Written by Hope's mama ~ Briana Mackey
I remember when Hope was 6 years old. Every night, as I tried to tuck her in, she would ask me a series of questions about injuries and illnesses. She wanted to know what would happen if she broke her leg or dislocated a shoulder or had a heart attack like her grandma. I would spend hours talking Hope through each issue, the likelihood of it, and how she would be treated. Every scenario ended with her being okay and that was what she needed to hear.
My sweet girl had become insecure and worried. In her young life, a lot of change had happened that she didn’t choose. There had been a lot of tumult and heartbreak. A child of divorce, Hope felt anxious and vulnerable. Her world had turned upside down, and, the very funny and curious girl who once used to pull pranks and run with reckless abandon into every new environment, had become sullen and worried and withdrawn.
I write these words with guilt and lingering heartbreak. It’s been a dozen years since our little family fell apart, but the pain over what that did to my daughter haunts me still. Thankfully, I also have gratitude for an amazing and gracious God who loves Hope more than I ever could. A God who has a plan for my little girl that is impervious to my mistakes as a parent. Thank God for God.
Part of God’s plan for Hope came through a program called White Horse Youth (WHY) Ranch. The opportunity for Hope to enroll, when she was entering her awkward tween years, came through our little inner-city church, Casa de Luz. Hope applied and tentatively interviewed for a chance to participate in WHY Ranch’s equestrian healing program. She was accepted. The interview panel saw in Hope what I was begging God to heal: A girl who was a bit lost and had surrendered her voice to things in her life she couldn’t control.
(Hope & her mama, Briana at the Ranch)
There’s something about the majesty of horses- of their calm and quiet spirit- that Hope instantly connected with. She wasn’t immediately engaged, however. She had a hard time really feeling confident with the program’s activities because she felt so inadequate in general. The leaders didn’t miss a beat, though. They were consistent and gracious and tender. Hope came to understand that there was a constant force of love at the ranch. That solid foundation was something she had been craving for too many years.
It wasn’t long before Hope was assigned to a horse ~ a creature a little bit broken and withdrawn just like my daughter. In feeling like she was helping take care of the horse, Hope found her confidence. As the two spent time together during grooming and long riding sessions, they both seemed to connect not only with one another, but also with their forgotten joy.
Over the months Hope was part of WHY Ranch, she truly blossomed. She did things she never thought she could, like managing a very large horse and so her confidence grew. She overcame her fears under the guidance of loving leaders. She celebrated her accomplishments and laughed with the other kids. My sweet girl started coming into her own. It made my mama heart turn cartwheels.
In the years since WHY Ranch, Hope has continued to grow into a beautiful, confident, creative and hilarious young woman. She is now about to turn 16 (you can see her in her recent homecoming photo). She is an excellent student and pursuing a career in the arts. She is rich with great friends and a sense of adventure. Instead of keeping us up at night to talk about the “what if” fears in her heart, my daughter talks about the “what if” dreams that have replaced them.
I am grateful for WHY Ranch and the role it has played in my daughter’s life. I saw first-hand the impact the program had on other children as well. It’s a special thing indeed to bring God’s precious children together with one of his most magnificent animal creations under the guidance of loving leaders.
I believe that WHY Ranch helped Hope to heal and to grow....and, thankfully, she has still never broken a bone!
Thank you, WHY Ranch!
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~ Lavish Three ~