2017 Southern Equine Expo

I am incredibly honored to be returning to work at the Southern Equine Expo this year.  For the second year in a row, I will be introducing speakers in the Miller Club for the Expo’s lecture series.  Subjects range from gaited horsemanship to trail riding to equine dentistry.  I have to admit…  I’m kind of excited about getting to meet and talk to Julie Goodnight and Colleen Kelly!
If you’ve never been to the Southern Equine Expo, you really need to experience it!  The production team works hard to get a variety of horseman and horsewomen each year who address a range of concerns and interest, but they also take great care in selecting clinicians and presenters who exemplify the best the industry has to offer.  The event is a great opportunity for horse people across the region to come together and discuss their favorite breeds, disciplines, and training methods.
I’ve included the current tentative schedule below.  Be sure to visit their website for updates and get your tickets in advance!

Losing Faith

I’ve fought depression and anxiety most of my adult life. I’ve battled feelings of unworthiness and loneliness. Seven years of Alanon meetings reminded me that my Christian faith, my roots in the Episcopal Church can provide more solace and love than any other thing in my life. Just as 12 step programs teach you to put your sobriety, sanity, etc. first, the Gospels teach us to put God first, because when we do, we find a serenity and peace that nothing else can offer. We become connected vessels of love rather an islands of loneliness.
I have to confess… The last few months I have failed to live up to that standard. It started with a heartbreaking phone call and a week of worry and stress. Someone I love dearly hurt, and there was nothing I could do but give it to God. From there, the realities of spending a winter in a travel trailer set in. Buying propane every 3 days. Having nowhere to keep winter clothes and wet boots. Muddy paw prints everywhere.
It culminated in a weekend of unusually low temps, during which our pipes froze. We spent the weekend trying to make sure the animals had enough water to get through, sometimes lugging water from the creek and sometimes using the gallon jugs of spring water in the basement. The roads were a mess, but we had to brave them to get to town and get supplies to insulate the hoses.
As it turns out, a four season trailer only has insulated tanks; the hoses are not insulated. We had insulated the hoses from the water to the trailer but had no idea we needed to insulate the hoses under the trailer. My poor husband spent most of the weekend crawling under the trailer trying desperately to get the water going, so I could shower and head to the office on Monday morning.
We spent most of what we had budgeted for groceries and miscellaneous spending.  I didn’t know how we would make it until the next paycheck without dipping into funds intended to work on the farm or dipping into our savings.  My frustration exceeded my faith, and I gave into feelings of helplessness, loneliness, and despair.
In Knowing God by Name, Sharon Jaynes, Gwen Smith, and Mary Southerland write

You and I run out of energy. We grow weary. We lose heart. God never does. The Everlasting God does not faint or grow weary and when we call out to Him, He renews our strength and revives our hope.

That’s where I was.  I was out of energy, but I was also out of faith.  Sadly, I was those things by choice, because God was always with me.  Only when I finally broke down and allowed myself to feel God’s awesome presence, only when I allowed the tears to flow and allowed myself to be humble before God did the situation resolve itself.  After two days of fighting the trailer, the cold, and each other, we found comfort in each other and comfort in God’s plan.
In a recent Girlfriends in God devotional, Mary Southerland wrote

Faith is the quiet certainty that God keeps His promises. If you are like me, you don’t like to wait on God with “quiet certainty.” We see a need, and instead of seeking God’s wisdom and timing, we make a plan we think will meet that need and then, with earthly resources, make sure the plan is executed. As a result, we often settle for so much less than God had in mind.

Sound familiar?  We spent a weekend lacking faith and paid the price.  Only when we relinquished control and found that quiet certainty did God reveal his plan, which was so much more that we could have hoped for.

I want to share with you the prayer included in that newsletter:

Father, I come to You, desperately needing Your power and Your strength. Help me learn to recognize Your work in my daily life. I celebrate the fact that You are able and willing to perform miracles when I step out in faith and trust You.
In Jesus’ Name,

That is my continued prayer for me and for you.  When we rely on God’s strength instead of our own, all things are possible.  When we take back that trust and rely on our own power, we are remind just how difficult and lonely life can be, but all we have to do is give it back to God to be restored.  The Monday after that miserable weekend, we experienced a miracle, the details of which I will share at a later date! 😀  God has plans for us and for our farm.  We will have to work for it, but God will guide us and provide for us just as he sent manna from Heaven to feed the Israelites.  We must have faith.
God has personally blessed me with a job I love at a company doing good work in the world, a faithful and loving husband, a daughter who loves and supports me through everything, a strong faith community, two of the sweetest and most loving big dogs I’ve ever met, two of the best horses a woman could ask for, and some of the kindest friends you could ever meet.  My cup runneth over.  How has God blessed you?

Should I Blanket My Horse

Every winter, horse people produce copious amounts of literature on whether or not you should blanket your horse.  I have friends who insist you should never blanket a horse and others who insist all horses should be blanketed under certain temps.  The reality is much more complicated.  Like everything in the horse world, it depends on your horse and the situation.
Horses are built to survive in the cold, but the reality of living with horses is that our very relationship with them is unnatural.  We create unnatural situations but helping to keep horses healthy that would have been weeded out by natural selection in the wild.  We create unnatural situations by clipping our horses or using lights to keep their coats slick, so they can be show-ready as late as November or as early as February.  It’s only fair that we respond by making sure we keep them warm!
My gelding is an excellent example of this.  He has terrible teeth.  He’s 11 and has had three teeth pulled so far.  If he were in the wild, he would have starved to death two years ago.  Instead, my vet keeps up his teeth, and I keep him blanketed in freezing temperatures, since he can’t consume enough hay to keep himself warm.  My mare on the other hand almost never gets a blanket. I just shovel the hay in her direction, and she does just fine.
I’ve included the full size image below of the the poster Auburn Agriculture offers.  I highly recommend following the link and paying the $15 for a full-size laminated poster for your barn.  For me, it helps my non-equestrian husband figure out whether or not he should blanket the horses when he’s responsible for bringing them in.  For larger barns, this poster can guide less experienced horsemen/women in figuring it out.
I highly recommend reading To Blanket or Not To Blanket from Colorado State University’s vet school, which gives a great overview of basics. Equus Magazine Blanketing Q & A provides some great basics as well.  Perhaps the best article online I’ve found is Thermoregulation in horses in a cold time of year.  It’s lengthy but gives the reader an in-depth look at the science behind whether or not to blanket. Natalija Aleksandrova includes her sources if you want to dig a little deeper.

The World Will Not Change Me

I have often been accused of being too idealistic, of being too hopeful.  I can think of worse things.  I choose to be hopeful and happy, because life is more enjoyable when I put my faith in a gracious God who loves me.
I honestly believe that the most powerful forces in the world are hope and love.  When I look at history, I see that all major change has started with one person seeing a better way and refusing to accept anything less.  That hopeful vision spreads and becomes a force no one can stand against.
In my own life, the people who have had the greatest impact on my development as a person–on the course of my life–have been people who work in difficult situations enacting as much positive change in the world as they can.  They give little thought to accumulating wealth, and they measure success not in their own achievements but in the achievements of those they help.  Being in their presence reminds you that God is alive and at work in the world.
In a recent Girlfriends in God email, Kelly Balarie wrote,

What if I really believed? What if I truly believed God wants to pour out His powerful hope onto others with transformational impact? What if I believed people might really see Christ through me? What if I believed I could change the world, in profound ways, like Jesus Christ changed the world?

What powerful questions.  I want to live to serve God through Christ.  I want live to love others as Christ loves me.  I do what I do not to change the world but to change me through my relationship with Christ.  God willing, that opens the door for others to love and to experience radical transformation through Christ.
I want to share with you the lyrics from one of my favorite songs The Change as performed by Garth Brooks, which embodies the reason I refuse to be less idealistic or less hopeful in my actions or my attitude:

One hand reaches out and pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for, and they say,
“What good have you done by saving just this one”
It’s like whispering a prayer in the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying, “You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do, it’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world will know that it will not change me

This heart still believes that love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage, and so many say
“That love is all but pointless in madness such as this
“It’s like trying to stop a fire with the moisture from a kiss”

And I hear them saying, “You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do, it’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world will know that it will not change me

As long as one heart still holds on
Then hope is never really gone

And I hear them saying, “You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do, it’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world we know never changes me

What I do is so, this world will know
That it will not change me

What do you do that helps you stay true to your Christian faith?  What do you do to be in the world but not of the world?

Bullet Journaling for 2017

Over the past 9 months, I’ve become a Bullet Journal addict.  I’ve always been a fan of pen and paper for keeping track of my schedule, to-do list, and goal setting.  I like the physical act of writing things out.  It helps my mental processes.  I also like crossing things off lists!  There’s something satisfying in changing the status of a task.  🙂
I’ve tried many, many planners ranging from the expensive Franklin Covey options to the inexpensive 3-month Emergent Task Planner.   When I heard about the Bullet Journal system, I was currently using the Passion Planner, which offers some great pages for setting long-term goals and breaking those goals down into manageable daily tasks.  It also helps in focusing your daily to-do list to achieve long-term results.  What I didn’t like about it was the lack of flexibility in  using its pages.  I think I used almost as much white-out as I did ink!  In truth, I was missing my Emergent Task Planner!
The Bullet Journal system was attractive because it was simple and flexible.  I could use any journal and could get as creative as I wanted or keep it as simple as I wanted.  I confess…  I have an obsession with office supplies.  I had an entire drawer of brand new journals, so I just picked the one on top and got started.  I took a spin through Pinterest for inspiration and spent the next three months experimenting.  Because the Bullet Journal system is so flexible, you can start a new journal any time you like, which made changing journals or tools very simple.  It took me about 6 months to really develop a style and tools that worked for me, but now that I have, my Bullet Journal is helping me stay focused on my goals.
Many people who use the Bullet Journal system prefer to use the notebook designed for Bullet Journaling.  Many also prefer the classic Moleskin line of notebooks.  For me, I wanted a notebook with some of my favorite things about other planners.  I loved that the Emergent Task Planner was spiral bound.  I could lay it flat and view two pages or easily flip to lay flat on one page.  I loved using engineering paper, because it was squared and made it was easy to create grids.  I’m not a fan of spending $30 on a journal or a notebook.  I live on a farm and have horses, dogs, and a cat.  Things get destroyed, spilled on, etc. on a regular basis.  My last notebook was eaten by our puppy.  Yes, eaten!  So…  I settled on the Miliko Transparent Hardcover A5 Spiral Notebook, which sells in a 2-pack on Amazon for $12.99.
I have a few must-have tools, which include a ruler, Sharpie pens, and page tabs.  I use all the basic pages for a Bullet Journal (index, future log, monthly logs, and daily logs).  For a few months, I went down a rabbit hole on Pinterest and went a little nuts with the creativity, but in the end, I settled on the pages I needed and a level of creativity I’m comfortable with.  I have a monthly habit tracker, brainstorming lists for blog entries and books I’d like to read, a 2017 calendar, 30-day challenge trackers, expense logs, a gratitude list, and a Bible study tracker.  I also take notes here and there for work or writing.  Since there’s no set format, my Bullet Journal adjusts from month to month as I need it to.
As usual, I didn’t make useless New Year’s Resolutions, but I did start January with a fresh habit tracker.  One of the big things I need to tackle this month is a sugar detox!  I gave in one too many times to the seasonal sweets at Dollar General and need to get back on the healthy train.  🙂  I always re-order my monthly habit tracker in order of the habits that are the highest priority, so my top two are always Bible study and prayer.  The next 3 tasks for January 2017 are all about diet and exercise.  I’m looking forward to the days getting longer and my behind getting smaller.
If you’re interested in Bullet Journaling, I highly recommend starting with the Bullet Journal videos.  I also recommend checking out my friend Hillary Yeager’s BuJo series.  She’s much more creative than I am!
Hope you’re having a wonderful new year!

Rediscovering the Bible

As a cradle Episcopalian, I grew up learning about the Lectionary and the Daily Office.  My Bible study has always followed the Daily Office, reading the selections listed in the Book of Common Prayer.  I always read the English Standard Version with the Apocrypha.  I do, of course, have a King James red letter version complete with leather cover, gold edges, and pages to record family events, but that Bible lives on the book shelf.  It didn’t really occur to me that I should consider another way.  I did, after all, read the Bible faithfully in the tradition of my faith.  Over the last two years, however, I have been rediscovering the Bible by experiencing it in new ways and by challenging my faith traditions or rather by more fully understanding those traditions.
The first change I made is in reading books of the Bible as books, as complete stories.  The Daily Office has certainly been a useful tool in understanding connections between the Old Testament and New Testament, between the Gospels and the letters of Paul, but it has not allowed me to fully experience the Gospels, the letters, or the Old Testament histories and prophesies.  Reading a complete book is a different experience–a long overdue experience!
The second change I’ve made is in trying new translations.  I’m still an Episcopalian, so I’m sticking with the “approved” list, but I’m giving other translations a try…  Or rather I was trying other translations.  I’ve settled on a wonderful new Bible that has margins for journaling or making notes, illustrations to color, and a wonderful hard cover that even I can’t destroy.  It’s a New Living Translation, which I hadn’t considered until a friend at church mentioned that it was his favorite translation.  He shared a passage from the NLT, which was just beautiful.

The final change I’ve made is to pray before and after my Bible study.  My Bullet Journal contains a short prayer I usually use, but more and more I let the Holy Spirit guide my pre- and post-Bible study prayer.  I try to begin by quieting my mind and getting comfortable.  I pray.  Then, I read as the Holy Spirit guides me.  Sometimes I color as I read.  Sometimes I journal.  Sometimes I just read and re-read.  I end in prayer.
I’ve started to see new things in the Bible, new inspirations and insights.  I’ve also begun to have a deeper experience in studying the Bible.  In the past, I was often more focused on accomplishing something with my Bible study, on checking my Bible readings off my to-do list.  Now, I am more focused on simply experiencing the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me.  As I continue, my Bible study deepens my faith and brings me closer to God.
How do you study the Bible?  Does your study bring you close to God?

Surviving the Winter

First, let me say that I’m eternally grateful that my husband and I settled in Tennessee, where winters are mild!  If I were trying to do this in the winter in New England, I wouldn’t survive.  I would sell off everything and walk to Florida if I had to!
That being said…  Winter on a farm sucks.  It sucks even more when your farm is under construction!  We started winter with a to-do list.  We started with optimism that this list would get done.  Then, winter started.  NOTHING has gotten done on that list.

The first day of winter fun started with waking up at 5 am to no heat.  The temp had gotten down in the 20s, and we hadn’t realized how low we were on propane.  We woke up to all the dogs in our bed and a cold house–a term I use loosely since we’re sleeping in the travel trailer!  Tractor Supply doesn’t open until 8, so we fired up the electric heater to get warm.
I was headed off to the office in Franklin that day, so I was very grateful that the measures we had taken to keep the water from freezing had worked, so I could brush my teeth.  🙂  Unfortunately, around noon, my husband called.  Not only had the water frozen, but Buttons was loose.  Needless to say, I cut my work day short and headed home.
By the time I got home, Ken had caught Buttons and put her in her stall.  He’d also retrieved poor Comanche from the pasture and put him in his stall.  While he worked on getting the water running, I went out to assess the fences.   I discovered that the round bales were surrounded by ice, so the horses weren’t remotely interested in going near them.  The front pasture, which isn’t currently fenced (on the to-do list), still has grass, so Buttons thought she would break through a week spot in the fence and go munch over there.
After getting the water turned on, we got creative with the tractor and managed to roll the round bales to higher ground where the horses had better access.  We don’t have a hay fork yet, so that was a rather hilarious exercise in redneck ingenuity!  We started fixing the fencing, but lost our daylight, so Ken finished in the morning, keeping an eye on our escape artist mare.  She was much happier with the new hay locations.
Since then, we’ve had roof leak in the barn, drainage problems at the house, drainage problems at the barn, and lots and lots of mud to contend with.  The latest round of fun, was of course on a morning I had to commute an hour to the office in Franklin.  After several days of rain, all of the solar spots on the property were dead.  Ken had parked my truck in a driveway I wasn’t used to using, and I couldn’t see where the gravel ended.  So…  I ended up leaving late for work after getting my truck stuck and having to wait for daylight to get the tractor and pull it out.
As I write this, it’s raining…  AGAIN.   The forecasters predicted a mild and dry winter.  I’ll buy the mild but not the dry!  Our property slopes back to a dry creek, so the water doesn’t stay, but the drainage is terrible.  The to-do list will have to wait until we re-direct all the water!  We’re already looking forward to spring, when we can get busy with renovations and new construction again.  Sometimes we feel like Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in The Money Pit.  I remind myself that in the end, the renovations were beautiful!