Grace

Friends, let me tell you a story.

I’ve owned the mare in these pictures for about 14 years. She’s only about 16. She’s my tried and true lesson horse who will try to catch kids if they get unbalanced (and she’s usually successful), cow horse, mini-eventer, best friend, and partner in crime.

She’s usually perfect. Usually. But when she’s bad, she’s really bad. Like a little kid who knows she’s did something wrong and then starts throwing a tantrum because she knows she did something wrong, and gets upset because she knows she’s in trouble, and then it spirals from there.

I learned a long time ago not to push this mare around. You push, she pushes harder. And let me tell you, this mare is a powerhouse. A freight train. She’s stubborn, and she absolutely will not quit, no matter how tired she is. In fact, she doesn’t really know the meaning of tired. I have learned that less is more with her. Patience is the key. If I feel her resist, I soften, and usually that’s all she needs to relax into my hands for a lovely ride. And she is a very soft horse.

I had a different experience with her this weekend.

I took her and her pasture buddy to a dressage show this weekend anticipating a nice relaxing day with only two rides a few hours apart, hanging out with my siblings and friends in the meantime.

Photo credit: Ambitious Salamander Photography
This is Acoura, who was my first horse of the day.

She had a different idea.

After my ride on the other horse, I took a little break, and then decided to warm Chari up.

And didn’t get off her for the next two hours.

The horse I got on at that show I didn’t know. Except I did. She just completely lost her brain trying to get back to her friend who was standing at the trailer after I rode her away.

Fourteen years of working with this animal, and she flips out at a little schooling show like she’s never been to a show before? I would have been embarrassed if I hadn’t been concentrating so hard. Because all I could do was concentrate.

I know that horse well enough that I anticipated every single twist, plunge, lunge, rear, buck, holy-hell breakaway, stiff-necked, dropped-shoulder turn, yank—I could go on and on. What people saw me ride was the tip of the iceberg. I felt something in that horse, something totally out of control, and it took every ounce of my strength to divert it over and over and over.

What was the matter? Maybe she was in season. Maybe a bunch of factors came into play and she lost it because she made bad choices at the beginning of the ride by ignoring my requests—and knowing her, that’s truly a possibility.

All I know is that she never once looked at me, never once turned an ear to me, never chewed, never even acknowledged that I was anything more than a piece of asphalt attached to her back that she needed to relieve herself of so she could run, hell bent, back to the trailer.

My usually soft mare was like a steel rod. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get her to bend any more than her nose. I couldn’t get her to move off leg without her using it as an excuse to flip out even more. I tried every way I knew how to provide her with opportunities to get the right answer so she could calm down, but she was so focused on what she wanted that she completely ignored them.

Eventually lunchtime came and I was able to take her to the arena where I just let her canter until she tired herself out. But the rigidness and fight didn’t stop. Finally, I was crying. Not from anger, but from exhaustion. As much as I’ve ridden, I’ve never cried on a horse before. I’m far too stubborn. But this mare finally wore me down. I was so tired, but couldn’t quit. I didn’t even want to quit. I had to stick with my horse. I had to ride her to the end.

After two hours, two solid hours, it was finally my time to ride. We got eliminated because she jumped out of the dressage arena for a stride, but we kept going. The kind judge continued to score us, even though our score wouldn’t matter.

It took until the very middle of the test—the free walk that changes rein—for her to change. She still was a ball of not-my-horse, rushing transitions and leaning, mouth opened, on the bit, but there was a little more respect for the bit, and the anger was starting to dissipate from her.

When we finished and I dismounted, she didn’t try taking off for the trailer. She turned her face to me and put her nose in my side like she normally does. I rubbed her head. She walked next to me. Stopped when I stopped, even though we were headed back to the trailer.

So maybe we got somewhere.

But that’s not the point of the story.

God has used this horse many times to speak to me in ways only God can. Horses are amazing reflections of us humans and our relationship with God. There’s even a trainer who uses horse training as ministry because it’s so powerful (Sermon on the Mount).

I was so confused about her uncharacteristic behavior that I took it to the Lord.

I wanted to know what the point was—what lesson was I supposed to learn? I hadn’t gotten angry with her. I’d slapped her neck once or twice to try to get her attention—to try to get her to stop the self-destructive behavior—but I didn’t get mad.

I just stuck with her. When I gathered my reins to start my test, I said what I normally say to her: “You ready, love?”

Well, at church on Sunday, when my heart was quiet enough to hear the Lord during worship, this is what He told me.

“You know, I’ve been working on you for more than 14 years. You can have your tantrums, you can refuse to look at me, you can pretend I’m not here, but I’m going to stick with you no matter what and still love you infinitely.” He wanted me to know this badly enough to let me struggle with a crazed animal for two hours so I’d understand it better.

Just that little message affirming me in His love. But it’s for you, too.

Because, friends, that’s what He does. We can flail around, refuse to bend, insist on plunging around to our own destruction because we have our eyes SET on something we want or think we need instead of Him. He’ll just stick with us, lovingly redirecting us, gently asking us to bend back to His way, and he does it with infinite patience.

No anger, no expectations. Just love. And He’ll keep sticking with us. No matter what.

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News Release! [Scholarship Received]

Beth with her colleagues at work being surprised by WGU’s representative (not pictured).

Back to school!

Some of you may know, some of you may not know: I’ve recently begun taking master’s classes!

On Thursday I was surprised – no, shocked – when a Western Governors University (WGU) representative walked through the door at work and handed me that massive check! I was so dumbfounded that I had no words.

How had he known where I work? Well, when I applied for the scholarship, I had to submit a resume, and he tracked me down, got approval from my employer, and surprised me with the big check and cookies for everyone at the office.

To make matters more exciting, I hadn’t told anyone at work that I had started taking classes. So, let’s be honest, a lot of people were shocked that day and I had quite a bit of explaining to do. But I have wonderful employers and colleagues. It turned out to be a fantastic celebration, and I am grateful beyond words for the scholarship.

So what does this mean for Wordbender Editing? Well, it means you’re going to get even better quality work once my master’s degree is complete!

I did put a notice on my Editing Services page, however. Time is definitely limited! But I should graduate in May of 2020. So write those books, revise those books, and be ready to send them to me in the spring because I’ll be ready!

Degree in what?

Oh! You’re right. I didn’t fill you in on that. I’m actually getting an English Education degree. I want to learn how to teach my beloved English so I can help students appreciate it and become as passionate as I am about our language. This degree will also help me communicate with you, as authors. Isn’t that exciting?

This degree will compliment my BA in Creative Writing. So here we go!

Fiction or Nonfiction?

 

Photo of swirling clouds | Wordbender Editing

I recently conducted a Facebook poll. Click here to see the results!

Many people are passionate about what they read. I sure am! Some people only like fiction. Some don’t see the point and love to dive into nonfiction.

And some are like me: I like them both.

Did you miss the poll?

Don’t worry! You can comment below. I would love to hear your opinion on whether you think one or the other is best and why you think so!

Happy reading!

What We Can Learn from a Modern-Day Cowboy | The Faraway Horses Book Review

Photo of the book Faraway Horses

“You hear a lot of talk about mentoring these days. It doesn’t have to be just talk. If we get to troubled kids early enough, we can impress things upon them not by being mean and threatening, but by providing discipline and guidance.

The same thing is true for troubled horses. If you extend the parameters too far because of sympathy, the horse won’t have any boundaries, and you will end up spoiling him.”

—Buck Brannaman, The Faraway Horses

Have you ever watched or read The Horse Whisperer? Did you ever wonder where the inspiration behind this touching story came from? Here’s your answer: the real-live horse whisperer, Buck Brannaman who has gained the respect of such renowned horsemen as George Morris.

If you don’t know any of those names, it doesn’t matter at all. Please read on.

In his autobiography of sorts, The Faraway Horses, Brannaman establishes that the way to communicate, get along with, and establish good relationships with both humans and animals is a balance of love and respect, and, when necessary, discipline. I recommend this book to horsey people and non-horsey people alike because of the level it goes to understand mankind through horses, and vice versa.

Personally, I’ve always been intrigued by the honest way horses and other creatures behave and how they can reflect how humans react to conflict, fear, change, and abuse. Brannaman doesn’t shy away from this. He explores emotional trauma within himself and other people and applies the principles when dealing with those other people and broken horses.

In this book, he tells stories of his childhood, family experiences, his time as a famous “Idaho Cowboy,” and a little on his assistance with the movie The Horse Whisperer, but he always comes back to the importance of valuing others and communicating with them in a way that shows love and respect no matter who they are.

Brannaman has committed his life to helping horse owners with their horses, and along with that comes healing and restoration to both the owners and horses. His book The Faraway Horses will take you deep into the psychology of both horses and people and the healing they’ve found through Brannaman’s methods. Pick up a copy today, or do what I did and listen to the audio version. It’s well worth the short six hours of audio.

Genre: Autobiography

 

Bethany Swoboda is a freelance editor for Wordbender Books. She has always loved reading, reading, reading, and enjoys helping authors polish and develop their manuscripts. Some of her many hobbies are horseback riding, bouldering, helping work her family’s farm, playing piano, crocheting, and volunteering at her church. She has a BA in creative writing and a minor in professional writing from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

Rescuing of Princesses in Disney Films: Sexist? Or embedded in our DNA?

Picture of a princess in a red cloak

Folktales strike us as enigmatic because they mix the miraculous with the natural, the near with the far, and the ordinary with the incomprehensible in a completely effortless way. — Max Luthi

 [Author note: This quote really doesn’t have much to do with this blog until the end except for “the ordinary with the incomprehensible” when referring to the great lengths to which a fairy tale prince will go to rescue or see his princess, like in “Rapunzel.” However, I think it’s a nice quote to get us thinking about fairy tales.]

The recent hubbub about men rescuing young ladies in Disney films being sexist—benevolent sexism, to be exact—caused me to remember a fairy tales class I took in college.

There is a theory illustrated with folklore that there are certain elements of a story that, well, make a story. And these elements are so ingrained in us that without them, a story ceases to be a story—or at least ceases to be interesting. In fact, my professor actually argued that these story elements are programmed into our DNA because every culture has folktales that include those elements. (Side note for clarification: not all elements have to be present in each story.) One of those major elements is a man rescuing a woman.

Folktales/Fairy Tales

Let’s remember that many Disney Princess films come from ancient folktales that we commonly refer to as fairy tales. Neither the Grimms nor Hans Christian Andersen made these stories up. They are folk stories, verbally passed from generation to generation until these men took the initiative to write them down.

Fairy tales are one-dimensional on all levels, so there’s definitely a lack of romance to them, and the audience doesn’t really get a lot of context leading up to the rescuing of the female character. Generally, folktales are told with unemotional rigidity. Kind of a “this is how it happened” without an invested narrator, and a lot is left to the audience to interpret.

(However, there is still a lot of literary importance, and not just because they are historical literature. A book I’d encourage anyone interested in the history of stories to read is The European Folktale: Form and Nature by Max Luthi.)

The Rescue

Each of these Disney stories—movies—being criticized lately carries the traditional element of romance. Why do you think that is? I mean, we’re talking old-old tradition. Somehow, generation after generation, the story of a man and woman falling in love is attractive to us. And a man rescuing a woman is still more interesting to us. We want to watch. We want to see how it ends. We love sitting in anticipation for the end when we know the prince or princess and his or her counterparts will finally be together and “live happily ever after.”

I think it’s something so deeply ingrained, so deeply rooted that there’s no getting it out of our system, even across different cultures. And I think we’re actually missing the point on why we like stories about a man rescuing a woman.

Why do I think that?

The Real Rescue

Well, I think it’s an ingrained depiction of Christ rescuing the His bride, the Church. As those of us familiar with Christianity know, throughout scripture, the Church, God’s people, is referred to in the feminine and He is referred to in the masculine. We, the Church, are referred to as the bride, and Christ as the Bridegroom.

As you get into the nitty-gritty of scripture, you find how truly awful the Israelites (and mankind) are toward the Lord and that, even so, He is always ready to swoop in and rescue them when they finally realize their need for Him, mixing “the miraculous with the natural, the near with the far, and the ordinary with the incomprehensible.”

And I think this prince-rescuing-princess romance is a reflection of that.

I’m not saying that women need men to save them. And I’m most definitely not saying women are all horrible toward their male counterparts.

What I am saying is that it seems as though the gospel somehow appears in verbal folktales. How amazing is that?