…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.

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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…

Clean slate…

As we’ve continued to settle into our roles here, despite the anxiety I’ve been experiencing, I have seen a continuous rhythm beginning to develop. This rhythm has come in the way the littles and I do school each day, the expectancy of J at lunch and his return after the buses leave for the day. It has come in the once monthly ‘“girls night dinner” and in the consistency of co-op meetings.

I remember thinking we’d never find any rhythm here. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the idea of creating new rhythms because it meant letting go, really letting go, of our old rhythms. The scariest part of moving here, for me, was the not knowing…

See, I’m a planner. I have our entire summer laid out on calendars on the fridge. I make my grocery list a full week ahead and I have my dinner menu written out at least two, usually three, weeks out. I thrive on consistency. The introvert in me needs the predictability. Moving to the Rez stripped that away…but God in all His goodness, has given us new rhythms. Rhythms that cause us to rely more heavily on Him, rhythms that cause us to pray boldly and speak life because that’s literally all we have at times. Our new rhythms have forced us to look deeper into ourselves, our marriage and our parenting to reflect on how we are best serving ourselves, our family and others.

Some of that reflection has taught us some hard lessons, especially the past few weeks. We’ve learned that even more than before we really must say exactly what we mean and then be prepared to fully stand behind our decision. We’ve learned that giving out of an overflow sometimes has to look different than we imagined or previously pictured. We’ve learned that walking alongside our partner churches and their congregations can’t look the same in every one. We’ve had to acknowledge those lessons, process them, accept them and choose differently in the future.

I was struck hardest by some of these lessons as I am the more emotional person in this partnership. (I know, that’s hard to imagine. Ha.) I can easily slip into bitterness when I feel an injustice has been done. I’m constantly working on that…working on forgiving and letting Jesus take care of the rest.

Several times in the past week, I’ve had some of my Navajo sister’s remind me that there are things I MUST let go of…there are things, moments, people, who will cause tension and I have to be willing to give them to Jesus. I cant be effective in my walk, in my home, in my classroom, my marriage or our ministry, if I’m holding on to things I can’t control.

On Friday evening, we went out to White Rock to have dinner with our Masani and to let Little Man see “his sheep”. While we were at the corral, I watched Masani as she called each of those sheep by name and they responded to her. I watched as she gently guided them back to the corral and was immediately able to spot one who was injured. I asked her a bazillion questions about why and how she handles them the way she does. I talked to her about when they’ll lamb and how many she expects and when she’ll shear them. And I was amazed at the knowledge, the gentleness and the fierceness of spirit in my beautiful friend. As J drove the kids up from the corral to the church and Masani drove her truck, I chose to walk. I chose a moment of peace. And I took this picture.

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You might see dirt, and a building with a blue tin roof. I felt Jesus in this moment though. That dirt reminded me that everyone deserves a clean slate . No matter their offense, it’s not my job to take it up. And so, I made a choice to breathe in the crisp, cool air and let out the yuck of the past few weeks.

Then, this morning, we live streamed our church in Hattiesburg, MS. I want to preface this by saying that one of the many reasons I admire and respect Pastor Jeff is because he has ALWAYS (in my time of knowing him) been a man who was about loving others well. He has been a man of integrity, one who is consistent in his dealings with people and in the decisions he makes as he leads his flock.

In his sermon, Pastor Jeff talked about the movement they are making in South Mississippi. He talked about how God has been pushing him to do things he wasn’t really been comfortable saying yes too. He spoke about the things he thought he knew a better timeline for-and then he talked about submitting. Submitting to the One who knows best and saying yes to God. He spoke about hard things, tough spots, wrong turns happening so that God can squeeze you. So God can use every bit of you and then refill. Because He DOES refill.

My heart needed to hear those words this morning. I needed to be reminded that sometimes saying “Yes, Lord, send me!” doesn’t look like what we imagined and it most certainly isn’t always comfortable. And…it doesn’t have to be what I WANT! Yuck, y’all! My toes were on fire after hearing Jeff’s sermon today.

I want people to do right by the Navajo. I want people to do right by my family. More than any of that, though, I want people to know Jesus. I want them to see Him in His fullness. I want them to feel His presence as they come and as they go and when they come in my house I want them to get knocked down because the Holy Spirit is so strong they aren’t able to stand!! I want to live BOLDLY for Christ. I want my family to live and walk BOLDLY in the knowledge of who they belong to and who created them!  I want my Navajo brothers and sisters to understand fully the beautiful miracle each of them was created to be and to find the purpose He’s lain before them. All of those are my WANTS though. Are they good wants to have? I feel like they are. Are they what God wants? I know some of them are, I also know some of them are Jesus with a little of my selfishness thrown in…and so does He.

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, I want Jesus. And I’m going to continue to say yes-even when it’s hard…I’ll keep letting Him chisel me like the beautiful landscape in my desert because each cramp, bump and hiccup can cause me to be more like him…and to me, for me, that is my greatest desire.

…the tiniest birds.

Happiness came today, in the form of a bird like this and his lady friends…

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This weekend, I mentioned wanting a bird feeder to hang just outside the picture window in our living room. After a tumultuous couple of days, more on that later on…I thought it’d brighten my mood.

Sunday, Justin and Sissy, went and grabbed one from the Ace hardware about thirty minutes away.

If I’m completely honest, the bird feeder was me grasping at straws. I have struggled with anxiety, a lot. Probably for longer than I remember and can actually articulate, simply because I didn’t have a name for “the thing” that made me flip out. 

After two years in LivingWell, I now have a name for it and I can only call it what it is, sit in whatever is causing the anxiety, process and move along as necessary. Certain things trigger me more than others…overall though, I’ve done pretty well in recent years. 

When we moved out here, I was a gigantic mess…if you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you already know that…anxiety played a huge factor…Fear of the unknown gets me every time..which is really based out of my fear of rejection. Anyway, after processing all that out, things were rolling along pretty much anxiety free.

However, in February, I began having terrible nightmares and LOTS of sleepless nights followed. Once I processed what was causing my flare up, they slowly went away. Fast forward to two weeks ago…I started having trouble sleeping, again, and this week I’ve been having terrible nightmares. I’ve been on the verge of tears more than I’d like to admit and I’ve been sullen, for lack of a better word. I hadn’t been able to really put my finger on what had me triggered until we were sitting at dinner this evening. I realized that in the past two weeks, Little Man has finally started sleeping through the night, in his own bed. It hasn’t been every night but 6 out of 10, compared to none…I consider that a breakthrough. Celebration, right?!? No cause for alarm. 

…unless you’re the Mama who woke up in the middle of the night, April 19, 2016, to your newborn not breathing.  See, y’all, these past two weeks, they’re the first time, since that night, our boy has slept-alone…all night. I have processed multiple times the impact his illness and the survival mode we lived in for months-gone over and over my feelings and fears and denial more times than I care to count. What I seem to always forget, though, is this…trauma is trauma and it doesn’t just go away. 

I am happy, our boy is healthy and healed and whole. I’m forever grateful for the Holy Spirit waking me that night-I’ve no doubt it was Him. I know our life could be very different. I also know, as a Mama, that night forever changed something inside my heart…it is still overwhelming and frightening and suffocating at times….so, tonight, as we read SkippyJon Jones, I snuggled Little Man a little tighter and told him what a beautiful gift he has been to our family…and when I kissed Sissy and Mouse, I reminded them what precious gifts they are, too.

So, what about the birds, you ask?  After dinner and in the middle of finishing bath time, J called me into the living room. There were at least ten tiny finches on our back wall, taking turns eating from my new feeder…and the handsome guy, similar to the one pictured above, gently stood watch for his ladies. Ha.

It was then I heard a still, small voice say…

“See, I even care for the tiniest birds…”

My anxiety doesn’t get the final say, my Jesus does. Though it is very real, though it is sometimes utterly crippling, I have all the necessary tools to push through to the other side-when I’m ready.

Jesus has constantly reminded me, when I am weak, He’s strong. When I doubt, He doesn’t flinch. When I worry, He reminds me, gently, that He has cared for me long before any one else…this move, living on the Rez, homeschooling, learning a new culture and way of life and still trying to hold onto who He designed me to be-it’s hard. Harder than I ever imagined. I’m not alone, though. He knew how hard this would be, He knows my heart and my head-and He loves me anyway.

So, tonight, I’m choosing to sit in my feelings, process through the fear and worry not. 

…and I think I’ll kiss all three of my babies one more time before I go to bed. 

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you more valuable than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” -Matt. 6:26-27

…even on a sick day

This week, the kids and I took some time to rest. We brought school with us on our trip back East and we worked each day. Let me tell you how crazy we must’ve appeared with me teaching in the middle of the Dallas airport. Ha.

Once we got home, we…I, realized we needed some time to rest. When I worked at the church, our pastor, my boss, would often remind us you work best from rest. I read an awesome book, highly recommended by two women I greatly admire, about teaching from REST. So, when I realized that the kids were tired and I was tired and no one was learning much of anything, I made the executive decision to have a restful school week. We did science experiments, we read partner plays, we wrote short stories, we went on a nature scavenger hunt and we PLAYED! We played inside and outside. We used sidewalk chalk to learn phonics blends and spelling words and we explored. And we took naps and we watched Magic School Bus episodes that matched whatever science lesson we were working on for the day. We just had fun and we rested…

…until Thursday. Thursday, the enemy came calling and he was determined to ruin our week of rest. Thursday mid-day, I spiked a fever. By Thursday evening, Mouse had a tummy ache and Little Man was refusing to eat. Fast forward to Friday morning, I’ve been up all night with fever and chills, Mouse wakes up vomiting and Little
Man wakes up covered in vomit from sometime in the night. J had left early for an out of town conference. It was not a pretty picture at our house. So-I did the only thing I knew to do…Sissy and I circled up and prayed. We prayed for healing and wholeness…and no more vomit.

And there was none…

By mid-day, all was well. I chalked up the one episode of vomit per kid to something they ate and moved on…

We’d made plans to attend our friends baseball game that evening in Farmington. It was a bit of a drive but we were excited to visit and the kids were excited to watch JayBoy play. So, off we went….

The enemy wasn’t done though. On our way home, I started to feel bad. Terrible, really. By the time we got home, I knew I was sick and was up all night with an upset stomach.

Here’s the hitch, J was leaving at 6:30 to go on a trail ride with the senior class…

Weariness…remember, that’s where the enemy gets me. As I lay in bed Saturday morning, husband off riding horses (with my blessing because self-care is paramount), I made a conscious choice that he wouldn’t get me. I made a choice that he wouldn’t win the day, that my Father would…so, I prayed.

My stomach didn’t magically improve…my kids were gracious to their mama, though. When I told them my tummy was very sick and I needed lots of help while J was gone…there were no fits…
It was a beautiful, 65 degree day…warm enough the girls could play outside with friends. Little Man was content to snuggle on the couch and watch movies…you see, God doesn’t answer the way we want but he ALWAYS answers. My stomach still isn’t quite right but my day was exactly right. There was grace. Enough for the day. Enough for today and the beauty is there will be enough for tomorrow, too.

I, we, have learned so much about God’s timing and grace and prayers since moving here. We have learned what a need we have for prayer…because when you’re in a literal desert, prayer is all you have at your disposal. We have learned and seen first hand that His ways are higher, better, more real than anything we could ask or imagine. We live, day in and day out, in a state of grace. There has to be grace…and as a Mama, I admit, my grace can run really short some days. His doesn’t, though. My Heavenly Father’s grace comes endlessly. And, that’s what made yesterday so right. His grace.

See, there’s something the enemy doesn’t have and that’s grace. The enemy’s fortitude has nothing on my King. He can not and will not be defeated because He’s already won! His grace is sovereign…how awesome is that?

So, friends, I was reminded yesterday of the beauty of His answer and not mine. I was reminded that when my grace falls short, His does not. I was reminded that His grace is enough for me…even on a sick day.

Covenant love…

When we moved to the Rez, we knew we wanted to find a church that would fill us and fuel us as we served alongside our beautiful family here. We have watched many services of Crossroads live stream in our living room, we have streamed our home church on SSI, we have visited churches in Farmington. There hasn’t been one thing that’s worked for ALL five of us. Last week, on the tail end of our trip back East, we visited a church in Albuquerque with friends. (That’s five hours from us.) We really enjoyed the pastor, the worship and the children’s ministry. Little Man was actually happy when we picked him up. Sissy and Mouse were pleasantly pleased and said they enjoyed themselves and were excited about visiting again. Now, I’ve told many stories since we moved here about the faithfulness of my Father…well, here’s another. The Albuquerque church has a campus in Farmington. Yes, three hours and three states from us BUT not only is there a campus there, they also have a Saturday evening service! We can attend Saturday evening, do our grocery shopping and still be available to our Navajo churches on Sunday!! When we set out on this adventure, I prayed for Him to be in every detail. I prayed He would cover us in His grace and mercy and that we’d feel Him at every turn, every fork in the road and every decision to be made…oh, how faithful is the Father’s love toward us.

We visited the Farmington campus last night. We had a picnic at the Aztec National Monument, we made our Target run and did our grocery shopping and I got dressed for Easter service in Safeway grocery store restroom. I laugh as I write this because it’s our life and there wasn’t a moments hesitation in doing so…the kids got dressed in the van and J loaded groceries into a cooler while I changed. It’s comical. It’s comical because I love this life. It’s hard. Don’t get me wrong, I have just realized one thing-a thing I was reminded of in service last night. When I gave my life to Christ, I admitted I was a sinner. I believe(d) He was the son of the Living God and then I COMMITTED my life to Him. I made a COVENANT with Jesus that if He’d save me from myself, I’d commit my life to doing His work. To honoring Him. I’d commit my life to following His lead and walking in His way. Now, at twelve years old, in a little Baptist Church on our island, I had no idea committing, making covenant with Jesus would take me to the desert…I did, though. I committed my life to Him. And this is the beautiful, full, magnificent, glorious life He’s given me.

The thought of the covenant I made with Jesus at twelve made me think about the covenant’s I’ve made since then. The covenant I made when J and I said “I do”. The covenant we made as parents when we dedicated each of our babies back to the Lord. The covenant we made when we moved here. The last wasn’t a spoken covenant. It wasn’t an agreement we made with any church or person. It was a covenant, once again, with Jesus, that we’d love these people as He loves us. In all our brokenness and human tendencies, we’d love with the same love.

It’s overwhelming really. This charge-this covenant because it wasn’t what I chose. It reminds me over and over again how little control we actually have over our lives. How little I control my own life. What’s even more incredible, more
overwhelming, is that despite my wandering heart, Jesus still chose me. He chooses me every day and He chose ME on that cross all those years ago.

Friends, He chose you, too.

He made a covenant on the cross that we could never deserve..and yet, He chose us anyway. He made a covenant for debts, sins that weren’t His so that we could live this beautiful, magnificent, full life. He chose us.

So, on this Easter Sunday, won’t you remember that you’re CHOSEN. You’re loved, with a deeper love than you can fathom. You’re given grace beyond measure from a Father who finds you absolutely flawless because of the beautiful covenant His son made on the cross.

Today, we’re celebrating our Risen King with some of our Navajo family. Celebrating the covenant He made and the one we made to love. Unconditionally and without expectation…just as He loves us.

Happy Easter, friends!