Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Here is to a New Beginning!

To my dearest readers and followers,

I owe you an update. Though you may have better things to do than worry about my luggage and my old lady mouth, I think you deserve to know where everything stands (I love to sound dramatic).

1. My luggage is officially gone. "Gone like a freight train!" as my mother would say. It is unfortunate and sad, but really, life could be worse. So other than my new debilitating fear of losing things, its all good (except for the Delta employee that is going to get an earful from me when we discuss compensation).

2. My mouth is getting better. I still can't express all the emotions in the happy spectrum, but my new gums are fitting in fine and I have dreams of one day being able to crunch down on a cookie or an apple without abandon. So hurray for that!

In conclusion, life, my friends, is good.

Sure, I could sit here and complain and wail about this unjust world and the ridiculous airline industry (believe me, I have a rant that could put you to sleep), but today is December 31st and tomorrow starts a new year. And maybe I say this every year, but I have a feeling that this next year is going to be a really good one, full of adventure and new experiences. So with that said, I am holding tightly to the strings of happy memories from 2013 and flying with the wind into 2014, leaving everything else in the dust. This next year is going to be one of great stories and happy successes, so I gladly leave 2013 behind to start anew.

It feels good to be free of baggage (pun seriously intended here).

Love your loyal blogger,

Meredith

*Highlights of 2013 you ask?

-My brother spending a week with me in L.A.
-Graduating with my Masters degree!
-Traveling up the West Coast to San Francisco with my good friend Ashley
-Gaining wonderful support for my work with Apache Youth Ministries
-Beginning work with Apache Youth Ministries
-Knowing all you good folks.

Cheers :) 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas, Cadavers, and Carry-ons

Disclaimer: I'm writing this while on pain meds, so please excuse any weirdness that may occur (or my worst fear, grammatical mistakes!). In addition, I'm writing this on an iPad, and we all know that technology without buttons confuses me. So...yea.

On December 19-20 I gained something and I lost something. 

What I gained was cadaver skin in my mouth...

(I like the shock factor of that one.)

But for real. I had to get four grafts literally sewn into my barely existing gums so my teeth don't fall out of my head. Go ahead, say it. I'm an old lady. It's true. I like Bing Crosby and Miracle on 34th Street and I'm blessed with a ridiculously difficult mouth. So my Christmas vacation has begun with lots of mashed potatoes, pain meds, and disgustingly frightening morning surgery. Woohoo! I spilled water all down my front trying to take a pill at the office due to my numb lips. So attractive. I looked at the doctor and said, "I blame you."

So there is that.

I also lost something. It hurts to even talk about it really because I feel so stupid. I lost my carry on at the airport in a flurry of no overhead compartments, bad instructions to leave my bag, and a lack of thinking to put my name on it... anywhere. To make matters worse, there is no tag to track on the bag and basically no hope in finding it. Hooray for Christmas travel! (Not). What made me cry (yes, I admit that I bawled) at first, was the amount of stuff in that bag. The bag itself was expensive and brand new. It contained my new boots, my new makeup and brushes, my new electric toothbrush, my journal, my retainers, and more. Over all I lost over $1000 worth of stuff. (And my retainers! Delta, how do you expect me to keep my teeth straight!?). But don't worry, I kept the bag with all the cookies on the plane. Phew.

After crying over being stupid and losing it, I cried over the fact that I cried about my material things. My theme verse these last months seems to be "don't store treasures on earth" (maybe because I lose everything) but the lesson is hard to learn. Every time I think about walking away from that bag I feel a deep anxiety. I'm mad and sad and frustrated all at once.

So I forced myself to stop and get some good Christmas perspective on all of this.

What does crying over my lost new shoes have to do with Christmas, with the past three months on the reservation, and with cadaver gums? (Hint: The answer does not lie in the Christmas shoes song. I'll forever believe that little kid is a scam artist. "I want to buy these shoes for the black market, I mean, for my mama please." Ok ok I digress. Blame the drugs...and the kid in that song).

Actually, I think losing my luggage has a lot to do with my work and crappy gums. I think that the enemy has decided to do anything to make me feel unsettled and out of control (satan, not Delta). Things happen with my students and I can't fix it. I have been blessed with all this super nice stuff and then it gets plucked right from my hands. Even my gums don't stick around for this ride called life! And the temptation is to throw my hands in the air and think, "what next!? What else!? Everything is going wrong. What is the point to any of it."

But it is a dirty trick and a stupid lie. Because no matter how much stuff I lose, and how many lives I can't fix, God is still good to me. I am able to be with my family for Christmas. I am able to feel safe  in my home, to replace my things, to afford dental work and smooshy foods. Sure, it sucks, but satan  will not win. These small things will not add up to defeat. I have more than I need and I am cared for more than I deserve. So I'm taking my messed up mouth and my only pair of socks and I'm declaring that in all things God will be praised. I am declaring that I will not be defeated and God's great work will continue in me and through me...even if I do have to wear the same pair of jeans all week. Satan is just going to have to deal with the defeat himself.





Sunday, December 15, 2013

To Express It All...

If I could, I would build a fire and sit you down.  I would let you know that we would be there a while, so you should probably settle in. And then I would simply begin. I would tell you every. single. detail of this past week and month. I would tell you of the trials, the death, the sadness, and the hope. I would tell you about the kids who I am excited about, who desire to know God and to be better. And I would tell you the stories that are breaking my heart, the ones of lost opportunity, of bad situations, and of lives that will never be the same because of the terrible atrocities that become so unfortunately commonplace. 

If we sat down for coffee, I wouldn't sugarcoat a thing. I wouldn't just tell you the good parts. I would tell you the truth. I would tell you about the helpless feeling when students cry because their parents are so messed up that they can't even be called caregivers. I would tell you of the devastation that is caused by bad decisions, and the sinking feeling of knowing that a family has lost a child to a brutal death that should never occur on God's earth. You would see the way that my heart swells for these students, who are so young and so innocent, despite what they have seen and done. 

I would assure you that amidst the broken families and hearts there are stories of redemption. I would tell you how the students light up when we love them and care for them. I would get excited as I talked about the new girls and guys that we are investing in, and I would express with every bit of who I am that God is going to stop the atrocities, that transformation is coming. I would tell you that enough is enough, that there is to be no more death, no more assaults, no more manipulation and false love. I would tell you that in spite of everything, God is here and He is moving. 

I would want you to know it all, every story, every emotion, but I know that you wouldn't have the time for that, and truthfully, I probably wouldn't be able to find the words. So instead I will just believe that somehow, in some way, you understand. I will feel you all here with me as we fight together for a place that is going to transform because of Christ's sacrifice. 

And in the end, I would be left with a heart that is both sad and hopeful. And that, I believe, is how God's heart probably feels too.  



Saturday, December 7, 2013

When ministry doesn't go as planned...

Today I'm having trouble getting anything done. At 3pm I've done....well nothing. I did eat, which was a big accomplishment, because it was my first meal since Wednesday (being sick trumps my love of food), but let's be honest, normal people do that everyday. So even though there are plenty of things to get done, I'm not doing any of them.

Here is what I think has me stuck in....stuck mode (the sophisticated term for my condition):

I think there must come a time in everyone's ministry where you stop to wonder if what you are doing is actually making any productive progress at all. You go go go and then you take a tiny vacation and you come back and find that the hope of making a difference has fallen into a well that even Lassie can't save it from (ok, that's too dramatic, but I liked the imagery so we are going with it). Sure, in your heart of hearts you know that you are doing a good thing, that it is important work, and that the fruits of your labor might not be seen for generations, but let's face it, it gets discouraging in the short term!

Case in point: There are always small victories and things to get excited about around here, but what I really long to see is the power of Christ transform my students completely, and right now it seems like they are all just straddling the fence. They dip their toe in greener pastures and then get pulled right back to where they were. And you start to wonder if you even know what you are doing. Am I accomplishing anything? Or am I just treading water that will barely feel the ripples of my hard work when I move on? Am I the problem here? Is this time worth it?

So that's what I'm working through right now. I'm slightly discouraged, but praying hard for my students and what God wants with all of us here. And I know that if my only purpose here is those small conversations, the ones where I get to speak truth into the pain and love into the hurt, then that has to be fine. Because I'm not here for glory and success stories. I am here to be faithful to what God has called me to do, to the best of my ability.

And I must trust Him with the results. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Overcoming Mountains (or 1 particular mountain)

A few weeks ago I climbed a mountain. Seriously, no exaggeration, it was an actual mountain, so high and grueling that I even had to pee in the woods by the trail. It was both a frightening and freeing bathroom experience. At any rate, equipped with rations, cute hiking shoe, and a pack of strong manly friends, I declared myself fit and ready for the 8-mile hike.

I should have known that I was in for more than I bargained for when I barely made it through the drive to the hike. When the winding roads finally stopped and I stumbled out of the car, queasy and unsure of my footing, I was already considered telling my comrades to go on with out me. But I was the reason we were on the hike, so I had to move forward.

The first mile I was fine. Though I huffed and puffed a bit as my lungs adjusted to the elevation, I was cheery and determined. At about mile 2.5 I changed my tune. We were steadily gaining in altitude and my body began rejecting every step. I was physically pushing my legs to go on, and every few (very slow) steps I would stop and yell up to my patient (and more in shape) hiking partners:

"I hate this!" "Guys, this mountain is stupid." "I'm not going any farther. . . no really this time. I can't do it." "Can we please just not go on? Come on! Look at this view!"

As the air got thinner and the adversities seemed to pile higher I convinced myself that I was incapable of climbing this mountain. I lost my joy for the journey, my ambition, and my resolve to overcome this obstacle. As I got closer and closer to the top my view was clouded by my own complaints. 

To be honest, I quite expected the boys to become fed up with me. I was slowing them down considerably and my attitude was becoming obnoxious, even to me! But to my surprise, they never gave up on believing in me. At each turn they would wait, building me up with encouragement, being patient, kind, and never (visibly) frustrated or angry. They certainly couldn't carry me up the hill (though I wished they could!), but what they could do was help me remember the beauty that awaited us at the peak. When I fell behind they would rearrange the hiking line, putting one person behind me to keep me with the pack. They were the only thing moving me forward, and mile after mile they coaxed me to the top.

When we finally got to the peak the view was breathtaking. Situated above the cloud line it felt like we were on the top of the world. As I breathed in my surroundings, my aching legs finally at rest, situated between three of my closest guy friends, all the pain and agony of the climb began to transform. The pain was still there, but now it represented a refreshing sense of accomplishment. I had literally overcome a mountain. I had done what had felt impossible, and I had done it for me. 

I spend most of my time on the reservation cheering other people on, trying to convince them to overcome their mountains, to move forward to the beauty that surely lies ahead. I watch as my students struggle to overcome the steep cliffs and sharp turns. I rejoice with them as they get closer to the peak, and I try to believe in them when they no longer believe in themselves. Each adversity they face is an insurmountable mountain for them, and I desperately want to help them get to the top.

But I didn't realize how much of their weight I was carrying until I had to physically overcome my own mountain. I didn't realize how much I needed to overcome something, to feel the freedom in my mind, body, and soul, to stand on top of a mountain that I had climbed. And it wasn't until those boys loved me enough to keep with me that I saw how essential it is for us to not climb these mountains alone. 

On that day, with all the complaining, pain, and hard work, I overcame something. I found a new freedom in doing something hard for myself, not for anyone else. And I came down the mountain with a strength to continue pushing my students to keep going. 
Because even though you still feel the pain at the finish line, and even though you don't forget the hardships, there is new life at the peak, and it is always, always worth every mile. 






Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tips on Being Awesomely Embarrassing

Being a mentor/guardian figure has it perks. One of those perks is being able to work with your kids on great accomplishments. The other is embarrassing them in the process. I think the second might be my favorite. 

Case in point: Yesterday I got to assist one of my kids with an interview to win a trip to Washington DC. It was the second stage of the application process and we were floating on clouds of proudness. 
So the night before she stayed at my house and we helped her with her final essay and the all-important outfit choices. Dressed in my bright blue sweater and Tiffany’s black pants (along with her converse tennis shoes) she looked ready to win it all.

Up early we ate a solid breakfast of oatmeal and I tried to pump her up with advice on interview skills. I think I succeeded in thoroughly overwhelming her with “Don't forget, eye contact! Smile! Speak clearly! You’ve GOT this!” 
I was excited.

At 9:30 we were out the door and on our way. When we pulled up I think we were both surprised as we watched well-dressed white kids walk into the door of the center. I could tell my kiddo got a little nervous so I continued on my cycle of endless positivity. “You are going to do so well! I am so proud of you!” I repeated as we prayed and walked in. 

Over the next hour of waiting I felt seriously nervous, and I wasn’t even the one being interviewed! To keep the mood light and her nerves subdued I acted as the awesomely fun mentor/aunt. 

Surrounded by kids that were obviously not from the reservation she whispered to me, “I feel weird.”

“Whyy?” I whispered back. “Because you are nervous?” 

“No, because of all the white people!” 

I laughed, because it was true, the two of us coming in together stuck out in the room for sure. 

To make matters more hilarious, the monitor gave the kids strict instructions not to tell the judges what school they were from. With only one reservation school being represented I leaned over and jokingly whispered, “Yea, ok, like they aren’t going to know what school you go to just by looking at you!” 

Later I texted on my phone and handed it over:

“All these white kids look the same.” 

She laughed and as her one friend left the interview room she whispered, “And now I’m the only Apache!”

I acted extremely offended. “Hey! Watch it! I’m Apache. . . kind of. . . in my heart.” 

She shook her head. 

Finally her name was called for the interview. 

“Eeee! You’ve got this! You are going to do so great!” I whispered. As she walked out the door I couldn’t help myself, the mom came out in me and I called out, “Proud of you!!” 

Embarrassing mentor points: +10.  It was one of my finest moments. 

So proud :) 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sharing the weight

I recently spent 5 days in the great state of California. As much as I love my job, I sat on the plane with a heavy weight on my shoulders, the kind you can actually feel pressing down upon you. The weight was the result of 2 months of work with high risk teenagers, and an innate desire to hand them my life in an attempt to make everything better. I was exhausted, so as I entered into the sunshine of Pasadena, I knew the trip could not have been better timed.

Over the weekend I met with one person after another, sharing my story, my concerns, my woes and my joys. With each meeting, each hour, I was able to hand off some of my burden to those who love me. As I passed the weight from my shoulders, piece by piece, to each person I encountered, I watched as they accepted it and held onto it as their own. It was incredible to be a part of, for by the end of the weekend I felt physically lighter, and a great wealth of happiness and excitement was able to be released from the freedom I had received.

It reminded me of the passage that has been bound to my heart for the last week. In the Meredith translation, Moses is ticked off because everyone is complaining and he feels weighed down by the needs of the people. So he yells at God and says, "Hey! This is crazy! These people are too heavy for me. Just kill me off because I can't handle this." And God loves him, so he listens (and is rather sassy back). He says, "Listen. Go get all the elders, and I will put some of your spirit on them so that they can help you carry your burden."

This is what happened to me in Pasadena. I passed on part of my spirit to all of the lovely people that I call family, and I was able to be released from the oppression of holding it all by myself. As a result, the amazing encouragement and advice and kindness that was given to me was tucked into my spirit and is now resonating in my soul. Its hard to express how much each conversation, hug, and prayer has carried me back to the rez this week, but I can feel everyone walking in this with me. I no longer feel overburdened or unprepared, and have come back to work with a joy and a feeling of great privilege that I had lost before I returned home.

Home. That is what I realized Pasadena is for me now. More than any other place in the world, Pasadena is home. Because God enabled me to begin a life there, and it is now the place where I am surrounded with my own community, with everlasting support, and with a love that reaches past the mountains and all the way into the hills of an Arizona reservation. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Advice and Vacations

I spend a lot of my time giving advice. Asked for, unasked for, I give all kinds. When I'm not giving advice I am usually worrying about it. Its a vicious and exhausting cycle.

As I come close to two months of working with Apache youth I can assure you that I mostly feel inadequate and unprepared when it comes to giving advice to my students. My Master's degree was great, but it doesn't make me feel any more confident when it comes to dealing with the issues I come across every day. Some days I rock it, spouting out Scriptures and doing cool object lessons with chairs, but other days I feel like I totally miss the mark.

What this all leads to is a job that wears on you without you noticing it. Listening to my students doesn't seem to make me feel exhausted or defeated, but the pressure of understanding their lives begins to quietly weigh me down. It isn't until it is too late that I realize I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and I need a vacation.

I do wonder why God sent me to a place where my heart would be so burdened. I feel too soft for this job, and I certainly think my life would have been less complicated if I had never met these kids. But I don't wish for that. Despite the pressure on my heart I will continue to do my best to give advice and listen intently. I will pick myself up after each setback and continue being faithful to what God has called me to do.

And I will also take a vacation. Just a short one, a long weekend to Pasadena, California, where I can be loved on and cared for for a few days. I will be refreshed by the food and the fellowship, and I will let other people give me advice. I will pour out my heart and let them sew it back up with their love and compassion, and the hope is that I will come back ready to dive in again. That I will feel filled up and better prepared to do for my students what others have done for me.

Said Moses to the Lord, "I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me."

The Lord said to Moses, "I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself."
 "Is the Lord's power limited? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not."

Numbers 11:14, 17, 23

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Taste of Rejection

Rejection. 

For the great amount of love and affection that we get from our students, we always receive our fair amount of rejection. Generally it comes from the kids we have been loving on the most, the ones we believe in and spend the most time with. One day they are confiding in us, laughing with us, and begging for more time. The next they simply aren’t. 

I know that there are many reasons why this happens, all amounting to it not being my fault. Perhaps they are testing the lengths of our love for them, or perhaps they know that no matter how many times they walk away from us, we will always be here waiting when they return. Or perhaps they are afraid, afraid of getting close and being rejected themselves. Perhaps they walk away out of fear. 

Whatever the reason, it hurts. I guess it is a taste of being a parent. The ones you pour your whole heart into turn around and reject it. Certainly this must be how God feels when we turn our back on Him. It simply leaves me at a loss, a loss for what to do, for what to say, for how much to pursue or to push. Mainly it just makes me sad. Because I see greatness in them and I believe so much in what they can be, but with one “wrong” word they refuse to open the door to me, both figuratively and literally. 

What I really want to do is push past the door and run in. I want to force them to face me so that I can tell them how this feeling of rejection or anger or whatever is in them isn’t true. I want to look them in the eyes and tell them that the devil is a liar and that I make mistakes, but I will never turn away from them. What I want is to scream from the rooftops that I don’t care what they did or what they do. The love of Christ that is in me is full of grace, and mercy, and forgiveness. 


But I won’t do that. I will simply return to knock on the door tomorrow, and the next day, and forever more until they see that I’m not going to leave them to run this race alone. Because in the end, they are right. When they decide to return, I will be here, waiting on the stool behind the counter, without judgement or anger in my eyes. When they return I will welcome them with open arms and an undiminished love. Because I have poured my heart into them, and nothing they do can make me turn my back. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tattoos on the Heart (a great book by the way)

A lot of our students at Apache Youth Ministries have tattoos.

Yes, that's right, a lot of our teenage students have permanent tattoos. 

You notice them on their hands, their arms, their feet. Some (few from what I've seen) are professionally done. Most are homemade, which makes them look even better! (sarcasm). I've actually learned something new by openly asking about the strange marks on our kids. Apparently you can tattoo yourself with liquid eyeliner and a sewing needle. Yep. Who knew. Also learned that one of my girls pierced her lip with a safety pin in the Kennel bathroom last year. This job is certainly never dull.

With the extraordinary amount of homemade tattoos on my students I began to ask myself why. Why do these kids in particular feel the need to mark themselves with liquid eyeliner and ink? I was reminded of something I learned in a fantastic class called Encountering the City. In the class we heard from a guy who was a graffiti writer. Just like tattoos, graffiti can be seen as a sign of immaturity, as rebellion, or anything else negative. But then you take the time to listen. You begin to understand that really the tattoos and the graffiti are signs of something deeper. In the case of the graffiti writer, he wrote his name all over the place in order to see that he had an identity, to be known, to have proof that he existed. 

I think the same is true of my kids. They want to know that they are different, that they have an identity, they want to be marked so that they can prove their existence, their identity. Perhaps they don't realize this deep reason for their eye-liner tattoos, but here is what I think:

I think that Christ can be the tattoo that truly never fades in their lives. I believe in what we do at AYM and I believe that the more time these kids spend with us the more they will realize the importance of Christ's tattoo on their heart. My goal when I hang out with these kids is that they know that they have an identity that goes past what they are told by their parents and guardians. I want them to know that with me, they have nothing to prove, and nothing they do can make me erase them from my heart. The hope is that they see that their names are written on His hands, that He has marked them on His heart. 

Their tattoos, therefore, become for me a reminder of why I am here. I am here to help these students become prisoners of hope instead of despair. I am here to let them know that they are tattooed on my heart, and that they have an identity and a purpose in Christ's deep and abiding love for them.

And I am here to let them write (temporary) tattoos on my hands, because sometimes that is what it takes to know you exist and will not be forgotten.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Llama love

Today I walked a llama. Need I say more? Ok, I will say a little more.

I love llamas. Coupled with giraffes I think they are the coolest animals on the planet. So basically today was a dream come true. And the best part? I can become best friends with this llama if I want to, because I know the llama's mama.

For your enjoyment, here is the beautiful proof of my llama-walking adventure:











































Llama love. What more do I need?*

*According to my dad I apparently need a life companion that doesn't have four legs and a furry neck...but what does he know! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Musings at 2am

It is 2:00am and I am still awake. I don't know why but I am not the least bit tired. Perhaps it was the afternoon nap or the late night chat with a friend about life and love and the adventures that God dreams up for us when we aren't looking. Whatever it is, I am unable to rest my wandering thoughts so I will embrace them and let them roam until they grow weary.

It has been quite the weekend, so it is a wonder that I haven't collapsed into the warmth of my covers. Last night's adventure included driving a 15 passenger van in heels. I was taking our kids from the Kennel to church "up the hill" and since we work every day at a youth center, I choose Saturday nights to dress nicely. I think I did go a little too far because I kind of looked like I was going to a benefit gala, but hey, I looked good in the White Mountains. So without shame I drove around the rez in my little black dress and my high heels and picked up 15 students, the most we have ever brought with us to church.

Though I slightly dreaded the significant amount of driving time ahead of me (think 4-5 hours of driving for pick-ups) it was a sacrifice worth making so that our students could experience a great time of fellowship and worship. And it proved to be so much fun.

What I discovered in those hours was that the driving time actually amounted to quality time. Those hours became valuable minutes with the kids, and I realized in those moments that I want to soak up as much of that time as I can. Being with them more and more brings a new level of comfort and fun, as we joke around, sing songs loudly, and gain a new level of honesty and openness.

As I spend more time with these students I swear I can see them transforming. I can see God moving in their lives, whether they can recognize it as that or not. And it surprises me sometimes, at how completely open these kids are with their "sins" or wrongdoings. Students we don't even know very well will describe to us how they overdosed on pills or got high with their friends. They will openly admit to being "bad kids," and since I grew up in a culture where secrets seem to be encouraged, their honesty and openness is both refreshing and intriguing.

Their openness is a fine line, for one day they tell you everything and the next they act like they don't know you. It is a balance, as they test you, wondering if you are going to stick around even after you know the bad stuff. But to me, it doesn't matter what tests they throw my way, for I have begun to truly love these kids. I know I am here for a purpose, and though I may grow weary of the driving or the small town, my heart beats with them as they discover a desire for something better out of life. Each small victory becomes a great joy that spurs me onward and makes me look forward to the next day of work.

In fact, what a joy that it doesn't seem much like work at all. It feels more like a privilege to drive these kids around in high heels and tell them they are fantastic. It feels like I won the lottery as I become a sister to these kids who may think I am crazy, but seem to not mind spending time with me and my team.

So yes, I can't sleep, but my heart is full and excited and even a little thrilled at what the future will hold. And if that is why I can't sleep then I will take it, because these are the hours I will remember when I look back. These are the feelings that, I hope, will take hold and make their home in my wandering mind as they settle down deep into my heart. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

To chase the moon

Last night I tried to capture the moon. Driving home over the mountains the round brilliance looked close enough to touch, big enough to wrap all the people of the world around, and clear enough to see not only the man, but the hills of cheese as well. I thought that if I could just get closer, following its glow in my car, I might be able to capture its brilliance on film. I'd never seen the moon so big and so close, and I wanted to remember it forever, to capture the truth of it so everyone would believe me, so that I would believe the memories of its grandeur. I'm telling you, it was like those pictures of the African sun setting on the plains, it was like nothing I've ever seen.

So I chased it. I grabbed my roommate and my camera and chased the moon to try and get a clear view of it through the trees. When I found a spot where I could pull my car over I did all I could to catch it. I stood in the middle of the winding forest road while my roommate watched for cars. I changed the settings on the camera and I tried again and again. But the moon could not be captured. It defied my attempts and declared that its brilliance would not be found anywhere but the sky.

As I got back in the car and headed home, slightly disappointed at the elusive nature the moon had decided to present, I contemplated what sort of metaphor this would produce. What did it mean that the immense and overwhelming beauty of the light would not be held? What was the significance of witnessing grandeur to be admired but not contained?  As I sought to find the lesson in the chase I decided that some moments were simply made of a beauty that is not meant to be replicated or captured. They are but a magnificent brilliance that becomes the form by which everything thereafter is made more amazing and more true. It is these moments, these memories, that become the light that is never forgotten as we seek to find that same beauty and awe in all that follows.

This first month working with Apache Youth Ministries has contained more light and beauty than I could ever reproduce in words or pictures. The ways I have seen God move, the conversations with girls from the high school, the opportune Scriptures, or the way my team works together, no thing can truly capture its brilliance. No matter how hard I try to hold on to it, this month will always be a memory, a light that shines on the rest of my time at AYM. It will never be forgotten, yet it can never be fully held on to. 

With time I will forget the things that have made me laugh and the conversations that have made me cry. The details of dinners and advice, of conversations and hopes, will all start to fade as the new lights and the new memories are formed. But what will stay with me, no matter how many days pass, is the immense and overwhelming brilliance of God's light in this past month. The beauty of His work and His plans and His hands will cast its extravagance on all that is to come. Though there will be times of darkness, times when mistakes are made and apologies are necessary, I will always remember the light that shone across the darkness in my first month here.

And that is worth far more to me than anything that could be captured in a picture or a word. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

God's Faithfulness to Hear

The other day I went on a walk and I prayed. I prayed that God would bring back one of my students that had been MIA for over a week. I prayed that she was safe and that He would take care of her. That day at Open Kennel she walked through the doors. 

God is faithful to prayer and faithful to respond when we ask, even if it is not in the manner we expect. Though there were troubles in the past weeks He brought my student back to our youth center safely, and we were able to rely on His faithfulness again as we prayed for her family and the troubles of her situation. 

God has also been faithful with our programming here on the rez. Last week we had 14 girls at Bible Study. In addition to the girls there were probably 10 guys, our largest number of students to date. We got to meet with the girls as female staff and talk them through Exodus 30, a really awkward chapter. But even though the chapter is full of cubits and regulations we were able to talk about the truth of Jesus, of the transformation from death to life, of the intimacy we can have with Him when we come to Him in reverence and respect. It was awesome. I loved answering their questions and talking through the chapter together, as even I learned more about its purpose, reading it through carefully and asking God for wisdom. 

I love the joy that one of my other students brings. I love hugs and she embraces that...literally! I love that I can immediately call her and the other girls out on their "romantic" relationships, and I'm pretty sure that they secretly love my prying. Nothing gets past me, and I use this talent to talk about important issues such as boundaries and God’s purpose for relationships. From day one this one student and I have bonded and she is like a breath of fresh air. I am so blessed by her. 

This work is not without worry. Like a mother hen these girls are my chickies and I would do anything for them. I worry about them, I want them to do well in school, and I want to take care of them. But like we told our girls the other night, when you have the faith to believe, God will honor that. So I place these chickies in the hands of my Father, having faith that just the whisper of his thoughts can change their lives. 


Monday, October 14, 2013

Neighbors, God, and Groceries

God's provision is a beautiful thing.

Today I took one of my students to the grocery store so we could pick up some food for her family. We had gotten to know each other better over the retreat weekend, and when she expressed the need I knew I had the funds and ability to take care of it. I thought of it as relief aid, but at the same time asked her to come work at the Kennel tomorrow in exchange for the groceries, for a wise professor once told me that "to be nothing but a recipient of services denies someone of their humanity" (Jude Tiersma-Watson). So this morning I got up and ready and went to walk out the door to pick her up for our adventure.

As I opened the door I was surprised to find that there was a box of food lying on our porch waiting for me. I couldn't believe my eyes, because the one day I was going to go provide food for one of my students was the one day that a random neighbor decided to leave a box of groceries on our porch.

This is not something that has ever happened to us before, someone leaving food on our porch. There was no name on the box, simply a note that said "Here are some leftover groceries. We hope you can use them." It turns out that it was probably one of our neighbors who was leaving Pinetop for the winter, but we don't even know the people who live around us. What adds to the crazy is that most of our neighbors do not know what we do on the reservation, they have simply noticed that we live here year round. There was no way that anyone could have known I was going to go provide groceries for a student today, and yet it included the perfect things:  mac and cheese, canned goods, crackers, little bags of pretzels.

It was such evidence of God's provision, and I was so excited to tell my student of how much God must care for her and love her if He drops gifts for her on our front porch! It reminded me of how God listens to our needs, and how He provides for us in so many ways. And as I was able to provide for my student, so too was I provided for, as He blessed me with the time to get to know her better and to encourage her as she strives to live a right life in the midst of the temptations of alcohol, drugs, and a broken family.

How good is our God and how greatly He loves us, that He provides for our needs in so many ways.

Be in prayer for my sweet new friend as she fights to know Him and the depth of His love and goodness. Pray for her family and pray for me, that I may have wisdom as I seek to partner with her in the pursuit of a better future. God certainly continues to surprise me, and I am so very grateful for the ways He is growing and challenging me in this adventure!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Perils of Peanut Butter after Dark

Let me paint a picture for you: 

It is pitch dark outside and barely 7pm. My arms are full of groceries, a computer, a random jar of half-eaten peanut butter, and other essential items. I am also on the phone. Did I mention I live in the woods? Like seriously, not even the suburb kind of woods, the straight-up outdoorsy kind of woods. Oh, and all our porch lights are out, because apparently we don't change lightbulbs. 

The task: Unlocking the door to my condo. While I have succeeded in climbing the stairs without falling to my death, blindly finding the right key and putting it in the doorknob the right way proves to be more difficult than rocket science. Frustration begins. 

First reaction to frustration of being locked out of my house (with the key in my hand), exclaimed to my mother who is still on the line despite the added obstacle of holding a phone to my ear while trying to juggle everything else (and despite the fact that I could have used the phone as a light):  

“Dang it! Mom, I’m going to get eaten by a bear!”

Welcome to my new life friends. Truly, it is always this riveting and exciting. Where not finding the right key to the door while holding a jar of peanut butter is truly a life or death situation. 

On the next episode hear how I got lost deep in the dark forest of the country clubs for a frightening five minutes before I was rescued by a kind gentleman (ok, ok, fine. I was in a car with someone else and it turns out we really were not that lost at all. But for at least a minute I was sure I was going to have to ration the half-eaten pie for the next few days and figure out how to make a signal fire. The woods and I are just not friends. I blame Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. Stupid short story frightened me of woodsy roads for life).


Geez louise. What a life. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Impromptu dancing and the spirit of hope

When it comes to me and youth ministry there are a lot of impromptu dance parties, movie nights, and ice cream. And I do love it, this work here, the students I am connecting with, my awesome teammates that I live, eat, work, and breathe with- it is great. But as this week has gone by there have been little reminders that life here is not all dancing and soda pop. Little reminders like the bridge over the canyon being blocked off by two police cars, or a student not being home for church pickups because she left the night before and didn't come back, and not seeing her since. Little things that our students do or say at the Kennel remind me that this is not an easy place to live or work. I take my students home and I am reminded of the poverty and hardships, that though they might not recognize them, take a toll on their lives.

But even still, I am constantly amazed by my students' tenacity and joy in the midst of this broken community. I am encouraged and boldened by the work of my teammates, who have been here longer than me, and still have the strength and faith to put forth a great effort and love toward our students. Though the reservation is a messy place, and there are so many obstacles on the way to transformation, I continue to have this strong feeling that things are going to be different here. Maybe not tomorrow or even next year, but I sense that it is coming. My heart stirs with optimism and confidence that the students invested in at the Kennel are different than the rest. These are the ones that are going to be great leaders, that are going to rise above and live their lives serving the God who loves them. I see so much hope here and it stirs me on, it keeps me going, and it keeps me dancing. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Week 1 and loving it.

What a week.

I cannot believe that just 7 days ago I was settling into my new home in Pinetop, Arizona. I thought it would take a while to get settled in, to feel right and at place here, but in truth it feels like I have been here for months. I jumped right in and already love everything about being here.

This first week was definitely tiring, but rewarding. Each day I tried my hardest to be cool even though I am "old" (a student's word for me!) and although I probably tried a little to hard (ex. "Hey dog, what's up g?") I managed to make some friends among our students and begin to connect. In addition, I have also begun to build relationships with key people around the reservation, thanks to the networking skills of my fearless leader at AYM. It will take a while to truly know this place, but this week has been a great start.

I have to say, I love spending my afternoons at the Kennel, goofing around, hanging out with students, and getting to know their names and faces. I was so pleased when we took a few of our kids to the football game their high school was playing up where I live and I heard my name called in a crowd. One of the students that hadn't come with us, but who I had recently met at the Kennel, had seen me and wanted to say hello. It was like someone had just given me a prize. I was so excited to see that God had blessed me with a little bit of favor just in my first week here. It may be small, but the fact that girls are talking to me about their high school crush, their family situation, and their volleyball team is all a great start. God is going to move mightily among this generation and on this reservation, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

Keep me in prayer as I continue to grow in friendship with our students, and as I seek to find the balance between ministry and personal time. I will send out a newsletter soon with more information, so send me your email address if you would like to be included on that as well.

Thank you for your thoughts, your prayers, and your support. I am exactly where I need to be and I am loving every minute of working on the rez (well, except for the moment when I couldn't figure out why the cheese we use to sell cheese fries at the Kennel was still cold after an hour. Turns out I never plugged it in.) 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Smell of Winter and Comfort

My new neighborhood smells like Christmas and toasted marshmallows. Just one whiff and you are drawn into a world of winter, bonfires, and a deep sense of comfort. I think I may have found my dream home.

Today I woke up to the smell of a fall breeze coming through my window and then just moments later the rain started to pour. Rain, hail, the chill in the air. . . I was thrilled. I threw on my rain outfit and headed into town. I was getting a lot of extra long stares in the grocery store and was priding myself in looking extra cute today, but then realized that they were probably just wondering who the new girl in the bright yellow rain jacket and red boots was. I'll take it.

Then this afternoon I took some time to walk around the neighborhood loop, listening to the rustle of the pine trees and the quiet that only seems to exist in the mountains. All day I have been struck by the comfort that I feel here. Though transitions are not easy, as I have settled in these last few days I have felt within my entire being that this is exactly where I am supposed to be right now. I feel a pervading sense of happiness as I take in my surroundings of this new place to call home. And when the rain stopped and I headed to my back porch to read a book about a quaint Irish country doctor, I felt truly at home.

Even this sign I found on my walk made me feel kind of excited, like I'm outdoorsy and on an adventure. (But don't worry, I won't go looking for bears after dark). 

What joy to know that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. This is what I am supposed to be doing, and I know because I have never in my life felt so much peace and happiness about a new place. And the fact that I get to wear cute winter boots, heavy scarves and adorable little hats is definitely an excellent added bonus. Because I gotta say, what's the harm in working hard serving the Lord and looking good doing it? 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Art of Departure

2 years I began a blog with adventure in mind. God had changed a lot in a little amount of time, and this was the place to record all that came to be. As the months passed and the blog continued, it seemed that, in a way, this site had become a record of departures. In 2011 I left for India and then a month later left for California. What followed was a significant departure for Arizona and finally, leaving the place I had arrived at just two years ago, I returned to Georgia.

In just two short years I embarked on a moving train of change four separate times. Each departure was significant, life-changing, and not without its difficulties. Each led to adventure, discovery, passion, and growth, but brought their own share of challenges and baggage.

And as I reflect back, I can see that what has been beautiful about all of these departures is that they have led to places and journeys that have formed me. Every chapter has helped to lead me to the station at which I stand today. A new chapter, a new adventure is now beginning, and there is no telling how it will alter my life, my person, and my heart. I am confident that I will not come out of this one unscathed. I know that the next time I have a chance to look back, to remember this day, it will not be the same eyes that see or the same person that reflects. These journeys have been risky, far riskier than I would have ever chosen on my own, but I wouldn't change a thing.

There is a certain beauty in coming and going. I think it lies in the mixture of love and loss, old and new, being and yet not being. It is a wealth of emotions to be connected in so many places, and the beauty intermixes with the challenges to create something far more profound than we originally set out to imagine. We have one life to live, and I have chosen to live mine as a nomad, a wanderer with a purpose, a follower of faith and a seeker of adventure. I have chosen to leave loved ones behind and serve God wherever He calls me, from India, to California, to Arizona.

Sure, I stride onto the awaiting plane with a strong mix of apprehension, excitement, anxiety, and anticipation, but I know that this adventure will be worth it. I know that this is the start of something new, and that the view painted beyond the horizon will be transformative. 



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dilemmas

Dilemmas, a key component of life. Today I have two, or three, and they are basically all insignificant. But read on my friends, read on.

1. Having finally finished the "student" phase of my life (20 years baby!) I am now faced with a new conundrum- the doctor's office paperwork. In the convenient little box named "occupation" I always got to bypass any silly questions about ambition or relevance and simply put "student" but alas, now that is not an option. A new dilemma has arisen for the first time in 24 years! It is has been pretty hard to decide what my perfect new title shall be. Youth mentor was my latest pick, but I feel like I can do better, you know? I considered "holistic development practitioner" but that wouldn't fit in the box, and "youth minister" or "missionary" don't sound quite right either (although both of those options did get me a discount on my future dental work. woot woot!). The latest is "Apache youth advocate" but who knows, most likely every form I write in the US this year is going to have a different job title. I'm a grown-up. I guess I do what I want.

2. Transitions. I don't go to sleep early, but I've read a bunch of books, watched all the episodes of House Hunters International, finished my fundraising, finished my schoolwork, and I don't have a job (for three more days). I am definitely getting tired (although not literally, ha. ha.) of this little transitory stage. So I guess it is good to move on! But this is a whole new thing and the future is like a path up a mountain where I can't see more than five feet in front of me. I have to live day by day, but man, this little unknown, new job, new home, new place thing. . . not really my style. I know I gotta trust God in this, and I am super pumped, its just a weird little stage.

3. Also, I would like some cheesecake in the near future. But that's not really a dilemma, is it?

Well, there you have it. My I'm-basically-a-grown-up-but-not-really dilemmas. I think its high time I get to work, don't you? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In this world there is trouble...

But take heart, He has overcome the world. 

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most significant memories of my childhood. As a 7th grader I stood behind the wall in our little hallway, secretly watching the television as people dropped from the burning buildings. In that moment I knew that I was witnessing history. What I did not realize at such a young age was that this was just one atrocity among thousands that happen every year all over the world. It is one of the hard parts of growing up I suppose. One suddenly realizes the extent to which the world is full of evil and death. My heart becomes quickly overwhelmed with the suffering of people I would consider brothers and sisters around the world. I try my best not to support these evils, working to buy fair trade, avoiding companies that I know have connections to slave labor, but I know that each little movement is just a small drop in a much larger ocean of injustice.

Recently I have been reading a fantastic group of novels about a heroine spy named Maggie Hope. I love these novels, set during the Second World War. The one thing about these books though, is that they do not mince words about the terrible things that occurred in the world during that time. And as I finish each novel I am left with a pervading sadness for every life that has been lost in war, in combat, in attempts at power. I am reminded that today, in places such as Syria, many innocent people, many Christians, are fighting for their lives, losing their loved ones, even their children. I can picture the faces of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, all over the world, fighting each day to believe that there is salvation, that there is a future filled with hope and opportunity. I try to put myself in their place, feeling just the smallest iota of the pain I know they feel each day.

My aim is not to make us all feel sad and helpless in a broken world, it is simply to allow us a moment to recognize that this world is not as it should be. As Christians it is tempting to sit back and say that our effort would barely make a dent, or that God has it in control, and He does! But perhaps His control includes us taking action. Action in the form of intercessory prayer, in changing our buying habits, in figuring out ways to help the hurting in our own communities. It just takes something we might see as small to send ripple effects of God's love and truth to a broken and hurting world.

For me, this means spending the extra dollars to only buy fair trade chocolate, thereby choosing not to support the biggest forced-labor industry in the world (cocoa production). In my life, this means trying to be more intentional to intercede in prayer for those who suffer around the world each day. It means going to bed each night grateful for my circumstances, but not complacent in comfort. It is embracing these small things as worth it, worth it for the bigger picture, because this is what I, as a Christian, am called to do. This world is not as it should be, so let's set out to make it better, one small action at a time. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kentucky to Carolina

If you asked me where I have been for the past week it would be easy to describe. It has been a porch-sitting kind of week, where the breeze or the rain drop in to say hello, enveloping you in a familiar sense of peace and provision. It has been a week where every moment makes it seem like, at least in this little corner, all is right and well.

This past week I have traveled from North Carolina to Northern Kentucky and every moment has been treasured. I have been falling in love with tomato and goat cheese sandwiches, buying local cheese curds from a roadside stand, and breathing in fresh mountain air. I have been sitting on a porch swing in the Carolina mountains swapping stories of international adventures and memories of younger days with my grandparents, my mother, and my brother. I have been retracing my family roots as we discovered old pictures of bearded ancestors, the weddings of my grandparents, bell-bottomed pants, and trips around the world or simply around the farm.

I have been blessed by memories, quality time, country mountain churches, and rolling hills. I have visited the places of my childhood and reminisced on rainy days. I have been from Carolina to Kentucky, walking through the history of my family, remembering my roots, and refueling my soul. In short, it has been a good week.

A few days ago I was sitting on the back lawn of my great aunt's house with a gentle breeze sweeping my face, like a million quiet memories whispering, "will you remember us?" As I gazed out at the apple tree and listened to the train pass, I wondered what stories this house could tell. I got to hear a few of them as I sat up late with my 87 year-old aunt the night before. We had talked through lost loves, past heartbreaks, and the twinkle in the eye of happy days gone by. And I realized something as I spent these precious moments with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I realized that I am part of a beautiful legacy, of amazing people who have walked this earth in great faith, with hard work and determination thrown in for good measure.

I realized as I traveled all of those miles that I am a part of something much bigger than myself. It felt like the roads were preparing me, telling me that this was just the beginning. Something radical is about to happen, and each moment with my extended family made me stand a little straighter as my bones got stronger and the wind whispered "get ready. Your time is now. Your time is here." It was thrilling really, in the quiet way that makes your heart beat just the slightest bit faster in anticipation of something you can't quite see.

So now seems as good a time as ever to tell you that we have made it. The time really has come. As of this weekend I have officially reached my send-off point, where my budget has been accounted for and my support has been raised. God has been faithful beyond my greatest imagination and you all have responded to the call in a way that I never would have guessed. Together we have made it, and now off I go. In a week and a half, on September the 19th I will board a plane and begin God's work that He has set out for me. We don't know what the days will hold, but this we do know: that something is about to happen, and God has used all of us to get there. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blessings and Bravery

Ok, have you been held in suspense for long enough? Are you tired of my vague language and allusions? Alright, alright, I will fill you in on alllllll the deets (well, not everything...since you probably don't care that I just ate delicious teriyaki wings and am considering buying a new lamp).

Where to begin, where to begin.

Let's just jump right in.

The other night I received word of an amazing blessing, a huge donation, that covers my ministry budget for the entire year. It was perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to me because it was such a work of God. It was a feeling of the truest gratitude and amazement that 2 people in this world believe in the work God is doing among the Apache so much that they were willing to make such an amazing investment. I was definitely the closest to speechless and dumbstruck as I ever have been or ever will be. It was like a big neon light flashing, "We believe in you! God has plans for you! This is where you are supposed to be!" It was fantabulous (I made that word up, but it fits. You can use it if you want).

So just like that our prayers were answered above and beyond what I could have even imagined or thought of to ask for. I was prepared to go on the field at 80%, but in one fell swoop I was thrown right past that to land at 90%.

And that donation was just one of many that have been such affirmation of what God has called me to do. Every week I am amazed, flabbergasted even (now that's a good word) at the generosity and support I am receiving. Truly, our God is one that continually surprises.

Soooo.....All of this blessing means that I have officially booked my ticket back to Arizona so I can get to work. I leave on September 19th! And in the coming weeks will be continuing with my fundraising efforts, believing that I will be at 100% upon departure.

God is good, can I get an amen?
_____________

Before I close off I want to leave with this thought: Tonight I had dinner with two people who have been very formative in getting me to where I am today. They are seriously encouraging and I basically adore spending time with them, but among all the lovely things they said this one stuck out: they called me brave. I really tucked that one close to my heart, the idea that following God into this uncertain future, into a calling that will require work and grit, shows bravery. I felt a little like this:

(I do actually really want a bow and arrow)

But when I considered the idea of me being brave, I realized that the reason I can do that, the reason that I can have the confidence and courage to answer this calling, is because for my entire life I have had people like you guys cheering me on. In this last year I have had so many people encouraging me, reminding me of God's plan, and supporting me with great passion. You guys have been so excited for me, and that joy and excitement seeps into all that I am and pushes me forward. I go into the unknown with my head held high because you guys have made me believe that I can be brave. I recently wrote an essay about bravery, and the main thing I figured out is that being brave is all about who you are surrounded with, and man, God has surrounded me with some of the best human beings on the planet.

So I just want to pause for a moment to make sure you all know how much I love you, and how much your support is a part of this journey and this calling.

Thank you for everything you have done for me, and thank you for making me brave. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Can this really be happening???

I'm so sorry! It's been over a week without a post. I can't believe I haven't updated you all in so long! Goodness me. Well let me say, things be getting crazy. More details will come when I figure a few things out (when God does CRAZY things with fundraising I tend to want to check and double check to make sure I am seeing things right!) but let me just tell you, I am...speechless really. I am blown away. I am slightly freaking out (in a good way!) because I could not have ever imagined how much people would get behind this ministry. I am a Moses, lacking in the self-confidence, and a Abraham, making mistakes along the way, but you all are the power of God moving me along, showing me that this is BIG and that God has plans for the Apache people. I am blown. away. Eyes wide, no sound coming out of my mouth, just trying to grasp the greatness of our God and His people.

Seriously, this is basically the best thing that has ever happened to me.

So here is a slight recap of the last week, fundraising-wise (I will attempt to make it more interesting than accounting issues typically are). Oh, I also did go to Samford with my parents to see my brother's new house. That was fun and definitely worth mentioning.

So. This past week began with a lull of sorts. I was relatively stuck at a percentage just kind of hoping for the last bit to come in (I think a week ago I was needing $1000 in order to go at 80%). It was all quiet on the Western (or South Eastern) front. But of course, when things start to quiet down, God decides its a good time to jump out and yell "Surprise!!"

It looked a little like this:

Monday night I was blessed to be encouraged by the fellowship and generosity of a family that is very dear to me, which pushed me up more than I could have expected in the get-Meredith-to-Arizona polls (that's not a real thing...)

Then on Sunday 2 more individual commitments came in, and I got the opportunity to be at 2 amazing churches. The first was Tri-Cities Church in Atlanta, where my pastor from college now serves. I was so excited to be back with the couple that has been so formative in directing my life and my faith, and the worship had great soul and rhythm so it was such a joyful morning.

Next I got to spend the evening out in the country (the best of the city and country all in one day!) where I spoke at my friend Evin's church. They were a picture of kindness, grace, and generosity. They gave me hope and encouragement that a little church in small-town Georgia would be praying for me and thinking of me, and it was such a blessing to be a part of their service and share my heart (of course I cried talking about my kids....why do I get so emotional these days??). And I was of course blessed to spend time with sweet and encouraging Evin!

Sunday was a long day but a glorious day. It was a privilege to get to worship with different parts of the Body and be a part of His work around the state of Georgia. And it pumped me up leaving just $925/month to raise to be at 100%.

And things keep on moving and getting better. I'll save the rest of the good news for tomorrow because it is getting late as I write this, but let's just say this:

I get excited at pretty much anything, and this is the 3rd time in my support raising that I have been stunned silly by generosity and faith in my mission and my vision. I really cannot even contain it all. So yea, I will leave with that. Oh, and this: You might want to get on your dancin' shoes, because things are going to start moving fast!!! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

As the Rain Replenishes the Earth

It has been a rainy few days in Georgia. The sky is grey, the weather cold, and I am perhaps at my happiest. I love cloudy days. The smell of the air, the feel of the breeze, it reminds me of school days and the cozy stay-at-home days. Rainy days, in fact, are my favorite days.

And just as the rain replenishes the earth, so has my soul been replenished this week. Last week my heart was wrapped up in the sadness and the disappointment of this broken world. It had been wrapped so tightly that it had lost sight of its purpose and its hope. But God is patient, and in the midst of the heartbreak He waited, and in His time, He shone through. He broke through all the junk that I had wrapped my heart in and unraveled all of the lies and the falsehoods that had clouded my view.

And all at once the clouds broke. The sun began to shine in my soul again, and I remembered who my Rock is. I remembered the One who makes the rain fall and the thunder roar. I was reminded that where Christ is, there is restoration and faithfulness. He loves and takes care of me, as He always has. I had simply lost sight of that in the clouds. And as He shone through all the sadness of a broken world, He gave me a picture of His beauty and the joy of being in His presence. For where Christ is:

"Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
   righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
  and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The LORD will give what is good,
  and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
  and will make a path for his steps."
        Psalm 85:10-13

May these words ring true in our hearts this week, despite the rain and hardships we may face. May we always remember that His goodness never fails, even when our view makes it hard to see. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Danger is...


“The danger is when you have to toughen up and put on your emotional armor so that you will not be consumed by the misery that you see. Sometimes you reach a point when you have seen so much pain and sorrow, nothing gets to you, and the armor starts to corrode, the evil starts to eat through it, and you are tempted to despair of ever slaying all the dragons in the garbage dump no matter how hard you try. Let an ounce of cynicism into your heart, and ever so slowly, your whole system would be taken over, like a crippling virus that multiplied in your brain cells, leaving you in darkness and wishing you did something else with your life or tempt you to withdraw into a purely privatized spirituality or create an identity which does not come from the triune God.” 

-Fr. Beigno P. BeltranProphetic Dialogue with the Poor, 20

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tested and Tried, yet always Blessed

Today there is good news.

The good news is that God has blessed me enough to be 2/3 of the way to my leaving goal! I am trying to raise $3600 of monthly support and I am currently at $2,035! Since I am planning to leave at 80% ($3000), I have less than $1000 of monthly support still to raise. That is pretty darn awesome. I have to extend great thanks to everyone who has contributed, both in one-time support and in continuing support. I have been absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity, kindness, and confidence in my work. Each day I am surprised and words cannot even express my amazement. You all have come behind me with such faithfulness, and it gives me such confidence that God has great plans for us as we partner to work with the Apache nation. 

As I reflect on this past month of support-raising I can confidently say that this has been one of the most rewarding and most difficult seasons of my life. I could not have imagined how blessed I would be in this time, but I could also not have imagined how hard the enemy would hit me as I prepare for my work in the Apache nation. I feel that I have constantly been tested and tried, and it has been a struggle. The enemy finds whatever foothold they can, and they have worked to discourage me through every avenue, from health and body image issues to relationships and tragedy. 

To be honest, I am struggling to stay on top of everything. The stress is at times overwhelming, and when this week culminated with the unexpected, unjustified, accidental death of one of the most amazing young women I have ever had the privilege to meet, it was extremely hard to trust in the goodness of God. So many people had prayed for this young lady, including myself, asking for her life, but the prayer was not answered. She was only 20 years old, and a student at Georgia College. 

Thankfully I have amazing people in my life who are able to be my strength and arrows of guidance when I lose my direction, but this battle is wearing on me as I fight to keep my head up. There have been times in the last month where I have failed to recognize God’s goodness and where I have considered giving up on this calling, but the one thing that keeps me going is that I know you all believe in this work. It is evidenced by my support raising- so many of you believe in what God has called me to do, and you all are able to see the truth, the passion, and the vision when the enemy tries to cloud my view. 

I know that this will all just get harder, but I am fighting to believe in the truth of God's love and calling. I am comforted by these words from a book called Mentoring Leaders: 

“God loves you as a person even more than he loves what you do as a leader. . .There is absolutely nothing you can do to make him love you less- or more. The relationship you share is based on the character of God, which is unchanging. He loves you with an unconditional love based on his character- not yours. “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jer. 31:3 NLT).” -Carson Pue 

And I swear that I see God's character in so many of you. So thank you! Thank you for getting me to where I am in my support raising, for believing in this mission, and for being my strength throughout this past month. I know that our God is good and faithful, even in the midst of this terribly broken world. And I am quite sure, that I will soon be on the reservation witnessing a taste of that goodness and faithfulness through Apache Youth Ministries. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Art of Being Still (and how much I hate it)

Rest and stillness. 

Two words that I do not like. I mean, in theory they sound great. In theory, they include a contented regiment of book reading, walking, cooking great meals, and quiet. In truth, they drive me crazy. As much as I would love to enjoy sitting around all day, and as much as I am sure all of my friends and family who work 40 hours a week might envy this period of my life, I'm starting to get a little frustrated.

It makes sense why. I  am an on-the-go kind of girl, always busy and always moving. Last quarter I took an overload of classes, worked 30 hours a week, and still found time for a social life. College was the same way. I kept myself busy and I liked it that way. But three weeks ago I got plopped down in Georgia and told to sit still...for a month.

Granted, the first few days were a thing of beauty. I stayed in my pajamas, I watched movies, I slept in...fantastic. But eventually I started to miss my job, the structure of places to be and things to do, and I started to feel purposeless. Don't get me wrong, I'm not truly miserable. I have the freedom to be with family and friends, I do have a purpose in raising support to go work on the Apache reservation, and sometimes my mom cooks dinner for me...but a girl can only take so much, and the thought of another month like this is starting to make me squirm.

But as always, when I get impatient God decides to teach me another lesson. So when I was reading a book on spiritual friendships and spiritual directors the other night (yes, I am still in classes. I finish at the end of the month) my eyes settled in on a few words that I tend to hate, and I really shouldn't have been surprised.

To be a spiritual friend, it said, and to fully be there for those you love, you have to find a place of stillness inside yourself. 

Hm. Stillness. Fancy seeing that word there. The book continued to say that if we cannot find a place of quiet inside ourselves, and if we are always preoccupied with our busy lives, then we can never fully be a spiritual friend to someone else. Meaning that without a quiet space inside myself, I cannot be an adequate mentor for the girls on the Apache reservation, and I certainly cannot do my job well.

So there it was, staring at me on the page, and all I could think was, "well darn. It looks like I might have to try this thing after all." And so kicking and screaming (not literally) I reluctantly put the words from the page into my head and heart, and decided to give this thing a go.

To be honest, I don't even know what stillness looks like, and I am sure going to be a pain as I try to learn this lesson, but I think perhaps it is one that God has put in front of me at this specific time for a reason. If I cannot learn to be still, then I cannot be what He wants me to be for my team and my students at Apache Youth Ministries. I have to trust Him that learning to be still is still being productive, and that this lesson will be vital to my ministry and life.

So here it goes. This weekend I am going up to a lake house with a few college friends of mine, and I am putting it on internet paper that I will not worry, fret, or be preoccupied with my fundraising and my future. I will try to simply be. Be with my friends, be with their stories and their lives, and be present in the moment. Funny, my boss at AYM sent me this verse the other day:

"Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you." 1 Peter 5:7

I like that translation of the verse, and I think it is about time I let it sink in.

So here is to letting go and finding joy in the stillness.

I'll let you know how it goes. :) 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Put on your dancing shoes...things just got GOOD.

Mmmhmm Mmmhmmm mmmhmmm. That's right. I feel like dancing. I feel like jumping onto the roof and yelling to the world that our God is GOOD! (Can I get an amen?) Let me tell you, let me tell you what has got me dancing in the halls until my brother shuts the door!

I had two meetings at my home church about raising support for my work with the Apache this morning. It was such a joy to get to share with so many loving people, and it was such a blessing to receive their questions and encouragement. It was a good morning.

So tonight, I'm minding my own business, reading a novel instead of doing my homework online, and all day I have just left the phone upstairs because I figured no one would call and I didn't really need it. So upstairs I come, bugging my brother, complaining about the dogs, you know, normal "emerging adult returns home" stuff and I see I have a voicemail. I obligingly go through the other voicemails that have sat neglected in my inbox for weeks and finally reach the one from the number I don't recognize.

And here it is. The call. The call that says that the verdict is in and support amounts of been figured out. I waited with eager anticipation...and boy oh boy! Let me tell you! It was goooood. It was more than good! It was more than I could have imagined, or hoped for! It was an answer to the verse I had been praying through all morning, that God would "meet all my needs according to the riches of his glory in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 4:19). I cannot remember the last time I was that excited and that happy. With this one call I was bumped from 1/6 of the way to my fundraising goal to 1/2 of the way there! In addition, current needs in support raising expenses and moving expenses were paid for. Even now I am worried that I heard wrong...because really, could this be real? Could the prayers have payed off and God blessed me more than I ever expected?

I'm reeling, I really am. I am just so pumped because God has shown me His provision and His blessing. Even more than that, throughout this last week He has shown me that I am not going to do this work alone. People are behind me, they believe in this mission and they are partnering with me to go on this field. It is such affirmation, and I am so excited to see what God has in store next.

I am being blessed to be a blessing, and I can't wait to see how the rest of this journey will come together. We are halfway there folks!

Praise be to God, for He is good....ALL the time!  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Meet My Students! (They are fab!)

If you ask me about any of “my kids” on the Apache reservation I could talk your ears off about their awesome qualities, their potential, and the ups and downs of their stories intertwining with my own. They are some of the most resilient teenagers I have ever met, and they honestly inspire me. I don’t know that I would be able to handle the amount of hardship and sadness that they have seen in their teenage years. So today I want to give you a chance to meet a few of my students, as well as hear what they have to say about my time with them. *I have asked permission to release their names and pictures to you, so don’t worry, they know :)* 

The first person I would like you to meet is Crystal. 

Crystal is such a gem. She and I got the chance to really know each other at a retreat we went to in Missouri last year. She rides bulls at rodeos and is a pretty tough cookie. She has had her ups and downs, but I am really proud of her effort to stay on track with God, even when she falls. She is one of the girls I am closest to and I am so excited to continue partnering with her as she works hard to be faithful to God. Here is what Crystal had to say about our time together last summer (side note: OEW is On Eagles Wings, a special opportunity for some of our students to travel to the “worst” reservations and share the gospel. It is an application and selection process and something Crystal worked hard to get accepted to): 

“Meredith, God had blessed me with you for so many reasons. You told me last summer OEW was going to be great for me. I took your word for it. I love how your like a older sister to me. And Boy! Would it be more than a blessing for you to come back for good. We love you and thank you for being there for us.”  

The next person I would like you to meet is Carmalynn. 

Carmalynn and I also bonded at last year’s retreat and she is honestly my inspiration. At 18 she is a mom, and just a few months before baby Scarlett was born the father (and Carm’s boyfriend) took his own life. She has been through so much but she has an unshakeable faith in the Lord and His plan for her life and she has powered through. She is an incredible young woman who I feel honored to know. Here is what she had to say about my work with AYM: 

“Meeting yu was a blessing and God sent yu to us for a reason. Thank yu for always being there for me for us and thank yu for yor prayers in th hard times I been through. My first WLS experience was fun w yu as our leader. Thank yu for evrything Meredith!”

Finally, this is Rico. 


His quote was in my last post, but I hadn’t heard if I could show ya’ll who they were yet. So now you can put a face to his words (and I promised him it would be a good pic! haha).


I hope this helps as you picture my future ministry and partner with me in prayer and support. I believe that God has given me favor with these students, and I am excited for the plan He has for my continuing work with them. I am humbled by this whole experience, and I hope you will join me in praying for the rest of my financial support to come in so that I can get back to these students that I love so much! 

Happy Friday :)