Cowgirl Up!

Cowgirl Up!

By: Susan Deborah Schiller

My husband and I were invited to manage a ranch, that they wanted turned into a House of Prayer. Stepping foot into the sprawling, 5,000 sq ft barn-turned-into-a-house, we took the bull by its horns and began cleaning and decorating the newly constructed "winter home" which we were to live in, as ranch managers. The ranch owners wanted us to create a "House of Prayer". So we worked hard to clean and decorate the house, naming it, "The Upper Room."


People with serious needs began seeing this house as the "emergency room" and at all hours of the day and night it wasn't unusual for both friends and strangers to show up, asking for help.

We never turned anyone away. In between guests, we took care of dozens of horses and 100 cows and bulls. I quickly learned to saddle up and ride… plus fork hay twice a day!

It began to feel like a dream-come-true for a little while. Two of my adult children, Rob and Sara, arrived, along with my beautiful granddaughter Danielle. Randy's son, Jeff, came to live with us, also. My heart began to leap with joy, just to have young people around us!

I had a corner office overlooking the hayfield, which my granddaughter alternately turned into a "post office" or a "beauty shop" or a "school" and we played games together that will forever remain in my heart's memory.


It was hard work but there were so many benefits… the beauty and majesty of horses, the starry desert at night, the sea of green alfalfa waves dancing in the wild Wyoming winds. Both of my children were healed of threatening illnesses shortly after their arrival in Wyoming.

We had some incredible adventures together. One of our favorites was hiking up Sinks Canyon, in Lander. At the top was a huge waterfall with the purest, best-tasting water you can imagine!


We played together and we worked together. That's what brought so much joy to my heart! I remember Sara's willingness to get down in the mud and pick up irrigation pipes.

Danielle came home from school at 4 pm, so that's when we would do afternoon chores. Together, Dani and I would feed the horses and fork hay to the cows. Having lived in Chicagoland most of our lives, Danielle was getting to be a really good cowgirl! 

I'll always remember the moment when Dani looked up at me and said, "Gramma, this doesn't look like Chicago, does it?" I replied, "Nope, it doesn't. Which do you like best?" Dani grinned and said, "I like it here!"


We didn't know it at first, but our lives were about to forever be changed.

Life is beautiful but it's not always kind. It's good to remember both the good and the bad. It's all part of who we are today. There's a season for pain and a time to be healed. There's a season for joy and a time for grief.

We get over our grief not by forgetting, but by remembering.

Some memories are toxic. We had a big, long series of that kind of memory in this period of our life story. At the height of my hope for the future, it arrived like a tsunami wave.

Grief often arrives without warning. I call this snapshot, "The Widow Maker." A widow is a woman who has been left behind, either by death of a spouse or an absentee spouse. My husband decided to leave that summer… with no plans to return.

Like many of the women I now know, we wrestle over and over with the "what if's" and we shift responsibility onto ourselves. We keep pondering how we might change ourselves so that our husbands will want to share their world with us.

The startling answer was to come much later. My husband explained to me, "I hate all women. Not just you."

Sometimes you have to release the person who is ready to move on. You can't hold them, but you can continue to love them from a distance.

Our memories are part of who we are. Even the memories of hard times are essential to get our lives back. 

But be careful. The toxic memories need to be disarmed; otherwise they are like hidden landmines that can bring lasting danger and harm! You can't just "forgive and forget" in the case of abuse. You definitely want God's special touch, His Word, spoken into that area of your mind. These memories leave chemical trails in our physical brains. We need God's help!

My husband once told me, "I'm not going to divorce you. I just want to watch you suffer. You're going to see what you missed."

That's heavy duty toxic waste. You don't just HEAR words like that. You FEEL them to the depths of your being! First there is shock, closely followed by trauma. It creates physical changes in your body.

Time does not heal all wounds. Sometimes time makes it worse.There is a way to make the pain go away!

We can't go back and erase or change history. But we can reframe our memories of the past, removing the stingers.  

I remember hearing my Heavenly Father's voice, saying, "Saddle up your horse and get ready to ride. It's the ride of your life!"

My Father God helped me to safely disarm this memory, removing the ticking bomb. No more victim mentality. We replace the bad with GOOD!

God gave me a new picture, one where He and I rode together, and it was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined! I heard Him say one day, "Saddle up your horse and get ready to ride – the ride of your life!"

Death of a marriage is a grief that carries a higher level of stress than physical death of a loved one. There is no funeral. No memorial service. No eulogy. No coffin. No burial. No cards. No flowers. No phone calls. Your bereavement goes unseen.

When the divorce comes through betrayal, even after years of psychological torture, there is a deeper layer of mourning. For you grieve the loss of the dream. It's the dream of "potential" that you causes you to believe in something that was never meant to be. It's the dream itself that must be laid to rest. The lies you believed… so many lies… they have to be faced, one by one. One story at a time.

What did people do before we had universities and careers in counseling and therapy? We told our stories! We sat with each other and listened from our hearts. In the sharing of our stories, both ancient and present, we discovered who we are as individuals and as a Body. We felt our Oneness with each other and the rest of the world, and most of all with our Creator. We actively REMEMBERED!

Grieving is not forgetting; it's remembering. The good and the bad. But the "bad" needs to be disarmed, or it becomes a ticking time bomb.

In "soul recovery" we sort through our mind's story and photo albums. We disarm them by re-labeling them with what God says about our lives. We then saturate our minds with all the positive images and thoughts He shows us.

Your story matters, because it's your legacy.

Time does NOT heal all wounds. But it does take TIME to recover our souls. It takes a little bit of effort. It takes someone to listen to you as you sort and process your memories!

Yep, it's time to Cowgirl Up!

I used my own story as an example here… I'm saturating the memory with GOOD images! We can be grateful for so many things, even in the midst of the WORST times of our lives. Remembering the good AND the bad is one key to moving forward, to getting beyond the pain.

You cannot deny pain, but you can disarm it, with God's help!

There may be tears – it's okay! It's going to be all right. You might want to do this with a friend. You may want to seek a counselor or therapist to help you.

The important thing is to TELL YOUR STORY!

You don't have to be a professional writer. One sentence at a time. It's your story and only you can tell it. It's your life and if you don't tell your story, it's quite likely that someone else is already doing it for you! You don't have to do it publicly, as I've done here… My purpose in sharing publicly is to be a friend to those who are suffering in silence. These memories don't hurt me anymore because they are safely defused and filed away!

My Full Story     What I Believe    Contact Me

With all my love,


Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.

Copyright © 2014 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kerris April 5, 2013 at 6:48 am

Hi Susan 
Thank you for sharing this with us. I understand what you mean by the death of your marriage being in some ways worse than the death of a person. Last year my son and his wife were expecting twins and unfortunately one of them didn't make it. The hardest thing that I had to deal with was the fact that we were never given the chance to get to know her, to see her grow. She is a part of our lives but we do not have any memories. This was worst pain I have ever known.
Thank you for posting this


Susan McKenzie April 5, 2013 at 7:21 am

Hi Kerris,

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a baby. Somehow there must always be a shadow of her presence whenever her surviving twin has its first tooth, birthday, and all of the growth markers we celebrate in life. Grief is hard, no matter how it comes into our lives. We can’t measure pain or compare our pain and grief to someone else’s.

A few years ago I, also, lost a precious unborn granddaughter. It was devastating!

As part of my own grieving over this tiny little girl I never got to see, I felt a song in my heart arise, and it was all about being “Safely Home” so I called it by that title. It began, “You’re my beloved child and I’ve called you my own… I love you with all of my heart and soul. You’re safely home…” It seemed like every time I sang that song – a song that arose from inside my heart, I had never heard it anywhere else – my heart healed just a little bit more.

It’s a journey, and a celebration of life even when things don’t turn out as we expected.

One place that has been a safe place for me… a place where I’ve learned a lot about dealing with grief is… – I hope it may be an encouragement for you too!

With love,


Yetunde April 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

Some parts of your story sound like mine. I wonder why anyone would say the words "I want you yto suffer". I heard those words so many times in my marriage. I thought I was alone.
Thank you for sharing. I know we have a heavenly Father who heals.
I look forward to your posts everyday. Therapy for me.


Susan McKenzie April 5, 2013 at 6:21 am

Dear Yetunde,

The pain for hearing words like that sears the soul so deeply… All I know is that they are not human words. Those kind of words emanate from the heart of evil, not just a man’s soul, but an evil entity.

Prior to my husband saying those words, I had a dream. A warning type of dream. It was dark at night and suddenly two bright lights were bearing down on me FAST. Too fast for me to get out of the way. They were the headlights of a vehicle and it smashed into me, pinning me to the building behind me. I could not move.

A voice spoke from above the vehicle, as if giving instructions to the driver: “Don’t kill her now. I want to watch her suffer!”

I was not dead, but it was only a matter of time before I died. The driver had left me just enough room to painfully breathe in and out, but not enough room to move even an inch.

This dream was meant to prepare me for what was about to happen, in real life, I believe… but I just didn’t “get the message” in such a way as to prevent the damage from occurring.

I woke up in the morning and I prayed. I heard Papa God say, “Put a choke hold on the enemy.” I had to Google the term, “choke hold” because I wasn’t familiar with it. It’s a wrestling term, but it basically means to cut off the air supply.

What the enemy wanted to do to me… that is what God was saying would happen to my enemy.

God fights our battles, I believe…. our job is to believe, to pray, and to do whatever He says.

The enemy wanted me SILENT. He wanted to have me in a choke hold (like the dream). My husband later reinforced his words with threats, intimidation, extortion, and other tactics to silence me.

Most of the time, we are to act in the opposite spirit. If we feel a sense of poverty, for example, we move in the opposite spirit by giving away something valuable. For me, moving in the opposite spirit meant to SPEAK UP, to go public. I waited on God for several weeks on this. I asked friends who are farther along in the journey to give me feedback.

And then I did it. I broke my silence. I put a choke hold on the enemy, in the process.

So many times as Christians we are told to “turn the other cheek” and I agree we should not get involved in nit-picking, arguments, or anything that brings contention and division. BUT! In the case of abuse, especially escalating abuse tactics, I absolutely believe our silence empowers evils. In fact, our silence can make us participants in evil.

When you say you felt alone, Yetunde, I can identity with that. It’s what the enemy wants us to feel!

But we are never alone. I cannot tell you how many stories I have heard along these exact lines. My story is a common one, unfortunately. I believe as more of us begin to share our stories, whether publicly or anonymously, that one day we will see a day when “abused no more” describes our communities, homes, and families.

No one should have to suffer alone, in silence!

I thank you so much for sharing a little of your journey, Yetunde… you have encouraged me greatly, because there are still times when I just want to shut down everything… Facebook, this site… and just live quietly, soaking in beauty and truth, just forgetting evil even exists. But I cannot.

Thanks so much for encouraging me… and I’m glad we are able to encourage each other 🙂

((( hugs )))


William O'Toole April 4, 2013 at 6:10 pm

WOW! So much emotion! I love your writing style its real hard to read in parts but your very good and you have power in your words. Very well done.


Susan McKenzie April 4, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Thank you, William… it’s like the act of writing helps us to improve in our writing. I’m in a steep learning curve as far as that goes – thanks for your encouraging words!


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