Elephant Feet on the Navajo Nation

Elephant Feet_Navajo Nation

I revisited my fond feelings towards the Navajo Nation and all the beauty found there. I didn’t sketch this while I was there last August, but I referenced a photo I took on my way back from Kayenta and the Black Mesa (south of the ever-popular Monument Valley). I threw off the shackles of the blank page and sat on my couch and went at it for a few minutes earlier this week. I waged a good battle trying to figure out how to get our scanner to work the rest of this week. Many thanks to my wife for helping me to prevail against the Hewlett-Packard beast!

Missing in this sketch, the Navajo craft vendors with their lovely wares. When I stopped to admire these sandstone formations beside the highway, a few Native women were  setting up their folding tables, laying out table cloth and setting up their chairs under awnings which were also methodically assembled. There is so much to see and discover there in Navajo country. It’s little curiosities, like the subject of this sketch, which so often catch my attention.

Perhaps I may take my family back next time, making Monument Valley a priority on the trip. Of course, I’d have to take them to see the Elephant Feet at some juncture; a sign pointing travelers towards real fossilized dinosaur tracks near Tuba City also grabbed my fancy. Now, if only my job allowed the highway wanderer in me to run rampant.




Let Every Need Bring Praise to God

I just want to provide for my family. I keep telling myself this again and again. I think and pray it, go to bed and wake up to this, and dwell on it throughout the day. I probably dream about it, too. As a Christian, I know ultimately, every need will be met by the God who made me and gave me a family. All the same, I just want to provide for my family. If I have worries, they do not include how many vacations I will be able to take my family on this year or if we’ll be able to buy the latest high end computer. I don’t care about those things. I just want to provide for my family. I’m not crazy about taking one verse of Scripture to emphasize my own point, but I do find solace in this passage from Paul’s epistle to the church in Philippi:  “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, ESV).

Although this was in Paul’s benediction, the theme of God’s providence is a common theme in Scripture. Whether it be of common needs such as clothes or food, or of our greater need of God supplying atonement for sin through Christ, man’s neediness is always shown in the stark contrast of God’s all-sufficiency. He created not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Scripture just flat out breathes these things. I find it profound that in the beginning of the Old and New Testaments, man is shown to be lacking, with God as the remedy. From original sin to the incarnation of God, his lordship over his creation is displayed so beautifully.

Again, I find solace now in my need, the needs of my family; the pattern of needs and their consummation is repeated throughout Scripture, redemptive history, and on a very personal level, in my own life. Food for hunger, water for thirst. Justice for those who have sinned. Pardon for those who have not deserved it. Funny how being able to pay for rent, insurance, groceries, a tank of gasoline, or clothes is an ever-present past-time for us humans- all relevant things for responsible folks to concern themselves with (especially when they are responsible for other people). I find that my needs help point me back again and again to the God who made me.

The desire for one’s family to be clothed, fed and taken care of isn’t some defect imbedded within us. It is only natural. In fact, it’s another part of the realm of nature which paints a picture of the gospel. A man who has a wife and family, and loves them, will go to every length to supply them with care and love.God, who wished to display his glory, displays love toward his people in Christ (see Romans 5:8 and pretty much that whole chapter, OK, the whole book). I realize there are more theological ramifications to consider here, but in the context of need, I cannot think of anything greater than the reconciliation between us, rebellious creatures that we are, and the Creator who made us.

In light of such liberal grace, I am confidant that this man’s prayer for his family’s well being will not be ignored by the God he trusts in. I just want the desire to provide for my family to bring glory to God. Vacations and computers are somewhere way down the line.



Procrastination and Joel Osteen

Not sure where this post is going, but I thought I would tap on this keyboard thingy here just so I do not forget how to do so. Yeah, I know, what you’re thinking, imaginary reader, you’re thinking, “This guy is an amazing writer! He should be at the top of the blogosphere in no time at all!” Thank you, rhetorically gifted imaginary person, I appreciate the atta-boy very much. It sustains me.

Actually, I really hadn’t dreamed of this post going that direction at all; let’s pretend the first paragraph never happened since I will not be deleting it. It’s about principle, you see.

Lately, I’ve been trying to get around to all (OK, many) of the things I have been procrastinating on. Projects which generally suffer due to my irregular hours as a tow truck driver. Little things such as, repairing my truck’s exhaust system, mowing all of my yard instead of half, repairing a dresser drawer in my daughters’ room, transfering home video tapes over to digital for a family documentary (i.e. home movie) I have wanted to do for about ten years now, and, well, you get the picture.

Excuses abound. Some are pretty amazingly creative, and, I will be honest, persuasive. Not enough time! There’s never time! I can never get around to it! (Exclamation points should not be used to convey sincerity because they’re like raising your voice: if you do it too much no one will listen.) To shorten the word count, and to get out of actually giving you a plethora of examples, I will say this: Excuses are about as useful as e-mail. Everyone uses e-mail once in a while, but no one uses…Just lost my train of thought due to the fact that I am making this up a tad before midnight. I will not go softly into the night! No way!

This has been an exercise in what not to write about. If you read this, you’re probably thinking this was about as profitable as a Joel Osteen sermon is biblically sound. My apologies. Too bad, for it had so much promise. As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day!”

The Mundane: Tools to Glorify God

Went to work today on what usually is my day off. My wife gave birth to our fourth child nearly three weeks ago on one of my scheduled work days, and we were happy that my company let me have the day off without deducting pay. So I made up for it. It’s highly unusual for companies today to give you grief for taking a day off for life events. Pretty sure there are a few laws floating around that help out the worker as well.

Among the jobs today, I went and loaded and transported a 20′ metal container box to a construction yard in Winnemucca. Not very exciting material for a Facebook post much less for a blog entry. But that is everyday life: the mundane is the miraculous. As a Christian, I believe (in light of God’s sovereign grace) that even driving an old Freightliner truck with a metal box that will be used for storage in a dusty construction yard can be an act of worship. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, ESV).

That goes for the unsung work done at home by my wife.

I called her from work (not from a hands-free device) and left her a short voice mail message. This evening after supper she told me she was busy washing out a cloth diaper in the toilet when I called. Sanctification in one of its many forms. When I was 19, I read a short book by John Piper called Don’t Waste Your Life. Reading it I was inspired, then as a single man just starting out, to make it my aim to glorify Christ in whatever I do. I haven’t always succeeded but I think in a way the very fact I am not always successful or obedient to Him draws me to Him all the more. To “make much of Christ” in the extraordinary and (perhaps more importantly) the ordinary times is the desire of my heart as well as my wife’s heart.

I reckon, them, that these unexciting things are quite all right. Dusty metal storage boxes and dirty baby diapers alike are too.

Highway 93 Blurb

I towed a Dodge Ram half-ton pickup to Twin Falls, Idaho on Monday. Providing the weather is good, it takes about three hours to drive there from Elko. During the day these longer tows don’t really bother me. I try to look at it this way: I’m being paid to go on a mini road trip (minus the fun touristy stops at places like “World’s Largest Cast Iron Pan”). Fifty miles eastbound on I-80 takes you to the town of Wells, where the motto on a welcome sign reads, “Small but entertaining.” From there, you exit off onto state route 93 which runs north to south; north takes you to Twin Falls and eventually into Montana, while south runs through Ely, Las Vegas and finally into California near Needles.

Heading north on 93, I took in the scenery. Being mostly range land, typical of the whole region, home to cattle, antelope (more accurately called “prong horn”) some elk, and deer. It’s here on this stretch of road you will come across a multi-million dollar answer to deer migration and highway safety. It is an elaborate system of fences, overpasses and underpasses. It may do some good, but deer aren’t the best at following directions. Often you’ll see path leading towards fences they simply jump over. An impressive, perhaps, ineffective system. I’m not advocating for or against the wildlife corridor; I’ll leave it to others to rant about it.

More Back Story: Elko, Nevada

Home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Basque Festival, Mine Expo, Ruby Mountain (Hot Air) Balloon Festival, and other events with the “Battle Born”  flair of Northeastern Nevada, Elko sits amid a high desert landscape along the historic California Trail. Sagebrush and juniper dominate the surrounding area, typical of northern Nevada as well as the Great Basin. Running from east to west is the Humboldt River, which straddles the county seat of Elko County. To the south, stretching from northeast to southwest, lies the Ruby Mountains, “where there are trees.”

That was the big distinction I gathered the day after I came down from Washington. No trees. I don’t count junipers, of course. Those, in my mind, are shrubs. Glorified bushes. When we moved here, the Rubies became my family’s afternoon escape. A drive up to the road’s end in Lamoille Canyon after church provides us a break from the desert, a break from the sagebrush covered basin below. Makes us eager to explore similar ranges in the area, including the East Humboldt range and Sulpher Spring range. Nevada is nothing more than a series of basins and ranges. We have only begun to explore.

Back in the Rubies, limber and pinion pine, as well as quaking aspen and mountain mahogany trees blanket the glaciated mountains and hanging valleys in the higher elevations. To my surprise, there are choke cherry, elder berry and service berry bushes up there as well. Familiar things, excepting the pinion pine, we thought we left behind in the Evergreen state. As newcomers, the pinion pine tree is interesting. Harvesting the pine nuts is high on our list of things to try. I just have this mental image of climbing up to the tops of some of the taller trees and fighting off a squirrel for the precious cones. That would be pretty extreme. Maybe that might explain the high price people charge for the pine nuts they sell out of their cars on the roadsides or at gas stations. They all have scars and crazy squirrel stories.

I started working for Major Drilling America, the US arm of Major Drilling Group International in February of 2012. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, the company is one of the larger core and rotary drilling companies in the world. I had some experience with core drilling from 2008 to 2010 but not wanting to travel all over from job contract to contract, I decided it wasn’t a family friendly industry and went looking for a job that stayed around the region I called home. After two years of seasonal work and low-paying work, after talking with my wife about it, we decided we needed a more financially sustainable source of income. Drilling definitely pays well (especially compared with the $10 an hour jobs I was only able to find at the time), so I applied with several larger drilling companies including Boart Longyear and Major.

With a couple weeks of applying, I got a call from Major’s recruitment department. I was asked about prior experience and who I knew in their company and if I wanted a job. Before long, a week later, I was on a plane to Salt Lake City for a week long new hire training. Not long after I returned home, I got a call to go to work as a driller’s helper in Northeastern Nevada. After getting established in my job, we were finally able to find a house in Spring Creek (near Elko) to rent. We moved in July. I worked rotating shifts of 20 days on and 10 days off for almost a year and then was laid off in January of this year. Gold prices, as most people know, have tumbled since last year. Even though the price per ounce has recently plateaued somewhat, mining has been hit hard by all the economic uncertainty.

When I got the lay off notice, I didn’t know what to think. We had just got caught up, started building up our savings again and acquired a car loan, when the boom for us ended. Since January, I went to a truck driving school in Reno, paid for by JOIN (Job Opportunities in Nevada) and the Elko Nevada Job Connect. I learned a lot and after three weeks I took the drive test and passed, gaining a class A commercial driver’s license in March. Within two weeks I got a job with Lostra Brother’s Towing, a local tow company, and that’s where I am now.


Spring Creek, Nevada

I already have a blog, I told myself. I already have one I am neglecting. Why do I need another one? I suppose I need some kind of reason (or excuse) to add to the trillion other blogs on the Web. I began my previous blog when I was single, recently out of high school, and still living at home. That was nearly ten years ago. I think it is time to start over in the blogosphere.

A little context. My name is Matt Valdez. I am nearly 27, married to a great woman, and we have four children, aged four and under.  My wife’s name is Angela, and we met in a small community in North Central Washington in October of 2006. At the time, I was working south of Seattle at a tire retread shop, living in an upstairs apartment of an old house in Puyallup. I was visiting my mom and step-dad on their property near Oroville (about a five or six hour drive away) over the weekend and they invited Angie and her parents over for supper on the first night I arrived.

I arrived before they did, and after all the pleasantries, my mom informed they invited over the girl they had told me about a couple weeks before. My response? Put on a suave and ruggedly hansom air? No, I hid in the back room pondering my “move”. After Angie and her folks had showed up, I didn’t leave the back room for another ten minutes. Pondering is tough. My wife-to-eventually-be brought a pastry dish of apple squares, and once I manned up and walked down the hall and met her, her charm and cooking broke the ice.

We were married less than a year later.

Angela and I have had many adventures since our late summer wedding in 2007. We have lived mostly in a rural setting for the past six years, so many mishaps and escapades are in that setting as well. Getting stuck in snow banks, and getting unstuck, living off-grid for a few years, learning the best way to fall a tree (and, also, the not so best way to fall a tree), rescuing a yearling goat frozen to the ground in the dead of winter (more than once or six times), battling a rogue owl with a penchant for attacking our chickens, are just a few to mention.

A good portion of our married life I’ve worked seasonal jobs , so we’ve had to deal with the ups and downs of working for contractors and unemployment. In trying times and the benign, we have by the Lord’s grace, leaned on Him. This isn’t our story. It’s another portion of God’s grace and providence, which we have been blessed with participating in.