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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Musings at the NM State Fair

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A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being a chaperone as students from the local school had a field-trip to the NM State Fair. I was responsible for 2 students (plus my daughter) and their 5th grade teacher joined us for the day as well.

“My” girls meet Smokey the Bear

We wandered the fairgrounds and enjoyed the usual things: shows, animals, art displays and 4H projects. The kids picked up lots of freebies and handouts from the Department of Natural Resources, and the various branches of the Armed Services, and Science groups, and Libraries, and more. (You can see photos from the day HERE.)

I enjoyed spending time with the girls. It was interesting to see what they found intriguing and what things bored them. It was fun to share my love of “agua de sandia” (watermelon water—a favorite drink from time in Mexico) with them. I was pleased to see that the tacky wares in the vendor booths were no temptation (at least to “my” girls—not talking about many of the other kids who returned to the buses as the end of the day with amazing money-wasters!)

Behind the up-front, oh-so-typical story of kids going to the fair is another story. It’s a story that I’ve been pondering. Let me share a few pieces with you…

I tutor one of these girls—let’s call her Dee. Many days she is sullen and withdrawn. It can be hard to engage her in what we are working on. At one point, she and I had an in-your-face argument. You don’t need to know the details…it is enough to say that I wrote an apology and an affirmation of the value and worth I see in Dee. I assumed our relationship, which was tenuous to start with, was irrevocably broken. The principal herself wondered if it would be more effective for someone else to work with Dee. I chose to stick with it for a little longer to see what might happen.

Imagine my surprise, then, during a tutoring session the day before the fair trip, when Dee asked me if she could be in my group. WOW! But I knew she was bringing money for a ride band…and I don’t believe spending the day on the midway is an appropriate use of a school funded trip to the fair. I gently explained that my group would NOT taking time for any rides, and suggested she would probably be happier in another group.

The next morning, I discovered that Dee was assigned to my group after all. I suggested that she might want to trade and be in someone else’s group…but she chose to stick with me. That made me both happy and worried that a no-rides-policy might yet again break relationship between us.

Our vote for “Best of Show” quilt

Once we got to the fair, Dee, Kay, and my daughter, were happy to follow my suggestions about which shows to see and which exhibits to visit. They asked to walk through the petting zoo—commenting that their grandmas had sheeps and goats, too. Dee asked once or twice about rides, but didn’t argue when I pointed out she was the only one in our group with money to pay for rides.

Eventually, Dee quietly asked if everyone could put their money together to share the cost of rides. That seemed totally unreasonable to me, since Dee had $25, my daughter had only $5, and Kay had no money to spend at the fair. However, Dee persisted. She quietly insisted that if the money was pooled together, she would be happy to share.

Sharing the rides…

I finally gave in, and the girls enjoyed a few rides together in the last 30 minutes before time to leave the fair to head home. Instead of a day full of unlimited rides, Dee had only 3 rides. But she was happy. After all, she had done the rides together with her friends. They had shared their money, and their fun.

I can’t get this picture out of my mind. In my Anglo world, it is only sharing if everyone is (somewhat) equal in what they contribute. Otherwise, it is either a gift or charity for one to pay for others. In my Anglo world, an expectation of “sharing” can become a burden, or can cause the giver to feel taken advantage of.

…sharing the fun!

But that wasn’t Dee’s world. She was happy: happy to spend far more than the others to pay for everyone to ride. As long as each person put everything they had “into the pot,” Dee felt that they had all shared the cost of the rides. It was a gentle, face-saving way for everyone to enjoy the special occasion.

It makes me wonder: we work hard to break the “dependency culture” out here. We see how the expectation of hand-outs from Anglos too often undermines the Navajo taking care of each other. But perhaps there is another way…a way to pool resources…a way for everyone to walk in mutual respect, taking joy in sharing with each other.

Visitors

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We live in a remote area. I’m sure I have told you before that we are 60 miles from a full size grocery store and from the library. We see other people at church and at the local school, but this area is no longer a strong, vibrant community. Most people who live in this area still live here because this is where their families have lived for generations. Their social relationships tend to be primarily family-based.

All of this means that we LOVE to have visitors! Some times it reminds me of pioneer-time stories of families being excited by visiting pastors and traveling peddlers. Visitors bring new stories and new topics for conversation. As we talk about life here in Navajoland, visitors help us gain new perspectives on things.

Some visitors are just wanderers traveling through. They end up on our doorstep for a place to sleep and we share a meal with them to better enjoy their company.

read more of these visitors’ story at http://www.velocos.ch/letsgo/

Other visitors come for a specific purpose: to see first-hand what is happening here at Lybrook Community Ministries. We recently hosted a lovely couple who have been supporters of LCM for years. In addition to lots of talking time, they also showed their servant-hearts by helping with mundane repairs and organizational chores that we never seem to get around to doing. These type of visitors are often “unknowns” when they arrive, but frequently turn into friends with whom we hope to keep in contact.

Anna enjoyed spending time with Jay & Judith, our most recent visitors…

Finally, some visitors are beloved family or friends. We always appreciate the sacrifice these people make to travel here (high cost and long distance) and we treasure every moment they spend with us. It is a joy to share glimpses of what our lives here are like and to introduce them to the wonderful people and beautiful scenery of this corner of Navajoland.

taking cousins to the “top of the world”

It is quiet again, with just our little family here now. Sure wish YOU would call and tell us you are stopping by for a quick visit!

Readers

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The most significant predictor of success in school is the reading ability of the student. Unfortunately for students at Lybrook School (just like students across most of the United States), there is limited time during the school day for them to read for pleasure. Far too much time is taken up with required curriculum in core subjects. Completing textbook reading and filling out worksheets is no substitute for time spent reading actual books.

Fortunately, there are short time periods during most school days when students are given free reading time. Many of the teachers allow students freedom in where to get comfy during reading time:

couch readers

Relaxing ON THE COUCH while reading

musical readers

Relaxing with MUSIC while reading

reading alone

Reading ALONE

group reading

GROUP reading

floor reader

Reading ON THE FLOOR

desk readers

Reading ON THE DESKS

For this reading addicted mom who has raised a family full of voracious readers, sights like these are a delight!

Playing with “my” 1st Graders

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I have had SO much fun this past year as I have gotten to “play” with the 1st grade class at Lybrook School. There is something delightful about walking into the cafeteria or into the classroom or onto the playground and hearing, “Mrs. E, Mrs. E.” And even when the “mob” threatens to tip me over, it is gratifying to be buried in a group hug when these little ones see me. Can I keep them at this delightful age forever?!!

1st graders

Here are links to posts about some of the fun we have had together this year:

MONET Art Project

VAN GOGH Art Project

General FUN in the classroom

 

Poetry Contest Entry

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There is a wonderful library in Farmington. One of the activities for teens is a group publishes a quarterly magazine which highlights poems, photographs, and art submitted by area teens.

I tutor small groups of students in math and reading in an afterschool program. We often work on writing projects to both improve communication skills and give a reason to read each other’s work. A few months ago we worked on writing a poem about ourselves, including information about the lives of our parents.

author cherisseCherisse did an excellent job on this project. She wrote such a good poem, that we submitted it to the Magazine project mentioned above. Now she and I must wait for a few weeks to hear if her poem is chosen to be included in the next issue of BlendedZine.

Here is her poem:

I AM FROM…

I am from Chester & Doris, Tom & Dorothy, David & Esther.

I am from Tahachi and Pueblo Pintada, where the dirt road meets on with the highway. From a small town with schools and a little store.

I am from potatoes with hamburger meat  and feast eaters, dumpling stew, frybread, cake and spaghetti eaters.

I am from funny, crazy, anger, and a lovable family.

I am from “Hózhójí ba’ awéé,” “a beauty way of life.”

I am from the conflict between medicinemen and preachers, and from non-religious people doing nothing more than trying to be good.

I am from sheepherders and jewelry-makers, teachers and railroad workers, and even a Navajo-nation president.

I am from toy horses, 2007 Expedition, and The Lord of the Rings.

I am from dogs, horses and cats; from playing basketball and singing.

I am from J. Rowling, Stephen Myers and Andy Sixx.

My own loud concert with an audience of women in blue jeans and men in regular clothes.

(In the style of a poem by Mary Pipher in Writing to Change the World)

What do YOU think? Should this poem be chosen for publication? I wish I could ask all of you to vote on it… I guess we just have to wait!

Touching Lives…

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For an extrovert like me (recharging via people contact) we have the best job in the world. In the 20 months since we arrived here in Navajoland, we have worked hard to build relationships with families and individuals in the Lybrook area. Part of relationship is walking through difficult times with others, such as the aftermath of tragic fatal accidents on January 1st. I wrote a little about that experience in the last post. This time I want to share some of the enjoyable relationship moments of this past week…

oldest brother

Jeremy wants to get more Bible training

On Sunday, I spent a few hours with a family from church, working with their three young adult sons. We talked, and pondered, and sorted through pros and cons of which Christian college they might attend and how to make that decision. We looked at websites and sorted through the process of applying. By the end of our time together, they have a clear list of further information they need to gather and next steps they need to take.

When we were in town on Wednesday evening, I made time to stop by the hospital to pray for Casper (critically injured in the above-mentioned accident). While there, I got to talk with his brother, both to encourage him and to challenge him to help his kids talk about these traumatic events. It felt like praying for Casper was a responsibility; talking with his brother was a privilege.

Miss Nellie

Our fiercely independent elderly friend...

I also stopped by a nursing home in town to visit an elderly friend who is recovering from a fall and resulting broken bones. She was SO excited to see Anna and I. We were just with her for a very short time as she was headed to dinner, but it was good to see her sparkling eyes and be reminded of her fierce determination to move back again to independent living in her beloved hogan. As we were leaving, we were able to spend time with her son, another friend of ours, and listen while he talked about chaos in the family and how de-stabilizing his mom’s injury and diagnosis of cancer has been. Another privilege—letting our friend “vent” about struggles and encouraging him to keep looking to God for wisdom, strength, and comfort.

messy artist

messy hands...great art!

This week also found me busy at the local school—subbing, tutoring, and volunteering. It is quite good for one’s ego to walk into the cafeteria and have cute little 1st graders squeal your name and run to give big hugs! We enjoyed time together at the end of the week when I had the privilege of doing an art history lesson and project with them. You should SEE the wonderful drawings they made of mesas at different times of day, in the style of Claude Monet’s paintings of haystacks.

With some students that I have been tutoring since fall, there were opportunities to challenge them. With other students, time together this past week furthered relationship building. I am NOT in the school to “proselytize”…but within relationships I am able to be very open about my own beliefs and about how God affects my daily life. For some students who are already Christians, I can be an encouragement. For others who live with instability and dysfunction, I hope I can eventually connect them to One who can bring stability and love into their troubled lives.

Finally, as I spend more time at the school, I have more opportunity to build relationships with teachers, administrators, and staff. We may not have “solved the world’s problems” yet, but we have had some interesting, encouraging and challenging discussions about the realities of life out here in Navajoland. What a privilege it is to be part of such lunch-table and hallway discussions!

It is hard, so very hard, to walk through dark times such as the recent tragedies here. But then the sun comes back out, metaphorically speaking, and we enjoy wonderful times of sharing happy times with our friends.

Right now? Life is good in Navajoland!

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