Do I have a story for you…
If you have kept up with my blog, you know that I had to put my beloved horse down about a month ago after 18 years of a special friendship. My family and I were on vacation when my horse was injured. We had to come home early from our vacation in order to tend to her wounds.
Before we left for our trip, I had a fleeting thought: What if Marcy would have to be put down while we are gone? Marcy was perfectly healthy before we left. I had no reason to think she might have to be put down, but the thought entered my head. I considered it for a moment – only long enough to go back and give her another kiss before leaving – but not long enough to put any real stock in the possibility that the end of her days might be sooner than later.
On vacation, when I got the call that Marcy had been injured, my heart sank. As I talked with the vet (who was assessing the damage on Marcy and communicating the extent of it to me), I had that sinking feeling that I would have to put her down. The vet assured me that I did not have to make any kind of decision about it, yet. She was going to do what she could to patch her up.
On the long drive home from South Carolina, I did my fair share of crying as I considered the very sobering reality that I might not have my horse much longer. Somewhere deep down, I had begun mourning. Deep in my heart, I knew the most likely outcome, even though I hoped my heart was wrong. Hindsight is 20/20. I could not have said definitively that God was preparing me to say goodbye at the time, but as I look back, I can clearly see the gentle, loving hand of God preparing me for a very tough reality.
The next two weeks brought a roller-coaster of emotions as I spent hours every day out in the barn, nursing her wounds. It seemed like we were winning the fight and she was getting better. The swelling had gone down considerably and things were looking as good as they could, until Thursday evening, July 18. That’s when I knew the fight was over. I had a very difficult time caring for her that night because she was in a lot of pain again. I knew that what we feared was happening. Her eye was ulcerating due to the fact that she had lost control of her upper eyelid. Without her eyelid functioning properly, her eye was in very real danger of being damaged. I had kept drops in her eye several times a day to try to prevent an ulcer, but the ulcer had still formed. With an ulcerated eye, the only options were: a very expensive surgery or euthanasia. The decision was obvious, but far from easy.
The voice of the Lord was very present during the course of events that transpired. I knew God was sad with me. Though he does not mourn the way we do, he is sad when we are sad. Usually when I am in the thick of a trying event, I sense God’s nearness and I know he is talking, but it is difficult to hear clearly. As the dust settles, and I begin to look back, again, hindsight is 20/20.
Here is some of the clarity of sight that I have gained by intentionally looking back so I could see where God was. God spoke to me on the the long car ride home from South Carolina. He suggested the possibility of any good coming from this situation. God began showing me that IF I had to put Marcy down (I did not know what the outcome would be yet), I would have the opportunity to possibly get another horse some day. I might have the opportunity to begin a new adventure with a horse that might be a little better behaved. I loved Marcy dearly, but she was not a good riding horse. She gave me many a thrilling ride, and I could not share her with others. I ended up being her owner because I was the only person who could ride her. That fact never really changed.
Though I did not want to embrace life without Marcy, God was nudging me to trust him. He was encouraging me to believe that he has some good plans laid out down the road. He was daring me to consider embracing a new reality – one that would always carry a loss, but would not be defined by that loss.
I have learned that over time, the pain of the loss lessens. I fully recognize that the pain from losing an animal is not the same as losing a human life, but I do think that the same principals apply. The pain lessens with time. The loss will forever leave a mark. The size of the mark varies from person to person and situation to situation. Marks left by difficult events are a part of what make us unique. Like every opportunity in life, we have a choice. We have a choice about how we will move forward.
This summer, I have witnessed an extraordinary woman dare to consider moving forward without her beloved husband of 65+ years at her side. I have witnessed this woman, not give up and despair of life, but rather seek to live it faithfully and fully for as long as her days here on earth endure.
I have walked alongside another extraordinary woman as she has dared to consider moving forward, knowing that there will be countless reminders of the dreams she never got to see fulfilled with her daughter. This dear friend of mine knows that her daughter is in the arms of Jesus, sheltered from the difficulties that this life can bring some times. The only way my friend has been able to move forward is by resting in the same arms that hold her daughter. To trust in His strength and his goodness. It happens one step at a time.
It may not need to be said again, but I do not want to trivialize anyone’s pain by trying to compare the difficulty of losing my horse with the difficult of losing a child or a husband. Comparing pain is unwise and unproductive. I do, however, want to share a story that I hope encourages you wherever you are at to keep trusting in God’s goodness, believing that he sees you, knows the desires of your heart, and cares for you. No two stories are alike. God has a unique story written for each one of us, and it only harms us when we begin to compare our stories with someone else’s.
So I share the following story to encourage you about God’s goodness. Hopefully, as you see God’s hand at work in the life of another, it will cause your heart to worship Him – to worship him because stories testify to the character of God. The character of God is GOOD – always. His goodness may shine differently in your life, but his goodness is there. You may have to look for it because is goodness can often be overshadowed by other things.
So here is the story of how one girl (me) received a gift from her Good Father.
After I put my horse down, the thought of getting another horse was completely overwhelming to me. I had my horse for so long. I knew her. I trusted her. The thought of trying to find a new horse that would be a good riding horse, that I could trust around my kids, felt too tough. It also felt overwhelming because I could, in a sense, choose any horse I wanted. I could potentially get any kind breed of horse, any color, any size. If you are not a horse person, you can compare this feeling to the feeling you might have if someone stood you in a huge car dealership and said, pick any one you would like. If you have never had the chance to pick out a car that you really like, you would be excited and nervous all at the same time.
I began talking to God about my next horse. I knew that we would not be able to afford to buy a horse for quite a long time, so I began asking God to just give me one. Yes, I asked him to give me a horse. I was specific as I asked, too. I wanted an Arabian (a breed of horse). I rode and showed an Arabian that I absolutely loved before I got my horse, Marcy, so I asked God for a horse like the one I used to ride.
I figured that maybe next summer we might get a horse. I scanned Craigslist for the crazy chance that someone might be giving away a free horse. I found an Arabian listed for $6,500. Not a chance. So every time I headed out to the barn to feed the horses, in my heart, I would talk with God. I would confirm to Him that I was willing to wait. I also wanted to remind him that I wanted an Arabian. I told him that I trusted him to bring me the right horse at the right time. I did not want to make it happen (even though I kept my eye on Craigslist).
Last week, I got a call from my dear friend, Marci (the same name as my old horse). She tentatively asked me if I might be interested in getting a new horse. She was not sure if it was too soon to be asking, but her sister knew of some horses that needed a home because their owner (her future grandma in-law) had passed away. Marci did not know anything about the horses nor their price, but she told me she would let her sister know I was interested. I told Marci that if the horses were the breed I have been asking for, I might just crap my pants. (sorry for the nasty imagery)
A half hour later, I got an email from her sister saying that the horses were Arabians, and they were FREE!!
My heart just about leapt out of my chest and I began crying. Yes, crying. I felt so loved and heard by God in that moment. Even if these horses did not pan out, I knew that God heard me and the resolve to trust him to fulfill my desire for a horse grew stronger and deeper.
The story gets better.
The horses were near Ann Arbor. I never go to that side of the state. I happened to be going there this week with my mom for an appointment. What perfect timing, eh? So Wednesday (2 days ago) I was able to go visit the farm and see and ride the horse that they had set aside for us. Her name is O Suzy Q. She is the sweetest horse and fun to ride. She has a great temperament and she is an Arabian! AND she gets to come to our house next week!! Not next summer. Not in a couple years. Next week!!
Now hear me. People do not just give away good horses – especially not to someone they do not know. If a person is getting rid of a good horse, they sell them because they are worth a lot of money. If a person is getting rid of a horse, it usually has a physical problem or a personality problem. …unless God is behind it.
So next week, we will have three horses out back again. I will officially be a horse owner again. It will be different. It will be a new adventure, but I am excited because I know deep in my heart that I did nothing to make this happen. God brought this horse to us. He has plans. He is writing a story. We just finished one chapter, and we are beginning another. We (my family and I) are committed to not judge the story until we see it through to the finish. Some chapters are just plan agonizing. Others are full of joy. Behind them all is a Good Author, a Good Father, and a Good Guide.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Jesus endured the worst torment any human could possibly endure. He did it for the JOY set before him. He knew there was joy on the other side of his pain if he trusted his Father. I believe the promise is the same for us. There is joy on the other side of our pain if we trust the Father. Do not grow weary or lose heart. Keep your eyes on Jesus and watch and wait. You just do not know what he will do, but you can trust it will ultimately be for your good.