As I sit here on a frosty December morning, pondering what to include in this newsletter, I hear the horses calling for their breakfast while today’s volunteer makes her way to each one, steadfastly bringing them nourishment, each according to their unique needs.
At 29, Merlyn is now our most senior horse and most of his teeth are either gone, “expired, or expiring.” He is unable to adequately chew hay and as the tender grass is dormant in this season, he relies upon soaked hay pellets and rice bran in addition to his regular feed. Unlike the other horses, who get their carefully measured grain once each day and have access to hay through their slow-feeder nets almost constantly, Merlyn must be separated and fed more frequently, and then released to wander the pasture, nibbling on whatever grass remains. Otherwise, Merlyn has not lost his health or strength, and seems peaceful and content in his herd. In whatever time remains for Merlyn, we will care for him and continue giving him work as he is able, because every living creature wants to have a purpose.
Frequently these days, I hear the phrase “time of uncertainty,” with our current struggles, hardships, and a future that seems more mysterious and unknown than we are used to. Uncertainty can cause pain and fear, as can the disruption of routines, disappointment from cancelled plans, loss of security, income, health, and opportunities for social interaction. Our youth program, suspended for the 2020 season, unfortunately contributed to a sense of loss for so many families we usually serve here at the ranch.
This morning we received an email from one of our board members, letting us know he has been diagnosed with COVID, even while sharing some comforting words from Francois Fenelon, a seventeenth century French Archbishop, mystic, and mentor to the King’s court. Here is an excerpt: “The future is in God’s hands, not yours….Try only to make use of each day. Each day brings its own good and evil, and sometimes what seems evil becomes good if we leave it to God and do not forestall him with our impatience. Be sure that God will grant you whatever time you need to reach Him….Do not be afraid.”
We do not, cannot know our future. This has always been true; current events merely remind us of this truth. Here is relevant advice from Fenelon: “No more restless uncertainties, no more anxious desires, no more impatience at the place we are in; for it is God who has placed us there, and who holds us in his arms. Can we be unsafe where he has placed us?”
What, then, can we do in this time of uncertainty? Again, Fenelon offers an idea: “Let gratitude for the past inspire us with trust for the future.” Something which takes effort and determination but generally bears excellent fruit is to focus on gratitude. No matter our challenges, pain, loss, and uncertainty, there is always something for which we can be grateful. Identifying and focusing on those things changes our thoughts, emotions, and perspective, and then we are more able to “Try only to make use of each day.” In what ways can we do this, apart from faithfully attending to our obligations? When I read my daily scriptures this morning, they included this answer: “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” – 1 Tim 6.18-19
We founded Achaius Ranch out of a desire to give, share, and do good in our community. Even though a pandemic kept us from providing services in our usual way, we have kept busy here and have not lost focus on our mission. While continuing to care for our equine partners and the ranch environment, we have taken the available time to develop our herd, including our newest session horse, Bree (pictured above), helping find homes for horses in need (our latest rescue is Huxley, a miniature horse who has become Faith’s new companion). In addition we continue adding to our own skills, building our volunteer staff, and making plans for re-opening in 2021 (Lord willing). As our understanding, knowledge, and skills regarding trauma increase, we desire to concentrate our efforts on more effectively serving Jesus Christ in His healing work through the activities we provide. With that in mind, we applied for and received a generous grant from the Montgomery County Community Foundation to develop and experiment with a new program, which we’re calling the Harmony Project. In addition to interacting with horses and other animals, participants will have the opportunity to engage in a range of wonderful outdoor activities designed to build resilience through mindfulness, movement, music, rhythm, drama, imagination, etc. We are excited about the Harmony Project and will share more about it in the coming months.
Please keep Achaius Ranch in your prayers, as you remain in ours. May God comfort, heal, and guide you day-by-day. May you have a blessed Christmas, and may you remember, as 2021 approaches, that “The future is in God’s hands.”
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