I grew up on a cattle ranch in Eastern Oregon with my parents and older sister. We moved there when I was just three-years-old and soon I had my first pony and learned to drive the truck to feed cows in the winter. Dad would set a big, heavy toolbox up on the seat in the old truck so I could see over the dash to steer and he would direct me where to go from the back as he threw hay off for the cows. I never even thought it was weird that you’d let a 3-year-old drive. It’s just what we did. Some of my favorite things to do were helping Dad irrigate, move cows, or work in the shop.
We didn’t have a brother but my dad was always bragging on my sister and I, telling everyone what good little helpers we were and that he wouldn’t trade us for “a whole pack of boys!” We always knew we were dearly loved and that he was proud of us. My parents were incredible encouragers. I never once thought, “I can’t do that,” because they always made me feel like I could do anything if I just put my mind to it. That is one of my most treasured memories of childhood.
Soon I outgrew my pony and moved up to riding and training the big horses. When I was 6, I rode in my first two day long colt-starting-clinic and learned how to start our 3-year-old colt. From then on, I was hooked. I loved seeing animals learn to do new things. I loved learning how to give the proper cues to train them and teaching other people how to get the same results too! Whenever my sister was having trouble with her horse (we called him “Cheese-man” at the time since everything we ever owned had at least 14 different nicknames), I’d get on and ride him a little bit for her so he’d behave.
Overall, I had a pretty idyllic childhood. My teen years went pretty smooth too. My family spent time split between living on the ranch some of the year and attending a Christian school in Southern California for part of every school year while we lived in a camp trailer in some friends’ backyard. I made many lifelong friends in California and grew socially and spiritually while involved in the fantastic youth group. I got to play cello in the large church orchestra and participate in competitive team sports throughout high school while also showing horses, cattle, rabbits, and dogs along with various other 4-H projects back in Oregon during the summers.
After graduation from high school, I attended a Christian Bible college for two years majoring in secondary education. In the summer of 2006, my sister had a beautiful June wedding out in the apple orchard at the ranch. Little did she or anyone else know, that would be the last day she would see and talk to our Dad. Just two days later, my dad and I were riding on our four-wheeler headed down to work with some horses, when he fell off and suffered a massive head injury.
For the next nine days, I sat next to a hospital bed in critical care begging God to spare my daddy’s life as he lay motionless in a coma, hooked up to a ventilator. Yet, long before I ever thought I would lose a parent, it was time for my daddy to go to Heaven. He passed away on July 5th, the day after his favorite holiday. He was only 49 and I was 19.
Suddenly, not only had my sister and best friend married and moved across the country to Florida, but now I had lost my dad, my rock who had always been there and always believed in me. We went from a family of four to a family of two in just two weeks. My mom and I struggled to keep the ranch going and keep ourselves from falling apart.
I stayed home from college that fall to be with my mom and also because I had decided to go to nursing school while watching all the nurses working on my dad over the course of his hospitalization. Mom and I threw ourselves into a whirlwind of traveling to see my sister every few weeks and pretty much kept as busy as we possibly could to cover up the hole of where Dad had been.
At nineteen, I had no idea how to cope with the grief. I felt lost. I did the only thing I knew how to do. I relied on the strength of will that Dad and Mom had given me, and refused to ask myself “why” or “what if.” Looking back (since I am now in counseling and beginning to work through the trauma of my experience), I realize that I should never have shut down like I did, but that’s what you do when you’re grieving. You figure out what works to ease the pain and you do that. For years, I lived in “gray” emotionally, unable to feel the pain, but also shutting out the joy of life too. I feel now as if I am slowly learning that the grief won’t bury me if I allow myself to revisit it. I can feel without being swallowed up in misery. It is a slow process, but a journey I am willing to take.
College and Beyond
I decided, after taking a year off from school after my dad’s accident, to attend a Christian university closer to home that offered a four-year nursing program. During the spring of my freshman year, the most handsomest guy I’d ever seen began attending my church occasionally on Sunday nights. For weeks, I hoped he’d be there every Sunday, just so I could eye him across the room, but never once did I introduce myself or say hello. Finally, on April 20th, my mom marched over and struck up a conversation with him because that’s what funny, adventurous, outgoing moms do for their daughters. I quickly followed!
He and I instantly became friends. From the day we met, we rarely went a day without seeing each other. We went shooting, fishing, and hiking together. Most evenings, I could be found hanging out at his parents’ house experiencing life with him and his family. We talked…and talked, and talked, and talked some more. Three months after we met, we were engaged! We married in November, right before my Thanksgiving break from nursing school so I could have a few days off from school for our honeymoon.
I graduated with my BSN in 2011 and got a job that summer working nights on a cardiac floor in a large hospital. Around the same time I started work, I also found out I was pregnant with our first little baby! I quit my job just seven days before LB made his early arrival which you can read about here.
Since LB was born, I have been a stay-at-home mom, but still keep my nursing license up to date. I am truly thankful to have my nursing background. It gives me the opportunity to unravel and explain medical situations to family and friends as well as care for my own family with confidence.
We added little brother, Wywy, to the family in the fall of 2013 and it has been one adventure after another since then. We’ve started a business, moved, remodeled two houses (story about those coming someday), and added seven animals to our previous pet collection of just two dogs.
My life story is continuing to evolve and I am looking forward to what God brings in the future. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write and share ideas here on this blog and I want to thank you for coming along for the ride.
In closing, I wanted to share with you my life’s verse. Since I was 12-years-old, it has always been 2 Corinthians 12:9:
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Though I often feel very weak, I choose to trust in the abundant grace of God to give strength when alone, I would fail.
May His grace be real to you today as you continue your own journey of life.