On a Ranch, and in the Hills

Remember that summer I came back a different person than when I had left? I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. It’s amazing how different, yet similar my two most memorable life experiences are – one being the best, worst [or was it worst, best?] summer of my life; the other being the hardest, best 2.5 years of my life. Any guesses? Both can be expressed in acronyms starting with the letter “C”.

Of all places, it was on a ranch where my heart was hardened. It was tough, but amazing! It was hard work, but the most difficult part was the people we worked for. It’s not fun working for control freaks, liars and possibly even thieves. I’m a person that likes to see the good in people, and in giving them many chances, to this day do not have anything nice to say about them [so I will say no more]…

In the hills, in the middle of nowhere, my heart blossomed. It was hard work, emotionally [and sometimes physically], but I loved who I was serving! The folks I worked with and for also had the heart of a servant, so I obeyed willingly. There is so much good in these people, that I’m still investing to this day, trying to learn as much as I can from each and every one of them!

Back on the ranch, we coworkers had to stick together. We prayed through a near-death experience, we bonded over bonfires, we joked our way through the craziness, and we listened to each other’s stories. We were from so many different backgrounds – our differences were plenty, ‘the island of misfit toys’, but together we survived and tried and cared. And we had fun, lots and lots of fun.

On a porch, on a house, on a hill, we gathered. We all considered ourselves Christ-followers. We were from many faith backgrounds, but we all prayed together – before meals and each evening. We laughed to tears and cried to laughter. We intentionally loved each other through victories, losses, service and life. We were different, yet at the core, we were the same. We lived each day to the fullest, we served to the best of our abilities and we loved each other deeply. And we had fun, lots and lots of fun!

In a lonely A-frame cabin, on a ranch far-far-away, I prayed. My roommates [who I loved] were elsewhere, being not-so-lonely… I was one of the few there who prayed. I loved it there, but I hated it. I needed to survive. I was becoming stronger, more independent. I was learning more about myself. I was becoming the person I didn’t want to be.

On a couch, surrounded by housemates, in the hills, we prayed. All of us, together, praying. I was becoming stronger, more dependent. God granted me friends who would help me survive [they made me hot cocoa]. I was learning more about myself. I was becoming the person God created me to be.

I sought refuge in the small laundry room, on the ranch faraway. It was so peaceful there. Must have had something to do with our laundry lady. The one who helped me cling to the little bits of the person God created me to be. The one who would drive to me to her church, on the days I could literally sneak away from my work. Playing hooky from work to go to church. She and her husband shone light in the darkness. They adopted me.

I sought refuge in a church on the edge of the hills. It was so full of life there. Must have had something to do with the pastors and their congregation. The ones who helped me deepen my relationship with Christ, and become better. There my soul reawakened and I was ready to let God’s light shine through me. The love of the Father.

Back on the ranch, I searched for the love of the Father, but I looked in all the wrong places. I was deceived. I thought I had found a father-figure, but he thought elsewise. I was naive. I didn’t realize until my heart had hardened. I felt incredibly stupid and alone. This was when I knew I had to leave.

In a house in the hills, I found healing. With a friend we shared our stories. We both lost our daddies too early on. We both were deceived. We both looked for father-figures. We both were naive. But this time, we weren’t alone. We no longer felt stupid or ashamed, but we experienced the love that came with understanding. Our hearts were warmed and softened. This is when I knew I had to stay.

I wouldn’t trade memories from either experiences for anything. I learned important things about my worst self and my best self. I laughed, cried and lived with many people that I came to love, many of which that was my only opportunity to get to know them.

On the ranch I saw my gramma shoot a gun, arrow and ride a horse [see my favorite photo ever]. In the hills, my housemates held me while I cried and prayed for me as I left to say my “goodbye” to her. On a ranch, I made friends with people from all over the world. In the hills, I made friends with people from all over the world. On a ranch, I enjoyed my love of “being country” – shooting guns, riding horses, bonfires, breakfast rides, rivers, steaks, line-dancing etc. In the hills, I enjoyed my love of people, serving, cooking, lakes, long drives with the windows down, seeking the Lord, etc. On a ranch I was hurt, and in the hills I was healed.

No matter where I was, God was always there, in each moment, person and story, and thank God for that.