Victory over Death!

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One year ago, the Lybrook community was devastated by the tragedy of multiple deaths in two horrific accidents. Through family lines and marriages, these deaths directly affected most families in the area. (If you weren’t reading this blog back then, you can find the story HERE.)

It seems to be part of being human to wonder where God was when someone we love dies. Death often feels so wrong, such a horrible shortening of what “should” be a long life. Questions come flooding in, and it can be hard to walk in faith during such times.

Today, at the start of a new year, I want to share a different story of death with you. A story that still leaves questions, but one that unfolded with clear signs of God’s victory.rainbow photo from microsoft

A few months ago, one of our friends died of cancer. Rosie had been fighting this cancer since before we met her 2 ½ years ago. She was a loving, generous woman who was full of life and laughter. She was passionate about God and longed for others to have that same kind of relationship with God, rather than just following lifeless rules or religion.

Rosie doted on her family. Along with God, her family was the center of her world, something that came through in every conversation. And with her husband, children and grandchildren at the center of her heart, she was the one who held her family together through whatever storms they faced in life.

Then, she died.

As her husband Eddie told Randy a few weeks ago, God walked with the family through this dark time. They chose to work together in their grief and paint the casket. One side was given a rainbow. One side was filled with roses. Eddie was surprised when their artistic daughter chose to paint the top of the casket black with a simple white cross rather than painting some glorious scene or a more specific painting of her mother. roses by Microsoft

It rained the morning of the funeral, mirroring the grief of so many who loved Rosie. When they reached the cemetery, the rain stopped and a rainbow filled the sky. The casket was lowered into the ground, covered with roses, reminding everyone that Rosie herself was being buried. And then, as family and friends threw handfuls of dirt into the grave, a white cross appeared to glow in contrast to the darkness that was surrounding it. That simple painting by the artistic daughter was visible for a long time as more and more dirt covered the casket.

In looking back, Eddie realized that each painted side of the casket had been fulfilled that morning. Over the next few weeks, Eddie had encouraging dreams of Rosie. God was present that funeral day, and continues to bring comfort to the family.christian cross 1 by Microsoft

What a different story than the one from last year! Yes, Eddie and those who love Rosie miss her. Yes, they question why God took her home so soon. But there is a sense of celebration, even in the grief. Rosie’s love for others and her passion for God continue to challenge and encourage those who knew her.

Through Jesus, there truly is Victory Over Death!

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a little of this…a little of that…

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Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of small things that have “jumped out at me.” Unfortunately, most of them are too small and insignificant to write an entire blog post about. I have tried to put them out of mind…but they are persistent memories.

Then I realized I could bring them all together in one place…and, voila!, a full blog post:

I was chatting with a few of my tutoring students at the end of the school day and joked that the following week I was going to “turn into Mr. C.” I was referring to being a substitute teacher for the 1st grade class. But one student gasped and asked if I was going to do witchcraft. I’m still not sure if he was joking back…or if he is one of the many, many Navajo who believe in human shape-changers called skin-walkers.

Most of you don’t get updates from my art blog. Go check out a post HERE from a few weeks ago — with photos and explanations of the Van Gogh art project I did with the 1st graders while I was subbing in the class.

our lovely swirly mural a la Van Gogh

One morning I was running late and hadn’t finished up my cup of coffee, so I brought it to tutoring with me. Anthony* asked what it was, then asked if he could have a sip. (No, obviously not…) Katie* immediately asked him, “Do you want your hair to turn WHITE?!” As I asked her about that comment, she explained that is what her grandpa says every time she wants to taste his coffee, as he points to his own white hair.

With the Twilight series of movies and books still quite popular among the students, there were a bunch of vampires and werewolves for Halloween. Somehow, I have still managed to avoid this series, although I’m glad it keeps some of these students reading. When she is stressed or anxious, our daughter Anna has a pattern of chewing around her lips until the skin is raw and bleeding. Her mouth was quite a mess before we left for Ohio, but she wanted to go to school as usual on the Tuesday before we left so she could say goodbye to friends and teachers. I was quite uncertain how the students would react to her injuries, knowing how vicious teasing can sometimes be. I was baffled, but quite pleased, when most of the students thought it was really COOL. They wanted to know how Anna managed to make herself look so much like a vampire!

For my tutoring groups, I bought a pack of bright colored ink pens. Somehow it feels less like WORK when we are writing or doing exercises if we can write in hot pink, or purple, or neon green. I continue to stress that the students must follow their teacher’s rules about what to write with in the classroom. To me these pens are just a bit of colorful fun. To the students, however, the pens have become something to look forward to. When I said my goodbyes before Thanksgiving, I gave each reading student a pack of colored pens as a little going-away gift. By their reactions, you might have thought that I had given them GOLD!

Well, enough random tidbits for this week. I’ll try to add some photos and another more in-depth post for next Friday.

 

 

Anna’s Crying (Guest Post #5)

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This is the fifth in a series of Guest Posts shared by Jianping (Corey) Yang. You can read the introduction to these posts HERE.

I always wonder how life in rural New Mexico affects the growth of Anna, this ten-year-old girl. To me, at her age, life should be all about being carefree and joyful. From an adult’s angle, I think Anna is as innocent and happy as other ten-year-olds. However, I noticed her cries occasionally.

(Anna crying when she can’t keep a stray puppy…)

Kids may not always be as self-disciplined as much as parents expect, and Anna is no exception. Sometimes when Jill scolded her for not following her schedule or fulfilling her duty, I could hear Anna weeping. Her weeping came and went quickly. At her age, crying might be the only way for self-protection. It might also be a means for negotiating with her parents.

One time, I heard someone knocking my door. It was Anna. She wanted me to go with her – cycling, exploring, or things like that. I said I was busy with something, and I could be free in half an hour. I returned to my laptop, almost forgetting my ‘promise’. About half an hour later, my door was knocked hard again. Anna said in a semi-trembling voice that it had already been half an hour. I told her that I hadn’t completed my task and so couldn’t join her, so maybe next time. A little later, when I had resumed what was left over, I heard that Anna cried very loud at a distance. But she probably would not know that I heard about that. I felt somewhat guilty for not keeping my promise and I didn’t remember children tend to take things seriously. She needed someone to communicate with in this rural area where it is not very often to see people around. I let her down.

Once there was a fair in a nearby town, which was supposed to be fun for kids. When we arrived there, only empty booths and a few people were seen. We had no choice but to go back. I knew Anna had looked forward to it since she looked so excited before going. When Randy explained on the way back that we could do nothing, Anna burst into tears and said, “I was just wanting to see…” I know in this rural area, there are not many amenities and events that people can enjoy conveniently. I could tell that it was indeed disappointing.

I like Anna’s straightforward way of emotional expression. Her cries remind me that childhood is innocent but can be lonely. I keep asking this question for myself, “what are the gains and losses of growing up?” Tonight, I will make a cup of coffee for myself and contemplate this question.

Pinon Season

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It is pinon season here at Lybrook. We have a handful of these gnarled, scraggly trees on the property. Most years these trees are just like any other tree in the pine family—dropping occasional needles and growing a few small cones here or there. Every 3-7 years, however, these trees drop GOLD!

A steady stream of gold-miners (aka pinon-nut-gatherers) have visited our property in the past few weeks. The honorable ones knock on the door and ask if they can harvest nuts from the ground in front of our house. Others act more like commandos—everyone young and old piling out of a beat-up car, started to pick up nuts as fast as they can! We send most of these treasure-hunters on their way, saving the bounty for some of the local Navajo with whom we have on-going relationships.

We enjoy the rich taste of these nuts but have decided that we are entirely too lazy to bother harvesting this “gold.” The nuts are tiny, and are too easily camouflaged by the dirt and pebbles on the ground under the trees. To pick them up either puts a crick in one’s back or requires sprawling on the ground. And the sap, oh the sap…we have never experienced such drippy, sticky sap! I admit it smells wonderfully “pine-y” but it is next to impossible to remove from skin, clothing or hair.

oh the SAP…nasty sticky sap…

pinon nut camoflage

Some historians claim that pinon nut harvesting is what allowed native tribes to survive long, cold winters. The nuts are an almost perfect food for active hunters & gatherers with 13% protein, 60% fat, 20% carbohydrates. Today these tasty bits of richness are more often used as a snack.

Because pinon trees can’t really be farmed, and because the tiny nuts must be harvested by hand, the price is high for any nuts that are gathered. In this area of New Mexico, small bags can be found for sale each fall. They are sold at the local mercantile, in health-food stores in town, and from the back of pick-up trucks. Usually the nuts have already been roasted and salted, although they are rarely shelled. The price per bag is clearly listed; the price per pound is usually absent. Paying $5-10 for a bag of nuts feels reasonable; figuring out that those bags cost $15-40 per pound is a painful realization!

It’s pinon season at Lybrook. There’s GOLD in them thar woods…for someone ELSE to find!

Links for more information:

Prices HERE

Tree Facts HERE

Stories HERE

Another blog entry about gathering pinon nuts HERE

Congratulations, Graduate!

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I’ve mentioned Coby Salazar on this blog before. He is a self-taught musician who leads worship in English at the Navajo-led church we attend. He has a heart for God and a talent for music.

koby senior pic

In a world where high school graduation is the exception rather than the norm, we are quite proud of Coby for persevering and getting his high school diploma.

koby grad

For the summer, Coby has moved to Albuquerque and is living with his grandma and his auntie. He is currently looking for a job so he can save money for when he attends community college in the fall. His goal is to finish two years at that school with solid grades. Then he hopes to transfer to a bible college in Colorado to finish a bachelors degree in leading worship music.

Please keep this young man in your prayers as he walks toward the plans God has for him.

 

 

“Blended Zine”

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This past winter both Peter and Cherisse wrote amazing poems. I helped them submit the poems to “Blended Zine,” a magazine “for teens by teens,” published by Farmington Public Library. Out of over 200 submissions of poetry, photographs, and art work, both of them had their poems accepted for publication in the latest issue of the magazine.

published poets

Proud Published Poets from Lybrook School

The library hosted a Release Party at the beginning of May, to celebrate the achievement of all of the students whose work was included in the magazine. Food was catered for the occasion. During the program, each student’s work was shown on the big screen as they were called forward and presented with a hot-off-the-presses copy of the magazine.

peter

Recognizing Peter

Peter couldn’t attend the celebration, but he and his poem were recognized during the program. A copy of his poem is at the end of this post.

cherisse

Cherisse’s Proud Family attended the release party

It was stressful for Cherisse’s family to attend an unfamiliar event in an unfamiliar setting, but how could they not celebrate her success with her? Here she is with (left to right) Audrey (cousin), Dorisha (big sister), Cherisse, Doris (mother), Dorothy (grandmother), Tom (grandfather), and Chester (father). A copy of Cherisse’s poem, celebrating her family roots, can be read is this earlier BLOG POST.

group

Group Photo of published writers and artists

Congratulations to all of the teens who were included in the latest issue of Blended Zine!

We are especially proud of “our” two students. Good work Cherisse and Peter! We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

Peter’s poem is as follows:

let it all go forever

by Peter Brown

I will never find

all I left behind

the lost memory of my past

that faded away so fast

The time I was gone

was a little too long

It made me forget

It made me regret

the time I messed up

ran out of luck

and took off in the rain

left you alone in the rain

you handled all the agony

dealt with the misery

put your life back together

let it all go forever

8th Grade Graduates from Lybrook School

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Last Friday was the Promotion Ceremony for the 8th Grade students at Lybrook School. It was a bittersweet day for us—excited for the students who worked hard to reach this milestone at the same time as feeling sad to realize only 1-2 of these students will finish high school if they follow the typical pattern of students from this area.

graduation group

8th Grade Graduation for Lybrook Public School

Wesley Castillo, the pastor of the church we attend (Pine Hill Church) was the graduation speaker. Without knowing the focus of the Transition Retreat that the students attended a few weeks ago, he repeated some of the main points: Success is up to YOU, and the choices you make now will greatly affect what your life is like when you reach adulthood.

pastor wesley

Graduation Speaker — Wesley Castillo

The 8th Grade Teacher made special decorations in her room and ordered a fantastic cake for a reception for families after the Promotion Ceremonies.

decorations

Congratulations 8th Grade Class of 2012!

As they come to mind, please keep these students in your thoughts and prayers through the summer and into the fall as they transition to high school away from this community. We hope to keep regular contact with many of them; perhaps that continuity will help them stay in school…

audrey

Audrey

Audrey is planning to attend Bloomfield High School while living with her sister in town.

Bradley

Bradley

Bradley plans to attend a technical program at Cuba High School.

Brianna

Brianna

Brianna’s family will be moving to West Texas this summer, where her step dad works in the oil fields.

Brian & Isaac

Brian & Isaac

Brian’s family is moving to Cuba where he will attend Cuba High School in the fall.

Isaac is hoping to attend Bloomfield High School. We are hoping that this talented young man will get involved in cross country and in theater which might help him focus and have greater stability in his life.

celissia

Celissia

This has been a difficult year for Celissia with the tragic death of her mother in January. She will most likely attend Cuba High School.

Cherisse

Cherisse

Cherisse is determinedly leading the way with her peers to attend Bloomfield High School. She will be staying in Navajo dorms during the week…

Kevin

Kevin

Kevin is most likely following his friend Brian to Cuba High School in the fall.

Nicholle

Nicholle

Nicholle persevered in the application process and just received acceptance to Navajo Prep High School.

Paige

Paige

Paige is planning to work hard on academics at Cuba High School this fall. She also hopes to play sports at the school. She plans to apply to Navajo Prep to enter as a 10th grader in another year.

Peter

Peter

Peter is planning to attend Bloomfield High School. He should thrive with the academic challenges of that school, in addition to a wide variety of possible after school activities.

We will give occasional updates on how these students are doing throughout the coming year.

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