Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Weekly Word & Update

I would like to take this time to thank everyone for praying for me, and for lifting the ministry up during my time of recovery. It has been a slow process, but a very good one! The surgery was a success and the nerves that were being crushed have been mending very well. I was able to spend a little time on the computer over the last week or so, and this story just seemed appropriate. So here is the first story I have written since the operation. I will be checking back as I continue to mend, and as the stories flow, you will hear more from me. Thank you all again - and God bless you all . . .

Weekly Word - October 27, 2005

Trust in the Lord, and do good; . . . Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37: 3a & 4)

The desires of your heart . . . During this past month, as I continued to recover from surgery, there has been plenty of time to think about my hopes and wishes, as well as my fears and doubts. It seems that our lives are always on this roller coaster of emotions - times of terror and heartache - as well as times of wonderful joy and celebration. As I thought back over my life, this story seemed to pop out at me. It was a time in my life when I saw the best - and worst - in myself . . .

I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications, Because He has inclined His ear to me, . . .
(Psalm 116: 1 & 2)

We first met her when she was just about three years old. She was very small for her age, with delicate features that hid her strength. She had a small face and neck, with eyes that drew you in. Her hair was very dark, with small tinges of light mixed in. She had a very regal name - but everyone called her April. She had a fiery temper, as well as a gentleness that always surprised me. I didn’t know what to think, as my daughter begged to ride this little Arabian mare.

Jen was between 9 and 10 years old, and had only been riding for about 2 years when she saw April. My daughter was small for her age, and so this little mare seemed just the right size. She had only been “broken” for a short time, and so I have to admit I was also very nervous about Jenny riding this young horse. But Jen had inherited her love of horses from me. I had never ridden, but always dreamed of it. I would daydream, as a little girl, of riding away from all my troubles - on a beautiful palomino horse with white mane and tail. So when Jenny showed an interest, and begged me to take her - I somehow found a place for her to go riding.

We had found JoAnne’s farm. She had been teaching my friend’s daughter to ride, and so I asked if Jen could go along. That was the beginning for Jenny. She loved riding! She went every week, riding whatever horse or pony was free that day. But sometimes there wasn’t anyone for her to ride, as the older girls or girls who already owned horses - had first picks. That’s when we first asked JoAnne if there was a horse that Jenny could lease. That’s when we met April. She was JoAnne’s baby, she was the daughter of her horse, and never wanted to let her go. So having Jen ride her - seemed perfect!

Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
(Psalm 37: 5)

Jenny started to take lessons using April. I watched as the two learned together. As I took her to the farm each week, I started to learn about the horses as well. I loved being there. I loved seeing the new mothers and babies as they ran out in the fields. I loved learning about the equipment and how it was used. I loved just “being” around the horses. But I also was afraid. I never said anything about it, I just knew it was there. So as Jen would take her lesson, waving to me from on top of April, I would swallow hard and smile back. I wondered how I could have such mixed feelings! I had always dreamed about riding a horse - and Jenny was doing just that - and still I was afraid . . .

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
(Psalm 27: 1)

As Jen continued to take lessons, I found ways to help out around the farm. I helped her with finances and taxes - and brought food and coffee - I did anything I could think of to help the owner of the farm. Then one day she asked me if I wanted to ride. I wanted to - but was afraid. I smiled at her, and told her I had never ridden. JoAnne just laughed and brought out a beautiful white mare for me to get on. She was the biggest horse I had ever seen! Her name was Sugar, and she stood quietly as I was helped up onto her back. As I put one leg into the stirrup and pulled myself up onto the saddle - I expected to keep on going straight over to the other side and falling and breaking my neck! But I didn’t. I just sat there, as this beautiful white mare waited for me to tell her what to do. “Walk” I told her. And we started slowly around the ring. Jenny was riding April, and laughing at me as I hung on to the saddle with one hand, as well as the reins and mane of the horse. My teeth felt like they were frozen shut - and still I felt wonderful! I felt like I was flying - and was terrified that I would die at any minute!

My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident.
(Psalm 27: 3)

Fear - terror - joy - and exultation . . . I felt them all while I was riding. For the next two years, Jen took lessons with April. Every once in a while, I did too. It was always the same - I was afraid - and I was so happy!

During this time, Jen had gotten very good at riding and had started to enter competitions with April. The two had become very close, and April seemed to love Jen. They could be found walking around the arena or fields - Jen always smiling and talking to the young mare. April always made me nervous though - as she had the ability to get nervous and “spook” at whatever might be in the ring. When Jenny was at a show, my job was to make sure her equipment was on tight - and both the horse and rider looked good. I could be found walking around the show area with a horse brush and rag in one hand, and Jen’s hair brush in my back pocket. I looked like any other “show mom”. But the fear never left me. I could feel it in the back of my teeth and jaw, as well as in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know why it was there, but I couldn’t make it go away.

At this one particular show, I had started the week feeling sick. My head hurt and I was tired, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my week-end doing this. It was Friday night, and we were getting the horses ready to be trucked over to the arena. As I held April, waiting to put her into the trailer, I watched Jenny and her friends. She was so happy and so excited. And I couldn’t help it, I wanted her to do good! Maybe this time, she would win!

As morning came, rain was pouring down. There was mud and water everywhere, as we headed to the stall where April was being kept. April greeted Jen with a snort, and soon we were brushing her and getting the saddle and bridle on her. Jenny was nervous, as this was to be the first time for her in an upper class. She was going to “cantor” April - which meant she would be riding very fast in a ring full of horses. We got April ready, and Jenny headed to the practice ring. There, she and April both looked nervous. April’s tail was flying high, and she seemed to be dancing sideways on those little legs of hers. This was not a good sign! As I followed Jen to the ring and her very first class - my fear had grown to terror.

As Jen and April entered the ring, I could only stand along the fence and watch. I watched as the two of them were joined by the rest of her group, and soon the judging began. Clasping my hands together, I was praying that somehow they would do alright. But as the judge told the group to “trot” - Jenny and April started their little jig. April’s tail was flying, and she was whinnying to horses outside the ring. Jen was pulling on the reins, and I watched as April went sideways. Nothing was going right! And so it was no surprise that the judge then ordered them to leave the ring! They were disqualified.

As they came out of the ring, Jenny started to cry. I felt so bad, and wished I could help. But I wasn’t sure what to do. So searching for an answer, I asked her if she thought she should practice with April out in the field. There was a field out back, and I wondered if it was a good place to go. As we started to walk out back, I loosened up the strap that held the saddle on to April’s back. To this day, I don’t know why I did that - but it was something I had learned to do while walking a horse. And so we walked out to the field, all while Jenny was crying and yelling.

The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses, . . .
(Psalm 25: 17)

I helped Jen to get back up in the saddle, and she took the reins from my hands. I could tell she was still upset. I tried to calm her down, hoping she could somehow calm down April. Jen started out walking April around in circles, getting her to settle down. Then - she kicked her and told her to “cantor”. As she did - motion and time seemed to slow down and then speed up - as a nightmare began to unfold. In a blink of an eye, Jen was sitting on the ground - and April was racing toward the arena! Jen didn’t seem hurt, as we both took off running - hoping somehow we could catch her. I could hear the noise, and felt the commotion - as my heart raced in my chest! All around, people and horses were yelling; as they tried to get out of her way. I caught a glimpse of the saddle, and my heart just sank. It had slipped underneath her, thumping against her stomach, and causing her to race even faster! In what seemed like forever, and then again maybe an instant, April had raced through the entire grandstand and arena. We found her standing still, on the other side of the arena, with her leg dangling behind her.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, . . . Bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins.
(Psalm 25: 16 - 18)

As I put my arms around her neck, her soft nose rubbed against me. As I looked into her eyes, I could see she was in pain. Softly, I begged her to forgive me. I stood that way, holding her up, as JoAnne and the vet decided what to do. For two hours, I held her - talking to her and crying - wishing that somehow I could fix it. I can’t even remember what Jenny did, or even what anyone else did. I just stood there, helping April to stay standing.

Bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble,
And forgive all my sins.

She was finally taken to the vets, and somehow everyone got on with their lives. But I never got over the guilt. I had done it, I had loosened the girth! It was my fault that it happened at all . . .

Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; . . .
(Psalm 37: 5 - 8)

To this day, I do not know why JoAnne ever trusted me again! But she did! Jen had given up riding for two years, and then my life took a very drastic turn. I had left my husband and was a single mom, trying hard to do what was good for both Jen and myself. And that’s when JoAnne asked Jenny if she wanted to ride again. She let Jen have lessons for free, all while Jen helped her out on the farm. Because of those lessons and that trust - Jen rode all through high school and then was asked to be on her college equestrian team. Did I still have fear? Yes. But I also had hopes and dreams for my daughter . . .

Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

Last month, on September 21st to be exact, I underwent spinal surgery. That whole week before, I could feel the fear and terror within me. As I woke up that morning, I wanted to run away. Instead, with Ted holding my hand, I walked into the hospital to begin getting better . . .

There is a line in the movie “Princess Diaries” that talks about courage and strength. In it, it says that courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the determination to take that step - even though you have fear.

Throughout my life, I have always battled with fear. For me, winning isn’t being without fear - it is having the courage to take that next step even though I have fear. I was afraid when I was around the horses, but never-the-less I believed that they were good for Jen. I was afraid to have surgery, but now - my right arm is pain-free for the first time in over a year!

I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my supplication. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him - as long as I live.

Through the years, when I would think about April, I would feel so bad about what I had done. And then last year, almost 12 years after the accident, I met her again. It was on a Saturday, and Ted had been called out on an emergency to one of the stores. I had gone along with him, and as he worked on the roof, I was sitting by the windows drinking coffee. As I watched the people coming and going, I saw a horse trailer drive up in front of the store. As the man and what looked like his daughter got out, I saw two horses stick their heads out the small windows. For some reason, I got up and went outside to see them. There was a brown one, which didn’t seem to catch my attention. But the grayish white one, her eyes and face seemed so familiar. As I put my hand up to her nose, the soft feeling of it brought back memories. “Oh, that’s April” the girl said as she walked up to me. Closing my eyes, I thanked God for that moment . . .

Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him - - - as long as I live.

He knows your fears and your doubts. He knows your guilt and your pain. He is just waiting for you - to call upon Him . . .

God bless you in the coming days and weeks ahead!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers