So we've gone through the 90's and early 2000's and here we are. I'm a high school graduate and home from college for semester break of my Freshman year. I am back at the same barn I realized I had allergies to horses and hay, where I met Cappy, Moon and Gato and so many others, where I got my first job as a stable hand that paid just enough for gas to and from the barn, and I am crying into the mane of my favorite school horse. I had missed him so much. I grew up and rode horses in Northern Minnesota, but I had decided to go to college in Nebraska. I left for college in August and spent almost 5 full months without horses. It was terrible. As much as I loved school and my new friends, I really missed the sacred space of a horse barn. The earthy sweet smells and strong presence of the horses. I spent probably just as much time at my childhood barn as I did with my family that Christmas. They were starting to realize that I wasn't growing out of the horse phase. What I only glossed over in the last two confessions was the mass amount of teasing I endured especially in high school as the token 'horse girl'. I'm not sure what it is about boys, but you wouldn't believe the number of notes from boys I was passed that were hand drawn photos of severed horse heads of bottles of glue labeled "Black Beauty" and "Taylors pony" over my high school years. The girls that had played pretend horse show with me when we were in grade school suddenly rolled their eyes or changed the subject whenever I brought up horses again. Its not like I wanted to prance around on a pretend pony anymore - I just wanted to tell them how cool it was to finally master the turn on the haunches movement or how freedom felt flying over a fallen tree on a trail ride. Oh well. I didn't understand their world of make up and high fashion either. College was different though. I found some friends that also liked horses (a few of them even owned their own!) and a roommate that let me put horse posters up next to her anime characters (I know theres a stigma there too. We became fast friends). Teachers didn't sigh annoyed when I turned in yet another assignment that I had somehow twisted to allow me to incorporate horses into it. (Art history...write a short story inspired by a painting. I found a painting of a cowboy. Wrote a story from the horses perspective. Too easy.) But I was missing the real thing. Upon my return to Nebraska I started searching for someway to be involved with horses. The months clicked by as I fully acclimated to college life and I found myself on summer break volunteering for a special barn in my hometown again. This place was called Seeds of Hope Youth Ranch and they had a herd of rescued horses and invited children of all kinds of heartbreaking backgrounds to visit the ranch and work with the horses. Some children rode the horses, some children just wanted to brush them. Some were terrified of even being near the horses so we played with the resident dogs and chatted in the shade of the trees. It was a really nice place and I not only bonded deeply with a big black horse named Thunder, I was also introduced to an entirely new way of working with horses. The goal here wasn't riding - it wasn't turn on the haunches or jumping. It was more on relationship. Something I had found with a couple horses at the first lesson barn but something I really dug into at Seeds of Hope. That next year of college my major was solidified. Business major and youth ministry minor. I was going to use the business degree to open and run a non-profit horse ranch with rescued horses and the youth ministry minor would help children in crisis. I knew I needed to keep my hands on horses so I found a barn in Nebraska not far from campus and signed up for riding lessons again. I distinctly remember running my behind off to make it to astronomy lab because I was late - having spent too much time at the barn. But a college students finances are tight and horses, even just riding lessons, can be expensive. So I had to quit the lessons and started searching around for a rescue I could volunteer at. As much as I loved riding horses, I'd settle for just grooming them or doing barn chores if I could do it for free. Thats when I found L5 Youth Ranch. It was exactly what I wanted to do, it was only 15/20 minutes from campus and they needed volunteers. It was very similar to Seeds of Hope, but didn't have the big black Thunder. I still thought about him often but I threw myself into L5 and the mission to change futures and save lives. I can say I was instrumental in saving the lives of a few horses and I can only pray that any influence I may have had on some of the children that walked through that barn had their futures changed. L5 was and still is a pivotal part of my life story and to this day I am still actively involved in that ministry. Unfortunately I have very few photos from the lesson barn in college and any other than horse faces from Seeds of Hope. You'll see more from Seeds of Hope in a future post about Mika... And lots more from L5 Youth Ranch soon... The story of how Starting Gate happened from there is a story for another post. But so what. What does my college quest to find horses for free have to do with you? Here is take away number 1: Don't give up even in the face of persecution. Persecution may be a strong word to use when all I was dealing with was graphic notes, teasing about being the 'horse girl', odd looks as I wore riding breeches and tall boots out of school on my way to the barn and an inability to fit in with the popular crowd, but I'm sticking with it. I love parallels so here we go. No matter what you set your mind to - if it is true, pure, honest, lovely - do not give up on it no matter what others may say to you, or about you. See Phillipians 4:8 for the whole list of qualifiers and be encouraged. Your passions are given to you and they are important and lovely no matter how silly they might look to someone with an entirely different set of passions. Second take away: Remember your finances and live within your means. I was desperate for horses that second year in Nebraska and I did the easiest thing I could do - I signed up for paid lessons. But that weekly expense plus the milage and gas cost on my car added up quickly on my already tight college student budget. I needed to make a choice and I have worked hard to make myself default to living within or below my means. The passion that was given to me is not a cheap one and while God is good and has provided for the herd at Starting Gate since we moved here - I also don't need to test Him on it for my own pleasure. I found a way to keep horses in my life without breaking the bank and as you'll read in a future post, that decision literally changed my life in the best way possible. Live within your financial means and just watch how God will bless that. I hope these words were encouraging or at least entertaining. Thank you for reading and come back soon!