The Magic of The Ranch

I took myself for a walk yesterday.  A real walk because I needed one. I try to go at least once a week because my walks, you see, are so much more than just a walk.  They are my church, my sanctuary, my port in the storm. Spending time among the trees is what makes me feel connected to the greater energy of this world.  Spending time in the woods allows me to speak to my faith with a stronger voice than I ever found while seated in a church.

A year ago this month something changed in my life.  I heard a calling to go back in time, back to a place where I received profound healing, a calling to go back to The Ranch.  I first set foot on The Ranch 17 years ago as a member of an Americorps NCCC team. We were stationed there for six weeks to help The Ranch as it built the foundation for what it has become today, a safe haven and a home for abandoned and abused children.   I’m not sure if I discovered it or if my friends did, but I became aware of the fact that The Ranch was hosting its first ever Marathon/Half Marathon/10k race. I knew, without a doubt, that it was time for me to return. So I signed up for the half marathon.  Now, if you knew me, you would find this to be laughable as all of my previous marathons involved Netflix. But a quite and nagging little voice inside of me told me that it was the right thing to do. So I spent the next three months training to hike 13.1 miles through the foothills of Texas.  

Each day I would hike three miles and on my days off from work I would challenge myself to hike farther and farther until I eventually made my way up to 12 miles.  Some of the hikes were hard, most of them were freezing cold, but all of them pushed me closer and closer to becoming a person I was proud to be. I would distract myself from the cold by thinking about my week and how I would improve next week.  I would mentally redesign my failures into opportunities. And some days, I would just get lost in the music or the beat of my feet hitting the ground below me.

I was elated by the time the calendar found its way to April and my trip was a matter of days away.  I became less elated as I boarded the plane and thought, “Holy shit! I HAVE to do this now. I HAVE to complete this half marathon. My only options are to finish it or die on The Ranch!” There was no inbetween for me.  I started to stress and to second guess myself and my ability. After all, I am not exactly the poster child for physical fitness. It’s funny how quickly doubt can creep in and how efficiently it can override all of your other thoughts.  

By the time I set foot on The Ranch I realized how foolish I had been to think that I was in this alone.  Firstly, two of my old teammates and friends were joining me on this adventure. Secondly, I had forgotten that God can be heard more easily in some places than in others, not because He speaks louder, but because we are able to listen more acutely. He can not be ignored on The Ranch.  If you’re not a believer trust me when I say that, even if you don’t call that feeling God, you will still be able to feel that there is still something larger than us at work there. Perhaps that feeling is simply Love; an abundance of Love for children who have received far less than they deserve.  That feeling, that Love, it weaves its way through everything, the trees, the ground, the river, the people. I knew, in a matter of moments, that I was right to listen to the calling that brought me back there.

The hike was far from easy, even though some crazy people actually felt the need to run it.  But, to each their own, I guess. The first few miles were the hardest and the voices started very early on; the ones of doubt and of all of the mean things I say to myself when no one else is listening.  But as soon as those voices started, I felt something strange happen. I heard each of them and realized that I was not going to ignore them this time in the hopes that they would go away. This was my chance to confront those voices head on.  The voices that repeat themselves saying that I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough, anything enough… I realized, for the first time, that those voices were echos of different versions of myself; versions I thought I had left behind on the journey to find someone better.  I gave myself over to the magic of The Ranch and I let all of those versions of myself join me as I put one foot in front of the other.

As the miles passed I could feel something shifting inside of me.  I could do this! I wasn’t going to die out there. (Yes, I have a slight flare for the dramatic.)  With each step I realized that each voice came from a place of fear, anger, or longing. They were remnants of events which stole from me the childhood I could have had, perhaps should have had.  I realized that, while my experiences were nowhere near as extreme as the children who call The Ranch home, that did not diminish my very real feelings of abandonment and loss.

I completed the hike in record time (As in, record for me. As in, it was my first time so of course I was going to set my own personal record.  Just let me have this.)I knew the second I crossed the finish line that The Ranch had done it again; it had healed me. It found all of the broken pieces inside of me and just held them… loved them… gave them space to run. I left The Ranch knowing that I had stumbled across a new beginning.  I had discovered a new way to take care of myself. As soon as I got home I found another half marathon, and then another. I found myself wandering in the woods more often that I ever had in my entire life. But things had changed for me. I no longer go to the woods to try to destroy the voices, now I go to the woods to heal them. I have spent so much of my life running from place to place hoping that I would find the girl I wanted to be.  The Ranch reminded me that I will never find the girl I want to be, I have to create her, and I create her by learning to love all of the girls I’ve been before. If this is what The Ranch can do for me in two visits in almost 20 years, imagine what it can do for the children who call this Ranch home?

In April, I will return to The Ranch for their second Marathon/Half Marathon/10k.  I will go back to help secure a future for The Ranch so that generations of children can experience the love and the healing they so deserve.  If you, too, support this mission please consider following the link below to make a financial contribution. If you are unable to contribute financially but were moved by, or felt connected to, any part of this story please share this page so I can reach as many people as possible. Each click of the mouse is another step closer to the finish line; little by little I will reach my goal.  Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, and thank you for being a part of the magic of The Ranch.


Lent 2014 – 13: There is Beauty to Be Found in Sadness

But there is also sadness to be found in beauty. I attempted to draw a venn diagram to add to my post today, but my computer wouldn’t cooperate. I am confident that you all remember what a venn diagram is though, at least two overlapping circles where they each have their own unique traits, but then share similar traits at the points where they overlap. As I drove from Detroit back home to Cleveland tonight, I couldn’t help but think about the venn diagram that is my life. The one circle is my life in Cleveland and the other circle is my life in Detroit. Both lives are valid and unique and something worth holding onto, but every now and then I wish that I could make the circles overlap just a little bit more.
For as long as I can remember I have always sought out my own adventures. I have never waited around to see if someone would join me because life is too short and I didn’t want to miss out on something just because I had to go alone. And, for as long as I can remember, this mentality has served me well. There are, as I was reminded tonight, some serious drawbacks though. As I drove down the Ohio Turnpike the moon began to make her ascension into the night sky. As first, as I caught a glimpse through passing trucks, I thought I was seeing the top of a building or water tower. But as she continued her climb I was struck by her commanding presence and her beautiful orange hue that could make a sunset jealous. Since I was driving east, it appeared that the moon was rising directly over the turnpike. I found myself mesmerized by the unfiltered beauty of it all. I felt the breath catch in my chest in one of those rare moments when you are so moved by something that you almost want to cry. And then I felt the darkness set in; the darkness that is the inevitable loneliness I feel when I realize that I have no one to share this experience with.
The funny thing though, is that I didn’t just want something to “ooh” and “ahh” with, I wanted to know that I wasn’t the only person seeing this gift. I wanted to know that someone else appreciated all of the beauty that God shares with the world. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone. But… maybe that was His way of telling me that I wasn’t.

Until tomorrow….

Lent 2014 -10: God Used My Lunch as a Tax Deduction

I ran out of my house today to grab some food in between doing laundry, dishes, and trying to get packed up to go visit a friend.  I ran into Subway, because who doesn’t love a freshly made sub for an affordable price, ordered my meal and made my way to the register.  The young lady gave me my total, $7.21, I opened my wallet to pull out my debit card and realized that it was not in there.  I went through those initial moments of panic as my brain struggled to remember when and where I last used my card.  I calmed down relatively quickly when I remembered that I had used it to purchase gas the night before.  So, I now knew where my debit card was, but I was faced with a new problem since I had a sandwich that was made especially for me and I had no way of paying for it. 

In an act of desperation, I started going through my entire wallet in the hopes that I would find some random money that I had forgotten about. In these days of debit and credit cards, cash is something that I almost never have on me.  Also, in the event that someone does steal my wallet one day, I secretly hope that they will do a better job with my credit than I have.  So I looked in each compartment (for my male readers just know that women LOVE compartments and our wallets and purses have plenty of them) and to my amazement I found $7.21!!!

As I handed the cashier my money, a cashier who was not nearly as impressed as I was, I found myself thinking, what are the odds?  What are the odds that I would have the exact amount of money I needed exactly when I needed it?  I realized that that is what faith is, that is what God is, believing that you will have exactly what you need exactly when you need it.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t really think that the Big Guy stepped in on this one and paid for my lunch, but if He did, I’m sure He would write it off as a business expense.  What I am saying is that this entire situation is really just a metaphor for the bigger picture of life.  We never truly go without; it’s just that we have conflicting ideas of what we NEED versus what we WANT.  When we are able to take a step back and truly asses our needs we will see that they are always met. 

I know that there are some of you who will disagree with this and say, well how does that apply to the homeless person or to the person who is drowning in debt and I will tell you that I don’t know.  I don’t know because I have no way of knowing what is in that person’s heart.  We all live in these self-imposed prisons that prevent us from fully receiving the gifts that are waiting for us.  We may fight every day to make ends meet without realizing that we don’t have to struggle so much.  If we take responsibility for our actions, drive a hard line between our wants and our needs, and accept that we will always be provided for, we will see that the path to making ends meet isn’t nearly as long or as hard as we once thought it to be. 

Until tomorrow….