Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Ranch of Rescued Dreams ~ The Long Version

I remember the first song I ever memorized on purpose. When I was in elementary school, I copied hymns and choruses into my notebooks during church services so I could practice them at home. I started with my favorite chorus, Make Me a Servant. I don't know who the song was written by, only that we sang it in church when I was growing up. 

Make me a servant
Humble and meek
Lord, let me lift up
Those who are weak
And may the prayer of my heart always be
Make me a servant
Make me a servant
Make me a servant today

My taste in music has changed drastically since then, but I return to that first song I loved because it is a good representation of my life's purpose: to glorify God, specifically by pursuing truth, using all of the resources I have been given to the best of my ability, and loving humans, acting in a way that builds them up and provides them with what they need to live their most fulfilling lives. 

A few years later, when I was in my pre-teens, I read two books written by Kim Meeder, one of the founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch. The non-profit faith-based organization was founded by Troy and Kim Meeder, who nursed a broken piece of land, a bunch of broken trees, and several broken horses in order to offer hope to humans, specifically children. They tell their story better than I ever could. I encourage you to check out their website here. I also strongly recommend you read A Bridge Called Hope and Hope Rising by Kim Meeder. I'm sure her newer books are just as incredible, I just haven't read them yet. 

Appealing to my love for God, my love for horses, and my desire to help people, the stories I read attracted me to the realm of equine-assisted therapy. I heard God calling me to serve. It seemed like I had been created for that job. For years I planned on starting my own faith-based ranch for the same purpose. I planned out the name and even drew (very rough) floor plans. As I grew up and matured, I realized that there is more responsibility and skill involved in founding this kind of ministry. I abandoned the dream, only to drown in overwhelm. I lost myself in future possibilities, none of which called to me like Crystal Peaks had. I continued to read the newsletters, donate to the ranch, and pursue my education in horse training and psychology. 

I started looking for internships as graduation loomed close. When I discovered Crystal Peaks had an internship, I talked with friends and family about maybe applying. Maybe. The application process opened in November, so I had a few months to consider it. As the deadline neared, I commented on one of the ranch's Instagram posts "Excited for volunteer applications to open on Friday!" Yes, in my excitement, I wrote volunteer instead of intern. Silly Jenna. 

In October and November, a series of unfortunate events hit me like a brick wall. I broke my finger, was informed that I wasn't a good enough rider to take a class I really, really wanted, and crashed my car into a deer. I lashed out in frustration, fear, and anger at God as I desperately tried to pass my classes and get to work. When I finally bought a car, I had to spend the little money I had left to repair it's brakes and blower motor. It was the lowest I've been since my first horse died. 

Trying to look on the bright side, I joked that maybe this was all part of God's plan to get me to Oregon. I didn't mean it. I had an attitude similar to Sarah's when she laughed at God for promising her a son in her nineties. My experiences left me with a new awareness of just how little I was trusting God. I placed my entire life and worth in my own ability to achieve and succeed. I had no intention of following through with the internship. I needed to stay home, work, and recover from the stress. 

Thankfully I had a friend who called me out. If God wanted me in Oregon He would provide everything I needed to get there, she reminded me. I ignored her. A couple days later, CPYR staff responded to the Instagram comment I had written, "the intern applications? We will be looking for it!" Uh oh. 

I applied, knowing I did not have the money or resources. I specifically applied to the last three months of the season so I could earn money in the early summer months. A few days later, I recieved an email asking for an interview. A few days after that, I was offered the internship on one condition: I had to start in June. The unspoken question sat poignantly in the air. Do I actually trust God to provide?

Since choosing to pursue the internship, God has providing in incredible ways. Most of this year's college tuition will be covered by scholarships from my workplace and a family has offered to host me during the internship. I am fully confident that God will provide everything I need, and more. In fact, all the money that is left over from my fundraising when the internship is over will be donated to the ranch.

This internship will allow me to learn more about my dream job. I will be around horses every day, riding about once a week. Only interns and staff conduct one-on-one sessions with a child and horse, so I will be able to serve in ways I could not as a volunteer. I will be working on the ranch doing the "menial" task as well, cleaning stalls, feeding, and fixing fences (I love this kind of work!). But most importantly I will get to play a part in an amazing organization that has provided hope and safety to so many people!

Please consider donating. If you can't or don't wish to donate at this time, please share my fundraiser with as many people as possible. This is more than making my dreams come true. It is an opportunity to play a hand in God's plan to spread hope to children. I am going to the ranch primarily to serve God, serve the horses, and serve the children. I am thankful for any and all support. 

Friday, February 7, 2020


A somewhat unrelated photo taken while farmsitting.
I don't have many Avalon-related things to write about. I don't see her nearly as often as I'd like. I need to spend time on school and work, and even when I have time . . . it's darn cold out there!
That doesn't mean that I don't have things to write about.

First, on a horsey note, I am taking another riding class this semester. Not the class I had my heart set on (colt starting), but I am open to every opportunity to learn about and ride horses. This class will be english, and focused on jumping. We got to choose which schoolie we wanted to be assigned to for a few weeks. I asked for Polly, my favorite schoolie. She is a ex reining show horse trained by one of the instructors on campus. I love her because she is forward and (if you know which buttons to push) very well trained. Unfortunately, she is almost three-legged lame. I hope that doesn't mean she will have to be euthanized. Seems like such an unfair end to a life full of hard work. I wish I had the cash to buy horses like that and put them out to pasture for the rest of their comfortable lives. Since she can't be ridden, I was reassigned to (can you guess?) . . .  a grey Arabian. I laughed when they told me.
Some wild cucumber for your enjoyment. Wisconsin winter is cold, but it is beautiful!
I'm only a few days into the semester, but I'm settling into a rhythm. This semester feels different. The classes feel easier, the work seems less stressful, I feel less busy. I know that the classes and work load are the same as they have always been. The change is in me. My process-based practice in consistency and thankfulness is started to seep into all the areas of my life. I'm making similar choices and mistakes, but my mindset about those successes and "failures" has completely changed.

For example, I have struggled with anxiety during horse related activities for many years. I used to be afraid of horses, and when I overcame that, I developed a habit of becoming anxious around horses - even if the anxiety wasn't directly related. I often found myself irrationally afraid that I would not be able to find the right horse in the pasture and/or bring the wrong horse in to the arena. On the second day of class, I fumbled around for fifteenish minutes searching for that grey Arabian. I could feel my anxiety building, but I caught myself attaching a narrative to my struggle. By listening to myself and hearing the story I was building, I was able to redirect my thoughts to a realistic, constructive narrative.

Anxious narrative: There is something wrong with me. I can't find this horse, so I must be a bad equestrian. Everyone thinks they are better than me. I'm a failure. This is going to happen every day we have class. I always do this. Why am I like this? 

Constructive narrative: I am having a hard time finding my horse today. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks, including myself. I am feeling anxious and negative, but I won't allow myself to feel ashamed. This doesn't say anything about my riding ability or worth as a human being. This is a challenge I can overcome, an opportunity to improve in the future. 

Another change in my mindset became apparent in my Learning an Motivation class. I take notes on paper (or my rocketbook which I might explain in the near future). Many professors don't allow computers and often I find myself surfing the web (or blogging) during class when I have my laptop open. However, my Learning and Motivation professor allows laptops and posts a study guide online with every powerpoint. On the second day of class, I was sitting, taking notes in my notebook when I had a little conversation with myself.

It would probably be easier to fill out the study guide on my computer as she lectures. 
Great idea! I should bring my laptop to school.
Actually, I have it in my bag now. 
But I've always used my notebooks.
I would probably complete the study guide - unlikely last semester when I didn't turn a single study guide in.
But class is half over. It would look awkward if I got my laptop out now. 

Then I remember a statement I learned from Sam Laura Brown and Aileen from Lavendaire:
Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes.

And I got my laptop out.

I love the way my classes interweave with each other this semester. I'm taking health psychology, where I am required to make a plan to change one health-related behavior. Immediately after that class, I have behavior modification, which is a class on ABA. I also have to form a plan to change one of my behaviors for this class. Later that day I am taking Learning and Motivation. This class is all about motivating changes in behaviors and behavior-based learning in humans. However, many of the studies are done on animals - which ties into my first class the next day: Companion Animals. This class is all about being a responsible pet owner. Training and motivation and behavior are key subjects in this class as well as my horse riding class. In senior seminar, my group is presenting on mainstreaming in classrooms (separating developmentally or socially challenged students from their peers), which is closely tied into those themes of learning, motivation, and behavior. 

This is a terrible photo, so you'll have to take my word for it . . . that is a robin.
On a completely random note, something very strange has been happening in my region. I live in western Wisconsin, where the first sign of spring is the appearance of robins. Usually they can be spotted in April or May. If you're lucky, there might be one or two in March. However, this January I have spotted robins on three different occasions. There are six living in the trees across the street from my house. The picture above was taken of a robin on campus. I spotted it out of the window as I typed this post. I've never seen robins around this time of year before.