Posted on Leave a comment

Mrs. Cowart’s Stories, Chapter 3

Worship

This morning as many mornings I returned from a walk through the woods with my Golden Retriever, Holly. When I began to drive in the direction of one of our places we got to “work,” Holly quivered in anticipation. She knew the directions to each place that we went. Her quivering and low whining would increase at every turn that brought us closer to our destination. 

This morning was glorious. A golden light shimmered over the woods and a lovely fresh golden mist rose up from the forest floor. Hardly able to control herself she managed to obey my command to “wait” as I gathered our equipment, put on her leash and opened the door. When I said the magic word, “okay,” she bounded off the seat and into the heel position. We always practiced a little heeling before I turned her loose just as a matter of discipline. Her gaze never left me until we stopped and I released her leash. She would leap in front of me leaping higher and higher until I gave her the bumper. Goldens are seldom happy without something in their mouths to carry. 

Then began an exhilaration in the heart of man and beast that it would be hard to supersede. Off she raced into the woods, her silky tail flagged in the air showing its pale golden underside, like a deer in flight. She disappeared into the woods. In a moment she would return running like a bullet. Oh how fast she was flying! Held earthbound, it seemed, only by her love for me who was so earthbound physically! Off she would go again and my heart soared as high as she sped. I was riding her in spirit, we were flying at the speed of light barely touching the earth, propelled by a joy that was uncontainable! 

Back to me she flew, coming to an abrupt stop at my feet holding up her bumper in her mouth. As glorious as was her physical freedom it only lacked the inclusion of me, the fellowship that she desired more than her wild freedom. I took the bumper and tossed it as far as I could. She flew after it almost turning head over heels skidding to a stop right upon it. 

The next phase of our game came as we approached the brook which had wonderful pools and little rapids and rocky, steep banks as it sped along. Bumper in mouth she raced to a place beside the swift stream, waiting for her human friend to catch up. She tossed the bumper at my feet and we began the next step in our game. I threw the bumper as far as I could into the creek. She bolted as soon as it left my hand and leapt over the rocky bank diving into the fast moving water and swimming to the floating bumper. She grabbed it gently in her mouth and began her swim to shore. My heart swelled as I saw her perceive the best way to climb out of the creek which she had entered on unseen wings even as she swam, and in a flash she delivered the bumper to my feet, her eyes hypnotizing my gaze until we repeated the process. 

I never ceased to wonder as I saw the keenness of her appraisal of the situations we confronted. It took some flash sensing on her part as the physical situations were never the same. Her determination to accomplish the purpose for which she was bred utterly amazed me. Sometimes I would forget to bring the bumper and a stick had to suffice. The current was moving fast as she hit the water where the stick had fallen, but the current had swept it away. She swam back and forth frantically searching, looking among the rocks and debris along the bank. Finally, she began to dive into the shallow water searching for that stick. She pulled up one stick from the bottom immediately rejecting it. It was not the stick that I had thrown which she knew only by the fact that it had touched my hand for the brief second before I threw it in. And, though it had submerged in water her sense of smell was so impossibly keen that the only stick that would do was the exact one that held my scent which her keen nose could detect. So she kept searching. Usually she would find the exact one and triumphantly deliver it to my feet. Sometimes the stick had disappeared forever, and it seemed she could not give up and I would have to call her repeatedly to tell her to call off the search. She came obediently to my feet looking at me with questioning eyes. I had to respond with another stick trying to convince her that she had not failed. 

As our time came to an end and she heeled back to my car my heart was soaring. I kept thinking of the joy of life that she showed to me. Just the unadulterated joy of being alive and having a body that followed her spirit into wonderful feats. I kept thinking of the harmony she had with her surroundings. The beauty of the woods; the changing form of the stream; the great diversity of the shapes and colors of the wonders of the season. And most of all the obedience and desire of this animal for communion with me. 

Most people think of “worship” as singing songs in a church or meeting, and that is sometimes true. Yet, I had never encountered a worship that brought me to my knees and overwhelmed me with the wonder of the Creator who had let me be a part of it, and let me see so gloriously some of His attributes revealed in His creation, as I have had in my adventures with this little dog. Oh my God, how great thou art! 

Posted on Leave a comment

Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 2

Springtime

The light had been increasing. The short days of winter were lengthening only minutes a day. Already a miracle was beginning. Beneath autumn’s rotting leaves and the pasture’s grassy blanket rendered dead and brown by winter’s cold, little shoots were beginning to unfold. Old roots that appeared so lifeless and little seeds decaying beneath the surface felt the still unseen touch of light as our side of the earth turned her face closer to the sun seconds longer each day. 

Out of the sight of man or beast the mystery of the resurrection was beginning to unfold. Almost imperceptibly at first, but increasing each day the old dead root began to convert its dormant energy into white growth. The husk of the dead seed burst open and tiny white shoots began to press upward through the warming earth as it yearned for the sun’s light. Almost instantly the “non” color of the emerging life turned to a beautiful golden green as it burst through the earth’s surface and unfurled its tiny white leaf. Then suddenly a crocus burst into flower to announce to the otherwise brown earth that the miracle had begun. Life was overcoming death! Spring had begun!

The almost imperceptible increasing of the light spoke something into the horse’s bodies and their long woolly hair began to loosen and come off. The horses rolled massaging their itching bodies between the firmness of the ground and their own powerful muscles. Lurching to their feet they shake themselves violently to reveal patches of beautiful satiny hides, richer and deeper in color than at any time of the year; their dead winter hair left behind in furry patches on the ground. To me, these shiny coats were like the Easter dresses Mother clothed us with on Resurrection Day. The horses joined this celebration when Spring clothed the sleeping earth with life. 

As the green grass came forth in the pastures little calves and colts began to appear. We had little Charlet calves. Their coats were as white as snow, so clean and new. New and clean and awed and joyous of spirit the colts and calves frolicked about, playing and bucking and running. What a contrast their young lives were to the mature mares! Mellowed by the weight of years and the cares of life, which to them consisted of gathering green grass to be turned into white milk for their greedy offspring and protecting their babies from the dangers their youthfulness couldn’t comprehend. Most of the dams seemed very sedate, but sometimes they would hurry about mumbling rumbles of deep worry in their throats as they chased their rejoicing offspring.

For the barren mares, the miracle of increasing light whispered to the bodies to prepare to reproduce, for life is ever struggling with death and God’s creation is always seeking restoration as it declares His truth. 

The stallion is clothed in the richest of all the satin coats, for his coat has a deeper pigmentation than the other horses. His spirit is in turn with creation. He arches his neck which Job said was, “clothed with thunder and his snorting is the glory of his nostrils and he paweth the valley and rejoices in his strength and he mocks at fear” as he challenges the other stallions for the right to create life. 

Spring came and our beautiful mares foaled their beautiful foals. We were faced with the problem of breeding them back. Richlieu was a beautiful stallion, but his pedigree was old fashioned and to get into the mainstream market we needed to breed our mares to a stallion with a currently fashionable pedigree. But, then again, money was the problem. We would just have to breed the mares to Richlieu. One morning Richlieu was startled by the blacksmith coming around the barn, reared up, fell over backwards, and broke his neck. 

Now what were we going to do? We remembered the supernatural provision that had awaited us at every turn. There was nothing to do but expect it again. We would take a trip around the whole Eastern US and look at every likely stud prospect and every standing stallion. We would not say anything about money. So we spent two weeks looking at horses. We were somewhat disappointed with what we saw. None had the gorgeous head and eyes that Richlieu had, and none compared with Blanchita’s Society Rex which we had bred to Mallie. And, no money rained from heaven. So we went home disappointed with our problem still intact. Spring was still a ways off and we plotted and planned but all our deals fell through. 

Then one day Bob called. “Do you want Rex?” he began. Rex was a difficult horse and Bob made moral judgments against horses as if they were humans. He had turned Rex out and Rex had injured Bob. That was unpardonable with Bob. “I have had it with him and you can have him if you will come get him.” I was amazed. People didn’t give away properties worth that much! Bob had turned down a huge offer for a breeding horse in that day, shortly before. That horse was worth more than a farm. I couldn’t believe that anyone would give away property of that value. But then God is the God of the impossible and had He not met us at every turn with an unsuspected miracle? So we hooked up the trailer that day and drove to Franklin, Tennessee before Bob would have time to change his mind. As we drove home that night with one of the greatest studs in the Saddlebred world in our trailer, we were in awe! Our God, how great Thou art!

We had four colts the next spring. We trained them and sold them as two-year-olds, which is another story. Two years later when the colts were four years old, we went to Louisville, Kentucky to the World Championship Horse Show to see the first fruits of a story completely lived by faith. The first rider of these colts had been our young daughter whose life had also taken the same trail as ours and was going to prove anew the power of a Godward life soon after we returned home. 

Crystal Springs was Reserve World Champion Junior horse and Lad O’Shea was World Champion 5-Gaited Juvenile Horse. In the years ahead he would also be the World Champion 5-Gaited Ladies and World Champion 5-Gaited Amateur horse besides many other great wins. When Rex died a couple of years later he was the 5th ranking Saddlebred stud in the United States. 

Guard well your dreams because someday they might come true! With God all things are possible if only you believe. 

Springtime on Heathermoor Farm was a continuous worship experience to me every time I walked through the yard. Every tree burst into full bloom at the same time, all but the giant elm tree whose bare black branches showed the tiniest signs of promised life. The crab apple trees were all shades of pink, from deep watermelon to pale pink to nearly white. The glorious trees formed a cloud all around the house and yard. While the trees were blooming we had green grass instead of the usual splotched green of winter weeds against the brown of summer grass. As if touched by a fairy’s wand, the grass came out suddenly in emerald green. It was like a rich new carpet under the many pink clouds of the varieties of crab apple, cherry, and peach trees, the red bud and the white pear trees. 

Every morning I awoke to the symphony of birds. It seemed that there were over a hundred birds singing a symphony to this glorious celebration of life! No matter what my mood or how I was feeling, I never awoke to this sight without a profound sense of worship. I always took a trip down to the “secret garden,” trying to inhale this beauty before I went to the barn each morning. 

Scientists tell us that light is everywhere at once. It is omnipresent. Understanding light is science’s last great barrier. Light is the key to understanding time. To travel at the speed of light would make one immortal. Light is three colors fused into one. Light is the only constant in the universe, it never changes. Light focused is the powerful laser. Light triggers the cycle of life as it calls the sleeping creation back to life each spring!

The Bible tells us that God is the Father of Light and with Him is no variation or shadow of turning. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The only constant. He alone is immortal, dwelling in unapproachable light. He is omnipresent. He is the great three in one! And he richly furnishes us with all things to enjoy. 

The natural things do indeed speak of the supernatural. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Mrs. Cowart’s Stories, Chapter 1

Adventure

Do you like adventure stories? 

They usually begin with a dream of something that you want to find, or a place you want to go, or a mystery you want to solve. The trail leads through many different situations. Sometimes it goes up a steep mountain and the path is dangerously close to the edge. A misstep would be dangerous. Sometimes it passes through a grassy meadow where there is lightness of heart and seemingly not a care in the world… Giants walk onto the scene. These terrible and powerful creatures attack and there is a big battle- doubts, depression, questions. 

After a while you realize that you are not alone on this adventure. You can’t see this mysterious presence, but you know that He is there. There was help beyond yourself to win that battle! Now the trail winds through a forest which is mysteriously beautiful and full of wonder yet it suddenly becomes a desert and there is no water. The heat gets awful and the scenery gets monotonous, but you are determined to find what you are looking for, so you keep pushing on.

Every now and then there is an amazing breakthrough and you more clearly see the prize which you are seeking. This energizes you to keep on going when the clouds roll in and you cannot see a foot ahead. You must keep pushing through the darkness responding to the unseen desire of your heart, till finally you find the treasure and it is yours forever. 

Eventually you discover that you are not the same person as the one who began the journey. You are strong. You have become a warrior. There is no fear. There is great confidence. There is now a clear concept of the treasure. Having seen it you know it is yours. You discover a company of people that are seeking the same treasure that you are, but they have come from different directions. Yet they have gone through all of the dangers that you have and they too are not the same people as they were when they began the journey. This treasure is so wonderful that there is enough for all of you. In fact, there are so many aspects of this treasure that you each discover that there is an aspect of it that is especially made for you and no one else, just as the fingerprints of each of you are different from anyone else who was ever created!

Suddenly you realize that the treasure is the great King Himself for whom all things are made! Who holds the atom itself together by the word of his power. He is the beginning, the first born from the dead, the mystery that has been hidden since the world began. He is the one in whom all the fullness of God has been revealed in bodily form. His name is Jesus! 

I had been searching for this treasure in many ways since I was a very little girl. In fact from my earliest memories. This was strangely tied up with the love of a horse. As I became a wife and a mother my husband and I wanted to be able to share with people the wonders we were finding in this fellowship with the Great King. We asked God to give us a story that by the very facts of it we could prove to others that the God of the Bible was who He claimed to be. 

We began our adventure when we moved our family of four small children from our “regular life” that was like everyone else’s, from our home on Heathermoor Road in Mountain Brook to a tiny farm in Rocky Ridge. We took with us the name Heathermoor and thus began the saga of Heathermoor Farm. It wasn’t long before we had outgrown our five acres. We had acquired a small herd of one stallion and three mares. We began yearning for a bigger farm where we could increase our herd, but we had no money with which to buy one. 

I remembered a verse my 7th grade Bible teacher had taught us:

“Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

She said that if God was first in your life He would give you the desire itself as well as the object of it. So we prayed that if this desire was indeed from God that He would have to give us the object of it because we had no money to bring it about ourselves. 

We had only prayed this way for a few weeks when John’s boss came to him and told him that he had found a farm in Leeds that was for sale at such a bargain price that he wanted to buy it for an investment. He would have to keep it for years until its investment potential was ripe. But he couldn’t do that without someone to live there and keep it up for him. He said it would be ours totally to build and plant until the appointed time. Would we be willing to do that? We were so excited that God had answered our prayers in such a hurry. So we moved our little herd of children and horses to Leeds taking with us the name Heathermoor, where we lived for 25 years.

The beautiful 100 acre farm had once been a show place, but had fallen into disrepair as the family had slowly died off. We set about to restore it. We decided that we needed to buy a few new mares to breed to Richlieu, our beautiful stallion that we had traded a heifer for to an aging lady on a farm in Tennessee. She could no longer care for him. 

The prevailing theory at that time was that if a mare didn’t make a show horse she would be a broodmare. We had been taught by our mentor, Bob Smith, who owned the wonderful stallion, Blanchita’s Society Rex, “That John D. Rockefellow couldn’t afford to own a sorry horse. It doesn’t cost anymore to feed a world’s champion than it does a nag!” he would say. Our budget was in the nag category so we went looking at local mares. Five times for five different mares, when we began to write a check, the owners suddenly decided they didn’t want to sell them to us only to sell them to someone else a week later!

What was God trying to tell us? Maybe he was directing us to Bob’s advice. We took a trip to Memphis, Tennessee to look at some mares that a well known trainer had. They led out three mares. They were all beautiful. Two were the most beautiful and well bred mares we had ever seen. Plus one had a foal by Rex and was in foal again to him. But, we couldn’t afford them so we ended up with the lesser mare. We took her back to Birmingham with her breeder’s certificate in hand guaranteeing her to be in foal. The next day after we got home she was in heat. We had not bargained for an empty broodmare so we had to return her. 

What was God trying to tell us? It certainly seemed He was directing us to the two most gorgeous mares. They couldn’t be sold apart so we would have to take them both or not at all. Our guidance seemed clear. We used the barren mare as a down payment and signed a note for the balance. We called our mentor Bob Smith to tell him what we had done. There was silence on the phone when slowly we heard, “I would have given anything to own those mares but he would never sell them.”

God is faithful!

Posted on Leave a comment

Donor Spotlight- In Their Words

You know how a box of Valentine’s Day chocolate is like a gamble? Like a gamble that you ALWAYS win because ALL of the chocolates are delicious? That’s kind of what our donors are like. We have lots of different flavors of donors, and they’re all precious to us!

Colleen and Jackson
“I support and volunteer at The Red Barn because I’ve seen first hand the incredible difference that horse therapy has made in the lives of these children. I have witnessed improvement in balance, core strength and social skills. Of equal importance is seeing their pride and confidence grow as they participate in the various programs. This truly is a place of faith, hope, and love. Keep up the great work!” Colleen Samples, Volunteer & Donor

There are event sponsors, monthly donors at all levels, end-of-year donors, Facebook donors, Facebook birthday fundraisers, memorial and honoraria donors, people who give up their birthday money to support the barn, family foundations that give monthly, family foundations that give a few times a year, small businesses that donate, large businesses that donate, people who give through their employer’s United Way campaign. The list could go on forever!

So what do all of these amazing supporters have in common? Our donors love the mission, love the people, and LOVE seeing how impactful their donations are in the lives of our students!

Naturally, we need to hear it “from the horse’s mouth.” We asked, “Why do you give?”

“I give because of the huge difference The Red Barn makes in the lives of their students and the families that benefit from the impact.”

“The needs that are met by the staff and resources at The Barn are too numerous for me to name, but the number of people who reap the benefits more than justify any donation.”

“If you visit and observe how many people invest in each child, each horse, and each lesson one would come away so impressed and grateful!  Everything is handled and planned for on such an organized and professional level. I am challenged to do something in response.”

“Their mission, the level of quality, the way they impact lives.”

“I know the people and ministry behind the Red Barn. I trust in their calling and know God is making a difference in families because of The Red Barn.”

“The great impact the programs have on families and the need to serve more families.

The heart of these donors is to make a difference, make an IMPACT in the lives of our students and their families. All of our staff, parents, volunteers, and students are so very grateful. Take a moment and watch some videos of life-changing transformations on our YouTube channel today! And if you find yourself inspired to give any amount, give here.

Posted on Leave a comment

What Are Red Barn Staff Members Thankful For?

While there may not be enough room on the internet for ALL our people are thankful for, we are going to give it a shot! The Red Barn has an extremely grateful staff.

Joy (AKA Mama Joy) is thankful:

  • When I meet someone in the community and they tell me they’ve heard about someone who has benefitted from our programs.
  • When everyone pitches in to make sure the stalls get cleaned and all the envelopes get addressed.
  • When everyone works together and we fly like The Blue Angels.
  • When people say they are praying for us.
  • When the temperature doesn’t get below freezing so we don’t have to worry about pipes freezing.
  • When we are able to get the horses all in before it starts raining cats and dogs.
  • For the wagon that helps us carry the shavings to the stalls.
  • When someone drops off a whole load of supplies that they’ve been collecting and it’s exactly what we need. There are no coincidences!
  • For loyal friends who stick together to share faith, hope, and love.
  • For BIG fans in the lower barn.

Sylvie says that she is thankful for:

  • Finalizing the adoption with Daisa and having her as my sister.
  • Having an amazing family willing to love everyone no matter what.
  • Having a dad I am proud of, and being able to work with him here.
  • Having an amazing family let me keep my horses at their property so I get to see them every day.
  • Friends that, even when they move 12 hours away, stay in touch with you and come and visit.
  • An amazing staff that is willing to help teach me AND an amazing workplace that cares so much about their staff and their horses! It’s been really amazing to get to do what I have always wanted to do and have coworkers that are so tightly knit. They always have your back and are willing to take the extra second to explain something to you or help you- on or off the clock!
  • Last but not least, I am thankful for God and the number of people in my life that show his unconditional love!

Continue reading What Are Red Barn Staff Members Thankful For?