Three Words that Changed My Life Forever…..

Just follow these steps- Hershey points the way!

I had two cancers, one was Invasive and the other was a pre-cancer. One would respond to chemo, the other would need to be surgically removed. I started chemo on October 18, 2017. That was the day that sealed my fate. I was receiving mustard gas, and it took two weeks for me to lose my thick mop of golden blonde hair that was my trademark.

I also learned that cancer tears at your soul. There is a brevity in all of the appointments, in the faces of the patients and the staff that cares for us. Precariously we stand on the precipice of life and death.

Cancer is not what necessarily kills you, but the treatments, surgery, and side effects of these chemicals that they pour into your veins. By the third chemo, I had been in and out of the hospital so many times, that I was a frequent flyer to our little country hospital. They would even call me by my first name before I even registered.

My white blood count was down to a mere 600, it should be 12,000. My liver was shutting down and my gray skin and black eyes staring back at me, confirmed what I knew. I was dying. Right in front of me, I saw a skeleton with gray skin, black circles under my eyes, and it was then that I knew what I had to do. I was going to stop the chemo.

The beauty of knowing the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, meant that I had total peace that He would embrace His child, me. Was my mansion on streets of glory ready to receive me?

My husband was horrified when I told him that I was stopping the chemo. “Please don’t Jill! I need you to live and beat this, you must give the doctors a chance to beat this too. Please don’t stop,” my big burly husband was trying to hide the tears that began to fall.

After fifteen years of marriage, there was something he knew, I was a fighter and resolute in decisions. He knew there was no turning back.

I had lost thirty-five pounds, lost all interest in reading God’s precious Word, praying, or growing closer to Him. It was just too much to bear. What is there to life, if I cannot grow closer to the One that I love with all of my heart?

Darkness was turning to dawn. I felt lighter and brighter in hope that my body would strengthen and spill out these poisons. After three weeks of stopping chemo, I could eat, not that I could keep it down, but I tried.

Funny now, but it wasn’t then. Dan would time everything so that I could get a clean shot to the bathroom after I ate. One time, I did not make it and he carried me to the bathroom while I cried over the mess. By the time I got out of the bathroom, he had cleaned it all up. Grateful for his kindness.

My doctors were very, very mad at me.

“This is your life. why would you stop what can save your life?” she tipped her head back, squinting at this weird subject in front of her that was not going to do everything she told it to do. She was perplexed at this pint sized specimen.

“My life is not here, and it is all well with my soul.”

“Whatever!” I made no sense to her and the disgust was palpable. “I am scheduling all of the tests to begin next week and we will go to surgery in two weeks,” and with that I was dismissed.

Two weeks later I was back in her office as she was going to go over the results, she pushed her glasses back and kept staring at the report. Her lips pursed together, her eyebrows lifting quizzically. Finally after a long sigh, she spoke, “Jill, I just don’t understand, but …………………….”

TO BE CONTINUED…………………………..

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Three Words That Changed My Life….continued

beautiful summer day at farm

 

The journey that I never wanted to go on was commencing and it was during this time that I learned that a battle was raging, not in my body, but in my mind………

My prayers are ALWAYS for protection.  I am an offensive prayer.  I try to think of everything that could ever happen and pray against it.  Cancer is always my biggest one to rebuke and rebuff.  I thought I was covered under the blood of Jesus.  I am a believer in Jesus and His healing power, never doubted, not once.

“God, what do you want me to learn through this?” I implored in the early morning hours of August 31st.

“I want you to be able to relate to others, and for them to relate to you,” His still quiet voice spoke into my spirit.

“Ok, God, I want to learn.  Please Lord, help me to go through this with your victory and countenance” I said through tears.

What I learned would change my life……

 

Three Words That Changed My Life

“You have cancer,” I sat there in a paper thin hospital-green gown, staring at the doctor.

“What do I do now?”  I came in because they said they saw something suspicious on my mammogram.

“Unfortunately this is a very aggressive cancer and it can only be cured through chemotherapy and surgery,” she was slightly nervous.  Then she continued, “This cancer is a killer and we caught it early.  You are in good hands.  My assistant will go over all of the information with you.  Just get dressed and she will meet you in the office across the hall,”  with that she washed her hands and dismissed me.

I was signed up for chemo therapy, every third week for one year.  Then I drove home as if I were observing myself from afar.  There was an element of shock and disbelief, and I am certain that my chin hung on my chest.  The first person I called was my husband.  The second person was my prayer team, comprised of an army of believers.

The journey that I never wanted to go on was commencing and it was during this time that I learned that a battle was raging, not in my body, but in my mind………

Chicken Nugget’s Loss Echoes

“Jill, would you be interested in a super quiet Icelandic for your equine therapy program?” My vet asked me.

“Yes, of course!” I practically yelled. Quiet and docile these little troopers make excellent equine therapy mounts.

With 24 hours I had a fuzzy Carmel colored Icelandic named Negev which we quickly renamed Chicken Nugget.

He was a dream horse. Easy going yet energetic and enthusiastic during The lessons. In the field he enjoyed his friends, especially Brutus.  They would groom one another for hours and call to each other when separated.

One morning all the horses were laying down, which was highly unusual. When they heard me they all got up but Nuggie. During the night he had passed away.

Brutus refused to leave his side until one by one they said their final goodbye with a gallop around the field.

I’m comforted in knowing he is in an eternal kingdom but his loss is devastating.  Nuggie was not just an equine therapy horse- he was a friend and confidant to many here.  His loss echoes in the fields of RAISE YOUR DREAMS FARM!

 

Never Fear the Nuggets are Here!

IMG_0382The large rambling mansion held bedrooms that boasted of ample sitting areas and soaking-tubs in each bathroom.  It was a beautiful home and truly the talk of the town.  If I was describing where I lived, I would say I am right near the big yellow mansion and then my home could be identified.  Unfortunately its hefty price tag was too burdensome for most home owners.  My riding students and their families would frequently gaze at the mansion next door that stood vacant for over eight years and fantasize over living right next door to what they considered a dream.

To my utter surprise it was bought by a young family with six children ranging in age from two to nine.  Their mother is a tiny dynamo and she quickly shared why they chose to move from northern New Jersey to this little town in southern New Jersey, it was because it was next to horses.  Her girls had begun to ride horses in northern New Jersey and they all seemed to have been bitten by the “horse bug” and it could only be satisfied by close proximity of a horse farm.  It also helped that each of their back windows gazed out on my pastures where they could watch the horses daily.

The girls each enrolled in lessons and they would frequently ask if I needed help.  Of course I needed help, and this little next-door-army of helping hands were eager to organize the riding ring for the special needs children that came from a local school or muck stalls.

Each one had something different to offer.  The oldest, a determined young lady that soaked up everything that was taught.  I would mention something in passing and she had it memorized.  She was also eager to employ it, and I found myself giving her more responsibility each day.  She was a child I could trust because she knew that this was an earned spot at the farm.  The second to oldest child fell madly in love with our big Quarter Horse Paint.  She would ask me if she could meet her goal of riding him.  The day I allowed her on his back, she could not stop smiling or fawning over his massive body that glistened in the sun.  She would explain every little nuisance of each lesson.  She would critique how the horse did and how she handled it.  She was the one that would explain each goal she had and whether she thought she could achieve it.  The youngest one had an iron core.  She was tiny but undeterred and the day that Milkshake decided to do a drive-thru and grab a quick bite to eat of the luscious grass when she was leading him back to the field demonstrated her grit, because he had stepped on her little foot.  She squeaked and Milkshake quickly lifted his foot.  She hobbled over to the chair and we put ice on it, but her face was set, she would never let a horse do that to her again.

Everything has a nickname here.  After proving their unwavering devotion to the farm and our horses, we christened them THE NUGGETS.  We have grown quite fond of their generous spirit and desire to do their best.  It is quite refreshing to find children that love to please others.

They remind me of the verse in Galatians 5:13-

…..serve one another humbly in love.

They reflect what we all need to do for one another, seek to serve.

Do you know someone that has served you? Please share.

Zelda Speaks Love Without a Sound

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Zelda has never spoken or written a single word in her life, but she writes everyday letters of love and hope on the hearts of those she has touched.  I’m blessed enough to say that I have witnessed it firsthand.

Zelda was born with cerebral palsy that crippled the left side of her body and in response her hands and feet have turned inward, making that part of her body useless.

No one is certain why she can’t speak or why she can’t hear.  But last night she heard the silent cry of a young woman in anguish and she answered it with all the love she has inside of her colossal heart.

Chrissy is twenty years old but looks more like she is forty.  Her life has left her heart broken.  She cannot speak and signs only two words Mommy and Hungry.  Her mom was unable to care for her once she reached adulthood, and she made the difficult decision to allow her to be with adults similar to her.  She found it in a wonderful group home for adults where she is cared for tirelessly by the most wonderful people who truly care about her.

On this particular Thursday she came to equine therapy with a sad face.  She was uncomfortable and frequently picked at her pants.  She was not going to ride because she seemed upset and she would whimper periodically no matter how much we wanted to see her buddy, Buttons, the fat pony.  She would shake her head vehemently and sit resolutely in our comfy Adirondack chairs.

That’s when Zelda came to the rescue.  With her numb leg she drug herself across the yard, which is the equivalent of crossing the Mohave Desert.  She sat in the chair next to Chrissy and tried to speak.  Her lips curled and her tongue puckered as dribble washed down her face.  She didn’t care; she wanted Chrissy to know she cared.  It did not matter that only grunts came out, her eyes and genuine smile said it all.

Zelda looked at me and signed love and then she pointed at Chrissy.  In her poignant and loving way, Zelda spoke the language everyone wants to hear- someone cares!

Zelda, you amaze me everyday!  I am the one who is richer for knowing a champion that conquerors everyday battles that all of us take for granted.  You do it all with a smile or giggle.

Keep loving all the people that you meet because I am the woman you have most changed!

Barbie and Her Best Friend

palominoBang!…Bang!…..BANG!….BANG!

The dogs go into a furious rage of barking, Dan and I leap out of bed.

“What is that?” he asks.

BANG!…..BANG!

“Dan, someone is banging on our door!” As a horse owner this can only mean one thing- OUR HORSES ARE OUT!

Dan I racing downstairs to be greeted by the State Police with a flood light fixed on our fields.

“We got a call, loose horses on this street, we are asking all horse farms to check and see if their horses are secure,” a boyish-looking-fresh-out-of-college officer stated in his best officer voice.

Dan ran out in the fields, our horses and ponies were all accounted for, phew!

Then my attention turned to we-have-to-get-these-loose-horses.

What got me was the officer’s description-

“One is real big and looks like a Barbie and the other horse is orange with a blue jacket.”

I tried not to laugh- he was describing the big palomino across the street and her best friend, a chestnut with a blue blanket on.

After wrestling the loose horses back into the barn, I said a silent prayer of thankfulness.

We climbed back into bed, thankful that our horses were safe, always had been.

Why?

Because we believe in the power of prayer, and the God of heaven and earth has my farm under his careful watch! THANK YOU FATHER!

 

Be Still and Know that I AM GOD!

In the rush of life, sometimes it is just good to be still, pray, and allow God to work in my life.  My students start every lesson off with prayer.  They have come to recognize the importance of asking God to be with them as they ride and work around 1500 pound animals that could spook because a simple plastic bag is flying across a field.  It is here that we begin with the most important aspect of RAISE YOUR DREAMS FARM!

Do you need peace?  Be still, pray, and allow God to work it all out!

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Nothing Better- Loved by Great Pyrenees

 

Snowball watching over his kids!
Snowball watching over his kids!
Timmy and the boys- Frosty and Snowball
Timmy and the boys- Frosty and Snowball
Sweet Frosty greets even those that are afraid of big dogs
Sweet Frosty greets even those that are afraid of big dogs

Living in the country is full of excitement.  Skunks that have made their home in my barn, and I was inadvertently sprayed because I reached down to pet what I thought was one of my cats.  There was also the time that the bulls from across the street decided to stampede down my driveway and into my horse pasture.  Lest I forget the time that the horses got out and decided to stand in the middle of the road, stopping traffic.  This is my life on a glorious horse farm, named Raise Your Dreams Farm.

Unfortunately there are some people who also enjoy perusing the country-side searching for an easy target.  My neighbor heard noises coming from his basement only to find a bad guy hanging out.  So when our neighbor had her barn broken into, my husband and I began in earnest to find a dog that would be intimidating enough to scare any would-be robber into thinking twice about coming to our farm.

As luck would have it, we were watching the Animal Planet TV show and they were featuring the Great Pyrenees dogs.  They were excellent guard dogs and would defend their “family” even to the death.  Their size was intimidating enough, 150-180 pounds, standing about 3 feet in height.  We had the land, and of course the livestock that needed their protection, so we concluded that these might be a good dog to invest in.  We ordered two fluff ball puppies on the internet, brothers that we named Frosty and Snowball.

I could not imagine any puppy cuter than these rather large bundles of white downy fur.  They slept all the time, played with one another, ate, and then slept again.  Unlike my labs, these puppies enjoyed laying around more than being up and getting into mischief.

As they got older, we realized these were no ordinary dogs.  A baby in a stroller was something for them to protect and they would even block the mother from attending to her infant, a toddler learning how to walk, they would walk next to them slowly allowing the child to balance themselves off of their broad backs.  A loud truck driving by, now that was something to be chased unto its death.  Occasionally the township worker would blow their horn to incite total havoc in my yard amongst my fierce dogs.  We have an electric fence around our home and thankfully they respect it because I think a lot of joggers and bikers would be in serious trouble if they ever got a hold of them.

If you are visiting the farm for the first time, expect to be stopped immediately and then escorted down the driveway to the parking space where they want you to park.  Get out of the car and expect to be sniffed and nudged until satisfied.  They will never wag their tail, until they feel that you are an accepted part of their “family”.  If they find you suspicious, they will bark until my husband and I are alerted.

Their favorite activity is to bark, dig, and chase anything that should not be riding down the road.  This is their property and they will not have any shenanigans here.  But their soft side is always shown to all that come here.  They beg for pets, high-five the kids, and lay on you if you happen to lay down on the soft ground.

They are now eight years old, still extremely active, and somewhat celebrities in our town.  If someone is not sure where we live, all we have to say is the farm with the big white dogs.  “Ohhhh, I know exactly where you are.”

Wouldn’t you want to be loved by a Great Pyrenees?

 

The Amazing Suzanne

The amazing Suzanne
The amazing Suzanne

The one constant in Suzanne’s life, is her camera. She snaps pictures of the horses, clouds, her kids, moments, and all of these memories spill out onto her Facebook Page, Twitter Account, or Snap Chat.

One day my students were having a hard time trying to get one of the horses to go into another field. That’s when Suzanne told the kids she would get the horse to move and she did not even need a halter or leadline.

The kids stood back, as she walked into the field, complete with purple hair, high heels, and spiky red fingernails. They smirked as she waded into the mud. She tiptoed, pirouetted, and hopped over the big puddles. My seasoned students wanted to see this and a small crowd gathered at the fence to watch this larger-than-life parent wrestle our 1500 pound Hershey into the other field.

Hershey eyed her, and that’s when she grabbed her ever ready phone camera out of her back pocket.

“What a handsome man!” she coyly cooed.

The horse stood at attention and she started snapping pictures. He turned from side to side, enjoying her accolades and the snapping of her camera.

She slowly walked into the other field and he followed her like a big dog.

“See kids, that’s how it is done!” she flipped her hands through her purple hair and smiled broadly.

This woman just “schooled” my kids in how to get a horse to become putty in her hands.