Awaiting the Rain

Stormy Skies

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

100_3616 (2)

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?

summer-2012-part-2-036-2

“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

100_3819-2

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

wales-and-mine-030-2

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

Winging It

sunrise

Are we really planning a lock-in in one week?”

It sounded just as crazy then as it does to you now – but that didn’t stop it from happening.

Over the past few months I’ve found myself “planning” (if you can even call it that) at the last minute.  In fact, this has become such a common occurrence that when our youth-group Christmas party morphed into an all-night affair barely a week before the event itself, it only struck me as slightly risky… not insane… not impossible… just risky.

The fact is, life on the Rez has left me accustomed to last minute invitations, late starts, and hastily planned (or just mostly unplanned) meetings and events.  Winging it is simply a way of life – and no one seems to be bothered by it in the slightest.

As we drafted our lock-in schedule I couldn’t help but laugh as we added start times for each activity, knowing full well that the chances of starting any of them on time were about as likely as leftover pizza in a room full of teenagers.

Sure enough, the night came and only one kid arrived on time.  Even some of our chaperones arrived an hour late.  But since our schedule consisted mainly of “winging it” this really wasn’t an issue.  In the end it was a great night – complete with caroling, a white-elephant gift exchange, a campfire, worship, movies, and games.  All the kids dozed off by around 4 AM (though I’m not sure our first sleeper even made it to 1:00) leaving me and my co-leader playing endless card games to stay awake until breakfast and cleanup could begin.

lock-in

So how did it go?  How does playing-it-by-ear usually go?  It turns everything into an exhilarating time of living in the moment; a joy which any chronic planner (like me) will miss out on by following their obsessive instincts at all times.  There’s something simply beautiful about letting things happen when they happen; about being completely honest in saying “I don’t know” when asked what’s next; about not worrying about fitting activities into a tight schedule but just going with the flow.

Don’t get me wrong – this degree of flexibility doesn’t work in all situations or even in all cultures – it certainly doesn’t work with large groups or strict deadlines – but with a small group of teenagers fully engrossed in reservation culture, sometimes less planning is actually better.

And this is something I’m learning to appreciate more each day.

The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least.  As second quarter comes to a close, I’ve been working with my students to prepare their annual Christmas program.  We spent about two and a half weeks rehearsing a 20 minute skit – and I couldn’t be more proud of how far they came over that period of time!

Sure, the skit was far from perfect – lines were forgotten, moments were missed, and characters were broken more than a few times – but they did it.  My shy students took the stage and took ownership of their roles as I raised the bar with each rehearsal.  I expected a lot from each of them but perfection was never the goal.  The goal, as with any performance, was to glorify the Giver of all good gifts by using those gifts to tell His story just as all of creation glorifies its Creator with every moment.

Growing Pains

100_3299 (2).JPG

In both devotion times at school and youth group lessons, we’ve started teaching the Bible chronologically, focusing on how the stories fit together into one giant saga of God’s master plan.  This week, both groups encountered Abraham, an undoubtedly fundamental but often under-emphasized part of Israel’s early history.

And, just as I’ve told the kids, even if you already know a story there are always new insights to be learned.

Abraham was called as a Pagan.  Have you ever thought about that?  About how much faith it must have taken for him – a man with no background in or understanding of God, spoken to by a mysterious deity of whom he had no knowledge – to pack up his family and possessions and move to some yet-to-be-announced location all because he was promised impossible things?

Probably a lot more faith than I have.

But what happened to that faith when he fled a famine and traveled to Egypt?

As he was about to enter Egypt, [Abram] said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.  Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” – Gen. 12:11-13

Where was Abraham’s great faith when he failed to trust that God would protect him in this foreign land?  Where was Abraham’s faith when he asked his wife to lie for him?  Where was his faith in the promises God had made?

Abram’s faith was still developing.

Because, the truth is, growing faith – just like any other type of growth – is a process.  Because, in spite of Abram’s great step – leap – of faith in the beginning of his story, he was still just a man; a man coming from a Pagan background called suddenly to serve the Almighty God.  Is it really any wonder that there was a steep learning curve for him to develop a strong, consistent faith?

And should we expect any different from ourselves?  Should we expect any different from new believers?

By the end of his life, Abraham displayed what could be considered one of the strongest faiths of any Biblical figure.  Each mistake he made served to expand the foundation of his relationship with God.  But he did make mistakes – particularly early on in his time with God.  If we held Abram to the same standards to which we hold one another would we still see him as a hero of the faith?  Probably not.

It’s about growth.  It’s about cutting each other – particularly new believers (and ourselves) – some slack when we make mistakes.  (Notice I said when, not if!)  Because as long as we allow God to teach us in those times (just like Abraham did) our faith will grow too.

Because if we expect a new believer to change his or her entire life around and function as a perfect Christ follower instantly… we’re only setting him or her up for failure.

The period of growth (which, by the way, isn’t over until we leave this earth) is painful.  But so is any other type of real growth or lasting progress.  It’s hard.  It hurts.  But it’s worth it.

True, some periods of life contain more growth than others.  Some are also more painful than others.  Just looking back at my own life I can pinpoint several instances of “growing pains” like this: the night I finally recognized my own brokenness; the retreat where I came to terms with a 10-year-old case of bitterness and unfogiveness; the night I wept alone, experiencing real grief for the first time.  These periods of growth were painful but I have emerged with stronger faith on the other side.

And sometimes, I need to be reminded of this too.  Sometimes I need to remember that growing faith is a process; that even the worst mistakes can be turned into faith-expanding lessons as we move forward in life.


Some updates:

  • We’re at the halfway point of the second quarter and I can only say that November has been stacked against teachers this year. Convincing kids to sit still and work quietly has become a circus act.  I’m managing but I’m also looking forward to a reprieve from the holiday/election/super-moon craziness of the last few weeks.
  • As worried as I was about my inexperience, my piano students are a joy to teach.
  • My mouse problem has been taken care of… well… sort of. Now I just have a bigger fuzzy creature in my house that I have to feed.  She killed one the other day too!  It makes me wonder if I should set up cameras to catch any Tom-and-Jerry action while I’m gone…

I think that’s all for now!

Grace and Peace!