love and warriors…

Our lives changed drastically, dramatically when J came to the Rez for his first mission trip in the summer of 2016. I didn’t realize at the time what an impact that trip would have on our family. I didn’t realize the enormous responsibility God was placing in our hands. Daily, I get a reminder just how much we are responsible for in our new home.

This week was busy. Full of light and laughter and long talks with precious families who love Jesus and who have entrusted themselves, their ministries and  their hearts to my family. By the end of the week though, I was tired. My heart was heavy with some things that were absolutely out of my control. Things I was praying through, people I was praying over and waiting on His timing…and I was weary. Weariness is the enemy’s greatest tool against me. When I am tired, when I am discouraged, the lies of the enemy hold so much power…because I allow them too.

We have many children who are in and out of our home. Some with strong families, some with no family, some with hearts so broken and untrusting they don’t know up from down. Some-despite all odds, despite the deck being completely stacked against them are joyful. These are the ones who break me. Jesus uses them, their story, their faith and hope that things will be better to teach me so much about myself.

I have fallen head over heels, madly in love with the children on this Reservation. My Father has allowed them to touch a place in my heart I thought I had worked through.

Several years ago, J and I began the process to foster to adopt a precious, beautiful baby boy. For reasons that didn’t make sense to me at the time, we were unable to move forward in the process. Losing that baby destroyed me for awhile. He had pricked a place in my heart I didn’t know was tender. The first time those chubby little tanned hands reached for me and he fell asleep on my chest, I felt I couldn’t breathe. Jesus had other plans for that beautiful boy AND for me. He had plans for Little Man and for a wild adventure into the desert. An adventure I wouldn’t change now, if I could. But-that beautiful boy, with his chubby little hands changed the way I saw life. I can look at that time now and see how He was preparing my heart for such a time as this. A time when every day my heart is pricked and pierced for the beautiful, brown hands that want to hold mine. For the beautiful brown eyes that look at me and trust me and wholeheartedly believe me when I tell them how much Jesus loves them. For the beautiful little boys and girls who stand in such stark contrast to my blue eyed, blonde haired Sissy and love our family anyway. Brokenness has become a way of life for me. And on really tough weeks, when I hear a really hard story, a story of a little one who just needs a safe, stable home or enough food or clean clothes or safety…period, I get weary. I get overwhelmed and tired and the enemy prowls.

He prowls but he doesn’t win. My God does. It is when I feel at my lowest that my Abba Daddy sends in the big guns…in the form of precious, beautiful prayer warriors. Ladies and gentleman who are passionate about prayer. Men and women who are passionate about obedience to Christ. Folks who genuinely love my family…respect why we moved here and see the ways in which we’ve grown. Yesterday, His warrior was the volleyball coach I met in the fall. A fellow homeschool Mama who lives three hours away. She sent me a text, telling me she had been praying Galatians 6:9 and            2 Timothy 2:1 over me and my family all day.

“…be strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus….”-2 Tim. 2:1

”…let us not grow weary in doing good…”-Gal. 6:9

I love that He knows my heart. I love that He is constantly at work for my good and for the good of my family. I love that He consistently drops people into my life who are willing to step out on faith and pray bold prayers.

So-if you’re reading these ramblings of mine, will you boldly pray for these beautiful children with whom I’ve fallen in love? Will you pray for their hearts to be soft in a world that is hard? Will you join me in believing their futures are bright and that His plans for them are only good?

We are blessed by these beautiful people and by a God who sees and loves us all.

Advertisements

Free

I have spent most of my life attempting to control the uncontrollable.  I have wasted immense amounts of time working to create an illusion that life was grand when really, it hasn’t always been.  That was never more abundantly clear to me than when I first started the counseling program I was a part of for two years.  I liked making others happy.  I would make myself sick with worry if someone was angry with me.  I would persecute others and victimize myself and then step back into a role where I felt I needed to rescue others from themselves and other people, from situations I felt I could better manage for them.  Once I realized how arrogantly I had behaved, how ludicrous to believe that I could control my life or anyone else’s better than the One who gave them life, I decided I was done.  I made a choice.  Freedom.  That was my choice.

What I also learned is that control, whether it means controlling and manipulating others or controlling and manipulating appearances, stories or situations, is an addiction.  If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, I was “Joy”.  “I’m good, she’s good, we’re all good…”.  Things could be completely falling apart and I would find a way to make it look okay.  I was slowly killing myself with the lies I was telling me.  I didn’t realize I was hurting myself or anyone else though.  It was the only way I knew to cope with hard things.  I didn’t realize it was okay not to be okay.  Until some wonderful women, loved me enough to create a safe place for me to be “out of control”.  Living “out of control” as the world sees it is often looked down upon.  I’m okay with that opinion these days.  I’m okay because I know my value and worth doesn’t come from one single person on this Earth.  I know to whom I belong and His opinion is of greatest importance to me.

Yeah, yeah…let’s get on with it..I know, I know.  I had to tell you that part of the story because it relates directly to today’s part of the story…

I made a choice in 2016 to let go of control…to live my life in such a way that every move I made was in direct line with what God was calling me to do…to live my life doing exactly what He created me to do…I didn’t realize when I let go, I was letting Him lead me into deep water…or dry desert.

Here we are though….in the desert.

We are three hours and three states away from the nearest Wal-Mart in one direction, just under 3 hours from a Wal-Mart in the other two directions and as for going north, probably closer to five hours.  I’m telling you this because you should also know that even the nearest park is 30 minutes away.  The nearest fast food restaurant, 30 minutes away.  Most every church we drive to is a minimum of three hours away.  Most everything out here is out of my control.  For instance, last week, within a three hour span of time, we had both a sand storm with winds nearing 60 miles an hour and a two hour snow storm.  Some days I have cell phone service and some days I don’t.  Some weeks we have consistent internet service and some weeks its out, for weeks.  Sometimes the local convenience store has bananas (a staple part of Little Man’s breakfast menu) and sometimes they don’t.  Most everything about our lives here is unpredictable, except the One who brought us here…I want you to read those words again…my life, our lives, here on the Rez, on Earth, are unpredictable-He is not.

When our little guy got sick at three months old, my whole world became about keeping him alive.  I didn’t even realize how much of his environment I was trying to control until much later in the journey with his silent reflux.  Once I realized I couldn’t keep him alive, that Little Man didn’t actually belong to me but to the Creator, I had to swallow a really BIG pill of humility.  God’s gracious though and he loves us tenderly.  It is because of this love that I’ve sustained in relinquishing control over my children and giving them back to Him.

Then, last Monday, Little Man started coughing…was hoarse.  No fever, no runny nose…just a barky cough and hoarseness.  Croup.  No big deal, we know the drill.  All three of our littles have had croup a time or twelve.  However, by Wednesday evening, his cough began changing to a junky one…a cough I knew in him.  A cough that told me something wasn’t right…he still didn’t have a fever.  We were pulling out all the Mommy/Daddy breathing tricks we knew…but overnight on Thursday, he spiked a fever and his breathing went bad.  There were moments where the panic and lies of the enemy tried to take over.  There were hours (probably more like minutes) that almost drowned me…because y’all…we live 45 minutes from the nearest ER.  The closest ER that’s recommended by our doctor here is an hour and half away but the best is three hours away.  It’s still in the teens here at night and if there’s one puddle of water on the road, once the sun sets, it turns to ice.  All these thoughts were racing through my mind….if we need help, how do we get it?  It’s the only question I could think of at times…

I immediately went to what I knew…recovery is like that-in times of stress, its much easier to go back to what you know. I began developing mental plans for how I’d protect Little Man.  Plans for how I could get help if I needed it.  I began planning and making a list of all the people I’d need to get help from and how to reach them…plan, plan, plan…fix, fix, fix…control the uncontrollable.  Exhausting, y’all.

At 3:25 Friday morning, I was really scared.  I picked Little Man up and I walked him outside (yes in the freezing cold) and I prayed over him under the millions of stars in the night sky.  I asked the Creator of those beautiful stars to hold my boy in His hands and get us through the night.  And, He did.

We headed straight to the clinic on Friday morning and Little Man got a good double pneumonia diagnosis.  He got a big shot, oral antibiotics and breathing treatments.  The doctor suspects this was the result of residual fluid leftover from when he had the flu at the beginning of December.  Uncontrollable.  Not a single thing I did was going to keep him from getting sick.

And, y’all…our Navajo family came out guns blazing.  I got more scripture and prayer texts that I can count claiming healing for our boy.  I got phone calls of love and affirmation and requests to bring us dinner.  Our family and friends from near and far were praying over our boy….declaring his little lungs be healed and that he would breathe freely.

You see, not a single mental plan I made was needed.  God had it under control.  If we needed to get somewhere, we’d have gotten there, of that I’m sure.  My worry didn’t do anything but worry me.  My Abba Daddy wasn’t in the least bit worried about what was going on in this house last week.  I needed to see, needed to be reminded that I am not in control.  Not my way but His….this has been a theme since we started this journey…

You see, when we moved here, I was miserable.  I was miserable because I wanted to control what happened here.  How we got here, when we got here, who we spent time with or didn’t…I wanted to give God ultimatums and throw temper tantrums and be angry.  I made every attempt to manipulate the situation so that things seemed alright in front of my babies because I didn’t want them to see Mommy struggle.  See, recovery is constant…its never ending…my addiction may not be chemical but its real.  If I can control things, situations, then I don’t have to deal with how sad I really am.  I don’t have to deal with the fear that sometimes grips me like a vise.  If I can control things, I don’t have to acknowledge the panic the overtakes me at times.  I don’t have to admit that I’m not superwoman and I can’t do it all or that I can’t be everything for everyone.  And, friends, I’m doing my children a disservice by not allowing them to see that Mommy is human.  I’m harming them by making them believe in a woman who appears one way but deep down is another.  And I can’t.  I won’t.  I CHOOSE not to live in a fairy tale world where I see everything through rose colored lenses..I want them to always know that how they feel is just that, how they feel.  Its neither right or wrong because the feeling belongs to them.  I want them to know and understand that there are appropriate ways to express their feelings and that this house, our home…is always, ALWAYS a safe place to talk about how they feel…and that it’s absolutely okay not to be okay.

Tonight, Sissy and I had a long talk about Little Man being sick.  She gets scared too.  The trauma of his reflux didn’t just happen to J and I.  There are remnants of that year of our lives in most everything we do…and I’m okay with that…I don’t want those remnants swept under a rug because those remnants are a part of our story!! We openly discussed being afraid when he doesn’t breathe well.  We talked about the fact that we may always struggle when he is ill.  We prayed that Jesus would ease our fear.  We prayed that He would protect Little Man and that He’d remind us that we aren’t in control and that He is…that He would remind us that His love for Little Man is even more than we could ever imagine.

I have been reminded many times since our move just how powerless I am over my own life and the lives of my children and husband.  My Father has pruned me and molded me and is continually bringing me to my knees…when I think about his goodness, his graciousness and love.  Tonight though, tonight…I’m thankful He has the WHOLE world in His hands.  I’m thankful He knows the number of stars in the sky and the number of hairs on all my babies heads.  I’m thankful that He loves them more than I do because that’s unimaginable in real world terms.  Tonight, I’m humbled and thankful by the fact that I’m not in control of one single aspect of my life and for freedom.

I’m so glad I’m free.

Finishing the race…

As many of you know, for me and my family, the second weekend in February will forever be known as Donna Weekend. The girls quote this when asked where Mommy is and it’s how I tell others where I’ll be going.

When my precious friend Lolli, as Little Man so fondly calls her, asked me to run a half marathon with her. I laughed. Hard. Anyone who ever played ball with me, anyone who ever coached me, can attest to my extreme lack of motivation when it comes to running. I am NOT a runner. But there stood Lolli, telling me she wanted to cross it off the bucket list and I couldn’t tell her no.

You see, Lolli has breast cancer. And she is a warrior. She fights like no one I’ve ever known. Her body hurts EVERY minute of EVERY day and she doesn’t complain. She doesn’t use her pain as an excuse for not living life, instead, she lives life to the fullest. So, I agreed. “Ok, we’ll do it!” And we did. Alongside many of her other fabulous friends, we crossed that finish line together.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of crossing the finish line with her again. The moments of watching from behind as she crossed the line with her Mama are forever etched in my memory. Watching as her sweet baby ran to join her to receive her medal are priceless to me. I am humbly honored and grateful that she chooses to allow me a part in these beautiful memories.  

What’s even more humbling is that our Father chose to give me a friend like Lolli. When I met her, I had no idea what she’d been through or that she was even sick. I just knew she liked riding bikes around the island and so did I. She also loved croissants and pastries. A girl after my heart, right?!? What’s better than a friend who enjoys riding bikes and letting the ocean breeze blow through her hair and a pastry to finish the day? Not much. Except, there is better. The more I came to know about her, the more priceless her friendship became to me. She is a light in a dark world and sometimes those people are difficult to find. Jesus sent her to me when I was low. I was fighting to find who He’d designed me to be, to figure out what He wanted for me and how He wanted me to walk that out. So…he sent Lolli.

He sent her because He knew I needed to be stretched, far beyond my comfort zone. He knew I needed a reminder that life, every single life, is precious and it matters to Him. Jesus knew I needed a swift kick to remind me how fragile life is and that He’s only given me one. My Father knew I needed to see that miracles still happen.

So, when I watch her cross the finish line, I am gently reminded that He is watching over every detail of all our lives. Donna Weekend is about more than running a half marathon, more than hanging out and spending time with people I love, more than checking off a bucket list item. Donna Weekend is a reminder that every single day matters. That every beautiful, tragic, hard, ugly moment counts. A reminder that there is so much grace for the weary and the broken-hearted. Grace for survivors and fighters and those who can’t take one more step. And that grace goes beyond a race, friends. That grace seeps into my everyday. That grace has begun to consume me in a way I never could’ve predicted.

When I arrived on the island, I made a plan to go walk the beach Saturday morning. I had a bagel with a precious friend and then I did just that. There was such a fog, I literally couldn’t see in front of or behind me. Only what was right there. I stopped and took a picture of my feet with the water spilling over and around them and I tagged my picture on FaceBook, #happyplace. And in that moment, I realized my happiness is no longer based on a place. My happiness, my hope, my joy come from Him. The fog was such a picture of not looking forward, not looking back and just taking the next right step. This weekend, my next right step was feeling all the emotion of the weekend, absorbing grace like a sponge absorbs water and then carrying all that back to the Rez with me. My #happyplace is with the beautiful people God has so graciously placed in my life. People from AL, MS, VA, GA, the Rez and everywhere in between. Having a #happyplace is no longer a destination but a fulfillment of a promise and a testament to the greatness of my King.

I have always known, since meeting Lolli, that our friendship was special. I’ve known He used her to push me outside my comfortable little box. This weekend, He used her to show me that His grace is more than enough for me and for you. He used her to remind me that finishing the race doesn’t always look like what we planned…the important thing is that we finish because that is what He’s called us to do.

I anxiously await my arrival home. On the Rez. Because His presence, His grace, His love and His mercy are there. My #happyplace is Jesus and that’s not a destination…

Fishes and loaves…

I am writing this blog through tears.  I’ve just returned from the small convenience style grocery store just up the road from our apartment where Jesus used a little Navajo lady to speak to my heart in a powerful way.  You see, I just went in to grab some flour for fry bread and some black beans for dinner this evening.  What I got was something else…

As I stood in the baking aisle, determining what the best buy was for the particular flour I needed, a beautiful little lady walked up and stood next to me.  She already had a small bag of flour in her basket and picked up the smallest bag of sugar available.  I knew immediately she was going to make bread.  As she looked on, she pulled out her wallet and counted her money.  Twelve dollars.  That’s what she said as if reminding herself that she couldn’t spend more than that amount.  I had already determined what I needed but I felt the Spirit say, “Stay.”  And, if I’ve learned anything the past six months, it’s that I had better listen. She moved closer to me and began looking at the yeast.  She repeated the price of the jar of yeast, $7.29, in an exasperated tone.  I knew why.  Her flour and sugar were already totaling to about ten dollars and the price of the yeast went way above her allotted spending.  As I watched, she looked at the small packets of yeast, $4.59.  It is then that Jesus spurred my heart because that little lady began putting away the flour and sugar in her basket.

I stepped in and asked, “Do you need that yeast?” and she just stared at me like I had five heads.  I asked again, “Do you need that yeast?”  Her response, “I have twelve dollars left until the first of the month and I know if I make bread it will fill their stomachs and they will be full.”  “Can I buy the yeast for you?” I asked.  (This was a hard question to answer as Anglo’s have not always given to our precious family here with no strings attached.)  She told me I didn’t have to and I assured her I wanted too.  So I did.

Not a big huge story, right?  In my own story though, it is.  You see, I remember walking into the grocery store after Justin lost his job in 2014 and reminding myself that I had $150 to feed our family for the month.  I knew it wasn’t enough but I learned quickly through the grace of God and divine appointments sent our way that His numbers didn’t have to match mine.  During the six months Justin was without a job, we NEVER went hungry.  We were a fishes and loaves story.

As I drove home from the grocery, I wept for this precious woman…twelve dollars.  Twelve dollars to feed her family for two weeks.  “…if I feed them bread, they will be full.” My children have never known hunger, not in the ways the children and families here know hunger.  I have never known what its like to have less than $20 to feed my family with for a two week span of time.  What I have felt is the overwhelming feeling of not having enough,  worrying what someone will think if they see me struggle.  I have felt the anxiety of not knowing if next month’s bills will be paid.  I can relate to the sadness that comes when you really want to purchase a certain food for your family but it’s not in the budget and having to explain to a four year old why she just can’t have the fruit gummies that her friends bring to school because they cost to much money.  I have felt want but I have never felt need. Nor have my children.

This is unfortunately the story for many here on the Rez. For each family we feed, for each child I give a snack at the front door, for each person I encounter in the store there are 100 more.  And y’all, I am broken.  I am broken because I can’t imagine my children being hungry.  I can’t imagine them not knowing where their next meal is coming from or wondering if they will be able to eat three meals the next day. I am broken because I worry over the simplest, smallest details of our life and there are people here who are LITERALLY starving! I am broken because before last summer, I had no idea of the immense amount of struggles here on the Rez.  I had no idea of the hunger, the poverty and the extreme desolation in the middle of America…

I also had no idea about the tenacity and strength of these beautiful people we now call family.  I had no clue about the HOPE that I see in their eyes, the kindness bestowed on my family or the beauty within each of their spirits that helps them to see goodness.

So, as my new friend goes to make bread tonight, may there be an abundance, in Jesus’ name.  May she have her very own fishes and loaves story to tell…may her oil not run dry…because I know He’s done it and He’ll do it again.

“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.  When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”  So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

-John 6:11-14

Best laid plans…

are often mine and not His.

This has been a recurring theme throughout my life, predominantly speaking, the last nine years or so…  Don’t worry, I’m not taking you back that far… I just want to preface this blog by stating that I’m no stranger to things not going the way I’d planned.  I’ve faced my fair share of hurdles and hiccups and bumps and bruises from attempting to do life my way…you’d think by now I would’ve learned to just let it go…like Elsa…however, also like Elsa, “I can’t.”

The most obvious to you, might be this journey we’ve been on the past five months.  You know kicking, screaming, angry with God wife and mother here…couldn’t stand to reason that His plan for my family might be better than anything I could ask or imagine.

Well, fast forward to Christmas weekend…I had already decided that I’d make a Christmas Eve post about our fun traditions and the ones we started this year.  It was going to contain mostly photos and less words because that’s what our Christmas season was this year.  Memories.  No words necessary.  There was an easiness about our Christmas this year, despite the entire family being sick throughout the month of December and multiple vehicle issues.  There was a slowed down pace to our plans and we really tried to say yes to the God things while saying no to the good things.  It’s been the way we’ve chosen to live the past two years and increasingly so since moving to the Rez.  I realized this year, more so than in recent ones, that my family legitimately lacks for nothing.  I wanted to tell y’all this on Christmas Eve-to remind everyone that the beauty and majesty of Christmas doesn’t come from gifts and things but from the One who gave the greatest gift of all…but alas, on the Friday of Christmas weekend around 5:30 p.m., our internet went down. Best laid plans…remember.

So, there was no Christmas post and that worked out beautifully.  I was able to truly focus on my little ones and on J and making memories with them.  We had nowhere to go and nowhere to be, literally.  It was a wonderful feeling.  And the super cool thing was that we had a surprise concert in our backyard. Seriously.  Our very own Christmas parade with an outdoor concert.  Way cool and although we were already in our pj’s, next year we’ll be prepared and make plans to watch the Polar Express a little earlier in the evening so we can attend in person and not just from the back porch.

We went to California to visit some sweet friends and some respite time as a family for the last part of J’s Christmas break.  We saw and played in the Pacific Ocean and surprised our sweet Sissy with a visit with her best friend who just so happened to be in LA for the Georgia game!  Watching those girls together warmed this mama’s heart and it didn’t hurt that I got to hug my bestie, too!  Double win!!26167666_10101270546493009_4652980765472716969_n

We got home on Tuesday and had planned for a day to rest before J started back to school on Thursday and the girls and I got kicked off second semester of the Galloway School for Learners and Believers.  (Just a note, that blows my mind, second semester?!?! I couldn’t have imagined making it this far when we started in August!)  We also had a big weekend ahead with Little Man’s birthday coming up.

His birthday was yesterday. I’d been planning a barnyard themed second birthday party for him for weeks.  Lots of sheep, horseback rides, chili and a yummy homemade cake decorated to look like a sheep…his favorite animal.  This past Friday, I began receiving texts that people were sick…flu and strep sick. Sissy had already been to the doctor for strep on Wednesday and it seemed his sister’s would be the only children in attendance at his party.  I made a choice to postpone his party.  Now, I am a birthday mama.  Birthday’s are very important to me and I do my best to make certain they are well celebrated and enjoyed.  A person’s birthday is the day that God decided to give them to the world.  His beautiful, amazing creation given to the world with a purpose and destiny far beyond what we can fathom. But y’all, this party just wasn’t going to happen.  I just couldn’t get it together.  And so, I made the call.  J told me yesterday that he was proud.  When I asked why, he told me he never dreamed that I’d be able to cancel a birthday party and be calm about doing so.  Let me tell you why.  Yes, God’s done a major overhaul in my spirit since moving here.  I see, hear and love differently than I did five months ago and that is a major part of my calm.  Its more than that though…yesterday morning, we studied 2 Corinthians 4:16-18…

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Now, at first glance, this might not make much sense but bear with me…as we read and studied this scripture, I felt a nudging that this was meant for my family.  When we moved here, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, y’all.  This move was so hard for me.  Not just the move, the changing dynamics of our family, being a stay at home mom with all three littles here all day every day, grieving the loss of my dreams, all of these things and more and I just couldn’t see how we’d ever survive here…in the DESERT!  And yet, God, in all His infinite wisdom and glory, knew all along that He would make a way.  And y’all my husband, my husband who seeks God fervently in all things, had his eyes on the unseen because he KNEW this storm we were walking through was only temporary.  J knew the work we are called to do here and the work being done in us is for ETERNITY!  It took me a while longer but I know that now too.  My momentary discomfort, my arrogance in feeling like I knew best for my family, it was temporary.  What I hold on to is the unseen, believing that the people we meet and have the privilege to love and serve will see eternity because they saw Jesus in us…

And while walking out this beautiful, ridiculously God sized calling, we get the blessing of being loved by some of the most amazing people.  My babies get to be loved by more grandparents than they’ll ever be able to count.  Our family gets to experience the goodness, mercy and grace of an everlasting love that can not be compared to anything else in this world with an extended family beyond what we ever imagined.

And so this is why my best laid plans, even for a two year old’s birthday party, were mine and not my Father’s. I postponed Little Man’s party…knowing that one of our partner churches was having a birthday dinner for him Sunday afternoon.  I agreed to bring a cake with sheep on it by request of the pastor who know’s how much Little Man loves sheep.  And so, I made my back up cake because as this story goes, the Amazon delivery was late and I didn’t get the black food color in time to create the first cake. I couldn’t have been prepared for what was coming though!

We got up yesterday morning, and headed to church.  We walked in the fellowship hall and this is what we saw….

The entire congregation came together to throw our boy a birthday party!!  A Mexican fiesta with homemade tamales, Spanish rice, taco salad, beans, fry bread….THE WORKS!  I didn’t need to give him a birthday party because God had already seen HIS plan through.  We laughed and ate and opened presents and my boy got to feed his “Sani’s sheep”.  His day was more than I could have planned for all along.  When I told everyone thank you, each person who hugged my neck, told me they loved me, loved my family and they wanted to bless us.  Oh, but little do they know, they are the blessing.  My family is blessed because we are able to share our lives with people who truly get who the Father is, how great and deep and wide His love for us is and it’s because of their knowledge of who He is and who they are through Him that they are able to bless others.

So, tonight, I’m going to rest in knowing that my plans are pretty stark compared to His.  And I’m going to thank Him for moving me to the desert…for moving to the apartment between mesas and for the grace and forgiveness I’m given each day.  I’m going to choose joy because my family lacks no good thing.  Not even if we are in the desert.

Broken and beautiful…

When I sat out to write this blog, I made a promise to myself and an unspoken one to you guys, my readers, to be as transparent as possible each time I put my thoughts into words.  I also made a promise that no matter how difficult those thoughts were to put out there, I wouldn’t let fear or my own anxieties keep me from telling the truth about our faith adventure…so, please, bear with me as I openly and honestly tell you some truths that Jesus has spoken to me over the past few weeks.

In my last blog, I wrote about the reality of the Rez becoming home and how that truth hit me in a very unexpected way.  Last night, while having dinner with my self proclaimed Southern sister, she asked me if I felt different having been here and going back to visit my family in AL.  She told me of her concerns when she found out we were moving here.  She told me how unsure she was of this family who was willing to move all the way across the country and concerns as to if we really knew what we were getting into.  My answer, nope.  I had no idea.  Then I followed up with this thought.

I had no idea what I was getting into.  I’d spent less than seven days here and was no longer going to have a dishwasher. Ha. I had seen but I’d not tasted.  Now, after almost five months, I’ve tasted the beauty and heartbreak of living on the Rez.  I have fed children who were starving, I have loved on mamas who weren’t sure how they could provide meals for their children or how they would make it without an abusive husband.  I have watched as my husband works with teenage boys and girls who are unsure where their next meal will come from much less how they’ll pass the history test next period.  I have seen the grace with which he handles families and children.  I have watched my children openly accept and love other children with such genuineness that it is almost heartbreaking to imagine any other way of life.  I have experienced the death of a child who was only five years old and explained to my sweet, innocent babies about the reality of death and why there is a such a thing.  I have tasted.

There is a difference between simply seeing a need and feeling a need.  There is a huge chasm between knowing there are people without adequate utilities and children without enough food and walking alongside those same people.  I couldn’t go back to my life six months ago if I wanted.  And amazingly, much to my surprise, I wouldn’t want to now.  My heart is for the Navajo.  My heart is for the families here who are no more lost or broken than I once was, still am,  who are in need of a Savior.

A comment was recently made that sometimes God doesn’t call us to move, sometimes He calls us to stay.  Well, fortunately for my family, He did call us to move.  In a big way.  Looking at it now, I can’t imagine what it would look like if we hadn’t said yes.  I can’t fathom not knowing the beautiful faces of my Navajo family.  I can’t consider the part of our immediate family that would be missing without the wisdom of our Navajo grandmothers.

This past weekend, a team from our home church in GA came with our ministry partner, TSM, along with a team from VA who serves with Pure Water Ministries.  It was so good to hug our sweet friend’s neck and to hear all about what’s going on in his neck of the woods.  Meeting the people who are praying for us, our family, our ministry was timely and priceless. It was, indeed, so much fun telling stories of our adventures here and having our Navajo family join in telling the tales.  There was a harmony in the telling of those stories that I was unprepared for this weekend.  There was a knitting together of our hearts with our Navajo families that I had not realized was taking place.

This was pointed out by one of the team members from our home church.  She spoke of the amazing way God had allowed us to create real, heart relationships in the short time we’ve been here.  I hadn’t thought much about the truth of that until the very moment she said so.  She’s right, though.  The beauty of our relationships here are nothing short of miraculous and He has to receive all the glory.  She also made a comment that has hung with me since our conversation this weekend.  She said, “I pray for you daily and I’ve often wondered how in the world you do it.”  I was honest.

The first ten weeks here, I was miserable.  I didn’t want to be here any more than I want to have a stomach bug while all three children have it too.  Let me be clear, there was no part of me that wanted to move here.  There wasn’t a tiny voice in my head that said, “Well, maybe…”.  There was adamant, emphatic resounding NO’s in my head.  I fought…I came here because my husband is the spiritual leader of my home and I refused to be the stumbling block in his walk with Jesus.  I didn’t get what he saw here.  I came this past summer knowing I was moving here and couldn’t fathom how in the world we’d make it work.  I spent a lot of my time in the back of an SUV that week, crying my eyes out and being angry with God for taking me from my “forever”.  I spent countless hours writing in my journal and asking Him to please change J’s heart…to please let J be wrong about what our family was being called to do and to convince him to stay in my little dream box.  Do you hear the selfishness in all that?  My, me, I… at no point in our journey to get here did I even consider the people we would encounter, the relationships we’d form or the love I’d have for my brothers and sisters.

Let me be clear, in no way, have I done anything.  Every part and piece of our life here has been handcrafted by the Creator himself.  Every friendship, every divine appointment, every act of worship and community and love has been because of Him.  We aren’t martyrs.  We aren’t missionaries of epic proportions.  We are simply a family who seeks after Him each day.  I am a wife, who followed her husband to a foreign land because I knew it was my job as his helpmate.  I am a mama, who was living in constant fear that my children would miss out on something by moving them here, by homeschooling them and by taking them away from all they knew and loved.  I am a woman whose greatest desire is for the children of this world to know, love and follow Jesus and to believe beyond a shadow of doubt He loves them and wants only good for their lives.  The amazing part, that’s what my Navajo family wants too.  We didn’t come here to change our brothers and sisters; we came to love them and to serve alongside them.  I came out of obedience and I stay out of a changed heart.

I’m so thankful for the conversation this weekend.  I’m thankful that God used it to open my eyes to the beautiful brokenness that has been our story so far.  I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to love the Navajo.  I am better having loved them and being loved by them.  My heart is forever changed because of the beautiful brokenness of this land.  My children and generations of children to come will be moved to follow Christ because of the obedience of my husband.  The magnitude of that is overwhelming to me.

How Jesus chose my family out of all the families who know more, who are better equipped and have more Bible knowledge to move across country to serve in such a high capacity is beyond me.  I do know this, though.  He doesn’t call us for no reason, he doesn’t call us because we know it all…He calls us when we are willing, when we submit to Him and ask him for eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart that yearns to love the way He does.

So, as I reflect on the past few weeks, I want to say that what I initially saw as a great sacrifice for my family, has become a rich gain.  We didn’t sacrifice anything nearly so great as what Jesus sacrificed all those years ago.  And the beautiful, broken part is I don’t have to because He already did.

 

and then…

If you’d asked me four months ago if I thought I’d be writing this blog, I’d have told you I couldn’t fathom.  However, the Lord has done some heavy overhauling in both my heart and spirit in the past month.  Before I get to all that though, let me update y’all on what we’ve been up too…

We’ve been all over the Rez and up to a lot of fun.  We visited NAPI farms, a Navajo owned and run farm that provides a LOT of the produce for families here on the reservation.  They were having a customer appreciation sale and we tagged along with our Navajo family and met some more of our family at the farm.  The kids had a blast, playing on hay bales, petting sheep and eating yummy baked potatoes loaded with all the goodness you can add, minus BBQ…but hey, we can forgive that. HA!

We attended a church just north of us, off the reservation, who’s pastor and family have a heart for the Navajo, as well.  We are looking for ways to partner together to better serve our family here and are very excited about the possibilities.  Through a little God wink, I’d previously met a member of the church at a volleyball match I was calling and in turn met the pastor’s daughter, who is a hygienist at the clinic here in Monument Valley.

I traveled to Las Vegas and met up with three of my dearest friends from home.  I ran my second half marathon and finished.

We hosted our home school co-op for a “Friendsgiving” dinner and had 12 children ages 18 months to 12 years old along with three other mama’s attend.  The kids played at the playground, made a turkey craft and we all broke bread together.  It was community and it was beautiful.

This past weekend, we attended a Thanksgiving celebration at Dine Christian Church in White Rock Point.  We were able to give the children’s ministry a case of Early Reader Adventure Bibles.  The Bibles were mentioned to me in a conversation with Grandma E this summer while on our mission trip here.  We were having a conversation about her perfect ministry world.  What did she see?  What did she need?  If she could have anything, what would it be?  Her response to me was very simple.  “Bibles the children can read and understand.”  It pricked my heart in a way I can’t describe and being able to hand over that case of Bible’s to her on Sunday blessed me.  And this is where I begin to tell you about my heart change…

At the end of October, we spent the night with some of our family in Cove, AZ.  They are a precious family with four children, two boys and two girls.  Y’all, to say those kiddos are polite and respectful is an understatement.  In the day and a half we spent with them, I never once heard a cross word spoken.  They were a team, each doing their own part to help the other.  When we left, we talked about what a peaceful presence we felt in their home…and I realized I had started to feel some of that peacefulness in our own home.  I wrote in my journal that week about seeing a shift in the mindset of our girls.  A shift from entitlement and privilege to humility and grace.  A shift to peace.

That same week, we had our first co-op meeting. It was during our co-op meeting that I realized the exact thing I’d been grieving was exactly what God was providing me with…community.  Does it look different?  Yes.   Is it as easily accessible? No.  Do I have to work a little harder to make it happen?  Absolutely.  Is it any less fulfilling?  Not a chance.

You see, He’s had my people here, waiting…waiting for the perfect moment, just when I needed them…just when He knew I was ready for the next right step, He’s led me to the perfect place to provide me with a divine appointment.  My precious mentor and amazing friend, Mrs. L. has told me from the beginning of this faith adventure that He had my people.  But, y’all, it was so very hard to have faith…in the muck and mire of grief, it was so hard…and yet, my God has still been so faithful.  He looks at all my yuckiness, my bad attitude and grumbling and complaints and hears my heart anyway.  He covers it all in His mercy and grace and goodness.

…and then, I went to Las Vegas.  This was the weekend I’d been counting down to since before we moved…I’d been saying to myself, “If you can just make it to Vegas, you’ll get a little piece of home.”  And, I did.  I can not explain the joy I felt when I got to hug my best friend’s neck for the first time in four months.  I can not explain the gratitude I felt when I picked up my girl, M.  She’s like my long lost sister and squeezing her neck was like coming up for air.  On Saturday, I got to see my intellectual conscience and hug her neck too and it was so, so good…  We laughed and ate and saw concerts and MICHAEL JACKSON!!!  (The Cirque de Soleil show but still…it was AMAZING!!) The beauty of the weekend with my girls was more than I had imagined it would be.  It was so good for my soul.  It was refreshing and refilling and…

humbling.

You see, despite the joy, I knew Monday morning was coming.  I knew I’d have to take them to the airport and drop them off.  I knew I’d have to drive back to the Rez. Alone. And it did.  Monday did come.  I dropped my girls off and hugged their necks one more time.  I reminded myself I’d see them in 11 weeks for the next half marathon.  I cried.  Hard.

…and then, I found myself coming over the mountain in Flagstaff and into the Coconino National Forest…I saw a herd of elk off in the distance and I watched as the temperature began to drop….and the tears stopped.  And the heaviness in my heart dissipated.  I realized as I came down the mountain and crossed back over the line to the Rez, I was headed home.  My people, my family would be waiting…not just J and my babies but the community of people God has entrusted me with here.  It was in that moment, I realized, although there are days when I long for the beach and the smell of our island, for the simplicity and serenity of running to Target (Can I get an amen, mama’s?), for the convenience of having a Harris Teeter…my place is here. In Monument Valley.

My heart and my home are here.  And it is well.