Faith Over Fear

She looked at the Bev Doolittle print above her bed in the darkened exam room of the doctor’s office. “The Forest Has Eyes”. What a strange picture to hang above an ultrasound table in a women’s care facility. She lay there, listening to the beep of the machine, counting the Native faces in the print. Thirteen. Not her favorite or lucky number. Not her day. Not her month. And it didn’t feel like her life. This appointment made the fourth in a row this last month. Measurements. Labs. Bloodwork. And biopsies. And consults. And surgeries she wasn’t planning on having. Here she was in a paper hospital gown waiting on a doctor to tell her the next move. To dictate a path. To rein her in a direction she didn’t want to go, but must.

She lay there thinking about her life. Her hand went to her left breast where they biopsied. She’d already known about elevated CA125 levels and the pain that brought her to the doctor for a visit, but she wasn’t really prepared for a double whammy. The possibility of both ovarian and breast cancer. Nothing was confirmed yet, and perhaps that was truly the hardest part; the what ifs and maybes and unknowns. She clung to the positives in the doctor’s words: “early stage”, “if”, “there’s a chance it’s something else” and pushed out the words cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation.

She thought it ironic that it had taken her all 43 years of her life to learn to suddenly appreciate her imperfect body, and the depth of that emotion was unfathomable. This body that had been sexually abused as a child. The body that was teased and made fun of as an adolescent by young men and some girls. The body that endured hitting the ground off of cold backed horses on an even colder morning. The body that bore her two children. The body she unwillingly and willingly had given to men. The body that had seen weight gain and loss and stretch marks and bruises and breaks- that body was now possibly facing disease. And now she was willing to accept it?

She pinched back tears. Why had it taken this moment to see she was more than this earthly body encasing her soul and her light? She was more than sex, more than babies, more than breasts and more than a preconceived notion she, or anyone else had of her, in a less than perfect picture. She sat up, hugging her knees and folding her head. She leaned into the tiny mustard seed of faith planted that morning in her heart via a passage she’d read in her Bible. She repeated it over and over and over… “ She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25.

So I will… I will laugh without fear of the future. Because I serve a big God. But if it’s a path I must walk, I will do so with grace and grit, strength and love, regardless of a diagnosis. I’ve warred with sharing something so personal here, but I hope that I am used as an example to others that may struggle with self love and worth, the ones with hard stories to tell, the ones watching from behind a corner wondering if they’re alone. I don’t want pity or sympathy or attention. More so, what I want is that we learn we’re worth so much more than a shallow society’s thought. Be clothed in strength and dignity, and be a vessel of good.

I’ve said it before… one roll of the dice. That’s what we get. So when it’s your turn, ride the horses, watch the sunsets, love your family, forgive the wrong, and be what the man upstairs put you on this earth to be; a fearless, faithful and flawed human of His work.

{Bloom}

If I wrote a list of all the things I’ve learned the hard way, I’d be here all night rambling on about a whole lot that doesn’t matter to most people.

I’m a very reflective person when it comes to my actions, and unfortunately, I’m a doer before a thinker sometimes. But I’m also an over-thinker prior to making big decisions.

There is a vulnerability that’s raw and scary when being reflective and writing things to share on a social platform. And it should be said that sometimes I share for me, and sometimes I share for the voiceless that can’t find the words. Writing, for me, has become sort of like peeling away a layer at a time when I feel safe enough to. And that opens one up to mockery, to hate, to frustration, and to wanting to erase every last memory and word in my head, on paper and in my heart.

But I also preach a lot about being true and authentic, which has become such an overused word anymore. In order to stay true to the path of growth, erasing isn’t an option. So, I pick up the pen and write another word, another sentence, and pump life into these thoughts inside my head with hopes that my experiences maybe help another find their struggling voice.

The thing we all have to remember about social media is that it usually is just a glimpse into a glamorous moment of a normally mundane life. We aren’t all followed around by fancy cameras posing on mountain tops, or riding horses through big country, traveling exotic places, or glamorizing our lives for others to see in a small square. Life is meant to be lived better than that, and I believe, more locally. Bloom where you are planted.

Quit looking over fences at what appear to be greener grasses. Wait on your roots to catch up with your wings right where you are at. Weed your own garden, and your flowers will grow💙And that is something that I’ve learned the hard way…

{Everlasting Nancy}

The definition of “ageless beauty” is: adjective. not aging or appearing to age. lasting forever; eternal; undying: the ageless beauty of Greek sculpture.

I met a woman day before last that gave life to this rambling, this passing thought of mine, that I choose to share with women out there that may struggle with similar feelings about aging, or coming to terms with their own self worth. And before I get too long winded, I want to thank Nancy for this minuscule, pivotal window that she passed through my life leaving me with a strong impression on self acceptance.

She wore two long, gray braids, tied with leather thongs, and her hair parted evenly down the middle. What once appeared to be dark, brown hair, now showed blue roan tones of every hue of silver streaking. She wore a dirty, silverbelly Stetson crooked slightly sideways, faded, creased Levi button fly 501’s, a man’s ivory, pearl snap shirt tucked with an embroidered cross on the pocket. She was a breast cancer survivor evident of only having one left. Her pant legs tucked deep in her Olathe boots with stovepipe tops and steep, under slung heels. A hand-tooled, herman oak leather belt with an acorn pattern cinched her middle and was finished with an old silver buckle with very worn edges and Navajo turquoise inlay that scripted her name, Nancy.

Her quintessential cowgirl look was finished by her tanned and heavily lined face, and lithe, wiry body showing years of hard labor. I suspected her to be in her mid eighties. She had one thumb hooked in her pocket, while her other hand made gestures as she told a story of a young horse she was riding the rough off of that morning before she headed out to bale the rest of her hay left rowed in the field. Her knuckles were gnarled with short clipped nails, and her hands veiny.

But she was timelessly beautiful, and not in the false way that you so often see anymore; not your Hollywood glamorous bombshell. Nancy had never seen eyelash extensions, plastic surgery, Botox, and quite possibly never even a manicure or hair dye. I’d never met her before, but I’ve seen a few old cowgirls like her, and the one thing that struck me about each one was their peace of mind. Their life that had been so thoroughly and beautifully lived shown in every wrinkle and furrow on their face. Happiness, peace, heartache, and love. It was all there for the world to see; not one, not-so-glamorous ounce of it covered by makeup. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about women like Nancy is the grace with which they accept life as it comes, and not looking for ways to alter or hide themselves. The serenity that flows from within shows with such enveloping magnitude and confidence.

Nancy is everything I’d love to be remembered for in this life. Not what hairstyle I have, not the latest fashion trend, or coolest social media post, but rather a very real, authentic human being that had seen enough hardship to know back breaking work, enough loss to know to not take anything for granted, enough days in the sun to give way to facial character, enough courage to ride rank horses that make you appreciate the old reliables, and enough love to keep you from being jaded. I don’t want to conform to this thinking that I’m not enough just as I am, no matter my age or look or personality.

It’s clear that Nancy lives life on her terms, that no worldly views or man’s opinion mean diddly squat to her. She lives locally, works hard, and is content in that, and her faith, at the end of the day. She rests well at night and wakes with purpose each morning.

I don’t need, nor do I want, the world’s opinion or approval. I want to live so authentically true and honest, so that whether I die today, or fifty plus years from now, I left the world on my terms, happy, worn out, honestly and everlastingly beautiful. I know I’ve done damage to some, uplifted others, been both a blessing and a curse, but as life goes on, I want to make a wholesome effort to move forward in peace and forgiveness. In a place chalked full with fake and falsehoods, I want to be an everlasting Nancy, living life unapologetically, graciously and resplendently.

To My Son

It seems that only a short time ago, you were the small boy curled up in my lap in the middle of the night because you couldn’t sleep; that you were that little boy tailing along with me on trail rides at the ranch talking with guests about the wildflowers; that you were packing alongside your Uncle Ralph in the mountains, following your dad anywhere on a snowmobile, pestering your sister and helping your grandma in the kitchen at the lodge.

Now, here you are, a grown young man getting ready to graduate high school. I can hardly believe how quickly the time has passed, Jace Tyler. I felt like now was a good time for a letter addressed just to you; one to hold onto and keep; one to read for years to come so you can reflect back and know that I want all the best for you in this life. So, here it goes…

To My One & Only Son-

Life will be coming pretty hard at you these next few years. People will be expecting big things of you, big decisions, and bigger leaps of faith. All I can say to you is that you have what it takes inside you to be one amazing man- you’ve always had these qualities, and now is the time to put those qualities to use.

Life is one crazy ride, son- sorta like saddling up one of them broncs you like to watch. Sometimes it will be smooth, fluid, and rhythmic, and other times you will see a whole lotta daylight between your ass and the saddle. But when the going gets tough, the tougher get going, and I know you will always dig deep.

If I could give you any advice in this life, I would tell you to stay soft and kind- stay open minded, but strong willed. I would say, don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, but learn from them. Save your hard earned money for the bigger picture that the man upstairs has in store for you down the road. Always check your oil in your truck. Take time out from hard work, and listen to the stories your grandpas share and advice they give. Hunt and fish with your dad- cultivate the good in your relationships. Be a true friend- to your sister and those deserving of your time. Lend a hand up now and again, and know that sometimes it’s worth contributing to the greater good. Call your grandmas, buy a special girl flowers, hold out for a true and good love, and know there is nothing stronger than mine for you.

Ride new trails, and soak up every mile. Ride those horses, and be the cowboy you want to be, and do it with the heart of a strong, yet gentle man. Have patience with them, your dog, people, and most importantly, yourself. You’re not perfect, and you’re not meant to be. Know your words before you spit them out, and understand that not everyone will always get you, but speak your mind tactfully and straightforward. Don’t leave someone wondering what side of the fence you’re on. Work hard; not for the money, but for yourself, and know what it means to be a “good tired” at the end of the day.

My son, I know you’re made or great things. You’ve already shown that you are, and I couldn’t be prouder of the man you’re becoming. Stay humble and kind; earn respect through your actions and be a man of your word, always.

I will always love you for the boy you were and the man you are becoming, and I am with you every step of the way in this life. My love knows no bounds. Go get this one life you have- embrace the traditions and values you were raised on, and blaze your own trail proudly and boldly. You’ve got what it takes- so sink spur and ride, kid! I love you and am proud of you.

Love,

Mom

{Cowboy} Girl

She stares at her reflection, thinking how the time has passed, remembering days of long ago when she was but a lass.

A young thing, sitting tall in the saddle next to dad, listening to him spin his stories about the life he once had.

He taught her about ponies and trails and wildflowers in bloom, and talked to her sternly about avoiding boys and such doom.

Gathering the big herd, & loping across meadows of green, on matched black & white paints, she was just sweet sixteen.

She rode straight and true, right beside her old dad, all the while he thought, “that girl sure is a hand”.

He knew life would one day call her away to raise babies and a family with love, but in this moment, she was still his little dove.

Love did call, so she made a life of her own, raising babies and gardens and she watched her pony grow old.

She rode now and again, when she could find the time, between dishes and laundry and working full time.

She taught her kids to ride, just as her daddy had done, and told them stories of the buckles their Papa had won.

Life changed her from a horse crazy young girl to a woman with little time, and she felt she lost her edge; she had no rhythm or rhyme.

But deep down inside of her, that young cowgirl lived on, and she remembered who she was, and those days weren’t so long gone.

She pulled on her boots, braided her back from her face, while walking to the corral at a hastened pace.

The old paint nickered as she threw the saddle on. She tightened the leather and gave it a tug, grabbed a hunk of mane and swung right on.

Back in the saddle, she came to life. Air filled her lungs and the sun beamed on her face, letting the sound of hooves drum out the strife.

And she remembered her dad’s words while a tear trickled down her face : you’re the best cowboy girl that I’ve ever known, and you do it all with such grace.

Don’t ever forget who you are or where you come from. You’re made of mountains big and true, and may you always have a field of horses to bring out the cowboy girl in you.

{Storm}

She came to when the rain hit her face. The loud thunder cracked above jolting her back to life. She could taste blood and her tongue went to the chipped corner of front tooth. She coughed and sucked for air. She caught movement from the corner of the barnyard where that damn buckskin stood sprawled and wide eyed with one side of the bristly horse hair mecate swinging. Bastard. She cussed the horse and cussed herself more. She’d hit the ground hard.

And somewhere in the echo of the alley of the old barn, she felt the presence of her grandad, long since passed, swore she could see him lighting his roll your own, one leg crossed over the other, and saying to her, “You’re gonna ruin a good horse getting off that way.” She missed that old Pops of hers.

The rain started coming down with more force. She pulled herself to her knees, sucked another breath of air back into her burning lungs, and wiped the mud and dirt from hands, backside and face.

She watched lighting light up the dark clouds. Timing in life felt a little off and out of sorts lately. She reached a quiet hand out to the snorty colt, talked quietly and reassuringly to him, spun his head around to her knee, gathered the rein and a hunk of black mane, and swung back on. She eased him back out to go gather the rest of the herd spread across the green bunch grass meadow.

Life served her best this way… uncertain, edgy, a little bloody, a little broken, and tough. And she didn’t want to change one damn thing about it. So, she nudged the buckskin on into an easy lope while the rain showered down and the storm raged above.

Her fingertips traced the crystal decanter set neatly on the mirrored settee and stopped atop the glass knob and pulled the top off gently. She noted the black dirt underneath her nails and overturned her palms and took in the filth between the lines and callouses. She glanced at her favored turquoise and silver band- the one her grandmother found in the little stream high in the mountains of their hunting camp. Her gran would’ve said, “those aren’t a lady’s hands”.

She reached for a bucket glass and poured a shot of rye, lifted it to her eyes and swirled it around mesmerized by the amber colors colliding against each other inside. She put the whiskey to her lips and shot it back with vigor, letting the burn reach her empty belly. She sighed, poured another, and held it close to her denim shirt clad breast, and peered over the rim at the giant rock fireplace in front of her.

She picked out her granddaddy’s brand placement in the rocks above the cedar mantle. She read the formation aloud, “H Bar R”. The fire flickered and she watched the flame lick the charred logs. For an instant, it lit her grey green eyes against the dark wood paneled room, caught the silver conch hair tie at the end of her long dark braid.

The giant room started to warm against the onset of winter breaching its way across the sierra slope behind her. The wind rattled the shutter slightly, bringing her attention back to the present.

Tomorrow’s gather would be the first without her granddad by her side. She ached at the thought of his absence; at the thought of looking over expecting to see him swinging his old, hand braided reata at a straying filly and longing to hear him bark a gruff order her way. Nothing would feel quite the same when she swung in the saddle the next morning peering out over the herd of wily, young mustangs readying to be shipped to new homes. Loneliness was setting in, threatening to take hold of her heart strings. She choked back the lump forming in her throat and the wetness forming against her burning eyes. She shot back another round of whiskey, and set the glass down harshly and walked upstairs to her room where a sleepless night await her.

When the {Bones} are Good

I pulled in the drive this afternoon, feeling frustrated with the day, and thoughts heavy on my mind and heart. It’s difficult to work at something and see no physical result, no monetary reward for your efforts, and have it result in a void of emotional fulfillment.

Do you ever question your path? Choices? Do you question your why? Do you question how you got just where you are? I do and am, and it’s one of the worst cycles I get into. I think we all want to matter, and I want to make a difference. I’m tired of closed doors and ‘no thank yous’ and ‘not for mes’. I want to remain true to my cowboy boot wearing, ball cap sporting self and still push myself. I don’t want to wear office clothes and drive to the big city everyday, stare at computers, answer endless emails, and talk on a phone that weighs a hundred pounds. We all want to pursuit passions and have it reward us in all the right ways, but is there such thing when the “bones of your soul” aren’t good?

When I start feeling this way, I default to feeling like I’m failing. I see uncomfortable and similar patterns. I want to run away. I lack patience, and I want to throw in the towel. I want there to be reward for my effort and know that I’m not throwing that effort after foolishness for something that might never be. I want to go back to what was, my comfort zones, and my safe places and familiar faces. The problem, for me, is in the waiting, the patience, and the lack of faith.

I don’t have a cure for these overwhelming feelings other than to gut it out and get through the moment. I don’t know how not to let tears of frustration well up, and I don’t know how to fight back the lump in my throat. I don’t know how to overcome the palpable silence in the big, empty room.

So, I pick up my camera and go for a walk. I walk and think and wipe away tears. Today, I walked until I crested the ridge and found myself smack dab in the middle of a bunch of feral horses. I sat down in the sage, breathed deep, and pulled my camera up, and snapped picture after picture.

I thought about the “bones” of my foundation, and I realized it will never matter what job I work if I don’t get right with myself, if I don’t continue to try, if I don’t find ways to cure the restlessness, if I don’t learn to trust the process, and in turn, trust myself and the path the good Lord has put me on.

So, in the meantime, I do familiar things that act as a salve to a rough day. I pet the happy puppy faces that greet me at the door. I catch my wily and fat ponies, nuzzle them, brush out the gnarled manes and tails, enjoy the cool fall air on my face, crack a beer, crank the tunes, and strengthen the bones of my foundation. I get back to being the old me for five minutes.

Tomorrow is another day to try again, and all it takes is one foot in front of the other. When the bones of your soul are good, the rest won’t matter, and the best will come. I want to be ready when it does.

Happy Trails~

Heather

A Life By Design

What would it mean to you to create a life by design and not a life by default?  Maybe some of you have, but I am betting the majority of us are the latter of the two scenarios.  What does it mean to live on purpose, live with intention, or live to commit to goals and not just to create them?

These last few weeks, I’ve been attending a weekly coaching class talking about such topics, giving me tools to implement in my real estate career, and  to create a life by design and not just default.  To say that it has opened my eyes is such an understatement.  I’ve learned about the impact of my mindset, the way my heart and head communicate and have become ardently aware of wasted time and my own nonsense.

I can’t tell you exactly what brought me to choose real estate as a career at 42, other than I hoped to make some money; but I’ve had to dig deeper than that. I’ve had to really find my “why”. My “why” is my family, my loved ones, and wanting to give back to something bigger than me.  That particular thought alone caused a ton of reflection.  Suddenly, it’s like I feel the blood of my ancestors pulsing through my veins, and I think of my family ranching roots.

It wasn’t easy leaving the ranch a year ago.  I never saw myself doing anything but riding down mountain trails on my horse hosting people, walking side by side my folks as they grow older, and working with extended family and keeping family traditions alive.  But there is one thing I felt was lacking and have always known I wanted, and that was to live with purpose on purpose.  I wanted what I did to be transcendental, reaching past just my own selfish wants and needs; I wanted it to last for the sole purpose of leaving this world a little something good.

I was so fortunate growing up on the ranch in Montana; fortunate beyond measure.  I don’t mean in monetary terms, but more so in what really matters- the matters of the heart.  I’ve seen more mountain splendor than most will see in a lifetime atop the best horses God ever made. I’ve watched my grandparents dance at their 50th anniversary like two young school kids still madly in love until the day they passed. I’ve seen the sunlit wheat fields in central Montana aglow with the prettiest sunset built in orange and pink hues that stopped me in my tracks.  I’ve watched a cutthroat trout rise to a fly cast with art from the skilled hands of my uncle.  I’ve witnessed the bugle of the bull elk, and rattled in a whitetail buck for harvest. I’ve heard my daughter’s beautiful voice sing its song to a crowd that listened intently and with awe as her words floated on a summer night’s breeze.  I’ve seen my son learn to hunt, fish and trap and develop a deep love and respect for the outdoors.  I’ve shared days in the saddle with tough cowboys while we worked a herd as they willingly shared their knowledge. I’ve watched my mom turn a fresh colt into a steady steed.  I’ve seen my dad’s hands labor and mechanic on intricate motors and turn the pages of a worn Bible to share scripture. I’ve seen wild horses run through the sage, smelled the desert after a rain, and have known the tremendous love and respect of a good man.

Tangible moments. Heart moments.  Intimate transmission of memories from heart to head and back to heart all for the purpose of creating a life by design, not by default.  His design.

Real estate may not have been a choice I saw coming, but this last month has given me more purpose than perhaps I’ve ever felt, all while not yet making a dime. I thought I wasn’t living with purpose if I wasn’t witnessing and doing all the previously mentioned things, but I now see that it doesn’t matter what profession I’m in, but the purpose in which I’m living, and knowing my big “why”.

I refuse to be distracted by comparison.  I want to be captivated by the purpose.  So, learn to appreciate where you are in your journey, even if it’s not exactly where you want to be.  Whatever you do, do with your whole heart, whether that is a 9-5er, a fireman, a writer, a mill worker, a waitress, a coach, teacher, doctor, or a cowgirl.  There truly is a reason to every one of your seasons under the sun.  Appreciate it. Relish in it. Do it. And grow with it.

Happy Trails~

Heather

 

 

 

Last Call for the {Blues}

She looked around one last time at the now barren four walls she’d called home for the last nineteen years feeling nothing. Ironically, she’d pictured this moment in her mind a million times over the course of the last year, secretly picturing her things and herself gone; had felt the giant lump welling in her throat that had threatened to choke her down so many times before. The off white walls held casted shadows where pictures once hung, nail holes showing, dust settled on window sills, and his favorite worn leather recliner now sat alone in the corner next to a small table with a empty glass stained with bourbon from the night before.

She pulled her ball cap on over her unwashed, braided, dark hair, slid her aviators over her swollen and dry eyes, bent to pick up her last bag on the floor, slid the hand written letter to him on the entry table next to the house key, and turned and walked out the door, gravel crunching under her hastened stride. She felt like running, wanting to make this moment speed by. She wasn’t uncertain of this choice, but the guilt of the moment threatened her soft heart with indecision. She knew if she could make it to her old Ford, where her border collie anxiously awaited her in the front seat, she’d be in the clear. She could get in, put the truck in drive and leave everything behind her.

She checked her horses in the little two horse trailer, securing the door latch, took one last look at the tires, and set herself behind the wheel and fired up the ’76. Her pup looked over at her with questioning eyes, and settled down resting his head on her thigh. She lit a cigarette, put the truck in gear, and pulled out of the drive.

Her mind mulled over the memories that lead her to this point; the breaking. She found herself empty hearted and her soul longing to live in color again. She’d soul searched, paid a therapist, rode miles on horses, taken solo vacations, journaled, begged and pleaded with her heart and mind to fall back in love just one more time with him, but there was too much water under the half burned bridge. And life wasn’t waiting around, and neither was she. She wanted to steal some freedom while there was still a chance. She wanted to take the whole world in.

Because behind all the blue she’d been feeling lately, there was still a fire and light that burned inside of her. She didn’t want the emptiness she felt to skew her point of view any longer. She looked through the cracked windshield, seeing a red tailed hawk glide effortlessly on the breeze overhead. Signs. She believed in them. She knew one day there would be solace again. She took a deep breath, gripped the wheel tight and let her feelings go with that hawk on the wind.

And she pointed the truck north to Big Sky country.