The Maxfields

The Maxfields

Monday, July 20, 2015

Six Little Girls and My One Heart

The stars shine down in the black blue sky tonight, whispering reminders of my Father whose presence is faithful and with us even in the valley, even in the darkness. I never knew that in a single day one's heart could be filled, broken, overflowed again and blessed so freely before it begins to sting with heartache and burst with laughter and rest at the end of the day knowing that it has learned and been taught by His mighty hand on the six small girls we had in preschool church today. A paragraph for each so you can get a taste of the blessing too.

The youngest of the bunch is new to all of us and known to some as the little chipmunk that waddles into church, sleepy eyed and smiling, ready to give hugs and secretly knowing that after church we will play. She doesn't know which color crayon connects to her name. The girl smiles as she calls her brother by his traditional name, seeking him out in the crowd, unaware that the language of her people is slipping away quickly and that she's one of just a handful of children I know who uses that Sahaptin word for brother. Love flows out of this little one, and He, out of His perfect love, is showing it to me from the color queen one Sunday at a time.

Her cheeks scrunch up when she smiles and make her eyes tiny, and her voice is much softer than that of the other girls. She comes with her hair done and is eager to help pass out snacks. Her love for those around her feels unconditional when we're in that preschool classroom, and I can't help but wonder where all of us will be in ten years; she'll be thirteen, I'll be twenty-seven. Watching her love others gives me hope: hope for her generation, and hope for the Lord to work miracles in His earth.

"Now you're an Indian! I'm an Indian too, but I don't always wear feathers," is what I heard as a five-year-old stuck a peacock feather in my hair tonight while we watched four baby peacocks follow their mama across the yard. After the feather was in place, she grabbed her cousin's hand and pulled her close, their hands held, to watch the babies and mama duck under the fence and out of sight. They turned back to face me, giggling, squinty eyed as the sun set. My heart couldn't help but swell and ache all at once.

I've written about the girl whose name is music before, and I've written about the Lord's plan and purpose that is so far beyond my own, a concept my heart battles daily, moment by moment, when it comes to resting in it. He is still teaching me through the music girl. Today the lesson was one of praying for hope and joy in the life of this dear one, as well as for the thoughts of my own heart to be ones of contentment and peace in His will. In Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, John Piper writes in regard to our human questionings of God's will: "Moreover, we will not always, right now, have these answers for ourselves. But in glory the answers will be clear, when we will see Jesus face to face. Then we will see that God has indeed done all that He pleased and has done it perfectly, both for His glory and our good." Be still, my heart.

Hope and a future stick out in my
mind from Jeremiah when I think of the sand box princess. Each night this week she's asked to play in the sand. After we run fast to reach the edge of the grass, our sandals come off and we jump into the dusty ground that is warm in between our toes. She offers to build me something, all the while eager to share the buckets and shovels with me, because "Sharing is nice," as she tells me herself. Her mind is wild with imaginings and as her Elsa braids blow in the wind, I'm reminded of His miraculous grace. Lord is using her in my life to teach me even more about the ever-present balance between brokenness and beauty.

She comes, hair crazy in a mad pigtail attempt but too short to fit into the ponytails, ready to sit in a lap and be loved. She talks more now than I've ever known her to before, and her words hold a lovely trio of care, laughter, and sass. Her face is lit up in every single picture I've seen of her, and she's who I picture when I hear the truth that joy comes in the morning.

I can't think back far enough to when I didn't know these six girls and more like them. There are at least fifteen names on our role sheet, and we get to taste His love in a new way each Sunday with a different handful of them there with us. I am truly prone to wander, but He has taken my heart and sealed it, and it's so full of preschool love.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Unsettled & Learning Lessons

2015....a year to never forget.  We have been somewhat "unsettled" for 6 months now.

People ask what has been the hardest thing about this transition and so far; I think feeling unsettled is my answer.  We have been renting an older double wide home for 4 months now.  It was the only home we could find available to rent.  

The first couple of days we were in it, I would get overwhelmed and tell Darren, Emily and Rachel I wasn't sure I could do this.  I wasn't sure I could live here.  Mice poo in almost every cupboard, closet or shelf.  Dirty walls.  A dead rat in one closet.  Hearing mice in the walls at night.  No screens on the windows.  No air-conditioning.  Ants.  Earwigs.  Spiders.  Oh my!  

As the days went by, I would occasionally say, "this house might be growing on me" just to get a laugh.  And we have had lots of laughs over many things about this house....we even named the llamas outside our windows.  Darren bought a roll of screen at Walmart and duct taped it up onto 3 windows so we could have airflow.  It looks ugly, but it works.  I learned how to find a dead mouse in a cupboard and be okay with it.  I can now squish bugs on the kitchen floor with my bare feet.  We have learned to share one bathroom.  I learned to make popcorn on a stove that doesn't work very well.  I can actually live without a microwave, a garbage disposal or cable TV.  And guess what?  We could actually live with just one third of our stuff.

More importantly, I began to embrace that this is right where Jesus wanted us.  He allowed us to live in this double wide home which is far nicer than many we serve here on the reservation.  I needed to live it to get a glimpse of the poverty some experience.  And then, as some of you know, the electric company turned off our power on a Friday afternoon and we learned what it feels like to have no power.  It's a scary, hopeless feeling.  Food in the fridge goes bad.  It feels eerie and dark in the house. 

Would you believe that this past Tuesday night, one of the youth told me their power was off at their house?   The power bill was overdue.  The food in their fridge was going bad there was nothing to drink.  My heart felt a kindred sympathy and sadness.  I whispered to Jesus, "I understand now."  I don't know when their power will go back on. And I know most people here on the reservation would not have the resources we had to deal with it.  Our power outage was short lived. We stayed with my aunt and uncle for a few nights.  Our food was able to be salvaged.

What I've shared here is only a speck of what some are going through here on this reservation, but I'm thankful for the tiny glimpses and things Jesus is teaching me during this unsettled time.    

Sunday, July 5, 2015

"My Power is Made Perfect in Weakness"

A lot of thoughts in my head today. I had a real good Lord's Day today in spite of not being in the Word much the last week or so. But to be in worship this morning and hear the Word preached and take part in communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ can do wonders.

At the beginning of May I started a new little Bible study "program" that I developed after reading a couple books summarizing the prayer life and Bible study life of our Puritan Fathers. You can see the books here, #4 and #5. I love what I'm doing right now, but the last couple weeks I haven't been able to be as diligent as  I'd like. As God's Word is wont to do, I was blown away today.

I was reading II Corinthians 12 and verses 9-10 are mind blowing.

"But he (God) said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Lately, I felt my tension and stress level going up a bit. A tell-tale sign of this is when I start playing music louder and louder and its not the calm stuff. For some reason it is a stress reliever for me.

I think the stress has partly to do with economic development research I'm doing. It is actually going pretty well. I feel a plan coming together and a course of action. But with that progress comes stress - is it the right plan? what will people in the community (and outside the community) think?, what do I really know about this stuff?, with all the issues here will anything actually work?, what can I do that hasn't been tried already?, etc, etc. In short, what do I know?

The stress is also related to what is happening on this Reservation. It is heartbreaking. Have you ever heard of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Study the CDC did several years ago. You can read about it here. Warning: The results of the study are not pretty and implications disturbing. In short, childhood trauma has a direct link to adult mental and medical problems. We know that children on this Reservation are living in a constant state of trauma. It is wreaking havoc on them now and will continue to do so.

Let me tell you about my friend. He's probably 5. He has the classic facial structure, physiological signs and behavioral signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He lives in a house with at least 9 kids living in it from I don't know how many different families. I don't know what is happening in this house and I don't want to know. I got to spend a couple hours a day with him last week. I won't see him until next week. What will happen in the mean-time?

I was also reading Psalm 19 today.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
  Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
  There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
  Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
  which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
  Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
  the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Really, my stress is because I think I have some control over any of this. I think I have some ability to actually affect the economic realities here on the Reservation. I think I have some ability to effect change in the life of this little boy. I think I have something to boast about.

Give me a break! What can I do in this situation, but go to God. As He says in II Corinthians, His grace is sufficient. Sufficient for me, this little boy and this Reservation. Christ has been working on this Reservation long before I ever got here and He will work long after I leave. The weaker I am, the more Christ will be glorified when He accomplishes His work here in this place.

How thankful I am that it doesn't depend on me. The creator of the Universe, the One that sets the course of the stars, who has revealed Himself through His innerrent, infallible Word, is active in my life and in this place!

What other response can I have but to echo God's Word:

Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.