Thursday, November 8, 2012

Challenging the roots of bitterness

Sitting in a room all alone/
Trying to keep the tears off the page.
I’ve never been so hurt by anyone/
Does anyone deserve this pain?

I used to be a visionary, an optimist. I saw the best in everyone, never had an enemy... As I’ve grown older I’ve realized - people are people. They are not perfect. They make mistakes. Sometimes they are malicious.

I’ve been through seasons where I struggled with being hurt by other people, but I have to confess: the last few months have been one of the most extended periods I’ve experienced of battling with feelings of loneliness, rejection, or mistreatment. Notice I say battling. I believe that key word explains why this has been an extended season. You see, this time the Lord has revealed to me that it’s my feelings, not the person, that create a struggle. And I quote: The problem’s not the problem; my perception is the problem.

There’s been a series of small incidents with people that I love dearly (I’m still pretty good at ignoring people who aren’t close to me), incidents in which I’m so tempted to feel overlooked or judged. I want to avoid these people, or confront them and show them how wrong and rude they are, or maybe just make them feel that I don’t like them. On the other hand, the rational part of me knows that none of the events were meant to be spiteful.Maybe it’s not the rational part of me. Maybe it’s the Spirit. He is our Counselor, the One who brings conviction of sin and repentance. The one who reminds me to redirect my thoughts....

When I think about all that you’ve done for me/
The separation and the sacrifice made/
The distance gone to set all creation free/
The debt to sin has surely been paid.

And if my thoughts are directed heavenward, do those incidents, even in the worst of light, really matter? I am reminded that I should keep the forgiveness I’ve been given in the forefront of my mind.

The hypothetical written form of these concepts took shape in my mind as I drove to school this morning. I've been contemplating the growth which God is continually accomplishing in me, and felt relieved to see the lesson in between the lines.

Guess what? God reminded me that obedience brings testing. It did. We had an incident at school, a change to a committee decision, a change that did not directly affect me, but it did infuriate me. I'm sure my pride was a part, but another part was my defense of those that it did affect. In His grace, God kept me calm. While I did take the matter to my principal, I spoke not out of emotion, but out of the issue, and I was able to focus on the problem, not the people. And more importantly - perhaps, perhaps I will even be able to continue to smile and love the malicious and bitter. They need Jesus. I have Him.

And I lose myself in You/
And all the things that You do.
And slowly I forget about myself.
The waiting seems too slow/
When I know You’re always there/
And slowly I forget about myself.
(Lyrics from Forget About Myself, Constant Halo)

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Time It Never Rained.

The Time It Never Rained is one of my favorite books. It is not one of my favorite times of life. I live in New Mexico. The times it never rains are real, and they are hard. The weather is hot. We eye the clouds, wish the sun away, and wait eagerly every afternoon for the thunder to roll in. The showers are scattered, few and far between. The grass turns from faded yellowish green to brown, to gray, finally dying and blending in with dust and dirt patches that made the green mesquite look like a piece of paradise. 

The cattle follow the feed pickups eagerly, bawling with mid-winter hunger in the midst of June. Even the calves learn early. Tank water dries and every animal is as thirsty as the ground; inevitably water lines break somewhere from the pressure. Lawns and gardens require hours of care just to stay alive and the produce is slow to come. Town folks complain about the heat and ranchers joke of when Noah’s flood brought 1/2 an inch of rain. The laughter is just a front, though; their thoughts and conversations are filled with alternate plans; with no grass, what will the cows eat? How will the ranch produce? How will the bills be paid?

This summer was a time it never rained; for many the second summer, for some the third or fourth or fifth. Every so often we thought it might break. A sprinkle, a shower, a big rain “just over the hill.” Then discouragement returned. 

My friend made a point. God put the systems of nature and climate in action. He sees more than the dry ground. He calls us to pray for the field white for harvest in another way, to pray for souls thirsty for the Word. That, too, is a discouraging task, a hope that seems to hold nothing of reality. These souls seem to be in turf that has died; the Word sprinkled brings not even a wisp of green. Even in my own life, my soul has dry seasons. 

So, just as in dry weather, we wonder. Will the souls thirsting for the Word ever receive? When will the Spirit wind turn hearts? Can this turf be revived? Will my own parched heart be satiated? Will I bask in His presence? What if discouragement wins? What if change does not come? What will the end be? Showers come, refreshment in the forms of events, or relationships, or moments. Family Night at church. A question about “your religion.” A moment of the presence of God being as real as a person with skin. Yet, still the drought continues and we wait and we wonder if change is possible.

In The Time It Never Rained, it did rain. It rained after all but the toughest were broken. It rained after all hope was lost and only those who loved the land remained. It rained. In history, it rains. It rains after years of drought change the landscape and community. It rains after one generation has passed and another has forgotten. 

And our rains came, at least some of them. They came after summer had passed, after cows were sold and the growing season almost ended, but they came. If you've never lived through a drought in the country, I'm not sure the joy that comes in the rain can be expressed. The entire household was giddy the night the canyon ran. Everyone stayed up late when it began to sprinkle at bedtime, just to see how long it would last. Even children deprived of recess sat rapt watching the drizzle with a smile. The rains came. The grass turned green, first where water had run and stood, then at the roots of all the remaining patches of yellow and brown. Cattle began to ignore feed. Ranchers began to plan. Life returned. Hope returned.

So, too, in Scripture, it rained. The psalmist said he once was young, but now old, and had never seen the righteous forsaken. God sent rain after Elijah had slain the priests of Baal and He sent resurrection after it appeared that death had gained the victory. He sent the Spirit wind rushing through Jerusalem to reign on those from every tribe and tongue. The field may look dry here. Religion is killing relationships. Righteousness is turning into relativity. My own heart is patchy in showing the work of God. But a sovereign God holds every shower. He makes all things beautiful in His time. The rains, His reign, are coming.

We will pray. For rain.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

12 Things I Learned in Summer 2012

1. To drive a 4-wheeler. Do not laugh. I do realize most people learn this when they are 13. Reverse the digits and it all makes perfect sense.

2. To change a horse’s leads. No, not the lead rope, the lead foot. Don’t worry. I never understood either, but at least I now know what is SUPPOSED to happen. Better yet, at least I got in 8 or 10 good days of riding this summer.

3. To read the paper. You’d be amazed what you can learn - check this out from the police blotter:

The American Legion Post in Santa Rosa reported criminal damage to property on Saturday afternoon, June 30. According to police, somebody cut a section of rope out of the rope from the flag pole, taking part and leaving part, as if they needed just a smaller piece to tie something down.

A Santa Rosa woman reported a larceny on Sunday afternoon on Camp Avenue, after she left the windows rolled down on her parked vehicle and then a purple, metal cross disappeared from inside.

4. To score target shooting. All you do is add up all the numbers and colors. Wait! I don’t know how to add colors. Anyway, you see what I mean. I don’t bother to show my prowess by adding my score; actually, I’m so good I don’t shoot the target. I just shoot mice stuck to sticky traps.

5. To not become a bee keeper. Seriously, watching them is fascinating, but it’s not fun when I’m as surrounded in smoke as everyone else, but standing farther away... and I’m the only one who gets stung.

6. To swim. Or at least, I now know how to practice swimming. My dear friends concluded I might drown in the abundance of water I encounter daily here in drought-stricken eastern NM. Despite my argument, one proved an effective instructor and I can now imagine how someone could enjoy said swimming movements.

7. Paint scrapers are fun. As long as the paint (or wasp blood) is on the windows and I don’t have to do the painting. Scraping is much more interesting than washing the windows.

8. Jail breaks are not illegal, if they do not involve jails or breaking anything. It is to this strange phenomena that people refer when speaking of phones and ipods. Actually... I still don’t really understand this. But I don't have to have a computer tech tell me to plug in my monitor, and I can have an actual texting conversation. 

9. PLUMBING! I’ll never make $40 an hour, but I know how turn valves on and off, I know what a “female coupling” is (it has no ethical implications), and I can go back and forth between water systems like a pro. Motivation is great when you realize the alternative is an unexpected pause in your shower.

10. I like pickle juice slushies. I also like conversations with “teen-agers” when those teen-agers have soft hearts and big smiles. Even though they have crazy ideas like pickle juice slushies.

11. Just because, in my opinion, “I don’t need to meet any new friends! I have quite enough,” isn’t reason enough for God to stop changing my life. He both gives and takes in relationships, as in any other part of life.

 12. No amount of sleep, food, or exercise has the same effect as the joy of the Lord. All summer, I’ve wakened full of anticipation of His Word, and He has not yet failed me. The end of my summer has not been restful or healthy, in the truest sense of either word, but still, I’m ready. I’m ready for 3rd grade (it only took me two years to pass 2nd, apparently!), I’m ready for a challenge, I’m ready for people. I think. I think  I’m even ready to leave summer... Maybe.


A season. To everything there is a season. My submission is tested in reflection on the seasons of life. 

Perhaps it is not wholly an antipathy toward change. Perhaps it is a reticence, a hesitance in the process. I enjoy the changing seasons as far as weather is concerned; I’m so excited for coffee and snow in the winter; for green grass, fresh breezes, and sunshine in spring; for cool sunrises and long warm nights brought by summer; for fall’s gift of sweet smells and overcast days. These seasons, though, are different; they come gradually, almost unnoticed. Living in NM, we have a few unexpected days scattered throughout each season, but we know these will disappear into the endless cycle. By the time the cold ends, we will be ready to shed jackets; when the sun disappears, we’ll be so glad to turn the air conditioners off and walk outside without sweating. The seasons are welcome.

The seasons of life are much more difficult for me. The changes come more suddenly, or so it seems. I certainly wasn’t ready to leave the spring newness of actually knowing what I was teaching to hit the long adventure of cultivating the same lives for another year - but in a different grade. I didn’t notice the diminishing sunshine before the clouds of my siblings’ departure hit our family.   Smaller changes have the same effect. I’m not ready to distance myself from a friendship because someone else has come into the picture; yet just as snow brings much needed moisture and beauty, I know these relationships will not serve only to isolate me. And what of spring, of fresh hope and longed for freedom? Do I always see this coming? I didn’t. I didn’t see the joy I’d find when God moved me to Santa Rosa. I never dreamed of the fresh blooms He’s growing around me in my “family of God.” And truly, the breezes of His presence are something “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived...” (I Corinthians 2:9).

And so, as seasons change, I will look to the Maker of the seasons.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Things to Do, People to See, Places to Go

In the words of a former student in another situation... “Miss! There’s a lot of white people here.” And black ones. But it took nearly an entire week to find the Latin brown so familiar to me. 
One black man on the bus told us that Charleston didn’t have as many racial tensions as other Southern cities, that they all got along here. It did seem so to us. Our bus drivers advised us (we even ran into one mowing weeds the following day and he spoke, while another told us she’d seen us earlier riding bikes), our fellow passengers visited with us (what DO you tell the lady asking for advice on how to collect unemployment after getting a job?), and every shop keeper and candy seller wanted to know where we were from. One even knew that New Mexico was next to Colorado!
When traveling with a group of 30 southern schoolteachers, one may sit back enjoy the chivalry, extended not only to their own, but to every lady on the plane. One book said a Southern gentleman would rather get off the bus than see a lady stand while he was sitting, and I do believe it might be true. One evening we were caught with a large group of others waiting in the rain for the free trolleys. Two elderly gentlemen stayed in the rain until every lady was on board.
I believe I may say that I felt hostility from only one person in the entire city of Charleston. One night in the rain, a lady dressed in a business suit entered the trolley. The moment she climbed on, I wondered about her eyes. She looked upward and around, refusing to look at anyone, and it was clear she was angry. When she spoke, I understood. She said only, “D-- this rain *&%...” but it was not the voice of a woman, rather the voice of a young man. Both the conversation and the roaming eyes continued throughout the ride; the sorrow in my heart reminded me of the days in Bogota, where this was a common phenomena, and just as sad.
We took two tours of the area, one by carriage, the other by boat. The boat took us out into Charleston Harbor visit Ft. Sumter. Who in the world sees a tiny island and decides to haul in stones to build a fort? I was impressed, although I might have been more impressed by the cargo ship full of railroad cars. My brain can hardly handle the idea that a huge railroad car was only a tiny square on a tiny boat floating in the middle of a tremendous ocean.

The carriage ride took us through the historical residential area of Charleston; we were pulled by two mules known as Otis and Battery (as in weaponry). We later walked into a couple of sights for additional tours. The Powder Magazine was built long before the Revolutionary War, but the thick walls and arched ceiling (formerly covered in sand) were meant to contain the explosion should an accident occur. The Nathaniel Rutledge House was built by a man and his wife determined to attract appropriate suitors for their teenage daughters. It has a freestanding staircase built with no nails. Unfortunately, I was highly distracted during this tour by the injured carriage horse in the street. The street was blocked off and eight policemen were investigating the scene.


Food was obviously my favorite thing in Charleston, but I might also mention the clean, spacious city buses that we rode for $1.75 each and the free trolleys that went downtown. Also worth noting is the “Notso Hostel.” I thought it was great; we visited with a guy from Liverpool, England, a lady from Germany, and we ate free bagels with Nutella on them. Jessica was unimpressed by the neighborhood and the plastic covers on the mattresses (She hadn't really planned for a safari), so it was only a one night experience.

Anyway, I also find some other interesting "things," like the bridge across the harbor. To imagine the engineering and ingeniousness that went into its construction is impossible. Or the South Carolina flag. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no moon. Rather the crescent is from the armor worn by the early defenders of the walled city. South Carolinians won my heart right away; most of us know they were the first state to secede from the Union, but how many realize they were the first colony to declare independence from England?

South Carolina rally for less government

 Now, back to the food. I tried to eat seafood, I really did. I tried Jess’ she-crab soup. I ate mahi-mahi tacos. I smelled oysters. I ate whiting. My conclusion: some fish may be tolerated if covered well with other flavors. Much more favorable impressions were left by other food; after all, we were in the South, where mac and cheese counts as a vegetable! I ate grits (something I formerly tolerated but have now discovered are a great medium for butter, cheese, and salt), pecan-fried chicken, sweet potato fries GULLAH style, fried crocodile, and geranium flavored gelato... With such happy memories, I probably shouldn’t eat for a week or so.

Adventures with Water and Wheels

I did NOT die in the water. It’s exciting, I know. And I only thought I might two or three times. Likewise, Jessica only thought she might die on the bike two or three times.
Our new best friend - you remember, Ryan, the bike guy - delivered two kayaks on Saturday morning. He and Jessica firmly reassured me that the hardest part would be getting in without a dock.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I drug my kayak out into the mud at the edge of the water, sat down, and waited for directions. Jessica rephrased her favorite question.
“I’m not sure what to do now.”
I scooted. It worked. Soon my kayak was floating happily on the water. Breath held, I dipped the paddle in. Water is scary and moving on the water even more frightening. It’s a special type of dizziness that settles in your stomach at these moments, but I moved forward.
We were a little overambitious and only rowed about halfway to the lighthouse that was our goal before being overtaken at a sense of urgency by the warning, “Don’t get caught out and stuck during low tide,” but the haste was unnecessary. We made it back with plenty of time and water, but the sore muscles were done for the day.
A longer trip Sunday had similar results. We left well before high tide, enjoying the effect of the wind in larger waves, braving our way through the salt grass, and drifting wherever wind and water willed... arriving back tired. And I was exceptionally excited to sit still and let my stomach settle. But we were satisfied.
The tide, I must mention, has become a source of utter fascination. We wonder whether the docks are built accordingly, does rain affect the levels, what happens to the forts and fish... Our greatest excitement was, however, during high tide, our first day after lunch. We had the grand privilege of watching two dolphins swim right by the dock in the marsh - at no extra charge.

Jessica’s adventures pertained more to bicycles. We liked our bikes, baskets and no brakes, but sturdy. At least, after I pushed, pulled, and cajoled the chain back onto mine, they were sturdy. We cycled for fun to visit the Secessionville monument and dream of buying all the beautiful houses. And we cycled the three miles to Folly Beach. Down the busy highway with three bridges that we had to cross along with all the cars. Through the village sidewalks packed with college kids who’d come to party. And only sometimes at cross walks with symbols that actually changed. We had that arrival adventure twice, with a slightly calmer and downhill ride home again. Only twice did Jessica question my vast experience of two rides in Bogota and half a dozen in Albuquerque, asking “What are you doing now?”

We’d chosen Charleston at least partially because of the beach. Jessica, being a Texas girl, loves water in general and I love the ocean. It’s fascinating, the power of the waves, the vastness of water that never ends, the roar of the foam rolling over my feet, the smoothness of the sand as the gravel washes backward. 
On Saturday, we didn’t plan to get in the water. We knew there’d be a million people at the beach simply by the cars we watched lining up on the highway. There were, but we couldn’t resist “wading.” Sunday evening’s plans did involve swimming (for Jessica) and wave wading (for me) - until a thunderstorm rolled in, the lifeguards blew the whistles, and left the beach. I’d been in 5 minutes, but that was enough; even Jessica’s quick dip made me nervous. Riding bikes on the beach and watching the waves was even a little scary. Maybe Monday would dawn sunny...
It did. But. By Monday, two walking western girls weren’t in the mood for a bike ride in busy traffic. By Monday, two dryland girls were tired of being wet. By Monday, these two travelers decided maybe we’d just enjoy the ocean on our next trip.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

History That You Just Never Knew!
Secessionville is a village originally known as Riverside. They did NOT secede from the Union, other than as part of South Carolina. No, indeed. They seceded from their neighbors, the Johnsons, creating a distinct community of their own. As a side note, “the most important battle of the Civil War” (as was each and every battle for which a monument was erected) was fought here in 1862 and 500 Confederate soldiers defeated the attempt of 6,600 Union men to take Charleston.

 Charleston was one of only three walled cities in the New World (the others being Quebec and St. Augustine). The wall was 20 feet high, constructed of beams from palmetto trees so that cannon balls actually bounced off of it. In fact, during one battle, soldiers ran outside the wall to pick up cannon balls that did not explode.
Piracy in the Charleston was encouraged by the British crown because it aided in the defeat of the French and Spanish. The crown was not so thrilled when the pirates became so skilled that English ships came under attack. 
The open market in Charleston is an art market now, but once it was a food market, not a hygenic one. The trash and scraps from the market were thrown out into the street, until the city of Charleston changed a few laws. Meat sellers had to wear clean aprons. More importantly, buzzards were not to be shooed away. Turkey buzzards cleaned the streets, becoming known for their noteworthy services as the “Charleston Eagle.” With the same Charlestonian taste for “dressing things up” rats became known as “river dogs.”
Settlers in South Carolina began 30 miles inland; in light of enemy forces, it seemed safer. The enemy they forgot was the mosquitos. Not realizing this, they chose to battle the diseases by moving downstream toward the ocean, thus avoiding the “malarious breezes.” Said breezes did aid in aversion of the actual mosquito carriers.

Homes in Charleston have a door next to the house, opening onto the patio. Not a gate  in the yard fence, mind you, a “privacy door.” If open, feel free to visit a colonial family. If closed, they are probably cooling off in an “undressed state” on the patio. Undressed meaning the women had only three layers and the men had removed their jackets. 

Charleston is on the second most active fault line in the United States. It was the epicenter for the earthquake of 1886, when most of the structures were destroyed. Those left standing required repair, which was done by screwing giant bolts in all the way through the house. These bolts are still visible and are a sign of historic authenticity, since it is illegal to put any fake bolt like decorations on a downtown Charleston home. Unfortunately, many of the bolts were screwed so tightly that the homes have little give and would surely be destroyed in another earthquake.

Speaking of legality, it is also illegal for Charleston carriage companies to work a horse for more than 8 hours or more than 5 days a week. A horse (or mule) may be used only for one tour before having at least a 15 minute break. And, of course, the horses wear diapers to keep the streets clean.  Tour guides are also regulated; they have a 2 hour written test on Charleston history as well as a bus ride with random opportunities to display knowledge of said history in order to earn a tourist license. 
Homes in Charleston have romance; they are the settings of every good novel, history book, and historical movie. One young lady was given a wedding present of $75,000 by her father, to build her dream home; the groom’s family, not to be outdone, sent the couple on a two year honeymoon to Europe, where she bought furnishings for said home. The most valuable piece, however, was a gift from a friend who visited later - stained glass windows from Tiffany’s. Another home was built by another man for the love of his life; unfortunately, by the time he finished, she had married another. He died in the beautiful home, a bachelor. We passed Beauregard’s center of command, as well as the hotel from which Lee watched Charleston burn; supposedly, Lee saved the hotel by encouraging residents to wet their linens and hang them outdoors.
The park in Folly Beach commemorates the campsite of Union troops, the first black troop to serve in the Union army, consisting entirely of freed slaves. Other than this, every event in Folly Beach is classified as “pre” or “post” Hugo, including the erosion of the beach park.
The best item for a tableful of kids in Charleston is the “vegetarian sausage pasta.” At least according to Skirt magazine.
This will be posted will be posted on the blog with Jessica’s contribution of pictures, since she didn’t hear most of the information. :-)

Folly Beach. The name itself should’ve been a clue that our smooth sequence of events was about to end.
Now, one must remember that our mothers did endeavor to teach us courtesy. Both Jessica and I know, despite our backwoods redneck upbringing, which fork to use for salad if there are two options set and how to sit when wearing a skirt. These western girls, however, had never been helped with luggage at hotel and so we were bewildered: Should we tip?

We concluded that we should. Tip gratefully accepted, our luggage safe, we proceeded to the bus stop. Several glances at schedules on the internet, in brochures, and on the bus stop sign had led us to believe our bus for Folly Beach would leave at 1:15. We sat and waited. Supposing the bus was a few minutes late, I pulled out the brochure, only to have a “revelation.” 1:15 was... the ARRIVAL time for the 12:30 bus. Another bus would not depart until 2:15. An hour to spare, we seized the opportunity to enjoy water and air conditioning and wander the visitor’s center. Wandering was brief, so aside from a great many curious glances, the only benefit was the friendly greeter who asked why we were sitting with our luggage.
As we left the building, this same friendly greeter caught us. Didn’t we say we were going to Folly Beach? Yes? Well, we needed to wait on the other side! He led us right to the Folly Beach bus.... a full city block from our happy waiting bench. We thought we had it made at that point. The bus was fairly empty, the driver friendly, the passengers peaceful.

Until. Until. Until we stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a sweet old lady with a walker. We know she was sweet because her yellow crocs matched her yellow shirt. Fascinated, we watched the driver lower a lift, unfold a tailgate, and allow the lady to walk on. The tailgate went up. He pushed the button and -
Presto! Nothing happened. The lift was stuck and no amount of button-pressing, kicking, pushing, or human assistance was going to raise it. The lady backed up and sat on her walker. Two passengers left. The driver called another bus. I tried to go buy groceries at Wal-Mart, but in South Carolina, they still have the ones that are NOT super Wal-Marts. I guess I could’ve bought ketchup....
Anyway, about an hour and twenty minutes after we stopped, another bus arrived. We were all reloaded; best of all, the delay had given Jessica time to chat with a driver, who dropped us directly at our destination instead of at a designated bus stop.
Our vacation rental experience was not folly, for which we were thankful. Our hostess was gracious and helpful. The home overlooks the marsh and has a variety of outdoor locations for sitting enjoyment as well as a nice apartment indoors and kind owners downstairs. We found bikes for rent; the young man became our new best friend by offering to deliver them. We did a quick tour of Folly, an overview to help us plan our next three days. We visited (and were repeatedly informed that Folly was NOT an upscale beach), we grocery-shopped, we decided to ride our bikes... I mounted, pushed the pedals, and wondered if I were crazy. My bike was not moving. I soon realized I was not crazy, but the chain was off. Why hadn’t our new best friend noticed? The story does have a happy ending as, somehow, it accidentally slipped back on in the midst of our pushing and tugging to repair. After the ride, we decided sitting on the deck above the marsh to watch the tide come in while we ate was a grand idea.
It was a beautiful sunset and we marveled at said tide, basking in the breeze off of the nearby ocean. Then we finished the cheese and crackers, I sipped my tea - and the breeze blew the paper plate right down into the marsh.
“What are you going to do now?” Jessica asked.
“I don’t know.”
That mud was sticky, one could tell, and the plate was too far from the deck to be reached, even if we waited for the water to come up. But how could a good houseguest litter?
I came to a conclusion. I knew there was a reason I’d bought flip-flops for this trip at the dollar store! Surely I could spare $1 if the mud ruined them. Jessica decided to put on her trashy flip-flops as well, in case she had to pull me out of the mud. One hand gathering my skirt high above my knees, I was ready.
I took a step. Then another. Stepping on the bulrushes was OK. All of a sudden my shoe stayed in the mud while my foot moved forward. I concluded that that would be OK, since I could get it on the return journey. Just then, my other foot sunk, deeper, deeper, all the way to my knee in the mud. I continued with the the bare foot, sinking, again, to my knee, but I could JUST reach the plate. I grabbed it and stepped backward quickly with the bare foot. When I lifted the remaining foot, it came, but with no shoe.
“What are you gonna do now?”
I think that’s Jessica’s favorite question.
“I don’t know. But you’re going to grab this plate before I lose it again.”
She did, suggesting, “We can get you more shoes.... But then, what’s the difference in a shoe and a plate?”
Exactly. I pulled my foot loose and stuck it in the more shallow mud behind me, burying my arm into the hole to grab the shoe. It came loose, only one flip-flop strap still attached. I walked out, one hand still clean, holding up the skirt, the rest of me pretty much covered in mud. We found the garden hose.

 Good thing it’s not an upscale beach.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I read her sentence, "Can your dad run faster than my cat?"

What? Where did that come from?

OH. It was the spelling test sentence, "Can your dog run faster than my cat?"

That's funny, I thought. I pictured the child's dad out racing the cat. I pictured the child watching. Actually, yes, this child would ask her dad to something of that sort.

It's all about perspective. I wonder how often God says one thing, but we hear another?


Or there's the day they filled out a survey on their thoughts for the DWI prevention program. How old is an adult? 18? 21? 25?

He waited, looking up inquisitively. "How old are you, miss?"

When you're 7, all adults may be lumped together as one age. When you're a teen, the 20s are near and the 80s everlastingly far. Then comes adulthood. Pretty soon, eternity will come. No wonder God says one day is as a thousand years.


The book asked, “What are students?” They wrote, “Teacher’s kids.”

If adults shaped children, on that Friday I was sure mine were permanently scarred from their teacher’s temper. I was furious with myself. Granted, their behavior was far from exemplary, but when my coteacher and friend says, “I’ve never heard you that grouchy!” - well, something is wrong.

But what? What is wrong? 2nd graders are so forgiving. It only takes them about ten minutes to forget that you’ve scolded, and about one to decide they should somehow help you get over your foul mood. Rationally, I knew they wouldn’t be scarred for life from one bad day.

What’s wrong was my testimony. If I’m a picture of Jesus to the world around me... am I saying Jesus is unreasonable when stressed?

My students are a mirror of me. This has a bright and dark side. When I hear them use God’s name in vain, I state lightly, “God is good; don’t talk about Him unless you’re talking to Him.” Last week I heard, “Oh, God,” then another voice, the voice of an unruly boy, “God is good!” Or you might consider the fact that I’ve a room full of hypochondriacs. After every recess during the first semester, I suggested countless times, “How about putting a wet paper towel on your bruised knee/twisted foot/sprained finger/sunburned face?” I shouldn’t have been surprised by “I fell on my leg and now it hurts...Can I put a wet paper towel on it?”

The mirror scared me the day we were practicing for a presentation in which the girls sang, “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” We urged them to act out the words they lip-synced. “Yeah,” chimed in one small boy, “roll your eyes like Ms. Wells does.”

Ouch! Do I really roll my eyes?

He continued, “You know, when we all talk at once.”

I was relieved. I often do roll my eyes when they all talk at once because I have no idea what any one is saying. But how scary to think my every move is their model! What is my testimony? That which they will take away of Jesus.

Last Thursday was a day of stress. It actually started as a perfect morning - until a student threw up about 6 feet out, past another student and across the carpet. He seemed frozen and I tried to investigate whether he needed to throw up again. As I led him across the room, he did not answer - until he again threw up 6 feet out, covering the carpet on the other side of the room. The other 19 students were gagging, but he refused to move. Finally I grabbed a trashcan. Sending him to the nurse was not going to work, so I sent one student for the janitor, yelled across the hall for an EA, handed the flashcards to a student, and sent everybody to sit against the back wall. Then they called indoor recess. Needless to say, we had ours in the library.

Queasiness. Fear. Frustration. Any or all would have been understandable, but by His grace, Jesus was present that day. I just laughed and thanked Him for keeping the others from throwing up, too. I can claim the day of vomiting as a testimony to Who He is.

Not so the following Wednesday. I needed to pay in the office, forgot my purse in my car... The stress of the money transfer made the subsequent play practice far more tense than it needed to be. “One of those days?” my friend asked.

I stopped to think. No, it hadn’t been - until I’d made it so by my own disorganization. What sort of testimony was that? Jesus saw plenty of things going “wrong” around Him, but He didn’t change His reaction to unrelated events.

My resolve to improve my day was tested, by the way, when my lunch didn’t come. When a student knocked a bookcase holding toy money and computer attachments completely over and broke the corner off. When library was late and one student came back in trouble from all of his specials.

What, then, was my testimony? Did Jesus complain over His own lack? Does God stop everything due to our mistakes? Is He angry over accidents? Does He punish others for my sin? Then I could not either.

I won’t lie. I wasn’t smiling; however, I was able to be quiet, to be still and know that God is God, to thank Him for a friend who shared lunch and students who quietly picked up the mess of the bookshelf. My testimony wasn’t of perfection in own strength and patience, but maybe, just maybe it said -

It said what I said to another stressed out worrier the following day, “In a hundred years, it really won’t matter.”

In a hundred years, an unfinished phonics lesson won’t matter. In fact, an unfinished math book won’t matter. A broken bookcase will have disappeared, and a missed recess been completely forgotten. A rare late payment will have been passed on a hundred times, and the child disciplined have grown old and died.

In a hundred years, souls will matter. People’s reaction to a a just God who sent a Savior will matter. If people see me as moody, sensitive, reactive, or angry; if my students see authority as controlling, uncaring, or unfair; if my testimony is not of Jesus, someone may walk away from the true Jesus. I may miss the work of Spirit in drawing souls to Himself. In a hundred years, I’ll sit at His feet. What will be my testimony?

...that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. For the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men..." Titus 2:10-11

God Smiles

Today I read of a guy who was shot at the Kurdish school, the one I could never quite dismiss as a possibility even though it seemed a financial impossibility as a service opportunity for me. I looked at his facebook page to read the tributes and I thought, “ Did I miss it, Lord? Was I supposed to go? Imagine all that is happening right now..."

But today God smiled at me. Again. As I had finally immersed myself in my work enough that I wanted to check tasks off the list - said immersion was no easy feat, by the way. My friend voiced the paradox of singlehood as a homebody, “I really want to go home. But when I leave a pleasant crowd of happy people, or I know there is one somewhere, it’s hard to go to my house all alone.” And though I have a million things I want to do, tonight I wanted to go somewhere, be with someone so badly.

The wonderings came again. What is the point? What really matters of all that I do or wish to do? What will have a long term effect? Will anyone really care? My own siblings, in whom I invested more time and effort than any of the other children whom I contact, could care less. A relationship with me means nothing to them. What do I do that does matter?

That’s when God smiled. Now actually, He's done this a lot in the last few weeks but this time, the phone rang. It was a number in my contact list but for a few seconds I let it ring, not recognizing the name. It’d been so long I couldn’t pull the files of acquaintance, but as I answered, I was blessed.

“Rebecca. The card you sent, around Christmas, you don’t even know how much it blessed me. You don’t know what was going on. You don’t know how I needed those words.”

A card, Lord, a card. How do I judge what matters?

One day in seven

All week long, the Lord gives me people to love. My students. My Bible study group. My friend and her children. The community and coworkers. Not that I’m not blessed in return. I most certainly am! They thank me, help me, befriend me - but the fact is the week makes me tired. I am constantly thinking, on guard, aware, planning, plotting... regretting.

And on Sundays, lately, I feel selfish. On Sundays I’m just flat out loved. I talk to people about things that matter to me, just because I want to talk about them. I don’t guard my words or plan my deeds quite so carefully. I’m hugged, I eat, I laugh. A lot.

By the end of a weekday, and especially by the end of a week, all I want to do is sleep, zone out, veg out. If I had a TV, I would waste a lot of time at that point (hello, facebook).

On Sunday, I need sleep sometimes, but I’m wired. I’m excited. I want to be up. I want to go, want to do, want to visit. I cherish watching the sunrise with God while I drink coffee, and I await a nap in the sunshine, but I’m perfectly willing to modify my schedule if it means passing the day with friends.

I read once that the purpose of the Sabbath was to force us to let God take care of things, since we weren’t supposed to. It makes sense. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath - and oh, how blessed to rest, to know that I am not in control. That may be why Christian friends are such a blessing - they’re easier to trust because they trust Him. Hebrews is clear, though, that those who rest in the Lord rest not only on the sabbath, they rest all week, for - His yoke is easy. His burden is light.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lessons from 2012

A Gentile and a guillotine are NOT the same thing, no matter what the 11 year old says.

New doors keep the house sealed tight, so you don't waste so much energy. What are you letting in?

Elementary theory of relativity: Ms. Wells, you're huge! ... when standing next to someone who is 5 foot.

The amount of time and effort invested in someone is not directly correlated with the change in a life or the amount of gratitude evidenced. Relax - people are not my job.

One day, the sunset wasn't that pretty, but the world - the hills, the sky, the barn, the houses -was rose-colored - and the world was beautiful. Do we see the world through the light of Jesus, even when we can't see Him in all His glory?

One fussy child can spoil a whole class. Especially if the teacher gets fussy, too.

Your sin will find you out. "I'm not cheating! ....anymore."

"I have bad news... I'm going to live in a hotel," may mean a night in Albuquerque. This, too, shall pass...

Sleep changes one's entire outlook on the world. For this, Jesus says, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," just as He says we "enter into His rest."

2nd graders don't remember an offense an hour later. Love keeps no record of wrong.

Driving in too much mud throws the tires on your car off balance. Where do I travel?

Rules should be taken seriously. Are you violating copyright by using the word, "the?"

When planning to lock keys in car, one should leave the computer inside as well. Without a vision, the people perish.

7-12 year olds are better friends than adults. They are unashamed to proclaim their delight in your company regardless of the situation.

Life is not about me. I am waiting for an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled.