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The Cowboy and Calculated Risk

The Cowboy and Calculated Risk

We were driving back from meeting Ellie's mom on Saturday when my phone rang. An unknown number in Wyoming. My heart quickens when I see these things. Our son, Andrew, is a cowboy in Wyoming and two weeks ago was Colt Starting Clinic. He was responsible for putting first, second and third rides on colts that were previously only halter broke. Last week he continued to work with those three horses and seven other equally fresh beasts. Day after day, he works by himself ten miles down a dirt road from the next ranch employee. Unknown phone numbers from Wyoming could be a hospital, or a doctor, or his boss delivering bad news.

Or it could be Andrew borrowing someone's phone to ask his mom how to order a shirt by the neck size. Breathe.

"Find a tape measure and measure your neck," I say to the man who reigns stubbornness and youth out of horses for hours each day, and I haven't seen in a year. I have no idea what his neck size might be now since determination and courage have been his daily diet.

"But if you had to guess, Mom, what size do you think I should order?" I thought for a moment and gave him a number. "It's not a big deal if I have to exchange it," he said.

The sale was good. My hunch probably close. The calculated risk low.

This man takes calculated risks hundreds of times a day. Will the blanket spook the colt? What will he do if I put the saddle on? How will he respond when I lift his leg to put on his first shoe? This son has taught me much about calculated risk. He believes in a God who has skilled him to do this work, walks with him when the days are long and lonely, and will carry him through accident or injury. It is a faith that get him through each day. It is a faith he has witnessed from the beginning of his life. He was born breech at home on a Saturday night when the resolve of his father in God's protection through a complicated, but planned home birth delivered him safely from my womb to my arms. The doctor said, "Talk to him; he knows your voice."

"Take a deep breath son," I said to that newborn twenty-two years ago in much the same way I begged it out of Nathaniel last month on my living room floor. These sons challenge me to my very core. From the inside looking out, I am not a brave person. I am worried more often than confident. I fret. I like it when life seems under control, especially my control. When chance of success must be weighed against the cost of failure, I have done the calculations. Usually twice. But God. I want to live a life transformed by those two words. So I purposefully chose to trust in the One who is steadfast through the triumphs and the catastrophes.

The fact that I was driving through rural Illinois when Andrew called was this deliberate trusting. It was not the Saturday I had planned. Rich was going to take Ellie to meet her mom while I stayed safely at home with Nathaniel. But our Friday night nurse overslept and missed her shift. Rich and I came into Saturday more tired than one should be if the job is to drive alone through miles of cornfields with something immensely valuable in the backseat. We counted the cost and with an hour notice had Nathaniel and six hours of his stuff packed for our longest car trip with him so far. The cost of one of us falling asleep at the wheel was greater than the risk of an airway accident while Nathaniel rode to Bloomington-Normal and home again. Calculated risk.

July will hold more calculated risk. The cowboy is going to test his developing skills in a rodeo. Our family is going to take Nathaniel on vacation to my hometown in Ohio. I have already thought through many of the what-ifs for these situations. There is a small blessing in the tendency to agonize over details and possibilities. It prompts me to pray for that adventurous one out west.  It helps me prepare for our trip more fully. But if I have learned that God does not supply the grace for what-ifs, I have also learned that the what-ifs can rob joy from life. Andrew called again last night to tell me that the little cowboy he built a tree house with three years ago wants him to partner in another rodeo event. Do I let fear or trust win the moment? Do I respond with "How dangerous is that contest?" or "That is awesome! He must really look up to you." It is an hourly thing, this yielding to God's control and choosing to believe in His power and sovereignty.

Photos for this post were taken at the Bartlett Ranch Colt Starting Clinic by Megan Smith.

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