Monday, April 30, 2018

Strength in the Struggle

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”—James 1:2-4.


I’ve never seen a cow give birth from start to finish. I usually come across this fascinating bit of Creation either halfway through the process, or when the calf is already on the ground.

I was keeping an eye on the one last cow from the rancher’s herd, as I figured she’d give birth within the next day or so. As I watched her, she lay down. Then she got up, circled and lay down again with her back legs stretched out. I knew it was time.

I walked back to the farmhouse and informed my mother-in-law and my husband, Bruce, that the herd would expand shortly. Bruce grabbed the binoculars and spied on the mama cow through the windows. I took his cue and stepped out on the front stoop and peered through another pair of nocs.

The miracle of life is awe-inspiring. How could anyone even imagine God isn’t real?

We watched every inch of the calf come out. When it finally was lying on the grass, we took off out the gate and across the pasture to check out the rest of the process. I named it Slick…until we found out she was a heifer (girl). Bruce promptly named her Slippy.



All wet and fresh, Slippy blinked and looked around at her new world, and the show began.  A low rumble sounded from her mama’s chest as she spoke to her calf. She proceeded to lick her all over to stimulate her new muscles.

Little did I know, I would receive some much needed encouragement…again…by the simple hand of God’s creative touch.

Slippy’s spindly little legs did their best to support her on the slick grass. Then her legs gave way, and she sprawled out. It was kind of comical, but at the same time I wanted to run over and help her. However, I knew full well this is a natural part of the process and I had to let her work it out.

We observed her mama during the whole ordeal. She licked the calf for a bit, then moved away and munched on grass. She didn’t seem concerned at all as Slippy resumed her strenuous efforts. But I watched her mama’s eyes—her eyes never left her calf.

I noticed that Slippy had difficulty getting her hind end to cooperate as she struggled to stand. Suddenly, Mama turned and stepped beside her. She licked Slippy’s hind end and the upper part of her back legs, stimulating them once again.
By instinct, the mama worked on the parts of Slippy that gave her trouble. Then she moved off. 


Slippy started her mission again. She did a bit better this time—she got all fours on the ground. However, gravity prevailed and down she went again. But it was progress. I noticed that each time she struggled, she grew stronger. With the next attempt, she progressed a little more and fell less.

She never gave up, no matter how many times she seemed to fail, even when she toppled head-over-heels. She seemed to realize quitting meant dying. Her efforts weren’t just about getting to her feet. She needed to make it to the lifeline at her mother’s udder—the life-giving milk that would help her grow into a stronger calf and eventually to a mature cow where she could eat solid food—to grow up. (And, of course, to be strong enough to play with her bovine buddies in the pasture!)

In the struggles we face through the trials of life, we may feel as though the Lord has walked off. Or, if He’s standing next to us, it sure seems He isn’t doing much to help. But like that cow, He never takes His eyes off us. And at the exact time, He moves in and gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

He also knows during the struggle, our muscles become stronger: faith-muscles, trust-muscles, etc. that have to be developed if we’re to stand strong.

Let’s be honest. Unless one thrives on drama, I don’t think anyone truly enjoys afflictions. The struggles we go through are hard. They’re frustrating. Sometimes it’s difficult to muster up the energy to try anymore. Yet, our very survival depends on us never giving up. And although we may assume, during our hardships, God has “left the building,” He hasn’t. Nor would He.

In fact, quite the contrary. Most of us have heard the verse, “He will never leave us, nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5). Even though we may feel He has, our feelings are just that…feelings. And most of the time our feelings are not the truth.

The moral of my lesson that day? We all struggle—from the least to the greatest. It’s what we do in the struggle and with the struggle that makes the difference between life and death. The only real failure is if we lose hope and quit.

And I don’t know about you, but too many buzzards are hovering that are all too willing to swoop in, if I even think about giving up! 



“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”—Jeremiah 29:11.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mercy Sings in the Morning

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”—Lamentations 3:22-24

   

It was quiet. Really, really quiet. And dark. We woke up early this particular morning to get ready to hit the road to sing at a little coastal church in Texas. I sat on the couch with my coffee, savoring the silence. The abundance of birds that take refuge on this farm were strangely silent. Even the obnoxious, never-ending noise of the nearby highway was silent.

I gazed toward the horizon though I couldn’t see past the barbed-wire fence. Slowly, a tiny glow appeared in the distance. Immediately, one lone bird, who apparently was perched somewhere in the tree above our rig, burst into song.

I listened in amazement. That bird waited until it saw the first light. It’s funny, the profoundness in something so simple. Even Creation knows to celebrate the light, to praise the mercies of a new morning.

Those profound moments always give me a deep comfort. No matter what’s going on, when God's Creation shows us the simplicity of life, suddenly things line up in perspective.

Bruce and I have stuff going on. Frustrating stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to keep our faith energized. But then, God knows our struggles. That bird reminded me to sing. Sing because Jesus is the light piercing the darkness. And it really doesn’t matter what life throws at us, we rejoice because He is the God of the impossible. He makes streams in a dry desert and roadways in a pathless wilderness. (Isaiah 43:19)




“Be anxious for nothing,” He says…well, actually commands. He knows who He is and what He is capable of. As we learn to trust Him more, we start getting a clue that He’s pretty mighty. Nothing fazes Him, nothing surprises Him.

Even the sparrows sing. They’re tiny and vulnerable—a blip on the radar in the aviary of life. Yet God knows what they need and provides for them. He even sees when they fall. So, if He cares about them, He cares deeply what is happening to us.

Sometimes we need these little reminders of God’s love. With no distractions, I heard and saw clearly His message on this early Sunday morning: Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. (Psalm 33:3)


Saturday, March 3, 2018

***GIVEAWAY SWEEPSTAKES*** is almost over!

Just a reminder! ***Giveaway Sweepstakes*** ends March 4 (tomorrow)! Enter for a chance to win an eBook version of the award-winning book, Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God's Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled! Amazon giveaway link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/eb99246a1e534fec. For those of you who already have the book, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your purchase, kind comments and reviews. Through God's grace, He is using this book in a mighty way, and my desire is to encourage as many people as I can with it. God Bless Y'all! 😃



www.ponyexpressministry.com

https://www.amazon.com/Walk-Like-Warrior-Inspirational-Encouragement/dp/1512774812

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Wild Horses and Storms

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”—Psalm 46:1.



 
Wild horses! Just the thought of spotting them sent me trotting to the barn. It took me no time at all to saddle my horse, Nocona. To be quite honest, I really didn't think I'd see anything, as these horses run on about 64 million acres of Nevada Bureau of Land Management land. What are the odds of me finding them? But, hey, it was worth a shot.
 

I glanced at the sky with its gathering clouds, but figured I'd have plenty of time to quench my thirst for exploration that day. However, I tied my slicker on the back of my saddle, just in case—you never know in the backcountry.
 

Off I rode toward adventures unknown. The wind was up and so was my spirit. I felt like the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store—so many possibilities. Topping the last hill, I caught my breath in sheer delight as I gazed at the entire high desert valley stretched out before me to the far mountains—not a soul out there but me and my horse as far as our eyes could see. I breathed deeply as the sweet smell of sage saturated the breeze.
 

We descended into the valley, absorbed in the vast beauty. Suddenly I sensed something looking at us. Slowly scanning the terrain, I saw them. A band of six jet-black wild horses calmly watched us from their hill. I could hardly contain my excitement.
 

Captivated, I spotted the stallion (a black stallion, no less) standing on the point. The breeze caught his mane and tail; they flowed softly behind him. I cried—I really did. Never in my life did I ever think I would witness this sight for real, not just in some movie. But then again, the Lord is ever so willing to give us more than we could ever ask or think and to give us the pure desires of our heart ... very cool! (Psalm 37:4) 



I could have stayed there all day with the Black Band, but the trail-less-traveled was beckoning, urging me to continue exploring this vast, wonderful land. I swung Nocona around and headed down the valley.
 

Riding the backcountry, one has to keep an eye on the trail—and another on the weather which, in this case, was becoming more unstable every minute. As I glanced toward Fred's Mountain, I noticed black clouds quickly gathering. Reluctantly, I decided to abandon my original trail ideas and head back to camp.
 

It was a good decision. With every step, the black cloud buildup was getting worse—that was on my right. To my left, huge white thunderheads formed and headed my way. If Nocona and I didn't hightail it out of there, we would be caught between both storms.
I had another decision to make: 1) take the shorter route toward the worst part of the storm and risk getting hit? Or, 2) take the longest route and hope I made it through? It wouldn't have been so bad except the boom of thunder foretold of lightning inching closer. We were up in an open valley and a prime target.
 

Did I start praying? You bet I did! "Jesus, keep us safe," I prayed, as I kept an eye on the black mass making its way over our heads.
I glanced at the sky again. Right between the mass of white thunderheads and the mass of blackness was a perfect trail of blue. Surprisingly, it pointed toward the longer route. I made my decision, threw on my slicker, and urged Nocona into a long trot, following that trail in the sky.
 

As serious as this situation was, I had to laugh. Looking up toward the "wild horse ridge," I spotted the herd watching us as Nocona and I hightailed it up their valley. What was going through their minds?



Trotting and loping, dodging sagebrush and cactus, we sailed off the ridge and raced across the valley floor. My slicker snapped in the air behind me as the wind grabbed it. My hat strained against its stampede string as it threatened to fly off my head, and I threw my hand up, pushing it down to my ears. My other hand grasped the bridle reins with a white-knuckled grip.
 

Urgent prayers went up again as we headed into open country, and I watched the lightning streaks flash to the ground. Suddenly I witnessed a miracle. The wind blasted toward us, but the black clouds moved away from us! As I prayed, the Lord spoke to my spirit, "I am bigger than the storm." Awed and encouraged, I swung Nocona toward our rig parked in the middle of the valley.
 

As we galloped toward camp, I glanced at Fred's Mountain—another set of storm clouds tried to make their way over the summit. I realized in amazement that some unseen force restrained them—another miracle.
 

At last we slid safely into camp and underneath the barn overhang. Only then were the clouds released. The downpour on the tin roof was deafening, but we were safe. And I thanked God for His goodness. 
(Psalm 91:14-15; Hebrews 1:7)



www.ponyexpressministry.com

Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God's Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled is available in paperback and eBook: https://www.amazon.com/Walk-Like-Warrior-Inspirational-Encouragement/dp/1512774812

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Opportunities



 While scouting for a much needed truck, my husband Bruce and I have been privileged to hang around our home base and help family. One of these awesome opportunities came in the form of babysitting our little cousins over the summer as well as spot appearances in the fall and winter. It was a tad challenging from time to time as these kids live in a pretty tore up family life, so there were attitude adjustments here and there and yes, a lot of prayer. But, all in all, we had a blast together and developed a solid bond.

As I babysat these kids (six-year-old twins (boy and girl) and a nine-year-old autistic boy), I prayed for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus. We all need Him. But these guys needed a little extra dose. My heart was to show them how kind and mighty He is. That He is approachable, and He would help them if they were in trouble.

A variety of opportunities presented themselves throughout our time together—some profound, others more subtle, but every one important. Sometimes I got distracted and missed it, but those times just made me more determined to be quicker when the next opportunity came. With fervent prayers for wisdom, the Lord helped me field Creation, heaven and death questions; He helped me build on their grandparents’ foundation of praying over meals; And on one particular morning, He prompted me to take action and step out in faith.

That morning I walked in my aunt’s door for “work” and into a challenge. One of the twins was sick and “it” was coming out both ends. When things calmed down a bit, my aunt settled him on the couch with a trash can next to his head. She left for work, and I prayed for wisdom.

I watched his curled up form and couldn’t bear observing his misery. I knew right then that I needed to pray for him. I looked around at his twin sister, concern shadowing her face.

“You know what?” I told her. “We’re going to pray for Dax so he feels better.”
Her eyes grew wide.
“Come on,” I coaxed as I reached out my hand to her. “We can pray together.”
She crept forward with a skeptical expression, but she was game.
I held her hand and placed my other hand on Dax’s head. “Jesus, please make Dax feel better. Thank You, Jesus, for healing Dax. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Dax relaxed, and Mila and I dug out the crayons and busied ourselves with masterpieces.


Dax used the trash can a couple more times, and then, in typical shy-Dax style, an arm emerged above the couch, fanning back and forth. I grinned: Dax’s unique “feel better” flag. Within the hour, he was up playing with his dinosaurs and Transformers.

Now, we were in full play mode…all of us. I cleared off the chest (a.k.a. the coffee table) to make room for horse corrals and a road for the truck and trailer. Tiny Transformer toys that scattered the chest top got tossed in my wellies (rubber rain boots) to keep them off the floor.

Mila and I corralled horses as Dax performed fly-bys with his Transformer fighter jets. Suddenly, a swift movement out the window caught my attention—a flash of flea-bitten gray. Oh, man! Somehow the ranch horse escaped from his pen and was having a high-time of it running around the yard!

Knowing the gate was open at the top of the driveway, I flew into action…and, yes, prayed again. I grabbed my wellies and stared into their uppers…brimming with Transformers. I promptly dumped them on the floor, jammed the boots on my feet, and slung on my coat and hat as I headed for the door.

As I hit the top of the landing, I saw the gray horse with his head buried in a feed bucket on the tie rail. Not knowing this horse, I quietly moved down the steps. He moved off toward a patch of grass. I had an idea. It was a ways up the lane to the open gate, and the horse seemed to have no interest in running off. I grabbed the bucket and slapped the side of it as I headed into the horse pen. Thankfully, the horse took an interest, and I safely lured him inside and secured the gate.

As I turned toward the house, I noticed I’d picked up two tails—both twins had bolted out the door, hot on my heels. I grinned as I observed Dax and gave a hearty “Thank You, Jesus.” I watched him run around like a penned up pooch that had won his freedom. He scooted across the yard with his hands shoved in his sweatshirt pockets, dancing from side to side.Then he took off to the ant pile to see if he could find any dead ants (frozen by the frigid temperatures).

He showed no signs of slowing down. Part of me wanted to stop him for fear, since he had just been sick, that he would relapse. And then the thought came, “Whoever Jesus heals, is healed…period.” So, I kicked that fear out of my mind and let him rip.

I’m thankful for the God-given courage to step out and take advantage of opportunities that not only put feet to my faith, but also showed these kids by example, the love of Jesus.
 

We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done—Psalm 78:4.





Friday, December 15, 2017

Trust for the Trail


I focused on the path in front of us and kept my seat centered as my horse Nocona and I rode along the narrow trail. The steep mountainside rose above us, and Nocona’s hooves ambled inches from the plummeting precipice falling away. As his hoof sunk into a soft part of the trail, the distinctive click of a loosed pebble made my heart skip a beat as the stone bounced off the side, sailing off into space.

Trust. I was grateful for the many hours spent hanging out with my horse. That bond of trust and love developed over time, throughout the years. We ride trails like these only because of that friendship and bond. I know his character and he knows mine.

Building the Relationship

It started out small. When Nocona was a colt, our first encounter involved putting a halter and lead rope on him—he’d never seen either. This was a must as I needed to load him in the trailer to take him to the ranch. On a hot, humid Texas morning, I watched him as he stared wide-eyed at me. Sweat trickled down my face as I spoke softly to him. His ears flicked, and he slowly dropped his head and relaxed. Our relationship began.

Trust is synonymous with relationship. You can’t truly trust someone you don’t know. I had spent years as a Christian, but not fully trusting the One I claimed allegiance to. When adverse circumstances ambushed me, I realized the hard way that my relationship with Jesus was sorely in need of maintenance. I found myself floundering, my foot searching for the solidness of the Rock. (Matthew 7:24-25)

In desperation, I looked for Him. He was already watching me. In that ever-so-loving still, small voice, His Holy Spirit prompted me to start at square two (I was  already firmly planted on square one, having accepted Jesus as my Savior). He gently guided me to read Jesus’ words, written in red. As I studied every word, an amazing picture formed—God’s strong, open arms in unconditional love. As I read about His kind, solid character, I relaxed. And a real relationship began. I found a personal God who loves us all dearly and wants to take us to heights we have never known—heights that may make our heart pound, but have beautiful, breathtaking views.




A Love That Longs for Trust

In the beginning Nocona was a feisty one, but I never gave up. I slipped my hand around his neck and slid the halter over his nose, around his ears, and buckled it. It was a foreign concept to him, and he bolted. I stayed with him, letting him test the lead rope, all the while continuing to speak softly to him, reassuring him that all was well and I would not hurt him. We continued building on our relationship from that solid foundation. (Proverbs 3:5)

I suppose some schools of thought would have suggested I lasso him and then “show him who’s boss.” But what good would that have done? I would have created a relationship where he only obeyed me because he had to, or worse yet, feared me. It would have been a life of slavery for him and a chore for me.

Many times the Holy Spirit revealed His wisdom, but because it was foreign to me, I bolted. But He stuck with me, eventually earning my trust and moving me further toward my destiny in Him. (Psalm 73:28—But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God that I may declare all Your works.)

The Acid Test

Life can be a trail of unknowns. The acid test of our trust is what we do when confronted with one of life’s unforeseen surprises. Fear of the unknown (the “what ifs”) can easily keep us from fully enjoying life. Courage is required to take the leap of faith, believing God’s Word is truth.

While riding the trail, scary things tend to “jump out” of the bushes:  A rattlesnake angrily buzzed his tail, warning us that we were in his self-proclaimed territory; A mountain lion dashed across the road ahead, chasing a herd of deer. Nocona stood his ground and just flicked an ear, all the while listening for my instruction.

In this fast-paced, don’t-have-time-to-breathe society, listening has become an antiquity. But it’s a must to develop that solid trust. In life, circumstances will shoot out of nowhere, putting us in a position of decision. Do we run? faint in fear? or stand our ground on that solid relationship we meticulously built in the peaceful times? We might “flick an ear” at the scary thing, but immediately flick it back toward the One with the instruction on what we need to do with that thing. (Proverbs 1:33—“But whoever listens to Me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”)

Trust That Continues to Strengthen

As with any relationship, there is constant adjustment and tuning-up. Though it is built on a solid foundation, maintenance will always be an ongoing process. Even the apostle Paul was in constant growth and learning: Philippians 3:12—“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Just like Paul, I haven’t “arrived” yet. I’ve learned my relationship with the Lord requires forward motion. There are always new things to learn about myself and Him, along with old things maybe I’ve forgotten and need to remember again. I’ve come to realize that a trust-building relationship is a step-by-step, day-by-day process. But it’s an exciting one. It’s a process full of adventure, offering hope as I discover the depth of God’s character and His love. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)




Sunday, December 10, 2017

PRICE PLUNGE!

GREAT news! Just in time for Christmas! 💖 Amazon continues to drop the price on my award-winning book: Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God’s Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled! I don’t claim to know the reasoning behind their pricing, I just note when it drops. I know that I’ll be jumping on that price plunge before they pop it back up again! 😀  https://www.amazon.com/Walk-Like-Warrior-Inspirational-Encouragement/dp/1512774812/




I invite you to join me in giving the gift of encouragement! 💖