Helping, with Horses! (Feature Friday!) #BestOf

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, July 31, 2015

I attended New Wilmington Mission Conference in Pennsylvania again this year, just a week ago. My friends Kathleen and Roger were there, too, with their sons! I wanted to feature Kathleen and Roger’s ranch, Jeremiah’s Crossing, again. A #BestOf, for sure! Yes, the mission conference featured missionaries and mission agencies from far flung places! From all over the world! Yet, the outreach that Kathleen and Roger are involved in is right in Wisconsin. Their ranch specializes in equine therapy—where horses help kids! This kind of special needs outreach is moving, heart-warming, and super-special, as are Kathleen and Roger. So, it is with great affection and appreciation that I reprise this post from July 2014.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, July 25, 2014

mama horse and foal

Helping, with Horses! (Feature Friday!)

Ever see horses up close? Ever want to help kids? How about combining the two, at a welcoming place where horses help kids?

My friends, Kathleen and Roger Harris, are executive directors for Jeremiah’s Crossing, a nonprofit therapeutic horseback-riding ranch. This ranch is located in Babcock, in central Wisconsin. The nonprofit’s purpose is to help horses help children—and adults—who have diagnosed physical, mental, cognitive, and academic special needs. The best part? There is no cost for the therapy to the children or the adults.

The overall cost of caring for children and adults with special needs can be significant. The staff and those associated with Jeremiah’s Crossing do not wish to add to the financial burden of those families with members and loved ones who have special needs or disabilities. That is why “God’s ranch” provides Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) and lessons, for both children and adults, at no cost to the participants.

Kathleen and Roger Harris were married in 1995, and their children made a blended family from the beginning. They started the ranch in 2006. But even before that, they were gradually being led in the direction of helping kids, through a variety of activities. New Wilmington Mission Conference played a leading role in the Harris’s discernment and progress towards opening Jeremiah’s Crossing. The equine therapy part became more clear as God led them, too. Now, the ranch is a warm, welcoming place to everyone in families with disabled or differently-abled members.

The equine therapy is beneficial (to the persons with a diagnosed disability) in so many ways. First, the therapy gives people a positive nurturing activity that urges them to get into a regularly-scheduled routine. (to work on a regular basis with the trainer in their own therapy sessions, and in the training.) Second, horseback-riding allows for regular exercise and strengthening of their muscles. A bonus here is the assistance the riding provides for the balance center in the inner ear. And, God uses the horses in their riders’ lives in a variety of ways, including creating a friendship between the disabled person and the horse. This helps model relationship-building for the disabled people (especially the children).

The lessons are led by a PATH International Certified Instructor. The number of volunteer team members who accompany the individual riders depends on the needs and abilities of the various riders. The lesson content varies! The instructor plans each lesson on an individual basis, and volunteer side walkers come alongside of the rider and encourage appropriate posture as best suits the individual. Proper grooming, outfitting and care for the horses is modeled, as well. Everyone joins together in facilitating a positive, therapeutic experience for every individual who rides and cares for the horses.

As Kathleen Harris says, God has provided a beautiful place in Jeremiah’s Crossing as part of God’s plan to heal children and their families. Healing happens in a variety of ways—“God’s ranch” is one place where horses truly help to heal—physically, emotionally, mentally, as well as spiritually. Thank God!

(For more information, check out their website at http://www.jeremiahscrossing.org )

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

In Which I Am Kind to Myself, through a Massage!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, September 9, 2014

best things in life aren't things

In Which I Am Kind to Myself, through a Massage!

I splurged. I really did. Since last month was my husband’s and my wedding anniversary, I took the opportunity to buy a half hour massage at the YMCA here in town. And, today was the day I enjoyed a half hour of pampering. Self-care. Being kind—to myself!

Most times, I do prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga to try to relax. Ease my stress levels. Calm my breathing and minimize my worry. But every few months, I go out of my way to try to fit in a massage.

In case anyone reading this has never experienced a massage, they are wonderful. Marvelous. Truly a splurge-worthy experience. Of course, I go to an awesome masseuse, when I can scrape together the money. Dori is absolutely fantastic. I told her, as she was working on my forearms and hands at the end of the half hour, that I thought I died and went to heaven. (And I was more than half serious.) And, I sincerely thanked her for the wonderful job she did on me—and my lower back, too.

Of course, there are other ways to be kind to myself. Slowing down, having coffee with a friend, going to the Botanic Garden, or reading a fiction book (my current favorite books are a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920’s). There are other ways to practice self-care, too. Regular exercise. Going on walks in nature. Practicing giving or encouragement. Listening to quiet music. Prayer. Meditation. Silencing my spirit and mind. And, countless other ways, besides. Self-care—caring for one’s physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual parts of the whole person, however that may happen best.

Listed above are all ways that appeal to me. I know they won’t appeal to everyone. (And for some, the thought of a few of these ways are probably like fingernails screeching across a chalk board.) I also give God a big praise for making each of us different from all the others—over the world, as well as over time. King David in Psalm 139 refers to each of us being fearfully and wonderfully made by God’s hands. No cookie cutter creation for us, no sir!

What about you? What kind of self-care particularly appeals to you, right now? Or, are you shy of making room or making time for self-care? Does caring for yourself sound selfish and thoughtless? If you are not clearing your calendar or your life for taking care of yourself, you are missing out! (And believe me when I say I am preaching this to me even more than preaching it to you.)

God, thanks for the awesome focus on self-care. Help me to not only practice this good gift from you, but to pass it on. Help others learn the importance of being Selfish—towards God, and towards each person. Individually. I’m no cookie cutter creation, and neither are you!

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Helping, with Horses! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, July 25, 2014

mama horse and foal

Helping, with Horses! (Feature Friday!)

Ever see horses up close? Ever want to help kids? How about combining the two, at a welcoming place where horses help kids?

My friends, Kathleen and Roger Harris, are executive directors for Jeremiah’s Crossing, a nonprofit therapeutic horseback-riding ranch. This ranch is located in Babcock, in central Wisconsin. The nonprofit’s purpose is to help horses help children—and adults—who have diagnosed physical, mental, cognitive, and academic special needs. The best part? There is no cost for the therapy to the children or the adults.

The overall cost of caring for children and adults with special needs can be significant. The staff and those associated with Jeremiah’s Crossing do not wish to add to the financial burden of those families with members and loved ones who have special needs or disabilities. That is why “God’s ranch” provides Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) and lessons, for both children and adults, at no cost to the participants.

Kathleen and Roger Harris were married in 1995, and their children made a blended family from the beginning. They started the ranch in 2006. But even before that, they were gradually being led in the direction of helping kids, through a variety of activities. New Wilmington Mission Conference played a leading role in the Harris’s discernment and progress towards opening Jeremiah’s Crossing. The equine therapy part became more clear as God led them, too. Now, the ranch is a warm, welcoming place to everyone in families with disabled or differently-abled members.

The equine therapy is beneficial (to the persons with a diagnosed disability) in so many ways. First, the therapy gives people a positive nurturing activity that urges them to get into a regularly-scheduled routine. (to work on a regular basis with the trainer in their own therapy sessions, and in the training.) Second, horseback-riding allows for regular exercise and strengthening of their muscles. A bonus here is the assistance the riding provides for the balance center in the inner ear. And, God uses the horses in their riders’ lives in a variety of ways, including creating a friendship between the disabled person and the horse. This helps model relationship-building for the disabled people (especially the children).

The lessons are led by a PATH International Certified Instructor. The number of volunteer team members who accompany the individual riders depends on the needs and abilities of the various riders. The lesson content varies! The instructor plans each lesson on an individual basis, and volunteer side walkers come alongside of the rider and encourage appropriate posture as best suits the individual. Proper grooming, outfitting and care for the horses is modeled, as well. Everyone joins together in facilitating a positive, therapeutic experience for every individual who rides and cares for the horses.

As Kathleen Harris says, God has provided a beautiful place in Jeremiah’s Crossing as part of God’s plan to heal children and their families. Healing happens in a variety of ways—“God’s ranch” is one place where horses truly help to heal—physically, emotionally, mentally, as well as spiritually. Thank God!

(For more information, check out their website at http://www.jeremiahscrossing.org )

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Telling My Story, Being Helpful

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, June 2, 2014

picking up nobodies

Telling My Story, Being Helpful

I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty connecting with people when they try to lecture me. (Well, not always, but usually. There are exceptions. Rare, but true.) If someone tries to deliver dry, dull facts and figures without something to catch my interest, good luck trying to keep my attention.

But this wasn’t the case this afternoon. I went to the YMCA, to my yoga and gentle stretching class. Excellent class, as always! I found my heart rate slowing down, my breathing evening out. Everything about my respiration and operation of my cardio system became much more even. Wonderful, how that happens. And these positive, physical qualities happen whenever I go to yoga now, indeed!

True, I had a number of things to do today. Plus, I brought my daughter to the store to get some containers. (She’s discovered she loves tea. So, she now has more than a dozen different kinds of tea. Thus—the containers.) I was almost late for yoga class! I did get in to the YMCA just a few minutes before class began. So, whew!

I honestly tried to focus on the various poses we had set for us. (Mostly the same, from week to week.) Because of the excellent teaching and facilitation of the class, I always am able to enter into this class. I become fully present for the stretching, yoga poses, and final relaxation—and it’s wonderful. But it was afterwards that I think I was helpful.

In the locker room, I changed out of my exercise clothes and put on the street clothes I had in my locker. I overheard the conversation between my teacher and one of the other students, on the other side of the bank of lockers. I laughed and made a second comment to my teacher, who was standing at the end of the lockers—visible to both my classmate and to me. The other woman piped up, “Who is that over there?” in a friendly kind of way. I came around and we greeted each other. The woman asked, “What was that you said?”

I told her that I had been going to yoga class since the beginning of December. And, my back has had so much less pain recently! I swear by yoga, and by the marvelous combination of yoga poses and stretching my wonderful teacher uses. The woman nodded, quite serious, listening intently. I told her a little bit of my story! Not about the scary, or the sad. But about the pertinent part. About how much of a difference yoga has made in my life, even though I have just been going to this class for only six months.

Telling my story? It makes a big difference! People sit up and listen! But if I lecture and inform with dry statistics and facts, I won’t have much of an audience at all. I’m glad I could give this woman a hopeful, encouraging outlook on yoga.

God, thanks for giving me the push to get into yoga. It sure helps me, both physically and mentally. And I had a great story to tell today, too. Always a good thing.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind While Assembling a Puzzle?

A Year of Being Kind blog –Tuesday, March 25, 2014

KIND another one kind word

Being Kind While Assembling a Puzzle?

There are lots of new things to learn when a person gets a new job. Even when a person knows how to do the component parts of the position, still. I compare it to putting the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. Sure, I know most of these various parts of my new position, but I have just barely gotten started. I suppose I am still turning all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle over, and starting to put the border together. (to take the analogy a bit further, that is)

I’ve learned so much from so many different places! For example, I started learning visitation in earnest when I was a chaplain intern at a large retirement center. That was more than ten years ago, when I attended seminary.

I still remember the first resident I visited. The frail, elderly senior was in the health care unit. My chaplain supervisor encouraged me to visit this dear person, and gave me a little background on the senior’s physical and mental condition. The senior’s spine was chronically, increasingly bent and deformed. The mental condition was deteriorating, too, although simple language and communication still were effective. I spoke gently and cheerfully to this person, talking about my small children. My younger two were in primary grades at the time. I got very little feedback, but I knew this senior recognized I was there. I tried to be a gentle yet cheerful presence, yet I wondered afterwards how effective I could possibly have been. I remember talking about this visit with my supervisor afterwards, too. He encouraged me to continue—and continue I did.

This was where I started to learn about how to be present with people, in a gentle, caring way. I found I have a real ability in this area. Several chaplain and pastoral supervisors have told me about it, especially how I am able to be with people in a calm, less-anxious way. Not always, of course. But as I am with people, I discover this calm, gentle manner just sort of switches on. And happens.

So, I know how to be with people in serious, even traumatic situations, from my years of serving as a chaplain. I can see how this skill will be applicable to my new position, from time to time. Even more often sometimes. Like today—I was present with someone and encouraged them just by being there. I did not say too much. However, I heard them thank me, heard the appreciation in their voice. That’s satisfaction, to be sure. And I suspect my being with people, my gentle, caring presence is a large part of my job—of the puzzle that makes up my new position.

This living one-day-at-a-time business sure is interesting! I wonder what God will send me tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza
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Showing Love by Active Listening

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - "Swing Time"

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – “Swing Time”

Showing Love by Active Listening

I went to the gym again today. I didn’t have much time, but I started my workout anyhow. Gray, wet sloppy day outside, good day for staying inside. I happened to run into a workout friend while exercising. She and I fell into a conversation. Or rather, she talked more, and I listened. She had some genuine concerns, and I was happy to be of service. Service by listening—showing encouragement and support.

That’s one of the things I’ve been trained to do. Active listening—with an ear to hear primarily spiritual and emotional concerns, but also psychological and physical concerns, as well.  And sometimes, people just want to get things off their chests. I suspected this situation today was more like that. As a chaplain, I strive to listen to the best of my ability. In addition, I can try to be fully present with another person; this is a wonderful gift I can bring to them. People often rush here and there, in a hurry. Going too fast. No time to lose! But chaplaincy has a different orientation. Chaplaincy, by its very nature, takes its time. Slows down. Lowers anxiety and stress. Oh, yeah. Prays sometimes, too.

I have listened to individuals talk for some time. I mean, full range of emotions, from grief to anger to despair to joy. They earnestly share what is going on and where they are in their lives. And then—sometimes—their eyes connect with mine. “Thank you. Thanks for listening.” Then I might smile and say something like, “No problem,” or “I see how much that helped you,” or even “I hope that lightened your heart/spirit.” (depending on the religious orientation of my companion, of course)

Listening with an open mind and a non-judgmental spirit can be a challenge, though. I know I sometimes struggle with doing it! I know I can’t stay consistent. But I keep trying. Like the Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern song “Pick Yourself Up” from the Fred Astaire movie “Swing Time.” The lyrics I’m thinking of go like this: “I pick myself up, brush myself off, start all over again.”

Fred Astaire—actor in musical comedies of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, and one of the finest dancers in the 20th century in any genre —makes a fine example for me to follow. He always, always tried his hardest to excel at dancing. He kept trying, practicing, doing the steps or routines over and over and over again, until he made the most intricate or difficult steps look effortless.

God, is that what You want from me? Do You desire that I keep practicing active listening? Practice being fully present? Practice my craft, keep working at these chaplain’s skills again and again until they appear effortless?

(What about you? Where do you need to practice? How can you strive to listen to God?)

What a goal to shoot for! God willing, I’ll keep practicing.

@chaplaineliza