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He prowls around…

It’s easy to see him circling someone else; it never occurred to me that he was looking my way.

I woke up on September 21, 2020, to a Facebook memory from a year ago. A friend of mine had convinced me to attend a concert that would require me to leave the hospital, where our family had been keeping vigil over my dad. The concert was a life-giving gift, at a time when I needed it more than I knew. But the Facebook notice abruptly burned the memory into my heart that this time last year, Dad only had a few more days to live. 

He was our rock, the patriarch of our family, and the go-to guy for everything!!! He was my friend, the one who shared my passion for horses, and the one whose advice and approval I always sought.

We never thought we would lose him.  He defied death every time it tried to take him, even though it reared its ugly head with regularity. As I read back over my prayer journal from last year, I had little doubt he was going to remain victorious and defeat his current confrontation.

But then, something else occurred to me. After he died on October 11th at 11:22 AM, the other relationships in my life, one-by-one, became all-consuming cycles of dysfunction. And, even though I KNOW not to let Satan slip in when no one is looking, there he was, meddling in the aftermath of Dad’s death. I was so caught up in the offenses of others, I couldn’t see anything clearly, and yet, as I just recently realized, I was the only common denominator. 

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. My husband and my son were, and always are, my greatest supporters. But in a moment of discourse, when family arguing hit its crescendo, my son told me he was tired of hearing about all the things someone had said, or done, to me.  He didn’t really mean it.  He was always there to listen.  But he wasn’t wrong.

It started with family, moved to one of my dearest friends, segued to a neighbor, and the scenarios swirled in my mind, stealing joy in the most sacred places. The things that happened, the things that were said, the injustice of it all, on my side or theirs, definitely don’t matter.  I was growing weary in doing good and I KNOW that is not good!!

And then I saw him! I recognized him. I knew, in that moment, that I had been blindsided.  That’s hard to admit for someone who envisions herself putting on spiritual armor every morning.  But then, self-righteousness is a topic for another time. God doesn’t like that either.  

In all the chaos, I heard a Christian radio conversation suggesting listeners try and improve their relationships by completing the following sentence.

“If you REALLY knew me you would know…” 

So I filled in the blank for myself.  “If you really knew me, you would know that my heart is broken and I try to keep it well hidden. You would know that, for months, I picked up the phone to call my Dad. You would know that every day of my life is full of his memory. But long after the funeral, when life went on without him, the enemy of my soul was prowling around, and he did his best to devour me.

Pondering all that had happened, it reminded me of a day, many years ago, when our son was playing community basketball.  His team had the lead in the championship game. A volunteer was slow in restarting the clock and the opposing team hit the winning shot. While they were caught up in their victory, the mistake was discovered, and pandemonium set in. Parent complaints that night were epic. My husband, who coached our son’s team, got the kids together and explained to them that it’s not so much what happens to you in life, but how you react to it, that really matters. He asked the kids if they wanted the championship title so much, that they would be willing to watch players on the other team grieving, just as they were.  

The boys talked it over and, with great humility, chose not to protest, to walk away, and let the other team retain the title. 

It was a milestone moment, seeing how those kids responded.

Jesus instructs us to come to him as little children.

Now, a year after my Dad’s death, looking back on all the challenges, the things that happened, the things that were said, emails, text messages… often read with my own tone and inflection…and let’s just throw in a quarantine and a pandemic…and I wonder if I would have reacted differently if I hadn’t been reacting with a broken heart? Not an excuse, not looking for sympathy, just a realization that I’m susceptible to being devoured when he comes prowling around.  And, its past time to quit reacting from the filter of a broken heart. I don’t need to win against anyone but the enemy of my own soul.  I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone else. 

By the grace and mercy of an Almighty God, I’m picking up the pieces and trying to repair the relationships that became the casualties of this war.

Psalm 38 instructs me to be deaf to those who really do speak against me…but Psalm 39 instructs me to put a guard over my own mouth.

Our pastor frequently reminds us that we are ALL hypocrites. We say one thing and do another. 

It’s eye opening and mind boggling when you recognize no one is immune…no matter how prayed up and prepared you think you might be…we are all vulnerable.

But thankfully, Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  

Lord, have mercy on all of us this morning!

© Copyright 2020, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserved

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS

The “Battle Hymn of Love” was playing when I walked down the aisle.


And BATTLE we did…
two strong-willed arrogant egotistical individuals looking to form a rock solid relationship.

He would only consider marriage if I agreed to make God the foundation of our family. I certainly had nothing to lose.  So, I  surprised him with the “YES” on my way in, instead of the “NO” that he thought would be his way out.

 

 “And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house

and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”

It’s been 25 years today! The house the Halls built is still standing. I laughed when I saw the verse from Luke 6:48 this morning. We sang, “The Wise Man Built His House Upon The Rock” when we were just kids in Sunday school. But, this morning, a deeper truth presented itself.

“…WHEN a flood arose…” 

It doesn’t say “IF.”

We’ve survived some real floods, some actual fires, a few financial catastrophes, job changes, children, sickness, and devastating deaths. 

It was harder in the beginning, when we battled against each other instead of together.

It’s still hard.

Times change, people change…strangely our entire world has changed.

Last Wednesday night, you might have been willing to bet we wouldn’t make it another minute.

We don’t always stop to process what’s happening, before we arm ourselves with bitter words of blame.

But more than ever, we now realize our only option has always been our firm foundation.

One of us usually remembers there’s a path to peace.

It requires we pray, and sometimes we are so angry we resist.

It takes time.

It takes patience.

Humility is often involved, though neither likes the way that feels.

Resilience.

Determination.

And a strong will to keep walking.

Just keep walking.  

We all know there are more battles up ahead.

 

“Till the battle is won, I will not run. Till my death I will stand by you.”

 

The Hall House

Est. May 27, 1995

 

© Copyright 2020, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserved

 

“The Battle Hymn of Love”

Written by: Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz

Performed by: Kathy Mattea and Tim O’Brien

Produced by: Allen Reynolds

Mercury Records

What If?

     A couple weeks ago the Book of Joel came to my mind. Then a few days ago the Book of Joel came to my mind. And at 4:00 this morning, I woke up, and there it was again. I don’t know about you, but when thoughts reoccur, I try to trace the origin or move in the direction I feel I am being led.

   The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: Hear this, O elders, And listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days Or in your fathers’ days? Tell your sons about it, And let your sons tell their sons, And their sons the next generation. 

     I read it, and then read it again a few days later, and I wonder, what if we really just follow God’s advice to Joel?

   Joel 1: 14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.

Joel 2 : 12,13 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

     Joel 2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast call a sacred assembly.

     Fasting was something we read about in church when I was growing up, but it wasn’t something we did. As an adult, I can trace some of the most significant breakthroughs in my life, to prayer and fasting.

     We’ve watched, we’ve waited, we’ve hoped, we’ve prayed, we’ve sheltered at home, and kept six feet apart, and yet we see no end in sight. We don’t even know how it will end, or what the world will look like, when it does. 

     But we do know what the Book of Joel says.

     There are certainly many other references to prayer, fasting, and crying out to the Lord. Jesus even told his disciples when they couldn’t cast out an evil spirit that, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29 

     Four days ago Brazil’s president called on his entire country for a National Day of Prayer and Fasting.  It’s also part of our history as a country in times of great distress. I read about that too!

Good Friday is two days away. What if we just took that one day …just that one…the day we commemorate the crucifixion… and every time we feel hungry we choose others over ourselves and we cry out to the Lord.  

Just one day, not 40. 

     Just one. 

What if?

     Surely we see by now God is the only one who can save us!

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:16-18

 

© Copyright 2020, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserved

The Fiercest Battle

     There are some battles you cannot fight alone.  It is 5 a.m. when I am awakened by thunder in the distance and feel a deep burden to go boldly before The Throne.  Our dear friends, and my spiritual mentor, will today stand face to face with their greatest enemy.  By the world’s standards, they will stand alone.  A banking Goliath is coming after everything they own.  Unsatisfied with his previous buffet of their businesses, the giant now wants to devour their very home and all means by which they are able to make a living.  Their lawyers have quit.  Sometimes, the fire gets turned up seven times hotter and those close to the flames scatter.  Other times, those who could and probably should be helping have been turned back from the very battle they trained to fight.  It’s not their fault.  This round belongs to the Lord.  And so I pray.  I pray for mercy.  I pray for intervention, for favor for them, and I pray for the federal court judge.  I ask the Holy Spirit to intervene in prayer for them.  I ask Jesus to defend them.  And I believe.  I believe they will be rescued.  I believe they will be saved.  I believe the best way for God to be glorified is when Goliath, like Nebuchadnezzar, sees the 4th man in the fire.

Gideon’s army was not reduced so he would suffer blame and shame on the day of battle; God stood in Gideon’s defense and designated him a Mighty Warrior.  

King Jehoshaphat faced an attack from the Moabites and Ammonites.  The King pleaded for help and was told through a  prophet, that the battle was not his, but God’s.  As Jehoshaphat’s army began to sing and praise, “Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever,” their enemies were defeated. 

I know my friend is praising him. She sings praise songs when most people couldn’t speak. She’s a witness to others, fixing her eyes on the Lord and crying out on their behalf.  Scriptures fall easily from her tongue.  She rightly divides God’s word and is always wearing her armor.  

We are waging a war of our own, up against the greatest foe we have ever faced in our family.  I wake to a warning, a reminder that by earthly standards we have no weapons to fight.  But I suit up just the same, trusting in truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Sword of the Spirit, and prayer.

And so I pray. 

I pray for our friend’s enemies…not because I want to…because I am supposed to. 

Obedience is not optional.

I cannot fail my friend.  I cannot fall back asleep and pretend it doesn’t matter. She is always there for me, interceding on my behalf when our problems seem to pale in comparison to hers.  But she knows we’re not up against the powers of this world and, with that perspective, she prays. 

And then we wait.

We watch and we wait, and we surrender.

We pray for our own enemies…not because we want to…because we have to. 

And just when it seems the ship will still go down and all will be lost, we draw closer and cling tighter.

Days still turn into weeks and weeks turn to months.  The wait surpasses any we have ever encountered.  But, despite the length of time it will take…the rescue will come quickly.

It arrives as a treasure hidden in darkness.  Long before we knew how desperately we would need help…help had been hidden…set aside…to someday save us.

I knew the day, but not the time.  His goodness, so overwhelming in its immediacy, felt physically fatiguing…his power causing us to tremble in his presence.

Word came that our friends were also rescued.  At the midnight hour on July 4th, they got word. Favored and set free!! Not by the Judge, but by the bloodthirsty bankers…formidable foes caving under the crushing weight of The Rock on which we all depend…forever changed by what had to happen. 

They are glad it happened.

We are glad it happened.

Daily he sustained us.

We watched and we waited.  We worried and we relinquished.  We laughed and we cried. We prayed and we pleaded. 

He never left us.

We are different now.

Can’t go back. Don’t want to go back. Never want to forget all that he said, all that he did, and all that we learned.

It is a deep well from which both families will be able to draw.

He is who he says he is.  And by surrendering to his will, we found the way!  

You will too!

“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches.  I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” 

 Isaiah 45:3

As God would have it, my friend and our families ended the year together, celebrating her daughter’s wedding.  There was a grand and glorious feast with music, laughter, dancing, and, of course, much PRAISE!

We look forward to a new year, new blessings, and new possibilities.

 

 

© Copyright 2019, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserved

Hemmed in on Every Side

           If there was a photo or video, one of them might have captured the sheer hopelessness of the situation.  But the fear that surged through my body, partnered with regret, and an onslaught of guilt, could never be caught on camera.

          We had just gone to bed when the phone rang with news that flash flooding we thought would miss our area had, in fact, turned its destructive face toward us.  Through the pounding rain, we jumped in our truck and drove a mile and a half, cautiously crossing an area of flooding we had never seen before, in order to reach the pasture where we keep horses and donkeys. Massive lakes of water filled the normally dry land on both sides of the road.  We could barely see it in the dark and yet there was a strong unmistakable sense of its looming presence.  The roar of the creeks, out of their banks and feeding this natural disaster, was louder than my frantic pleas and prayers to our Almighty God.  “O God, the rain has to stop!  O Lord God, save my babies.  O, Father tell us what to do.”

            There was no place to pull over so we drove a few miles, desperately searching for an area without flood water that was large enough to turn around.  It was dark and desolate.  But it was then I felt a calming peace that made no sense under the circumstances. We parked in the middle of the road and my husband got out to shine a flashlight.  Allowing my fear to then override the peace I felt, I couldn’t imagine how the horses would have possibly survived.  There was just too much water.  But there they were… huddled together chest deep…forced up against two locked gates…with our little donkey’s head barely above water.  Our boss mare, an old Palomino, turned to look at us with pleading eyes, while our little donkey cried out to us… and I cried harder.

          I know 911 is for human emergencies but we didn’t know what else to do.  The operator was gentle and kind.  And then a deputy, already passing our way, stopped just long enough to tell us they were going to help, but they had others who needed them first.  We understood and were grateful.  Their willingness giving us hope.

Horse RescueThe landowner was the next one to stop.  As much as we wanted the horses free, we pleaded with him not to attempt it alone.  As the rain began to back off and the water considered receding, the rescuers returned, tied ropes around him, and he waded through the rushing waters to unlock the gates.  Our horses, led by the oldest and lowest in the herd, muscled their way across the rapid water and walked calmly and peacefully through the flashing blue lights illuminating the road already blocked and ready for them to crossover.Horse rescue 2

          And, just like that… hemmed in on every side…chest deep and neck deep… in an instant, they were free and walking out on dry ground.

          The image of the Israelites approaching The Red Sea, hemmed in on every side, with God as their only hope, came quickly to mind once we were safe.  It’s not just our horses, in an unexpected flash flood, that poses a threat.  We are often hemmed in by other circumstances.  Sometimes it’s finances.  Sometimes it’s deadlines on work projects we need to deliver.  There have been lawsuits in our lives that sought to destroy us.  Sickness, injury, and accidents encircling us and setting their traps.  And yet, there is God.

          I like to stay closely connected but when the sun is shining, there’s money in the bank, all the deadlines have been met, and no one is being nasty, I figure God will understand if I get back with him a little later.  I have things to do and life gets busy.  But, let me get hemmed in on every side and you will hear me cry out to the Lord with a loud and proud pleading voice.  I am a Daughter of the Most High King, he knows my name, he knows the sound of my voice, and he comes to my rescue!  Not because of who I am, but because of who he is.

          This morning, our son suggested I pray and ask God to give me peace from the memories of that night. It’s been almost two weeks and I confess I still see each image way too vividly.  But there are even more reasons why I need to pray.  The Red Sea of our circumstances will threaten us again.  As Jesus told us, in this life we will have trouble.  So, my mind returns to the Israelites looking for an analogy…hoping for an example…recognizing their manna only lasted for one day.  And I know, like them, I will cry out again.

What has you hemmed in?

Finances? Family? Friends? Your job? A substance?  An addiction? A betrayal?

Maybe it’s the pressure to perform, maintaining multiple social media accounts.

What are the circumstances that threaten to destroy all that you hold dear?

 

The very next Bible verse in my prayer journal, following the flood,
 was Isaiah 43:1-2.  What are the odds, really?

 “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are Mine.  When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.”

And, then, the next morning from

Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” Devotional, I read:

“On darker days, My Peace stands out in sharp contrast to your circumstances. 

See times of darkness as opportunities for My Light to shine in transcendent splendor.

 I am training you to practice Peace that overpowers darkness. 

Collaborate with Me in this training. 

Do not grow weary and lose heart.”

Rescue 7

          This was the fourth flood since Christmas 2017; so losing heart was certainly up for consideration…not just for me, but also for my family and our horse friends.  They stood with us in the darkness stunned by the magnitude of what they were seeing.  Saddened by the damage they saw yet again.  

It might be easier to give up than to keep fighting to repair gates and fencing after each flood.  But we can never give up loving these amazing horses.  Five of the eight are rescues and all have brought joy to countless numbers of visitors. 

The chains have been broken, the shackles released, the horses are temporarily on higher ground and like the Israelites we will move forward toward The Promised Land!Rainbow

The road where we turned around that night, we later learned, was the same place a mother trying to move her SUV to higher ground was swept off a bridge and could not be rescued.  I’ve cried for her and her family many times since that night.  I don’t know why things happen the way they do,  but I believe in an all knowing, all caring, all loving Sovereign God.  May He have great mercy on her family and be especially close to the broken-hearted.

© Copyright 2019, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserved

 

Twenty-Seven Dollars

     The iPhone ping came in at 4:59 AM, exactly one minute before our scheduled departure at five. It was a notice from our bank warning us that we only had $27 in our checking account, significantly less than the $100 minimum we set up as an alert point. Ironically we were about to leave on a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise, a vacation that had been purchased months earlier when the bank balance was much higher.

      I dug deep into my resolve, remembering the words in Proverbs 31. She laughs at the days to come.

     I knew God had already been with us as we planned the trip. It was actually bought with someone else in mind. Circumstances changed and that someone decided not to go. And, even though the cruise coordinator assured me we could not get our money back, I asked if I could speak to a supervisor and explain our situation. While I was on hold, I got down on my knees and thanked God for his favor. When the coordinator returned to the line, she was way more astonished than I. “This has never happened before,” she said, “but we are going to give you a full refund for the fourth person.” It’s times like this when I feel like it’s okay to move forward. So despite no real desire to go on a cruise, except to take the person who now wasn’t going, we were about to leave home.

     “Is this a mistake? How did this happen?” These were among the questions my husband and I were asking ourselves, still mulling over the timetable of leaving on a vacation when the check we needed to pay additional expenses had not made it to the bank on time. We pondered all the possibilities and recognized that not going would only cause us to lose the money we had already spent and wouldn’t do anything to help the situation with our account.

     So, instead of stepping OUT of the boat on faith like the Apostle Peter, we stepped on to the boat knowing our financial circumstances were completely out of our control. Tropical music, the smell of sunscreen, and the unlimited food buffets went a long way in allowing us to forget our finances.

     But, now seven months later, we’re not so sure our trip had anything to do with our faith walk, our finances, or a family vacation.  

     Shortly after we settled into our new normal on the ship, a particular photographer captured our attention. And, a Divine Appointment started coming into focus.

     I thought it was her haircut that caused her to stand out. She had those super short bangs cut straight across. But, the more we watched, the more it seemed her ability to be an amazing ambassador was what intrigued us. Out on open water, we saw her on the pool deck, the walking track, down on the dinner floors and then at the gangplank for destination stops. Each time, she was smiling and happy as she took hundreds of photos. Keep in mind, there are many other photographers on the ship but we just kept seeing the same one.

     A Christmas concert, we would normally have not attended, ended up on our itinerary when the cruise director promised a snowfall. It did snow; it was spectacular, and there she was again taking photos in front of the tree. This time, we talked with her at length. What she shared with us is that, in order to take all of these family photos she has to leave her family, in the Ukraine. She’s married, has a young son, and spends six months of every year on a ship along with her husband so they can earn enough money to support their little boy. Just as astonishing, she’s only working as a photographer. In reality she’s a singer. But, isn’t everyone? We’re from the Nashville area and…well, we’ve heard that story a few… dozen… hundred times.

     We see her again and again…talk to her every chance we get…offer her encouragement… and continue on with our cruise.

     The last day came quickly and, as usual, all those guests so anxious to get on the boat are just as much in a hurry to get off. So, we found the only seats available to wait it out and there she was once more. It seemed clear to all of us that at this point exchanging email addresses and Facebook information was quite appropriate. She showed us a photo of her little boy, we shared some pictures we took on the trip, and we said goodbye.

     In the days that followed, we actually found her on YouTube and realized that this “would be singer” really IS a singer. There are several videos and hundreds of thousands of viewers. This beautiful young woman was working as a photographer on a Carnival Cruise Ship when she has an amazing voice and a large online following. There are so many shows that involve music; it just didn’t make sense that she was taking pictures.

     We had already been praying for her. But we decided it was time to go boldly to the Throne of Grace, as she so deserves to be recognized for the talent God has given her. Even so, there was still a heavy burden to say something, to do something, to reach out to Carnival on her behalf. So when our post cruise survey finally arrived, we took great pleasure in pleading for someone at the top to see the singer who was standing right there in front of them on their own ship.

     And just as quickly as she first caught our attention, news came that she had been selected to sing…not on the ship we were on…not the one where she worked as a photographer. No, she was chosen and called to perform on one of the newest and best ships in the fleet.

     Did our letter reach the executive branch at Carnival Cruise Lines? We have no idea. Did God answer months of prayers for Lidiia? Prayers were certainly answered, but I feel sure we weren’t the only ones praying. The Bible tells us if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. Lidiia delighted in the photography job God gave her to do, and she did it as if she were doing it for the Lord.

     She messaged this week to let us know her first few shows went really well. It’s still a bit surreal for her as it all happened so slow and yet so fast. Dreams that come true sometimes seem that way.

    As I type this story, she is somewhere out in the Caribbean, in the center of a soundstage, on one of the newest and largest ships to set sail.

     She’s in the spotlight…she’s singing…and this time someone is taking her photo.

      Our cruise started on a Saturday and by Wednesday we got word that the check we needed had
arrived back home. The person who was supposed to go on the cruise was actually the one who took it to the bank for us. We had only one bill due, so I paid it with a ship to shore phone call, and laughed at the memory of our $27 bank balance.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Romans 12:12

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16

 

 

© Copyright 2018, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserved

 

A Walk with Willow

     There is a secret among some equine enthusiasts who desperately desire to own their first horse. One is good. But two are better. Three will love you. Four will thrill you. Five is uneven. And, six will complete you…unless you have room for one or two more.

     We already had five horses when Willow came looking for me.   She’s a six-year-old quarter cross, (half Quarter horse/half Tennessee Walker) seized with several others in a serious neglect case.
Since she was strong enough to survive on her own, rescuers attended to the sicker horses, and let her go out to graze.

     An unexpected email in my inbox asking if I might be interested in this black beauty peaked my curiosity. Since I didn’t go “looking” for her I thought it was safe to say this might be part of a grander plan. So, I put out a fleece like Gideon did in the Old Testament book of Judges. I asked God to confirm for me if I should attempt to take this untrained horse home. In my mind, if she let me halter her, and obeyed a few simple commands, then I had God’s “go-ahead” and Willow was mine.

     She did everything I asked and I accepted her obedience as a big bold YES from God.

     But then a few weeks later when it was time to transport her, she put up an incredible fight refusing all
attempts to load on the trailer. Three stressful hours later, with much persuasion, she finally submitted; but by then I was having second thoughts. The entire painful process left me walking on wobbly knees of wavering faith.

     By the time we got home she had settled down, she unloaded gracefully, walked slowly into the round pen, and posed for pictures.

     Then the rains came, the snow blew in, and the ground froze up.

     By the time the ground thawed all that was left was thick, slick, mud.

     I’m not opposed to suiting up in my outdoor armor…coveralls, neck warmer, insulated ski gloves, ear band, double socks, and muck boots but it was way
too dangerous to work with her. So, she stood her ground and I stood mine, squaring off like two gunslingers at high noon. I would move to the right, she would move to the left. I would move to the left, she would move to the right. I would reach for her halter and she would tremble and turn away.

     One friend recommended a natural supplement that would help calm her…it worked wonders…for two days.

     Another person suggested I ignore her, walk away, and let her stew in her own stubbornness. I did. She did. It only worked once.

     And finally another friend said, “This might not work. You may have to admit it was a mistake and send her back.” Thank God He does not feel that way about me. I probably would have been returned a long time ago.

     Since I am, at best, an amateur, I consulted a professional. The trainer recommended I be the only one to feed and water Willow so she would see I was now her sole source of survival.

     Willow understood. But, she is very smart and by Day 17 she was only inching up to the bucket of oats. She shuddered at the slightest move of my hand as I made many attempts to touch her.

     Remember, this is a horse I haltered and took for a walk the very first day.

     Since I believed God had given me the go-ahead to bring her home, I assumed she would respond to my requests. I was praying the whole time, but while I was dropping to my knees, my mind was already outside in the round pen. And, I struggled.

     One hundred days is the amount of time some of the Mustang tamers take…so that was the amount of time I told my friends and family I was prepared to train. What I really meant was more like two weeks.

     I was okay not being able to ride her. I just wanted to touch her. Hug her. Kiss her. I wanted her to recognize this relationship was good and I wanted her to love me. Those were the words that came pouring out when I was right on the verge of giving up.   And, my husband reminded me of the words spoken by Jesus, “…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

     If you only read my horse stories you might think me a failure. I sometimes feel like a failure; well actually I feel that way a lot. But, then I go over to see the other horses and I am reminded to take my time and trust. As my husband gives me a leg up and I hop on our horse Judah who stands perfectly still out in the middle of our pasture…the wind blows, the sun beams down, and I thank God for the moment… remembering that in some ways Judah was once worse than Willow. It took me months to catch her and a couple of years before she decided she was as hopelessly in love with me as I was with her.

     Judah still walks away from me at times…she heads out as far away as she can get only to discover there is no one out there who will clean those little boogie things out of her eyes, there is no one to dig the packed mud out of her big flat feet, there is no one to prick the ends of their fingers picking cockleburs from her mane and tail… and she returns. She nudges me with her nose, let’s me kiss all over her face, bears up under the full body hugs I press against her neck, and she fully submits to the fact that I am her Alpha.

     So I decide yet again, to submit to mine. Every day I try to inquire of the Lord. There are days, sometimes weeks, when I don’t work with Willow. I try to be patient. She seems to be learning from the herd, so I let it be. There are other days when we accomplish what I consider to be serious milestones in her training. We are not all the way there. But the difficulties continue to draw me and I inquire again and again.

     Willow is becoming more social, allowing others besides me to groom, feed, and lead her.
I’ve been up in the saddle several times; and Sunday September 10th, with the help of my husband, son, and a
dear friend, I rode her in a few round pen circles. You can tell she’s a bit confused but she remained calm. We brought her home in December and I didn’t get to ride her for the first (2nd, 3rd, 4th…) times until September. I’ve now fully accepted that horse training cannot be measured in hours, but understanding…hers and mine.

     There were many late nights listening to praise music together. Mornings when all I did was sit close by and let her relax on my watch. I still find myself bypassing the prayers and running right out to the pen, anxious to see what we can accomplish. But, every time I think, “I’ve got this,” God reminds me that I train on his terms and his timetable. He’s going to do a mighty work in Willow. I can sense it. And, so, I wait.

“For the dream comes through much effort…”

Ecclesiastes 5:3

 

“Breaking a pony is the fast way, gentling a pony is the sure way.”

~Grandpa Beebe, Misty of Chincoteague

 

“Ask often, be content with little, reward generously.”

~Jack Brainard, Legendary Horse Trainer

 

God often puts us in these places because no matter

how much we know, we still have to be reminded.

~Greg Mangrum, Farrier

How is God working in your life?

What is He teaching you?

What draws you to Him time and again?

Do you inquire of Him or go it alone?

 

© Copyright 2017, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserved

Willing to be Wounded

Star must have taken many blows.  

The marks on her body displayed the evidence.  

Sweat had dried and hardened her golden hair.  Her eyes were weary, yet strong, and determined.  

While every animal instinct should have had her on the front line of defense, she had turned and faced her own herd, in order to protect Princess Olive, a young, previously mistreated, and now permanently deformed filly.  She took much of what was actually meant for the little interloper. 

Although, by all appearances, a horribly cruel encounter for any new one, it is but a necessary reshuffling of the hierarchy in order to determine the parameters of the herd.  Each equine encounter ends in a

showdown decision.  One will dominate; the other will submit. When Star saw the overwhelming odds against Olive, she stood her ground.  As the only mare in the pasture who has ever given birth, we believe she knew the difference in this little defenseless lamb and was determined to defend and protect her.

Initially, as is a good practice when putting any new horse in an established herd, we placed them in separate pastures.  We even put our little donkey with Olive for overnight protection. But when we turned our backs to retrieve water, she effortlessly jumped the 4-foot dividing fence and ran right into the middle of our anxious herd.  We were paralyzed by the absolute awe of it.  Here we were trying to help this little rescued fragile filly and yet she was gutsy enough to run right into the middle of six healthy horses more than twice her size.

We run right into the middle of many messes.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Unfortunately, Olive was wounded in her foolish attempt to force her way into their world.  But her wounds are healing.  Star took most of what was meant for Olive, put a hedge of protection around her, and stood so Olive could lay down and sleep.  We lost an entire day of work just watching this unique display of selfless love play out in our little leased pasture.  God does some of his greatest miracles in what we might all perceive as the most unlikely of places.

It has taken a few days but, literally, the dust has settled. Olive has been accepted.  She has established herself in herd position and gets to push the little donkey…because she can.  She ventures out alone looking for
him…hoping to prove her dominance.  We’ve also seen her push the mares that rank upper middle. She struts her stuff when they move out of her way.  But, what we see, that she doesn’t see, is Star standing guard, parting that path, giving Olive confidence, and making a way where there is no way.

I was pushed back and about to fall but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my defense he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:13

          Our Lord’s lessons play out all around us.  Some we see, some we take for granted, and more often than we ought, we take credit. He is still our rock, our refuge, an ever-present help in trouble…our bright and morning STAR!

 Princess Olive was rescued by an amazing agency whose volunteers found her on a filthy farm, locked in a horse trailer with no food or water.  They cleaned her up, gave her lots of love, and now she lives with us…fostered by a friend of ours who also exhibits selfless love.

We are humbled and honored to have the opportunity to teach Olive that she is a Princess and that her physical disabilities do not devalue her sweet existence.  She is worthy of all the love we can lavish on her.  And we look forward to all that God has planned.

Father, forgive the man who abused her…for surely he knew not what he did!

© Copyright 2017, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserved

Guatemalan Getaway

Heavy black exhaust fumes are unwelcome visitors barging in bus windows we have quickly opened to escape the heat.  We are two hours from the Guatemala City airport and there’s no quick way out of here.Getway 6

Not now.

We are officially committed on a nine-day course.

Our tag team of new age missionaries has set out to make monetary modifications; while our first visual encounters threaten to submerge us in a sea of hopelessness.  Poverty has clearly permeated every community in this war-torn country. So, in self-defense, we make jokes about the “chicken bus,” the obnoxious horns, and the extra-large Taco Bell.

Getaway 2

Still, it’s hard to ignore the little tin huts and greasy auto repair shops that are all around us as we head deeper into the abyss. The obnoxiously rude blaring bus horns continue to assault the senses and the smell of blackened filth seems to sit all around us.

Just as the sun is setting low over our arrival in this third world country, we pull into the place that will be our refuge. There is barely enough light to see and a hot shower is considered a luxury. Even when we have hot water, it is so contaminated we are warned not to get it in our eyes or mouth.

The temperature has dropped to a brisk 54 degrees with a noticeably cooler breeze blowing.  The rain started, but quickly stopped, and everything feels just a little damp.  It might dry out in the heat of tomorrow, but more than likely another little cloud will drift in again.

Yet, we feel incredibly blessed.

We were expecting much worse conditions.  

Our guard goes down and we settle in.

 

Morning comes with hot pancakes and coffee.

Our arrival is anticipated in the Guatemalan village of Getaway 31Patzicia where their reactions, and ours, are mixed with apprehension, anticipation, and excitement.  It’s a pleasant place with happy home visits, a few minutes at the market, and a spontaneous soccer match.

We are good to go on.

 

Bland refried black beans for the next breakfast, with grainy unseasoned corn tortillas, signal that the trip is about to change.  Our initial introduction into this mission is finally morphing into the real reason we are here. Happy home visits segue into an introduction to small hidden huts not fit for human habitation.

Getaway 30They are homes for families with five or ten children.  The despair runs deep.  The necessities for their existence are lacking at every level.  Our hearts sink.  Our emotions steel. We take inventory of what we have to give and we get to work.

Prayer is priority as our God sees and He knows and He is able.  We dole out compassion, understanding, encouragement, and love. Getaway 29  We offer up hugs, and smiles, as laughter seeps through the cracks and out into the courtyards.

God is in this place.

And, he has more for us to see.Getaway 33

 

 

Up on a remote mountain, where we experience a million miracles just riding safely in that chicken bus, we see and smell a society so far removed from our own that we are stunned!
Children, under the age of five, are dying here in San Antonio Nejapa on days when the smoke inhalation is more than their Getaway 12little lungs can filter and fight.

We are anxious to help solve this unnecessary situation and we set about installing new
stoves.Getaway 13

The inventors of this quickly assembled contraption should be honored at the city gates, as they have been given the great gift of God’s wisdom.

Getaway 15

We are humbled.

Truly humbled to help.

Our iPhones are pulled out of pockets and backpacks for the sole purpose of taking pictures so this moment of meeting on God’s terms is recorded outside of our hearts for others to see.

Getaway 17We have to share their story.  We have to tell about the stoves.

They are not expensive. In fact, their affordability is astonishing.   Who among us would not give $110 to save the life of a child?

Getaway 16

 

Time is running out.

It’s not the setting of the sun, but thick white clouds coming down on the mountain that send us back to our weeklong refuge.

The revelation of all that we own will be a bit more relevant tonight.  We gather together around a fire to sing praise songs, share stories, and make plans with a new purpose.

It doesn’t have to be us. It can be anybody.  It can be you.  There are volunteers trained in the art of stove assembly.  They just need people who are willing to pay for the life of a child.

 

 

We walk reluctantly back to our rooms.

There is still barely enough light to see.

We know that a hot shower is a luxury they have never had.

 

Getaway 19

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,

and he will reward them for what they have done.” 
 — Proverbs 19:17

http://www.compassion.com

© Copyright 2016, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserve

As I Walk through the Valley on Shadow

There’s a line between wisdom and insanity that gets blurred, every time anyone willingly comes into Shadow trail ridecontact with Shadow.  He’s a kind, loving and obedient boy, but make a move he’s not expecting, and he’ll
Shadow head shotsnort, bolt and run.  He’s the ultimate contradiction.  A “kid broke” horse that kids can’t ride.

We love him. He’s beautiful.  He’s a gentle herd leader. And he is truly something to see when he reaches top speed running across the Shadow boltpasture.  But trust him?  Not a chance!  He doesn’t just spook, he spooks at the same things sometimes, not at all other times.  When you expect him to spook, he doesn’t; and when you don’t expect it, he does.  You can never be sure.

Shadow supposedly had lots of training before we bought him, and we were told he had worked at a kid’s camp for years.  So, given that we were looking for a “kid broke” horse and he was ebony black and beautiful, we bought him.  Paid money.  From our perspective, quite a bit of money (relative to the budget) and we confidently brought him home to join our other (free) horses.  They’re the ones that haven’t had much training, but can likely walk through a war zone with only a slight tremble or twitch. Shadow will run from his own lead rope.Shadow Dad's saddle

It’s fear, plain and simple.  We’re not sure why or what his history might be.  He is a registered Tennessee Walker, with a long lineage of family champions, and there’s a strange little quirk about him when he sort of bounces up high before he trots; but what his early life must have been like before us is an unknown. Shadow tarp  What we do know is he is very afraid…not always… and not on any recognizable timetable… as best we can tell.  It’s more like the movie, Groundhog Day.  What he learns not to fear today, he will freak out over tomorrow.

And, this is why I now think we may all be just like him.

In an attempt to get Shadow some help from someone other than myself; I was making a video to submit to a master horse trainer, showing Shadow’s sporadic spooky behavior.  As I was explaining how Shadow can be desensitized to scary objects one day, but is afraid of the same objects another day, the realization of what I was saying was not at all something I wanted to see in myself.  But, unfortunately I think it’s true.

I get afraid.  God calms my fears.  I realize there was no reason to be afraid.  And, then, confronted with the same things that scared me before, I’m afraid again.  This is an agonizing epiphany.  We worry Shadow at pondabout Shadow.  We stress over Shadow.  We don’t understand Shadow.  We make fun of Shadow.  And, yet, he’s a walking, talking testimony of what we need to work on in our own lives.

Let’s take money and bills for example, because that’s one of “my things” that causes me great fear.  I’m afraid of a bill we can’t pay.  God provides, as he tells us over and over in His Word that he will.  The bill gets paid. I’m no longer afraid.
Then another bill comes.  I look at our account and there’s not enough money to pay it.  But, it comes due and somehow (thank you, God) it gets paid.  I’m no longer afraid. Until…

Shadow walking on tarpMaybe it’s not money for you. Maybe you’re afraid of your mother-in-law…maybe it’s your boss…you’re afraid your husband is going to cheat on you even though he never has and never will…maybe you’re afraid to fly even though you’ve always landed safely.  Yet, that SAME fear keeps coming back again and again.  Shadow is a shining example of what happens.  He’s supposed to be Shadow and Bobbya “kid broke” horse and yet he can’t live out the life that was intended for him, because fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) has rendered him incapable.

Shadow saddleYou may have heard this before, but fear is the topic most often addressed in the Bible.  Our fear is no surprise to God. He knew this was going to happen.  He prepared all these many verses for us.  Right now, I’m thinking, “If Shadow could only read,” but the fact is, I can read, and I have read the verses and it would probably help me to go read them again.Shadow tarp on head

There is always going to be a bill coming due.  And, until I learn not to be afraid the next time, God is going to have to desensitize me to it this time.  He often turns up the heat until we can handle the pressure.  Remember the Israelites 40 year journey around an eleven-mile mountain? God wants to get us where he wants us to go, more than we want to get where we want to go.  But, we have to be willing to give up our unhealthy relationship with fear.  Fear is an enemy intended to keep us from fulfilling our intended purpose.

We’re still trying to teach Shadow, but maybe now it’s just time to stop for a minute and learn from him.  We can bolt and run, or we can hide under the shelter of God’s wings, and in doing so, be reminded that First John 4:18 says there is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear.

After all, a shadow is just an obstruction from THE LIGHT!

Shadow herd leader

Who knew more about fear than David the shepherd boy?

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:

for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

 Psalm 23

 

 Learning to turn away from the crooked road of fear

will lead us straight to the gateway of freedom.

Shadow and the tarp

© Copyright 2015, KeziahCarrie.  All Rights Reserve

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