Two months ago I wrote the following words after a very frustrating and unmanageable day with my horses.  “I’ve used the 12 Steps to overcome addictions and co-dependency… now (God) wants to teach me that these eternal principles can apply even to my horses….Over the next weeks and months I have felt impressed to write about this journey to discover God is the healer of all things, even a broken relationship with my horses.” For the next few weeks I faithfully posted the lessons I was learning.  Then a tragedy occurred with my horses.  I didn’t see how I could continue writing.  How could God allow this when I had publicly committed to journal my experience of applying the 12 step principles to my horses?  As we began Step 2 in Healing Through Christ my writing stopped.

So why am I posting again after almost 6 weeks of silence?  On Friday President Russell M. Nelson shared a video message, “The Healing Power of Gratitude.”  He said “I have concluded that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems. No matter our situation, showing gratitude…is a fast-acting and longlasting spiritual prescription. Does gratitude spare us from sorrow, sadness, grief, and pain? No, but it does soothe our feelings. It provides us with a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life…We can even give thanks for our trials, from which we learn things we would not know otherwise…As a doctor, I know the value of good therapy. So, dear friends, may…I invite you—just for the next seven days—to turn social media into your own personal gratitude journal. Post every day about what you are grateful for, whom you are grateful for, and why you are grateful. At the end of seven days, see if you feel happier and more at peace.”

I didn’t have a social media platform to write from but I knew I had committed to write on The Arbor Kalamazoo website.  I also realized that I had only been counting the problems that began that day and ignored the gentle promptings of blessings.  I wept as I recalled the miracles of that tragic day.  The vet only lived three miles away, was home and came immediately.  My husband and trainer helped calm the frightened horses.  My trainer was able to work with the vet to sedate and stitch up the wound.  The cut needed only 10 stitches.  My trainer and daughter who have helped everyday to give antibiotics, cleanse, rebandage and apply the daily medicine to the wounds.  My older mare, where all the trouble began with a bee sting, recovered the next day.  My list could go on and on.  As I counted the miracles my heart is filled with “the healing power of gratitude” and I was “happier and more at peace.”

There are many lessons I will yet tell about what happened that day and countless blessings that I will continue to be grateful for. President Nelson is right, gratitude didn’t spare me from all sadness, but it provides me with greater perspective.  I can even give thanks for my trials, from which I can learn things we would not otherwise know.  Thank you Lord, for healing my heart and my horses.  #GiveThanks


The Perfect Farrier

In our Healing Through Christ workbook we learn that suffering behaviors include remaining a victim, holding on to guilt and shame, or worry and fear. We are taught that these behaviors can disconnect us from the power of God in our lives.  None of these feelings seemed to fit with my horses’ situation until it was time for the farrier to come and trim my horses’ hooves.

When I got my first horse, Ally, I had a regular scheduled visit with a farrier.  She came about 6-8 times each year until she retired.  I tried to find another but no farrier was taking new horses.  Because my horses were not being ridden and outside constantly I knew their hooves would naturally wear as they ran the acres of pasture. Still I always worried about not having their hooves trimmed properly.  When my horse trainer began working with my horses this fall he told me all my horses’ hooves would need to be trimmed before he would begin riding them.  It was my job to find a farrier.  This is when my suffering behaviors began.

As I started looking for a farrier the guilt set in. How could I tell a farrier it had been years since my horses’ last trimming? What would they think of me?  What would they say to me?  I am totally responsible for this and should have done something before now.   Maybe I should have just sold them years ago if I couldn’t keep up their care.  All these thoughts just made matters worse.  I contacted an Amish store to see if they knew of a farrier I could use but no luck.   Then I thought, “I’m just getting what I deserve.  I don’t believe that I can even ask God to help me because I don’t deserve any help.”  Despite all the negative chatter in my mind I finally found a farrier online who was willing to come and trim my horses.

The trimming appointment was for the following week.  With the appointment taken care of now worry and fear filled my heart.  Though I told the farrier it had been years since the last trimming I worried about how the horses would behave.  Would the farrier simply leave if they treated her badly? What would I do if they attacked her or wouldn’t cooperate?  I was certain the farrier would just pack up and leave without touching my horses.  This type of mental chatter went on for days as I went out each morning to do my farm chores.  How could I face my horse trainer after the farrier refused to work on my horses?  I didn’t know how to stop the voices that filled me with worry and fear.

Finally the morning of the appointment arrived.  I was in tears as I went out to the barn to get things ready.  As I walked out I remembered reading in our Healing Through Christ workbook, “Seek spiritual help and peace.  Be strong and  courageous, you can see it through.”  I stopped in my tracks and said, “Please, Lord, I need your help.  What can I do to help my horses cooperate?”  The thought came into my mind to move the horses from the paddock into a pasture and ask the farrier to trim them on the grass. I wondered if the farrier would be willing to do this but I knew this was direction from the Lord.  I quickly went out and opened a new pasture, and my horses eagerly went in and started eating. Within minutes the farrier arrived.

I immediately liked the farrier, a woman in her 30s, who was fine with trimming in the pasture.   She started with Dusky, the horse I knew was going to be the most difficult.  As the farrier began she handed me a small salt block for Dusky to lick as she worked on him.  Salt is like candy to a horse and Dusky never stopped licking his salt lollipop and was soon trimmed without any trouble.                                     

Dusky was happy to go back to the grass and Tomie was next.  He also did just fine as he licked at the salt I held for him.  Ally, the mare, who I expected to be the easiest was the most challenging.  Yet she too was soon trimmed.  I stood in amazement.  It was a miracle. The horses had been fine.  All my guilt, worry and fear were over.  I made an appointment for the farrier to return in 6 weeks.

So what did I learn from this experience?  First that condemning myself over past choices and mistakes didn’t help me.  Then as I listened to the voices of guilt, worry and shame I became disconnected from the power of God and suffered even more.  It wasn’t until I remember to reach to the Lord for help that clear guidance and direction came.  The Lord even sent the perfect farrier for my horses.  I need to remember with the Lord’s help I can face my past with courage, forgive my mistakes and learn the life lessons they can provide me.  And with joy I can continue moving ahead with my horses with the Lord at my side.

Codependency and Horses

This is part 3 of a series of contributions from Annette

This week’s Healing Through Christ meeting was on codependency, and I wondered how it could possibly apply to my horse situation.  I will begin by sharing a definition of codependency inserting “my horses for people.  “The prefix “co” in the word codependency refers to the connection between [me and my horses.] “Co” is attached to the word dependency to convey the understanding that [my] mental and emotion health are directly connected to and dependent upon what [my horses]….are or are not doing.”  I thought, if this is true I should feel different emotions depending on what my horses are or are not doing as they work with my horse trainer.

The next lesson for my horse Tomie was to learn to yield to the bit which means teaching a horse to put their head in a position where there is no pressure or pulling on the corners of their mouth by the bit.  It looks like this. 

Notice how loose the reins are; this is very comfortable for the horse. My trainer explained how we would teach this to Tomie.  First we bridle and saddle him, tie the reins to rings on each side of the saddle and then allow Tomie to freely wander around the corral as he figures out where to place his head.   My trainer told me in the beginning it might be frustrating for Tomie as he works to figure out where to place his head so the reins hang loose.  We then bridled and saddled Tomie, tied the reins to the rings and let him loose in the corral.  My job was to watch him as he wandered around the pen. As I watched I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I felt inside. Instead of lowering his head he raised it up high which created pressure on the bit in his mouth.  Tomie was uncomfortable as he fought against the bit instead of yielding. I didn’t like watching Tomie work to figure things out.  The longer I stood there watching the more upset I became.   I knew where his head needed to be and wanted to go and lower his head to speed up the learning process.  Even though it had only been a couple of minutes I could hardly stop myself from jumping through the fence to help him.  As I stood trying to work through my feelings a voice inside my head said, “Annette, you are acting codependently towards Tomie. You don’t like your feelings as you watch your horse discover and learn the lesson your trainer is teaching him.   You want to go in and force Tomie’s head to the correct position in order to stop your anxious feelings as you watch him learn on his own.”

I was shocked as I realized the truth of what the Spirit was teaching me.  My mental and emotional health was directly connected to what my horse was or was not doing.  I couldn’t feel happy until Tomie was “doing the right thing.” I wondered how many time I had interfered with lessons the Lord was trying to teach my children because I couldn’t stand my impatient feelings as I watched them work through the learning process.  Finally I had to walk away from Tomie and find someone else to watch him as he figured out where to put his head.  Within minutes I was called back to see that Tomie had discovered where his head should be and the reins were hanging loose.  My trainer was right, Tomie had figured it out on his own.

It was a day to celebrate Tomie’s progress but also a day to celebrate what I learned about myself.  I discovered my impatient and anxious feelings as I saw others go through the lessons God has arranged for them.  I realized my uncomfortable emotions often cause me to control and manipulate others instead of letting them learn by themselves. I hope in the future to choose to trust in my Heavenly Father’s lessons for others just as I am learning to trust my trainer’s lessons for my horses.

My Feelings About My Horses

In Healing Through Christ we learn that emotions are always a part of life’s trials. We are also taught the importance of really listening to our feelings as we work through recovery. My horses are currently a big trial in my life.  Could listening to my feelings about them make a difference?  I was surprised by what I learned as I had the courage to face my emotions and learn the lessons they could teach me.  I will list the 5 emotional stages I went through with my horses and what each stage taught me about myself and my relationship with them.

Shock and Denial

The situation really began about 6 weeks ago when my daughter discovered my horses had broken into a back pasture.  It was dark and nearly impossible to see the galloping horses as they circled around her. With added help from my husband, my daughter soon had the horses back safely where they belonged.  When my family told me later about the incident I was “shocked” the horses had broken through the back fence and certainly in “denial” as I convinced myself the actions of my horses was really no big deal, a problem that could be handled sometime in the future. 


Then just 2 weeks ago when my horses started constantly breaking fence lines and going wherever they wanted I got really “angry.”  How could they do this to me; I feed and take care of them; I spend tons of money on them? I wanted to get rid of them. It was my horses’ fault I was feeling so angry. In Healing Through Christ we learn that getting angry “doesn’t solve anything…but it can destroy everything.” At the same time anger “can be a voice inside of us that says ‘Enough! Something has to change.’” I began to process my anger by talking about it with friends and writing in my journal.  I prayed for guidance from the Lord and He sent help and understanding through a horse trainer that “just happened to move into my church congregation.” As I started to work on the problem it also helped me continue to move through my angry feelings.


Even as I started to take responsibility for my problems I felt deep sadness at the loss of my dream of perfect horses, a beautiful farm and the easy country life I had always imagine.  This life was hard and always would be.  I felt everything was hopeless and just wanted to give up.  But Healing Through Christ tells us to remember “feelings aren’t facts.”


Bargaining is when I think I can bribe my horses into cooperating with me.  I have learned there is no reward or special treat I can give my horses that will permanently keep them in fences that aren’t working right.  A bribe is only a temporary band-aid until they next time the horses decide to wander through “unhot” fences into better pastures.

Acceptance and Resolution

Finally I accepted the truth of the situation.  I could see things as they really were, not what I just hoped them to be.  Unlike denial, I see clearly what actions “I, Annette,” needed to take to change things.  I reorganized my pasture situation, I bought a new fence charger, cut down the brush under the fence lines, and worked hard to change the things I could.  There was a new kind of peace and serenity that grew in my heart as things slowly started to get better. I am happy now as things are changing for the better. 

Through this trial with my horses I am learning the lessons my emotions can teach me.  The Lord is bringing me to the right solutions as I listen to and process my feelings. As I have gone through the emotional stages I learned how to find peace with all my different feelings, even anger.  And I am learning that my emotions are a gift from God if I allow Him to use my feelings to teach me

The Answer to Unmanageable Horses

Over the next several weeks, Annette will be sharing her experience of applying the 12 Steps in an unexpected area of her life. The Twelve Steps of Healing Through Christ can help us meet and overcome many different challenges in our lives, including “unmanageable horses.”

On Tuesday I gave the prayer in my Healing Through Christ meeting and said, “Help us find something in our lives we can use the 12 step program to overcome, as we start again at the beginning of the steps.”  This plea was indeed inspired, though I certainly didn’t want the answer the Lord would personally give to me. 

 It came later that morning as I went out to feed my horse Ally and her two sons Dusky and Tomie.  I walked passed Ally eating peacefully in the lane and out to the pastures where I found Dusky and Tomie in a section that was fenced off to them.  I quickly realized they had broken the fence line and gone into a section of pasture they thought contained better grass.  I led them back out to where they belonged but then to my horror saw them just look around for another pasture with beautiful grass and break through another fence line.  I was so angry—so out of control angry.  There was nothing I could do to stop them.   They had learned the fences were not hot and with their immense horse strength they could do whatever they wanted with no respect for me.  In my anger I vowed right then and there to get rid of them both to the next Amish family that needed a buggy horse.  I was done with this life in the country.  I would sell my place and move to a condo where I would never have to do “outside” again. 

I stormed into my house to tell my daughter what had happened and my decision. I raged about my feelings toward my two horses until I finally calmed down enough for the Lord’s spirit to add some insight to my situation. The words of Step One from our group meeting ran through my mind with a little variation.  “Come to understand and accept that I am powerless over the actions, behavior and lack of control of my horses and that my life has become unmanageable.”  I was shocked as I realized the Lord had already answered the prayer I gave earlier in the 12 Step meeting.

I indeed had an unmanageable situation and was ready to give up on my farm, my land, my home, the horses I love and the country life that is in my blood. Could there be another answer? Did God want to teach me that He not only cares about each hair of my head and each sparrow that falls, but that He cares about me and my out-of-control horses? I’ve used the 12 Steps to overcome addictions, co-dependency, a troubled marriage and difficult relationship with friends and family. I realized the Lord now wants to teach me that these eternal principles can apply even to my horses and my relationship with them. Over the next weeks and months I have felt impressed to write about this journey to discover God is the healer of all things, even a broken relationship with my horses.

My Broken Toe

by Annette

Ten weeks ago I broke my toe, stopping all my ambitious plans for the summer.  When I returned to my doctor last week I was certain I would be cleared to go back to my normal activities and finally begin my “to do” list from June.  To my dismay my doctor handed me an x-ray of my foot with the break still clearly visible.   He told me to continue buddy taping my injured toe to its strong neighboring toe, wear a shoe to protect it from re-injury and to listen carefully to how my toe, foot and leg felt as I “slowly” began using my foot again. My doctor then informed me it would be a year before the bone would be completely healed. I was devastated.  This was not what I had hoped he would say.  Frustrated I went home, called into my 12 Step meeting and reluctantly wrapped my injured toe to one next to it.

God heals me toes

I sadly looked at my toes taped together as I listened to the people on the meeting.  The participates shared of people whose examples of faith, courage and determination had helped them in their early days, weeks and months of learning a new way of life.  They talked about the importance of paying attention to their feelings as they worked recovery to prevent relapse.  They shared how healing takes time and the importance of being patient as we come to understand that healing is a process that requires time to “regain, reclaim, and regroup all that was lost while we tried on our own to cope.”  Lastly they encouraged everyone on the meeting to stick with it because it’s worth it.

I stared at my injured toe and its buddy next to it.  I realized my broken toe was in recovery just like the people in this meeting.  It needed the strength of the neighboring toe to keep it straight and protected, just like the people starting the 12 Step journey.  Though frustrated by the x-ray my doctor gave me, it revealed the invisible break that was still there.  The truth was my toe was still in the beginning stages of healing.  I realized the wounds many of us in 12 Step meetings carry are also completely invisible to ourselves and others as we struggle to keep up appearances that all is well and normal in our lives. And now I understood healing my toe would take a full year just like the emotional and spiritually healing can take a long time for the people in our group meetings.  Healing does take time, a long time, sometimes a year or more.

But the most important thing I learned that day was though the doctor could show me pictures of my toe in recovery, give me advice on how to keep it protected and safe, and help me realize the length of time complete healing would take, my doctor could not heal it.  Only God can heal my toe through the amazing body He has given me.  Likewise, though I can attend 12 Step meetings, listen to stories that can encourage me to patiently walk the road of recovery, or work with a sponsor, I cannot heal myself.   Whether it’s the miraculous healing of the bone in my foo,t or of my mind, heart and spirit, it’s God who heals me.  “Christ is the healer of [my soul].” And Christ is also the healer of my broken toe.

Letting Go

Canva - Person Playing PianoWhat does it mean to surrender to God? I’ve asked myself this question many times over the past few years as I’ve worked to let go of the challenges in my life and let God help me. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, I often realize that I’m still trying to manage everything myself. Other times, I hand over my problems to God for a moment, only to fearfully change my mind and take the control right back from him.

I had an experience a few months ago that helped me come closer to understanding what it means to surrender to God.

Read the rest of this post by Britney at her blog “Focused Light” 

Frozen 2: Journey Through the 12 Steps

FrozenRecovery is Letting Go and Allowing Growth

Anna’s song is familiar to me; I hear hope, despair, resolve, pain, and, most importantly, trust in that Tiny Voice that is the foundation of 12-Step recovery. She is willing to be willing. Each painful step forward moves Anna to a future beyond anything she (or the audience) can imagine. She makes amends for long-past wrongs, and in doing so, frees herself and others from the impact of those wrongs. This is a story of growth, of setting things right, of letting go of fear and allowing others to grow while they each choose to do the next right thing for themselves. The best part? This Disney movie, this fairy tale, is real. Not the talking snowman. But the courage, the progress, the hope when hope seems gone, the fellowship that supports each of them as they do their own work—it happens every day. I feel it when I attend or call into a 12 Step meeting. It is coming home.

Read the rest of this article at Meridian Magazine

Naughty or Nice

from Britney

A friend of mine shared an experience his wife had with their daughter a few Christmases ago. She sat down with the young child to help her write a letter to Santa. The mother began writing: “Dear Santa, this year I have been…”

She paused and turned to the little girl to ask whether she had been naughty or nice. At first, the child wasn’t sure how to respond. After thinking for a moment, she insightfully replied, “Just say that I was happy!”

The lesson this wise little one expressed through her response to a tough question is one that we learn in Healing Through Christ. Step Five reminds us that “even though we have made mistakes, we are still precious children of a loving Heavenly Father.”1 Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, through repentance, we can overcome the sorrow of our errors, and we can feel happy.

Our failures in life are part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. He sent us here to grow, and mistakes teach us powerful lessons. He doesn’t shame us when we make a wrong choice, and we don’t need to do that to ourselves. We are not bad people. Elder Boyd K. Packer taught: “You are a child of God. He is the Father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!”2

Although Santa Claus might deny gifts to those who have been naughty, our Heavenly Father wants to give us many gifts. We only have to be willing to receive them. He does not require perfection. His gifts come when we choose to turn to Jesus Christ and invite His healing grace into our lives. His gifts bring joy and peace.

His gifts bring joy and peace. (1)

Instead of thinking about yourself in terms of “naughty or nice,” consider whether or not you are feeling the joy that comes from placing Christ at the center of your life. If not, you can ask Heavenly Father for help.  He wants you to be happy, and He will lead you there if you put your trust in Him and faithfully follow His guidance. If you make more mistakes along the way, just keep trying. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us, “God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are, and with His help, where you are willing to go…every day ought to be the start of a new year and a new life. Such is the wonder of faith and repentance and the miracle of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”3


1 Healing Through Christ – Help, Hope, and Healing for those who have a loved one in addiction, 51

2 Boyd K. Packer, “To Young Women and Men,” Ensign, May 1989

3 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Remember Lot’s Wife,” BYU Devotional, Jan 2009

Give The Twelve Steps to Yourself This Year

The Christmas season can be both joyous and stressful as we celebrate our Savior’s birth, while trying to meet everyone’s expectations, including our own. Spending more time with family can be enjoyable or difficult, depending on the health of the relationships. How about giving yourself a gift that will keep on giving?

Christmas gift

The Healing Through Christ Family Support 12-Step meetings will be starting a new series beginning the week of Sunday, December 8th. While any time is the right time to start the 12 Steps, people often want to begin at the beginning—here’s your chance. And this time of year is the perfect time to provide an hour of peace for yourself, an oasis of self-care and reflection in the midst of a busy, giving time of year.

The Family Support group was originally designed for people with a loved one in addiction, but it is equally valuable for

  • People with strained relationships with loved ones
  • People with a history of trauma
  • Those who are mourning the loss of a loved one, whatever that loss may be—death, leaving the faith of their childhood, strained and unhappy relationships
  • Men and women struggling with their own attraction to an addiction
  • Those who are resisting the allure of perfectionism
  • People who simply feel overwhelmed by life and its demands
  • Those who are in pain, emotional or physical

As you can see, anyone can benefit from the Twelve Steps—they bring us to Christ and help us to be honest with Him and with ourselves about what is and what is not in our control. We develop the ability to recognize and release the things we cannot control and find strength to change the things—primarily within ourselves—that need to be set right.

Won’t you join us? Will you do this for yourself and join a supportive, loving, safe group of people who will walk with you on a path to greater peace in your life? Will you be with us each week as we celebrate the tidings of great joy, and find the peace which passeth understanding?

Call into a meeting today—you can just listen until you are ready to speak. There are meetings every day of the week, mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Meeting information is available at www.thearborkalamazoo.com/phone-in-meetings or you can message us for more information.

The Twelve Steps of Healing Through Christ will change your life. You will feel greater peace and happiness. Give yourself this gift and feel the power of the Redeemer of the World as He heals your soul.