Little Miracles

Mushrooms

So I’ll admit it: I was reluctant to come here.  There are hints about this in my last few posts – how I tried to find a job in Phoenix because I wanted to keep working with the kids I’d just started getting to know.  How I wanted a “real” job instead.  But my reluctance was stronger than I led you, reader, to believe and I feel the need to apologize for misleading you.  I wasn’t just nervous out of fear or a desire for comfort (though that was definitely a big part of it).  I was actively praying for God to close the door so that I wouldn’t have to walk through it.

And, I suppose, in a way He did close the door.  He closed every door I tried to pry open; reinforced every lock I tried to pick.  He answered my prayers by closing every door except the one I wanted Him to close.  So, finally, and with GREAT reluctance, I stepped over the threshold.

And I have discovered a greater expanse of opportunity than I could have ever imagined.

It’s only been a month (it baffles me to think that it has been that long!) and while I have, at times, found myself missing those in the desert, already I am seeing God at work across the Ranch.  Just this last week two students (that I know of) professed a newfound faith in Christ and four others were baptized.  I have seen character growth in kids who have been here for years as well as in those whose tenure is shorter than my own.  Getting to know and spending time with the boys in the house has been a joy and I’m looking forward to many more months to grow together with them, the house parents, and my co-mentor.

But that’s just work.  It’s miraculous.  It’s amazing.  But it’s only a part of this story.

One of my biggest concerns in coming to the Ranch was that I wouldn’t have any time to have a life outside of work.  I think God laughed at me when I pulled out that excuse.  And then He provided me with an opportunity which could have only come directly from Him.

A few weeks ago I was searching the internet for community choirs to join (because, as any musician can tell you, going any length of time – two full years in my case – without performing with an ensemble will give you withdrawals) without much success.  Most rehearsed on weekday evenings when I was unavailable while others had recently held auditions for this year’s concert season.  Then I came across one which rehearsed on Sunday afternoons in Knoxville for six weeks at a time, twice a year.  They were about to begin rehearsals for their November concert.  The only problem was I could find nothing about their audition procedures.  There was no “contact us” button; no e-mail address to write to; only a newsletter request form and a “response form.”

I had no idea what this “response form” was for but it had a comments section so I decided to submit the form with my question about auditions, regardless of the actual purpose of the form (an atypical behavior for a reserved, detail-oriented person).

The director called me the next day wondering how I found the response form.

(Read that again if you can’t see God’s hand in this)

Apparently the response form is sent only to people who had been invited to join the group.  The group which is invitation only, not auditioned as I had assumed.

I talked with the director for a few minutes.  He asked me about my background in music.  We discussed Asbury and my degree which – for the first time ever – served a purpose.  He invited me to join the choir and I accepted on the spot.

I hung up the phone in shock.  I had joined an invitation only choir – by asking­ ­– with a form I wasn’t supposed to be able to find.

You can call it a coincidence if you want.  I’ll call it what it is: a miracle.  It may seem small but I’ve been praying for exactly this kind of opportunity for two years now and I can’t just ignore God’s handiwork in this.

People pray for God’s help all the time.  Then, more often than not, when He comes through they claim coincidence, tell God, “Never mind, I guess it all worked out on its own,” and move forward without giving God His due praise.  This opportunity could expand and lead to more opportunities, spiraling upward into an amazing tale of God’s glory and sovereignty.  But, more likely, it is an instance of God providing for His people by answering their petitions; providing me with the opportunity to lift my voice with more than 70 other people in praise to Him, just as He knows I love to do more than anything.

And I will praise Him for the little miracles (though, are they really ever little?) as I depend on His provision daily.

Grace and Peace

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A Question of Comfort

20170827_101157.jpgSo… I’m not in the desert anymore.  In fact, I’m in the mountains… surrounded by trees… and it rained all evening.  I’m almost 2000 miles from the place I’ve so recently learned to call “home.”

And I’ll be staying here for quite a while.

I’m in Tennessee, training to work as a mentor for kids at a unique ministry called Wears Valley Ranch.  It’s a children’s home…. and a boarding school… and a ranch.  The kids won’t return from their summer break for almost a week but I’m already excited to meet them.

Well, excited is one word… nervous is another which would work just as well in this context… terrified might be slightly too strong to describe my emotional state… slightly.

It was a long road to get here – and I’m not just talking about the days spent driving along I-40 – it took quite a while for me to give in to the call to come here. True, I was ready, willing, and excited when I first applied.  But as I considered more of the implications of what this type of job entailed I started to wonder if, in fact, the Lord had called me to this place at all.  I wanted to stay in Phoenix.  I wanted to stay near SIMC so I could keep working with the camp program.  I wanted to stay near my family.  I wanted to stay.

I was comfortable where I was – and that was a problem.

You see, I am a firm believer that God doesn’t call people to be comfortable.  The Bible is full of accounts in which men and women of God are directed into very uncomfortable, even dangerous situations.  In these times, these people are forced to rely upon Him for every need.  God didn’t care if Elijah was comfortable living in a ravine.  Or if David was comfortable living in a cave with a bunch of other sweaty me.  Or if Mary was comfortable looking like she had been unfaithful to her fiance.  Or if Noah and his family were comfortable living on a floating zoo for a year.  Their comfort was not of consequence to God.

But their faith – their obedience – was.

So yes, I was reluctant to leave where I was comfortable.  I admit that I cried several times, struggling with the reality of my plans.  But I came anyway, trusting in God to make something beautiful out of my obedience.


Grace and Peace,

Heather

Awaiting the Rain

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Here in Phoenix we have a season you might not have heard of: Monsoon.  It starts in the summer as humidity levels begin to rise and storms become progressively more likely.  As monsoon progresses, rain happens.  Yes, rain does fall in the desert… occasionally.

Or, sometimes, even though it looks like it’s going to rain, the wind just kicks up dust.

A lot of dust.

We call these dust storms or haboobs.  (Though there is some debate as to whether the latter term is “technically accurate.”)

As I write this a storm is kicking up outside my apartment at the SIMC campus.

I wonder if it will be a full-on dust storm…

I wonder if it will rain a little…

Or a lot…

Or if it will blow over without much effect…

I wonder…

There’s something special about desert rain.  It smells more strongly than other rain (the product of the creosote bush, in case you were wondering).  And since it doesn’t come very often, the rain is appreciated more.  Children rush outside to play and dance in the rare precipitation like Floridians in a flurry of snow.  Even adults gaze longingly out windows, mesmerized by the falling drops or crystalline liquid.

But, sometimes, the rain doesn’t ever come.  The wind picks up; the sky clouds over; the dust blows…

And nothing more.

It seems that the monsoon storm has left its purpose unfulfilled; holding its rain within the clouds for some other area to enjoy.

This is how life has felt for the past few months as I search for my “next step.”  I find a job or ministry which looks PERFECT, send out some inquiries or apply and then… nothing.  It just blows over.  Something doesn’t work out and the whole opportunity evaporates.  Just yesterday I was scheduled to have an interview with a school in Phoenix – the perfect opportunity to stay in the area and keep helping out with the camp ministry with AIF in the summer – and it was canceled; the position filled before I had my time to talk with them.

Each time I think the rain will fall, showering me in opportunity and hope for the future… but the dust blows instead.

But I’ve realized something as I listen to the dust storm picking up outside.  This is only the beginning.  In the beginning of monsoon, very little rain falls; storms culminate in dust devils and the occasional sprinkle of rain.   But by the end of the season monsoon is filled with full-fledged thunderstorms, flooding washes, and sparkling rain-drops, pattering windows for hours on end.

In the Lord’s timing, something will come.

And I must wait through the dust to reach the beauty of the rain.


SOME UPDATES!

Three weeks of camp have gone by more quickly than I could have imagined.  Our theme this year is “God With Us” which means: CHRISTMAS CAMP!  I love Christmas so I’m loving the Christmas theme, complete with Christmas trees decorating the buildings on campus (and Christmas caroling during teen camps)!

The first week of teen camp was phenomenal.  I served as a dorm leader (what we call our counselors) in addition to teaching drama class and doing some photography while the regular photographer was unavailable.  We had 16 campers that week.

Week 2 was just as awesome but, with twice as many campers, the dynamic was very different.  I still served as drama teacher and photographer (sometimes) but not as a dorm leader since we had a work team to help us out.

Drama class was great.  Using some of the Bible stories from the week, I had the campers pose in various ways, acting out scenes with costumes and props, to be photographed.  Then I put the pictures together in a slide show to be shown while the campers read their parts in the script.  We did two different stories the first week and four the second week, since we had more campers.  Most of the groups had a great time being silly and making weird faces – one group even got to have a sword fight!

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Week 3 was the first week of elementary camp with a focus on the 4th-6th grades.  My role this week was help lead morning worship and to teach cooking class.  I thought I would get bored between classes and have to find other things to do; other roles to fill in for.  I was wrong.  Teaching this age group to make gingerbread cookies as well as setting up, cleaning up, and finishing what they left undone took far more time and energy than I had anticipated, particularly since we had 59 campers!  I was exhausted by the end of the week when we finally served the finished cookies to the campers at dinner on Wednesday night.  We had a fantastic, albeit small, work team this week, and they truly made camp special for the kids.

Gingerbread week 1

I’m looking forward to teaching cooking class again this coming week, slightly modified for a younger (1st-3rd grade) age group.

There you have it: three weeks of camp in a VERY LARGE nutshell.  And that was only my part in it.  So much worship; so much learning; so much relationship building – happened outside of my classroom time.  These weeks have been exhausting… but they have also been some of the best times – just as camp always is.

That’s all for now – more updates when the rain finally comes!

Grace and Peace,

Heather

Moments

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So I just realized that I haven’t posted any updates since February.

Oops…

I’m still on the field.  I’m still teaching.  I still exist.  I’m sorry for leaving all 2 of you, my readers, in the dark.  I’m sorry.

Life has been a strange combination of eventful and ordinary over the past two months and, I suppose, it’s time to break that silence and let you in on what’s been going on.

We’re down to the final weeks of school here at LWA – 3 to be precise – and I’ve come to the realization that I’m going to miss each of the students terribly when I leave.  Really.  I’m not lying, I promise.  If you would have asked me during the first few months of school how everything was going and somehow gotten me to give you a transparent, honest answer, I would have told you that I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make it through the year.

Now I know differently.

Sure, they’re a handful sometimes – most of the time – but I’ve come to truly enjoy spending time with the kids, even while they complain about how their work is too hard.  Sure, some days end and I wonder how I managed to make it with all of my hair still attached to my head, but I really do love these kids.

And it’s the same way with a lot of the camp kids; the ones I’ve really gotten to know over the past year.  Weekend camps held periodically throughout the school year provide an excellent means of staying connected with campers beyond the summertime and I’ve had the opportunity to help out with each one.  At the elementary weekend camp, held in March (which was my first “repeat” event, marking a full year on the field), one of the girls latched on to me, sticking by my side for most of the weekend because she remembered me from that summer.  I remembered her too – she had been the camper who had asked me to help her learn to swim.  And, although she never mastered the skill, my attempts had clearly made an impression.

And it is this type of relationship that is most important to build.  But it is also this type that is hardest to leave behind.

Over the past 2 months I have dealt with more emotions than ever before.  From something as seemingly small as replacing my windshield twice in one week, to my Grammy’s funeral, to hearing the stories of teens who have dealt with more pain than one person should ever have to bear… it’s been hard.  And it’s been good.  And it’s not over yet.

These are moments in time that God uses to change us.  These are moments that God uses to form us.  These are moments that we must hold on to.

It isn’t time to say goodbye; not yet.  There are three more weeks of classes; three more weeks to pour into these students’ lives; three more weeks to build these relationships; three more weeks to make it that much harder to leave.

But these weeks could make an eternal difference.  Because my God can change everything in a moment; any moment.

And maybe it won’t be goodbye forever.


Here’s a taste of what I’ve been up to:

Messy Games Day with Youth Group

Elementary Weekend Camp

LIT Weekend Camp

And one more thing: camp’s not over yet.  The people in charge have foolishly graciously agreed to let me stay on through camps this summer.  I don’t know yet in what capacity I’ll be serving, but I’m looking forward to spending more time with the campers!

After the summer, it’s anybody’s guess as to where God will lead me next.  But, if life so far is any indication, I’m sure it will be an incredible adventure.

Grace and Peace

Can you hear me now?

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“Does that make sense?”  I asked a student after explaining a concept for the third time.

“What?” the student blinked, eyes focusing back on the present.

Not listening.  Again.  My explanation falling on unhearing ears.

I sighed and offered to repeat my explanation but the student wouldn’t wait for it, stating instead that, “You didn’t help me anyway.”

I’m not writing this to be overly-critical of my students.  I’m not writing this to be overly-critical of kids in general.  I’m writing this because I am just as guilty and, more than likely, so are you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve begged God for guidance in a situation and then proceeded to fill my time with “noise,” only to turn around and blame God for not answering my prayer!

What if I just wasn’t listening?

What if I was paying so little attention to Him that I couldn’t hear his answer?

Sound familiar?

Just this last week in devotion time at LWA I taught the beginning of the story of Samuel.  This has always been one of my favorite Bible stories but in case you’re not as familiar with it, I’ll recount it briefly here:

Samuel was dedicated to the temple at a young age to serve under Eli, a Priest and Judge of Israel.  One night, when he was still a child, Samuel heard a voice calling out his name as he lay in his bed in the darkness.  Naturally, the boy thought it was Eli, his master, calling to him.  So, he ran to answer the priest’s call only to find that Eli had not, in fact, called.  Eli, then, sent the boy back to bed.  This same pattern repeated itself twice more before Eli finally realized what was happening and instructed Samuel to respond to the voice (which he finally recognized as the voice of the Lord) with the words, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9b).   Only then did God give His message to Samuel.

Only then, when Samuel started to listen, did God give His message to Samuel.

How many times have I – have we – missed out on messages and direction from God because we failed to listen?

How many times have we been so caught up in our problems that we tuned out the only way to truly solve them?

How many times have we given up on hearing an answer to a prayer when, perhaps, the bad connection was on our end?

How many times?

Just a “Normal” Day

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The past few days (and weeks) have been a whole lot of fun for everybody and I finally got around to taking some pictures of “normal” school days.  I promise that real work happens too – it just doesn’t look as good on camera!  But, really, no day is normal – at least not here.

Heather and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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It was a cold and windy Saturday morning following a windy and rainy night.  Heather’s alarm clock went off too early but she got up anyway – it was time for a trip to Tucson for some much needed shopping.

She had planned to leave early but by the time she was ready to go it was almost noon.  So much for a quick trip to town and a nice afternoon at home, she thought.

On the way to Tucson a light came on in her car telling her to check her tire pressures.  She pulled off the road shortly thereafter and checked them.  One was low, but not nearly low enough to worry about in this cold wind so she got back in the car and kept driving.

While she was shopping she couldn’t find a few of things on her list.  She walked up and down the aisles until she finally gave up.  I guess I’ll have to order that online, she thought, but she was frustrated with the amount of time she had wasted while looking for it.

On the way home the check-engine light of her car switched on.  Now what? She thought, frustrated again.  It’s too late to go back now, everything will be closed.  But she knew that she wouldn’t be able to make it back for almost a week and she was worried about her car making it that long.

When she got home she installed a pair of light-bulbs she had purchased only to find out that the fixture itself was the problem.  Great, she thought sarcastically. Now I have to return these.  I hate returning things.  And the light still doesn’t work!

Later that night, Heather got ready to go to bed.  It had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and she wanted it to end.  But just as she was about to climb into bed with a book, she noticed a dark patch of carpet in the closet right by the panel which concealed the water-heater.  She popped the panel off and saw that the water-heater was leaking!  It was leaking a lot!

It was leaking because it was leaning – and the floor underneath was collapsing.  She tried to fix it herself; tried to prop it up with some towels.

It only got worse.

Heather panicked; she didn’t know what to do!  So she made some phone calls – I hate phone calls! She thought. And it’s so late – I don’t want to wake anyone up!

Heather tried to find the shut off valve for the water heater – she couldn’t find it.  She tried to find the shut-off valve for the water to the house – she couldn’t find it.  One of her phone calls brought a friend over to help – they still couldn’t find it.  They found things they thought were the shut-off valve.  But they weren’t.

Heather got attacked by a jumping cactus.  Ouch! She thought as she threw the cactus-bit as far from her as she could. Stupid cactus.

In her hurry to get through the house, one of the belt-loops on Heather’s jeans caught on a doorknob and tore a hole.  And in my favorite jeans, too! She thought.

All the rushing back and forth left trails of mud on the floor.  I just cleaned that floor!  Heather thought, What a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Finally, Heather and her friend managed to prop the water-heater up on a scrap of wood and it stopped spraying water like a fountain.  It was almost one o’clock by the time they parted ways.

What an end to a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.


Heather woke up still tired but ready to go on a much needed shopping run to Tucson.  She took her time in the morning – eating breakfast, reading her Bible, and spending some time with her cat – so she didn’t get out as early as she had planned.

On the way to Tucson her car let her know that her tires needed some air.  She checked them and was glad to find out that they weren’t so bad she had to pump them up immediately on the side of the road in the cold wind – she could wait until she got home.

While she was out shopping, she found a great dress for an upcoming wedding – and it was on sale!

On the way home from Tucson her car’s check-engine light came on.  Heather was worried but she made it home safely.  Since there’s no school on Friday, she thought, I can get it checked out then.  She was just glad it had alerted her to a problem instead of breaking down in the middle of nowhere.

When the water-heater started leaking that evening, Heather knew she had to do something quickly.  She tried everything she could think of before she called anyone.  It was late and she didn’t want to wake anyone if she didn’t have to but it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was out of her depth.  She needed help and fast.

First she called her parents.  They suggested she find a way to shut off the water.  This proved to be more difficult that she had anticipated, particularly since it was dark and cold outside.

She didn’t manage it.

She made some more calls and Sherrie, a friend and fellow missionary, came over to help.   While they searched for the valve, Sherrie pointed out the stars.  They were bright and they were plentiful.  And Heather hadn’t even noticed them.  She was grateful for Sherrie’s positive presence on this adventure.

They still didn’t manage to find the shut off valve but together they eventually managed to temporarily stop the leak.  It was nearly one o’clock when Sherrie headed home after a prayer of thanksgiving and protection.  They were grateful that someone had been here to catch the leak.  If Heather hadn’t been there living in and looking after the house while its regular occupant was gone for the year, she might have come back to a gaping hole with the top of a water-heater peeking out.

What an end to an eventful day.


There are two ways to tell every story; two ways to look at life.

Yesterday was… interesting… to say the least.  And there are two ways to tell the story of the misadventures – I wrote them both for you.

Yes, this is about optimism and pessimism.  Sort of.

It would be more accurate to say that this is about choice.

Each day we can decide to look at life’s difficulties as problems or as adventures.  And the choice we make determines whether our days are “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” (a phrase I borrowed from an old children’s book, by the way) or adventures and opportunities to stop and see the stars; to let God be God.

Until next time,

Grace and Peace