Thursday, April 30, 2015

Teach Your Children Well

Almost every parent I've ever met wants to teach their children well. They may have differing ideas of what to teach their children or of how to teach their children, but by-and-large, parents want the best for their children. (I am not addressing those extreme parents who do not have a desire to do the right thing by their children; that is a separate issue entirely.)
Created for a beautiful "rainbow" family, $60.00

I've written in the past how teaching my African-American (now adult) son involved teaching him things specific to being an African-American male. These things have come to mind this week, given the events in Baltimore. A friend and fellow blogger has spent some time teaching her young son well; she writes about that here.

But a couple of days ago, I had to teach my 8 year old daughter something I would rather have avoided. She is of mixed race, but her learning didn't have anything to do with race.

You see, we were attending a ministry retreat far away from home. It was at a gorgeous canyon camp  in Oklahoma, and there were only about 7 children and youth in attendance. While the parents studied and talked, the kids were allowed to play freely in this lovely place. They hiked, played basketball, climbed and jumped, golfed, and goofed around. It was an amazing experience in freedom for our wee one. She was allowed to go anywhere, as long as she stayed with the other girls (4 total, ranging from 5-13 years old). There were three boys, all significantly older, and one younger boy who stayed with his parents.

One afternoon, the 13-year-old girl came quietly into the conference room and whispered to me, "Your daughter wouldn't come back with us; she's playing down at the playground with the boys." I could tell by her tone that she understood the danger in this.

Not that these boys seemed dangerous or unruly! From what I saw, they were nice young men, but I didn't know them, and they ranged in age from 12ish-15ish...Anything from innocent curiosity to intentional cruelty could hurt my 8 year old. It was just a bad combination: little girl and adolescent boys.

But oh, my! My 8 year old didn't understand. She was distraught that she couldn't play with the boys... and I finally decided I had to tell her why. Even though I didn't want to ruin her innocence. Even though I didn't want her to learn to be afraid. She was just so sure she was right and that she should be allowed to hang out with the boys.

So we had our first girls/women-have-to-be-careful talk. I hated it as much as I hated having the hands-visible-no-sudden-motions talk I had with my son 13 or so years ago when he was learning to drive.

I think it went okay. She didn't seem afraid of the bigger boys, and she was willing to obey the directive to stay with the girls. But a piece of her childhood is over. And that makes me sad. To learn that someone might hurt you... that's a sad learning.

I will be glad when God's Kingdom comes to fruition and our children (and WE) can return to the innocence God intended for  us!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Two Years

 Just over two years ago, our family flew to Durango, Colorado (the closest airport to Dulce, New Mexico), were picked up by members of the pastoral search committee, and visited Dulce for the first time. We had a blessed visit, wonderful conversations, and went home feeling certain that God was calling us to this place, to these people.

About one year, eight months ago, we loaded (almost) everything we owned into a 26 foot Penske truck, our Subaru, and a trailer. And then we drove the 1200+ miles to Dulce from Rochester, MN. It was an education in traveling via truck, as both my husband and I drove through mountains, chugging uphill at ten miles per hour at times!

When we arrived at the parsonage four days later, we were greeted by members of the congregation who had cleaned the house thoroughly, laid out new towels for us (what a treat!), and were ready to unload the truck. The largest items were unloaded the next day by some really strong guys who made short work of it.
So, we've been here long enough to feel at home, and we do think of Dulce as our home. We've been here long enough to get our feet on the ground and have some idea of what ministry here looks like and feels like.

What have we learned?

1. God is faithful. Always. He is good, and His plans are better than anything we could envision on our own. (Isaiah 55:8) We might have desired to stay in closer proximity to our families, but God's plan was for us to come to northern New Mexico; and it is good for us to be here. I can't imagine a place for which my husband would be a better match as a pastor. And I cannot imagine a place that would provide more for me or our daughter, either.

2. God will provide. (Luke 12) And He has! In everything, God has provided for us. From a homeschool Co-Op and children's theater groups for our wee one to teachers for AWANA each Monday, God has provided abundantly for us and for His people here in Dulce. We have made personal friends and are involved in many things here. God has created opportunities here that we hadn't even thought about! We love hiking in the wilderness areas with our Outdoor Education group, and our daughter has a horse to ride any time she desires. Blessed abundantly.

3. We have a supportive community in the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church. Our family has experienced many things since we moved here. When we have celebrated, our church family has celebrated with us. And when we have grieved, our church family has shared our grief. It is a blessing to know that we have a supportive church family here, as well as in Minnesota.

4. We expect to be here until we retire. Whenever that is. We are living here in Dulce, not just staying a while. We are striving to build deep relationships, inside and outside the church. When we visit Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, we are simply visiting, not "going home." And when we return to Dulce, we are "coming home."

5. There is much work for God's Kingdom to be done here.  Dulce is the right place for us, but not because it's perfect. There are many challenges here: alcohol, drugs, suicide, hopelessness, and grief, among others. We do not delight in the pain here, but in God's provision for the hurting and hopeless. We don't see ourselves in a hero role, in any way. Christians cannot solve the problems of the world...

But God can.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Alpha and Omega, installed in Rochester, MN

My family and I have participated in the Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child several times. Each time we've assembled a box (or boxes), we've prayed for the boy or girl who will receive the gifts. We've carefully chosen an assortment of practical items like combs and hand lotion to include. And we always try to have a couple of really fun toys or other frivolous trinkets, just for fun.

The past couple of years, I've watched on Facebook as the Operation Christmas Child boxes were delivered, enjoying the photos of children all over the world receiving gifts. My 8-year-old has enjoyed that, too.

The thing I've never done before is have my child be a recipient of a shoebox. I had almost forgotten the evening we spent at another local church right before Christmas. We sang carols, listened to a wonderful preacher, and enjoyed worshiping together as a family. Following the service, the group who had traveled from Texas to our community on the reservation had gifts for all the kids. Our wee one joined the line with much anticipation and received a shoebox.

A couple of days ago, our daughter was cleaning her room. She came out carrying her shoebox, still filled with gifts. I asked her why she hadn't taken them out in the four months since Christmas...

"I just think it's so cool that someone loved Jesus enough to give me gifts, Mom. I don't want to take them out. I like thinking about the person who gave them to me."


I wonder how many children around the world are holding on to those shoe boxes filled with little gifts that don't really cost us much in money or time... holding on to them, being grateful that someone halfway around the world or across the country or on the other side of town loved Jesus enough to give them gifts.

And maybe the person who packed her box intended it for a Native child on the reservation, but I hope that s/he would be blessed to know that our daughter treasures it and feels blessed by it.

It also made me think about the items I have packed into those shoe boxes. I'm pretty sure that I will intentionally add something that the child recipient can wear or carry to remember that we loved Jesus enough to give him/her gifts.

The Bible speaks many times about how we are to treat the poor (Psalm 41:1-3, Proverbs 22:9, Isaiah 58:6-10, for just a few examples). God tells us to love Jesus enough to take care of the hungry, the weak, the orphan, the oppressed, the downtrodden...

What do you love Jesus enough to do?

Sunday, April 12, 2015


I have, at times, been discouraged. I have, at times, been encouraged. I have certainly encouraged others here in Dulce and elsewhere. I have even discouraged people from particular choices...

and I'm wondering what it is called when a person is neither encouraged nor discouraged. That's kind of where I am today. I'm not feeling down, but there isn't anything really exciting on the horizon either. I'm just sailing along.

The root word courage floated through my head, followed by a quick, "Nah. Courage is something brave and difficult... it doesn't take courage to float along in my life."

But I think I'm wrong about that. It does take courage to keep on going. When there is little reward and little to fight against... it does take courage to stay focused on God's work, God's kingdom, God's will.

For example, our AWANA youth ministry, which began in October 2014, is limping through the final quarter of the year. We have had inconsistent adult volunteers and dwindling numbers of children. A week or so ago, the only children present were the children/grandchildren of the adult volunteers. It would've been easy to send everyone home!

But we didn't. We met as a leader group and made some decisions about how to increase involvement again. Then the handful of children played games together, not divided by age groups. Then their faithful teachers took them to classrooms where there were often more adults than kids and taught them God's Word.

It would be easy to get discouraged by poor attendance or lack of follow-through in whatever ministry we deem "ours," but God calls us to serve, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.  That takes courage. Real courage.

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