Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Shadows Prove the Sunshine

There were a few days this week that didn't start out so well. Cranky, worried, whatever, I got out of bed and was mad at the world. But in typical Meredith fashion, by the afternoon everything was fine. Seated with my students quietly reading books, trying out yoga with them in the backyard, picking apples together, each day ended with a sigh of exhaustion and happiness. As always, by the end of the day I was thrilled with the greatness of my life.

But most great writers write in the midst of emotion. When the world seems to be crashing down or the problems seem their greatest, that is when a writer sits down and lets it all pour out onto paper (or virtual paper in the blog world). That is what is interesting to read and what people can relate to. And it isn't the norm or even the majority, but simply the processing and the healing that comes when emotions become words and thoughts become paragraphs.

So sometimes I write in the mornings when life doesn't seem so great. And sometimes I write in the evenings, when I sit around and baffle at how I could possibly deserve such a sweet life. You never know what you are going to get.

I think that sometimes when people read the "morning" posts on this blog they worry about me more than they should. They worry that I am sad, frustrated, or even a bit depressed. But I want to put your minds at ease. That is most definitely not the case. When I started working on the rez I wanted this blog to be real. I wanted to show the readers that one does not have to be perfect or have it all together to be a missionary. The goal was to invite people into the good, the bad, and the ugly of being on the mission field so that the glory of it disappeared. I wanted the reader to be left with the realization that they too could do exactly what I am doing. The goal was to put all the struggles and joys down on this virtual paper and invite you to a true understanding of life on the rez.

So I do include posts about the sacrifices and the hard days. But those days aren't every day. They are fleeting moments in the midst of a great life. As Switchfoot so wisely puts it, the shadows prove the sunshine. The moments of uncertainty, the questions of sacrifice, and the really really hard bits of this job make God's brilliance even greater. He shines far brighter than anything else, and each moment brings me closer to understanding His glory and His goodness.

I love my life, my job, my kids, and my weird little family here on this mountain. And yea, some days are hard, but I never question that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I never question that God put me on a journey 3 years ago that led me right here to this mountain in Arizona.

And I never ever lose the joy for His work here. . . even if I do have a bad morning or two. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Reflection of Seasons

Guys. Winter is coming!!

Here in Pinetop we are having an absolutely beautiful fall season, full with color and breeze and light jackets and loveliness. But when the sun dips below the horizon and the air gets chilled, I can feel that winter is on its way. I know I shouldn't be excited. I know that the snow will last from November to April and I might maybe may get tired of it all by the end, but for now I embrace the coming change in season with anticipation and a good pair of boots. I may have even put the Christmas moose on the mantel a little early because I just can't wait (yes, the Christmas moose is a real thing).

One thing wonderful about Pinetop, Arizona is the anticipation of each new season. I love living in a place with actual seasons. Each one has its own beauty and its own appeal, but we never stay in one for long. When I look back at my year here in Arizona I feel like I can separate the changes in my life by the seasons (and man, has this year changed a lot in my life!).

The fall was all changing colors and horizons as I settled into my new home. It was sometimes a beautiful season and sometimes a hard one as I worked to find my place here.
Then the winter came and with the snow days and hot cups of coffee came a new sense of family and comfort. Perhaps that is why I love winter so much. The cold air brings everyone together as we seek warmth and community amidst the snow and ice. As the snow covers all the mess that fall left behind, so too did my community begin anew as we covered our mistakes with grace and new understanding. Winter was my favorite season.
Spring was happiness and the birth of new things as we began to dream a new direction for our ministry. It was the birth of everything that the Kennel Unleashed is now. Spring changed everything for us, and there isn't a day that I don't praise God for those spring days.
Summer was a whirlwind of busy weeks, learning, hiking, and taking on new leadership that brought me to where I am now. Summer was a season that transformed me, but man, did I need a Rip Van Winkle type nap when that was over!

Gosh, it has been such a year. Such a really really good year.

As I sit in my kitchen on this rainy fall day in Pinetop I find such peace reflecting on this past year and the current season. I know that there were a fair share of dreary days and rainy moments, but as I look back on the year I am so grateful for every moment of every season. Each moment was purposeful, each struggle was a step in the right direction, and I know that this year will be the same. Who knows what these seasons will bring, what joys and pains, happiness and concern.

All I know is that based on this past year, this next one is going to be full and beautiful. I cannot wait to see what happens. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Crocodile Dundee" Comes for a Visit

What a great Fall Break last week. My brother, the one and only, came to town. And it was glorious.

Back when we were little kids my brother and I shared bunk beds for a year. We were both scared of the dark and the solution was solidarity. I remember that year fondly. We would go to sleep talking together until Ryan would say, "Shhh, I need to pray." And he would fall asleep praying his long and all-important prayers. Needless to say, he and I have always been close.

So this past week, as grown-ups, we revisited our childhood. For the week Ryan slept on the floor in my room and we would spend each night catching up on years of missed-out togetherness. We would chat about my life and his, give each other advice, share our perspectives on any number of topics, and laugh until sleep overtook us. We may be in our twenties, but we still enjoy a good late night chat.

Having my brother here made this one of the greatest weeks of my year. Seeing as I have lived across the country for 3 years we only get together time like this about once every 2 years (when home for Christmas we are both preoccupied with our separate friends and activities). He fit in perfectly (of course) with my teammates and students. The kids nicknamed him "Crocodile Dundee" and it stuck for the whole week. I hope he felt the weight of that honor!

It was also so fun seeing all the things we had in common that we never realized. I swear we look nothing alike but my team, seeing us together for the first time, picked out a number of similarities. Oddly enough, we both have the habit of sticking our tongue out when we are concentrating on something. Who knew!

The laughs, the conversations, the meal times, and the interaction of my brother with my friends gave peace to my heart and comfort to my soul. As he reminded me to give God the control and to rest not on my own understanding I was reminded of God's great grace and provision in bringing Ryan out to visit.

When he left he commented, "Its a weird little life you have made for yourself out here."

"Thanks," I replied, "I kind of like it."  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Life as an Open Road

(conversation with student during tutoring/reading time at the Kennel)

"Hey Meredith. . . "


"Do you think that life is like an open road? . . .because that is what this magazine is telling me."


The other night my best friend called me with some spectacularly good news. I cried. It was that good. When we hung up the phone I cried again, but this was a mix of happy and quite very much sad tears as well. Here was one of the happiest moments of my friend's life and I was thousands of miles away from her.

I never imagined that I would stay out West when I moved here three years ago. The only thing I knew was that I was following God's call and I would take whatever He gave me. But I was perhaps not prepared for what it meant that I would lose. Living on this mountain in Arizona my life is rather small. I have lost most of my friends from college simply because of distance, both on a map and in our ways of life. For the 2-3 friends I do still keep in touch with there are great challenges. As my friends begin their lives with boyfriends and husbands and children I miss it all. Our lives are busy and keeping in touch takes effort. I am far from my family and my daily life consists of my job and my four local friends. Phone conversations are always a blessing, but the sense of loss hit me hard that night.

I realized that I have had to give up family, friends, and relationships in order to serve God on this mountain in Arizona. I was struck with an overwhelming loneliness as all of this loss fell onto my head with one phone call.

So as I sat there, praying and questioning and listening, I had to ask myself: Is it worth it? Has it been worth it to leave everyone and everything to live in a small town and work with a bunch of teenagers and not know what the future holds? Above all else I want a family of my own. A husband, children . . . is it worth it if that never comes? If my children are these reservation kids and my life continues as it is now. . .

. . .is it all worth it? 

The answer, I will admit, does not come easy. I so badly want to hold on to these things of comfort, these memories of the past and dreams of the future. But I look to the heavens and I know the truth. I know that this life is temporary and that my only desire is to know God more and make Him known. I still struggle with the balance of working with these students and giving up my own future dreams, but I know that God will guide my path and calm my heart. I know that in the end, I would give up anything, no matter how painful, in order to serve my God. Sure, there will be tears along the way, and some days will be way harder than others, but in the end it will be worth the loss.

So is all worth it?

Yes. Yes it is.

"Yea Nick, I think I do believe that life is an open road."

"It says here, 'there is something new around every turn.'" 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Seeing Brilliance Among the Annoying

Yesterday was one of those days where everyone seemed just the slightest bit annoying. I knew that it was in fact not everyone else that was the problem, but I let myself wade my feet into the notion that everyone was being dumb and they should all just be quiet. 

My friend reminded me of the reality that I probably needed to get my crap together. Truth. Spoken with the most eloquent of speech. 

The day wasn't even bad. I had a great breakfast with friends, got the chance to fill my cart to overflowing with groceries for one of our former students who is now the guardian of her 4 brothers, and spent the afternoon with kids that I love. I even got to help with math homework! There was such brilliance in the day, yet I let it cloud over with my own grumpiness. 

I have to tell you that the job is brilliant. The personal life is what begins to drag its muddy paws onto the work day. It is the little matters that direct my view away from the brilliance and into the clouds. It is the tiny splinter that distracts me from envisioning the monument that we are in the midst of building.  

So I sit down and try to figure out how to get my crap together. And the answer, I decide, lies in the word trust. Which I don't really care for. Because the truth is that I do trust God, I am just rather impatient. In the waiting times I like to let all the doubts and questions and annoyances become the only picture in front of me. I seek after God but as I read 1 Samuel every morning the nagging question begs for an answer, am I seeking Him with all of my heart? Am I on my knees, giving up everything, delving in and meditating rather than just trying to appease Him with a passing thought? Am I giving Him everything or am I bitterly holding onto the things that annoy me because He has not given me the answer I desire? 

Am I really seeking God with all my heart?

The answer becomes painfully obvious as I melt into the realization that without giving Him my full heart I have let myself wade too far for the day. I want better, for my kids, my teammates, my friends. I want to emanate the joy of the Lord. I want to be full to overflowing with the good news of the gospel. I want to seek God with all of my heart, not just part of it. And that is going to take work. It is going to take time and prayer and forgiveness. It is going to take my roommate pulling me in to remind me to trust in His goodness, to trust in the brilliance around me. 

And when I start getting my own self together I am able to once again see the absolute beauty of everything around me, even amidst the clouds of unanswered prayers.