Tennessee Walking Horse
“He set a royal crown on her head and made her queen . . .” (Esther 2:17)
Kim stood in the paddock with her beloved friend.
Jude was a strong woman who had spent much of her life as a Bering Sea fisherman. After suffering a substantial leg injury she turned her strong nature toward the Juvenile Justice System by counseling young men who were placed within their care. Over the years, Jude faithfully brought groups of boys out to the ranch. Together, they served alongside Kim and her staff assisting in the care of the starving and wounded horses. Jude’s tenacity and compassion for troubled boys and hurting horses—drew them to a place where all could experience the true power of God’s genuine love, hope and healing.
Jude’s fiery kindness impacted many a forgotten boy and animal in need. Her home was filled with previously unwanted pets who needed the safety and comfort of a family. The woman who had given her life to help others—now—was in desperate need. On this day, her focus had narrowed down to one challenge—battling stage four lung cancer. With great sadness, Jude understood her ability to care for her two cherished horses . . . was waning.
Our team knew it was time to come alongside this dear warrior. Once we returned to the ranch, Kim commissioned the staff: “Jude will know the saving hope of Jesus Christ through our love for her and care over what she treasures most . . . her beloved horses.”
Over the following months, several staff joined Kim and made many trips to Jude’s home to help care for her four-footed family. With each visit, a softening occurred in Jude’s “life-hardened” heart. Etched by years of struggle and sacrifice, her weathered walls of bitterness were slowly being eroded by each reciprocated act of kindness.
All too soon, Jude’s health began to plummet. By God’s merciful provision, a friend lovingly adopted her younger Thoroughbred and Kim gently offered to provide a home at the ranch for her older Tennessee Walker. The mare had a beautiful pinto coat. Each white marking on her face and body was uniquely outlined by a fun array of freckles. Kim explained that her treasured girl would be dearly loved by the children who came. Many of these kids, just like the juvenile justice boys, needed to know that their loved mattered, that they themselves mattered.
Overcome with gratitude, Jude willingly agreed to gift her mare to Crystal Peaks.
Prior to the pinto coming to her new home, a faithful volunteer at the Ranch offered to begin working with the mare to help prepare her for safely carrying children. After weeks of time under saddle, finally the day came for her arrival into a new life’s mission. The devoted individual who trained her shared with us something very special. She sensed the name God desired for this chosen mare was, “Esther.” Upon hearing the new name, Jude smiled weakly and said, “Esther was the name of the woman who taught me how to ride long ago. I love it.”
Once moved to the Ranch, the aged mare’s transition was difficult. For much of Esther’s life, she had only known one home and caregiver. As a result, she spent several days pacing her new surroundings. In those first weeks, many kids made a point to go and spend quiet time with her. Their tender touch showed the unsettled horse that she was safe—and loved. It was beautiful to see how interacting with the children immediately quieted Esther’s uncertainty.
While Esther continued to adjustment to ranch life—our steadfast volunteer continued to pursue Jude. During one such visit, breakthrough happened. While laying curled in her bed, silent tears streaking Jude’s cheeks. In a voice weakened by cancer, she asked Jesus to come in and be the Lord and Savior of her life. The hope and love of God that had once poured through Jude to the boys—to her horses—to those in need—that same hope—came to dwell inside her heart.
The profound peace of Jesus poured into Jude’s final days. As her life drew to a close, she recognized she was a treasured daughter of the King of kings. A few weeks later, the beloved daughter walked into the eternal embrace of Love Himself, the arms of her Jesus.
Over time, we watched as Esther silently mourned the loss of her cherished friend. During this season, there was one child who was particularly consistent to check on Esther. Many observed the freckle-faced girl come and quietly stroke the nose of the freckle-faced mare. One day the girl declared to her leader, “Esther is my favorite horse . . . because we’re a lot alike. We both lost our moms to cancer. And we both have red hair and freckles.”
Together, a hurting horse and a hurting child chose to move forward into trust of their Savior—and together—He began healing both of their hearts.
Today, Esther welcomes each little hand that reached up to stroke her favorite spots. She loves to follow the children around the arena and she continues to receive visits from her red-headed friend. In the pasture, Esther made herself known as a leader among our horse family. Though one of the oldest horses on the ranch, Esther’s passionate spirit has demonstrated a powerful loyalty to her friends.
Esther’s story continues to mirror a picture of God’s promise to each of His children: “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3, NLT)
By following the incredible woven tapestry of God’s redemptive masterpiece, one would see how a woman named Jude exchanged her despair for festive celebration in the arms of her King. The thread continues as a little girl received a joyous blessing instead of mourning in the friendship of a horse. And how a horse named Esther traded in the ashes of her past for a crown of love in her present.
He desires do the same for you.
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