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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

A clan…

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On Saturday afternoon, we told our family see you in a month. On Saturday afternoon, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I hugged my dear friend, ‘’Sani Willy”, goodbye. The tears came, despite knowing I’d see her again in August. We’ll be back and at our business at the beginning of the month and yet I was completely consumed by the tugging in my heart that could only be captured in one word, sadness. It was an unexpected reaction. It’s certainly not one I ever imagined I’d experience out here. There it was though, a legitimate sadness over leaving my beautiful Navajo family. 

You see, she adopted me into her clan on Sunday. I now have my own clan…I belong to these beautiful people who have so openly loved and given to my family without hesitation. 

When J and I first established BHP, we prayed fervently over what our mission statement would be for our ministry. One of the hot points was to develop families who know Jesus in such a way that generations will be forever changed. Funny thing is, God’s changed our family for generations to come. It’s an odd feeling, knowing you have a place in a culture that for so long your own culture has caused so much pain. 

This past week was our first VBS as full time missionaries. There were lots of changes in my family, ones I didn’t even realize had happened until I watched my babies playing with their friends. We heard several times how well the littles has acclimated. We were reminded of how nervous we all were last year, aside from J, and the beautiful way we’ve adjusted to Rez life. The crazy thing is, I wouldn’t change this beautiful life for any thing in this world. 

I was asked last week, how we found time for each other? How did we make time for self-care? I answered as best I could…we know it’s a priority in ministry. We know for balance and rhythm for our family, boundaries and self-care are a non-negotiable.  The more I’ve thought about it though, the more my response has morphed into something even deeper. All the things I mentioned above are very true…boundaries and self-care are non-negotiable for our family. We spend time at least once a month off the Rez. We’ve found a church to feed and refill us so we can be most effective. Yes, all those make a difference in how we live out here…most importantly though, we are fighting for our best family, best ministry, best selves-we are fighting to know God deeply and intimately. We are praying more now than ever before because most times, it’s all we have. J and I spend hours in the car with our children and somehow we are closer as a family now than we’ve ever been. There’s no running from the hard stuff when you are all each other has. Hard conversations happen on time because there isn’t the opportunity to run from them. Our boundaries and self-care look so different here but our devotion to making those priority is top-notch. We aren’t perfect, we have our battles-our family has just begun to understand in a tangible way that there is only one who has won the war…

What’s all that got to do with being sad about leaving the Rez for a month, you might ask?  There is a comfort in knowing God surrounds you daily. Even in the darkness, I feel His presence so strongly in the desert. There is a fear in going into the world as we once knew it. There is a space in my heart that wasn’t full until I settled into His calling and I’m sad to be away from the people who helped me fall into that calling. I am sad not to see their beautiful black hair and their smooth brown skin. I am sad to be the only one speaking Navajo with my babies for a whole month. While I’m excited to see the many faces of our family and friends back East, my heart will long for the red sand that fills every crevice, the smell of the sun hitting the rocks, the warmth of the sun on my face and the sounds of my beautiful family mixed with the sounds of sheep. 

I am amazed at the awe inspiring way my Father has settled my wandering heart. I am thankful to have a clan, a family, my people.

Love covers…

Today, one year ago, I came to the Rez for the first time. Angry, bitter and confused about how J could so clearly hear God’s voice when I couldn’t and so unsure about what our life would look like here, I walked into the desert for the first time.

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…what a step it was…what a walk it’s been.

Today, as I took care of some things for my girls, I was listening to the John Mayer station on Pandora. A song I’ve listened to more than enough times to know the lyrics came on and I looked at my dear friend, Cam, and asked her to read me the lyrics. They are as follows:

“Pain throws your heart to the ground

Love turns the whole thing around

Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood

But I know the heart of life is good”

-John Mayer, The Heart of Life

It was perfect in every way. Today, as I attended church with several familiar faces and some new, I thought about the change I’ve seen in my own heart since last summer.

The pain I felt in moving here was tangible. Sometimes it was so strong I felt I couldn’t breathe. There were days, especially early on, I thought it would win…and then a little brown hand would reach out for mine. A precious Mama would reach out for me to love her babies. A neighbor would need dinner for the night. You see, all the brokenness I felt was being used to mend my already broken heart. The thing is, my heart was broken in ways I’d never realized until I moved to the Rez.

Now, in its place, is my beautiful, patched up, worked over, scarred up heart…and its good.

The reality is exactly what John Mayer’s song says… pain, really will knock you off your feet. Fear is a friend because it pushed me deeper into the life giving, renewing depths of who He created me to be…and at the end of the day-LOVE turns it all around.

We’ve been in a beautiful, craziness the past month and I’ve repeated on more than one occasion, to more than one person that love covers a multitude of things…a multitude of sins and hurts and hang ups.

At the heart of it all, at the heart of this Rez life, it is good. 

So-as I head into my second VBS week on the Rez, I’m reminding myself how good life is, how good love is and how my God can take any ole heart and turn it for good. 

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