I’ve always liked to set goals. I like structure, you see. Timetables. Diaries. “Today I am going to do X, Y and Z; nothing more, nothing less”. I like lists, I like schedules. I like knowing what will happen next. Even if something disastrous is about to happen, I’d quite like it to be on my to-do list.
Last year, though, I learned that God isn’t like that. Oh, He knows exactly what’s going to happen; in fact, He’s planned it out, perfectly. But He doesn’t want us to be boring or staid. He has made our lives uncertain; we never know what’s around the next corner, whether it’s a peaceful meadow or being sideswiped by a bulldozer. Blindsides are common in our lives. Blindsides, that is, for us. Not for God. He knows what’s going to happen, and He has decided that it will be so.
And the Christian’s task, to my mind, is first to say, “Even so, Father; for it seemeth good in Thy sight,” and then to tackle life head-on as the most splendid adventure. We Christians should revel in the uncertainty. We should dance in the strangeness of it all. We should celebrate in the joyous excitement of the wondrous world we live in, and neither the peaceful meadows nor the blundering bulldozers should perturb us; for though we don’t know what will happen in this brief handful of decades in which we stay on Earth, we know exactly and without a doubt what will happen at the end of it. We have the most wonderful certainty of them all. We know where we stand when it comes to eternity. And we even know, to some degree, where we stand now. We stand in the love of Jesus, and whatever happens to us is exactly what He wants to happen to us. And even so, Lord, for it seemeth good in Thy sight.
After all, Jesus says, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-12 NIV)
For that reason, I originally thought that I wasn’t going to set goals this year. But while God’s plan is right and I will strive to happily fall in with it, whatever it might be, there is truth in the saying “Live as if Christ was coming tomorrow; plan as if He were coming in a thousand years”. While I’m here, I might as well make the world better for whoever’s coming after me, in whatever small way I can. And for my poor little mind, that means structure. Lists. Goals.
This year, though, my goalposts are not going to be made of cast iron and concreted into the ground six feet deep. (For the record, that doesn’t work anyway. God knocks them over with His little finger). This time, they’re going to be movable, bendable. I’ll make them out of Play-Doh, and if they don’t fit in with God’s plans, if they’re not God’s goals, then I’ll just remake them or, better yet, ask the Lord to do it for me. “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
So these are my worldly goals for 2013. And whether I meet them or not, whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s; and I’m cool with that.
Skye’s The Limit. Ah, my fiery, plunging charger! I gave up on planning a competitive career for Skye. She would probably make a pretty nice dressage horse, but she sulks too much. Skye has the perfect temper for endurance; she’s a real go-getter. All I ever want to do is ride her in all the glory and beauty of God’s creation, galloping up hills, splashing through streams, playing wild games of tag in the forests. And to a large degree, that’s Skye already. However, her training and condition could do with improvement. First off, that hard mouth of hers. She is getting pretty tough to handle in the eggbutt snaffle I changed her to a few weeks ago. I may have to put her back in the Pelham, but maybe with connectors or with the reins just on the higher ring to make the action less severe. I would love it if I could reschool her to the snaffle, perhaps with the help of a running martingale to keep her from poking her nose out and bracing that whole powerful neck against me; it all depends on how it goes with her. But softening her up to my hands is a priority.
Then there’s her physical condition; she’s good and trim but not skinny, but her fitness needs work. I’d like to get her fit, with good stamina and excellent muscle tone in all the right places. Unfortunately, this will mean lungeing. Sorry, Skye. (If you thought going round and round in the arena was boring and made her sulk, try going round and round in a lungeing ring). A fit horse is much better able to its job, happier with doing its job, goes lame less often, carries its rider with greater ease and is generally healthier.
Lastly, her hooves. I’ve started using a spray-on hoof hardener for her soft soles, and I hope that sorts it out. I’d like to be able to ride on the gravel roads without thinking that my poor horsy was in pain.
Thunderbird. Dear sweet Thunder turned into neurotic maniac Thunder and had a very nervous day yesterday, including a series of very silly spooks. Luckily, Thunder spooks like his mom; mostly he just shies sideways or maybe gallops for a step before coming to a sharp halt. He nearly sat down once, but that was as bad as it got. He was definitely hearing something. The nice thing, though, was that he didn’t buck or run away; when I pulled the reins he stopped without having a temper tantrum.
I’d like to continue some training on the lunge with him, including some work in side reins to develop his poor scrawny baby neck, and keep working on his responsiveness to my legs. His long-term goal is to be another nice, gentle, laid-back horse for outrides, a go-anywhere do-anything sort. He has a wonderful soft mouth, which I must take great care not to spoil. I’d like to have him walking, trotting and cantering in the arena without bucking me off or doing stupid stuff like that by the end of the year. I would also like to take him on his first outride or two, if possible. His ground manners could also do with work.
However, he’s a two-year-old. Two-year-olds don’t go according to plan. This goal is even more flexible than the rest.
Arwen Evenstar. The little princess’s goal is to be my first competition horse. I almost have Magic now, but it’s going to be a while before he makes his competitive debut. Arwen is more or less ready to make hers.
Arwen could do dressage, showing or jumping at a sort of medium level, but I’ve chosen showjumping as my discipline because it is, not to put too fine a point on it, perfectly awesome. Arwen is a confident jumper, clearing combinations, doubles and even relatively scary things like triple bars and solid jumps without too much trouble. She can be an idiot in unfamiliar surroundings, though, which may pose a problem.
Arwen’s goal is to get to at least one show this year, preferably as early as possible. Financial status may not allow for more than one, and I’m starting as low as it gets – 20cm high or trotting poles or something, just to build my confidence and hers. At home, I’d like to raise the bar a bit; we’ve been comfortably jumping around 90cm, so I want to raise that to 1.00-1.05m, regularly and consistently.
Oh, and I’d like my sane, gentle Arwen on outrides again. I don’t like the crazy one. She’s improving a lot with work, so I’m sure we can get back there. I’d like her to be quiet and pleasant on outrides again by the end of the year.
Gadsfly. Oh, man, I can’t keep doing that to the poor guy. Let’s try that again.
Magic. Squeee! Squeeee! Squeee! Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!
OK, moment over. Sorry about that. With half of him paid off, Magic is almost mine. Almost. Squee! Squee! OK, OK, I’m stopping, I’m stopping.
First, I need to finish building Magic’s shelter, because being a fussy little thoroughbred he needs a nice house to sleep in otherwise he gets unhappy, poor thing. Once he’s home and settled in, his training proper can begin. (Hey, that rhymed. Firn, stop it).
So far, he’s already progressed by miles. He canters like a horse and not a raving lunatic. He jumps willingly, he brings his nose in, and he’s cute. Did I mention that? Back on topic. However, I’ve only been riding him twice a week, so he still has a skinny little neck with the muscles all in the wrong places.
Coming home, poor Magic will enter horse boot camp. Not really, but more regular work will come his way. I want to lunge him to build that muscle and work on his flatwork. Some basics I’d like him to start learning are leading with the correct leg, standing squarely, bringing his nose in, and turning on the forehand.
Jumping-wise, I’d like to expose him to more varieties of jumps as his flatwork allows. I want him to jump double combinations and small oxers. Height can be built slowly, depending on Magic’s confidence. He’s only four, after all.
Also, I’d like to ride out on him, lots, and just spend time being happy that God gave me the perfect horse at the perfect time.
Siobhan. Oh, man. Her training went nowhere last year. Well, she did learn to canter all four sides of the arena instead of just three, and she doesn’t go quite as crookedly as before and jumps a little bit, but yeah.
Siobhan has two aims in life. First, be Rain’s pony. For this, she needs to ride out nicely, which is a bit of a snag for me because I’m not the most confident about riding Siobhan out. But I have a God who loves me and won’t let anything happen to me that He doesn’t want to happen to me, so I need to stop procrastinating and just do it. That’s Siobhan’s first goal: just start outride training. Whether it’s a disaster or I have her bombproof in months… just start.
Secondly, I would like to have another school pony so that I can expand my tiny riding school a bit and teach more lessons at once. For this, Siobhan needs to quit trying to throw the students off. Seriously, girl. What’s with that? I think she’ll get there, though, with just a bit more work, quite early in the year. I would like her to behave enough with the students that I can teach them at a walk and trot on her by the end of the year.
Thirdly, I can work on her schooling a bit. Magic’s level of training has woken me up to just how little she knows for a horse of her age. Going in a straight line, cantering in balance, and carrying her head properly (her neck is awful) can all use some work.
Achilles. My emotions are still so messed up regarding this guy that I’m just putting him in God’s hands. I don’t even have the foggiest idea of where I’m going with him.
I do, of course, know the end goal; Dad and I want him for a hack for the former. How quickly this is going to happen, I don’t know. Whether or not we will sell him after all, I don’t know either.
I do have one strong goal, and that’s not to abandon him. I hate seeing horses as paddock ornaments and I let Achilles be one for nearly two years. I want to keep riding him even if it’s just in the ring, building confidence. This is a gentle and beautiful horse, his only real issues being mostly due to hormones and non-malicious stupidity, and he doesn’t deserve to be neglected.
Joyful Jerseys. This venture got off the ground last year, but I want to be more proactive. Between all the other stuff I do, Joyful Jerseys tends to get a bit snowed under and doesn’t get enough attention paid to it.
I want to sell the remaining 9 cows that are bad rather than just average, preferably to go be house cows for some happy family somewhere, and then buy my three dream heifers… my three foundation cows. That is my one big goal for this year. Sell those cows and get those heifers. This one is largely dependent on buyers being out there, but I at least want to make a determined effort.
Then, I want to use sexed semen on some good cows this year. More A. I. calves will be hitting the ground, and I want to keep using the best bulls I can. I’d like to attend more cow shows including Jerseyweek in Bloem, but again, finance dictates this to a very large extent.
Oh, and I want another 30-litre cow in the parlour. I miss Bokmakierie’s high production. That’s in God’s hands, but I know He knows what to do with it.
Another Sword. My newly-completed Y. A. epic fantasy is my current pride and joy, or at least it will be until 30 January, when I actually begin revising the thing. Then I’ll find out everything that’s wrong with it and hate its guts.
My long-term goal is to turn this into a good story, an entertaining, well-written, readable story that teenagers will read and enjoy, and, most of all, a story that spreads God’s Word and stays true to Him and glorifies Him. This year, that means revision. I’m desperately inexperienced when it comes to revision, so my goal is unambitious; finish the second draft. It looks to be a lot of work, but I want to do it. I’ve got to do it.
Spirit Horses. I haven’t blogged about this one yet, dear readers, because I started it on Thursday. Already approaching 15 000 words, I’m having fun with this. It’s also Y. A. and probably counts as epic fantasy.
My long-term goals for this one is the same as for Another Sword. This one is a little more shall I say adventurous. I’m venturing back into controversial waters, introducing superstition (black cats, mirrors…) and mythical beasts (wyverns, goblins) into the tale. The story is about a sort of princess from a very superstitious society, who meets a Christian outcast fabled to be a monster. In this world, horses are considered as terrible monsters, deadly and vicious. However, as Rhona Morag Mackenna has to learn, it’s only horses, the strange and gentle Horse Man, and, most of all, this new religion that can save her people, her father, and her entire country.
I want to complete the first draft of Spirit Horses this month. At this rate, it’s not gonna be hard!
Other Writing Goals. I’d also very much like to start submitting a short story to magazines or anthologies or however you submit short stories, because, as you may have noticed, I don’t have a clue about publishing. I’m told that it’s easier to publish a short than a novel, and it’s sure easier to write one, so I’m starting with this. My Christian realistic fiction story, Not Affrighted (the story of a boy who finds faith and courage through a beautiful, terrified racehorse) is going out to beta readers.
So those are my goals for this year. I don’t know how many I’ll meet; I don’t know if I’ll meet any at all. For the Christian, life is a great adventure, and no earthly thing is certain.
But ultimately, I know where I’m going. If I cling to my Lord Jesus, if I love Him, if I love others, if I meet His criteria (and even if I do, how far I am from deserving His love and His gift!), then I know exactly where I’m going. Where all of us who love Him are going.
We will drink from the pure water of the river of life, clear as crystal, that preceeds from God’s throne. We shall see God’s face, and His Name will be written in our foreheads. We will need no light bulb or sunlight, no starlight, no moon; we will need no candles, lanterns or torches, because all our light will shine out of God and the Lamb, our Lord Jesus, the bright and morning star.
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!