Sandy’s Lessons while Saving Shiloh

Lessons learned while finding the sweet spot of "Full Release" by Sandy Reuther

Lessons learned while finding the sweet spot of “Full Release” by Sandy Reuther

Last fall I had the opportunity to adopt a broodmare. I would be potentially saving a life since if the horses were not adopted they were destined for the auction. I picked out a semi friendly 8-year-old grulla mare and went to pick her up a week later. I found that she was originally going to be a riding horse but was accidentally bred by a creative stud and as a result joined the brood mare band. I got her home and worked with her enough to get her easier to catch. I had great plans to get her going as a riding horse but between her resistance and my lack of time during the school year, not much progress was made. I had signed up for an internship with Sherry and Shiloh was put on the packing list.

Sherry, Morgan and I started working with her on my first morning there and worked with her almost every day for four weeks. To say she was challenging would be an understatement, but she made progress and we learned many lessons. Three of the main lessons involve planning, responsibility, and creativity. The easiest lesson I learned involved planning.

The lesson involving planning is to definitely have a well thought out plan and be willing to throw it out. For instance, we had been saddling Shiloh for a few days and we were planning on saddling her, doing ground work, and then some passenger lessons. Well, Shiloh had decided that she had tried saddling and wasn’t for her. We took probably four hours that day, and many in later days, convincing her that saddling was a good thing and much easier than not getting saddled. For the first two weeks of saddling, she would test our resolve on saddling about every third day. We just had to meet her where she was at each day and work with her there. Also, have a plan when you are riding. Think ahead so that you can give the green horse direction because when they get lost, they can panic. As an example, think ahead enough to decide, “I am going to walk 10 steps beyond that cone and then do a one rein stop to the right.” It is your responsibility to know where you are going, so you can communicate with the horse.

On every team, the responsibilities are divided among the players. The second lesson I learned had to do with this division of tasks between Shiloh and I. First, I have to be the leader. I have to be in charge every time I am working with her and not accept any behaviors that could be detrimental. For example, when leading Shiloh I had to insist that she stay outside my personal bubble and not allow her to be in my back pocket like she prefers. The reason for this was so that when she spooked, she did not jump on me. Also, she liked to dominate us by running her shoulders into us and by keeping her out of my bubble, her shoulder was not in play. Shiloh’s primary responsibility was to do what I asked and to keep on doing it until I asked her to do something else. All other responsibilities pretty much rest on the rider. If the horse is not doing what you asked, then you are asking it wrong. Sometimes you have to be pretty creative in order to get your point across.

Becoming a team

Becoming a team

Being creative was the third lesson that I learned when working with Shiloh. She did not necessarily respond in the way that we expected and so we had to think outside the box. One instance was Shiloh not wanting to circle clockwise. After I worked with her for a while, and had moderate success, Sherry worked with her and traced the resistance to not being willing/able to flex to the right. Over the next few days we worked a lot on flexing and the problem with the circles fixed itself. Another instance was when Shiloh was learning to accept a saddle. She did not have a big problem with having a saddle on her back, it was approaching her with a saddle that caused problems. I set up two saddles and circled her so she would have to go near the saddles repeatedly and she could only rest between them. I also lead her between them and then backed her through them. By figuring out what Shiloh needed and giving it to her, we made progress.

Every horse that you work is learning every time you work it. I also believe that you are learning every time you work a horse. Although by working with Shiloh I learned a lot about planning, responsibilities, and creativity; the lessons didn’t end there. I can’t wait to see what she teaches me next.

Sandy Reuther

Saving Shiloh Part 3 (A Willing Heart)

A willing heart!

A willing heart!

I plan to wrap up the story of “Saving Shiloh” in this Part 3. As a quick reminder Shiloh is an 8-year-old brood mare who I started under saddle in 30 days with her owner, Sandy. As we worked with her we noticed she went through three stages.  She started out with a lot of resistance, which I discussed in Part 1. Then in stage 2 she began to go through the motions. We had her body and sometimes even her mind, but we didn’t have her heart at all yet. Before I write about Stage 3 I would like to share a few more thoughts about “going through the motions”.

There’s something very sobering about a Judgment Day tragedy Jesus described.

Matthew 7:21-23“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you‘”

Those are some of the most chilling words in the Bible. “You knew all about Me, but I never knew you.” Because they had Jesus in their head – but somehow never asked Him into their heart. So, maybe it’s possible to know all about Jesus, but not really know Jesus. Because you’ve missed the one step that makes the Savior your Savior.

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” When God says “believe,” He’s talking about grabbing Jesus like He’s your only hope. Pinning all your hopes on Jesus and what He did when He died on the cross to pay for every sin you’ve ever done. If you ask someone if they are married and they say, “I’m not sure,” then they must not be married. If you don’t know you’ve given yourself to Jesus, you probably haven’t. Because it’s a conscious commitment. 

“Many people are willing to have Jesus as part of their lives— as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church. But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy— something they obtain and then forget about until they die. What keeps you from being His disciple?” Billy Graham

If you miss the step of committing your life to Him, you miss Jesus. You miss heaven. Because you’re only going through the motions, just like Shiloh was. But there came a day when she started to ask us questions and to think instead of react to everything. She became responsive and curious. She was more willing to try things and seemed to want to please us. As she learned a respect for authority there was less discord and more harmony. Her cooperation brought us moments of unity. It seemed the more confident she became the more obedient she was. We could see the hard look in her eyes changing to a softness, her change of expression was the first sign we were getting into her heart.

Aren’t we often like this? At first we resist everything about God. Then we might give just enough of ourselves to Him so we are going through the motions. But there comes a day when we start to ask the right questions. We think about the truths in the Word of God rather than just reacting to religious institutions. We get curious about God and start responding to his voice. We are more willing to try the things He asks us to do in His Word, and we actually want to please Him more than man. We learn to respect His authority and live in harmony with those around us rather than in discord. This cooperation with the Word of God creates a peace and unity in our lives. The more confident we become in who God is and who we are in Christ Jesus the more obedience feels like the right way. Our heart softens, and soon we willingly give Jesus our whole life. We go from just being a convert to being a disciple. Following Him with our whole heart becomes the only logical thing to do.

Stage 3 A Willing Heart

When Shiloh got to this stage she was not only doing things we asked her to do with her physical body, but her mind was engaged and she was doing it with all her heart. Her willingness to try even though she was sometimes still afraid was amazing considering where she had started. She wasn’t able to hold it all together 100% of the time. But she was moving closer and staying a little longer in the sweet spot of “full release”. I think she finally realized we were on her side and the plan we had wasn’t so bad, in fact it was a good one. Once you win a horse’s heart there isn’t anything they won’t do for you.

What Is the Heart?

“When Scripture talks about the heart, it’s not talking about that life-sustaining muscle. It’s talking about our entire inner being. The heart is the seat of our emotions, the seat of decisive action, and the seat of belief (as well as doubt).” Billy Graham

As Samuel is about to choose David as the next king, God reminds Samuel, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel  16:7). Throughout Scripture God seems to care more about the state of this unseen place in us, our hearts, rather than what everybody else can see in our behavior. While we judge each other by what we can see, God looks deep inside of us to see what nobody else sees.

The heart is the place in us that holds what we love most . . . what we crave . . . what motivates us. This is the place that actually defines who we are. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our lives are motivated by our hearts. So what we love determines how we live.

On the outside Shiloh may have looked like a stubborn old brood mare set in her ways , quite pushy, yet easily frightened, a little thin, with some foot issues due to years of lack of farrier care. However, Sandy, her rescuer saw beyond all of the inadequacies, lack of experience, and failures. She looked deep inside and saw what nobody else could see; a beautiful, valuable, reliable riding partner with a lot of heart and gentleness. Not only did Sandy see this wonderful horse on the inside she was willing to do what it took to help Shiloh face and overcome her fears, let go of her defensiveness, and release control of her life to a loving master.

All Sandy had to do to bring out the horse she knew was inside was break though the resistance, help Shiloh start thinking and understand with her mind so that she wasn’t just going through the motions, and finally show Shiloh she was on her side, she cared about her and the plan was a good one. Once Shiloh believed this the willingness which sprang from her was almost as if she had a new heart.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you”Ezekiel 36:26

When grace happens, we receive not a nice complement from God but a new heart. Give your heart to Christ, and he returns the favor.

“I am convinced that when a man sincerely searches for God with all his heart, God will reveal Himself in some way.” Billy Graham

Aren’t we often like this? A little rough around the edges, full of inadequacies and failures. We start out not only “resistant” to the One who wants to rescue us but down right rebellious towards His offer to save us. But He doesn’t give up on us He keeps drawing us with His kindness and love until He breaks through the walls we have built. After a while we may get on board with the program a least enough to “go through the motions”. But He still doesn’t give up on us, He starts to teach us until our mind comes around to believing the truth.

And finally Jesus convinces us  He is on our side, he cares and His plan for our life is a good one. Even though it may seem scary to “fully release” everything  to Him, it is the sweetest spot we can be. When we know how sweet it is a “willing heart” is the result. On our own we may not be able to hold it all together 100% of the time, but we have the promise of  His Word and the Holy Spirit to guide us which will keep us moving ever closer to becoming a valuable partner in the work of His Kingdom.

As I close this story of “Saving Shiloh” I want us to keep in mind we all need a starting place, enough honesty and self-awareness to know where we are beginning.  In the beginning Shiloh was resistant, and then she was just going through the motions, her heart was way off track. If today you are seeing yourself in Shiloh’s story realizing your heart may be off track, remember God has known it well before today. And He is deeply pleased if you recognize it too.  I want to encourage you let go of any fear,  guilt, or pride because Jesus is not condemning you He simply wants to give you a new life like Sandy gave to Shiloh. Getting into His trailer and being adopted into the family of God is just the beginning of a very exciting adventure which includes a discipleship training program where you  develop a renewed mind and are given a new heart.  Remember he cares and has a good plan for you.

I pray Shiloh’s story will redefine the way you view God. I pray after reading and meditating on the thoughts that spoke to your heart you will be drawn into the most passionate relationship with your Creator. He is so ready to engage your soul.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me. I host Spirit Horse Retreats at my Horse Lovers Bunkhouse near Burwell, NE where you can learn more about this great adventure with God as your Master trainer. I also have a Facebook group called Saddle Up for Christ, we would love to have you join us for daily inspiration.

Thank you for reading Shiloh’s story. Be sure to read what Sandy learned from Shiloh titled “Sandy’s Lesson while Saving Shiloh”  she has some good insight. Her entry is more on the training side and less on the spiritual side. But I am sure that if you dig in with an open mind you will also see lessons you can apply to your spiritual life and faith in God.

Until next time, May the horse be with you, and God bless you,



Saving Shiloh Part 2 (Going through the motions)

Stage 2 Going through the motions

Stage 2 Going through the motions

In Part 1 of Saving Shiloh I shared how this eight year old brood mare went through three stages as we helped her become a valuable saddle horse. Stage one was Resistance. As I begin Part 2 of Saving Shiloh I am reminded  in James and Peter there is a time and place for resistance.

James 4:7  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Peter 5:5-10 “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Resisting the devil seems to be a real smart idea since as we learned from the scriptures he is out to destroy and is the father of lies.  The way we resist him is to be humble, submit ourselves to God, be alert of sober mind, and stand firm in the faith. For  stage 2 and 3 I will focus our thoughts on this idea of submitting or fully releasing our lives to a God who cares for us and has our best interest in mind.  However before I get to stage 2 I want to share a little about exposing Shiloh to frightening and uncomfortable situations.

During the first few days of Shiloh’s preparation for riding we had to expose her to new things to help her learn to cope and work things out. These things can trouble a horse. But because we loved her and knew these experiences would make her a more reliable riding partner we had to continue until she could handle these things without being troubled. Things like: bridling, saddling, being mounted and for her especially dismounting and yes, even unsaddling. There were lots of other things like: giving to the bit, accepting a rider,  yielding various body parts, obstacles, the appearance and disappearance of other horses, being left alone, neighbors shooting off fireworks, storms etc.

This is similar to the trials and troubles we face in this life. There are times when we bring these troubles on ourselves through poor decisions and choices. However there are also hard things we have to face in this life which we have no control over. God does not cause catastrophe to come upon us but He can and does use these experiences to prepare us for the future, exactly as we were doing for Shiloh.

Some of the things we may need to learn to handle without being overly troubled include: bridling our tongue, not always getting our own way, giving with unselfish motives, forgiving, loving unconditionally, accepting others for who they are (which means NOT trying to change them into what we want them to be), yielding our time and resources to serve others, over-coming obstacles with a positive attitude, loosing loved ones, dealing with difficult people in a gracious and merciful manner, praying for enemies, fears of being hurt or rejected, abuse, storms, health issues, accidents and injuries, the list could go on and on and on.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

1 Peter 1: 6-7 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

1 Peter 4:12-13 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

John 16:33 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Jesus warned that “in [this] world, you will have tribulation.” We will face many rejections, roadblocks, and even landmines in our lives. Sometimes God allows us to face these challenges to teach, test, or even redirect us. Learn to view these hardships as opportunities to make yourself stronger. Even though every one of us will face trails and troubles in this life we can stand on the promises of God which tell us He will provide, He will work things out for our good,  He will restore us, and make us strong, firm, and steadfast. 

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

As we continued to work with Shiloh she began to let her guard down, letting go of some of the resistance. More and more she was able to handle things without getting so troubled. This is when she started saying, “I’ll do what you want in my body but my heart and mind are not in it all the way yet. 

Stage 2 is Going Through the Motions

During this stage Shiloh was a lot more compliant on the outside, but on the inside she was still holding back. We could tell she was still not quite ready to let go with “full release”. Her body was in the game much of the time, and sometimes we even got her mind. But it was apparent we still did not have her heart. It seemed we would have these great breakthroughs with her and then in a couple of days it seemed to fall apart a little. It wasn’t a full-blown , “I can’t possibly do this”,  like when she was in stage 1 of resistance, but it was as if she was still unsure. So we went really slow with her, I mean really slow, snail pace slow.  We backed up doing things we had already done with success to give her confidence.

We also thought outside the box as much as possible creating situations we thought could help her take the next step. We spent a lot of time loving on her during this stage with massages to help her relax.  There was so much brace in her neck, so we stopped to rub the knots out whenever we saw them developing.  I knew until we got that brace out we would not have her mind and heart. We gave her lots of time to just think. For someone watching it would have been quite boring, because we spent a lot of time just waiting on her to figure it out.

We wanted a “full release” from her so we took the time it takes, putting pressure on when needed but more importantly taking it off when she gave the slightest indication that she was ready to respond in the appropriate manner. It seemed like this stage was going to go on forever.

Aren’t we often like this? We can go through the motions, but what is in our mind and heart is also important.We work pretty hard to get the outside looking good, don’t we? But 1 Samuel 16 says, “God looks on the heart.”

Luke 16:15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

What you think about all day; that’s the real you. Jesus knows the bitterness behind those nice words; He knows the jealousy behind the smiles, the lust behind your lectures on sin. He knows the pride behind all that Christian service. He knows the thoughts of unfaithfulness that maybe you’re covering up with words of love.

Jesus wants to be the Lord of what you think about, not just what you do. In fact, the wonderful possibility is given to us in  2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

So, let Christ invade the real you, not just the one everybody can see. You need Him in your mind all day. He already knows what’s going on there. So talk to Him about it, be honest about it, release His power to change your mind. The Bible says that we can “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” That’s the power of a living Christ inside of you if you will open up all the closets in your mind with all the darkness and monsters in it for Him to change.

The greatest strongholds for the kingship of Jesus Christ are in our mind, and they can be, and they must be, surrendered to His will.

We would be wrong to think this change in the mind happens overnight. But we would be equally wrong to assume change never happens at all. It may come in fits and spurts—an “aha” here, a breakthrough there. But it comes, little by little. Yes, you may have days of set backs, but God is patient with us going as slow as we need, like we were with Shiloh.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But we also challenged Shiloh to ensure she kept moving forward. God loves us too much to leave us where we are. Therefore just as we began training  with Shiloh after her adoption, the Lord begins to train us after our adoption, so that eventually we are NOT  just going through the motions any more, but our heart, mind and body are all working together for His glory.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity,

1 Corinthians 9:24-2624 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

1 Timothy 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Once we decide that we will stop resisting the plan of God and choose to accept and receive his love, forgiveness and adoption we are converts. A convert includes internalization of a new belief system. It implies a new reference point for the convert’s self-identity, and is a matter of belief.

Could it be possible for someone to say with their mouth “I believe” but in their heart they may simply be going through the motions? They might even go to church, and by all outward appearances the physical body is doing the right things at least some of the time. But what exactly is happening on the inside?  Could it be that like Shiloh they haven’t fully given their heart and mind to the Master quite yet?

Mark 7:6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

I can’t answer the above questions for you, only you and the Lord know the truth which is in your heart. I am still in the process of yielding all of my heart and mind to the Lord, Jesus Christ. I can say that I am a lot further along than I have ever been. Each day it gets easier to release another piece of me because He is so loving,  faithful, and trust worthy. Remember we spent  a lot of time loving on Shiloh giving her massages, letting her lick and chew on things during this stage. God is gracious and merciful he will give you time to figure it all out.

Well Part 2 is already too long, so I hope you will continue reading  Part 3 of  “Saving Shiloh” and really it is the best part.  Maybe I should make this into a book because  I have so much more to share. At the beginning of this entry I quoted from 1 Peter, I would like to end this Part 2 of “Saving Shiloh” by going back to that promise.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

REST in the deep assurance of the unfailing Love of Jesus. Let your body, mind, and spirit relax in His Presence. Release into His care anything that is troubling you, so that you can focus your full attention on Him. Be awed by the vast dimensions of His Love for you: wider, longer, higher, and deeper than anything you know. Rejoice that this marvelous Love is yours forever!

Romans 8:37-39

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Saving Shiloh Part 1(Resistance)

Shiloh and Sandy beginning a new life together.

Shiloh and Sandy beginning a new life together. Stage 1 Resistance

I first want to apologize to the readers of my blog, I have been so busy with training horses, interns, clinics, preaching and teaching,  that I have not taken the time to post anything new for months. I even need to finish one last entry about the Mule Ride Joan and I took to the Grand Canyon last Sept. So I will try to get that done this month (July) because I don’t have any training horses here and only a few clients coming for lessons and trail rides. Now on to the topic, “Saving Shiloh”.

Shiloh is an 8-year-old brood mare which Sandy Reuther saved from going to the killers. She wanted a project after her good and faithful partner Doc had to be put down after many happy trails together. I will also post Sandy’s story about the month she and Shiloh spent with me here in Burwell. Sandy will share the lessons that she learned during her internship here with Shiloh, but for this post I am going to relate how “Saving Shiloh” is similar to the way many of us are saved. I want to share with you how God loves us into releasing full control of our life to Him.

Since Shiloh had been a brood mare for 8 years for the most part she was pretty much in control of her life. She could boss around her colts and I imagine she was one of the top mares in the herd and very possibly the lead mare. She lived in green pastures with not too many cares in this world. Everything seemed to be going her way, or so she thought. I can imagine she even thought life was pretty darn good because she had the freedom to do and be whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. She didn’t have to answer to anyone, at least not on a regular basis or in an inconvenient way. BUT what she didn’t realize about her world is that she was in the hands of a bankrupt master. If she stayed in this nice green pasture doing her own thing all the time, it would lead to her total destruction.

Aren’t we often like this? Going about our own way, thinking everything is fine, not even realizing if we have not been adopted into the family of God, we are still in the world, where another master roams seeking whom he may devour. The master whom Shiloh belonged to had nothing left to offer her, only death, unless someone with compassion and love chose to adopt her. Remember, Satan the father of lies is bankrupt. He is seeking whom he may devour  and he has nothing to offer us but destruction. Therefore, we are in desperate need of someone who is compassionate and loving who will choose to adopt us into a new family where we can have a definite purpose and become all that we were created to be.

1 Peter 5:8  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Mark 4:15 “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.”

 Rev 2:9   “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

John 8:44 “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Luke 8:12 “Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

2 Timothy 2:26    “25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

Billy Graham said, “Don’t think of Satan as a harmless cartoon character with a red suit and pitchfork. He is very clever and powerful and his unchanging purpose is to defeat God’s plans at every turn including His plans for your life.”

Now remember this; Sandy chose Shiloh. Shiloh did not choose Sandy and  she had no intention of leaving her green pastures for a life of training to become a usable riding horse. Shiloh did not even realize that Sandy was taking her out of a very lethal situation. If Shiloh didn’t accept the adoption Sandy was freely offering by getting on Sandy’s trailer, her fate was a  death ride on another trailer.

Aren’t we often like this? God chooses us out of the herd and has a good plan for us whether we realize it or not. He  may take us out of our comfort zone (the nice little green pasture where we think we are in control) because He knows our potential. However, it will take a lot of training so we can reach our potential, where we are usable in His Kingdom. If we don’t accept His offer of adoption we may never know what we are missing and worse yet we may not even realize the trailer we are on is not the one we really want to be on. There is a calling, a destiny for each one of our lives. Shiloh had two destinies, either stay as a brood mare in the hands of a bankrupt owner or adoption which included a training program to become a valuable riding partner. God calls each one of us to become valuable partners in His purposes to love and save the world.

Jeremiah 29: 11-13  11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

 Proverbs 14:12“There is a way that appears to be right,but in the end it leads to death.

John 3: 16-17 16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” 

 God has plans for each one of us and He chose us before we even knew it. He sooooooooooooooooo loved the whole world, that means everyone. Little by little He will draw us into his presence and start developing us just like Sandy and I did as we worked with Shiloh. It didn’t happen over night, and I tell you she didn’t give up without a fight. But it is only because she didn’t know how sweet “Full Release” can be.

When we first started with Shiloh we didn’t expect her to be more than she was (an untrained brood mare who didn’t want to be a part of our program), and she made that quite clear. It would take some time for her to step into a “full release” about the idea of becoming a valuable riding partner.  God does not expect us to be perfect or do more than we are capable of, because just like a master horse trainer He is patient and caring.  He knows under his expert guidance one day we will be capable of all He asks. Sandy and I know one day Shiloh will be capable of all we ask of her. She isn’t there yet, but after thirty very intense days, she is a lot closer than she was when Sandy adopted her.

As we worked through the first month with Shiloh we discovered three very distinct stages in her development. In these stages I can see so clear the analogy of a person learning to yield their all to Jesus as their Lord and King.

Stage 1 Resistance

In the beginning Shiloh spelled it out without a doubt, she did NOT want to be a part of our plans to develop her into a usable riding partner. I am sure she was wishing she was back in her pretty little green brood mare pasture having babies, bossing the other mares around, eating and doing as she pleased uninterrupted by anyone giving her direction or correction. She did everything she could think of to resist our attempts to bond with her, show her we cared, and especially was opposed to being asked to do anything she did NOT want to. She attempted fight or flight by trying to run over us, blow through the shoulder, push through a fence, you name it she threw it at us. Neither her heart, mind or body were willing to adapt to this alternative lifestyle.In the beginning we had to use compassion yet assertive leadership in order to help her develop both a respect and trust in us. The bond and relationship that we were trying to develop with her was fragile. One minute she just as soon harm us as comply with anything and the next she thought we were threatening to harm her. It was delicate balancing act to get her trust without loosing respect and then to get her respect without loosing her trust.Aren’t we often like this? Even though God has already chosen us out of the herd  because he loves us and He has good plans for us we do NOT want to be a part of his plan because we don’t see his plan. Shiloh had no idea why we were asking her to do the things we were asking her to do. I am sure at first none of it made any sense at all to her. I am sure she did not understand that we were on her side. We were not only giving her a new purpose in life and developing her value,  but we were saving her life and we were not going to give up until she understood.

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness

Romans 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

A good horse trainer wants the horse to know he is on the horse’s side and will help him survive and even thrive in becoming a valuable riding partner. God wants us to know that too. Sometimes Shiloh was too set in her ways and full of reasons why she was certain she couldn’t do this which caused her to be blinded to the fact she could and that this plan was actually good for her life. At this point there was no way she could help herself, she had to rely on us for her new life. We too must learn we can’t make it in this world without God’s help. If we are willing, God will teach us His ways which are better for us than we ever dreamed possible.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is we don’t have to fix ourselves. All we have to do is release full control to the Master, receive his love, forgiveness, direction and gentle correction. Shiloh could not fix herself. She would not wake up one day as a perfect riding partner. The only thing she had to be willing to do was quit resisting and start receiving.

Mark 10:15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Luke 11:10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

 1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

 Galatians 4:4-5 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Well I did not intend for this post to be this long and I haven’t even gotten to Stage 2 and 3 yet. So I am going to add a Saving Shiloh Part 2 and Part 3″ where I will finish the rest. I hope that you will read them because the best part is still to come.

In the mean time, I hope that you will consider the things I have shared which I learned from Shiloh. I know that I can see myself in her story. Maybe you can see yourself too? If you are still resisting God and His offer to adopt you into His family I hope as you read the rest of Shiloh’s story you will soften your heart to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, because God really is on your side and only wants what is best for you. He has a very good plan for you. He loves you and wants to save you like Sandy saved Shiloh even when Shiloh didn’t realize she needed to be saved.

God’s blessing to all who read this.
Until next time,

Ephesians 2:1-15

Made Alive in Christ

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Living on the Edge (Part 5) A mule ride at Grand Canyon

Kaibab Trail

by Sherry Jarvis

Blanche and Maude ready to go again.

Blanche and Maude ready to go again.

As we mounted our mules leaving Phantom Ranch that morning it was sprinkling and the low clouds created a haze like mist over the canyon. As the mules walked down the trail you could barely hear their hoof beats because the trail was just wet enough to soften each stride. The serene quiet of the morning was sweet music to my ears and I marveled once again at the essence of this picturesque placed called Phantom Ranch.  It had waltzed in and out of our lives in a moment in time charming us with it’s quaint yet regal presence. As I looked back over my shoulder catching one last glimpse of this peaceful location I hoped that I would be able to visit again someday. When I turned back around I saw Joan riding her mule Blanche in front of me and I thanked God for making this opportunity of a life time possible for both of us. I could not contain my emotions as I held back the tears forming in my eyes. There are just some moments in your life you never want to forget and this was one of them.

Leaving Phantom Ranch early Sunday morning Sept. 8,, 2013

Leaving Phantom Ranch early Sunday morning Sept. 8,, 2013

As we approached the CO River this time the thought of crossing the suspension bridge did not bring any pucker factor to me but rather a sense of awe at how it was built. I thought of the men who had built it and the difficulties they must have encountered. I wondered if the experience of thousands of other people who had crossed the bridge before me had found this ride as special as I did. I wondered why they had chosen to take this journey? I wondered how it had affected their lives? Was it just a vacation or something much more like it was for Joan and I? I would never know the answers. But I could not imagine how someone could take this extraordinary journey and not be altered or at least see life and creation from a new perspective after experiencing one of God’s most remarkable formations. I know that I would never be the same because every time I think of this trip I would be reminded of God’s incredible power, grace and love. I would remember the generosity of all the people who helped make the trip possible. I would not forget the friends we made along the way. I would reminisce about the stories Doug and Bill told us. I would recall how flawless and trustworthy our mules Maude and Blanche were as they climbed up and down the trails with a calm pace. I would memorize the smile on my friend Joan’s face as her bucket list ride was being fulfilled. I didn’t want to forget one single breath-taking view, the feelings of excitement, the sensations of riding Maude, the contentment of riding the trail of life in the will of God.

Wearing our rain coats in the light rain as we began our ride back up the Canyon on Kaibob Trail

Wearing our rain coats in the light rain as we began our ride back up the Canyon on Kaibab Trail

After crossing the bridge and going back through the tunnel it wasn’t far before we had to stop at a wide spot to wait for the mule skinners who were bringing a train of mules down the trail with supplies for Phantom Ranch. I heard Doug talking on the radio to them before we reached the place where they would pass us. There were two mule skinners with about 10 mules each on their train. It still amazes me that all of the supplies and garbage are hauled in and out every day by these mules. They must be in great shape because they were not strolling along like we were; you could tell they were in a hurry. They had a job to complete. In fact they went down to Phantom Ranch unloaded their goods, reloaded and caught us by the time we were at the second bathroom break. They were not wasting any time. However they were sure puffing and sweating when they reached us up on the flat where they were allowed to catch their breath before leaving ahead of us to make their final assent to the top of the rim.

Meeting the pack train on the trail.

Meeting the pack train on the trail.

I left the canyon with a new respect and adoration of mules. I am astounded at what they can do and how well they can do it. It isn’t surprising I felt a real affection for Maude and wanted to take her home with me. I will always hold her dear in my heart because she helped create some of the fondest memories in my life. Of course I was partial to her and thought she was the best mule of them all. Isn’t that silly? They were all great mules. I am sure everyone else felt the same way about the mule they were riding. I remember my Dad telling me all about his mule “Twine” like he was the best mule in the world. Mom thought her mule “ “ was perfect for her. Joan loved the way Blanche had a nice long stride on her. I guess everybody bonds with their mule. They have a way of capturing your heart. Besides the magnificent scenery they are probably to stars of the show on this journey. Heck without them you would have to walk. We met some people at Phantom Ranch who had walked down but had decided it would be too difficult to walk back up so they hired some mules so they could ride back to the top. One gal was going to walk but hired a mule to take her backpack out for her. Truly, the mules are very valuable in the Canyon, they are not just a form of entertainment. They may have the reputation of being stubborn but we can certainly learn a lot of lessons from them.

Maude, who I wanted to take home with me.

Maude, who I wanted to take home with me.

As we started back up Kaibab Trail Doug told Joan and I all kinds of stories. We were in the front of the line this time; Doug leading us, then Joan and then myself with Bill following up the rear. I think Doug spent most of the time turned around talking with us about some of the exciting trips he had and why he loved his job. We delighted in his stories. We told him how blessed he was to have such a gorgeous office and to have found his calling in life, even if he isn’t getting rich doing it. I thought if I was younger, single and liked heat I would love to be a guide at the Grand Canyon. The last part about not being fond of heat would be the biggest obstacle to keep me from liking this job.

Dpug turned around telling us stories.

Doug turned around telling us stories.

I am not sure if Doug and Bill realize it or not, but they are much more than a couple of mule skinner guides who show people the way down and up the trail at the Grand Canyon keeping them safe. They are central characters who play a significant role in the lives of people embarking on not just an ordinary vacation but for some of us it is a very spiritual  journey. They touch lives in unique ways. I saw them offer compassion, encouragement, reassurance, help, and support to those who needed it just at the right time. They provided mule savvy, history, geology, nature, and geography lessons that were fascinating. They inspire us with a dedication and love for mules, the Canyon and work ethic that gives one a sense of pride and determination to live your dreams. I know it must be somewhat of a sacrifice to live the life they do, but I want to say Thank you to Doug, Bill, and all the other mule guides who ensure each trip is safe and picture-perfect for each one of us. I know there are probably people who whine and complain about certain things on the trip. You can’t please all the people all the time.  But for me it could not have been more ideal. So for Doug, Bill and all the other guides I want to encourage you to keep on being the best you can be and look at each ride as an opportunity to touch a person’s life in a very rare way that nobody else can do.

Bill sharing his knowledge with Joan.

Bill sharing his knowledge with Joan.

Doug told us the ride out was easy. I guess he might have to define “easy”. I thought the trails were much more difficult in places. Maybe he meant that they would seem easier today because the riders were now used to the trails and sort of knew what to expect. The element of surprise was over. Of course the mules had to work a lot harder going up the steep trails and so we had to stop and rest more often so they could catch their breath. At one of these rest stops Joan’s mule Blanche decided to urinate. She put her left foot right next to  the edge of the trail and hung her right foot over the edge of the cliff. Joan was leaning away from edge. That’s what I call “Living on the Edge”. I was laughing and had to get my camera out to take a picture.


Blanche taking a break on the edge.

There were a couple of times  when we parked the mules out to rest that Joan kept her mule fairly straight on the trail because when the mule was positioned the way they were suppose to be, the mules head was hanging out over the cliff. I had fun taking pictures of Maude’s ears during these rest periods. It was spine-tingling to sit there on your mule with his front feet so close to the edge. The mules took advantage of these times and were very relaxed. So I found no reason to be afraid and I thoroughly delighted in the moments taking in the gorgeous countryside at each outlook.


Letting the mules rest, note Maude’s ears at the bottom of the photo.

As we made our way up Kaibab Trail every now and then we could see a glimpse of the CO River. As it got further and further away it seemed as if it’s size and power dwindled. The reality of being at the bottom of the canyon was already fading into a memory, I wanted to grab it and never let it go. Pretty soon Doug said, “Take one last look at the river, after this you will see it no more.” His words sent a pain into my heart because it brought me back to reality for a moment. This was only a holiday, an escape from our real lives, a retreat that broke up the monotony and pressure of life in the real world, a bucket list event that would not happen exactly like this again. However, no matter what tensions we would have to face back home, I would not let that spoil the joy of being a part of this voyage. I pushed back all fear of what the future may hold and of regrets of the past. I chose to live in the pleasure of the moment. I would take the lessons learned on this quest and apply them to living life to the fullest “right on the edge”  once we returned to what can seem like the mundane of everyday life.

Nearly the last view of the CO River.

Nearly the last view of the CO River.

A couple of my favorite spots on Kaibab trail were “Window to Heaven” and “Jacob’s Ladder”.  Window to heaven was a hole in the top of a rock which looked like a window. We were far below it when Doug pointed it out to us. As we looked up you could see right through the hole into the sky above. I almost didn’t get my camera out in time to take a picture of it because I was so drawn to the eye-catching spot. Have you ever thought much about the windows of heaven? What does God mean when He says, “I will open to you the windows of heaven?” Of course, that is a figure of speech with a very powerful message.

Window to Heaven

Window to Heaven

I love windows a great deal, I love windows in a home, I love windows in buildings, and I love windows because they let the light in. And I love to be at a place where there is a lot of light. And I love windows because they allow those who are inside to look out upon God’s wonderful creation. Windows are a wonderful, wonderful blessing. I love windows of all sizes and windows of all shapes. I especially love stained glass windows in a church that tell the story of Jesus. As I gazed at this “window to heaven” somehow miraculously carved in this rock I thought of references in the Bible about “windows of heaven.” Many times in the Bible you read that God opened the “windows of heaven”. But the main truth is that God opens the windows of heaven on our behalf. He has already done that on two occasions and some great day He is going to open the windows again. God has been so good to us. He opened the windows of heaven and sent us His only begotten Son to rescue us. He opened the windows again and sent the Holy Spirit to purify and empower us. Then some glorious day He will open the windows of heaven again and send His precious Son back to take us to be with Him forever.

Looking back down at Jacob's Ladder

Looking back down at Jacob’s Ladder

“Jacob’s ladder” was a long series of abrupt vertical switch backs over a precipice that seemed to go on and on. It was almost like a winding staircase. It reminded me of the one we had seen in the church in Santa Fe. One doesn’t climb up a stairway like this very quickly. Getting to the top is a gradual process where the mules take one step at a time.  Even though I could tell the climb was quite extreme because of how hard Maude was pushing with her hindquarters it wasn’t until we reached the top and I looked back that I realized how vertical the climb had been. I thought this is how the Lord leads us on with very gradual steps, so gentle that we don’t even realize we’re ascending until we look back.

Another view of Jacob’s Ladder through Maude’s eyes. You can also see the mule train near the bottom of the ladder.

If you are not familiar with the story of Jacob’s ladder in the Bible it happens in the form of a strange dream. In his dream Jacob saw a “ladder or stairway.” descending from heaven to earth. On the stairway Jacob saw the angels of God going up and down the stairs. At the top of the ladder stood God himself. Just think about that. Jacob at the bottom, God at the top, a stairway filled with angels in between. What does it mean? The message of the dream is this: “Jacob, I’m nearer to you than you think I am. Although I am in heaven and you are on earth, there’s a stairway that reaches from me to you. And my angels are constantly watching over you. They tell me what you need and I send them back to earth with my answers. I’m not very far away. In fact, I’m with you wherever you go. When you travel, my stairway travels with you. Everywhere you go, I will go with you.

Some of the trail was almost like a stairway with the beams across it.

Some of the trail was almost like a stairway with the beams across it.

Think about it this way: While I am struggling with the problems of today, God is hard at work providing solutions for the things I am going to face tomorrow. He’s already there, working creatively in situations I have yet to face, preparing them for me and me for them. Or to say it yet another way: God is already at work providing solutions for problems I don’t even know I have yet! That blows my mind even more than riding a mule on Jacob’s ladder did.

Are you worried about next week? Forget it. He’s already there. How about next year? Don’t sweat it. Sleep well. He’s already there. What about the tough decisions that loom up ahead for Joan when the fantasy ride is over?  She need not fear because God is there to walk her through the days ahead. And God will do much more than that. He is going ahead of her, clearing the way, arranging the details, so when she gets there she will have confidence that He has already been there before. Just like our mules had already been on that trail before and knew exactly how to take care of us every step of the way with safety so we could enjoy the ride.


Maude and Blanche the stars of the show. The ones who had been there before and therefore were trustworthy.

I believe that through this dream Jacob discovered the omnipresence of God—that God is everywhere present all the time. I was reminded of this truth again while riding Maude below the “window of heaven” and on “Jacob’s ladder”. I know that wherever I am, there is God. And wherever God is, there is a stairway or window to heaven reaching down from God in my deepest moments of desperation or victory to be near me.


Friends that touched each other’s lives for a moment in time that will always last.

Jesus Christ is himself the stairway that leads back to the window of heaven. If you want to go through the window of heaven, Jesus is the stairway, he is the ladder, that will take you from here to there. That’s why in the gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”  Jesus is “the way” to heaven. Without him, there is no other way.

Now that Jesus Christ has come, we know that God can never be far away from us. He is the ladder that leads to heaven, he is the bridge that crosses the great gulf, he is the stairway that leads to paradise, he is the window to eternal life.


This smile tells all the fun I had on the trip. And I am enjoying reliving it again as I write about it in this journal. I hope that it has blessed you as much as it has me.

I didn’t think it would take me this long and this many pages to journal about our mule trip. I believe that this Part 5 is long enough so I will close for now.

Part 6 will include the rest of the ride to the rim. There may even be a Part 7 about our drive home. And who knows a Part 8 about the rest of the story????

Living on the Edge (Part 4) Mule ride at Grand Canyon


Our Cute and Comfortable Little Cabin at Phantom Ranch


By Sherry Jarvis

Our cabin had a toilet and sink, 2 bunk beds, a table and 2 chairs. As we settled in I put my bathing suit on right away even though it was raining and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Joan decided to go to the Cantenna to visit and have a drink. I put my cowboy boots on and headed down to Bright Angel Creek with my camera. When I arrived at the creek I sat down on a big rock and took my boots and socks off. As I waded into the water it was icy cold.  The smooth river rocks were extremely slippery, I just about fell down several times. Despite the fast-moving cold water I sat down in the middle because it was easier than standing. It didn’t take me long to start shivering so I stood up and took a few pictures of the majestic surrounding mountains. Then I waded back over to my rock to let my feet dry before putting my socks back on. As I sat there I attempted to memorize the sounds, sights, smells and feelings as I offered praise to  God for this experience. I wanted to burn this moment into my mind so that when I am too old to ride and I am sitting in a rocking chair, I can recall the joy and thrill of the ride of my life. My feet still weren’t completely dry when it started to rain accompanied by a little thunder and lightning.  Reluctantly I put on my socks and boots, thanking God for the quiet moment alone with Him in such a beautiful place. As I reached the Cantenna it was starting to rain harder so I went in to visit with Joan and our new friends from the mule ride.


Wading in Bright Angle Creek at Phantom Ranch

My peaceful time by myself in Bright Angel Creek

My peaceful time by myself in Bright Angel Creek











I bought a mule post card for my parents in the Cantenna that would be sent back up the canyon by mule the next day. I wrote a short message to them about how they were right about what a wonderful adventure this would be and thanked them for encouraging us to do it. It was time for the Phantom Ranch workers to prepare the tables for supper, so we had to leave. Joan and I went back to the cabin and then went to the shower house.

That hot water sure felt good after being in the chilly waters of Bright Angel Creek. Then we took a short nap before supper.

We were served a delicious steak dinner with salad, baked potatoes, peas, corn, cornbread, and wonderful chocolate cake for dessert. We sat at long tables where the food was served family style. There was a lot of laughter and fun conversation. We ate until we were over stuffed.  It is amazing that all that food is hauled down on the mule pack trains every day. Those mules certainly earn their keep.


Joan petting Blanche and Maude in the background.

After supper Joan and I walked down to the mule corrals. I called for Maude and Joan called for Blanche. Amazingly enough they both came to us. I stood by Maude for a long time rubbing her chest and scratching her back over the fence. I felt so honored that Maude came to me and seemed to be enjoying the attention I was giving her. But I doubt she was enjoying it near as much as I was. I know she couldn’t understand my words, but I thanked her for being such a good mule and giving me such a perfect ride down the canyon. Just think without her the adventure would not have been possible. I was astounded at her agility, composure, and willingness on the trail. I would rename her Reliable Maude.  I’m sure it was just another ordinary day, another usual job for her, but to me it was something extraordinary, a day that I will treasure as long as I live. It is like that in life sometimes;  you are just doing your job and you don’t even know how you are touching another person’s life in a unique way.


Joan on the Bridge at Bright Angel Creek on our walk down to the CO River


Joan dipping her hands in the CO River.










It was starting to get dark. Joan and I wanted to hike down to the Colorado River, so we had to say good-night to our mule friends. As we hiked we talked about how remarkable the trip had been so far and how everything had way more than met our expectations. There was only one negative thought that kept bugging both of us, the fact that our voyage was already half over and we did not want it to end.  We took some pictures as we walked. We posed on the Bright Angel Creek bridge and dipped our hands in the muddy Colorado River. We saw a deer and a coyote within 20 yards from us on the way back, but it was too dark to get a good picture.

We talked about what a gift life is and how blessed we were to have this time together in such a magnificent place. It was completely dark by the time we got back to our cabin. It had been sprinkling on and off since my dip in the creek earlier. I was wishing I had my mule rider yellow rain jacket. Somehow Joan had taken hers off her saddle and kept it, so she was dry.


Early morning sunrise in the canyon.

We got back just in time for the program presented by a Park Ranger. She talked about the pink rattlesnake which is unique to the Grand Canyon area. This particular type of rattlesnake was first discovered in the Canyon by a Ranger back in the early 1900’s, I think?  After a good lesson on the anatomy and behavior of the rattlesnake she also gave us tips on what to do if we encounter one.

The second program included interesting history stories about explorers, miners and entrepreneurs who succeeded and failed in their attempts to claim their place in developing the Canyon for industry and tourism. A couple of my favorite stories were about the deer and donkey population problems. The park rangers hired cowboys to round-up the deer, which of course didn’t work. I could just pictures cowboys trying to chase deer on horseback swinging their ropes while riding the steep and treacherous trails. No wonder it didn’t work, not to mention the fact that deer don’t round-up well. It is quite the humorous idea.  The second story was about miners who had turned their donkeys loose after they were finished with them. The donkey’s thrived in the environment. So again they hired cowboys to round up the over-populated donkeys who were chasing out the mountain sheep. This time the cowboys succeeded. However when they got them to the river and put them on rafts they jumped out and now they had donkeys on both sides of the river. It seems the cowboys and rangers had a love hate relationship.

It was nearly 10:00 by the time the programs were over so we went straight to bed. It was like being a kid in summer camp. While lying in our beds we visited in the dark about how thrilling the mule ride had been and about how it was like a fantasy world down in the bottom of the Canyon. A fantasy that would be enjoyable to keep living, especially since Joan was not looking forward to facing reality of some difficult decisions once we returned home. As we said our prayers and faded off to sleep we had confidence that no matter what trials or afflictions we may have to face in this life that God is good, He is faithful and his mercies are new every morning.


I guess I love cactus. We have plenty of them in NE too. But not quite this big. Many riders who come visit the Sandhills don’t like the cactus. I love their blooms.

It rained a ½ inch during the night and was still sprinkling when we got up. We had set our alarm for 5:30 because breakfast was served at 6:30. But we didn’t need an alarm because we were both awake with excitement long before it rang. We repacked out small plastic bags, then headed for the Canteena. We were early and it wasn’t open yet. So I walked up Bright Angel Creek to see what it looked like beyond Phantom Ranch. I took some pictures of cactus as I thought about the name “Phantom”. It means: “something that can be seen or heard or whose presence can be felt, but that is not physically present”. I could sense God’s powerful presence in this place, after all He is the awesome creator of this impressive scenery. I had an overwhelming feeling of admiration and wonder of His artistic hand and even more appreciation that I was given the opportunity to visit such a grandiose place. Grand is a fitting name for this Canyon. I can’t think of a better word. Words just can’t describe it. Even pictures don’t do it justice. I was thinking about my parents also standing in this very place eighteen years earlier. They too understand there is no way for one to realize what the big deal is about this enchanted journey until one actually experiences it for themselves.


Joan, always meeting new people. Yuri was a very interesting person.

As I was off jaunting around Joan was being her usual social self. Joan knows no stranger. She will strike up a conversation with just about anyone. When I got back to the Cantenna she was sitting on a picnic table out front visiting with a young man from Switzerland who was traveling all over the world hiking. He had lost his camera earlier. I think we felt worse than he did about it. He was such a positive fellow. Joan asked him what He did for a living. He was a lawyer. She thought he looked much too young to be a lawyer. He had a good laugh about how young she thought he was. We saw him again back up at the top and wished him blessings on his travels .


Both a sad and happy time, happy about getting to ride the mules on the trail again, but also sad because that means the journey will be over soon.

After a tasty breakfast of pancakes, (Joan’s favorite) bacon and eggs we headed back to the corral where the mules were already tacked up waiting patiently to take us on another spectacular ride. The journey back up to the top of the south rim on Kaibab trail would be bitter-sweet. We didn’t want the journey to end.

Part 5 ride back up the rim and Part 6 The journey home will be coming soon….

Living on the Edge Part 3 (A Journal of a mule ride down the Grand Canyon)

The Bright Angel Trail

By sherry Jarvis


Joan before the ride down Bright Angel Trail on Sat. Sept. 7,, 2013

We woke long before the alarm went off at 5:00. After dressing  and eating a peanut butter and choke cherry jelly sandwich for breakfast, we took all of our luggage out to the car except for the little bags we had packed to take with us on our overnight trip to Phantom ranch at the bottom of the Canyon. Then we took my laptop computer, cell phone, car keys, and our purses to the bellman’s closet to be locked up. We put a few dollars in our pockets for spending money and tips.

As we gathered at the travel center we met our fellow mule riders. Nobody had ever been on the ride. So we were all greenies to riding the canyon. Except Joan and I; we were the only ones who rode horses on a regular basis. A few of them had never ridden before. I thought boy, are they ever going to be sore, after a 5 ½ hour ride, and they were. They hurt even more the next day climbing on their mule for another 5 ½ hour ride back up the canyon. I did feel sorry for them. So on the second day I shared the Tylenol I had in my pocket which I had not needed. They were very grateful.


I loved taking pics of Maude’s ears. I bought a T-shirt and Cap that said this.

As we walked to the corral where the mules were waiting it was a very cool morning. The clouds were low and it was just getting light. Most everyone had on jackets. The clouds were dark and heavy. It looked like rain. Everyone kept asking if it was going to rain. Of course the guides were politically correct saying, “It could, you just never know?” I loved the cool crisp air and that fact that the clouds would keep the temperatures down. I wasn’t worried about rain. Besides we were prepared, we had our cool yellow rain slickers that said, “Mule Rider” on the back.


Steve the manager was real fun.


As our guides Doug and Bill did last-minute checks of the tack for each mule, Steve, the manager, entertained us as he told us all about the trip, including all the rules. He was so funny, Joan said we should have video-taped his orientation presentation. These were the main rules:

  1. Stay on your mule. Never dismount until the guide gives you permission.
  2. Keep the knot in the reins on the neck of the mule. (They had tied the reins in a knot, we were to hold on to the loop and leave the reins loose at all times.)
  3. Don’t ever let your mule stop and eat!
  4. Use the spanker to keep your mule up with the group at all times.
  5. When we stop to let the mules rest or let someone catch up, always turn your mule so his nose points out over the cliff and his rump to the wall. (This was called “Parking”)
  6. Communicate with each other and the guides. (Like: yell pit-stop if your mules has to urinate, and don’t let your mule pee in the same spot as the mule in front of you.)
  7. Smile and have fun. Enjoy the journey, this is your vacation.

Steve also gave the option of backing out of the ride with a 100% money back guarantee if one did it before they left the corral. But once you leave the corral you are committed and there were no refunds. However, if you were too scared to finish the ride you could walk back at any time, forfeiting all fees. He reassured us that we were in good hands. Doug and Bill had each taken over 3000 trips with the mules down the Canyon.

He also explained there has never been a death on the mule ride, but every year there are lots of hiker deaths and serious injuries. He thought it was a lot safer to ride a mule than hike the canyon. Of course the mule skinners thought hiking the trail was crazy. They definitely preferred riding to walking. Only a few people have been injured riding the mules and that was because they panicked. Everyone decided they were going on the ride.

All 10 brave souls lined up in the middle of the mule pen as Steve assigned us our mules. We were told that our name would be our mules name the rest of the trip. We all laughed, but they were serious. Jewel rode in front of me on the way down. She had never ridden a horse before and she sometimes had a hard time keeping her mule Ike going. So the guide would yell, “Ike catch up!”  She was so afraid. I could see her shaking all over. I kept telling her to just “breathe”. It didn’t work. She couldn’t even talk. But she was a real trooper and kept going and finished the whole ride. I bet she was so proud of her accomplishment.


Maude and Blanche waiting for us, but we don’t know they are our mules yet.

It was so dang funny when they called “Maude” for me and “Blanche” for Joan. We had gone from hot chicks “Thelma and Louise” in Albuquerque to “The Golden Girls” on the mule ride.  Joan asked the guide if a Jenny mule had the temperament of a mare. He just kind of looked at her like: “Ride your mule lady?” But as the trip unfolded we got to know the guides and they discovered a lot about us. Joan and I were so happy that we got to ride in the back of the pack on the trail down. We are used to guiding people on trails and we take turn riding up front or in the back. Neither one of us likes riding in the middle. Maybe because neither of us really like crowds.  We exchanged tons of stories with Doug our guide who brought up the rear.


Jewel in the red shirt in front of me on Ike and the first tunnel

Not long after we got started on the trail we passed through a couple of small tunnels and then the guides stopped us to check our cinches. They gave everyone the option of turning back at that point. Nobody took them up on the offer, even Jewel who was shaking uncontrollably. Doug was so compassionate as he tried to reassure her she was going to be ok. At that point I don’t know if she believed him. Since she was right in front of me, I kept giving her encouragement. Eventually I think she started to relax and enjoy the journey. I gave her some riding tips that she said helped her feel more comfortable.

My cousin, a big tough brave cowboy, told me the first mile of this ride scared the heck out of him and he never let go of the saddle horn. I thought what is the big deal?  This is easy. But Joan said, “I’m not making any judgments yet, I bet it will get harder.” And she was right. We didn’t know what we were in for.

The first trek to Garden Springs where we had lunch was a piece of cake. Yes, it was magnificent looking up or down at the vertical cliffs, but the trails were fairly wide and not too steep. We asked Doug, how many switch backs there were on the ride. He didn’t know. There had to be hundreds.


One of the hundreds of switch backs.

The only thing I didn’t like about that first part of the ride was there were lots of hikers toward the top. I was being totally selfish. I wanted the whole canyon to ourselves. I wished that just our group of 10 mule riders and the 2 guides could be allowed to enjoy this trail all alone. It would have been even better, if it had just been Joan, I and one guide to keep us safe.



I prefer riding away from civilization in remote places. The Canyon is so marvelous, no words can describe it and I didn’t want to share our space with so many hikers. However, as we got further and further down toward the bottom the hikers were fewer. We were told that less than 1% of the people who visit the Canyon actually go clear to the bottom. The good thing is the mules always had the right of way. Hikers had to stop and put their backs to the wall as we passed by.

As we approached Garden Spring where we had our first bathroom break and lunch the trail leveled off quite a bit. There was a ranger station,  spickets to fill your canteens,  an outhouse, and benches to sit on to eat your lunch. We were instructed to eat and drink as much as we could, and we were expected to do it super fast. The guides didn’t want to dally there. They kept saying we want to get to Phantom ranch before it gets too hot. They said it can get over 110 degrees at the bottom. But thankfully the approaching rain clouds kept it fairly cool. I think our high was only about 93.


Leaving Garden Springs

I fed my carrots to Blanche and Maude then saved my Apple for later. Before we mounted our mules the guides sprayed water on our backs and bandanas to help keep us cool. They said we would thank them later. It did get pretty warm when we dropped down around “Oh Jesus Corner”, which was our first look at a real steep and narrow corner. Doug said they call it that because when people ride around it they say, “Oh Jesus, help me!” Before we reached “Oh Jesus Corner”, we rode through an oasis of trees and green plants along a crystal clear stream. Joan said that was the most beautiful spot of the ride. It was like a little glimpse of heaven. However, after leaving this lush area we would only ride through steep rugged rocks until we reach Phantom Ranch, another beautiful oasis on Bright Angel Creek, which flows into the Colorado River.


Approaching “Oh Jesus Corner”

After “Oh Jesus Corner”, we were on a fast decent, crossing a couple of streams. Ike jumped one of the creeks, and somehow Jewel stayed on. Then we rounded a corner to see the mighty Colorado River. It was a dirty brown from the rains. However, the sight of it still took my breath away, as I praised God for this truly amazing experience. At first we were on a flat area and again I thought, “Is this all there is?” Then we started to climb again to ride along the rugged cliffs hundreds of feet above the river. It was so thrilling, I just kept thinking, “It can’t get any better than this!”

I put my reins over the saddle horn, trusted Maude and took as many pictures as I could while still taking time to look at the wonderful scenery. I knew I would have pictures, but I wanted to burn every bit of this experience into my memory. How I felt, what I smelled, what I heard, it all was almost too much to take in at once. It was all over way too fast.


Riding the trail above the CO river. It was so exciting and beautiful.

As we rode along the cliffs above the Colorado River I still could hardly believe that Joan and I were actually doing this, or that my parents had also rode this very trail. My Mom said she thought for sure she was going to die that day. I had not felt this alive since I first went free rappelling in the Sierra mountains near Lake Tahoe, NV in the early 90’s, or rode my first colt snubbed up to my Dad’s roping horse when I was only 13 years old. This was an experience I would never forget and I had my doubts at that moment that I would ever be able to top this ride. Mom and Dad were right it is a ride of a lifetime.


The tunnel and suspension bridge over the CO river.

As I saw the suspension bridge we were going to cross, I got my first hint of what I call pucker factor. When I told that to Doug he laughed and asked how that bridge could cause me to be anxious. I said, because at least up here on this trail there is earth underneath my mules feet. As I began to think about it, I realized even the bridge was nothing to fear, because Maude knew what she was doing and if it didn’t phase her than it shouldn’t be any big deal for me. Besides she had not given me one reason to not trust her completely. I realized that I need to trust God with everything in my life as much as I trusted Maude with my life every step of the way on this journey.

Right before the bridge is a tunnel which is pitch dark in the middle and then as you come out into the sunshine you are on the suspension  bridge. Maude never hesitated, and I was filled with joy unspeakable, as I took pictures of the rafters below on the river and turned to take pictures of Joan riding behind me. She was smiling from ear to ear. Just seeing her brought tears to my eyes.


Leaving the Bridge and CO river on our last little bit to Phantom Ranch

It wasn’t far to Phantom Ranch after we crossed the bridge. We passed the area where the hikers pitch their tents and the corrals where the mules would stay for the night. After we dismounted the cook from the Canteena brought us clear glasses of ice-cold water. It tasted so good after drinking out of those canteens which tasted like plastic. She gave us directions to our cabins, the shower house and the Canteena where we would eat a delicious supper and breakfast. She gave us instructions about supper and the program schedule for the evening. The guides unpacked out plastic bags with our belongings and we went to find our cabin. It was starting to rain.

There are just no words to describe how satisfied we felt at that moment, or how much we appreciated life, the miracles of God’s creation and the opportunity to take this very special trip together. Cowgirls and friends forever we were pushing back the thoughts of reality of the tough decisions Joan would have to face when we got back home. But for now we could live in the moment in this amazing place as if it would never end.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story…

Living on the Edge (Part 2 A journal of a mule ride down the Grand Canyon


Joan and I the night before the mule ride still in our tourist clothes.

The Santa Fe Trail to the Grand Canyon

By Sherry Jarvis

Psalm 37:4

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

When we started driving Joan asked, “I wonder if we will still be friends after being together 24/7 for the next week. I reassured her that nothing was going to ruin this trip or our friendship. As we drove 700 miles the first day, I think we told each other our whole life histories. If we didn’t know each other’s deep secrets before, we do now.

We stopped in Limon, CO to fuel up and make some peanut butter sandwiches. We were swarmed with flies.  My car was immediately filled with hundreds of flies. Peanut butter with choke cherry jelly must be a delicacy in CO. So as we left Limon we drove clear to Rocky Ford with the windows down trying to chase flies out of the car.  We finally gave up and bought some insect spray at La Juanta.  We had a good laugh about the flies. We never  had that problem again while fixing sandwiches out of the back of the car.


Montezuma Castle near Las Vegas,NM, now a college

We stayed in Las Vegas, NM the first night. Then we played tourist the second day, visiting the Montezuma Castle near Las Vegas,NM; Old Town Santa Fe where we shopped until we nearly dropped; the Loretto Chapel with the spiral staircase; and we rode the Sandia Peak Sky Tram near Albuquerque.


Joan ordering our lunch at Burro Cafe in Santa Fe.

We ended up driving through Albuquerque in 5:00 rush hour traffic. Being a country girl all of my life, I am not the greatest city driver, oh heck lets tell the truth, it scares the pants off me. In fact I was petrified. This was definitely the scariest part of the whole trip. The mules, cliffs, and suspension bridge were a piece of cake, because I trusted my mule Maude 100%. However, I did not trust the crazy drivers all around me, causing me to freak out. My knuckles were white from squeezing the steering wheel. Joan kept telling me to calm down. It didn’t work. I was like a wild-eyed horse in survival mode.

We got a little turned around, not lost mind you. I knew we had to head west. That is what I hate about city driving, you know you have to go west, but you can’t get there from here. So we stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. I was a little right-brained at this point. When I told the cashier who was trying to explain to us how to get back on the interstate about my west theory; “just follow the sun.” She said, “Aren’t you Mrs. Crocodile Dundee . Then she asked us if we were on a road trip. When we told her where we were going, she asked us if we were Thelma and Louise. We had a good laugh which calmed me down and it wasn’t too difficult to find our way out of Albuquerque because she gave us good directions.


Loretto Chapel with miraculous spiral staircase in Old Town Santa Fe, NM

It was late by the time we found a motel in Gallup, NM. I won’t bore you with all the details of our tourist stories because I am sure you are anxious to hear about the actual mule ride. When we called my husband at 10:00 pm and told him we were in Gallup he said, “Is that all the further you got today?”. I thought we did pretty good going 275 miles considering how many times we stopped. We had about the same distance to travel the next day to get to Grand Canyon Village, AZ. So we spent plenty of time stopping at all the native America road side shops along the way. However when we left Gallup that morning my check engine light came on in my car not far down the road. My cruise control also quit working. So we made an illegal turn on the interstate and headed back to Gallup, where we found a service station with a really nice man who fixed the car for only $25. We gave him a nice tip and got back on the road again, praising God all the way. My car ran fine the rest of the trip.


Sky Tram we rode at Sandia Peak, near Albuquerque, NM

As we arrived in Flagstaff it was raining and the sky was looking pretty dark and dreary toward the Grand Canyon with lightning flashes in the sky. Joan was so worried that the ride would get canceled because of washed out trails after we drove all that way. But I kept reminding her we have a divine appointment. In fact when we rode back up Kaibob trail on Sunday morning, the mule ride down Bright Angel trail was canceled because or washed out trails. God timed our trip with ultimate perfection. It wasn’t too hot with the cloud cover and it rained just enough to settle the dust on the trails.


One of the many Native American shops we stopped at. I bought Christmas presents for my family here.


Another cool Native America road side shop

As we entered the park on Friday afternoon our anxiety heightened when we asked the ticket agent at the gate if the mule rides were still on for tomorrow she said something like “I hope not!”  I about flipped when she said that. But I remained calm and positive telling her that was the only reason we came to the park. She said there are a lot of better things to do. She obviously did not know who she was talking to. She was talking to two die-hard cowgirls who were determined to ride a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, rain or shine. I guess she isn’t a mule lover or rider like we are. She said she would never ride a mule. Poor woman, she doesn’t know what she is missing. I think there are two kinds of people those who love to ride and those who don’t.

As we were driving through the park trying to find Bright Angel Lodge we had to stop to ask for directions because the lady at the gate who didn’t like mules gave us terrible directions and for some reason my great navigator Joan couldn’t figure out the map the woman gave us. It was terrible. But the cool thing is we saw a great big bull elk while trying to find our way. Joan had really wanted to see one. But because of traffic behind us, we didn’t get a picture of him.


Joan talking with Henry at our Bright Angel Cabin


Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon Village, AZ

When we finally got to Bright Angle Lodge we found a good parking place that we later discovered was right close to our cabin. It could not have been more convenient. I had been to the Grand Canyon back in 1981, I can tell you it was a lot quieter then.  Today there are big tour buses everywhere and boy did the exhaust systems stink up the place. I am sure there were more people around that did not speak English fluently than those who did. It was very crowded. I am not into crowds, which is why this is my first vacation in 18 years. And in fact only the third real vacation in my life. My last one was moose hunting and salmon fishing in Alaska on the Kenai peninsula. I was there the whole month of October, not exactly tourist season so there were no crowds. It was perfect.

We went straight to the desk to check in and then to the travel center where we got our orientation for the mule ride. We had the two men behind the desk in stitches. We were so excited we couldn’t quit making wise cracks. They gave us our canteens and yellow rain slickers that said “Mule rider”.  They gave us a clear plastic bag about 12×18 inches that did not stretch at all. We were instructed to put everything we wanted to take with us on the trip in that bag. We had to do a little paring down that night as we packed for the overnight trip. After they weighed us to make sure we were under 200 lbs we signed our liability waivers. Now we were official. It was getting close and the suspense was building. I wanted to go find the mules, but Joan thought it would be good to get our bags to our room. So we did.


Buckey O’Neil’s Cabin where we stayed on the South Rim

We stayed in Buckey O’Neil’s Cabin, Grand Canyons oldest surviving historic structure built-in the early 1890’s. It was the cutest room we had the whole trip. We loved it. After putting our luggage in our room we packed our clear plastic bags for the trip. There was a lot of discussion that went something like this: Do you think we will need a jacket? What about our swim suits or a pair of sandals so we don’t have to wear our boots with a swim suit? I decided on a light denim jacket and to wear my boots with my swim suit. Another peanut butter and choke cherry jelly sandwich and we left our room to walk around looking at the canyon and soveinere shops. Joan bought a really cool book called “The Grandest Ride”. We both bought mule T-shirts. I also got mule socks and a mule ball cap. That was the extent of our purchases we were just there for the mule ride.

As we were looking over the edge of the canyon we were trying to figure out which trail we would be riding. We found where the mule ride begins, but no mules. I hiked down the trail we would be riding in the morning. When I got back I told Joan, “Piece of cake, it isn’t that steep, it is like a highway.” She said I’ll reserve my opinion on that until I am actually riding on it.


We guess that was the trail we would be riding down, we were right.

After taking some pictures and calling our husbands and my parents we went back to the room as it was getting dark. We each enjoyed a nice hot bath in our neat old cast iron claw foot deep bathtub. I soaked until I was a prune. How were we going to sleep? We were so excited. We knew we needed to get some shut-eye because had to get up early. We were to meet for the  ride at 6:30 am. The Grandest ride of all. Joan was worried that it wouldn’t live up to her expectations, but it was way more than we could have ever imagined. 

The ability to face the future with confidence. For believers this is possible because of their knowledge of God.

To be continued…….

Living on the Edge (Part 1: A Journal of a mule ride down the Grand Canyon)

By Sherry Jarvis

Two Paths Cross on the Trail of Life


First part of a journal of our trip to ride  mules down the Grand Canyon 9/7-8/2013

Our journey started long before we put our foot in the stirrup of the mules we would ride on Bright Angle Trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Both of us have been riding since we were very young girls. Neither one of us can remember a time when we didn’t love horses. We were born cowgirls. Our paths have been quite different, but then again similar in many ways. One thing is for sure, we both live to ride and we love sharing our passion with others. We will keep on doing this until the day we die in whatever way the good Lord guides us.

I grew up in Burwell, NE.  About the time I went off to college in Chadron, NE Joan moved from Omaha to Burwell just down the road from my parents with her husband Henry and two children Wes and Wendy. My younger brother was in the same grade as Wes. So Joan and I never really knew each other personally for quite a few years. But I knew all about Joan through my Dad. He coached Wendy in track, and he bred his good roping mare, Sooner, to Joan’s paint stallion. He told me what a good horsewoman Joan was and how nice her stallion was. In fact he gave me two of the horses he raised out of her stallion; Sunshine and Dolly. I still have them and love them both. Mom and Dad also told me how Joan would ride her horse to Burwell to get groceries. I thought she must be a real character. I remember seeing Joan ride in the local rodeo parade in all her glitz and glamor thinking how beautiful she was. So we had a connection years and years before we ever became best friends. Joan is the kind of person when you see her you think, ”Now that is an interesting person; I would like to get to know her.”

After graduating from college I moved to MT, then to TX, NV, and WY. I grew up in the sandhills where rocks were few and far in between. I loved collecting them and always wanted to live in the mountains where I could look at them every day. After 20+ years of doing a lot of exploring in the back country of the mountains, I felt it was time to head back to my roots in the beloved Sandhills of NE, rocks or no rocks. Once the Sandhills are in your blood it is hard to get them out.

As fate would have it I bought a place only a couple of miles from Joan. We didn’t get together right away. After quitting my teaching job I was too busy starting my horsemanship business “Heart in Your Hand Horsemanship”. I was on the road a lot those first few years, so sadly I didn’t have time for people in my own community. But thankfully now I have clients coming to me so I stay home more than I travel and I have a lot more friends close to home, which is nice.

Once in a while Joan rode her horse or her bike on the road by my arena, and we would visit. One day we just started trail riding together. She didn’t have anybody to ride with on a regular basis and other than clients when they came to visit, neither did I. So we just hit it off and I can’t tell you how much fun I have had riding with Joan. My Mom told me that Joan said, “I’ve waited over 15 years for a fun riding partner.” So we are very blessed to have each other.

I really love the way Joan tells it like it is. She may not be the most patient person in the world but she knows how to get a job done, which is why she is such a good hand at the cattle sale barn where she works. She is very flamboyant with her loud voice, pretty curled blonde hair, fancy clothes and blingy yet tasteful accessories. She is quite the stylish cowgirl, the kind who always has a pressed shirt on and  just enough make up so she looks her best. I on the other hand don’t worry too much about accessories, ironing my shirts or makeup since it usually melts off my face anyway because I sweat so much. I really don’t like heat. So I don’t mind riding in the cold, which is where our mule ride story actually begins.

One winter day Joan and I were riding through our favorite hills to the Calamus Reservoir. Joan doesn’t particularly like riding in the cold like I do, but she doesn’t like sitting around the house in the winter getting depressed so she agreed to a snowy winter ride. She was telling me how her back and legs had been bothering her since the spill she had taken over a jump at the October fox hunt. Joan has hosted a fox hunt in Burwell for the past 20 years. She is a very popular person.

I remember the hill we were on near the gate that goes into Weber’s pasture when we started talking about where we would ride if we could ride anywhere in the world. It was my favorite time of the year, just before Christmas. The snow was twinkling like glitter in the sunshine. The green cedar trees were lightly dusted with a soft blanket of white crystals. You could see the horse’s breathe and hear their hooves swishing in the fluffy snow that was almost like cotton balls and I was so darn content I said, “Right here, I just love the Sandhills, and as long as I am on a horse I don’t really care where I ride. I’ve ridden about everywhere I want to. No sense spending any money to go someplace else.” Being the conservative person I am who thought she had sown all her oats in her younger days and had done all the exploring necessary this made sense. Or so I thought, until Joan my bigger than life friend planted something else in my head when she said, “Before I die I want to ride a mule down the Grand Canyon.” I thought, “Well heck, that sounds pretty cool.” So in my usual way, without thinking, my mouth said, “I think I would like to do that too, if you ever go let me know, maybe I’ll go with you.” All the time thinking, “Ha, Ha, that’s not likely to ever happen.” And that is how our adventure began.

Joan and I don’t only share a love of riding horses we also love God. She comes to a bible study which I facilitate. So we have a common faith which gives us plenty to talk about on our rides. One day Joan and I were riding through the same hills, I think it was about a year after we talked about the mule ride. That is when Joan first told me she had been real tired and was often short of breath. That spring during the 6 weeks of Lent Joan and I did a prayer walk through our town every Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. Some mornings it was very cold and I could hear her breathing hard, but she kept going. When our legs and noses were frozen we would head to the Hub (a neat old fashion soda/coffee shop) for hot chocolate.

After we had finished our 6 week prayer walk, praying for everyone in our town except ourselves, Joan went to the doctor and had 2 quarts of fluid drained off her lungs. And mind you she is also still working at the sale barn. Now that is one tough cowgirl. The test came back with the news there were some cancer cells in the fluid. We cried and prayed. It wasn’t long and she had to have her lungs drained again. More tests, more waiting, and a few weeks later the doctors still gave her no diagnosis about what kind of cancer. So near the end of May Joan flew to Salt Lake City UT, where her son Wes lives to see a special cancer doctor. A couple of weeks later she was diagnosed with mesothelioma and the prognosis not good.

When I talked with Joan on the phone I said, “Joan we are going to the Grand Canyon on the mule trip you said you wanted to go on before you die.” She said, “Oh we won’t be able to go, I hear there is a year or two waiting lists.” Being the optimist I am, I said, “I’m going to call anyway, I am sure we will get a reservation”.

It was a divine appointment. This was the first part of July. They had a spot for two people for Labor Day weekend. I called Joan right back. She said, “I don’t know if I can go because the doctor said if the chemo goes well  I may have to have surgery the first part of September”. I suggested that we go on the mule ride Labor Day and I would drive her to Salt Lake for the surgery right after the ride. She said she would have to think about it for a couple of days. Can’t hardly blame her, it is her life that is at stake. When she called back and said, “Let’s go, what’s a few days to delay a surgery when you might only have another year to live.” I called Xanterra right back and the Labor Day spots were sold out, but thankfully they had two spots open for Sept. 7-8. I didn’t call Joan back to see if those dates were ok with her. I got my credit card out and paid for it on the spot. There was no going back now. We were on our way for the adventure of a lifetime and a dream come true for two country hick sandhills cowgirls. I thought I was going for Joan, but it turned out I got my socks blessed right off my feet!

When I told my parents we were going they were so excited. Eighteen years earlier they had ridden the mules down the Grand Canyon with my two aunts and three cousins. I remember how they all went on and on about how special it was. They were so proud of their silly certificates, getting them framed and all. I remember thinking, “Oh sure, what’s the big deal, just another trail ride, I’ve done plenty of them in the mountains, you guys are just a bunch of flatlanders.” Which was true, the Sandhills where my parents were born and have always lived are pretty darn flat compared to the Grand Canyon. My parents were adamant. They told me, “Now if something happens to Joan and she can’t go, you better go anyway. You will love it. It is the trip of a lifetime.” I thought, Nah, if Joan can’t go, the ticket agent said I could get my money back as long as I cancelled two days prior to our reservations. I probably won’t go if Joan can’t.”  But now I get it. I understand what the big deal was, why they kept talking on and on about it. I know why they were raving about this experience. I can’t shut up about it either. There is just something very awesome about all of it. The grandeur of it all, there are just no words to describe it. Now I am just as proud of my framed silly mule skinner certificate as they are. And until you do it yourself, you just won’t understand either.

I’ll never forget at bible study on August 28th, when I told the group I would not be leading for the next couple of weeks because Joan and I are going on our mule trip to the Grand Canyon. Joan nearly fell off her chair as she screamed, “It’s here already, next week, really, are you sure?” I laughed so hard, just thinking about how excited she was, and I was getting that way too! So the next week we kept calling each other planning what we were taking, what we were going to wear, and the route we were going to take to get there. We were worse than school girls getting ready for the big prom.

I got new tires on my Subaru Outback. Keith my hubby changed the oil, fluids etc. and checked everything over real well. He is such a protector, always making sure I am safe. He knows I can be a bit of a risk taker, or perhaps in his logical mind, just plain silly or bubble headed. Anyway when he was done with the mechanical part I took over with the aesthetics. I gave it a good wash and vacuum. I had to have a clean car for this very important trip. We bought a few special things for the trip, like straps for our glasses and cameras, little packages of toiletries to put in our mule packs, since we were told we could only take 15 lbs. of stuff on the overnight trip.

Joan came over to my house so we could Google our route because she doesn’t have a computer, or even a cell phone. She is not a high-tech kind of gal. She is a free spirit. I call her wild at heart! I am more of the planning type, so I was looking for motels to stay in so we could make our reservations. But Joan would have none of it. She said, “Let’s just let the wind take us!” So we did. She was the navigator and I was the driver as we followed our hearts to places we could not even imagine.

The day before we left we tried to go shopping for food. We planned to take a cooler to save money instead of eating at restaurants. As we walked the isles or the grocery store, I think we were so excited we couldn’t figure out what to buy, so we left the store with some string cheese and a loaf of bread. Yep, that’s all. We decided we both liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Joan said she had a new jar of peanut butter, and I reminded her of the choke cherry jelly my Mom had made last week from the gallons of choke cherries she and Henry had picked and given to Mom. Joan said it was the best choke cherry jelly in the world. I had a bunch of cucumbers and tomatoes from my garden and some dried fruits and veggies. We packed it in the cooler, thankful we had some of our favorite things to eat along the way. We never got tired of those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which we ate every single day for a week. Now don’t think we went hungry because we ate at three different Mexican restaurants. One in Santa Fe, NM another in Holbrook AZ, and the last one on the way home in Edwards, CO.  We also had a couple of free breakfasts at the motels where we stayed.  During our travels we stayed at Las Vegas, NM, Gallup, NM, the Grand Canyon in Bucky’s Cabin (the oldest one there), Phatom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon, Mexican Hat UT, and finally at Fort Morgan CO.

The morning we left it was pouring rain at 7:00 am.  While we loaded our things into the car we took a second unnecessary and unwanted shower. But we were so excited it didn’t seem to matter that we were sitting in soaked clothes as we drove out of my drive way for a 3000 mile trip. Our husbands were left at home to fend for themselves and take care of the place while we were off feeling free as eagles, flying to unchartered territory, never to return the same again.   

Stay TUNED! More to come……

Phillipians 4: 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Crossing Gracie Creek

The grass peaking through the frozen blanket of snow

It was a frosty winter morning in the Sand hills of central NE, in maybe 1970 or 71. The crisp air made my nose tingle and the grass bow in reverence to the chill as the still blades bravely peaked through the blanket of snow. As we walked across the frozen earth sparkling with snowflakes winking at us, our laughter rang as a bell of joy in the stillness of the ice-covered prairie.

We were carrying our ice skates, fishing poles, auger, buckets, picnic basket and various other items necessary for the family mini-vacation. We often took them and they were my favorite ones. We called my Dad the recreation director because nearly every weekend he planned something fun and interesting for us to do. Even though he enjoyed them as much as we did I think he arranged them to keep us out of trouble.

As we left the old green Chevy truck behind, I looked back and it seemed to be a watchman, smiling and waiting to take us on our next adventure. That old pick-up took us so many wonderful places, like: rodeos, camping, swimming, fishing, hunting, school, church, even to Mount Rushmore. We must have looked like the Beverly Hill Billie’s with five of us packed into the cab and all our gear piled in the back. Old Green as we referred to her also taught each of us kids how to drive. She pulled our horse trailer safely to I don’t know how many rodeos. Anyway that truck seemed a part of our family. But I have wandered away from my story, so let’s head back to Gracie Creek.

Gracie Creek

As we approached the creek the swampy areas had big solid motionless clumps of dirt and grass that we walked on top of. They reminded me of the goose bumps that were forming on my face from the chilly temperature. They became bridges to keep our feet dry from the pools of slushy water which refused to cooperate with the season.

Our destination was the pond across the creek where our fishing poles would be propped by holes freshly hollowed out by Dad in hopes of catching bluegill for our supper. While the poles rested quietly waiting for their catch, we were anything but quiet. As we skated our shouts of accomplishment, praises, and arguments could be heard for miles, even though there was no one nearby to hear them, except maybe Old Green. Everyone had to show off their abilities to go backwards, spin and jump. We also enjoyed a competitive game of hockey.  Our attempts at being Olympians included bumps and bruises, fights and fun.

There I go; getting ahead of myself again. Here comes the important part. When we arrived at the creek it still contained mud and water up to my Father’s knees.  This is not uncommon during the early winter months as Gracie creek is sustained by underground water springs.  None of us were wearing appropriate boots to cross the creek and it was much too wide to jump. However, my Dad saved the day, as he always did. He carried each one of us across on his back, plus all the gear, so we could have a wonderful day bonding together as a family and making memories for the future.

My Dad, like my Heavenly Father is my HERO. They both carry me across the streams of life anytime I hop on and enjoy the journey with them.