Sunday, December 1, 2013

Weeds in the harvest

I wrote this summer about the drought, about thirsty land and thirsty hearts, about animals sold and lifestyles nearly lost, and about the famine for hearing the Word of the Lord.

Finally, it rained. Oh, did it rain. It rained through the summer, revived the grass, the green appeared, we were thankful. Then it flooded. The rivers overflowed, roads were washed out, houses were damaged, yet we were thankful. Grass grew when we thought it was too cold to grow. It headed out and those dark brown heads above the green tint were a beautiful sight. A barren land returned to the land of the living. 

I knew I needed to write about this blessing, but how? How could I put into words the sheer joy we felt, or the mixed emotions when the roofs leaked and people were hit with the cost of repairs - yet we still clapped over lakes appearing in places they’d never been? 

Fall came. Finally it cooled off to the point that the summer weeds began to die, and I noticed something. Much of the green, the beauty, had not been grass. Yes, there are still gramma heads waving out in the pasture, but between the patches, the weeds have died and left patches of bare ground, where the drought affected the turf beyond what one growing season could repair. There’s no question that life has returned, but there’s no less a question that damage was done.
Sundays are exciting days in my life. My church is growing. Young families are attending and they want to be part of the life of people who serve Jesus. They want to know Jesus and we are glad. We eat with them, and I study the Bible with their children. Nothing brings more joy to my day than when a 5th grade girl looks at me at the end of the story, and says, “But don’t stop! I need to know what happens!” It’s like rain! Things are growing, the harvest is coming.

But Jesus said that the harvest would not be all wheat. He warned us that weeds were growing up with those tares (Matt. 13:24-30). And nearly every day when I leave work, or I leave church, or I leave a community event, I am struck by the thorns of those weeds. A young Christian couple, married less than 3 years and already on the brink of divorce. A woman fleeing an abusive husband, trying to find a job. A young lady with no purpose beyond her live-in boyfriend who is a world away from her. What kind of past has led to this pain?

Driving home one night, I stopped to visit friends and was struck by the contrast. I’d grieved all afternoon, over sin and over situations caused simply by sin in the world. That day, I’d been so struck that I was able only to say, “That’s odd,” when a woman shared that she was glad her brother was “only drinking a lot” in response to her grandmother’s death, and when I realized that a high school girl had given herself and lost to yet another boy. 

At my friends’ home the burden was lifted as I returned to the world in which I was raised, as I saw again faith in the God I knew: yes, situations of grief cross our paths, but hope is bigger and trust in a sovereign God who lovingly commands averts much of the pain. I said “That’s odd,” again that night, but it was only in response to one child mowing the lawn after dark in November while another taught the dog to jump from freezer to washer, much to their mom’s consternation. In the world with no hope, few have the time or peace of mind to actually sit and enjoy such moments.

And I am struck again tonight. I read of the grief of lost dreams and it resonates. My life is not what I dreamed. Then I think of other news.  The chains of drugs leaving lives more trashed than the room a family abandoned. A daughter attempting suicide. A baby lost at birth.  And those around struggling to trust in a God they cannnot see and may not know. Where will they draw the strength?  Other friends come and I rejoice in the miracle of their baby, a baby loved, a baby with a future. What of my selfishness? My problems are so minute, my pain so finite in comparison. Both death and life overshadow them, for I live in the grassy patch, where God has watered the soil for many years. 

It is the difference of the wheat and the tares, of the grass and the weeds. In the world God created, in His perfect world, in the world He recreates as He draws His people near, in the world that returns to life when the floods come, His Word guides a life that allows emotional health. Yet, sin has touched our world, the drought for the Word has taken its toll on lives, and though the rains come, the patches of weeds are still there. They will not be healed by one rain, nor by one season. It is the work of a lifetime of watering the seeds of the Word.

And so we continue to pray. May I never, never forget to pray for the barren land, watered, seeded. Lord, pull the weeds and bring the harvest.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I hate that word. I always think, “I don’t want to be a needy person.”

By that I mean that I don’t want to be begging people for more attention than they want to give. I don’t want anyone to spend time with me or do things for me because I demand it, but rather because they desire to do so. We all know many of the one I don't want to be  - the needy people who beg for approval, attention, and assistance and seem to know no boundaries in their cries.

It’s more forgivable in children, but still, one can only take so much.  As a teacher, a room of needy children can almost send me over the brink. The first thing I teach my students is to “Read the list on the board!” The second most-used statement? “Well, solve your problem!”  

On Tuesday, I had a room of needy children. One had been absent nearly a week and was lost in the piles of unfinished work. Another cannot read, so never works without assistance. Since the arrest of his dad, another has been unable to settle or focus. Someone else’s parents had been busy so, loving school, she had saved all her interactions up for the classroom And then there’s the one who, accustomed to his mom’s undivided attention, cannot understand why he cannot have mine. I had asked the class to begin their vocabulary assignments - for the first time without my assistance. And I’d asked them to read two sets of directions by themselves. And continue through the list while I did reading groups. And everyone NEEDED me. 

“Ms. Wells, like this?”

“Ms. Wells, is this math problem done now?”

“Ms. Wells, which part do I write?”

“Ms. Wells, I have fillings in my teeth.”

“Ms. Wells.” “Ms. Wells.” “Ms. Wells!”

It took every breath I could hold to maintain composure. But it was one of my precious girls who got to me. At first, I thought it was just the angle of her height (or lack thereof) to the pencil sharpener that was breaking the soft leads and requiring me to sharpen the pencils, but as the day wore on, I wondered why this new problem had surfaced, 8 weeks into the year. I suddenly realized that if she were not by my side, she was pretty much off-task and in trouble, but if she were near me, she functioned to her full high potential. Subconsciously, I think she knew this, too.

I thought about this smart, capable, lovable little girl. I wanted to snap her head off, but why? Because she needed me. I knew home was a little rough at times and every day I’d find sweet notes on my desk, left by a child, resilient yet - 

She needed me. Not because she was “needy,” but because she needed love and approval and boundaries. She didn’t need my help, really. She needed my presence.

Suddenly it hit me. 

My nature is NOT God’s nature. I don’t appreciate neediness, but He - He wants us to need Him. He wants us to desire His presence, to seek His approval in every move. He wants us to ask Him if we’re doing the right item on the list, if we’ve done it correctly. He gives us tasks that we’re not accustomed to, asks us to finish the assignment or read the directions, because He wants us to ask for help. God, unlike me, is omnipresent. He can handle every cry for help that is heard. There is enough of Him to meet the needs of every needy person.

God wants a Church full of needy children. Not needy toward one another, but needing Him. Needing His presence, His boundaries, His consistency, His guidance. God wants us to need HIM.

Even if it’s just to sharpen a pencil.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

WHY I love WHERE I live.

My friend from Albuquerque came to stay the night last week, due to the hail storm (discussed later). She said that she was surprised she liked my home. I’m not sure what she expected. She also said that waking up in my house felt a little like camping; I’m hoping that refers more to the birds outside the window than the quality of her bed. Housing aside, I thought it would be worthwhile to describe a few of the reasons I love the community in which I live.

* The last week of school, my students did plays. They were short plays; I think all three together took about 10 minutes, but the kids worked hard and did well. I allowed them to perform multiple times for other classes, and encouraged them to invite their families, expecting perhaps the few most faithful parents. I never expected that a total of 33 parents, grandparents, and siblings of my 18 students would come in at various times to watch and clap and smile.

* Santa Rosa is on I-40. Sadly enough, that means there are often wrecks and some of those are truck wrecks (as in 18 wheelers). Now, I am not saying I’m happy that there is a wreck. What does make me happy is that in a small town, it’s not just the local garbage service hauling the cargo to the dump. That may happen, but let me tell you - our clean up folks know how to recycle. Everybody in Santa Rosa ate strawberries ‘til we turned red and started dripping earlier this spring. This summer - well, we’re working on turning green and softening up from the avocados someone rescued!

I only took a few. There were these times a hundred.
* On the 3rd of July, we had hail. Oh, did we have hail, and I was stuck in town. I’m sure the radio station reported on the hail, although I wasn’t listening, but I couldn’t help but compare the “news” with the news of storms I’d experienced in Albuquerque. There was no immediate TV coverage, no traffic reports, and, since it’s summer, no phone chains for school - but there were neighbors running down the street. “Can you reach ----? Their carport fell over!” Or calling to one another, “You can’t cross the bridge! But I’ll help you push your car out of the drift” Texts flew from one end of town to the other, reporting damage and traffic conditions, what could and could not be moved or changed. No one really needed the media. We had one another.

* On the 4th of July, we celebrated. We drove by the 3 foot high hail drifts and set off fireworks on the wet, wet ground. I must interrupt to describe the absolute most “All-American” meal I’ve ever eaten all at once: hamburgers, watermelon, corn on the cob, salad, and homemade ice cream... Anyway, Santa Rosa’s firework show was set off at the lake and watched from the church. We arrived as a group of friends and departed with a group of townspeople who liked the parking lot view (and our ice cream). The fireworks were huge and a long display for a small town, with individual individuals adding their home shows on the sides.

* On the 5th of July we had a parade. It was a fast parade and those of us who were going to walk beside the float could not keep up. We ran as far as we could and dropped off. Two 8 year olds had more energy than the rest and stayed with the float all the way to the park. They had to drop off too, and at the end, no one could find them. Let me tell you about life in a small town. These two 8 year olds are probably related to half the town, and despite the worry during the search, I think we all knew they were not really lost - we had simply lost them. (They wisely and safely returned to where the parade began.) 
Rural communities are more about people than place. And God's gift of community thrives in places where people cannot avoid one another.
These are my dad's cows after it rained. I had to put the picture somewhere.


Cool things can happen when you vacation on your own schedule with good friends. Here are a few of my favorites from my WY trip.

* My family loves to eat at Costco. Most of my friends look at me strangely when I suggest that as an option for eating out. On this vacation, I traveled with various members of a family of friends. There is a reason we are friends. It was THEIR idea to eat pizza and ice cream at Costco on the way to WY and pizza and ice cream at Sam’s Club on the way home.

It's nice to be friends with the famous.
Jessica and I have been friends since we were 3, with only a few scattered incidences of enmity in the years that have passed. Jess is going to have a baby, increasing enjoyment of our favorite shared hobby: eating. But...she’s probably the only person I know who will straight out tell me, “You put way too much butter on your food.” (Butter is a food, so I don’t know what she’s talking about!)

* Jess is a public relations volunteer for Cheyenne Frontier Days. One day, we got to hear her on the radio; another day we saw her dress up to do a tour (hence the pictures)

* My dog lives at her house. Really. His name is Uno. He is a giant lab who doesn’t look like a lab and is perfectly content to stand beside you with his head in your lap while you pet and he drools. When he was a puppy, Jess tried to send him home with me, but knowing how lonely he’d be, I’ve left him with her for 5 years :-).

Dianne working the water drill (to pump water up)

* I’ve yet to experience Cheyenne Frontier Days, being somewhat scared of the crowd, but Frontier Park is worth a visit at any point in the year. The gardens are beautiful, the historical markers interesting, but the free kids’ area competes with the Santa Fe Children’s Museum! There’s an aquifer system, a self propelled bridge, a water drill, a puppet area and a half dozen other fascinating activities.

Round 3
* I also went to Rock Springs for a day of the National High School Rodeo Finals. Rock Springs was hot, and there were a lot of people there (1300 contestants from the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and all the folks that accompanied them). Camping amidst the crowd, I heard a Mississippi accent trying to imitate a Canadian accent - priceless! I learned a little geography, a little history.... and a lot about the rodeo. The events are held in two arenas, with two events going on simultaneously - great boredom prevention! And I watched my friend trap shoot. It’s not nearly as easy as it looks, just for your reference, but all of the NM team were in the top half of contestants.

Road building?
* Coming home, we stopped at my friends’ family cabin in the mountains of Colorado. That is the stuff paintings are made of, I must say. After one of the best nights of sleep I’d ever had, we went on a mini “jeeping” adventure, courtesy of Caleb, who decided that dragging a tree from the area he was clearing constituted the beginning of a tour. We stacked tin in the barn and visited the rhubarb patch. No one knew there was a road to the rhubarb patch. There is now.

* And... rhubarb. Everyone pitched in to pick, but we could only bring so much because... 3 people, 2 guns, 3 sleeping bags, etc., etc., etc. kind of filled up my car. We didn’t pick a lot, and as I decided to snap a shot of the momentous occasion, I unwittingly stepped into an ant den. And stood there a minute. As I stepped backward again, I wondered why I was suddenly being bit. Everywhere. Joel spotted them and Dianne slapped me down. I stomped and pinched and fluffed - and narrowly avoided a strip down, escaping with only a dozen or so bites.

* We made our way back up to the cabin to begin our descent to NM. From Winter Park to Pueblo, a drive of about 3 1/2 hours, I used 4 gallons of gas. Thank God for gravity! I am also, truly, thankful for cruise control. It is the only thing that prevented me having a speeding ticket on that drive home and what would I have told the cop, “I’m sorry, Officer. It’s just that we’re all homesick and if we don’t get to Santa Rosa soon, bad things might happen!”?

One view from the cabin

Home to find green grass, I can say I am thankful to the God of creation who blesses in every way, shape, and form all the way from WY to NM. And I can say I am blessed far beyond what I deserve - now I better go out ready to serve!


We don't have tornadoes in New Mexico. The wind blows them all away.

This is the top of the very nice barn by my house.

This is where the wind blew the tin.

And this is the view from the bottom.

(It is fixed now).


Let me introduce you to adventure. My story is told in present tense to assist your imagination. We begin as my brother drives a gooseneck trailer loaded with their family’s belongings, and me (not in the trailer) to my parents’ house from their home outside Horse Springs, NM. That’s near Datil, which is by the Arizona line if you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the metropolis. 

Anyway, the trailer has a flat. I’m glad I don’t have to change it, so I put the block where it belongs and he drives forward. The block moves forward, too. Tries 2 and 3 produce the same result. So do Tries 4-7 as he backs up onto gravel attempting to give the block traction. There’s no jack, but Try 8 is successful! Tire off... and we discover that for the first, only, and probably last time EVER Dad has the wrong size spare on his trailer. It had to be some subconscious knowledge of Colby’s eventual presence, because things like that only happen to my brother. Thankfully, there is another spare and onward we travel.

One week later and one day late, after Colby and family lived through a series of unfortunate events without my recording pen handy, they arrive at my house in Santa Rosa. I knew when they were close because my friend called from town to say she’d spotted them. Who else would haul a milk cow that looked confused through town? True enough, their rigs are remarkable enough to warrant photographs throughout the trip. A milk cow, 10 dogs, 3 horses, lots of furniture, and two bikes strapped on the outside. The following morning we set out from Santa Rosa toward Ada, Oklahoma, their home-to-be. My sister-in-law had been there once. Now, forgive any awkwardness in the tale that follows. It is true and important to understanding - the rest of the story!

Arriving in Ada a month before, Allison and her friend had to wait a few moments for the boss to arrive and tell them where to unload the flatbed trailer of outdoor and bulky items they’d brought ahead of time. They began to visit with the hired man who’d be moving out of the house they planned to move in. They asked him if he’d seen coons. He had, they’d dug under his house he said. But it was OK, he’d taken care of them and peed on all the holes so they wouldn’t return.

They changed the subject. Maybe they could talk about the garden he so loved. Yes, he described his garden in detail, but explained that he’d had problems with rodents in the garden as well. However, peeing the parameters had kept the rabbits from eating it out.  And the stories continued with the same theme, though I will spare you, my dear reader. Suffice it to say we were not eager to eat the lettuce from said garden and eyed just about every outdoor feature with a suspicious eye.

Now, returning to our saga of moving to Oklahoma, we are glad to meet my brother’s new boss on the road to their house. He warns us that he has just managed to move the former hired man’s belongings out of the house, but they are not packed yet. Rather hired man, his truck, and at least 3 pickup loads of “stuff” are on the lawn of their future home. My sister-in-law decides she can at least give me a tour inside...

“Look, how cool is this closet in the entryway!” She opens the door. 

I observe. “With stuff in it?”

“Oh.” We walk on to the bedrooms. “See how nice these closets are, they have a top shelf and - “
“Stuff in them.”

Allison is ever the optimist, so we continue to the kitchen. “Aren’t these two-way cabinets neat, with - “


We look at each other and cannot help but laugh. True enough, there is stuff in every crook and cranny of the house, owner apparently unknown. They decide a motel is in order for the night, but first Colby wants to back the trailer and arrange things a bit for the morning. 

He begins to back up... The hired man looks up anxiously and yells, “Now, Colby, be careful of my pansies. If you run over my pansies, that’ll be the end of this relationship.”

Moral: Relationships are fragile, like pansies.

Our motel stay was exciting in itself; the room for 3 adults and 2 children had 2 full-sized beds and a mattress in the window. How many of you have ever slept in your windowsill? ‘Cause I have!

The following morning we clean. I like to clean. This is good, because we do plenty. We learn that the bathtubs don’t drain well (that makes them almost impossible to clean, just so you know). We learn that the neighbors who love to visit are truly very helpful and the hour they spent explaining the steam cleaner will probably be worthwhile when you consider that we need it to remove the grime coating most areas near the kitchen. I also learn to not use oven cleaner without gloves. Your skin will begin to resemble a snake shed. Speaking of snake sheds, we learn that our favorite hired man collected snake skins and snake sheds and pinned them on the wall for our enjoyment. 

By evening, we... are hot, tired, and stressed. I thought a breather would be appropriate.... so I went south to Atoka to visit my friends: Brad, Brittney, and Becca Dubach all worked with me at Eagles’ Wings for several years, and Brad’s sweet family was willing to host us all AND let me enjoy their very-much-working air conditioner and shower. I arrived just as the rain was letting up and everyone had gone to the backyard. Brad’s two year-old twins were promptly confused.

“Whaz your name? Whaz her name? Your name?”


“Rebecca?” The dark haired twin turns. “Rebecca and Rebecca?” She turns again, and asks again. Her mom confirms,  “Yes, she is Rebecca and she is Rebecca.”

The small child looks suspiciously at Brittney, wondering if the strange name of these strange people applies here as well, but her attention is quickly drawn by a stray dog in the yard. Her twin promptly cries to be picked up, but Sara is curious.

“Whaz at dog? Whaz doggie?” I am pulled to go and follow the dog and attempt to answer the endless string of questions. As the dog goes back to the front of the house, we follow. This tiny stray “kick-me-dog” is soaked and ugly and promptly runs underneath my brother’s big Dodge pickup, which I’ve driven down for my visit. Sara continues her inquiries, “Tha doggy is with tha truck. Tha truck is tha doggy’s? The doggy is a truck’s?” 

“I don’t think so. I think the doggie just wants to be under the truck.”

“No, da truck is a doggie’s. Whereza man?”

“The man?”

“Yeah, whereza man? Da man wit the truck?”

Oh! I decide to not even try explaining that I drove the truck, and the questions recur throughout the weekend. The mysterious dog must be with the truck and somewhere, that truck has a man to drive it!

Interjection: The only other observation of my lovely visit with lovely friends is that Oklahoma rains release something into the air to which I am allergic, so I went to bed and woke up crying. Or maybe seeing friends is just an emotional experience. Either way, I took a Benadryl for the first time in my life on Sunday morning and fell asleep three times in church, despite hearing that the Bible is as necessary to a Christian as drugs are to a dealer.

Returning to our adventures with my brother’s family, I arrive Sunday night to find them in almost the same state I’d left them: tired, hot, and cleaning hard. By Monday afternoon, we are seeing progress. We’ve almost removed the layer of grease. To be fair, it had protected the cabinets from decaying, since nothing could penetrate! They leave to run errands. I stay... apparently to use the remainder of the water. By the time they return that evening, it is clear that the well has stopped.

I am so thankful to say that the house was pretty much cleaned, supper cooked, and no one’s sanity lost before the well stopped. The break in water changes our plans: my sister-in-law and I leave for NM Tuesday morning. While not quite as exciting, the trip home had its moments. The first was in Tupalo,, um, community nearest their house where we stopped for diesel. Apparently these two white NM chics aren’t redneck enough ‘cause we sure get a lot of “you look like a redneck” glances from the resident rednecks of Tupalo.

The better moment was in Groom, TX. Again, a diesel stop triggers the incident. Allison fills both trucks while I run across the street to the grocery store for water and munchies. The cashier starts a conversation. “You just passing through?”

“Yes, we had to stop for diesel. I guess y’all don’t get a lot of freeway traffic.”

“Nope, they usually look at the cross at the other end of town and just keep on driving.”

“Well, you have some nice little businesses.”

“They’re all listed on that sign at the end of the street.”

“Oh... cool. Do the locals keep you pretty busy?”

“Yeah, especially on Thursdays. ‘Cuz my boss cooks chicken on Thursdays back in the back. Folks can come in and get it. You know, kind of like a way for them to eat out.”

And the conversation proceeds as I learns all the local niceties (and they do sound nice!) of Groom, TX.

Long story short and most interesting parts related, I am happy to arrive Tuesday night. My brother’s horses finally learn that the grass is edible (the filly had been scared to jump out of the trailer into it) and his family is all happily settled. And I AM ASSURED that the best route to adventure - is the route to Colby’s house. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Someday I’m gonna be famous/ 
Do I have talent?
Well, no.
These days you don’t really need it/
Thanks to reality shows....
(from "Celebrity")

I think they’re going to make one here pretty soon. Really. I mean, surely, after the photographs in the Guadalupe County Communicator or from the random guy who stopped to watch branding, they’re going to want....

OH! I need to tell you that story. Indeed. A good part of my summer break has been spent working cows, or, as my Dad and I like to call it, playing cows. Dad branded two days, my landlords shipped, their friends branded, my dad shipped.  From these days, I could tell a million stories which would either bore or confuse most of you: how my rope got under my horse’s tail and he bucked and I was scared of running over our 3 over-75-year old-assistants, how hard it is to NOT get sleepy and inattentive when sorting pairs (that means choosing certain cows and their own calves to put through the gate) at noon on a hot June day, or how underfed cows have no energy to run away - they just kick a little more often with a little less spunk.

But I won’t. I will tell you that the first day of Dad’s brandings, our corrals were right by the highway. We were working hard when an SUV drove by, turned around, drove by, turned again and pulled up by the fence. A man proceeded to take pictures, from his car, from out of his car, by the fence, on top of his car. Hmmm... an interested tourist? An old wanna be? Or a PETA rep out to smear us? Finally we sent the little ones to invite him to the action. He came, he watched, he asked lots of questions (I don’t think he was from PETA).

“Are these ALL ranch hands?” referring to the crowd of 12 or so - men and women from age 5 up to age 82.
He’s from California. There’re no stereotypes there, I guess, but I still explained that we weren’t exactly “ranch hands.”

Then he wondered about the cows’ diet. I said, “Well... you’d be surprised. They can eat a lot of that,” pointing toward the gray grass, the cholla, and the scattered weeds. “Except - there’s not a lot of that right now. We’re in a drought.”
“What do you do if they run out?”
“Well, we feed them cubes and hay. We’re feeding a lot of hay right now.”
“That must be expensive. “

I think I missed my chance to let a rich donor contribute to the preservation of America’s family agriculture.

That wasn’t the end of our claims to fame. The following day a photographer from the Santa Rosa paper who was working on an article about drought came along to get some exciting pictures. She got excitement all right. Besides our normal impressive crew (Grandpa believes that branding is a good substitute for stroke therapy on his right hand) plus a few almost upside down brands and eartags, we had some tense moments when freshly castrated calves had a membrane break and the guts begin to fall out. 

The calves were duly flanked (that means someone picked them up and put them on the ground sidewise, while someone else grabbed the back legs and held them), the vet kit dug out, the guts gently massaged back in, and the membrane gathered and resewn. It was a sight most of us had never seen and would prefer to never see again, and a cause for much speculation as to why or how it happened.

 A picture of 5-year-old Ryan’s intense observation of Pops’ sewing made it into the paper. The drought is taking its toll on the whole community, so the actual article on the paper focused on that, and on the shipment of cattle away from another ranch. It’s dry, my friends. Dad is shipping some of his cattle to a feedlot. We hope it’s a vacation for them, a cruise where they can eat well, while we stay home and wait for rain. Somehow that part isn’t too glamourous. Nobody really likes to watch gloomy ranchers staring at dust devils that look like pictures from the 30s.

Who knows? Maybe someday we will be famous.

Quotable Quotes that Deserve to be Shared

Actually, most of these are a follow on to the fabulous compliments section....

J was told to write about the most memorable part of his school year:
A memory of mine is when my class and another class and I went to Sun and Sand...then when I go into the bathroom there's a picture of elvis and when I walk by it it and it looks like his eyes are following you.
Teacher: Look D----, a square and a rectangle are like you and your dad. Like you and your dad are both from the "Jones" family. So (while drawing a square) here's your dad, E. Jones and here's you (drawing a rectangle). I can call either of you Mr. Jones, but I can't call you E, only your dad.

Student D----: Are you saying my dad is a square?
M asks, "Is Rebecca really 108?" and hears, "No, she's 51."
He responds, "Oh! That makes more sense."
From a parent, as I tried to explain a note I'd sent home that day and apologized that she considered the writing on the note sloppy,
"Well, see there - you're certainly not perfect!"
From another parent, after he'd called in the evening and spent almost 45 minutes telling me how terrible a teacher I was for his child, "I hope there's no hard feelings or anything. I don't want you to be upset."
And in my summer pursuits, J tries to comfort me concerning some of my lacking skills in the cowboy world. "You're not that bad at heading. You just can't catch and you don't know how to handle. That's all heading is, catches and handles."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fabulous compliments (or - why you don't depend on people for your self-worth)

They'd argued all day. I was tired of settling it, and was the motor mouth really complaining about the noisemaker; neither was sitting where they belonged. "I don't know what to do with you two, " I snapped. "I think I'll just tie you together!"

A---- looked up. "Miss Wells, you sound just like a therapist."

E---, now in 4th grade, walked up to me at a baseball game. "Hi, Miss Wells!" We chat. She says, "I still remember when you were my teacher in 2nd grade."

(Awwww.... how sweet! I made an impact on her life.)

"Yeah, I remember when you got all excited and you wrote on the white board with a permanent marker."

"Miss Wells! M---- told the sub you were fatter than she was."

(I think that's better than telling the sub she's fatter than I.)

I'd just fixed green chile enchiladas and the sauce was perfect. There wasn't quite enough of it to make the tortillas and meat juicy, but the sauce was perfect. I set it on the table. T--- made a face. "Rebecca, I think you've done better than that."

Written in March... Still called true.

Today was the day of a happy heart. Wisps of hair brushed against my slightly sun-flushed face as I quickly walked into my house and realized that I was quite energetic enough to face grading papers, though I’d have rathered stay outside and water the tiny wisps of green and bloom peeking through the dry landscape.

My friend says that taking naps is the sign of a peaceful heart. She might be right. Another acquaintance mentioned her love of naps and as she and I chatted, I realized we were, in the words of Anne of Green Gables, "kindred spirits" of peaceful hearts.

I think the peaceful heart can be attributed to the joy of Jesus. Stress is a lot lower when one can let go and let God. And He gives His beloved sleep. I do realize, though, how blessed I am and I was surprised to realize that this day of a happy heart might be a rare moment.

I’m usually a pretty happy person, I think. I laugh with my students a lot. I love to visit with people I encounter along the way, I like my drive home most evenings, I smile at the smell of coffee, and I can’t imagine more fun than riding a horse and looking for cows. All of which events have happened in the week past.

But these completely happy heart moments? They surprise me. One came last week, when I curled up in my living room with my Bible. It was about 7:30 in the morning, the sun was streaming through the front door, glinting off the polished wood floor, the washing machine was running in the kitchen. I thought of my grandma, my beloved Grandma Wells. The moment reminded me of her and in my head, I think I felt I was like her for a moment. My house was in order.

Today the causes were harder to trace. It’s not like I don’t have plenty to do this weekend, and usually my heart faints at the thought of grading spelling stories (who assigned those, anyway?!). Still, I rested well last night, awakening to the sun rather than an alarm clock. I spent most of my day outdoors, in overcast, slightly breezy weather. I didn’t really work - I admit it - so I wasn’t tired. I visited with friends, but they are almost family, so I didn’t have to guard my every word, weigh the effects of every action, as I do most every other day. 

Maybe my happy heart today really is rooted just as the happy heart of last week. Today, all was right in my world. Today, I didn’t have to suffer the effects of sin on my world and my soul. Today, I could appreciate God’s creation. Today, my “house” was in order, but it was not my house. It was my world.

You see, we live in a broken world. Relationship with God is broken, relationships with others are broken, relationships with His creation are broken. Jesus is healing my broken heart, but sometimes my concern for people or my self-inflicted stress interferes with His grace. My job is to love my students, broken children, and my calling from the Lord is to love His people and people He is drawing - and these people are broken. We’ve broken relationship with God’s creation in our humanness and sometimes I live so far from it, I feel I’m completely removed. Today, I was in close contact with that creation. Today, by His grace, I lived in the fact that it is not my job to heal the broken. Today, I could revel in the blessings He’s given. Today, perhaps, I had a taste of the restored world, of a heaven full of His presence.

And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow, I might return to a more vivid view of brokenness, but perhaps my happy heart will instill in me just a bit more of a hope of heaven.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On happiness, holiness, and dreams that don't come true.

One friend said, “I don’t think I could take it if I lost my son.” Another, “I haven’t talked to God about my wedding because I’m so afraid He’ll jerk it away from me.”

Could I? It’s a question I ask myself. Would I be willing to trust God if He granted me a dream, then took it? Or can I trust God now? I’ve thought about it. What if He took my parents, that piece of solid rock that never changes for this girl who hates change? Or what if my dearest of dear friends turned on me? What if? 

Or what of now? I found a root of bitterness in my heart when I commented, “Well, no one wants to hear my testimony about trusting God with your love life ‘cause no one wants to wind up like me!” and that made me think...

Do we still love God when our dreams don’t come true?

His goal is not our happiness, it’s our holiness.

I heard the phrase somewhere and wondered if it held true to the Scriptures. Alert as I read, I realized...

He works all thing together for the good of those CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE. Did you get that? According to His purpose. Not our pleasure. And He grants the desires of our heart when... when our delight is in HIM. His Person. His Presence.  And He is holy.

And then I read Ezekiel. Chapter 24, verses 16-18. God told Ezekiel he would take “desire of his eyes.” His wife was not a burden, nor a negotiable. She was his dream. He was not to mourn but rather - to go forward.

What? How? We are not told, only that
[he] did in the morning as [he] was commanded.

Ezekiel trusted God when his dreams didn’t come true.

Scripture doesn’t say God explained to Ezekiel all of His plan before implementing it. It’s pretty clear that Ezekiel walked by faith, not by sight. He loved God not for his own happiness but for God’s HOLINESS. Holy. Set apart. Different. Outside humanness.
God did reveal His purpose. He was teaching the people not to mourn for their possessions or their families, “earthly treasure” if you will, but to
“pine away for your iniquities and mourn toward another..."  In that day Ezekiel would be a sign to them and they would know that He was the Lord. (v. 23, 27).

Ezekiel was laying up treasure in heaven. He delighted in the Lord, not in the desires held or granted. And God worked - all things together for good according to HIS purpose. 

We don’t know what Ezekiel got out of it, but we know the rebellious received the kingdom benefit. And we know that God does not forget a labor of love.

All things for good, for those who are called according to His purpose... to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29), to fill up the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). To be like Jesus. And in Jesus is joy. Joy bigger, joy deeper, joy greater than happiness - in Jesus. And Jesus is - holy.

Do I trust God when my dreams don’t come true?

He is making me. Not happy. Holy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

He came to set the captives free

She came to me in January, quietly, slipping in unannounced except for a word from the secretary. She reacted to the kids, the kids to her, as if she'd always been with us. She turned in her work without asking for help and when I asked her questions she gave me a nod and a little half smile.

And looked at me with those haunted eyes.

I soon realized that the work was done without help because this was her way. It was not that she knew, or that it was easy. It was that she could not get hung up, she would not stop her life over something she did not understand. She was not careless, nor lazy. But she moved on. I think it was the way of her life to move on.

It showed in those haunted eyes.

She seemed to be happy. The girls played with her. No one complained about her. Who could? She was so quiet and never fussed, nor fell behind. A mom of her friend told me, though. Told me that some girls wanted to leave her out. Why hadn't I heard? It wasn't her way to complain. She just buried it all and faced the world.

Faced the world with those haunted eyes.

And sometimes she told me about home. -- Did you have a good weekend? No. --- Why's that? My mom is in the hospital again. She had seizures. ---Did you get your agenda signed? No. My auntie wouldn't sign it and my mom can't come home. She won't eat if she leaves the hospital and she will die. ---Oh, who's picking you up? My stepdad's mom. She will take us today and I'll go somewhere else tomorrow. But she never cried. She never even allowed a sad expression to cross.

Oh, what haunts those eyes!

There came the day I cried, I called out to the Lord in repentance for missing my opportunity to show compassion. I'd been lamenting class percentages and performance and perhaps begrudging that there was no way this little one would meet the standard within the time I had her. I ran the classroom as an assembly line that day, everyone in his place, every task done on time. They came over the intercom to tell her to ride the bus home. She turned to me, out of order, off her task, out of turn, and said, "Does that mean I have no tutoring?" Slightly irritated, I responded, "I guess not, since they called you." She turned back quietly and one of the boys asked, "What's wrong with her?"

I called her name. She turned again.

There were tears. Tears in those never-complaining, never-flinching, emotionless eyes. 
And the haunts overwhelmed.

I let her call that day, they rearranged, she stayed. The eyes dried, the half-smile and quiet manner returned. And so easy it was to lose her again in the hustle and bustle of each day.

Today she was gone. They called. She'd changed schools again.

She's gone. I've lost her, lost my chance to love her, to find her, to look behind the eyes.

Oh, Jesus, I pray for this child. This child that only You can save. This child that only You can fill. Break her free from the haunts in her soul.

Oh Jesus, clear those haunted eyes.

Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land....

Friday, February 15, 2013

Once in a while, I have to post about a teacher moment

I wonder if anyone else would’ve found it ironic. Really, for the email to come, that week, that day, with that title... “Become a Model Educator This Year.” 

Of course, the human heart always dreams of being the best. I CAN educate all of my students to the level of proficiency required by the state - in my dreams. I CAN finish the paperwork to become a lead teacher or get a master’s - in the visions in my head. I CAN make a difference - so I believed.

And then there’s reality. .. There’s the week of testing, when only 45% of the kids rise to the bar and the others: two skip the last third of the test, one nearly passes out, and three just don’t perform. They’re the ones who are SUPPOSED to perform, though. This is messing up my dreams.

Everyone is tired. My patience is low (which means my tolerance rises because I can’t draw rational lines). The kids’ levels of self-control are low. We’re all sleepy and we combat it with activity and attitude. The volume in the room rises.

I decide we all need a break and we head outside. Walking down the hall I encounter the librarian and the school’s tech assistant. I greet them, “Long time, no see.” (I’ve been fixing my own tech problems.) One laughs and responds, “Do you know I can hear you every day, all the way at the end of the hall?”

I am sure I nearly cry. Any other day it might be a joke, as it was intended. Today, this day, it is beyond what I can handle. Here, too, the dreams of a quiet, orderly class are crushed. There’ll be no model class for this teacher.

And so I come home. I check my email. Become a model educator. Not today. Not this week. Not this year.

I read somewhere that Jesus, my Jesus, came to bind up the broken-hearted (well, I read that part in the Bible), and my brokenness might not be the popular sort. My brokenness, then, is this: my imperfections, my failed ambitions, my unrealistic dreams.

I’m glad Jesus loves me anyway. Even if I’m not a model educator. This year or any year.