Thursday, December 23, 2010
Life. They say follow your dreams, but - what are they? I realized this week that I often move from absolute confidence in God’s plan to complete confusion in a matter of seconds...
Some might say it’s Christmas, but my “Christmas feelings” really are unrelated. I remember Christmas as a 5 year old, receiving a Cabbage Patch doll and wondering who turned the lights on under the tree. I remember Christmas at the age of 12, upset because we moved, but oh, so happy, to make... well, attempt to make, a gingerbread house with my best friend. 4 times. I remember the first Christmas with my siblings and football tackle hugs to say thank you. I remember Christmas during my first year of teaching, when all I did was sleep. And I remember Christmas in Colombia, where I ran the entire gamut of emotions, from tears to joy. I don’t think “it feels like Christmas” means much.
Maybe it’s just that I have OH, so much to think about in everyday life! Most days are so full that I process nothing and remember much. What are these thoughts that fill my mind and leave me wandering? (yes, I know you think that should be wondering, but really, in my mind, I’m wandering).
The children. The little boy who used to not even try to read, laboring, laboring to take his reading test and ending in tears because it timed out on him. This same little boy bringing me a broken necklace with an angel locket. It wasn’t new, it wasn’t wrapped, but he wanted to give me a gift and it’s all he had. I’m wearing it now. The little girl who walked in the day after the Christmas program, explaining that she couldn’t have her agenda signed because her mom was in jail for drunk driving the night before. The other student who wrote to her daddy in her journal, begging him to come and visit. Or the little boy who asked for a bucket of popcorn in his letter to Santa. I’m so discouraged because I can do so little for them.
Not that my job isn’t a good place to be. How pleasant to sing Christmas carols at the Christmas program! How pleasant to be told thank you by most of the class for even such a small gift as a book! How pleasant to watch the gift exchange. It was supposed to be toys worth $5 or less, but most brought elaborate packages. One little boy brought a little gift, proportional, I know, to the family’s budget. I watched the boys pass their packages, dreading the inevitable moans and groans from the student who opened that one small car while the others explored their gifts. I forgot about the value of friendship. As Providence would have it, the boy who received the car was so excited about opening a gift from his friend that size and worth meant nothing. That’s reason to smile.
The value of friendship. Truly, sometimes I’m lonely. I miss my fellow-workers and former students. I miss my roommates. Mostly I miss my church, God’s precious family to me for 6 years. Yet, for everything there is a season; I know that this season is changing. In moving me to Santa Rosa, God’s given me a dream for which I’ve begged since in high school. Never has a community been so welcoming - loads of Christmas cards, invitations everywhere. Not since leaving my parents have I lived outside of town. In fact, I don’t want to leave my happy little home this week, not even for a short trip to the grocery store. I like to look out the windows and see nothing but grass on one side, a barn and corrals on the other. I like my rock walls and empty space. I like being the queen of my castle... with someone to call if something goes wrong. For what more could I ask?
This then, is God’s dream for me, now. How long will it last? My prayer is only that He refines me, that I come forth as gold, leaving my regrets for His dreams... And I’m so thankful that He has done the work to fit me to His plan: This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Heb. 10:16-17).
Somewhere between my heart and my hands/ Somewhere between my faith and my plans... Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more/ Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me... With eyes wide open to the difference, the God we want and the God who is /But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle? (Casting Crowns - Somewhere in the Middle)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song...
(If I Die Young - The Band Perry)
I am NOT a morbid person. I am not fascinated by death in and of itself. I don’t wear black constantly and I’m not depressed - but I have thought about death. I’ve thought especially about what it would be like to die, now, as a young person. Would it be some mystical experience to try to understand such a death, as portrayed by L.M. Montgomery in her novels? Would it be death “draped in lace” as one person commented? Where is the sweetness in the bitterness?
It’s a reality. It could happen, even though none of us really expect it. I don’t really write lesson plans far enough in advance that a long-term sub could just pick up and cover for me, because I expect to be here. I’ve never finished the “last will and testament” given to me by a legal services agency several years ago, because truly I don’t expect anyone to be fighting over my (not so plenteous) belongings. I know what I wish my funeral would be, but I’ve never told anyone; they may go before I.
No one really knows what the song means... “If I Die Young.” Well, what if I die young? What would be my legacy? That’s the verse that gets me because I wonder if it’s true.
A penny for my thoughts/oh, no, I’ll sell ‘em for a dollar.
They’re worth so much more after I’m a gonner.
And maybe then you’ll hear/ the words that I’ve been singin’.
Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin’.
There are things I’ve wanted to say, things I’ve said, for years that it seems no one has heard. I’ve loved and I’ve cried and I’ve prayed and people walk on in their sin. I read the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans - that he would give up his own salvation to see the salvation of Israel. I can’t say I’m quite that unselfish, but I would gladly rejoice in my own death if people would hear the words of LIFE in the gospel as a result.
Actually, rejoicing in death wouldn’t be a problem for me. Lately the Lord pulls more and more on my heart.... For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). Maybe it’s because I don’t know where home is anymore. I know where my family home is, and I know where the home where I sleep is, but I don’t know where I belong, except in the kingdom. In the words of another song,
They say heaven’s pretty/ and livin’ here is too
But if they said that I would have/ to choose between the two
I’d go home, going home, where I belong...
While I’m here, I’ll serve Him gladly,
Sing Him all my songs.
I’m here, but not for long
And when I’m feeling lonely,
And when I’m feeling blue,
It’s such a joy to know that
I am only passing through.
I’m headed home, going home, where I belong.
(Home Where I Belong - B.J. Thomas)
Every day I am blessed, and I have a life to live. I want to spend time with my nephews. I want to watch my siblings and “my kids” as adults. I want my students to learn. I want to write all my friends letters. I want to visit Colombia again. I want to return to missions as a job. I want to be a mom. But if none of it comes, if all of it comes, if some of it comes - it’s OK. I want to be with Jesus - and I want Jesus to be in the hearts of anyone, of everyone, who loves me.
The ballad of a dove/ go with peace and love.
Gather up your tears/ keep ‘em in your pocket.
Save ‘em for a time when you’re really gonna need ‘em.
Do they know the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Peace who has broken down every wall? Do they know I’ll be in heaven where all tears are wiped away?
The shock knife of a short life.
Well I’ve had just enough time.
If I’ve had time enough, then - they know.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Would anyone like to volunteer to act as the adult to tell me to go to bed right now? Actually, don't bother; I might respond like my almost 3 year old nephew and tell you "Me happy." I am happy. I just had a shower, a visit to the chiropractor, food of my choice, and I'm sitting in a rocking chair, in my own house, with internet. At this point, I desire little more, for the whirlwind of life has worn me to a sense of appreciating quiet.
The whirlwind of life, of change. That, I think is what makes it a whirlwind. When I was 12, my parents decided to move. Now, we didn't move far - only about 10 miles across the grass of our rural community. I didn't change schools, social life, or even addresses, yet I cried over leaving our very small, very old house. I don't deal well with change. That, then, is one aspect where the Lord is exemplifying 2 Corinthians, for in my weakness He is made strong. Change has come, full force.
Some of you already know the story for the most drastic part of this. My school in Albuquerque was forced to make some major budget cuts, my position was eliminated, and I was left searching for jobs throughout the month of July. One day in a discussion with Ms. Dianne (my Eagles' Wings director, mentor, and friend), I concluded that God would wait until the Friday before school started to give me a job, because He was proving that HE is Jehovah-Jireh, the Provider. The week before school started, I was tempted to question Him, to worry, to be angry, but I had to conclude I could not. If I trusted Him and believed He was sovereign, then I had to believe some door would open, that perhaps I needed to work somewhere else, to do something else. That Friday, the call came. On Monday I interviewed for a job for which I'd never applied (I'd left my number with the district after being told there were no openings). I was hired and started trainings on Thursday. God provided.
I am now teaching 2d grade at Santa Rosa Elementary. I have 22 little seven and eight year olds; most of the time, I am absolutely bewildered as to what they can or cannot do, and what I'm supposed to do with them. Going back into the NM public school system after 8 years out, I'm overwhelmed by the paperwork. I've said for years that the stress level of the average public school teacher is much higher than mine was in private school, and I was right! God knew that to do my volunteering with Eagles' Wings I needed to be at Temple, and God knows now that I'm free to devote myself to the outer fields. Excuse that side note! I mostly wanted to say that I feel frail, like a brand new teacher, yet not hopeless, because I know God gave me this job, so He will work His work as I am there.
He's proved it, too. Today, Day 8, was the best day we've had all year. I think they might have learned something. I laughed... I haven't had time to laugh much before this point, but I couldn't help it when one of the boys pointed to my backpack, sitting behind my desk with papers sticking out, and asked, "Miss Wells, is that your backpack?"
"Are you going fishing?"
I'm truly excited about being in Santa Rosa. It's a tight-knit, old school Hispanic community. I was told today I needed to buy a purple shirt because we wear purple on Fridays and at all school events, including the Homecoming Parade. They've been incredibly friendly and helpful. The elementary school has a dedicated team of teachers; I have a mentor, my principal is in and out of my room constantly, we had 280 kids in the gym for an assembly and you could have heard a whisper. The district is bilingual, which means every child gets Spanish instruction by a bilingual certified teacher. Right now, we trade second grade classes in the afternoon so my students can be taught by the endorsed teacher, but I have officially begun graduate classes for a bilingual endorsement. I'll be able to add Highlands to my list of schools, as Las Vegas, NM, is only a little over an hour from Santa Rosa. The second graders from the other class asked me if I spoke Spanish today. When I told them yes, they decided to test me. Their teacher requires them to ask to go to the restroom in Spanish, so a little boy walked straight up to me with a plan. "Mrs. Padilla, me puedo ir al baño?" I answered calmly, "No soy Mrs. Padilla" (I'm not Mrs. Padilla). That apparently satisfied the entire class, since they hadn't thought about using my name.
On the God-story aspect of this change... Remember, we are talking about a small town. Santa Rosa survives because of I-40 and the prison, although it is helped by the many lakes (I've yet to visit the Blue Hole, but it is a pretty area). Renting in such a place is tricky, especially at the last minute. God, however, thought of this as well. My parents have acquaintances, Christians, who they called for ideas. It "just happens" that these folks have a rental that will be available in October on a ranch about 13 miles out. In the meantime, a friend of my grandparents had a friend (!) who had an extra house; she did NOT want to rent it out, but was willing to let me stay there for a while. Problems solved: I have housing, I do not have to move in the midst of all my other adjustment, I currently live 3 blocks from the school, and I'm becoming acquainted with the community. Last week, I stayed so late at school that I got locked in and had to call the secretary to come let me out (climbing a chain link fence in a skirt with 2 backpacks did not seem wise). That worked out nicely, though, as she is a precious Christian lady and we finally got to chat.
Change is good. Of course, Ecclesiastes says there's nothing new under the sun, so all that is change to me is really part of life here and God's plan for many years! As for nothing new under the sun, that might describe my summer. I had ideas for new things. A trip to Morocco, a visit in Colombia, playing with my nephews in Wyoming... oh wait, that isn't new. Anyway! God changed those plans as well. Please pray for hearts to be softened in the Moroccan government; they closed a well-established Christian orphanage suddenly and without grounds, leaving many children with little care. This then, closed my opportunity for travel there. Yet, true to the principle of nothing new, God opened a door for me to serve again at Eagles' Wings Youth Ranch this summer. The directors were in Albuquerque all summer, unavailable for camp because he had cancer, and there were a lot of holes to be filled. I don't really know what my job was. I urged and encouraged staff. I oversaw games, transitions, and kitchen clean-up. When the kids were troubled, they spent "negative time with Miss Rebecca." I had one little girl that threatened to "kung-fu" everybody and one little boy who refused to function without an extra half of a hot dog. I was just - there - and in the best situation possible to drive me to build my relationship with the Lord, as I had time for that structured into my day. I talked one young lady through understanding salvation - and saw a major turn around in another. E. was one of the blessings of the summer for me; she'd had a bad experience with police and she hated all authority, even her young and fun staffers. Within an hour of arriving at camp, she was refusing to participate. It was a long week and we had lots of negative time together, but on the last night, she came to me crying. She allowed me to hug her. She told me that she missed her mom. Maybe, just maybe, her eyes are open now to how a just God is also a loving God. True to Psalms, prayer came early and late all summer... and it was a wonderful summer, although one of the hardest for me in saying good-bye.
I've had a lot of sentimental moments this summer, be that bad or good. I did get to attend a wedding of friends I met in Colombia... and received a message that a precious child from my 4 year old class in Colombia had asked about me over a year after I left. My heart is still very drawn to serving those who need to see the "upside-down kingdom" of the Lord Jesus and His salvation. Oh, on the note of the wedding trip. I was caught driving in the midst of a tornado warning. Very unsure of what to do, I kept driving until I reached the motel, where I asked about the sirens. Yes, they said, those were sirens and if the tornado came, I'd need to go in the bathroom. How would I know it was coming? I would see it. Oh my.
Back on a serious note, I've released most of mentor kids into the adult (or semi-adult world). All spring, I did Bible study twice a week with one family. We saw the oldest boy in that family pray to ask the Lord in his heart this summer, yet I haven't even seen them in almost a month. The mom had also claimed the Lord, but the chains of alcohol and lifestyle are strong; I was so often blown away by the differences in our life experiences. She was only a year older than I am, yet she'd lived on the streets since she was 13, she has 4 kids and a prison record - really, she's come a long way to have a home and her kids and some degree of sanity. Again, Jesus is the Lord of the harvest and He will have to grow the seeds planted.
As for the rest of my summer... I made a visit to Waco to visit one of my girls from church, took another young lady from church and an EW staffer with me, and met up with 2 friends that I met at EW when I was in college! It was a mini-vacation. I spent a few weekends with my family. My siblings are all leaving home now, such a strange phenomena for me to watch. I never made it to Wyoming, but I did find a few long-lost friends on facebook. :-) I shall end on that note, as I'm beginning to see the flip sides of technology. Please know that if you don't hear personally from me in the next few months, there could be many causes. I have very limited internet access during the week... I may go through electronic withdrawals, but that will be a good thing! You can call though. For the first time since the Bovina years, my phone is in its home area!
There, you've had a moment in my whirlwind. I pray a few blessings rain down on you through it. Please stay in touch.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Jesus had 12 disciples. This year, He gave me 12 disciples. You know, a disciple is a learner. Twelve is an amazing number, the perfect for teaching. His work in granting me my 12 wasn’t complete until February, but each day was a treasure.
They made me laugh. Who imagined it would take until March to note that “number order” referred to the number assigned each child for keeping track of books and grades? Who thought that “choose the best answer” implied you could choose the one you thought sounded the funnest, though you knew it had nothing to do with the question. Who knew that dormant seeds remain in the dormitory and how the English settlers expected to find gold nuggets was a mystery since chicken nuggets were a modern invention?
They’re so smart. We learned the difference between a battle and a war by having the Civil War. We learned about taping pieces together to change fractions and putting word bubbles around quotations. We learned that Pluto is only a planet in NM, that the apostle Peter had a really big mouth, and that you can figure out the meaning of a word from the sentence around it.
They are learning to love. This, perhaps, is the biggest blessing for the teacher. We learned I Cor. 13, but we also learned to practice God’s kind of love. From defending a classmate upset because no one believed the story he told, to sympathizing over a burnt cookie, to sitting with one who did not feel like playing, compassion was a key player with “my” children. We prayed for missionaries, moms... pigs and the burial of dead pets. They learned the principle of not yelling "me first," encouraged their teacher, and developed a skill of finding life lessons in every area.
My 12 were not really mine, but God’s. He created, He redeems. He is faithful to complete the good work He has begun... And I will miss them. :-)
(P.S. In case you were wondering about Bob... He was our favorite invisible friend. Can you find him in the pictures? More to come, I hope).
I do realize that it’s June as I write this, yet my reflections are from the month of May. That’s part of the sweet side. I usually have a few days, right at the end, when I can reflect... after nine months of nonstop brain labor, such reflections are restful.
Nine months of brain labor. Nined months of investing into the hearts and minds of children, children who I may never see and probably will never work with again. Thus the bitterness. I love “my kids” as I call my students. I may tire, yet I hate the thought of losing them. See comments accompanying pictures.
That one’s obvious I guess. May is more than that, though. May has holidays... Memorial Day, Mother’s Day. Truth be known, the former means little to me. We brand sometimes. Often it’s my first weekend off, so I’ll gad about the country a bit. Maybe the start of summer activities, but nothing life-changing or significant.
Mother’s Day is different. I have a great mom, of course; more than we 7 who bear her last name would champion that statement. The truth is, though, that Mother’s Day for us is the date of bittersweetness....
One year ago, on the eve of the holiday, I returned fromColombia. My mom was thrilled. She invited friends over and I wound up being more honored than she, unfortunately. It was GOOD to be with my family, to eat hearty healthy food, to have hugs all around and feel NM sunshine. Many stories to be told, much of life to catch up... yet for me, it was sad. I left my “mothering” role, my almost 4 year old, miles away. I left the only circle of friends who lived nearby that I’d ever had, including one of the best friends I’d ever had. I left a language, a classroom, a people that I loved, not knowing when I could return. Sometimes, even now, my heart longs for my “tierra querida.”
Two years ago came a blow greater for all of us. My beloved “Grandma,” my dad’s mother, had a stroke on Mother’s Day weekend. The memories are choppy: moments by her bed, moments of stories, relief at some news, and tears at other. A family scattered united in the hospital... Grandma’s greatest wish was for all of us to visit at once. She heard our “Happy Mother’s Day” greetings, this we know... that perhaps is one of the sweetest notes, for the following morning she met Jesus as we met the dawn. She is with Jesus, for this we are thankful, yet how much we’ll miss her. Always she valued relationship, so I can I pray for the sweetness of her memory to influence us - a lady in every sense of the word, a lady who could make the least refined feel welcome in her home, who understood the art of being a keeper of the home.
Back to Mother’s Day I must refer to my mom. She, certainly, probably most remembers Mother’s Day of 2001. My older brother had had a rough couple of weeks; we’d gone to visithim along with family friends. All of us, playing happily in the pool, then we realized that our precious baby Danny, my six year old autistic, cp brother, was missing. We searched, we prayed, we cried. We found him, but it was too late. The angels had taken Danny. The results were final the next day. Joe said, “Well, if he’s in heaven, he can have sugar now!”
Yes, he’s in heaven. The sweetness of that thought carried us through and encourages us all to look toward Jesus, the Author of our faith, the Author of our story, the Author of bittersweet moments which remind us of the comfort despite our earthly trials.
We know not what next May will hold, but we know Whom we have believed. We are persuaded that He is able to keep that which we’ve committed unto Him against that day.
(P.S. I’m not technological enough to paste my old pictures; instead I’ll share new ones with a similar significance and a relation to the memories)