Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Would the Orphan's Dream Come True?

Last week our family made a last minute trip to central Iowa. We'd gotten word about a horse for sale so quickly rescheduled the days events. Then we jumped in our trusty 15-passenger van for an utterly new experience. This adventure was an especially important one to Mr R and me.

You see, years ago the two of us made a promise to a Russian judge. As we went through the final step of actually going to court in Russia in our effort to adopt Kirsten, Nathaniel and Eliana, we endured intense grilling which culminated in an insanely-long deliberation by the judge. Well, okay...we probably only fidgeted on the hard wooden benches for about an hour -- it just SEEMED like forever! The judge who had intimidated us for two days from his high perch on the dais had our hearts in his hands. Many months earlier we had visited Moscow with a group of fellow Americans interested in providing homes for fatherless children living in orphanages. On that trip, we'd not only felt the Lord's calling to add Nathaniel (10) and Eliana (5) to our family. Much to our surprise, we'd also fallen in love with a 15-year-old beauty with a kind heart and a quirky sense of humor. Since then we'd spent months jumping through hoops put in place on both the American and Russian sides trying to turn the three kiddos -- who had grown up in the same orphanage -- into our children.

When the judge returned after his deliberation, he made it clear -- through our interpreter -- that his agreement to the Kirsten's adoption came with a condition. He looked us steadily in the eye. We held our breath not knowing what would come next. The judge then told us that we must ensure that Kirsten would get the opportunity to interact with horses. During her testimony in court, the judge had asked her about her dreams and goals, and he was determined that her new parents would see to the nourishment of this orphan's aspirations. We didn't know how we would keep our word to the judge. Horses had never been on our family's radar. Even so, we breathed a sigh of relief. All along the arduous path to adopting this teenager, God had been leading. He had been ever faithful when we when we repeatedly ran full force into the inevitable roadblocks that seem to be part of international adoption. So the two of us held hands and meekly nodded our agreement to the judge's condition.

In the four years since that adoption took place, the Lord has opened doors left and right for our horse lover. And, as it turns out, Kirsten isn't alone in her passion. Her sisters, Christina (17) and Faith (15), share her love of all things equine. The three sisters have bonded tightly as close friends through this shared interest. They've taken riding lessons together and volunteered at a nearby ranch that offers therapeutic riding for children with disabilities or delays.

A little over a year ago Kirsten graduated from high school. She did so with a dream in her heart. She longed to become a horse trainer. Last summer she was blessed to work as an intern on a dude ranch. She got in numberless hours of horse riding. She even learned how to heard cattle. Then in the fall Kirsten made a move to Ohio, living with Aaron and Anna for a few months. The Lord opened a door again, and she found a job she loved. She worked as a stable hand at a facility that is home to more than 40 horses, many of them trained to show.

Now Kirsten is back home and ready for the next step in this journey. She hopes to learn the Pat Parelli natural horsemanship training method. Before Kirsten can attend the school in the Colorado mountains, she has to be able to demonstrate that she has reached a number of milestones in training a horse. In order to do this, Kirsten needed a horse to train. Our dream as parents is to be able to help each of our children with a portion of the cost of their post high school education. For Kirsten, this meant we would help her buy a horse. Thus, our four-hour drive into the heart of Iowa last week.

Kirsten heard about a horse named Magic through Brittany, a friend she'd made while volunteering at the therapeutic horseback riding stable. Brittany is thoroughly connected in the horse world in the upper Midwest. With that knowledge, she enjoys playing "matchmaker" -- helping prospective horse owners find just the right animal. The looming question as we drove was would there be a fit between our daughter and this particular animal. 

When we arrived at the stable, Kirsten approached Magic somewhat tentatively. She was studying him carefully to see what traits he would exhibit. She was reading the three-year-old's body language.

While Kirsten was watching the horse, I was watching her. It wasn't long before her expression change. Her look of hesitation changed to a cautious smile, and I knew we were watching something magical happen between a former orphan and a dark chocolate horse sporting a braided mane for the special day.

A few minutes into Kirsten's contemplation, Magic's owner, John, offered to show her Magic's level of training.

He had Magic mount this "bridge" to demonstrate that Magic doesn't spook easily. Next, John mounted Magic and rode him around the arena. Our girls who are now walking encyclopedia's of horse knowledge had told us ahead of time that seeing the owner ride the horse he's trying to sell is crucial. After all, if the owner is unwilling to ride the horse, there's a good chance the animal has "issues".

Now it was Kirsten's chance to ride.

Her siblings watched with interest. Faith recorded the entire ride on Kirsten's phone for her.

While all this was going on, Kirsten's Dad and I were in the background praying without ceasing. We still know so little about horses that we were completely dependent on God to give the wisdom to know if this was THE horse. We felt a wonderful peace despite the major expense we were contemplating making. God leads and guides those understand their dependence on Him. He is faithful to help those who cry out to Him.

Kirsten dismounted and did some more thinking and praying.

And then the came the smile that told us it was time for her daddy to do some negotiating! Over the course of more than four years, God had led us baby step by baby step to this momentous occasion.

As Mr. R and John talked, I just couldn't help thinking back to that Russian court room. I couldn't help wishing that the judge could have been with us to see the orphaned child who lived without hope become a horse owner, by God's grace. Somehow I think that the stoic countenance he presented throughout the adoption hearing would  have been replaced by a grin as wide as Kirsten's.

God abounds in lovingkindness!

1 comment:

Catherine Kent said...

Hi (=

I'm a CPer and have followed your blog for some time now. I love reading about your family and am always so encouraged by your faith in Christ. Currently, our family is walking a similar path with my sister and her first horse. It's been a long road of ups and downs - incredible pain and yet rewarding joy. God has truly directed and blessed. It's a miracle we are even on this journey, mind's less own our own horse! We're currently also very, very interested in holistic, natural horsemanship such as practiced by Pat Parelli and Monty Roberts. (The latter is my personal favorite but there is a Parelli instructor in our area so we're using a blending of the two in a way.) We live in an area where the "breaking" method in the most cruelest, fastest way is generally practiced. Therefore, it's so wonderful to hear that another family with similar Christian values and children interested in horses is also interested in the same horse training approach!

You most probably have plenty of friends with the same interests, but if you ever would like to talk to another family that's new to horse owning and surrounded by miracles feel free to connect with my family and I via G+. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us readers! Such an encouragement!