Saturday, March 1, 2008

Running Circles -- Hope Chronicles 21

It was one of those gorgeous warm spring days. I was thrilled that it was warm enough and light enough in the evening that I could take my riding lesson on Eddie in the outdoor arena. As I brushed him and tacked him up, I noticed that he seemed spunkier than he had in awhile. He was an old horse, and the cold slowed him down.

We were having a great lesson. Eddie moved easily and was responsive to my commands. It seemed to me that we cantered effortlessly. There was no balking at jumps. Eddie seemed to be enjoying the ride as much as I was.

We were only using the outside edge of the arena. Several jumps were clustered at one end waiting to be moved into place for an upcoming show. We took our jump and turned to the left and Eddie inexplicably picked up speed. I tightened and loosened my grip on the reigns several times in a command to slow. He ignored me. In fact, he picked up speed!

Kristi was yelling for me to slow him. I was yelling back that I was trying! Squeeze, release. Squeeze release. But Eddie broke into a gallop. (Please note that while I had been taking lessons for awhile, I had never galloped! Canter was fast enough for me.) It was hard to hear Kristi over the bounding of his hooves and the even louder bounding of my heart.

I desperately tried to remember every instruction I had ever been given. Stay loose -- if you tighten your legs (an instinctual response on a runaway horse) you are actually giving the cue to go faster. Trembling, I managed to pull my leg away from his body. Pull back -- I tried to get his attention with several sharp tugs to the reigns. Circle and make the circles smaller and smaller -- it's harder to go fast when running in small circles.

So, we circled -- my legs swinging as much as I dared and me jerking on the reigns. But we were at the far end of the arena with all the jumps. I didn't dare head to the open area at the other end of the arena. It might give him the idea we were "heading home" -- an idea that made him pick up his step even on the coldest of days.

And we circled and circled, but I couldn't figure out how to make the circles smaller without having to go over a jump. I loved cantering the jumps, but I didn't think I could manage to gallop over one! Kristi continued to shout instructions and twice tried to jump out in front of him to get him to slow. But not knowing what she was doing, I veered away -- afraid that he would trample her.

Ten minutes later he finally began to slow. When he slowed enough, Kristi grabbed the reigns and I slid -- legs trembling -- to the ground. But I was also laughing and proud of myself. I exclaimed, "I've never galloped before! That was exciting! I can't believe I managed to stay on!" With Eddie firmly under her control, Kristi managed to laugh too. One of my difficulites in riding was learning the balance aspect and the fact that I sometimes gave up and let myself fall when I thought it was inevitable. (My first few falls were really minor and didn't hurt much, so I learned the wrong lesson with them!) Kristi remarked that I seemed to have finally gotten the whole balance thing down as well as the staying on at all costs.

I've been thinking a lot about that the last few days. I know I've been oddly silent in my posts. (Heavens, my last post was Tuesday!) But my emotions have been galloping about and it has been all I can do to gather my thoughts. Life is like that evening ride sometimes. We can't slow down emotionally or physically or spiritually. We just keep hurtling on at a neck breaking speed.

But there are some life lessons from that night as well:

  • Stay loose. Just like when I was on Eddie, this is easier said than done. I know that when my mind, my anxiety, my fear starts galloping off it's hard to slow it. Paul gives us excellent advice in Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (NIV) One thing that I have done in the past is make a "Happy Thoughts Journal". God reminded me of it this week and I dug it out. It is a notebook where I only write positive, motivational quotes. But I've also put pictures in there and copies of encouraging emails from friends.

  • Pull back. If life has just gone crazy, it's okay to pull back for a bit. As the psalmist says, God leads us beside still waters. Jesus knows what it is like to be overwhelmed. He made it a regular practice to get up early and spend time with God in prayer. Obviously, we can't just abandon every responsibility, but if we get creative we may find ways to have the calming and restoring moments we need with God.

  • Circle in smaller and smaller circles. I get overwhelmed and I start looking at everything and I get more and more overwhelmed. Too often we try to manage life by stuffing our mouths and swallowing life in gulps. Break down the things that need to be done into bite size pieces. Early last summer I was in the throes of depression and totally overwhelmed. A friend told me what she tells her children when they are faced with a room that is cluttered with every toy they own. "Start with one toy and go from there."

  • Listen to those around you. Honestly, I don't know what I would have done if Eddie had pulled this escapade when Kristi wasn't around. I couldn't catch everything she said, but it was enough to know she was shouting encouragement. Seek out encouragement from those around you. If you're like me, sometimes this is when you are tempted to skip church or whatever else. Don't. This is when you need it all the most.

Here's to a weekend to relax and gather my thoughts and prayers and leaving the old week behind and starting anew.


Laura said...

Awww, Amy. I think God has given you such a tender heart. And thanks for praying for my talk. It is coming along quite nicely!

Heather@Mommymonk said...

You are such a good storyteller. I think I need to reign in and move in smaller circles too. This was really good Amy!

Renee Swope said...

Hey there, I am so excited that you are coming to She Speaks. Can't wait to see you!

Love this post! I'm having a stressful week and it's only Monday so I am going to apply what you shared: stay loose, pull back and make smaller circles. I think that is God's Word for me today. Love your perspective and insight!