The Ultimate Superhero

Superheroes have taken over the box office in the past few years and show no signs of slowing down. Most of us have seen at least one superhero movie, and captain americasome of us have seen all of them. From Captain America to Batman, Wolverine to Superman and every hero in between, superheroes capture our attention.

Anyone can enjoy the movies, not just comic book fans. From Christopher Nolan’s dark and gritty Batman trilogy to the much lighter Fantastic Four, there is a superhero movie for everyone. For the kids, there is the family friendly The Incredibles. Marvel’s The Avengers and the future Justice League film offer teams of superheroes fighting evil together.

Why are we so drawn to superheroes? What makes masses of people who have never picked up a comic book flock to the movie theater to see the latest superhero blockbuster?

Superheroes save people. They save New York City and Metropolis. They save the world from the forces of evil. Every superhero has superhuman abilities we can never match. None of us will ever experience a genetic mutation that enables us to fly or control fire. Although technology has made great advances, it has not yet given us the Iron Man suit or the Batmobile. With these powers and strong superman-batmanconvictions, superheroes make the world a better place.

Superheroes fight on our behalf and do what we cannot, yet they struggle with their own problems at the same time. Each hero still has flaws and imperfections and they are not all powerful. But Batman and Iron Man and all the others represent the best of humanity. They are hope.

In recent years, the real world has seen a lot of difficult events. There is no Superman or Professor X fighting evil in the real world. So we look to fiction to provide those heroes, often never noticing the superheroes walking among us everyday. They have no superpowers or spandex. The real superheroes are those who do what is right every day and think of others before themselves. If you want to see a real superhero, look around. I think that Katie Davis, a young missionary to Uganda, is a real superhero. Check out her incredible story in her book, Kisses from Katie.

But the most incredible superhero does not come from a movie or a comic book. His costume is not colorful and he has no genetic mutations. His name is Jesus, and He wants to save each and every person on earth. He has the power to do so. Jesus has already suffered on our behalf, as superheroes do in every movie. No evil exists that He cannot defeat.

Superheroes are fascinating and entertaining. Why are we drawn to them? Because we are searching for a savior, but they will never measure up to the Savior.

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A Love Letter

Vannie,

Today isn’t Valentine’s Day, but you don’t know the date anyway, so I’m writing you a love letter today.

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I have a confession: When I first asked if you were available to lease, I didn’t care about you. You were a horse, and that was good enough for me. I didn’t know your quirks or preferences and I definitely didn’t know the journey we’d take together. Mr. Ed’s barn is great, we both know that, but there is a definite shortage of horses for young 4-H riders to show. So when you showed up and I rode you a few times, I thought, Hey, here’s a horse. I wonder if I could lease her and show her at the 4-H shows?

Lo and behold, your owners said yes, and in February, 2008, my mom and I signed the paperwork.

It’s been six years this month, and these have been the best six years of my life because you were there. Can you believe it’s been that long?

Back in the days of long ago...

Back in the days of long ago…

We weren’t friends at the beginning. Mr. Ed warned me, but I didn’t realize how much time and effort and frustration would go into your training. I don’t think he realized how much of a challenge you would be, either.

That first year, I’d get to the barn, go into your stall, and you would turn your back and pin your ears. You didn’t want to come out and work, and you didn’t like me because I made you do hard things and wouldn’t let you get away with bad behavior.  You were not happy that I was now riding you two to three times a week, and you let me know. I had never seen such a bad mannered horse, but I was not going to let you drive me away. I wanted a horse, and you were going to have to deal with it.

IMG_1158You’ve scared off a lot of people with your antics. You threaten to bite and kick and you glare at anyone who walks by (including me). But you don’t scare me. You never really have.

That first year, we showed walk-trot at the 4-H shows, and we won some second and third place ribbons. That sounds impressive until I mention that there were 100_0104only two or three riders in each class including us.

I remember the last show that year, after it had rained all morning. There were only two of us in the class, and you hate mud and puddles, so you were trying to jump over most of the arena. I didn’t know how to put my hair into a horse show bun, so all the bobby pins fell out and my ponytail trailed down my back. The other rider’s horse didn’t like the mud either, so we just looked at each other and laughed. What else could we do? We got second place in that class.

100_0108That first year was a rough year, in both shows and barn time. Believe me, there were great moments, but overall, it was an uphill battle.

Then another horse came up for lease, and I had the chance to break my lease on you and ride him instead. I chose you. Granted, I still didn’t know how long the journey would be, but I had an idea of how difficult you are, and I still chose you.

In the spring, one year into the journey, Mr. Ed and I started teaching you how to canter under saddle. That was an experience I will never forget. Going around on that lead line until I was dizzy, you and I both learning the cues and the feeling of the gait done right–you liked moving fast, but you didn’t like being controlled while going fast.

Classic Vannie. "But I don't want to!"

Classic Vannie. “But I don’t want to!”

That second year of shows was a bad one. You’d only been cantering for four months or so, and with your abysmal learning speed, it might as well have been two weeks. We almost ran over the judge, nearly crashed into other horses more than once, and got excused from at least one class. Other riders looked at us from their elegant, ribbon winning, push button horses and shook their heads. I cried more than once that year. Back to the barn we went, for more training.

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That very first spring.

But we were friends now, and that made all the difference. Otherwise I might have given up on you.

After another year of hard work, the shows came around again. I had just graduated from high school and was on top of the world. We didn’t win any ribbons for the first shows, but for the last show, everything changed. Mr. Ed couldn’t go to that show, so Dad and I packed everything up, loaded you ourselves, and managed to get through the show without any huge problems. anna pics 268

We won sixth place in huntseat equitation.

It was one of the greatest moments of my life until then, equal to receiving my diploma. Okay, so equitation is judged mostly on the rider’s ability, not the horse’s performance, but they won’t look at the rider if the horse is acting up, so that was awesome. Then we spent forty minutes trying to get you in the trailer to go home, because you had to make something difficult.

He's the greatest horse show dad.

He’s such a great horse show dad.

But my last year in 4-H, the summer after my sophomore year of college, something great happened.

We didn’t win any ribbons until the last show, but that last show is one of the best days of my life. It was a double judged show, with two judges for each class so that riders can get enough points to go to the 4-H state show. For riders like me, that just means more chances to win those elusive ribbons.

We won fourth and fifth in saddleseat equitation. Saddleseat is not our better

She knows she did well. :)

She knows she did well. :)

discipline, so that was a big surprise.

Then we won fourth and first in huntseat equitation. And sixth in huntseat pleasure.

It was indescribable. You’d been causing problems going into the arena, and as always, you thought we were racing the other horses when the announcer asked for a canter. But that day, one of the judges liked fast horses, and we won. Just placing in pleasure is a miracle, because that class primarily judges the horse, not the rider.

So fast.

So fast.

It took a long time to earn that blue ribbon. By that point, it was a fabulous

Mr. Ed trained us well.

Mr. Ed trained us well.

bonus, but the real joy that day was proving to myself and everyone else that you could do it. I already knew you were worth the effort, but now everyone else knew, too.

Of course, even if you hadn’t cooperated to win ribbons I’d still love you. Besides, who else would put up with you?

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You PMS worse than most women I know. You kicked me on my sixteenth birthday and again the day before that ultimate show. You glare and threaten to bite me all the time, especially when I’m tightening the girth. You had a rearing problem for two years. You hate puddles and baths and fly spray and are so strong willed, sometimes it’s a battle just to get you to do what you know, let alone something new.

You get annoyed when I brush out your mane and tail, and you despise hoof black.  Your bad attitude has mostly diminished into endless amounts of sass,

So much personality.

So much personality.

but sometimes I just want you to be good and you refuse. You’ve embarrassed me in front of so many people, and you’ve almost run over nearly as many. Your mood swings rival those of a teenager, even though you are almost twelve, a mature age for a horse.

You can’t stand still in the crossties before I ride you, you can’t stand still when I mount, and you hate it when I brush the right side of your belly. Speed is king with you, and you despise being behind anyone on trail rides. You’re a bully–you beat up the other horses in your paddock. You’re too curious for your own good. Curiosity killed the cat, Vannie.

But.

You love me. And I love you.

100_0550I know you love me because you breathe into my face and I feel peace wash over me. I breathe back and you stay still, listening. I’m the only one you trust enough to rest your head atop mine for minutes on end. I can rest my forehead against yours when no one else is around and we stay that way in an endless moment, relaxing in each other’s company.

You let me wrap my arms around you and you blow green slobber down my back. You lick my hands (I know you’re after the salt) and you stick your velvet muzzle in my face, investigating with your soft lips to make sure that I’m your human. You lip at my hair, and you nibble on my sweatshirt when I bend over to pick your hooves.

You’re the reason I’ve made it through college without losing my sanity. You

Pictures are hard without someone else to hold the camera.

Pictures are hard without someone else to hold the camera.

push all my buttons and you love me unconditionally. You keep me balanced in life and you bring me peace. I go to the barn after a bad day and you make it a thousand times better. Even if we have a bad ride, I don’t leave the barn upset. I spent time with you, and that’s what matters.

You’ve taught me more than I ever dreamed possible. You’re the reason I’m the rider I am today. Because of you, I’ve learned how to train cantankerous horses and ride through antics I never expected. Because of you, I learned persistance and how to never give up.

I know you inside and out, Vannie. I know all of your moods, your body language, your attitude shifts. I know when you are about to snap at someone and when you want to snuggle with me. I’ve memorized the way you feel as I ride, what every muscle movement means and every ear twitch indicates. I know that you’re way too smart for your own good, but that intelligence is what makes you so quirky and interesting.

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She wants to be a rider, too.

You like my dad and you let Emma ride you. You tend to dislike my friends on first meeting, but you like them well enough later. Although Elizabeth is going to have to come hang out without helping me give you a bath, because otherwise you’ll never forgive her.

My dad, the groom.

My dad, the groom.

You had an injury this summer, some weird skin infection that made your leg swell. I couldn’t ride for about a month and a half. But I still came to see you, because we need each other and I love you too much to leave you alone while you healed.

Your registered name is Atta Lane Pavanna (I know, I don’t know where that came from either), but Vannie suits you far better, because it’s just the right combination of quirkiness and mystery. You also think you’re funny, so there’s that.

My family cheers me on.

My family cheers us on.

God created me with a equine-shaped hole in my heart, and at the right moment, He brought us together. I still don’t own you. I only lease you. But I know that He will give us as many years together as is right for us. Six have flown by. Here’s to many, many more, baby girl.

Love, Sarah

IMG_3508Best friends.

Best friends.

Why Write?

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I am a writer.

I’m not a published writer. I’m not always a very good writer.

But because I love to put words on a page that express something, whether that be a story, a message, an emotion, an idea–I’m a writer.

When I was younger, writing was all about the stories that are trapped in my head, banging away at my skull. You know that quote about writing and schizophrenia?

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

-E.L. Doctorow

Well, I confess that the characters in my head are almost as real as the people around me. Believe me, I’ve gotten some strange looks when I’ve said that out loud, but just ask any fiction writer and they’ll tell you the same thing.

Now that I’m older, I still have stories that beg to be told, but I also write some nonfiction. I don’t count my academic papers in this category, but the creative essays or rambling thoughts I put down on paper. A lot of this ends up being focused around my horse, which is awesome. Poetry–well, as my friend Katie and I say, “We were not born under a rhyming planet.” Or any poetry planet, for that matter. It just doesn’t work for me.

I used to struggle a lot with using my writing for God. I still do, but I’ve realized that even if God Himself isn’t present in person in my writing, I work to use themes and ideas that reveal Him and His love for us. I like to start my characters out broken, and then try to heal them, and I hope that even if God isn’t in my story, people can see His hand in it. There are plenty of stories I come up with that don’t directly honor God, and I have to decide if I want to put that on paper. Sometimes the point is showing the brokenness of this world. Sometimes that story should not be written at all. It’s something that I continue to wrestle with.

I want to influence other people through my writing. I want to make them think, even for a moment, about seeing things differently or about something that is completely new. I’d say I want to change the world through my writing, but that sounds pretentious. I do want to change one person’s world. I don’t know who that person is or how it will happen, but if I influence even one person positively, I’ve done well.

Some of my favorite authors have had tremendous impacts on me at different points in my life. Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion trilogy. L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon trilogy. Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness. I could go on and on, but the point is that writing can change people.

I want to write so that I can touch someone else the way those authors touched me. I want to make them feel the emotions of the characters, feel the beauty or ugliness of a description. I want to write so powerfully that it takes people’s breath away.

Can I do that? Not yet. Will I ever? By the grace of God, yes.

Why do I write?

I want to give other people the same pleasure reading my stories that I get from reading others.

I like to make the words represent the pictures and characters in my head.

Writing is how I make sense of the world around me.

I want to be God’s hands and feet in this world, and this is the talent He has given me.

Because sometimes I just want to tell a rockin’ good tale.

Because I always have a story.

On Being Red

I was born with red hair.

My parents are not redheads. Their parents are not redheads. Yet I am a redhead and out of my four siblings, two of them are redheads. The genes don’t lie, I suppose.

Me on the left, Anna on the right.

Me on the left, Anna on the right.

What was it like, growing up as a redhead?

Well, since I was homeschooled, I never suffered any teasing or bullying from classmates like so many redheads do.

But adults commented on my hair all the time, which was great for a while. As a kid, I did get tired of hearing it all the time. But one of my minor100_2607

childhood fears came from those compliments. Women would say, “I wish I had your hair! People spend money trying to get that color. I’ll trade you!” 

Men would say, “I’ll just cut your hair off and give it to my wife.” 

I did not want them to cut my hair off. I knew they were mostly joking, but I also knew that people really do love red hair, so I was never sure if someone might follow through on that statement.

I didn’t like my red hair when I was little, because it was so different from everyone else. It did help when I read Anne of Green Gables, because she felt the same way. I never tried to dye my hair, though. Anne’s green hair experience definitely made me stay away from that, and now I’ve realized that my hair is too bright to dye well. That’s okay, though, because now I love my red hair.

Whenever people describe my family, we’re “the family with the redheads”. My poor blonde and brunette sisters get the short stick on this one.

People assumed that Anna and I were twins for most of our lives, but we don’t look any more identical than the rest of our siblings do. Because we’re close in age, sisters, and both redheads, people think we must be twins! I have to say, being older by two years definitely made this question one that I did not appreciate.

Okay, so we do look a lot alike...

Okay, so we do look a lot alike…

To be a redhead is to be very unique. Red is the rarest hair color in the world, as under 5% of the world’s population has red hair. You can never hide in a crowd, and you will always stand out. I’ve gotten comments about my hair at work, at the grocery store, at the library, at church, and from random strangers pretty much anywhere and everywhere. I don’t mind the comments (and the almost inevitable compliment never fails to make my day), but they are truly never-ending. Because I have very curly hair, I get double the comments. I’m still not sure why people always ask if the curls and the color are natural, though.

People assume a lot of things about redheads. We have our stereotypes just like any other groups does. The first question I hear (other than “Is it your natural color?”) is “Are you Irish?” In my case, I do have Irish roots, but plenty of redheads don’t. Redheads also have the stereotype of having a temper. For me, that’s not true. For my sister–well, she lives up to that one better than I do.

I’ve gotten called Red on occasion, but no one has ever addressed me as Carrots or Ginger, thank goodness.

Red hair goes hand-in-hand with very pale skin. People don’t always believe me when I tell them how easily I get sunburnt, but once I got burnt after two hours outside. On an overcast day! It wasn’t a minor burn, either. Second-degree sunburns and I are on a first name basis after more than one encounter. And because my skin is so pale, the burn doesn’t fade quickly, either.

Look at that burn line-ouch!

That burn line-ouch!

And this picture was taken 2 days after I got sunburnt!

Most people complain about tan lines. I don’t tan, ever, so I complain about freckles. My skin burns, sheds skin like a snake, and then sprouts 500 freckles overnight. It’s exciting when I’m 1 shade darker at the end of the summer.

Red hair does make for invisible eyelashes. But I’ve also heard that redheads don’t go gray, so there’s that.

I like being a redhead. It’s like being part of some super exclusive club that lots of people try to fake their way into. I’ll never fade into the background because my hair will always stand out, like a house on fire.

Past.

Past.

Present.

Present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The red never fades.

(And if I ever decide to cut my hair and give it away, you’d better get on the waiting list, ’cause it’ll fill up fast! :) )