Sunday, September 27, 2009

just pondering

They say that mothers run where angels fear to trod. My role here is certainly not mother. So I sometimes wonder what kind of a fool I am.

It’s fun to watch our community take shape and personality. When you slap together a group of random people, from random places, with random experiences, the community that evolves is very individual. The first week, you see faces and hear names and associate people with the color or their sweater or glasses they wear. But time and conversation reveals history. And you realize that people aren’t products of the moment, but came from somewhere. And you learn their stories.

Last Wednesday evening I drove back from town with Evelyn, listening to her story. To her dreams and ideas and dramas and opinions. I find myself suddenly a character in her story. I’m supposed to say something. To come along side. To be involved. But who is equal to answer REAL questions? To give answers that could influence the course of someone’s life? What kind of a fool am I to leap right into the middle and trudge beside someone for a mere three months?

More than once, though, I’ve been amazed at how God is using my own experiences. Even up to the recent heartaches of this past summer. Several of my girls mirror parts of my own story. And I can’t help but remember God’s guidance through those seasons. And when I share pieces of my life with them, I marvel to watch -again- how He wrings purpose out of my experiences.

Love is a funny thing, isn’t it? Where you have no right to enter, it opens doors. When you should tremble to speak it sets you on a soapbox. And where you ought to hesitate, you plunge forward like a fool.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

back to the bottom

As I insinuated, the six-hour drive to the Sand Dunes last weekend was fairly uneventful. Our day was exhilarating, tiring, awesome, but uneventful. For me anyhow. One of the other drivers had his own little adventure. From the driver’s seat of Van 1, I merely laughed and murmured to Jonathan-riding-shotgun, “Oh good. now I’m not the driver at the bottom of the totem pole anymore!”

We decided to keep this last weekend low key. So yesterday we loaded up into a couple of vans and went on a gentle hike - just over a mile - to Opal Lake. After 30 minutes of wash-board gravel roads, we piled out at the trail head.
“You want to lead?” Eric looked at me.
“I wasn’t here when we went last year. I was sick. …but I guess can anyway. Is the trail well marked?”
He nodded. And assigned Shelly (the cook) to the front with me.
“I’ve never been here before,” she echoed. But she was game. And we struck out. How hard is it to follow a trail?

And what a fabulous mountain side! The aspens grew so straight and white and close together. And I don’t often see grass growing in a forest. But in between the trees, it was green. A very different kind of lushness than in Oregon. It had rained the day before, so the mud was slick and slurpy and beautiful. We wandered through meadows, stopped to climb up fallen trees, laughed and slid up and down the trail. For about an hour. Until Mae finally piped up “How long is it to the lake?” Shelly and I looked at each other and shrugged. There had been only one real fork in the road. The trail sign had fallen down. But we’d followed the arrow pointing to “Opal lake”. A group of us had gotten pretty far ahead. Why turn back now? So we plodded on. Finally a ridge grew up in front of us. We could see the trees ended.
“I don’t want to get anyone’s hope up, but that’s probably it.” Rob remarked quietly. Expectantly we scrambled up the hill and looked down. Not a bit of water in sight. But valley. And more mountain. Then we glanced behind us. Eric and Jonathan came jogging up the trail trying to catch us.
“You missed the trail head about a mile and a half back.”
Shelly and I looked at each other. And then out over the valley in front of us. We had a hearty laugh at ourselves.
“It’s a beautiful view from here, though.”

“Of course,” grinned Michael-who’d-been-in-the-run-out-of-gas-van, “It’s always an adventure when I go anywhere with Naomi.”
“I’d say you’re back at the bottom of the totem pole!” Jonathan teased me.

Oh well. We retraced our steps and got back to the right trail in time to meet the wiser ones already on their way back to the vans. Hurrying past them, we ran the few hundred yards to Opal lake and scarfed down our sandwiches on it’s shore.

It was a lovely excursion. After all, what’s a three mile detour? Especially in such beautiful country side. Seriously, it was gorgeous. If anyone doesn’t believe me, feel free to come see for yourselves. I’d be more than happy to lead you up to the lake. It’s a short hike, I hear. Pretty easy. We could get there and back in an hour, honest….

Sunday, September 20, 2009

two weeks down

I feel much more settled at the beginning of this week than I did at the beginning of last. Last Sunday I led our first small group. Nine girls watching me. And then throughout the week I tried to pull each of them aside to get a little one on one. Nine seemed like a lot. But now that I’ve gotten a chance to connect individually I’m excited. I love to observe different personalities. I love to ask questions and try to understand how someone thinks. And it’s pretty cool to be able to pull out the “I’m your mentor” line and ask any question I want to. Including: “What are you REALLY thinking?” I feel so privileged to walk along side them as they ask questions and build foundations for beliefs. Privileged and sometimes very small. I love the challenge and pray for wisdom.

Last night Libby and I walked down the driveway. (side note: I’m finally getting used to the dreadful lack of oxygen at 7,000 feet. So trudging up the hill isn’t quite as breathtaking an experience as it was last week.) The sun was just setting through the aspens. We had to stop and just marvel. The leaves were almost translucent with the sunbeams shining through them. I wonder if that was the inspiration behind the very first stain glass. The mountains around us are turning gold and red. So subtly that you hardly notice what’s happening until the color has already changed.

And for those of you interested in round two, it was a six hour drive. I won.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

van vs. naomi

Betsy and I used to laugh that Rebekah is competent and I am confident. Confident and charge ahead. It usually serves me well. And even when I fail, that indomitable buoyancy always pops right back up, and I hear myself talking just as big as last time. There was one time, though, when it failed me: learning to drive. It took several timid, faint-hearted years before I got my feet…, wheels… under me. But that’s the past. The almost forgotten past. Now I zip along with all the natural pluck my license allows. At least in small cars. Because a daunting nervousness still settles in the pit of my stomach when I take on a fifteen passenger van. As a driver. With a full load of students. All the sudden I’m green, raw, young.

This morning a handful of students slept in, as sane, ordinary persons do on Saturday mornings. But the rest of us headed to the annual rummage sale at the community center. We had to be early because class started at nine. So when or alarms sounded, we rolled out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen for coffee and cheerios. Suzanne handed Amanda and I each a set of keys, and we loaded into vans 1 and 2.
We careened gently down the hillside and through the gate.
“This really isn’t so bad, Naomi. You should just stop dreading driving these monsters and just be okay with it.” That’s what I said to myself. Half way down Blue Creek Road, however, Emily said something very different.
“Uh, Naomi, your gas tank is on empty.”
“Huh?” I glanced down. Sure enough. We were in the red. But I figured we had enough to make it into town. No low-gas light was on. Not even the smallest beep.

I’ll keep the story short. Suffice to say we didn’t make it to the rummage sale. Eric, bless his soul, came to our rescue. The wise students were still breakfasting when we pulled back home. We settled on an alibi: We’d just say the rummage sale had consisted fully of such uninteresting articles as doilies, tablecloths and large furniture. Bless Suzanne’s soul, too: she assured me the sale wasn’t nearly as interesting as it was last year.
I dropped the students off at the lodge, drove down to the gas tank and filled up van #2 (which I mentally renamed “Van of No Mercy”), and went to brew a pot of coffee.

So I guess the white van won the first round. But there's still eleven weeks to go....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

the beginning of the beginning

That last blog was written on Thursday. But this is the first chance I've had to be on the internet (oh fabulous technology!). And yes, the edge of the ledge DID provide adequate reception.

And yes, all the students did arrive. The hill is just brimming with bright unfamiliar faces. I chuckle to myself as we stand around in awkward groups, asking eachother polite questions. I love to see friendships forming and personalities coming out. Last night Suzanne and I walked around the girl's rooms. We poked our heads into the different doors to say goodnight. Libby joined us. Then Emily and Sterling, and soon we were a troop knocking on doors and laughing with eachother. Getting glimpses into their bedrooms - and their lives. Stopping to check out Rebbekah's hat collection - who knew you could enter hat collections into the county fair? Or oooh and awe over Rosey's hot chocolate maker.

A semi-normal schedule starts tomorrow. I think everyone's looking forward to getting into a routine.

where AM i?

After a long day of travel, I met Suzanne outside the Durango airport. How delightful to see her! And what a difference it makes to know people here. I compare this arrival with last years. So much gentler for me. There are a few new faces. But the familiar ones are so sweet to see again. To pick up right where we left with last years jokes and experiences. I feel at home.
I admit, though, that as I write this tonight I’m a little homesick for my home people. We don’t have internet yet. And I have yet to find a place that my cell phone gets reception. Russell - one of the other mentors - told me there’s a ledge on the edge of the mountain next to the lodge that gets a signal. Maybe I’ll get a chance to explore tomorrow.
Tomorrow will be full, though. A handful of students are here this evening. But most of them show up tomorrow. So we’ll spend the day giving tours to curious parents and shuttling from the airport.
We had several staff meetings today. It’s good to have Eric leading us again, in his quiet, laughing way. And what an interesting group we are this year! There are some very strong personalities amongst us. But I think we’re going to work well together. And as I glance around at them, I look forward to this next three months.
Browsing through student forms, getting to know my teammates, brainstorming about small group with Suzanne - I’m getting excited!