By Betsy Kelleher
November is the perfect time to count our blessings. It’s when families get together for that big thanksgiving feast, and those relationships are probably the greatest blessings we have. But not everyone has a family or even food to eat.
Blessings come from different reasons, but mostly because of God’s mercy and not because we deserve them. Blessings don’t come because we go to Church and put a check in the collection plate. We are blessed because He is a loving, compassionate, benevolent God. His love for us is a blessing in itself. And He blesses us that we can share with others, to bless them also. I expect, when my family comes for Thanksgiving, that we may see my grandchildren enjoying a few horseback rides.
Many “blessings” come as a result of work. With Rocky, for example, I see improvement as I work with him. I am thankful for others who have advised me and helped me along the way. But he does not improve when I turn him out and don’t do anything with him. He does not improve that much from just riding around the arena or going down the trail. It takes patient, persistent and consistent work in asking him to gait properly, asking him to move out a little more, to stretch his abilities and to find his way of moving and his confidence in himself. Recently, while riding, I was able to FEEL his rounded frame and his improved balance under me, if only for a few minutes. I felt a lightness in my hands as he gave to the bit. I felt his quick response to a leg cue. Yes, I am thankful for those results! For now, I have to push. Carefully. One day, he may do it all on his own. Our relationships with our horses are often great blessings, but we have to be willing to work at the relationship as well as in training.
I am thankful for all our horses, even though we have more than we need! Each horse has lessons to teach just as each one needs to learn something from us. And the more we ride and work with them, the more we learn ourselves!
Traveller seems to lack energy in spite of all the vitamins I put in his feed, and I don’t ride him much anymore. I miss that. But once in awhile, he seems extra chipper, and off we go on an easy ride together if only for 20 minutes! I am thankful for all the wonderful memories of the rides we enjoyed over the last ten years. Sometimes I think he would do better if I would ride him more often and I wish I had more time.
Rocky is doing better with every ride and he is a gorgeous boy with a great personality. He doesn’t spook at tarps very often anymore and he seems more confident. Now that he is seven years old, he seems to have grown up all at once. I see lots of potential in this horse!
And Lady—well, she is still Lady. We did a few horse shows this summer, and finally got a blue ribbon (No, we weren’t the only entry in the class. There was one other). We went on her first Hunter Pace recently, and she didn’t disappoint me. We rode for almost two hours, and our group took second place! She is the cause of my second book, “Mares, Ya Gotta Love em,” which may be available by next March if all goes well. It is a collection of stories by various mare owners, with some helpful articles on training mares as well. If it wasn’t for the challenge of dealing with Lady, I wouldn’t have started this book. Working with her, I have seen how mares and women are so much alike. We females get our feelings hurt easily but we thrive on encouragement and loving closeness. It is good to encourage right behavior and ignore the bad when possible. Wisdom comes from experience, as well as from listening to that inner voice of common sense and intuition.
Old Ginger, my husband’s horse, has been a big blessing ever since he got her this spring. He is enjoying our rides more and I am thankful that she is as bombproof as they come! It is a blessing now just to be able to pick up both of her back feet, however. For awhile, we couldn’t treat her thrush properly because she couldn’t hold up her left hind foot long enough to work on it! Probably arthritis in her hocks. She is showing more energy now and moving better with the help of vitamins, glucosamine and MSM!
I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Even when something doesn’t go as planned, or work out the way I want it, it often turns out that the apparent obstacle has become a blessing in disguise. Things work out if we trust and obey, like the old song says.
I believe we need to cultivate a thankful spirit. I saw it in my folks. Even in hard times, I remember my grandfather saying, “The Good Lord has always taken care of us. We’ll take the bad with the good.” As farmers, they worked hard to support themselves. We didn’t have much, but we appreciated what we had. Sometimes the greatest joys in life are simple things, like a rose bud, or feeding the hummingbirds or sighting pelicans in flight.
Life has no guarantees. God has not promised a “good life” but He has promised to be with us through whatever life brings. Some people seem more blessed than others, and it makes me wonder. But many of our blessings, or lack of blessings, are a simple result of past decisions. God wants to guide our lives so we can live abundantly, as fruitful and Godly influences in the world around us. To follow His guidance, we must be aware of it and obedient.
A speaker long ago impressed me with a message from Numbers, chapters 13 and 14. When God brought the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, He told them to go into the land of Canaan and take possession of it. But most of those who scouted the land came back afraid of the big strong people they saw there and did not want to go. Because of the people’s doubt and disobedience, the Lord did not let any of them enter the promised land (except Caleb and Joshua, who had been willing to go). Their lack of faith kept them from the blessing God had planned for them.
I wonder how many of God’s blessings we miss because of our lack of faith or because of our fearfulness and disobedience. We need to strengthen ourselves with a reminder that God is all powerful. If He asks anything of us, He will help us through it.
Our relationship with God is our greatest blessing. Without that, we are lost. Without His guidance, our decisions could easily lead us away from future blessings. Belonging to God’s family and knowing His protection and provision, is a blessing available to anyone willing to humbly ask for it.
That does not mean that Christians do not have problems or trials. Of course we do. We are human beings with human desires and human weakness and human fears. But God provides His Holy Spirit to live within each one of us when we accept and acknowledge God’s Sovereign plan for our eternal life. Only by accepting His Son, Jesus Christ, as our means of salvation, can we find that wonderful blessing of forgiveness and peace and new life in His family. I have the right to believe that, and that right is also a blessing that I hope and pray will not be lost. My faith was a gift from God, not the product of anything I did. All our blessings come from His grace, His love and mercy. And one of the greatest blessings of all is to fully realize the magnitude of His love for each one of us individually and to respond with complete submission and dedication. Just as our horses often respond to us.
(Originally published in the November 2007 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)