Life’s journey takes us to many places… some are happy places that we completely enjoy, while others are places we’d rather not have gone to. On life’s journey, even when it’s those rather not places, we learn things that make each of us a better person, a stronger person, and a wiser person. Sometimes we find out that what we thought was, wasn’t. We discover new truths that change how we see things, and what we want.
In Sarah’s journey to New Parish she had a moment when what she thought was, wasn’t… she was sure Max was a self centered jerk, but life’s journey took her to a place that definitely gave her a very different perspective.
Excerpt from New Parish:
“Sarah stepped carefully into the barn watching out for what she had heard Uncle Alex refer to as horse apples – she smiled a little thinking of his wording. He’d used it in a very negative way toward Albert, “Why am I thinking of that?” she thought to herself then sidestepped some of those apples and smiled again. She suddenly realized she heard crying and looked up from the floor, watching to see what was going on.
Max emerged from Princess’ stall and put his arms around Leah, “She’s just in some pain baby,” he said, with the most kindness and gentleness Sarah had ever heard in anyone’s voice.
“Dad,” Leah said through sobs, “Is she going to be okay?”
“I’m going to do my very best to help her,” Max reassured her, then he hugged her close and whispered something in her ear that Sarah couldn’t hear.
Sarah remembered the conversation at the dinner table about Princess and how much Leah wanted to be with the mare when she gave birth. Her thoughts lingered over that conversation and that night.
She walked a little closer – Max and Leah returned inside the stall, she could see Leah kneel down at Princess’ head and begin stroking her gently as the horse repeatedly gave labored grunts. Sarah could see tears escaping Leah’s eyes, and her heart felt like it would break for the little girl she had only met a couple of nights ago.
“Dad!” Johnny shouted.
“It’s okay, just talk to her real gentle like and rub her back,” Max spoke gently to his son from somewhere inside the stall.
Sarah inched around further into the barn so she could get a better look. The grunting of the mare was almost rhythmic now. Sarah could see that not just Alex, Johnny, and Leah were in there with Max and the mare, there was also Joseph, Jake, and Sam. Alex was back near Max who was removing wet blankets and replacing them with dry ones. The floor of the stall had a very thick layer of straw which the mare was laying on, they were using the blankets to absorb the wet and keep the area clean and dry for the foal.
Princess gave a loud whinny and jerked, Max spoke to her, “Easy girl, easy, it’s gonna be okay.” He stroked her haunches and began to sing to her.
Sarah saw him nod to his boys and they began to sing with him, Sarah knew the song, it was the one he’d sang on the hay ride. She watched him stroke the mare and listened to his smooth voice, it was the most calming thing she’d ever experienced in her life. The mare returned to her rhythmic grunting and Sarah saw two small hooves emerging from her.
Sarah had to make herself stop biting her bottom lip, she didn’t know she was doing it until it became quite painful. Her mind was totally captured by what was happening in that stall. She saw Max take hold of the little hooves when the mare tensed up, he pulled as she pushed. Sarah’s eyes went to Leah, the tears were still streaming down her face but she was singing along with her brothers and stroking the mare lovingly. Sarah could see the beads of sweat forming on Max’s forehead, his dark curly hair was disheveled, but he looked as though he were as calm as a summer’s morning.
“How could he be?” Sarah thought to herself. “He had proven yesterday that he was a hot head, easily stressed, frustrated, and angered. How could he be this calm and gentle today?” After what she had seen yesterday this didn’t fit. Then what Mary said after the park altercation started returning to her thoughts:
“I know you don’t understand but we just don’t date or anything like it here, Albert knows that, but he’s been sort of taking advantage of you because you’re new here. Dad and Uncle Alex and some of the other church leaders have talked to Albert and told him to stop, when he continued. Max went to talk with him and told him to just back off until you’d decided. But he wouldn’t stop, I guess it got on Max’s last nerve…”
Sarah’s thoughts were returned to the stall when the mare gave another loud whinney. She could see the contraction happening and once again the mare pushed and Max pulled. The little hooves had grown into little blonde legs. Sarah watched breathless as the process was repeated over and over, Princess pushed, Max pulled, the kids sang to her and stroked her gently. She saw Max patiently help the mare and encourage his children, her brain started to piece together the events that had happened since she first met this cowboy. His words started to enter her mind, she could hear his voice talking to her just as if he were standing next to her.
The time when she and Mary had listened in on a conversation between him and Brother Michael came to her mind first:
“Oh, dear,” Max had said when Brother Michael had first told him about the match…“I’m afraid she doesn’t like me too much…This could be a real problem…” then near the end of that conversation she remembered him saying, “Yes, I’m willing to do what it takes and to love her. I’ll do all I can to make this work out.”
Then when they were on the Ridge the other day his words reached the depths of her soul:
“I know you’re struggling with everything that’s happening. I want you to know that whatever you decide to do, I’ll do what I can to help and make things work out for you.”
Next she heard what he said when he walked her to her car after dinner the other night:
“I hope you’ll think about what the church leaders have suggested and pray about this… I know you think you might not be happy married to me, but I promise you I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you are.”
The memories of Brother Michael teasing her about being attracted to Max came next, she inadvertently put her hand to her face remembering she had blushed. Then her mind went to the night Brother Michael had asked her to pray about the name the church leaders had received before he would tell her who it was. She remembered the complete peace she’d felt…
Another loud whinney jarred her from her thoughts and memories, she looked to see the head of the foal emerging from the mare, more labored breathing, more singing, more pushing, more pulling and the foal finally slid out. Princess looked as though she completely collapsed, Leah wept openly as she stroked the mare’s head. Max was working quickly to wipe down the foal then handed it off to Alex and Johnny to finish the cleanup. Max moved over the abdomen of the mare massaging and pushing and the rest of the stuff that needed to be expelled emerged from her. He used the blankets to soak up the stuff and cleaned the area, he was in the process of putting the blankets in a large basin when Sam shouted, “She’s not breathing!”
Sarah jumped, everything had been very quiet for the last little while and the shout had pierced the barn like a lightening strike.
Max went to the head of the mare and knelt down putting his face very near her nose, “She’s breathing,” he sighed. “She’s just plain worn out,” he explained to his children. He stroked her gently, “She worked hard, now she’ll need to rest. Why don’t you boys go in and tell your moms that that little fella’s here?”
Sarah saw them begin to smile, they ran out of the stall, waved hi to her, then ran on to the house. Leah stayed near Princess, still stroking her gently as Alex and Johnny gently played with the baby. Max stood and came to the door of the stall where there was a bucket of water and some hand sanitizing soap, he bent over the bucket quickly washing his hands and arms.
Sarah realized that he didn’t know she was there, she also realized that the reason she was there no longer existed, that was a strange feeling. She thought, “Maybe I can just sneak out so he won’t see me,” but at that moment, he turned to get a towel to dry his hands, and their eyes met, he looked somewhat like he’d seen a ghost.
“Oh,” he said quietly. “Do we need to talk?”
“No,” Sarah replied. “Excuse me, I need to go talk to Brother Michael.””