Sweetwater Youth Ranch

Let the race begin….

My journey with horses began the day I met my husband. I had just turned nineteen and had only been a Christian for a little over a year when this story took place. Since I don’t believe in co-incidence, I’ll call this a God-incident. I truly believe that if you are seeking Gods will for your life, including a mate, he will honor it.

The story goes like this….
It was a Saturday afternoon in late September 1982. I had spent the morning doing the usual Saturday morning house cleaning. With no plans for the evening, I took a shower leaving my face bare of the usual makeup and decided to let the hair dry naturally.
I hated to say good bye to my favorite season. The summer sun seemed to be brighter than usual that day and with a gentle breeze sweeping through the air it seemed to be drawing me out of the house for a walk. I lived directly across the street from the elementary school that I had attended for eight years. I had spent many a day playing on the playground, riding my bike and just hanging out. It was a great ‘front yard’. So, bare faced and wet headed, I took off to the playground thinking that somehow soaking up the last rays of summer would help me endure the cold months ahead. I had no intentions of running in to anyone I knew much less meeting anyone new.
I hadn’t been there five minutes when a little boy and his sister came across the parking lot to the playground. They approached me as if they had known me all their lives. I have to admit that I was a little irritated when I saw them coming my way because I really just wanted to be by myself. After what seemed to be one hundred questions, Tracy, the boy, asked if I would like to walk up on the ball field and watch the horse race that was to take place shortly. I replied with “you’re kidding!” There’s going to be a horse race? He said “yes ma’am sure is”. I said, “I have lived across the street all my life and have yet to see any horses racing on this ball field”. He insisted that he knew what he was talking about. His sister, Tonya, was just as adamant about it. I told him I would stay if they would come to church with me the next day. I was teaching a 2nd grade class, and he looked about that age. He said “It’s a deal, ma’am.” I sat there for two hours talking to Tracy and his sister waiting for the big race. Finally, two horses and their riders arrived. I could see them coming across the field but it looked kind of strange. Only two male figures appeared, one on a horse and the other on a pony. Tracy said, “I’ll go up there and find out where everyone else is. I stopped him and said, “Do that, but whatever you do, don’t bring anyone down here to this playground!” He assured me that he had no intention of doing that as he ran off to greet the riders. He stopped them, they talked just a minute, and then he turned toward me and started walking back. To my horror, they were coming too. I couldn’t believe it! I’m pretty sure I said “whatever you do, don’t let them come down here.” I braced myself as they approached, wondering if my appearance really mattered anyway. It was just a little boy and one other guy. As he approached, I instantly recognized the older fellow. He was one of the Hughes boys!

We had gone to the same school all our lives but he was a year
older and one grade apart. I saw him on the play ground but we never
spoke to each other. We lived not one mile apart but had totally different
lives. While I was not a city slicker, I was not a country girl either.
I was somewhere in the middle. He was raised on a dairy farm that
was through the woods on the backside of the school. I lived across the
street on the front side of the school on less than 1/4 acre lot. The only pets
I had growing up were dogs and cats…lots of cats. I loved horses though,
as so many girls do…
There was somewhat of a history behind his name,
“a reputation” if you will. I laugh as I write this because he told me years later
that he had reservations about me as well because my family name also had
a history.

When these two riders finally reached the playground, we exchanged the ‘do you remember me’ phrases. He introduced me to his younger cousin Travis and Travis’ pony ‘cookie’; then we moved on to the important stuff. I said “what a beautiful horse, what’s his name, and can I ride him?” He replied, “His name is B.J.” which was short for Black Jack. He explained that B.J. was green broke and he didn’t think it was a good idea to turn me loose with him, however, he did say that if I didn’t mind, I could ride double with him. That was okay with me, I had no idea what green broke meant. (I found out later) He explained it would have to be another day because he had prior commitments for that afternoon and had to get home. Somewhat disappointed because I had been waiting for a horse race, I asked about it. He laughed and said “what horse race”? Somehow, I felt a little boy had either mislead me or he truly had no idea what he was talking about. Nevertheless, I got to see a horse! That seemed to make it ‘okay’. We made plans to meet at the same spot the next day for a ride, and as I walked away, I turned, looked at Tracy and said, “I expect to see you in church tomorrow”. Then he did the strangest thing, he started humming the wedding march. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had prayed just that morning that God would let me know without a shadow of a doubt when I had met ‘Mr. Right”. My mind started racing almost fast enough to catch up with my heart. Is he the one, could he be the one? He has a gentle look in his eyes and quite handsome…am I to question what just happened or just accept it as divine? Those questions would be answered for me in time, but for the time being, I had an excitement that I had to keep to myself. I couldn’t exactly go around announcing an engagement at this point. I just knew it in my heart.

~ Proverbs 3:5-6 ~
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.

~ Psalms 37:4 ~
Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

God cares about all the details of our lives, he doesn’t have bigger fish to fry. In His word, we are told that He will direct our paths; however, there is a condition to that statement. The condition is that we acknowledge Him in all our ways. By that, we are to talk to Him about every area of our lives; then we are to seek His way over our own. He will not force us to do things His way because it is characteristic for Him to be a gentleman. He offers us a choice. I could have chosen to mind my own business and not converse with these children, I could have chosen to walk away when I saw Tracy bringing Phillip and Travis my way, but all I could think about was that they would not come to church with me for sure if I bailed out now. I could have chosen to ignore the wedding song and say “what a silly kid”, but I was praying and expecting God to honor my prayers. I had to at least entertain the notion. I had no idea that God was using these children to bring Phillip into my life. My motivation was getting two children to come to church with me the next day that I could possibly lead to the Lord. I hadn’t been a Christian long and was learning that serving God is not always convenient or comfortable. We have to put our desires and wants out of our minds in order to accomplish Gods way. Somehow, when you do, he always brings joy into the situation. If I had chosen my way that day, this would not be my story. I don’t know what it would have been. I’m just so very glad that I didn’t!

~Deuteronomy 28:8~
The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy
storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he
shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Phillip and I were married less than a year after we met and at the time, I couldn’t imagine loving him any more than I did that day. Today we celebrate 30 years and to this day I have no doubt that God brought Phillip to me, on a horse no less. But, what I called love then can’t even measure to what I call it now. Years of learning each other’s ways and growing together; going through good times, hard times, sad times, selfish times, and sure times….I learned that it’s more than just a feeling; it’s a commitment. It’s this way with the Lord as well. What I’ve learned about God is that, it’s more than a religion; it’s a relationship.

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