Up until Monday I had felt like I was ready for Christmas and was looking forward to having a few days off of the normal job responsibilities to celebrate the season with friends. I had planned on using the mid-week to complete several year-end appeals (as a small nonprofit, it’s simply a necessary part of this time of year) and finish wrapping presents.
Then the weather happened and necessary administrative work was replaced with essential tasks to care for our herd.
We knew the forecasts looked startling:
A low of -1 and wind chill predicted of -25 is something our area of Middle Tennessee has not seen, not something I’ve experienced since moving here in 2002, and certainly not something I’ve had to weather while being responsible for a herd of horses.
The thoughts of “the weather forecast is always wrong” were thankfully overshadowed by my sense of responsibility as I spent two days preparing with some of our incredible volunteers and staff:
-Extra loads of quality hay - check
-Blankets all in great repair with backups that we likely won’t need - check
-Every fillable container, bucket, and trough filled to the brim in case water lines freeze - check
-Trough heaters working - check
-Rearrange pastures so each horse can get under solid shelter and not be bullied out into the freezing rain by others - check
The full two day preparations were complete and we were ready.
Thursday and 50 degrees all day.
By 8pm dropped the temp to 20 degrees - the horses were unhappy about the wind and rain, but content.
11pm was a bitter 10 degrees with strong winds - waterproofing went out on one of the old sheets, three were shivering requiring extra layers, and the power to one of the trough heaters went out. The ground flash froze and was a sheet of ice. Our donkey slipped and fell (but was thankfully ok).
… and by 5am Friday morning the windchill was -23, and a temperature of -4 degrees. Despite 3 layers on our two older geldings, they were still shivering, two of our healthy horses required an extra layer of warmth in addition to their medium weight blankets. 6” mud balls of ice had formed on a few of our shod horses’ feet despite efforts to prevent it, three of our four troughs had frozen over despite heaters, and the morning’s feed had frozen into bricks the shape of their feed buckets.
The day yesterday was spent warming horses (poor Remi and Joseph each resemble the kid in “A Christmas Story” requiring 4 layers each to keep from shivering), boiling water and carefully chipping away mud ice balls from hooves, melting feed with a propane heater, breaking thick ice off of troughs every 2 hours, and trying to convince our two rambunctious extroverted horses that running down hills of frozen mud is not a good idea. By night check around 11pm everyone seemed to settle into the temporary “new normal” and was content munching on an endless supply of hay.
Despite all the preparation and taking necessary and several excessive precautions, we just couldn’t have prepared for a few of the things that happened when northern arctic temperatures wreck havoc on a southern state.
An incredible team of volunteers banded together today, on Christmas Eve morning, to once again go through the herd and ensure everyone had everything they needed.
Despite the continued bitter cold weather, a hush of peace had replaced the chaos of the prior day and the horses took their time savoring their meals with heated water that each volunteer brought from their home. The power going out and frozen pipes prevented any ability to have running water the Ranch.
In a few hours, all chores were complete, hugs and "Merry Christmas' " were exchanged, and all headed home to go about their usual festivities.
As I finally sit for a moment and exhale for what feels like the first time since Tuesday I find myself reflecting on the chaos of the week. I certainly didn’t get any of the calls completed or emails done that were needed for year-end donation appeals, and I feel a little bit of grief in feeling like I’ve missed Christmas and that the excitement of the holiday was replaced with frantic efforts to simply do what needed to be done to care for a herd of 11 horses. The idea I had scripted in my head of what it was supposed to look like is certainly a stark contrast to what is.
Maybe you feel a little bit of the same this season.
While it may not be dealing with the physical task of helping a herd of horses make it through an arctic blast, what circumstances in your life are impending, right in the middle of, or have just passed that cause the need for you to experience the hush of peace?
What “temporary new normal” are you having to adapt to and pursue through? What did you make all the right preparations for, yet still experienced what felt like failure?
When you finally get to sit for a moment, what are the emotions and thoughts that surface?
I want to remind you that Jesus is in the midst of all of it.
The storm. The chaos. The anticipated challenge. The unexpected obstacle. The grief of the missed opportunity. The lost dream of what was expected. He is in the midst of it all and HE is peace.
“...And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
(Isaiah 9:6 NLT)
My prayer is that sometime over these next 24 hours, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, that you would experience the Prince of Peace. Whether you’re staring at the incoming storm, finally through it, or right in the middle of it.
He is with you.
Peace, friend. And Merry Christmas.
Founder and Executive Director