|photo from internet|
Our family moved here four years ago this month. Our wee one was 6. We had lived in the Midwest for most of our lives when God called us to be faithful strangers on the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Leaving our families and friends far behind, we drove a loaded Penske truck through the plains and over the mountains to Dulce, NM.
Sometimes it's difficult to remember what it was like to be a new arrival in Dulce among the Jicarilla Apache people. But when some friends arrived from the Midwest, their comments and questions brought back some of the wonder present at our arrival here. Things that seem normal now brought inquiries, and our attempts at explanations. It was great fun, and it has reminded me to treasure various traditions and experiences here.
For example, when people visit we usually have a bonfire and invite our Jicarilla friends. As we settled in to enjoy the fire, just chatting, our friends asked when people would arrive. I looked at my phone clock for the first time that evening and realized that our "starting time" (on the church calendar and Facebook announcements) had passed 30 minutes before. It brought a chuckle to me, remembering how we had had to adjust our sense of time when we joined this community. "Whenever," I said. "Time is different here."
Earlier this summer, we heard there was a keesta (coming of age feast for a young woman). We've been to many of these over the years, but always with some Jicarilla friends. The keesta is never advertised or the directions given... you just hear about it and go. This time, with no hesitation, Brad and I just went. We headed in the general direction we knew it was taking place, then spotted the small flags and freshly-graded road. When we arrived, we sat down to eat and chat among people we had never met. We were made very welcome, and it felt like we belonged.
Just yesterday, I was on my morning walk, and I heard a lot of barking and yipping. When I turned the corner, there was a high school aged student threatening three dogs with a stick. I know these three dogs. They have chased me down several times in that area. I started carrying a pepper spray and have gotten them good a time or two. Three years ago, I would've been upset that the kid was threatening the dogs. Now I knew he was simply defending himself. I yelled at the dogs, "Hey! Go home!" They know my voice. They know my pepper spray. They all slunk back to their yard, and the kid looked up gratefully.
I said to the student, "They're bullies. They know my spray. Have a great day!" The kid never answered, but simply continued on to school. A couple of years ago, I would've wondered what I did to cause trouble. Now, I know that strangers just don't acknowledge each other here as they do in the Midwest.
One of the Midwestern visitors said to me yesterday, "Wow! You're really laid-back about this, aren't you?"
Yep. We are. Laid-back and happy. We love it here. The people and the place fit us well. We've changed a bit over the years, but God has prepared us well to fit in. We are blessed. Please join us in praying for the ministry of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church here on the Nation. Amen.