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,


*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.