My wife and I have been on a bit of a journey over the past 3 months. It has not at all been a thrill ride, an adventure we would have chosen, or a path we would have chosen on our own. But it has been good, and looking back, I believe we have “walked with God.” He’s taught us patience, hope, trust, clarification, and even boldness and courage. As a tribute to God’s faithfulness and my lack of memory, I want to get some of the story down here.
Last May, Erin went off a Women’s retreat in Tennesse modeled after Captivating by the folks at Ransomed Heart. I stayed at home with the kids and she and a friend made the 300 mile, 4 day trek down south. There really was no sign of what was just beyond the horizon. These retreats are awesome; I go to one of the men’s retreats (Called Wild at Heart Boot Camp) each year with a group in Southern Indiana. They are about so much more than just song time and teaching… true healing, discovery, and brother and sisterhoods are built. I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for much of anything, and was excited that Erin was able to go. (I don’t know if I ever told her this, but I’d been praying that she’d be able to go for years).
While down there, she thinks during a prayer time, Erin had something of a vision. She really doesn’t remember all of the details, because it wasn’t all that “deep” at the moment. It was of her, on horseback, looking down at the feet of a galloping horse. That was really all she remembers now, or at least all that I remember that she remembers.
On the day Erin was to come home from her trip, the dominoes started to fall. I had some friends out to ride our horses on that Sunday, and Alpine, our quarterhorse, went CRAZY. He’d had a bad day a few weeks before, but some medicine took care of it. This was much stranger. Kicking the barn, squeezing into places he shouldn’t, even stepping on one of the girls when he should have been acting much calmer. Because of the past experience, I got in touch with the vet, and she had me bring him in. On a Sunday. In the evening. You know it’s important when that happens. The vet did a number of physical and blood tests and couldn’t really find anything, so I brought Alpine home with some very specific things to watch and an intestinal track to work on keeping clear with some very nasty medicine. If something like this happened again, we’d have to make the decision we knew we’d have to make.
Later that week, Erin told me about the vision. One thing that was noticably missing was the face of the horse she was riding. It wasn’t in her perspective… were we to believe that Alpine would fully recover and run again, or was this some other horse she’d later gallop with. We. Did. Not. Know.
But we prayed. We accepted that God’s plans are not ours, nor are his ways our ways. But we prayed for healing. We believed, in fact, that it would come. I shoved medicine through Alpine’s mouth through a cake decorating tool because it tasted so bad for him. We had to watch him very carefully, had to be home a lot more than normal, Erin even dug through his poop looking for rocks, which we thought he may have been eating and had blocked his system.
I don’t know how much later it was… a couple weeks, maybe, and it happened again. Thankfully, Erin was home this time. We ran Alpine into the vet, and this time, while examining him, the vet found a rapidly growing tumor on his spleen, right in the way of his intestinal tract. So many things suddenly made sense. The rock eating was because the cancerous tumor was attacking his blood system, and causing him to crave limestone for it’s calcium. It also explained all the licking he was doing on his stall bars (for the iron). It explained the weight loss, the constipation, and EVERYTHING. It was a sort of closure, I guess. We knew what it was time to do. We had some options for how to do it, but we knew even then what our path was to be.
We loaded Alpine up that very night, hauled him up to Purdue, and donated him to their veterinary school. Students, veterinarians, and others will learn from our horse about a rare cancer that may someday be more easily discovered or effectively treated.
So that chapter ended. We were obviously terribly sad, confused, even a bit lost. But I don’t think we felt let down. I don’t think Erin’s vision had lost it’s intensity; if anything, it was a sign to NOT give up; to keep our eyes open, to watch for what God WOULD do.
About a month later, we started looking for horses. Well, really, Erin did. I just reviewed the wish list every now and then to try to rule out the ones that involved me driving truck and trailer all around our good state. Occasionally we’d fine one we wanted to inquire on, and it would either already be sold, have something that turned us off, or be something to keeo our eye on.
There was a time when Erin had her “really like” list down to 3 horses. One was pricey, but possibly worth it. Another had a very good recommendation, but was a long way away. And the third was close, but relatively unknown and a little bit “normal.” Erin went to see one of them and really liked it… but was it worth the money?
She prayed for God to make things clear to her. That very night, the expensive horse and the far-away horse were reported as sold. So… another prayer answered, and we set up an appointment to go see Stormy, a Morgan / Paint gelding about 20 minutes from our home.
Erin fell in love with the horse. Colton fell in love with the horse. His comfort level was such that he did some things with me on horseback he’s never done before. The horse was the size Erin had been wanting, had the temperament we wanted, and was close. A little pricey, but possibly doable… We had a week of vacation coming up so told the girl (she’s 19 I think) that we wanted to take some time and would get back in touch when we returned. There was no peace about rushing it or making a decision right away, but much peace about relaxing, and letting God lead us.
We didn’t talk about Stormy much over vacation. A little, but not a lot. I felt like, and later did, ask God something like, “Is this for us?” and “Can we have him?” I didn’t really know the questions to ask, but I asked anyways. No clear answer, just “follow my lead,” essentially.
When we got home, Stormy’s owner emailed Erin to see if we were still interested. Yes we were. And I don’t remember exactly what, but now things really started moving in our hearts. “This might be it,” we said. We could see God leading us in this direction.
The last issue was price. We’d just spent several thousand dollars between vacation, putting Alpine down, and have a yearly hay bill coming up. We didn’t have the money in the bank to pay for the horse. So we started praying about that. Yes, we own a business. It’s profitable. There’s some money we can pull from it, and it IS money that we have a right to. It’s not borrowing, stealing, or cheating. It’s our business, created in part to make money, and it’s been a long time since we took anything “extra” from it.
A dollar figure stuck in my head was about 2/3 of what the girl was asking. I didn’t want to insult her, but I had no peace about just agreeing to the price she’d said or even the knocked down price she gave us. So Erin said I could have the job of negotating. I sat down with my email, wrote out my note with the how much and the why we could afford, and told her if this didn’t work out, we wouldn’t take offense and might try to come back in a few months if the horse was still available.
She took the offer. As is. Exactly what I felt was what we should offer.
And in 2 days, we go to pick up our horse. There’s still a vet-checkup to be done within a week to make sure everything’s all good. Who knows what might come up. But as we’ve walked this path with God, He’s been continually faithful. Not to what we thought He “should” do or probabably “would do” or what he “ought to do” to make us happy. But he has remained faithful to His character, and to those who love him.
All of this comes back now to Erin’s “little” vision while on her retreat. Of her, on horseback, galloping over a field… running, playing, even frolicking. What could easily be written off as a dream or indigestion has so much meaning to us now as we’ve walked this path. It provides confirmation, assurance, confidence, and peace.
What would happen if God wouldn’t have worked this out as He did? Well, to be honest, I have no idea. He didn’t work it out as we initially believed and hoped he would. Our horse of 5 years DIED. He’s GONE. Stormy won’t replace that horse, those memories, or Alpine’s place in our hearts. But he is a reminder of God’s goodness, his love, and his constant care for OUR hearts.
Walking with God is so much different than I grew up knowing. It’s so much more than trying to please him or hoping He’ll bless our attempts. It’s about watching, learning, and observing the plans of one much greater than ourselves. Vision is not about seeing the future. It is about opening our eyes to what is already around us, and admitting we can’t see it all (or even dream it all up) on our own. Vision, while so often treated as an active action we must perform or come up with, is much more of a passive observance of One who’s bigger plans are so much greater than our own, and it’s truly a thrill ride of a life to live.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” [This is] the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”—Isaiah 55:8–9