by Tammy Lawson

The very first time I set foot on Morning Star Youth Ranch was in late spring of 2009. That was almost fourteen years ago! I learned so much in those first couple of years. I learned what it was like to truly serve, what family looked like, and how to honestly communicate with horses. I saw so many similarities between how we interacted with horses and how God interacts with us. It’s only when we stop, slow down, empty ourselves, let go of our plans, and fully follow God that we can completely walk with God.

It was only a few months ago that God, so very clearly, called me and my family to move across the country. It was a very busy, slightly chaotic, exciting, and sad time for me. In the middle of all of the hectic-ness I was constantly and continuously reminded that God had made a way. That God had called us to something different. That God’s plan was the plan that we were to follow. He knew my heart, He knew my desires, and He knew my needs. So, with Jesus at the wheel, two dogs in the cab, four horses in the trailer, and my husband, with three dogs, following behind in our other vehicle hauling a smaller trailer, I drove east. I am so thankful for the worship music that played non- stop, for my dogs who never complained about my singing, crying, and out-loud prayers, and the army of prayer warriors that covered us, totally and completely in prayer for four full days.

Moving to an unfamiliar place has it’s ups and downs, to be sure. I spent the first month here not knowing where I was, not knowing how long it would take to get from point A to point B, or which stores to shop. I also had to find new vets for my horses and dogs, a new groomer for my fluffy pup, a new farrier for the horses feet…the list goes on and on. I’ll admit that I am not a fan of change. I like knowing where I will go to buy my husbands favorite milk. I like knowing who carries my dogs favorite treats. I like knowing how long it will take me to get home from town. I loved living at the ranch and knowing that feeding time, both morning and evening, would give me an opportunity to not only hang out with the horses but I would also get to spend time with my dear friend, Diane. So many words were spoken between us, during those times. So much laughter was shared, so many tears fell, and so much love was exchanged.

I was asked to leave a ministry that was a very large part of my life and my heart. The children that we served, the parents with whom we shared Christ, the volunteers that truly became my sisters and brothers, in every way were so deeply engrained and entwined within me. Then, I was told to leave. That there was something different, someplace new where I was to go. I will confess that every-single-day of that four day cross country drive, I cried. I cried for the family and life that I was being asked to leave behind as well as for the unknown I was being asked to move into.

I arrived here in late summer, early fall. Changes were happening all around me, in every imaginable way. East Tennessee is known for its changing seasons and most famously, the turning of the leaves in the fall. I have the Great Smoky Mountains, to the east and the Cumberland Mountains, which turn into the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the north. To see the millions of trees that cover those mountains is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It was through the changing colors of the leaves on all of those trees and then the “falling” of those leaves that God showed me what change with grace really looked like. God’s creation surrenders completely to Him, and Him alone. Because of that complete surrender, those beautifully green leaves slowly turn into the most vibrant colors of red, yellow, and orange. If you have never experienced seeing this, I pray that God puts that in your future as it is breathtaking. Then, once the vibrance of the colors hit their peak, those leaves begin to fall and you can see things that were not previously visible, because the fullness of the trees blocked entire rivers from sight or empty fields that are full of deer and wild turkeys. I began to see what was previously unseen. God showed me that only in complete surrender and trust can He use me, mold me, help me to peak and drop my dead leaves so that He can fully change me into what He has created me to be; a warrior for Christ. It is only through that death, the dead leaves, the death of Christ on the cross, that God will be able to regrow and renew life in the spring, Christ’s rising from the grave. So it is for me, and for everyone of us who lives in Christ. Let His master hands move you and mold you into the masterpiece that He created you to be. Let Him take you through changing of seasons, so that in the spring, you will be able to bloom and grow with new colors, new life, and new hope.

I believe this is what He called all of us to do. We simply need to surrender completely and let our leaves fall.