In high school I was a stable hand at the horse barn I took riding lessons at and I was loving every moment I spent cleaning stalls, feeding horses, throwing hay and moving horses from one field to another. I wasn't loving having to leave to do homework, or the question every single high schooler has to face: "what do you want to do when you graduate?" College was never a question in my family. While my mother and aunts took their own unique to them education routes, for some reason it was just expected that I'd go the traditional route. Finish high school in 4 years, straight to college and also finish in 4 years. That wasn't a problem for me. The problem came with what to study. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up! I knew it had to do something with horses, I just didn't know what. Since I didn't have a show record, no wall of ribbons to testify to experience in the ring I didn't feel qualified to be a riding instructor yet. I wasn't sure if I wanted to run a boarding barn. I somehow wanted to work with horses and also help people. I just had no idea what that looked like. One day I was dreading a science test and not really paying attention when I went down for our schools regular chapel (non-denominational christian high school). There was a woman up front that I didn't recognize, I remember being struck by seeing that she had the most beautiful long thick dark hair. Turns out she was a guest speaker for the day- her name was Kim Meeder and with her husband ran a youth ranch in Bend, OR. She spoke about how her young life and how through a little pony the love of Jesus saved her life. How she currently has a herd of rescued horses and works with them to help reach children and teens and their families that have hit rock bottom in more ways than one. Suddenly all thoughts of the dreaded science test were forgotten and my mind was racing with ideas and questions and inspiration and excitement. THIS! This is what I want to do! I want to work with rescued horses and help children through mentorship like they do at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch! Then she announced that her ranch had inspired hundreds (at the time, there's thousands now) of similar ministry ranches across the states (and now worldwide). There would be a volunteer opportunity at a similar ministry to hers that was literally minutes from my house. Boom. There it is. God handed me my life purpose I just didn't realize the extent of it yet. I spent 4 Minnesota summers with Seeds of Hope Youth Ranch just north of Duluth, MN. I saw them from their beginnings of keeping a small herd of horses on marshland (NOT easy!) to a big move where we added more horses. I learned so much from the guest instructors, horse trainers, farriers (they take care of horses feet), and of course from the ranch owners themselves. I really bonded with a certain horse too, his name was Thunder and you'll read more about him in a future post. In college my dorm had photos of the Seeds of Hope horses on my desk. And that year I couldn't afford riding lessons in college anymore and still needed some horse time? I stumbled upon yet another Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch similar ministry not far from my college campus in Nebraska. L5 Youth Ranch is still alive and well, just outside of Lincoln NE. I volunteered there as a college student, I worked part time after graduation and spent the other 20 hours of my week there, and am currently on the board of directors. L5 and the ranch owners, Matt and Daisy have been some of my very best friends and mentors over the years. Their horses and the families that we helped through the power of Jesus have forever set the direction of my life. The purpose of these 'confessions of a horse girl' are not just to talk about me. I really hope you find encouragement in my story. This part isn't so much resiliency or courage as it is showing how God takes care of us. He knows what sets our hearts on fire. He knows what our purpose in life is and He cannot wait to show us. I think He had a little smile on His face that day I walked down to chapel so distracted by classwork that I had no idea how much my life was about to change as I listened to Kim speak. God placed her at that place for such a time as that. To speak directly to me in that sea of students. Maybe that chapel affected some of my classmates the same, maybe I was the only one. It doesn't matter how many because there was one. There was me that He spoke to. Then He gave me opportunities to grow in this passion and learn about it with the support of the leaders at both Seeds of Hope and L5. He never left me alone to figure this out. If I continued to trust Him and follow Him where He's leading me - I am always cared for a shephearded in the most exciting and growth nurturing direction. I look back at this aspect of my life and how influential it was to get me to Starting Gate and I'm truly just in awe. God is real and He cares for us. Keep Learning ya'll and see ya on the next post!