Kylie was one of the early participants at the ranch, and I had the joy of meeting her as part of a girls’ Bible study and session group. The following season I worked one-on-one with her, and was able to truly get to know this blossoming young woman. Kylie and I weeded the garden, scooped poop, rode horses (turns out Kylie and Dakota make quite the hula hoop spinning circus act!), discovered that arugula is her favorite microgreen but mustard is too spicy, snuggled with the ranch rabbit, relaxed on the river, and all in all had a wonderful time in the haven that the Lord has provided in the ranch. As the summer progressed though, I felt a tug at my heart for Kylie that continued to persist, but though I felt there was a particular reason for this tug, I could not think what it was. Then it hit me. I could not think what it was, because that was dependent on me, and what I should have started with right from the first tug was to pray about it, for goodness knows the Lord is the one who gave the tug in the first place. Okay, Lord, what do you want to show me? How can I speak Your truth into this dear one? Kylie is sweet, curious, tender, funny, and also strongly timid and uncertain. At 13 years old she was a good head taller than I (not terribly difficult, but still) and held herself in a condensed manner, as if trying to keep herself from being too conspicuous. In all her sweet curiosity she prefaced nearly every statement or question with “I’m sorry”, “this may be stupid but”, or the like. “Oh” was the only dumbfounded thought in my head as I connected the tug my heart had been feeling with these and other observations. For not only had the Lord opened my eyes to Kylie’s insecurities, He had shown me a mirror of my younger self in so many ways.
Children and families who come to the ranch come from all walks of life; we have no qualifications for eligibility. And while some come from varying degrees of brokenness and heartache, some, like Kylie, come from sound families who love the Lord and lead their children through that love. But the world is hard, and the world is loud. Even in a home full of love and protection, wounding happens. However, wounding is never the final chapter, for we are loved by a Great Physician and He heals the brokenhearted. Before I knew what the words would be, my mouth was open and I was. . . truly, for lack of a better word, calling Kylie out on her self deprecating words and posture. I could have swallowed my own tongue! Thankfully though, the words continued and to this day I’m not totally sure what I said to Kylie, but I know the words were not of me, but of a Father who weeps for her and of my preteen heart that longed to be told by someone outside of my immediate family that the words I then stumbled over and held back were worth hearing. I do remember that Kylie maintained eye contact with me the whole conversation, the longest she ever had, and then agreed with my challenge to refrain from her negative self talk, at least while at the ranch.
Over the following sessions, Kylie’s speech was sometimes just as halting as before, but now it was because she would stop herself, give me a rueful little grin, and then continue on, her shoulders straightening a little. Never once did I remind her; she always caught herself. one day I handed her a halter and asked her to get a horse on her own, the expression she gave me would make you think I’d asked her to walk from Grand Forks to Crookston barefoot in January. I gave her a smile and a nudge though, and she set off with a deep breath and squared shoulders, completing the task without a hitch. My face began to hurt I was smiling so hard at her. The beauty of her confidence as she lead Dakota back to me could have melted the polar caps. She followed this momentous and deceptively simple action with “now what?”, excitement taking the place of her far more standard trepidation. “ANYTHING”, I wanted to shout for all to hear. Anything is next, because Kylie, you are pure gold and the Lord can do incredible things through you!