creep back, cold and prickly on my arms and hot and consuming in my core.

In that moment, I was convinced God was cruel. That He wanted these little, overwhelming frustrations and heartbreaks to eat away at me. That He wanted to give me that horse just so He could take it away. You give and take away. So just take. Skip the giving.  He would make it all spin out of my control until I was always found right here, in complete, hopeless surrender. Everything is meaningless under the sun. I spit out my despair. “You’ve got it God. You’re in control. I’d give my life so my dear friend would not be plagued by ailments. But I can’t do that, can I? I can just take her to you and it seems like nothing changes and what the hell are you doing? Do I matter to you? Why don’t my prayers have your power?” And the youngest says her tummy hurts so I can’t go support another friend in a play. And I left the ranch early so I could pick the girls up and go to that play. Fail. Failure. Failing.

I wanted to run to Mount Horeb. Hide in the cave, a deep, dark, far-away cave. Wait for it all to pass by.

Or until He passes by.

“What would you say to me?” I cried to the kitchen floor. Or would just His presence be enough? “What would you say to me?”

And He passed by.

The tight pain in my head loosened, like a screw, and was gone. I hardly felt that round knob in the small of my back. My toes were not cold. The half-emptied dishwasher no longer taunted me.

For Elijah, He was not in the earthquake, or the fire, or the rushing wind. But in the whisper. In the quiet. He didn’t need to say anything to me. It was just his presence I wanted. Quiet. Peace in the midst of chaos. A stilling in my heart, a slowing of my breath.

The tears slowed. The quiet reached through me, all through me and my thoughts were still. Silence can be a miracle, the undeniable presence of God.

Supper came and went and the youngest is fine I think and the fever is there and painful sinuses are back but my heart is still.

The world did not end because we didn’t go to the play. And though my friend still wrestles fear and sickness, I am doing all I can. I do not hold any of this, no control, and therefore no fault. When I let go, when I could do nothing more than hide with my broken, fearful heart in the cave on Mt. Horeb, He passed by.

And. He is enough.

I don’t know how. He just is. And there is work to be done. Go back the way you came.

In stillness and storms

Strangles

What is this desire to be heard born from? To be held in acknowledgment? To be noticed in honesty?

Though when I look at my marriage from even just half a step back the hopelessness is staggering. My hand in its destruction and pain, however unintentionally, is obvious and humbling and devestating. For me to seek comfort and validation and apologies and tenderness, my failings also have to be counted and weighed and recognized. I dare not raise my voice in defence or explination or seek anything other than complete surrender.

Montana is still slowly dying. A last ditch attempt to change her condition will be noted by tomorrow. But still she doesn’t believe the vet. She doesn’t trust me. And I am the one that has to watch the strong lepord spotted mare struggle for each breath. Tomorrow has come and she is maybe looking better, and I told the vet. Everyone wants to give her time. Am I a coward for giving up on her? For thinking she is never going to recover, that even trotting a few steps will always leave her coughing and gasping for air? To hate to see her living such a limited, painful struggle of a life?

Buck Branahan, the horse whisperer, says our horses are a mirror to our soul. We joke about that because it’s not always true. But sometimes it is. And Montana is mine. Sometimes I am overwhelmed that those 120 horses mostly only have me. Montana only has me, combing her forelock with my fingers, giving her bigger portions of grain, watching, measuring her breath, trying to read her expression, trying to hear her.

What does she want? Does she understand?

The struggle is exhausting. Some days she has improved, some days worsened. But never better. Like all the things I am entangled in – marriage, youth group, HD girls, my girls, church, God, friends – sometimes I am making improvements, and sometimes wounds. But in the end I always feel hobbled, held back, by my infinities and weakness and a mind that is out to utterly destroy me.

What a wretched person I am! Who will save me from this body of death?

Save me.

Once and for all. So the struggle is over and each day I breathe easier and never regret the decision to keep pressing on. So I know this fight is worth staying in. So the tangled web of the past and mistakes and sins will fade in the light of his glory. So I can taste the sweetness of hope. So I can know it’s worth it. That I’m worth it.

Strangles