In the beginning, after prayerful consideration, I was sure that this [the non-profit] was what the Lord wanted me to do with the horses. It was a terrible time to start a charity given the economy, but we had too many horses to care for on our own long term, and I felt confident that things would work out if they were meant. I should add that it is virtually impossible to get approval from the Treasury Department for a horse-related non profit that is not a rescue operation or some type of hippotherapy facility. That would be why I took the approval of our 501c3 (which took almost a year and an awful lot of trees) to be a clear affirmation that I was indeed heading in the right direction. We were approved as a non profit in 2009 and made retroactively official as of our initial application date in 2008.
After the approval, however, and a handful of positive months, nothing seemed to go right. Several months more and friends and family began to drop subtle hints that perhaps this was not what we were meant to do with the horses after all. DH's work schedule had him working almost 70 hours seven days a week (69:45 to be exact), which made it virtually impossible for him to work on the visitor area or do anything at all here beyond eat and sleep. Donations became few and far between then dried up completely, grant after grant was turned down or ignored outright, as were all attempts to garner support from local businesses. Even my monthly paycheck - pretty much the sole source of support for the farm - went down; I got to the point that living from paycheck to paycheck became my new goal as I could no longer get anywhere near the next check before the money ran out (I am, however, quite thankful to have a job). On top of that, I couldn't find a single [grownup] person interested in volunteering. Our first "Work Toward Reward" participant came out to work once and then was never heard from again. Our second WTR participant did the same thing. To say I was becoming frustrated doesn't even come close (particularly when those little hints from well-meaning folks blossomed into larger and more obvious statements). There is a reason that water drip torture works; I began to question if I had misunderstood what God wanted me to do (and it certainly wouldn't be the first time I went haring off in the wrong direction :oP
At the end of a particularly trying day last month, I arrived home to find two renewal notices waiting for me; one for the website and one for our liability insurance totaling nearly $1,000 between the two. The horses had unusually bad behavior at supper (caused by my own internalized stress, I'm sure) and the remaining evening hours yielded nothing but more stress and aggravation. Have you ever had one of those days where absolutely everything you touch goes badly? By the end of the night, I had completed the downward spiral from bad to worse, and finally decided not to touch anything else (maybe ever). Overtired and overwrought, I dissolved into tears of frustration and wailed to God to PLEASE just tell me [what???]: "Do I have it ALL wrong? Is this not what I am supposed to do with the horses? Why is nothing working? I have no money, no help, and what feels like negativity and discouragement coming from all directions. If this is not what I should be doing, will you please just say so and put me out of my misery? I can't handle all this anymore Lord." <-- Now I'm sure many of you that walk the walk out there will see exactly where the problem was in this last sentence (always so obvious when it's not you, isn't it? ;o) Curling up in a tight ball of exhausted misery I did what most of us do when we just don't want to deal with anything else; I escaped into sleep.
The next morning as I said a prayer, I apologized to the Lord for my self pity-filled rant, for trying to rush things along on my own [without Him], and ended by asking for some kind of confirmation that I was indeed doing what He wanted me to do. I sat down at the dining room table and opened my daily devotional to find a lesson on perseverance along with the following quote in the margin:
"When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away your ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer."It is interesting to note, in a goosebumpy sort of way, that I was on the "wrong" day (I was a month and several days behind on my reading; each page is for a specific day and has a date on it). I had to laugh as I read it, because I am one to ask the Lord for "idiot friendly" answers (but please don't hurt me) and that was definitely one even I couldn't miss. Even weirder? My dad is a HUGE train buff and I grew up riding trains, so I could totally appreciate the analogy. The next day, one of the teachers at school mentioned [out of the blue] that she was looking for someplace to volunteer for the summer (this post). DH's schedule changed at work and offered just enough reduction in hours to free up some extra time for the patio project (this post and this post). Then another teacher said that she and her daughters were looking for some volunteering opportunities over the summer (this post and this post). I'd love to tell you that we got a gazillion dollar donation along with everything else that has turned around for us over the past few weeks, but I can't. We're still waiting on the Lord there. I think I won't worry quite so much about it anymore though. His timing is, after all, perfect ;o)
On a Sunday after church, my dearest friend Lori shared the following with me from her devotional because it was so (completely) "us":
"I am with you and for you. When you decide on a course of action that is in line with My will, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop you. You may encounter many obstacles as you move toward your goal, but don't be discouraged - never give up! With My help, you can overcome any obstacle. Do not expect an easy path as you journey hand in hand with Me, but do remember that I, your ever-present Helper am omnipotent.
Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come. One of the main ways I assert My sovereignty is in the timing of events. If you want to stay close to Me and do things My way, ask Me to show you the path forward moment by moment. Instead of dashing head long toward moment by moment. Instead of dashing head-long toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence."
Romans 8:31, Psalm 46:1-3, Luke 1:37Is that wild or what? (not to mention totally relevant - especially the part about the stress - and Duhhhh, Jen ;o) Lori is a wonderful friend, fellow horse nut, and amazing Christian; a ginormous blessing in my life all the way around. She and I have had many discussions about God's timing vs. our timing and laughingly agree that we are both defectively impatient and always in too big of a hurry. To use a different transportation analogy: When it comes to Divine directions we both have a tendency to just grab the flight plan and run with it. By not reading carefully - ergo bypassing the taxi down the runway part [we tend to skip straight to takeoff] - we miss the warning about the giant redwood growing up through the center of our flight path, resulting in the inevitable crash and burn *rolls eyes*. So we have to schlep all the way back to where we started, repent, and ask for duplicate plans that we will [hopefully] read in their entirety before taking off again. Yep, a couple of slow learners - that's us ;o)
Sweating through record temps of 102 over the past few days here (awful!) As for the blood? Well. I opted to add to the "Graceless Challenge" this week (I fell into a ladder Thursday morning for that one; don't ask), and thought I'd play a round of "What are the odds?" I was prepping the patio for staining Friday, whisking away at the light accumulation of sand and grit when the broom I was using suddenly snapped in two. The broom, being cheap and metal, did not break completely but opened and closed in my hand (grabbing some skin) in accordance with the stroke of my sweep. It happened very fast and made a circular gash on my palm that looked, ironically, just like the letter "J". It bled immediately and profusely. Although I quickly flipped my hand over, closed it, and cupped the other underneath (my first thought being how the heck would I get the blood stains out of the concrete?! ;o) there was a solitary - symbolic? - drop of blood that splashed onto the patio floor. I went for the sepia shot in case anyone reading this is squeamish. Honestly, who DOES this stuff? Wait. You know what - on second thought...never mind.
Thanks for reading it all, and have a wonderful week everyone!