Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Those hands

My father has big, thick, wide, meaty hands. One of them can wrap up your hand and make you feel safe and loved. I have memories of my youth, memories in which my little hand was swaddled in his. Daddy’s capable hands could play the rhythms of my childhood on his guitar, turn pages in my bedtime storybook or help me put on my snow boots. Even now I love watching one of those big hands pet a dog, because it rubs the dog's head and ears messily all over, the dog leaning into the tender tousling.

I left home almost 25 years ago. Then I got married and had children. Those big hands cradled my newborns and caressed their fuzzy little heads, then held my todders’ hands as they set off on preschooler adventures like a trip to the park. Now those hands grip growing shoulders as he hugs my teenagers. I still love when I get to see those hands every few months, even hold one now and again. 

Last night, after saying goodbye to my husband as he headed off to a conference, the kids and I had a passionate conversation in the car. In that conversation there were deep emotions, raw feelings. As the conversation dwindled, I felt such conflicted emotion over my children’s process of sorting out their evolving relationships and changing social connections and trying not to hurt each other, even though the hurting seems inevitable in these connections bound by such strong love.

Then something magical happened: a big, thick, wide, meaty hand found mine. It wrapped up my hand just like my father’s used to. It used to be a chubby little mitt, this hand, and now it’s the hand of my father, the hand of a man.

And my heart swelled with pride and love and pain: Pride because he is a gentle, funny, capable, caring, smart and sensitive young man who still wants to connect with me by holding my hand. Love because how could a mother do anything else? And pain because of the process. It's the joyous pain of time passing and transformation and being both a daughter and a mother, of seventeen years that went by in the blink of an eye, and my son’s hand becoming my father’s.   

Friday, March 27, 2015

First at the gate

When I was younger, I used to think that horses were distant creatures, willing to submit to human whims like riding and grooming, but would always rather be out in the field eating with their buddies.

Then I met Ariana.

Or rather, I bought Ariana. She’s a young, black paint/quarter horse with the cutest white star on her forehead. I bought her because I hoped she’d be good quality Ranch horse someday. In the meantime, I figured working with her would give me a chance to get more training experience.

Ariana being her cuddly self
Ariana loves people. At least she does now. She didn’t when she first came. She tried to kick me whenever I went near her back end. She acted scared most of the time. But with time and patience, she not only picks up her back feet for me, but now when we arrive at the barn, she's the first at the gate to say hello. If we’re working in the barn, she comes and sticks her head over the door to see what we’re doing and if there’s anything she can do to help. She’d happily follow us around like a puppy dog. She’s curious and sweet, outgoing and willing to please.

And Ariana’s not the only horse I’ve watched come alive with individual attention. We have quite a few camp horses here at the Ranch and most of them don’t have their own one-on-one person. But I’ve noticed that when someone starts spending a lot of time with one horse, the horse’s personality blooms. With love and affection and time, a formerly reserved horse develops an in-your-pocket personality.

If you watch most horses, they spend 99 per cent of their time eating, drinking, occasionally rolling around on the ground or napping in the sun. However, after spending the last seven months with this herd daily, I realize that horses are wired for friendship much more than I ever thought. They form deep bonds with each other. And not just with each other, but with their master.

Horses are kind of like people. We were made for relationship. We were formed through and for connection. When we live independently, not sharing our hearts and experiences with others, we’re only half alive. Intimacy and community bring us fully alive, make us bloom and become transformed into the glory we were created for. Just as the animals were originally created as companions for us, so we were created for deep friendship — with each other and with our Master.

I’m so grateful to have a God who cares about more than providing enough for me to eat and drink. I’m so thankful that my Master wants to know me, wants an individual relationship with me. His attention, words and affection for me make me want to be the first at the gate to meet him, nuzzling his hand, drawing near.