Friday, August 29, 2014

My Hardcore Life

Life is good.

Today I am taking some of our kids to the fair down on the reservation. It is the one really big event for our tribe and the kids even have the day off of school. I am definitely going to be trying some blue corn mush and some acorn stew. I am also looking to avoid riding any swirly rides after I eat said things.

Also I learned jiu jitsu yesterday.

And I bought a tent.

So I am basically becoming hardcore.

After a lifetime of "I don't work out" and "I don't camp" I have officially unleashed the beast and am loving both of those things. It feels good to feel strong and to use my muscles for what they were made for. It is quite empowering. Plus I learned how to take my roommate down yesterday, so if she doesn't do the dishes I can just beat her up. Important stuff.

In other news, last weekend I took a spontaneous road trip with a few friends to the great state of Californ-i-a. The conversation was basically, "Man, we should go to the beach." "Let's do it." "Ok." It was awesome. We camped by the ocean and it was the best 2 days I've had in a while. It was just the rest we needed after 2 busy weeks of a new school year (well, the 20+ hours of driving were pretty exhausting but it was still worth it). Our toes in the sand, the sun drenching our skin, camping out and walking around town. . .it was really close to bliss. I even got to catch the La Jolla farmer's market, so I was a happy camper (literally...ha ha).

So there you have it. I am now an in-shape, hiking, camping, strong gal who lives in the mountains. Pretty funny if you look back on my number 1 characteristic in this blog post from 2011. I'm perhaps one step closer to who I always pretended I was in my head. Hooray for that and hooray for God always being full of surprises!

Let the adventures continue!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Be Strong and Courageous"

Lately I have had a string of anxious dreams. Each night I go to bed hoping for peace. Each night I toss and turn as another scenario plays out, a scenario in which bad things are happening and I have no control. I wake up weary. I wake up frustrated.

And I seek to understand why I have so much unfelt anxiety. Is it the world that is getting to me? So many bad things happening at once. So many people hurting, dying, in pain, and so much injustice that I can do nothing about. I can only allow myself so much access to the news. It breaks me.

Perhaps it is the addition of our new programming at the youth center. It could not be going better, but the enemy loves to sneak in fears of failure. The enemy tells me that we are losing kids, that we aren't doing our job, that we are going to fail these kids that need so much.

But I know that it is not true. I know that my prayers for this world are powerful. I know that there is life in the 5 students that have been committed to what we are doing at the youth center. I know that God is moving and powerful and that we are not failing. I know the truth, that we are being faithful and God will take care of the rest.

Funny enough, I have been studying the book of Joshua since we started school here in AZ. I got all the way to the 2nd to last chapter before I realized that the answer to my anxieties had been right in front of me every morning. The battles in front of me seem insurmountable, but did God not remind me in the beginning that He was taking care of it all? Did He not repeat the phrase over and over in my readings? "Be strong and courageous, says the Lord, for I will be with you wherever you go." Be strong and courageous. Be in the Word. Listen to me. Let me do the fighting. Hold fast to Me. Follow my commands. I have already won the war. 

The answers from my King are clear. He has placed me in leadership. He has given me a task and a people to lead. And I cannot control it, true, but I can be strong, confident, and courageous knowing that He does not lead me into anything alone.

"And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he has sworn to their ancestors; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass." 
Joshua 21:43-45


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Beauty of New Experiences

When we started our new programming on Monday I was a little apprehensive. About 50 kids walked out of the Kennel, leaving us with 9 interested in sticking around. As I watched 50 kids wander outside our gates I wondered, are we doing the right thing?

On Tuesday the answer became clear. 

Again 50 students left. 8 remained. We hopped in the van and headed up for a field trip. The trip was to learn about animals and veterinary things. After a quick tour of the veterinary clinic we headed out to farm along a very very muddy road. Let’s just say I tried my hand at mud-bogging and had to hand over the wheel. 

When we got to the farm it was awesome. There were all these animals our students had never encountered before. A llama, alpacas, a miniature horse, pigs, and dwarf goats. The kids lit up as they got to pet the animals and learn about them more. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to take a llama for a run on a Tuesday afternoon? 

It was so apparent to me that we were doing the right thing when I watched a certain kid walk the llama. This is a kid who was plagued with depression last year. He was empty and broken. This year things are looking up for him. He had so much joy hanging out with those animals I thought I would burst. I never imagined seeing him happy and content. When he was watching the llama eat grass he yelled out to me, 

“I like the way he eats! And I like the way it sounds. He is making me hungry!” 

“Maybe you should try some of what he is having!” I jokingly suggested. 

A minute later he has picked up some grass and put it in his mouth. 

“Yuck!” He exclaims. “That doesn’t taste good!” 

“I didn’t mean it!!” I laughed so hard. 

But my favorite thing ever was watching T. T's dad died last year and he still is trying to recover. For him this has meant drinking away the days with no hope for his future. His goal, he would exclaim was to be a camel (a drunk) for the rest of life. I was worried that the rest of his life wasn’t going to be very long. 

But T lit up around these animals. During the sedation of the horse and the subsequent examination of his teeth, this student was right by the veterinarians’ side. He asked intentional and intelligent questions. He went elbow deep in the horse’s mouth, examining and listening closely to what he was to feel for. 

There was a light in him that I had not seen in a very long time.

I was watching as kids found a passion, a path, a possibility. I was watching them light up with new experiences and opportunities. I was so tickled when Noah’s prayer for the food ended with, “. . . and God, thank you for letting me hold a goat today.” 

And it produced in them a gratitude that I have never seen before. 

When we were recounting the experience over pizza the kids asked, without prodding, “Who bought the pizza?” 
Lydia explained that she has picked it up. A chorus of thank yous followed. We even heard “yes ma’am” and “yes sir!"

Their impeccable manners had been an unexpected result from these new opportunities. 

As we got in the car to go home one of the students yelled something at me and then said, “love you!” 

“Love you too!” I called back. 

“Yea, I know you do. You guys really love me.” His voice was sincere. 

“We definitely do man,” I replied. “We love you a lot.” 

It made all the changes with our programming worth it. It was a long day, so very long, but I wouldn't have traded it. It was rain storms and floods on the way home, but I wouldn’t have exchanged my life for anything.

It was a day in the life of the best job in the world. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Revolutionary Action

“Why do you need to be spending time with God every day?”

“Because my job is really draining.”

“No,” he replied. 

Crap, I got the wrong answer in front of the pastor, I thought. 

“You need to be spending time with Him because He is your daddy. You need to be spending time with Him because He is your breakfast, your water, your sustenance. If we are only spending time with Him because of our profession, then we have it all wrong. We need to be spending time with Him because He is life.”

Oh yea. Mind. Blown.

“So you are starting tomorrow, right?”

“Oh, uhhh, yea!”

It was a conversation that changed the entire trajectory of my year. It had been a long summer and most of my encounters with our pastor had included some tears, mostly from exhaustion. But what Pastor Ernie made me realize was that my exhaustion, my inability to cope, came not just from the overwhelming nature of our overbooked summer schedule. It came because I was trying to serve a God with whom I was not spending any time.

So the next day I pulled out my Bible and sat in a comfy chair on my porch. I began where I had left off in my ill-fated attempt to read the whole Bible. I sat down with Joshua. And each day I sought out to begin my mornings in the same way. 

And I began to feel the difference. I began to pray more, for people I know and people I don’t. I began to pray with passion and determination, truly believing that God was moving and listening. My perspective on life began to change, and in the places where I had been struggling on my own, I began to see God so clearly.  Opening my mind to the Word opened my life to the movement of the Spirit, and opened my eyes to see that God had been all-around all-along. 

It was as if life came from those pages. It was as if God was sitting down next to me as we took in the truths of His goodness. It was the light of a calm spirit as I watched and experienced His truth come to fruition in my life and ministry. 

Where there was blindness there was now sight. Where there was despair there was an unrelenting hope. And it all came from spending time, intentionally, each morning, with my Creator.

Revolutionary, right? :)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

To Him Be the Glory!

It was the first time in a long time that I had felt it. It was the all-encompassing, overwhelming understanding of what Jesus had actually done for me. It was the incredible energy and gratefulness for what my life was, fully knowing that my whole life, every minute part of it, was all because of the goodness of God. It was overpowering. It was beautiful. It was the greatest peace and joy I have ever known. 

Such common words but my goodness the way they seeped into my soul! I could feel it so deeply. It wasn’t the all-too-common head knowledge that Jesus washed me white as snow. It was the song of my spirit, crying out to God in utter thankfulness. It has been so long since I have truly comprehended the magnitude of God, His goodness, His presence in my life. Perhaps 10 years have passed, of ups and downs and a struggle to regain the faith of my youth. And the past two years have been full of questioning, of doubt, of a lack of understanding as to God’s goodness in suffering. 

And here I was, surrounded by believers and the church, the music welling up in my being, finally realizing the truth. 

What incredible joy that thought brought me! Being in eternity, in front of Christ, is usually a point of anxiety for me. I can’t comprehend the infinite nature and the reality of eternity. But last night I soared to the heavens, so thrilled with the anticipation of getting to actually be in the presence of Jesus, for as long as forever. 

What a prayer! What a desire! What an intense need. Lord consume my life and change me.

It is almost a year to the day that I, for the only time in my life, denied the existence of God upon hearing of the death of a beautiful girl named Julia Tarter. One year ago today I was broken and saddened beyond belief. I was at a complete and utter loss at how to see or feel God in the midst of a completely broken and unfair world. 

But in His goodness He brought me to a mountain, to a place where I could escape Him no longer. And I think there is no coincidence that exactly one year later I can say with the greatest of confidence that despite the brokenness surrounding us, God is so full of goodness and His presence is so strong. He has redeemed my life. He has had patience in my questionings. And He has brought me to see Him so clearly through the struggles. 

Praise Him, from whom all blessings flow. To Him be the glory, the honor, and the power, forever and ever amen. 

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1: 26-31

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Feeling Welling Up Inside

You can feel it in the air. I know it is cliche, but it is so true. There is an energy surrounding us, our conversations, our anticipation. 

It is like that night before the first day of school feeling on steroids. I can barely contain myself. 

God has been crazy good over this past year. Our team has gelled crazy well. The support and love we have for one another is something we never could have dreamed of (believe me, this time last year we all were a little, let's say. . . independent). And He has been shaping this plan, this dream in us for the last so many months, and finally the time for it to come to fruition is here. Tomorrow we begin a crazy, risky, all for His glory new plan for our youth center. And it is awesome. 

And the energy for it is ridiculous! Because here are the facts: we are exhausted. Already. With a team in this week we haven't had a good day of rest in a while. So we are starting the school year out completely beat. But we are also starting the school year out completely energized and excited, because this year is going to be about learning and purpose. Our roles and ideas are defined. Our expectations are high, yet realistic. And we just know that God is in it. 

It is all building up to something big and I feel it so strongly, like at any minute it is going to all explode into something bigger and more God-glorifying than we could ever have imagined. 

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told."
Habakkuk 1:5

Can you feel it? That is our verse for this year. I'm telling you, I wish you could be here to feel it too. After a year of struggling to see God and feel God in this hurting place, I truly could not feel His presence stronger. God is up to something people, and by Thanksgiving I just know that our little team, our big job, and our community are going to be different. 

Eeeeee! It is so exciting. God is so good. I'll keep you all updated as it all pans out, so stay tuned and keep praying!