Life is tough! Anyone agree? I am an optimist, yet I have realized that there are times when a person’s optimism isn’t enough. When a child is hurting, there is no money to pay the bills, or a friend or family member is dying from cancer: optimism isn’t enough. Life is challenging, and when I feel overwhelmed with these challenges, I need more; I need hope! And I need more than extrinsic hope (hope in outside circumstances, a quick feel good, or support from others); I need intrinsic hope – an inner peace that will not be moved when everything around me feels unbeatable!
I have studied hope extensively in university, yet my greatest resource for hope is not from my studies; it comes from my faith. Because of this, I have decided to step out of my safety zone and be vulnerable with this month’s post. I want to share a story of desperation that turned into hope, and I trust that it is an encouragement for someone reading this today.
It started in the fall of 1997. I was raising four children on my own, and my finances were next to none. Struggling to pay the bills, I decided to sell the few horses that I had left. I had raised Morgan horses for several years, and I still had a few mares. So I created some flyers with professional photos and sent them to a variety of breeders in hopes of selling at least one or two. After a few months of trying to sell the mares, none of them had sold, and I felt desperate. It didn’t make any sense. Numerous breeders had expressed an interest in them, yet I had zero responses to my ads.
The days turned into months, and before I knew it, it was winter, and my difficult circumstances in the fall were now desperate. After feeding the horses one day in mid-February, I felt like I had hit a wall. I broke down and started to weep. Raising four children on my own was impossible; everything seemed impossible. I leaned over the rail fence and cried, and in my desperation, I cried out to God: “Where are you; why are you not helping me; what do you want me to do?” To my dismay, there was no answer. It was as if God had shut me out of heaven and sealed the door. I was alone, and I felt trapped in my circumstances. Cradling my face in the palm of my hands, I felt weak as I slumped over the fence in exhaustion. It was no use. I was on my own.
The darkness of the winter sky that day was a reflection of the hopelessness in my heart. The bills were coming in faster than I could manage, and the horses that I had once loved — so passionately — were now a burden that I no longer wanted to carry. Groceries were my only concern now.
Walking back to the house, I wiped my face and pushed my thoughts back into a place that was not visible to the outside world. It was not time to be weak.
My love for horses began as a young teenager. I remember watching my older sister riding her mare through the fields. She rode with such agility and confidence. I wanted to be just like her. And as fate would have it, I did get an opportunity to buy my first horse at fifteen. For a hundred and seventy five dollars, I was the proud owner of a 16.5-hand sorrel mare who loved to run. She was everything to me, and we spent endless hours together—carefree and irreplaceable hours.
Years later, I bought my first Morgan horse, and I was hooked. I lived and breathed horses for many years, and as I set my mind to studying bloodlines, I became intentional about owning a black Morgan horse someday. Black is one of the most sought after colors in the Morgan breed. It is beautiful, but it is a challenging color to breed. (I seem to like challenges.) Less than 8% of all Morgan horses are black, so the difficulty was an incentive to my determination.
Nonetheless, after years of breeding mares to stallions that might sire black, I still didn’t have a black Morgan foal. And now, in the midst of my trials, having a black Morgan horse was no longer a priority. I had no idea how to move forward. At least one of the four mares should have sold. They were breathtakingly beautiful and correct. It was odd that at least one didn’t sell.
Somehow, I made it through that fateful winter. In my busyness — one day faded into the next, and before I knew it, it was Easter break.
In response to a last minute invitation, my two youngest daughters and I joined a mission team and headed out to a small village just outside of Tijuana for the Easter Break. Getting to know the local residents was such a wonderful experience. In fact, it was so relaxing that I found myself struggling with the idea of coming back home to Canada. I missed my two oldest kids (who had now graduated), but I wasn’t ready to face the bills and the heavy workload — at least not yet. Life in Mexico seemed simpler. I enjoyed the people, and I especially enjoyed learning about the Mexican culture. I smiled thinking about my daughter’s shrieks the first night there as mice scurried around our room. Yikes! As much as I dislike mice, the thought of coming home, and being plunged into a workload that seemed insurmountable, seemed worse. As I pondered my circumstances, a thought occurred to me that I might be going home to a black Morgan filly. The idea caught me by surprise, and for a brief moment, I found myself smiling at the possibility. Could it really be?
When we arrived in Canada, my oldest daughter was waiting for us at the airport. By the look on her face, I knew something good had happened. The words came out almost as quickly as her greeting, “Mom, Misty foaled, and she had a black filly!” Her words silenced me — after all of these years — a black filly. It was almost bittersweet. Now, when it seemed impossible to keep the horses, I had my foal. And there was more, “Mom,” she said, “the foal was premature, so we had to take her and Misty to a vet in Edmonton; otherwise, the foal would have died. But she is home now, and the foal is doing well.” Now, there were vet bills to pay.
Three days after the girls and I arrived home, the second mare began to foal, and it was Peaches — my favorite. Peaches is a chestnut mare that I raised on my own, and I have spent hours with her — taking her for walks just for the company. I rode her a lot, and she was my shoulder to lean on when life was difficult. Whenever I was out in the pasture, Peaches would be there — right beside me. Sometimes, I had a hard time getting her to move out of my way. Out of all of the mares, I knew that her foal would be my favorite.
As I watched the foal being born, the pace of my heart began to quicken. It seemed to be very dark in color, but it was difficult to tell for sure. Within a few minutes, the foal arrived — healthy and active, and as I removed the sac, I realized that the foal was indeed black. And to my surprise, it was also a filly. The odds of one black baby seemed miraculous, and now I had two. And this one was perfectly healthy and perfectly beautiful.
A couple of days later, the third mare foaled. This was a black mare that I had finally purchased to increase my chances of producing black foals, and sure enough, the third foal was also black. This foal, however, was so black that it appeared blue. I now had a colt to add to my collection of black foals.
The last mare to foal was my oldest mare, Lady. Lady was a chestnut mare like Peaches; however, unlike Peaches, who had a bay filly a couple of years earlier, Lady had never strayed from having a chestnut foal like herself — even though I had repeatedly bred her to sires, who had black in their pedigree. With Lady, I found my analytical mind doubting the possibility of one more black foal. Considering this mare’s foaling history, it seemed impossible for the old mare to produce anything other than her dominant color, which was chestnut.
One day, as my children and I were contemplating this strange occurrence of black foals, I expressed my doubts about the old mare. “It just wasn’t possible,” I argued. In my thinking, the odds were like winning a lottery. At this point, one of the girls spoke up and said, “Mom, if God can create the Heavens and the Earth, he can put a black baby in Lady.” She was right — but I still didn’t believe her.
Needless to say, a few days later, Lady gave birth to a beautiful black colt. There it was — four foals: all black. Out of a bay stallion, two chestnut mares, one brown mare, and one black mare, somehow I ended up with four black foals. What were the odds? For me, it was an extraordinary gift! And to add to my excitement, all of the foals were incredibly beautiful. I had never seen or heard of such a thing.
I still do not have answers to the big ‘why’ questions concerning our personal struggles. We all have them at times. Why did this happen; why isn’t this happening? I have spent years trying to ‘do all of the right things’ to avoid circumstances that challenge us, but to no avail. Life is difficult. We do not have the answers, and we never will. But I did learn an important lesson that spring so many years ago, and it still moves me today. And that is to let go of the ‘whys’ and trust God. If God had answered my prayers and sold the mares before spring, I would have never known the gift that was uniquely mine. I had prayed extensively to sell the mares, and I was so upset that I couldn’t sell any. On the other hand, I had never prayed for a black foal, and I ended up with four.
One of my favorite scriptures is Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. In the end, I sold one of the foals for the price of a mare, so it worked out for my good.
Life is difficult, and not all of my challenges have ended up like this one. But in spite of our circumstances, there is an inner peace that we can all have, and it comes when we learn to let go and have faith. If you are wondering what it means to have faith, it means to trust God with whatever you are going through and know that he is big enough to see you through your troubles.