Serendipity is on my list of favorite words. A few definitions read as follows: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way – “happy chance” or “happy accident;” the action of making happy discoveries by accident; the act of ‘stumbling upon something’ good or fortunate; something that makes you happy.
I’ve had various serendipities in my life, but one in particular stands out as a favorite memory. I’ve always loved horses and dreamed of having my own. One day, as a young, pre-teen, I shared with my brother my plans to save my allowance and buy myself a horse. He just laughed — as he always did — at my hair-brained schemes. Of course, I never quite saved back enough money, and my dream slipped away into oblivion. I always enjoyed riding, and did manage to get to the riding stables from time to time, but being a city girl, those experiences were rare.
It wasn’t long after I shared my dream with my brother, that a friend invited me to spend a week with her on her grandparents’ farm in the little hamlet of Hilda, in the hills of southwest Missouri. I’m not sure that Hilda still exists today. At the time, the official sign by the side of the road boasted a population of two: my friend’s grandparents, salt-of-the-earth, hard-working folk. They ran a little post office/general store miles from nowhere, frequented by the common passerby in search of a bottle of ice-cold Coca Cola right out of an old-fashioned cooler. The quaint little store had everything and anything a person could possibly want on a hot summer’s day, from bubble gum to watermelon. I enjoyed listening to the gentle, friendly banter of those who stopped by to exchange a little country gossip, and the pleasant sound of the front screen door banging shut as they left.
The white-framed farmhouse stood a half-mile down the road. The old-fashioned kitchen boasted a ceramic pitcher and basin where you could wash your hands. Now, the best part of this kitchen was the fragrance of fresh baked pies that were left to cool on a window sill. An old upright piano that had seen years of good playing, stood proudly in the welcoming living room. The old farmhouse even had an amazing attic – good for hours of exploration and snooping around of old photographs and diaries. The farm itself nestled in beautiful country acreage with a vintage barn and an old mare grazing in the pasture. For some reason, my friend, along with her brother and I, found great enjoyment jumping out of the loft of the old barn; a feat I don’t think I could survive today. Most of our time was spent outdoors, even camping overnight in the woods. That was my first exposure to “chicks and tiggers.”
Only one cloud hung over the farm; the mare was so old we weren’t allowed to ride her. This is where the serendipity comes in. Our first day at the farm, we discovered a beautiful black horse had broken into the pasture overnight and made himself at home, grazing with the mare. My friends and I decided we would make his acquaintance with an enticing bucket of oats, which he enjoyed with relish. Appearing to be rather gentle, we decided to put a bridle on him and ride him bareback. No one knew the horse’s owner, but we were happy he had chosen our farm to visit. We named him Black Beauty; not the most creative of names, but it fit him well, nonetheless.
That entire week we rode Beauty around the country lanes, down wandering cow paths, and down to the General Store — basically enjoying the time of our lives. We couldn’t have asked for a sweeter, gentler horse. For me, it proved to be one of the most delightful vacations ever. I was young, and would not have been able to articulate this at the time, but I truly believe my Heavenly Father planned this special week for me. My mother had been in the hospital and we had come dangerously close to losing her. (Truth be known, my brother and I had lived in fear of becoming orphans.) It had been awhile since I had experienced any time away to relax, unwind and have a little fun. I don’t know if I should really even call this a “serendipity.” Was it all just by chance, just a happy little accident that Beauty broke into our pasture that week? Or did I have a wonderful, loving Abba Father who wanted to give me a little getaway that would make my heart sing? He knows what we love. He knows the desire of our hearts, and He knows what we need. As the week came to a close, I rode Beauty down to the General Store for one last visit. At the very same time, a man pulled up, jumped out of his truck and came running over.
“That’s MY horse you’re riding! That’s MY horse!” he kept yelling, as I quickly jumped off and apologized. “I’m sorry, but he broke into our field and we didn’t know where he belonged; we’ve been riding him all week. You have a wonderful horse!”
“You don’t understand,” the man responded, “that horse is WILD! Nobody’s ever been able to ride him!” He stood there incredulous, as I handed him the reins. I patted Beauty good-bye and hoped that his owner would be able to eventually develop a relationship of love and trust, and treat him with the patience and respect he deserved.
Was Beauty’s one week visit luck, mere chance or serendipity? Maybe not. I took one last look at Beauty, at his beautiful, gentle, big brown eyes, and I knew God had gifted him to us for the week. What a delight it was to spend a few, brief days on a little farm on the side of the road that took me back to a nostalgic time; a time when summer meant a bareback ride down a country lane on a really fine horse. Call it serendipity, or not, sometimes God’s gifts come to us in quite unexpected ways!