Lil’ Shep

I have wanted to write for several days..life and the craziness of kids and ministry and summer has prevented it from happening. The thing is though, that this blog has become part of my rhythm. It’s become part of my self care…and I secretly (I guess not anymore) love it. 

I want to share with y’all ALL the things that have been going on…there’s just a lot. A lot of things I haven’t been able to fully process. Until I can, it wouldn’t benefit anyone, especially me, to share them. What I will say is that our hearts are being consistently, continually stretched. Our lives here confirmed almost daily. The next right step is in front of us before we even know we’re supposed to move. He is shaking and moving and redeeming and pruning us like no one’s business these days.

One thing I can share with you-I have fallen in love. I know, I know-I’ve said it before. You’ll never believe what I’ve fallen in love with this time though! 

Drum roll…..

I have fallen in love with sheep. They are stinky and smelly and really pretty gross but they are incredibly loyal. They will follow the shepherd anywhere, literally. I had the privilege of working alongside our precious Gramma on Wednesday morning. The sheep were lambing and she needed help. I helped build nurseries for the babies and take care of them. I got to lead mama sheep to their babies-all the whole Little Man was clucking and calling the sheep. What I loved most though was the hard work that shepherding takes. It’s not easy to take care of those sheep. They aren’t incredibly smart and they are very timid…they will follow their person though.

When we came out last summer (before the move) Little Man became infatuated with sheep. It’s something that has developed into a part of who he is as a little boy. As I watched him in the corral on Wednesday morning, I was reminded of the way the Father leads us. I was reminded of how stubborn and sometimes ignorant I am and yet He still calls me and draws me near to Him. Little Man was a shining example of this as he walked through the corral clucking and calling the new lambs to him. I didn’t have my phone to snap a photo but I did take a mental picture. Little Man was looking out into the desert and two Mama sheep were beside him and the two lambs were right next to him. He gently rested his hands on the lamb’s head and stood quietly still. It was a beautiful moment and one I won’t soon forget. 

It was then I realized, I love sheep and the work of taking care of them. I love the dry desert and the wind that blows so strong it’ll knock you over. 

I asked Masani and Gramma last night why the sheep respond to Little Man the way they do…why they will follow him when they won’t follow their own babies or food. Masani reminded me of the peaceful nature of Little Man. She asked me to remember how I told her Jesus spoke to my heart before he was born that he would be a peacemaker among men. She said the sheep could feel his peace and it put them at ease.

Isn’t that Jesus with skin on y’all? We can feel the peace of others who believe and that’s why we surround ourselves with those people? Jesus sends us peacemakers. He sends people into our lives to cause us to settle in our spirit…to cause our hearts and minds to join as one and look to the One.

So-there you have it. I love sheep. I don’t love their smell…

I love that they can and will be a consistent reminder of how to follow my Father. I love that Jesus used my fella to teach his mama about the beauty of a sheep and their shepherd.

I love it here. I am looking forward to the day, hopefully soon, we get to bring home several lambs. I am excited to share in shepherding those lambs alongside our Little Man. I am excited to watch as my “Lil Shep” walks into the peacefulness his Daddy and I believe was spoken and breathed into him before he was born.  

So, there you have it. Instead of an old cat lady-i guess I’ll be an old sheep lady…and I’m okay with that.

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.”                  -John 10:11

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A long drive…

As some of you may have seen, we spent last week camping in Yellowstone National Park.  I want to start by telling you that if you’ve ever had any desire whatsoever to visit Yellowstone, DO IT!!!  It is worth every single penny, moment and hour of planning.  We made memories that I pray will last a lifetime.  I hope, as a mama, my babies learned some things-learned about hard work and team work and being a part of a family who takes responsibility for themselves and because we take care of ourselves we are able to offer help to the rest of our family.  I pray they learned that RESTING and soaking in all God’s goodness is just as important as working to deepen their relationship with their Father.

My favorite part of the whole week was the long drive, both to and from Yellowstone.  It was a 13 hour drive that we split both ways….that’s still a LOT of hours on the road with three tiny humans.  One of which is still in the throws of potty training.  Oh, the joy, though y’all.  The girls laughed and played and used their imaginations.  They watched out their windows as our scenery changed as we crossed through the deserts of Utah, to the farmlands of Idaho and eventually into the beautiful mountains of Montana.  Sissy read her third book in the Little House series and Mouse drew pictures of everything she was seeing and told us all about how grizzly bears chase salmon and trout in rivers that look a lot like the Snake River.  J and I had long conversations reflecting on how far we’ve come in the past ten months.

This time last year, I was still fighting and pushing against everything God had planned for us here.  I was still in complete denial this was even happening, despite the fact that J had already turned in his notice to close his practice, we’d told family and friends, we’d begun the process of creating and obtaining our 501c3 status and I was still hopeful that things wouldn’t work out. Ha.

To think of the things, the people, and the beautiful adventures we’d have missed out on because of my own human-ness.  I agreed to come here because I didn’t want to answer for being a stumbling block in my husband’s walk with the Father, not because I wanted to obedient.  Nope, not one part of me wanted to be obedient.  Alas, here we are and are having such good memory making moments as a family.

The biggest “aha” moment for me this weekend was what a mindset shift we’ve had as a family.  When we lived on the island, we NEVER would’ve driven thirteen hours one way for ANYTHING or ANYONE, really.  It was too much…too much hassle, too long in the car, too much planning and we didn’t have time for all those things.  Because we didn’t make time.  Time was controlling us-our lives.  The world was telling us what was important-what our children needed to see and do-what our family should enjoy and look forward too…and now…

Now, we see each day as a gift.  We see the desert as a beautiful creation of the Father who in His awesomeness, in His goodness, gave us the opportunity to make incredible memories with our littles.  He has given us the opportunity to love and be loved by some of the most peaceful, gentle people I’ve ever known.  Now, we’re able to look at 13 hour drive and see that its all in how you approach the time in the car.  When you’re along for the ride, when you’ve got no one’s timeline but your own-FREEDOM.

I loved that we didn’t have to bounce ideas off anyone else.  I loved that we could just decide when and how we wanted to see Yellowstone.  I loved that each night, as we laid down in our tent, snuggled in our sleeping bags, bundled in layers of clothes (lows in the 30’s, y’all)-I sang a hymn and J prayed.  I loved waking up to the sounds of the forest.  I loved the crispness in the air and the way my little ones would look at me with stars in their eyes expectant of what the day’s adventure would look like.  Mostly, I loved that we were just there, together.

I’m so thankful for a renewed sense of adventure.  I’m grateful for this move.  I’m grateful that God doesn’t give up on me when I tantrum like a two year old.  I’m eternally thankful that He sees and knows every single detail of my life…

I’m thankful for a long drive…

 

Salon stories…

I have been mulling over this story for a few days…letting it settle and resting in the goodness of who Jesus is, even in the everyday parts of our lives.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to share the story, actually.  I sort of wanted to keep it in my heart for me to enjoy.  Then, this morning, I was reminded, none of this wild adventure is my story, or our story…it’s His story…so here I am, telling you another of His beautiful stories.

On Saturday, we had some ministry work to do in Farmington.  We had a yard sale that morning and then loaded everyone up and drove the three hours to town.  We ran multiple errands and I went into Wal-Mart to have my eyebrows waxed. Ha.  (I have to do it when I can, y’all.)  I waited a lot longer than usual, like thirty minutes.  Usually, I’m in and out in about fifteen.  Eventually, they called me back and a beautiful Navajo woman was going to take care of me.

Side note:  I feel like I call the Navajo beautiful all the time…it’s true though, y’all.  I wish everyone of y’all could meet them face to face and see their beautiful brown skin and eyes, that you could see their jet black hair and the way it blows in the wind.  I wish you could hear them speak in a language I’m convinced is straight from heaven.  I wish you all could hold the hand of one of their children and listen to them tell a story about Jesus.  My heart can’t hold how much I love these people.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand…

As soon as I opened my mouth and spoke, she, like most people here, asked where I was from because “clearly you aren’t from here”.  I responded and she just giggled.  She continued to giggle throughout our conversation and kept asking me to repeat certain things because she couldn’t understand some of the words…not because she doesn’t speak English well but because Southern English is VERY different from the Wild West. Ha.

She eventually asked how long we’d been out here and how we got here.  I answered and told her about BHP and what our work here looks like…I explained that we are here to help Navajo reach Navajo.  I explained that we aren’t here to tell Navajo how to run their churches but to support them, help them develop a plan for reaching their goals and helping them dream BIG dreams, all while loving them, well.

Y’all, my sweet new friend began crying.  I wasn’t sure where our conversation was going at that point, so I just let her cry.  Its not my place to stop emotion in other people.  She took some deep breaths and then explained that she had recently (in the past two years) converted to Christianity.  She was struggling with wanting to lean into and trust Jesus and still honor her Navajo traditions and culture.  We talked about how Jesus is FREE, his gift of eternal life doesn’t cost her anything.  I reminded her that the One who created her, holds her close and knows her struggles.  She talked with me about how hard she prayed for her family who did not believe, YET.

Yet.  See that word.  That’s hope, y’all.  She didn’t say, I pray for my family and their unbelief.  She said, “I pray so hard for my family members who do not believe, YET.”  She has something that a lot of us Anglos don’t.  She has hope and assurance that He will do what He said He would do…even in her struggle, in her discouragement, she still knows He will do it.

Back to the story-we talked about some of the other struggles she faces as a Navajo woman who is a believer in Christ…then, I asked her if I could pray with her, for her and over her.  “Yes, I would appreciate that so much.”  So, I did.

I can’t tell you exactly what I said, I just know the whole salon got quiet.  I know that I asked that our Father would show himself to her so clearly there would be no way to argue that it was anyone other than Him.  I know that I asked for protection and abundant grace and mercy as she navigates through the muddy waters of tradition and honor and that He would raise her up to walk in a clean, renewing, life giving river of life.  I know that when I finished praying, there was silence, there were heads still bowed in prayer and then a beautiful chorus of amen’s.

I know when I finished praying over my new friend, C-the Holy Spirit was in that salon.  He met us there, y’all.

See, that’s the beauty of this life.  Its the awesomeness of walking in His way.  He gives you a fierce boldness…when you see others who are daily laying down their lives, their families-all for the sake of Jesus, you step into a very different mindset.  You’re boldness comes from a viewpoint of what if I’m the only one who ever speaks life into this person.

Can I tell you what I find myself asking?  Why haven’t I always lived, walked out my faith in such a way?  Why haven’t I always been so bold?  The answer-fear.  I was afraid of what others would think if I was so bold.  I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone.

Jesus though, He doesn’t give up.  He doesn’t let us walk through life luke warm does He?  He has used my Navajo family and friends to teach me so much.  He’s used them to remind me that prayer and our relationship with our Father, is sometimes all we have.

Each time I meet with one of these precious people, I am reminded that there is revival coming…there is a beautiful harvest in the making and I’m so glad that I, we, my family, have a front row seat to watch it happen.

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Birthday blessings

Can I be a Mama for a minute? Yeah? Ok, good.

Today is Mouse’s birthday. Six years. That’s how long ago I got to hold her for the first time. I remember that day so vividly. I remember each of my littles “birth” days clearly. Mouse’s was a bit different though….

See, when I was eight weeks pregnant with her, I had a threatened miscarriage. I had a subchorionic hemorrhage. After lots of appointments, we were told it was highly unlikely I would carry the baby to term. However, I remember our wonderful doctor telling me that what medicine says isn’t always right and that science isn’t the end all, be all. He told us to pray. So, we did. There were lots of scares, lots of ultrasounds and lots of the clot is growing and the baby is not. There were lots of tears. We were told if I carried her to 23 weeks, she might survive. J and I just continued praying. We went in for a big scare around 27 weeks and I was convinced we were in BIG trouble. I was on the verge of hysterics. We had an ultrasound-THE CLOT WAS GONE! The scare was because the clot between my girl and me was dissolving!!! The joy over that news was overwhelming. Dr.’s put me on modified bed rest (because I had a not quite two year old, Sissy, to take care of at home) just to be on the safe side.

For 12 more weeks, she cooked in her cozy condo. Then, all of a sudden, there she was. This short, juicy, plump 9 lb. 2 oz. ball of perfection. I remember when they handed her to me the first time, she was crying so hard. I remember looking at her sweet face and telling her it was ok because Mommy was there. She opened her beautiful eyes and looked straight into mine. She took a deep breath and stopped crying. She’s been that way ever since. A little snuggle from Mommy and she’s content.

Fast forward to six years later…

There is no one who can get my goat better than Mouse. She keeps me on my toes and runs me ragged on lots of days. She’s also strong and bold and knows exactly what she wants, when she wants it. We found all these characteristics out, quickly. This is who God created her to be. She doesn’t question the world because she’s created her own. J and I joke that she flutters like a butterfly everywhere she goes. This is Mouse’s world and we just play there. Ha.

Here’s the other thing about Mouse. She’s as fierce as a lion and as soft as a lamb, all in the same breath. She looooooves her people-and her Mama.

What does this have to do with life on the Rez, you might ask? Stick with me….

Our sweet, sassy girl, fully embraced this adventure. When her Mama was a crazy person because she was working out her grief, Mouse reminded us all how beautiful it was here…how the sun hits the mesas in the morning and evenings, how the lizards roam and the desert birds sing, how the rain makes the air around us smell sweet and how Jesus made ALL those things. Mouse finds a friend wherever she goes, this means she’s found her folks here and she loves them deeply. She finds the joy in all the things this adventure has shown us and even on hard days, because she has them too, she’s not afraid to ask for what she needs…from us or her Heavenly Father.

My prayer is that she’ll always know who she belongs to and that her heart will always be for the underdog. I pray she always lets her yes be yes and her no be no and that she NEVER lets this world strip her of those things. I pray that as she continues to grow, she’ll walk in the strength of having Jesus in her heart and that she will always draw near to him first. Above all else, that she’ll praise and follow Him all the days of her life.

She’s a bundle of excitement and sunshine and it’s her birthday!! So…birthday blessings to my little Rez girl!! Mama loves you to the moon and back!!

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…even when we can not see.

 

IMG-8128Eleven years ago today, J had open heart surgery to repair a defect in his aortic valve.  His old valve was replaced with a new, titanium valve that made him sound like the crocodile from Peter Pan who ate the clock.  I’ve always told him that… I’ve seen photos of J after surgery…it is not a picture of my husband I like to see.  He just looks sick.  It hurts my heart to know how much pain he was in, how sick he was.  But, oh the joy I have when I think about how blessed I am that he is here with me-with our babies.  You see, I didn’t know J at the time of his surgery.  I wouldn’t meet him until 3 months later…and for any of you who know us and have heard our story, I didn’t like him very much when we met.  As a matter of fact, he was probably the very last person I ever thought I would become friends with much less marry one day. Ha.  God’s sense of humor is amazing. When I say my husbands life is gift, I truly mean it.  It is never lost on me that my life could have looked very different…

One year ago today, I began telling people we were moving to the Rez.  Angry and bitter, I began looking into the eyes of my best friends, telling them I was moving 2000 miles away.  I only knew that we’d be living in teacher housing, that I’d have to drive a long way to buy groceries and that not one tiny part of me wanted to leave.

But, we did…and here we are.

I am so thankful we are.  I am thankful and overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounds me each day.  I am so glad that in His graciousness, my Father, knew exactly how to turn my hard heart from stone to clay…clay that can be molded into what He’d have me become.  I’m overwhelmed when I think of how my eyes have begun to see the way He does, my ears have begun to hear the deeper meaning behind the pain and hurt of my family here.  I’m thankful for this slow paced life we live.  I look into the faces of my children and see a different childhood.  A childhood that in the beginning I thought would be lacking because of where we were moving.  Now I see, their childhood is lacking nothing because God sent us here and His word says that they will be lacking nothing.  We are walking in His grace and mercy each day.  Although every day is not sunshine and roses, although we still have hard, hard conversations regularly, we are assured that His plans for our family are good.

I am thankful today that the handsome cowboy in this picture is still around.  I’m thankful that God, in his awesomeness, gave my husband another shot at life…an abundant one.  I’m eternally grateful that even on the truly hard days or months, I’ve been blessed with a husband who works hard and truly wants to love others like Jesus.

I’m thankful that even when I can not see, He is working things out for my good.  I’m thankful that even when I’m stubborn and bitter, He loves me anyway.

I’m thankful for this day eleven years ago…and every day in between-because even when I couldn’t see, He was holding every part and piece of my life in His hands.

Unlikely neighbors…

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Last week, I snapped this shot of our dear friend and UPS driver. Yes, I just said our UPS driver is our dear friend. She is Navajo and drives two hours just to pick up her truck each morning. She drives the “Rez route” and often doesn’t get to our house until well after 10 p.m. She knows EVERY person she delivers to by name. And-she knows their children. Clearly, she knows their pups as well.

This moment, the moment I took the photo, there was something so peaceful in my home.

Something I’ve found and continue to find is that the Navajo are such a peaceful people. They are hard working, stronger than most and are resilient. They are determined and kind all at the same time. This lady is no different. She snuggles our sweet pup each time she delivers. Mesa meets her at the door and growls and whines until she holds him. I read somewhere once that dogs are good judges of character. I call it discernment. If my littles and my dog aren’t keen on you, it’s probably something I should look into…not this one though. She’s a good egg.

Most nights when she delivers we share a coke or a bottle of water (since the temps are rising), sometimes I send her a snack for the road…and we get to have some conversation with her.

What’s the big deal behind this, you might ask?

Jesus has taught me a lesson through our friend. When he said love your neighbor as yourself-he didn’t just mean those that look like you, talk like you, live the same lifestyle as you. He meant EVERY neighbor. I have heard it over and over my entire life. It starts to have a different meaning, though, when none of your neighbors look, think, walk or talk like you. When you become the outsider, loving your neighbor looks different.

When you are learning a new culture, loving your neighbor sometimes means eating things you’ve never eaten before and getting to know your UPS driver on a first name basis. It means inviting her in for a coke at 10 at night and waiting up on her because you know she’s had a long day of deliveries and your Prime Pantry box is heavy. It’s realizing that you’re the next to last stop on her route and you ordered four new off road tires for your vehicle and they’re coming on her truck. It’s having her phone number programmed in your phone because when she misses a day or two and she didn’t let you know, you want to check on her.
It’s looking into the faces of beautiful brown children when they come to the door and ask if your kids can come play. It’s looking into those same faces and seeing all the wonderful things they could become. It’s listening to them laugh because they think the way you speak is funny and no one has ever called them “pumpkin”. It’s having dinner at your house and knowing your table isn’t big enough so you borrow a folding table and make a table cloth out of butcher paper.

It means growing your faith in humanity. It means growing your faith in Jesus. It means looking out at this great, vast desert and seeing the beauty of it all.

It means letting the UPS lady snuggle your dog and offering her a moment to rest her feet….because in return, you get a beautiful, new friend and a little slice of Heaven’s peace in your home.

…a pearl.

I’m a little late on my post this week. Sunday was grocery day and we didn’t make it back until dinner time. Then it was bed time for the littles and me. I was so tired. Life of a mama, I suppose.

The past month, I’ve had the privilege of attending a women’s Bible study at a church about forty five minutes away. I have made some precious friends and two of the leaders are members of our co-op. It was an overwhelming experience to hear the testimonies of other Navajo ladies, as well as other Anglo women, who have moved here with their families and love the Rez as much as I do. The study was on the gift of breath that God has given us. It was about walking in the power and strength we are given when we call on Jesus.

Strength…that’s quite a word. One that I often feel I’m lacking. Mostly because I find myself trying to work things out on my own and not fully relying on the strength of my Heavenly Father. And so, here is a little glimpse into the way God is using His strength to overcome my weakness(es)…

I wrote before, we were learning some tough lessons. The lessons we’re learning are for growth and pruning and refining our family to help us further pursue the adventure that’s been lain before us. There has been a lot of discomfort for our family the past month and a half or so. My initial reaction is to get frustrated and feel anxious and begin to worry. However, the more I process and write and study, the more I realize no amount of frustration or irritation is worth my joy. The truth is-a pearl doesn’t become a pearl without first being a tiny grain of sand that irritates the lining of an oyster.

When I wrote that in my journal, I started studying the process of an oyster creating a pearl, naturally…the length of time that process takes is intense. I also began to think about the outside of an oyster. Having lived on the Southeastern coast of America, I know what it’s like to step on an oyster shell. They are jagged, rough and not very pretty on the outside. They will slice your foot open in two seconds flat and leave quite an ugly scar. There isn’t much good about that…but what’s on the inside, is a miracle.

Miracle-a word we often use flippantly…a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

I began thinking about the real life miracles I’ve seen in my own life. I made a list…at the top, my three babies. Others were Little Man being alive, the story of my relationship with Justin and all the redemption that our marriage has seen, and believe it or not, our move here.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it a million times more before I’m old(er) and gray(er). Ha. This move, this God-sized adventure, was never even anywhere in my deck of cards as far as I was concerned. And yet, my heart has become so wrapped up in this beautiful land, these beautiful people, this community. The way we’ve been accepted and pushed away in the same breath, the way my family yearns to help our beautiful friends, the warmth of the sun and cold sting of the winter winds…all of it, wrapped in this big bundle of beautiful. This adventure-it’s a miracle.

Our miracle. Our family’s miracle.

Before we set out on this adventure, sweet mentors of ours gave us the following verse…in preparation for all God was doing and continues to do…

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” -Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)

One year ago, on April 27th, J was interviewing for his position as guidance counselor at MVHS. The girls and I were getting sunburned at Field Day and J was driving through a snow storm. The parallels of that day are not lost on me. We were getting ready to walk into a season of drastic parallels. Our comfortable, island life was about to collide with everything Jesus had ever planned for us…and despite the discomfort, it IS a beautiful life.

A miracle…a highly improbable event that has lead to amazingly welcome outcomes.

We wait with adventurous expectancy for Him to reveal His plans for us here. We are excited for all He has planned and for the way He is shaping and molding us…may our family become pearls. My prayer is that we wouldn’t be timid in loving and living our lives here. May we wait in grace and may we grow in wisdom…may we remember that He created the oyster which in turn produces a pearl…