…a choice.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of flying back East to meet my niece.  It was a quick change of pace as I was able to travel the six hours to the airport, alone.  Fly, alone.  Both coming and going.  It was nice…however, I quickly realized that I’m so used to constant noise, I almost needed a little. Ha.  Isn’t that the way of things, I needed a break…got one and then it was too quiet.  I sang to Lauren Daigle and Adele as loudly as I possibly could, though, so that was pretty nice.

I’ve needed some time to process all the feelings that went with seeing, for the first time, my sister being a mama, meeting my beautiful niece and watching my BIL and sister work together to take care of this precious little girl that Jesus has given them.  I’ll admit, it was kind of cool to NOT be the one feeding a baby at 3 am.  I got to spend some good time snuggling and singing and speaking truth about who Jesus is to her and then pass her off to her Mama and Daddy and that was WAY cool.

When I first arrived at NayNay and Bubba’s house, I looked down at this tiny face and was overwhelmed with God’s goodness, with His love, and with love for this tiny human I’d only imagined.  I remember praying years ago that one day, I’d be able to share motherhood with my sister.  I remember praying that we’d be able to have real conversations that were more than surface level deep and that we’d be able to joke about the craziness of being a parent, as well as the joy.  What I didn’t realize all those years ago, was that it would take me working through some pretty intense things, to get to a place where I could just be her sister and not feel compelled to be the mother. It was a crazy good feeling to just be the sister, the aunt, the sister-in-law and not be the one in control and trying to fix things.  I felt such joy in watching NayNay be a mommy and not telling her how to do things.  It was incredible to see how easily she’s slipped into the rhythm of motherhood, how Bubba has stepped up as such a support person for NayNay, how all of a sudden their house felt like a little home with a family.  I loved my time with them and my time with my little Lo-Lo.

Meanwhile, back on the Rez, Justin was manning the fort and thanks to some great support people, the weekend went off without a hitch.

I realized last weekend that love really is a choice.  I’m constantly reminded of this truth.  It was ever present in the weekend, though.  As I’ve spent this week processing my feelings and the events of my time back East and all the things here on the Rez, I’ve stepped into a place where I’m realizing that even those in my life who are hard to love, hard to please, hard to walk alongside, I get to choose to love them or not.  Not loving them, though, isn’t being Jesus with skin on and that’s my greatest motivation.  I want others to see Him in everything I do.  The reality of this truth is that it’s not easy.  Sometimes its literally the hardest thing I’ve walked through.  Lots of times, it’s not what I want to do at all.  It’s not what my flesh wants to lean into…it is what He tells me to lean into.  Lean into love…”if I speak with the tongues of men and angels, yet do not have love, I am simply a resounding gong or cymbal.” -1 Cor. 13:1.  I don’t want to be a cymbal or a gong…honestly, the thought of that grates my nerves…how much more does it work the nerves of those I’m around?  In truth, I don’t have to please everyone, I get to choose whether to involve them in my life or not, I get to choose who to allow into my inner circle, the ones who understand me best…I also get to choose to love.  Loving doesn’t mean giving in or letting someone manipulate…love doesn’t mean putting on a smile just to please someone else.  Love means truth.  Love means honesty and openness and being willing to do the hard things.  “Love is…patient, kind.  It does not envy or boast. It is not proud, it is not rude or self seeking.  It is not easily angered.  And keeps no record of wrongs.  It does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes and endures all things.” -1 Cor. 13:4-7

If I’m being honest, I’m not really good at the keeping no record of wrongs…forgiveness has always been a struggle for me.  But God.  He can and does help steer me away from bitterness and anger, every. single. day.

For me.  I’m choosing love.  Even when it’s hard and ugly and not what I want to see.  As a people pleaser, that’s pretty difficult.  I’m pressing into Jesus.  Trusting that He can do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine.  He loves me that much.  He loves you that much too.

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Small

I recently read Rachel Hollis’ book, Girl, Wash Your Face.  I’d read many Facebook posts and several articles raving about the book and it was recommended to me by a dear friend.  So, all those things combined with the fact that her last name matches the first name of my very best friend, I figured it couldn’t be a bad read.  It wasn’t.  It was actually really good, a quick, easy, busy mom-friendly kind of book.  I appreciated her wit and insight into what its like to be a mom and a wife and a young woman who is still trying to determine what the greater plan for life will be.

What I appreciated most though was a section of her book where she talks about making herself small to please other people.  She says this, “You were not made to be small! You were made to be the best version of yourself… and the best version of you does not shrink herself to fit inside of anyone else’s expectations! Be brave in the face of uncertainty. Be bold in pursuit of your goals. Be unapologetically you!”.

When I read those words, it was like being slapped in the face.  All my life, I made myself small to please other people.  Aced a math test, oh no big deal.  Made first chair clarinet, great job but you can be better.  Played like a big dog on the ball field, you were good but so and so was better.  As a college student, I wanted others to like me so I made a very small deal of myself and my faith.  I fumbled the ball in that department quite a bit.  I made my morals small, on lots of occasions, to get others to be my friend.  As a young woman, I sunk to low levels to keep a guy who never really loved me.  As a wife and mom, I find myself consistently making myself small, my thoughts, my ideas, my dreams small so that no one is offended.  I find myself walking through each day growing increasingly concerned about what it means to live a “life on mission”. I watch all six of my littles watching me…how will Mama react?  How will she handle adversity?  How will she handle the Goliath that’s in front of her?  Will she be brave and bold like she encourages us?  Will she stand up for the God things?

The truth is…

I make myself small.

I don’t want to be seen.  I don’t want to be heard, not really.  I only want to be seen by my people.  Those closest to me, those who are called to love me regardless.  The reality is though that love is a choice, much the same way that my being small is a choice.

Do you know what’s even crazier than making myself small so that other’s don’t see me.  So that other’s can’t disagree with my ideas or dreams?  It’s that for most of my life, I’ve believed it works. Ha.

Disclaimer:  it doesn’t.

God didn’t call us to be timid and small.  He called us to live out our lives as He’s created us.  He’s called us to walk in the fullness and understanding that we are worthy to be loved simply because HE CREATED US!  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US!  Y’all.  How do we as Christians miss this so often?  How do we sit by and watch as we tear one another apart?  How do we walk through life, day in and day out, and choose not to love the very thing that God created in His own image?  Choose not to love other’s well?  I can’t make it make sense, other than a little part of us all must want to be small. Not seen.  Not heard.

I need to be honest.  I can’t live like that anymore.

I’m what others might call a spirited introvert.  I so enjoy being around MY people, the ones I’m really close to.  I also THRIVE in quiet.  The times where no one is talking to me, where I can sing, write, read or draw.  I am at peace in silence.  It is often the best part of my day when there is LITERALLY no one speaking to me.  When I read Rachel’s earlier statement, I realized I’ve been using my introverted-ness (is that even a word?) as a way to make myself even smaller.

Here’s the thing.  I watch people all around me make themselves small, too.  I’ve watched my beautiful Navajo brothers and sisters make themselves small because for so long they were forced to be so.  So many of my Navajo family have incredible intellect.  They are smarter than the average bear and many have more common sense than most.  They are wise.  Often, they see things others can not because we don’t take the time.  Life is often too busy in the Anglo world to realize what’s right in front.

That’s sad to me.  There are lots of things out here that are sad to me.  Right now, though, the saddest is watching these beautiful people make themselves small.

My prayer is that I’ll stop sticking to small.  My prayer is that I will be bold, like a lion.  That through my boldness, my brothers and sisters will take heart as well.  That they will step out of small, too.  And that together, we can walk in the fullness of who God has called us to be and we’ll be able to love each other and the world BIG…not small.

 

Full

I want to tell you a story.  Its a story that’s really not mine, its just something I had the honor and privilege to be a part of in some small way.  In order to fully tell the story, I need to write about some of the things that have happened in our family this summer.

At the beginning of June, we added two littles to our family and the Galloway Five became the Galloway Seven.  While not every part of the transition was easy or pretty, we fought through the hard things and fused a new rhythm for our family.

We traveled all over the country.  All five littles became junior rangers in six national parks, we saw the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.  We saw rain…goodness, I didn’t realize how deeply I’d missed the rain. We saw family, threw a baby shower, got lots of hugs and lots of encouragement.

We started school, had our first official mission team come out to the Rez, and added the last little to our brood.  The Galloway family went from seven to eight.

These things have kept us moving and busy.  We have been stretched in ways we never imagined we’d be stretched.  We have fought and battled.  We have prayed.  Goodness, we’ve prayed.  We’ve grown our faith muscles and I’ve realized in a more real way than ever before that He is in the midst of the most intricate details of our lives.

All of those things have been amazing and stretching and exhausting and fulfilling…those are the story though.

Here it is.

At the beginning of June, we were in Farmington, buying new summer clothes for the littles and doing some prep work for our upcoming ministry partners VBS trip.  We were staying over night because…five kids. Six hour round trip.  Too much for this mama. Too much for all those kids. Ha.

That night, at bed, we opened the pull out sofa and the sheets hadn’t been changed.  Actually, it looked more like someone had dumped a boot full of sand in the bed and closed it back up.  Anyway, I went down to the front desk to get fresh sheets and clean blankets.  When I got down there, as it often happens, the receptionist asked me about my accent.  When I told her where we were from, the obvious question was how’d we get out here.  I explained how J came out on a mission trip with Tab Smith Ministries and the struggle of us moving here and how I’d fought.  When I mentioned TSM, tears sprang to her eyes.  She explained that she was born on the Rez.  Her grandfather helped start the churches in a nearby town and she remembered getting Christmas shoe boxes from TSM as a little girl.  It was a really cool God moment and it was a blessing when she looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you for saying yes,”

Fast forward almost three months to the day.  We were back in Farmington, doing our grocery shopping and getting prepped for the mission team coming in that day.  I was checking out at Wal-Mart and the cashier asked me where I was from and how we made our way out West.  I explained our story and how we wound up on the Rez.

She chuckled and began telling me that her dad started several churches in a nearby town.  I asked who he was and she then told me her little sister runs the convenience grocery here in the Valley.  After all this, it clicked.  I asked her if her daughter worked at the hotel in Farmington.  YES!!!! She did.  I asked her if she remembered or knew of our partner ministry, TSM.  She did.  Y’all, I can’t make this up.

The seeds that Tab has been planting for YEARS, they’re coming up.  A beautiful harvest is coming.  Its going to come from the Navajo people.

Each time we are asked our story, Jesus gives us a better one.  We fall more in love with our home with each passing moment. Almost daily, we’re given another confirmation that we are exactly where we’re supposed to be, our family is sinking our roots deep into Navajo soil…

Soaking in God’s goodness, in His word….He’s called us to love.  Period.  Unconditionally.  He’s called us to serve others and to build relationship with other believers.  We’re called to live our lives in such a way that His love oozes out of every pore of our being so that others see Him without having to hear…the hearing comes when people know we care.  They won’t know we care, unless we’re loving them the way Jesus loved the church.

For years, Tab’s been loving the Navajo people…now we have the honor of loving them on the front lines.  My family has the privilege of knowing them in a way that many never will or won’t.  My children have the great joy of being friends with children who don’t look like them, who don’t have all the things they’ve ever had and they are better for it.  As a mama, I have the extraordinary honor of loving someone else’s children and protecting them, feeding them and showing them Christ through my actions and words. The incredible journey, the adventure we’ve been on the past 14 months, is God ordained…I may have doubted early on, not anymore.  The seemingly random meetings, chance conversations…God’s in this, all the way.

My car is full, my house is full, my hands are full and so is my heart.

an abundance of joy

Last week I celebrated my birthday…it was a different kind of birthday because I had lots of tiny faces singing to me.  All seven spaces at my dining room table were full and so was my heart.  We had homemade spaghetti and a hot pink and neon yellow birthday cake that all five babies helped J pick out.  It was a not so great day (due to syringe feeding a rabbit, praying that said rabbit would survive, the dog having an upset stomach and potty training a two and half year old) that turned into a peaceful, lovely evening.  Love was all around me that night.

I didn’t think it could get much better…Jesus had other plans.

On Friday evening, I met Masani, MyMike, Masani Willy, and Grandma E for dinner.  I was apparently supposed to bring the whole crew but our wires got crossed and I thought it was our usual monthly, ladies night dinner…I had no idea MyMike was coming.  I’m so glad he did though.

My Navajo family is amazing.  Last year for my birthday, I was so sad.  I had only been here on the Rez for three weeks and I was missing the island something fierce.  We went to their church the Sunday following my birthday and they’d created a wonderful lunch and gave me a precious card.  I didn’t know then they were my family…I do now.  On Friday night, we had dinner and laughed.  I learned all their childhood nicknames and heard story, after story of how they grew up.  I watched my family brighten an entire restaurant…

It wasn’t just the laughter and the stories though.  I was given beautiful turquoise earrings and a necklace, a beautiful potted flower and handmade apron, tablecloth, oven mitts and comforter set for this coming winter.  The thoughtfulness, the care that was put into my gifts almost overwhelmed me.

Then, MyMike blessed our food and me.  He prayed in Navajo first and then in English.  Side note:  If you ever have an opportunity to hear an Navajo pray, it’ll bless your socks off.  His words were beautiful.  They were sincere and moving.  They were heartfelt and endearing and conveyed things about me that I didn’t realize.  I learned a lesson in his prayer, a lesson about myself.  One I strive to achieve..I realized in that moment though, achieving isn’t as important as being.  It was a beautiful prayer, a beautiful moment shared with my equally beautiful family.

MyMike is gentle, one of the most humble men I’ve ever met and quite possibly one of Little Man’s favorite people.  He doesn’t have a lot to say-when he does though, its profound.  He reminds me a lot of my Daddy.  His gentle, easy-going spirit and the way he carries himself.  He works hard and would give you the shirt off his back. He is a leader by action.  He’s slow to speak and a good listener.  He’s a watcher.

Why are you telling us about the character of a man we’ll probably never meet, you might ask?  I’m telling you this because these are the characteristics of many Navajo people.  Watchers, listeners, discerners…humble, hard working people who love infinitely more than most.  My precious Navajo people have a peaceful spirit that moves me to gentleness, grace and an abundance of joy.  When I’m with them, I find a piece of my heart I never realized was missing.

Everyday we see something amazing, something beautiful, something heart wrenching and something devastating.  Each week we are presented with something difficult to pour ourselves into.  Each month we are reaching farther than we ever thought we possibly could…because Jesus…because we are helplessly, hopelessly devoted to Navajo reaching other Navajo…because we are praying for a revival in these beautiful people that can only come from the Creator of all things…because of people like MyMike, who seek God first in all they do and even under the hardest of circumstances find a way to love others well and praise Jesus at the same time.

Fear.

Yesterday was our first day of home school, year 2.  The difference in yesterday’s palpable excitement and last years intense trepidation was incredible.  The girls were excited, mama was prepared and Little Man was along for the ride.  We’ve been asked multiple times why we choose to home school when there is an elementary school literally one half mile from our home.  Our answer is simple.  This is the season God has brought us too.  As long as He’s leading us to this, we’ll continue to walk in His path.

I want to share with you a beautiful moment from our first day.

Our character word this first month is OBEDIENCE.  We wrote in our journals yesterday morning several ways we could be obedient.  There were several answers, some very intuitive, some very much little girl.  One of Sissy’s responses though surprised me.

The definition I gave them for obedience made mention of doing what we’re asked, the first time, joyfully and without complaint….

Sissy looked at me after reading the definition and said, “Mommy, you were obedient to God when you didn’t want to come here.”  I agreed. She then said, “You didn’t have to do it joyfully, you didn’t have to do it without complaint, you just had to do it, right?”

Right?

Was that right?  I wasn’t sure.  I wasn’t sure how to generalize her question because its true that I did get “in the boat” with J.  Its true that I came to the Rez.  However, my heart wasn’t here. My mind wasn’t here and I certainly, in no way, wanted to be here.  So was it obedience or fear?

I’ve had to deal heavily with my fears in the past four years.  I lived most of my life being afraid of rejection and punishment.  I remember now telling my best friend that I was moving here because I didn’t want to get to heaven and have Jesus look at me and ask why I was a stumbling block in my husbands spiritual walk…hmmm…

Fear.  That’s what I came to last night.  I was afraid to come here but I was more afraid of not coming here.  Then I got angry.  What a way for Satan to steal the joy of so many months? I was convinced I was walking in obedience, when I was actually walking in fear.  See how the enemy twists thoughts, ideas to create his own way, his own win.

I look back at the first four months we lived here and think about how terrible I must’ve been to live with…how I wanted to punish J for moving us here-I should mention, I didn’t realize until last night that I wanted to punish him. I wanted him to be in pain with me.  I wanted him to suffer the way I was suffering…and in the process, literally everyone around me suffered.  How absolutely self-absorbed!?!?

This morning we came back to our definition of obedience.  I explained to Sissy and Mouse that I wasn’t obedient, I was fearful.  I explained that Mommy wanted to call it obedience because it’s prettier that way.  We talked about how the enemy likes to tangle us up and make us believe things that aren’t true to keep us from fully walking with Jesus.  In a moment of innocence and clarity and true child-like faith, Mouse responded by reminding me that Jesus gives us mercy and grace every morning.  “A big fresh batch, right, Mommy?  If he gives us a big, fresh batch of mercy and grace EEEVVVVVERY day, then you are already forgiven for moving here because you were afraid.”

Wow.

She’s six, y’all.  If I had understood mercy and grace that way at six years old, how different my choices along the hard road of life would’ve been.

Days like yesterday and today are further evidence of why we’re called to home school. Conversations with my kids that lead to deeper conversations about faith and walking in His way, will forever be worth every single minute of every single day I spend teaching these babies.  Home school is about more than teaching reading, math, language, history and science.  Its about life lessons that make a difference in the DNA of our family.  I’m thankful for this season.  I’m thankful that even on days when I’m not sure they’ve learned a single thing, days when my patience is running low and we’re all exhausted, He is working.  They are learning grace and mercy, forgiveness and patience and love.  Above all else, love.  Unconditional love…from a Heavenly Father who created them for so much more than I, as their mama, could ever fathom.

So-how long will we home school?  Well, until He tells us otherwise.

…because of fry bread.

Last night, I made fry bread.  All the littles asked that we make Navajo tacos for our final Family Fun night of the summer.  School starts tomorrow and tonight will see early bedtime in preparation for an early wake up.  So-Navajo tacos and Secretariat for the win.

When we moved here last year, one of my first friends on the Rez, a young mama, came to my house and taught me the art of fry bread.  And, it is an art.  If you work the dough to much, it gets hard as it cooks.  If you are too gentle, its flimsy and too crunchy.  To make the dough, the bread, turn out just right, there is a certain level of comfort and gentility you must have while working the dough.  The water temperature has to be just right.  There are no measurements other than those you provide with your hands. My sweet friend was patient and kind as she showed me the steps…she taught me how to “love” the dough so that it turns out just right…and now my fry bread is a pretty good contender-especially for a Bilagáana, or a white person.

Where’s this going?  Hang in there with me.

As I was making fry bread last night, working the dough, molding the discs to fry and watching it turn golden brown, I was reminded of that precious night last summer.  I was reminded of the sounds of my babies playing with their sweet friends and the clear pops from the hot grease in the iron skillet.  When fry bread dough goes in and the temperature of the oil is right, it makes a sweet sound like a wind chime.  All those sounds were happening in my house again last night.  My babies were playing with their sweet Navajo sisters and the sound of perfectly temped oil and bread were tinkling in the background.  The only thing missing was my beautiful friend. I shared with J the memory of that night last summer and what a precious remembrance it was for me on this journey to loving the Rez.

After dinner, we were watching our family movie and there was a light knock on the door.  It was her.  I hadn’t seen her in months.  I had prayed for her, for her heart, for strongholds to be broken…and there she was. Standing in my doorway, needing to hear me say I loved her anyway.  So, I did.  I was able to share Jesus with her in a tangible way.  I was able to hug her and tell her that there was no expectation from me, from J…that we loved her unconditionally.

You see, when Jesus gets ahold of your heart its a beautiful thing…when He gets ahold of your eyes though, its something altogether different.  When we start seeing others through the same lens that Jesus does, we start to see past the broken, past the ugly, past the hurt and the bitterness and the angry-we start to see the beauty beneath all those things. The Holy Spirit met me on my front porch last night and all I could see was the beautiful heart of my friend.

I’ve learned over the past few years, especially this last year, we’re all so very broken in our own way.  We all have strongholds, they just look different from person to person.  Our hearts are all searching for something, something to hold on to, someone to love us without condition, someone to show us there’s a better way…

…there is a better way.  Jesus.

And because of fry bread-on a Tuesday night with all the littles grieving the end of summer and the beginning of school, Jesus gave us a better way.  He gave us an opportunity to love…in a gentle and patient way…much the same way you have to “love” the dough to get beautiful, golden fry bread.

IMG-9252

 

cotton candy clouds…

Whew.

Six weeks.  That’s how long its been since I’ve written.  This summer was adventurous, stressful, fun, exhausting, strenuous, eventful and fulfilling in so many ways.

IMG-8977

We traveled and made memories.  We saw precious family and friends, new and old.  We visited places we hadn’t seen before and those we hadn’t seen in a really long time.  And, we loved.  We loved each other and our people…and all the while there was this aching to get home. An aching for the Rez that couldn’t and still can’t be explained.

A year ago, I was bitter and angry as I watched all the first day of school photos being posted.  I was sorely disappointed that homeschooling was the new season for us.  It wasn’t something I really wanted to do but felt I had too.  This year, as I watched all the beautiful pictures of beautiful littles starting back to school, I was able to pray.  My babies and I spent the day calling out the names of our friends and the things we specifically wanted to ask Jesus to give each one throughout the day. It was beautiful and special and to me speaks volumes about the way God has molded and shaped and changed my heart and the hearts of my children to look more like His.

Rez school’s don’t start until next Thursday and we’ll start homeschool the following Monday. We’re super excited to start each morning with our new gratitude journals.  We’re excited to start reading our monthly, read-aloud novels and begin our 1st and 3rd grade curriculum.

As we drove back onto the Rez on Sunday of this week, I looked up and realized the clouds were cotton candy pink and just as fluffy.  I thought to myself that nowhere else do the clouds look like they do on the Rez.  I looked at the mesas as I drove and thought about how grand and majestic they are and how much they have withstood over the years.  I looked at the red dirt and thought about how many tears that dirt has caught, how many of my own tears its caught.  It was then I thanked God for bringing us here.  Yep, you read it right, I thanked him for bringing us here.

This time last year, I couldn’t fathom how we’d make a life on the Rez.  Now, I can’t imagine our lives if we’d said no.  Our family has been forever changed by the mesas and the dirt, by the Navajo and the beauty of this land.  When we moved here, I saw extreme poverty.  I look now and I see hope.  I see the marvelous way a culture has endured despite severe oppression.  I admire the way my Navajo elders maintain their uniqueness while adapting to a world that is ever changing.

Our family’s purpose has always been to live with the Navajo.  I love the way God continues to reveal that to us daily.  I love that even on the hard days, I know He’s working in the background.  I can appreciate the waiting now because the grandeur of life with Him is way better than any I could’ve imagined.

So-instead of first day of school pictures and bitterness, today, the kids and I drove to Moab so Mesa (the dog) could get his well needed and long over-due hair cut.  We had a picnic and played at the park for hours.  We prayed for our friends who started school today and we admired the amazing way God changes hearts.

What a beautiful change its been…