A few years ago I read an excellent book called Hope Rising. It is about a woman who has been using rescued horses to help abused and emotionally damaged children. She has had some amazing results with both horses and kids and witnessed some extraordinary moments between horse and child.
There is one story that affected me more than any of the others and it comes from the first chapter. This story is about a little boy named Adam. Adam had been so traumatized by events in his life, that he would not even look anyone in the eye. He would always look at the ground, even when being spoken to in a kind and loving way. Adam had been brought to Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch by his case worker with the hopes of being able to pet the muzzle of a horse.
What he got was so much more.
Kim Meeder, the owner of the ranch met Adam and his case worker and began to talk to him. He became so excited when she asked him if he wanted to ride a horse. She had a little pony, Hobbs, just for him to ride. When the horse was saddled and ready to ride, Kim stepped back to watch. Here is how she describes what happened next;
” Adam stood quietly for a moment, as if taking in all that he had just learned. And suddenly, Hobbs did something I have never seen any horse do before or since. As the child stood by the pony’s shoulder Hobbs reached around with his head and neck and pressed Adam into his body. The pony held him so tightly in the curve of his neck that he could not raise his arms.
“For long moments the pony stayed that way, encircling Adam’s tiny body with his neck. He couldn’t move anything except his eyes. They rolled back to look at me. I could clearly see that Adam was afraid.
“What was Hobbs doing? I could think of only one thing to say. The words all came out in a rush. “Oh, my gosh! I think that this pony is giving you a hug!”
Adam’s huge, startled eyes moved in pinball fashion as he tried to process what was happening.
“I have never seen him do that to anyone else,” I added. “You must be very special.”
Adam’s face began to relax with my reassurance. He appeared to accept what I’d said. Slowly he wriggled his right arm out and began to hug the pony back. For a brief moment, this battered child was allowed to be nothing more than a little boy who was loved by a pony.”
Why is this story so important? Because it helped me to begin to see things differently with my own daughter. Most of the kids in the book had experienced a lot of trauma and were unable to talk about it. Some of the kids uttered their first words when on or near a horse. Horses are amazing creatures. They have a built-in sense about children.
My daughter has also experienced much trauma in her short life. She was abandoned by her parents. She was “abandoned” by the care giver that loved her and took care of her for the first 26 months when she was handed to me in a hotel room in China. With that single event, her life changed forever from what she knew. She has had to learn a new language, new culture and a new family. She has had a very hard time putting words to her thoughts, feelings and requests.
What I began to learn from reading Hope RIsing was to look at things from a different perspective and learn to love in a way that speaks love to her. The way I love her looks different from my biological children, partly because of her special needs and partly because the things that I did to train and discipline my other children can cause more damage with her. She does not respond in the same way the others did. I am learning that I need to be quicker to listen and slower to speak. This is harder than it seems when my adult brain wants to kick in with its all-knowing answers (which in her case generally are not always correct).
Learning to love her has been one of the hardest challenges in my life because she doesn’t respond the way I would like her to. But I am not called to love her because it is easy, but because God first loved me. He has loved me even when I have been difficult and hard to love. My daughter is not always easy to love, but when I step out in faith, the results are amazing. God has shown me that she can respond and respond in ways that are amazing.
When I heard her most recent diagnosis, it was devastating. I was at a loss as to how to help her, how to love her. I lost hope for her and her future. The diagnosis seemed like a death-blow – at first. Just recently I heard a story of another mom who was close to losing her grown son to a life threatening illness. There was a change in her son’s doctor which ended up saving his life. The mom’s concluding challenge, “Change can be good. Never Give Up! NEVER Give Up!”
This lead me back to thinking about horses, my daughter, changes we had already made and my hope began to return.
Hope should not be built on the circumstances that I find myself in, but on solid truth. The truth is that God created my youngest daughter with all of her needs which includes her special needs. She is fearfully and wonderfully made. He knit her together in the womb in a way that reflects who He is. He has ordained each and every one of her days – even her abandonment was planned by God to be used for her good and God’s glory. He preserved and protected her life, even in her fragile condition until the day she was able to join our family.
For her, progress is measured in small baby steps. For each step we take forward there are 2-3 steps backward and this past week was a backward stepping week for us. These weeks are hard, but God has given me a glimpse of what the future can hold – if I hold on to my hope in Him.
Hope is Rising again!