My first season at Bright Side wrapped up back in October but I still find myself waking up every Saturday with horses and kids on the brain. It is like my circadian rhythm reset to ranch time. I have thought long and hard about how I wish to reflect on my season. I want to really paint a picture of what it is like to spend hours with one child and one horse and see God work. I want to clearly communicate how amazing it is to be used by God to change a child’s life. I want to somehow bear my heart and show just how much one season of mentoring actually changed me, the mentor.
At our annual Bet on Bright Side event back in May, I shared briefly about my first six weeks with the ranch. I remember expressing the fear that I had felt that very first morning. I got to the ranch early to ‘pray circles’ around the ranch and my sessions. I nervously joined hands with Devin and Tia as we prayed for God’s blessing as we jumped into our season. And then it started. From the moment that I met my first kid, I felt completely powerless but oddly at peace. At that moment I knew that God was in total control and it was a relief to be able to dwell in his wisdom and listen for his guidance. Over the next several months we dealt with rain, flat tires, injured horses, crazy South Carolina heat, and tired kids. It was easy to get discouraged but it was also easy to see God at work.
Each child that comes to the ranch brings different barriers and struggles. Just when you think you know a child they can easily throw you for a loop. I guess that is what makes this so much fun! During sessions, I would sometimes find myself over-explaining and overcompensating for a struggle I just assumed that one of my kids would have. It was those moments when they would say, “Ms. Olivia… Can I just do it?” I would then hand over the reins (sometimes literally!) and watch in amazement as confidence, self-control, and excitement poured out of them. Those were the moments I thought, “Wow! Look what God is doing!” Because there is no way I was capable of instilling that kind change in a child.
While God was working on my kids he was also working on me. Have you ever been outside of your comfort zone but then realized that that was exactly where you needed to be to cope with a situation? Well, that was me this summer. Back in June my husband and I experienced a devastating loss. I ended up taking two weeks away from the ranch and my kids just to try and deal with what we were experiencing. But after two weeks I knew that I needed to get back out there. It was going to be hard but I needed to do it. It was during that first Saturday back that Brightside became a safe place for my soul. It is hard to explain the peace that I felt. It was almost as if God was using that breeze, those trees, those horses, and my sweet kids to mend my heart. I was exactly where I needed to be.
All in all, my first season at Bright Side was absolutely amazing. To hear a young child say, “Ever since coming here I don’t want to hurt myself anymore. I know that I am special and wanted” will completely rock your world. While I could go on for hours about specific situations and conversations it all boils down to one thing; when you empty yourself of preconceived notions, fears, and insecurities it gives God space to dwell and move inside of you. My kids did not learn because of lessons I taught or words that I spoke, they learned because there is a God who loves them and wants the best for them. I was just a vessel for that message.