Thursday, July 31, 2014

July gifts: ranch rodeos and county fair

Now that I finally have some space from March and April and May - those months were filled with loss (though also filled with many blessings), I'm catching up with my 1000 gifts list. These gifts are from July.

854.  Horses for the twins
One of our neighbors with horses introduced to the lady who runs the equine program for the kids at  Cathedral Home for Children here in Laramie (it's an amazing program). With the loss of our old trusty horse Rebel in May, we no longer had a horse safe enough for the 7 year old twins to ride, but this lady had two lovely older horses (Chuck and Trina) that she said they could ride any time they wanted. Serious and Starlet fell in love with them immediately and did a great job riding them at their first show
Starlet barrel racing Trina at the Laramie Kids Horse Show
Serious riding Chuck at the Laramie Kids Horse Show
855. Personal "best times" for Blaze and Dreamer
Also at the Laramie Kids Horse Show, Blaze and Dreamer got their personal best times for the barrel race! Blaze got second place in her division (18.3 seconds) and Dreamer got fifth place in her division (23.4 seconds).

Blaze barrel racing Spring at Laramie Kids Horse Show
Dreamer barrel racing Tuffy at Laramie Kids Horse Show
856. Ranch rodeo fun and trail ride for our 15th anniversary
We had more barrel racing and pole bending fun at the 4th of July ranch rodeo at the beautiful Moen Ranch in norther Colorado. B. also got to do lots of team roping. The girls had so much fun taking the horses in and out of the streams and watering hole. At one point Spring laid down righ tin th ehole and Blaze had to hop off! It was right across from the roping arena and the announcer "announced" what her horse had just done to her and everyone had a big laugh over her muddy horse! After the roping we went for a trail
B. and his four beautiful girls at the Moen ranch
ride - this ranch is breathtakingly beautiful. Stopped and bought fireworks on the way back into town and set them off in the backyard, then went to see the city's big fireworks (the girls all sat on top of the van to watch). I was perfectly happy having a "family" anniversary and couldnt' have planned a better day.

857. my "big" hiking partners
One of our neighbors invited me to join their hiking group, and I have really enjoyed getting back into hiking (I used to hike all the time when I first moved to Wyoming... but have gotten out of the regular habit after having kids). We hiked the Headquarters and Turtle Rock trail, and one lady in particular is really good at pointing out things I probably would have missed on my own: like a bird's nest with a hatchling and two tiny eggs in a shrub right next to the trail, and a patch of wood violets (my favorite flower!!!) She also gave me a some of her patch of lavender from her garden to plant in my garden.

858. my "Little" hiking partners
After dropping Blaze and Dreamer off at Bible camp at the beautiful Table in the Wilderness camp in Centennial, I took the twins with me a little further up into the mountains to hike along the Little Laramie River (need to get my girls to love hiking like I do!) We had so much fun jumping from rock to rock, climbing over fallen trees, and scrambling alongside the stream.

859.  Favorite camp memories
Five days later went to pick up Blaze and Dreamer from camp and they were full of stories. Asked them what their favorite parts were: they said their skit teams. Their team each had to come up with a name (Blaze's team: the Wolves; Dreamer's team, the Praying Mantises) and they had to make up a song. Blaze's team made up a song about bacon and Dreamer's team made up one about body odor - hilarious! Blaze also said that five kids got saved; that they would get to go a peaceful, beautiful place someday. "What place is that?" I asked her. "Heaven!" she answered.

860.  Caught B. riding English!
Posted on Facebook: Caught B. violating three Cowboy rules... real cowboys do not wear shorts! Especially on horseback! Real Cowboys do not wear hightops (cowboy boots, duh!) and Real Cowboys certainly don't ride English... unless they're trying to help their daughter get her horse ready for county fair.  

861. Learning patience with horses
Seriously though, we've made some wonderful progress training the girls and their horses this summer. The girls are learning to be patient and kind with their horses (gets better results than impatience and jerking the reins!) Spring finally has her head down and relaxed at the canter (I thought we'd never get there!) and Dreamer's horse Tuffy has learned how to do a nice quiet trail pattern.

862. Saving a bundle of money on show outfits
All summer (even going back to spring) I've been hunting for show outfits on eBay for the girls... with no luck. The outfits are so expensive, I just can't justify spending over $50 on fancy shirts... and they can easily go over $500! But a couple weeks before fair I was at our local clothing consignment store, and asked about western outfits without really expecting to find anything. But they had a large selection and I  was able to get beautiful shirts for both Blaze and Dreamer - $18 for both of them! I even found them pants, fancy belts, and boots - for under $50 total!!! Blaze was able to wear her dad's cowboy hat and Dreamer used Stars' cowboy hat and I was ecstatic how it all turned out. (And after fair, an older girl gave Dreamer one of her show shirts that she'd outgrown; the same shirt brand new I had priced at $80!)

863.  Tuffy trained to kick a ball
After camp we got into full-time preparation for county fair horse events! The girls' favorite event is the ride to music, where they can pick their own music and costumes and design their own riding pattern. Dreamer picked her favorite song, "Where I Belong" by Building 429 and wore an angel costume and we worked on training her horse, Tuffy, to kick a big exercise ball around the arena for her pattern. So much fun! But I forgot to take pictures! (I heard a few exclamations of delight from the audience when he started kicking the ball).

864. Tiger stripes on her horse
Blaze did her ride-to-music program to Katy Perry's song "ROAR" and painted Spring with tiger stripes, which were all covered up by a sheet. She rode Spring around the arena with her sheet for the beginning part of the song, but when the "roar!" part started she ripped the sheet off - it was very dramatic!

865. Learning sportmanship at fair
I knew the tough competition at fair would try all of our attitudes (mine included) but I put a lot of prayer into our preparation, too. Blaze and Dreamer didn't place in most of the classes because of heavy competition, but they kept their spirits up and learned how to congratulate the other girls with good sportmanship. Blaze had never even practiced the Western Riding pattern but she'd been doing so much pole bending on Spring that she got almost all of the lead changes correct and placed a surprise 4th! She also got 4th place in the Trail class, another surprise! The biggest surprise was that Dreamer was the only rider in her junior division to complete all the trail obstacles, though she ended up being disqualified for opening the gate the wrong direction; if she'd opened it the correct direction, she would have won!) I was so proud of her because her trail obstacles were extremely complicated; the same level of difficulty as Blaze's intermediate level.  The very last events the girls competed in were barrel racing and pole bending. Blaze got a second in pole bending, qualifying for state fair, and then first place in the barrel race!

866. Dreamer's "cure for fear"
Dreamer made this awesome list of ways to fight fear that I just had to share!!!
1. love God and think of God's Word
2. Hug your mom and dad
3. think of good things that have happened in your life
4. read Psalm 23
5. say your happy word, Dreamer's is "sparkles"
6. sing a song

867. Daniel 12:3
"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever."  Shared at OA with C. last night how I much I want to be brave to share my faith; how I am afraid of being ashamed when I get to heaven of not sharing about Jesus and the Word more, when they are the very most important thing to me.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Things on my heart this summer

Five things on my heart this June and July:
Dreamer riding Tuffy at a show in June

1. Scripture study
2. Horse showing
3. Bible game
4. Surrendering
5. My dad, care center, sharing my faith at work

1. Scripture study
Earlier this spring I was convicted to study the Bible on my own, instead of doing a Beth Moore Bible study or some other person's Bible study. It's been a while since I've done this (a couple years). I have done this in the past with Romans, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 and 2 Peter.  In May I started studying 1 Thessalonians. My method study is usually to read the same chapter in full every day for a week. At the end of the week on a day when I have plenty of time, I take two or three verses and really dig into them. Look for key words, themes, repeated words, and work through the who, what, why, when, where, how questions. Some verses I will look up in the Blue Letter Bible to see the original Greek meanings of words.  My favorite part is looking up reference verses, to see where similar words and themes are found through out the Bible.

The first references I looked up were for 1 Thess 1:9, "you turned from idols to serve the living and true God." I looked up all the references of "living God". I found eleven verses that each gave a different view of God, and taken altogether completely awed me.

These are just a few:
  •  1 Sam 17:36 (story of David and Goliath) "who is this Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
  • Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 
  • Jeremiah 23:36 Every man's own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the word of the living God 
  • Hebrews 10:31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God
  • Rev 7:2 Then I saw another angel coming from the East, having the seal of the living God
I did the same exercise with 1 Thess 2:13 "you accepted the Word as it actually is: the Word of God which is indeed at work in you" - my Thompson Chain Reference bible linked this to a chain of verses under the heading of the "power of the Word" and it was fantastic reading through dozens of verses about the power of God's Word.

2. Horse showing
We've taken the girls to several horse shows this summer, and to the intense 3 day 4H Horse Camp in Douglas, Wyoming, which was an incredible learning opportunity. Blaze rode Spring, and Dreamer rode Tuffy, and there were four classes in the morning and four in the afternoon: showmanship, trail, equitation, patterns, barrel racing, pole bending, English, ground work (lunging), saddle fitting, first aid for horses, conformation, shoeing and hoof care, knot tying, even sorting cattle!! B. and I took turns going to the classes with Blaze and Dreamer, and the twins climbed over and under every fence, grand stand, pen, etc across the entire facility and actually managed to not get hurt or hurt anyone else (phew!) The third and last day was  a little practice show in the morning, and both Dreamer and Blaze placed about in the middle of the pack (Dreamer is in the Junior division, ages 8-10; there were about 25 kids) and Blaze is in the intermediate division, ages 11-13, about 35 kids).

Of course there were tears and frustration because they wanted to win something, and it wasn't much encouragement to tell them that they were competing from kids from all around the the state of Wyoming, and probably some of the best riders, too, because it takes some serious dedication to get to and through horse camp.

B. and I struggled, too. B's very competitive and I claim I'm not that competitive, but turns out that events like this make me really itch to push the kids. But both B. and I know that pushing the kids is only half of the equation. They also have to really want it and be willing to do the daily practice to get to a competitive level.   I struggle with knowing how to balance it all: how much to push them, how much to let them take their own initiative. And I struggle with my own attitude. It's so hard not to get bitter with the rich families that can afford to buy expensive, well trained horses, and keep them well trained with expensive trainers, and have their kids take $50 an hour lessons. When you are up against those odds, it's so frustrating. It IS possible to compete with people like that, but you have to work twice as hard, and make due with second hand equipment that isn't as flashy and pretty as the rich kids' stuff (at least English equipment is standardized; but Western show clothes and saddles can range from plain jane to all decked out with silver and sparkles; easily costing thousands of dollars). 

When faced with what sometimes feels like a sport dominated by the rich and requires so much money that maybe ought to go more important things like missions and the poor and orphanages and such, I also question what values this is teaching my kids. But on the other hand, learning how to work as a partner with a horse is also an incredible opportunity. It teaches patience, kindness, self control, responsibility, consistency, sensitivity, to name a few... (also physical benefits like balance, coordination, flexibility and quick reaction).

After all the hard work with horses this summer, and seeing my own emotions and my girls' run so high, it was good to go for a walk this morning and talk to God about it.

3. Bible game
Blaze is not as negative as she was at the beginning of the year about church and the Bible, but she still struggles with it - "why can't it be more fun?" She likes to help me in the 3 year old children's church rather than sit through the main service, even though the lessons are way simplified for 3 year olds. Recently I came up with an idea to teach Blaze and my other girls some Bible lessons and important verses through a board game that we all love: "SORRY!" In the regular game, the cards have numbers and instructions on them, like move ahead 7, or move backwards 4, or switch places with an opponent. So I made an identical set of cards but with Bible questions on them like "What is the Gospel?" and verse fill-in-the-blanks like "The ___________ declare the glory of God". This was such a fun project to work on and I can easily add or change out the cards with new ones to expand their Bible learning. The girls like playing it and even B. played it with us, though with him playing the game really slowed down as we got into more discussion (but that's a good thing too!)

4. Surrendering
My theme this year has been Surrender  (NOT surrendering to temptation, but surrendering to God's will). Though I continue to go to Overeaters Anonymous at least 3 times a month and get great encouragement from my accountability team, I haven't lost any weight in over a year. The first 20 pounds was a big step, but more needs to go! Lately I have really been trying to remember surrender DAILY. Faced with a less than healthy food choice - a few times this past week I have remembered to surrender to God and not to the temptation.  My OA buddy C. has also had some success with this in the last week, too, and we are trying to text/email/call daily to keep each other going, and track everything we eat to share with each other for accountability too. I feel like every little effort I put in, even remembering to write down what I ate, or murmuring "surrender" as a reminder, or thanking God for blessings several times a day, gets me a little further away from bad habits and closer to good habits.

5.  My dad, care center, sharing my faith at work
This I almost don't want to mention because I have been a failure in these three things. I had a long weekend taking care of my dad while my mom went to visit her sisters and brothers, and I hoped to talk to him more and share the Word with him. I also can't get it out of my head that I need to volunteer at our local senior care center, even just one hour a week, visiting folks there - but I keep putting it off.  I want to share the Word at work, and that hasn't happened, either, because I'm too afraid, or lazy, or both. But I want to be someone that people would say first of all: "she loves the Lord" rather than just "she's nice" or "she's positive." But even more important, I want to not even think about me and how people perceive me, but be thinking about God first, and others next, before myself.

Late addition: how could I forget to mention writing? I've have my query and sample pages out to seven agents. So far one rejection but rejection is part of the game. I have seven more agents I'm getting ready to query, too, but then I read this amazing book, Writing Twenty First Century Fiction, by Donald Maass, and it gave a whole list of ideas for how to make my story stronger. So am I working on these "enrichments" and will query more agents after the edits. The thing that I loved especially about Maass' writing advice is that he really pushes you to work timeless questions or mysteries of life into your stories; to use your writing to impact readers with significance and meaning.  This is  my main motivation in writing (besides the great sense of adventure and fulfillment it brings me): to convey the glory of God and the mysterious ways he works in our lives... but this books shows you practical ways to accomplish this: to be high impact without overbearing.