17 December 2012

Mourning the Loss

I have this friend. His name is Cody. Cody and I became friends in a strange, round about way that started with dating. There are more, sad details to that story that I would love to share interpersonally, but they are not so much for the internet. We dated at a strange turning point in both of our lives. We were both unhealthy, mentally and physically, and we really trying to turn things around for ourselves. Or maybe, just I was. We fell in love. Not so much romantically as within a friendship. And when things ended, they just ended. I wasn't really injured and neither was he. Our friendship ceased for awhile as we both did other things.

We got back in touch after I had really turned my life around and Cody, well, he hadn't. You see, Cody is a douche. Do not mistake me, I love him more than there are words, but that doesn't make him any less of a douche. He is that guy that women date because they believe that with them? It will be different! They can change him, save him, be the one to bring him out of the darkness. I think the reason Cody and my relationship never imploded was because I thought none of those things. I didn't expect our relationship would be one for the ages, it just was. Cody gets involved with these beautiful, independent, loving, caring women who want the best for him - and he messes them up. Pretty badly. I don't think it is intentional, but it always happens. Cody enters, ruins friendships and self esteems, and then is gone. And to ask him, it is always his exgirlfriends' fault. But it isn't. It is because Cody doesn't love himself and doesn't understand why anyone else would love him. So he treats them as he treats himself, badly.

Cody came to visit me in Cusco during a very messy break of a very messy marriage to a very wonderful woman. The mess was entirely Cody's. When I picked him up from the airport, he hadn't eaten or slept in days. We went back to my flat, got him fed and tucked him into my bed until we could check him into the hostel downstairs. He let me gush about the man I had fallen in love with and fell quiet when I warned him not to say one bad word about his wife. I'm not sure why Cody ever listened to me, but he always did. Because while he is a horrible boyfriend and husband to just about every other woman on the face of the earth, he is a good friend. He listens and gives excellent hugs. He is always willing to try new things and loves freedom of any and every kind. He lives by his own set of rules and often forgets to follow them. He is a beautiful, beautiful mess.

I remember asking him to live his life and not to settle for convenience. We were on a plane to Toronto and the flight attendant mentioned he may have had too much to drink. I settled him down and got him another drink - of water, but he didn't need to know that. I told him that sometimes we choose happiness over sorrow, even when we don't feel it. He laughed, "You're probably right, Mal." That was something he said to me a lot, always while laughing. He is the only person in the world I ever let call me Mal. And only because he won't not.

The next time I saw Cody, we were in JFK and we took NYC and Washington DC by storm. We spent the four hour bus ride to DC speaking and laughing loudly in British accents and making up stories about our lives in the UK. We laughed so hard we cried. Cody had been sober for over a month. He was headed back to the midwest and I was headed to Italy. We had a hilarious week of wandering. Before Cody, I had never really met anyone else who wanted to see the world like I did. We tried to touch base when he moved to Germany, but I was already back in the US. So we made plans to potentially buy a sail boat and do a stint around the world in the next year or so if we could save up the money. We couldn't. And by then, I was engaged and Cody was living in Chicago. Our lives were so different! And yet, somehow, still the same.

Right before I got married, Cody and I talked on the phone and he told me he was proud of me. When Rory was born, Cody was on the list of people who received that very first picture and update. "He's so beautiful, Mal. I can't wait to meet him." I think we talked on the phone once since then. And last week we chatted on Facebook about Mark and Rory and I possibly being in Jamaica, so he should try and come visit. It's hard to keep track of Cody, his life is transient. He typically has a girlfriend who reaches out and we become friends, he has wonderful taste in women even if he isn't the best boyfriend. I try to keep in touch with him as much as I can and I always remember to tell him to be nice to people on his birthday, even if they give him gifts. I remind him that the girl he is dating is not the enemy and he should be better. I tell him he looks like crap and to cut his hair, that MCR is coming out with new stuff and that travel is the best thing for a hurting soul.

I asked him how he was last week. He didn't respond, but I know he saw it because Facebook is creepy like that. I probably should have known that meant he wasn't doing well. I found out this morning that Cody will never meet Rory. And words cannot express how heart broken I am. Cody was not the greatest human being, but he was a wonderful and profound friend that I love - loved. I can't help but wonder if there was something that I could have done or said even though I know there isn't. Cody lived life on his terms, freedom was what he lived and died for. I mourn for the loss of such a vibrant and free spirit in the world and I mourn the loss of my friend.

Codybear, I love you. You are missed. 1988-2012

16 December 2012

The Christian Code of Conduct

As a little girl, I was always one of the boys. The older high school boys would play with and take care of me, they loved and accepted me for exactly who I was. They liked that I was willing to play with them in the mud and that I dressed myself in the most mismatched outfits. They adored that I was unafraid of skinned knees or gravel in my palms. And I grew up that way, one of the boys. Cared for as a little sister in Christ should be cared for. But the girls didn't see me. I was scolded for having dirt on my clothes or speaking what what was on my mind. It was subtle, but crushing. Especially as I grew up.

As I grew, I realized that there was some kind of secret Christian Code of Conduct that no one had ever told me about. As Christians, we were never supposed to admit when we were struggling - "Fake it till you make it!" was the unbearable catch phrase. We were never supposed to question God, He was God and His will was omni-this and omni-that. As girls, we weren't funny, but rather laughed at all the amusing things boys did. As young women, we needed to be presentable and kind and quiet and unassuming. And anyone who did not follow the very strict - but never talked about - Code, was condemned. Shunned, pushed out, made to seem unrighteous. A sinner without remorse.

If you ask any Christian about this Code, this set of unsaid expectations, they will deny it exists. But anyone who has every felt like an outsider once inside the doors of a church knows what I'm talking about. They all look so put together and make you feel like you should feel badly about yourself. Perhaps it's intentional, perhaps it isn't. But it is true, nonetheless. I would know. I am a Christian and I feel this way all the time. Much less now, but it still gets under your skin and pulls at the insecure bits of your self esteem. And I just want you to know? It's a sham.

First and foremost? We are all sinners. There is no one sin that is more toxic than the next and everyone is guilty. I am guilty, you are guilty, and the ones who act like they aren't? Are probably the most guilty of us all. Don't ever let anyone quote scripture at you in order to make you feel ashamed. It is one thing to hold people accountable and encourage good behaviour - It is another to shame them into following a set of rules you believe to be important. I am a Christian and I believe the words the Bible has for me. I also believe that there is some room for interpretation and a whole lot of room for grace and forgiveness and that the only person who truly commands the whole understanding of the Bible is God. That means I can theologize - but I have no idea who is getting into Heaven and who isn't. I don't get to judge or decide on other people's fates. I don't know peoples' hearts intimately enough to know what is in store for them after this life. And, honestly? I don't know what is in store for them either way! I can't imagine, I am too small and too human.

I digress.

This set of unknowable rules that is laid out? This code of conduct that no one will speak of? Makes me sad for the women of Christianity. It makes me sad because it hurts when people I want to consider friends make me feel like an outsider. It makes me sad because I don't feel the need to subject myself to the standards of this world in order to fit in. It makes me sad because I think they feel like they are correcting me into a "better" version of myself, when in reality they are just putting someone else down because they (I) are (am) different. I am a mom, a wife, and I love spending time cooking and cleaning and reading my Bible. But I also swear, use sarcasm endlessly, believe whole heartedly in sustainable living, laugh too much and too loudly, like dirt under my nails, and befriend the unholiest of humanity - if there is such a thing.

I am wrong a lot of the time and there are certainly things I need to improve upon. Vastly. I need to spend more time caring for the sick, the orphaned, the widowed. I need to spend more time with the homeless, the friendless, and the outcast. I need to spend more time reading my Bible and less time scrolling through Pinterest. I need to be more concerned with what I can be doing to take care of the Earth God gave me to walk upon. But I do not need to clean up my language - the people I want to spend more time with? Talk like me. And I do not need to wear a certain style of semi-professional clothing - the people I want to live next to? Have far less fancy clothing. I do not need to stop being sarcastic - the people I want to minister to? Know exactly what I mean. I do not need to be quieter - God has called me to be anything but! And I am not wrong about this.

It isn't that living by this secret Code of Conduct is bad. It isn't. But it also isn't necessary or even always possible for the rest of the world. I don't condemn these women for having a standard they live by, but I am upset by their expectation that I should do the same. There is only one person who determines the code which I follow, and He did not come in His Sunday best. He came in the middle of the night in the heart of the country in the middle of a stable. He spent his days as a homeless vagabond, wandering from town to town in order to love people. He hung out with lepers, thieves, fishermen, and countless other random people. He lived, died, and rose to love people. And that is the law I try and live by, the only rule worth following.

14 December 2012

Most Beautiful Girls I Know

"Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river."
Isaiah 66:12

I am very proud to say that I know four of the most beautiful young women alive. Being involved in their lives is the most wonderful gift and I am grateful. They are intelligent, graceful, lovely, polite, kind, empathetic, compassionate, heartfelt, honest, wise, experienced, open minded, funny, joyful, and thoughtful. They are also socially awkward, sarcastic, blunt, crass, naive, sorrowful, over eager, judgmental, and strange. And still they are more than all these things, they are beautiful daughters of God, sisters in Christ, and my friends.

Two and a half years ago, I returned to the Pacific Northwest without any knowledge of what might lay ahead for me. I started helping with a youth group that had once rejected me as a teen and would again reject me as an adult, but I am glad of the opportunity it gave me to speak into the lives of these four girls. When I met three of them, I was a reserved leader on a mission trip down to Mexico. Reserved because I wasn't sure of my role as a leader, wasn't sure that my opinions or history would be accepted by the other adults on the trip as "appropriate", wasn't sure that I wanted to take up the torch of being a role model. But in the end, they won me over. Their sarcasm and eagerness for honesty from adults reminded me of another teenager I knew once...

On a car ride across the border and to San Diego, we talked about boys and life and the inbetweens. And I promised them, laughing, that they could each be flower girls in my wedding - my far off, distant, imaginary wedding. Then, three months later, I was engaged. But I had promised these three high school girls that they could be flower girls in my now very real, very soon, very happening wedding. So they were. And by the time I met the fourth, our very strange and sarcastic circle was complete.

Despite their similarities, each girl is so vastly different from the next that I'm not sure where to start.
You have one tall and leggy, a dancer, who is as awkward as she is graceful. She doubts herself even when she shouldn't and pretends things don't bother her when they do. Her expectations are not high because she has experienced disappointment, yet she still has unlimited amounts of hope for the future. She is fiercely independent. A leader. Someone that younger girls look up to, even though she doesn't know it. She has her own sense of style and laughs because she can't help it. She is beautiful.
Then there is another with dark hair and eyes, who feigns shyness when she is bold in reality. She appears fearless, but is cautious - too many people have let her down. She assumes no one is listening, but she is profound. Sarcasm is her shield from the world and she does not see her own potential, despite her unlimited amounts of it. She has felt true loneliness, but when she smiles it lights up a room. She is beautiful.
And one short and petite with a flare for fashion and a mind for school. She is a thoughtful, devoted friend and sure of herself. When she finds herself disappointed, she is nonchalant and acts uninterested. She is always looking forward to her future and sometimes forgets about the now, until she remembers and finds joy in even the smallest things. She is often serious, but also playful. Eager to be an individual. She is beautiful.
Last but not least, she is tall and lovely. Most often unaware and easily embarrassed, it might seem like she doesn't belong in this crowd, but she does. She can laugh at herself and loves without reservation. Truly kind and appreciative of everyone around her. She is often unsure of herself, but self corrects and can be herself around anyone. She is accepting and open minded. Some times she speaks without thinking and is shy, but other times she is courageous and outspoken. She is beautiful.

All four represent strength and beauty in their own ways. All four are capable and intelligent. All four are wonderful and loving friends whom I have come to cherish and adore. They show up at my tiny studio each Thursday night and we talk about everything - appropriate and not so much. Because I would rather they talk to me about (insert topic here) than to no one at all and because I love them and there is no topic off limits to the people I love. I am as transparent as I can be in hopes that they can be transparent with me. Mostly, we goof off and make jokes, but the thought is that they will see someone accepting them for who they are so they can accept others - and themselves.

I worry about them, I pray for them, I laugh with them, I share with them, and through them? God gives me peace. It is a strange peace from a strange place, but it flows. As long as they give me the opportunity to love them, I will take it. We have touched briefly on the subject of Mark, Rory, and I leaving the country in the next year and it is a difficult one. These girls have been abandoned by one too many adults who promised them friendship. But I am eager to show them they will always have a place in my heart and on my couch and no amount of distance could ever alter that. They are my girls and they are the most beautiful girls I know.

10 December 2012


The word of the day is Missionary.

The other morning I had a sleeping baby in my arms, a sleeping husband in my bed, a beautiful sunrise through my window, and a cup of coffee in front of my keyboard. If that was all I ever had, my life would still be glorious gift. Advent is here and in the same fashion as last year: bringing big changes for our family. Last year we found out we were expecting our beautiful little Rory. This year, we have been generally accepted as missionaries by the Covenant Church. Next year, hopefully, we'll be experiencing Advent in a new country.

We are terribly excited. We had a Skype interview with the Regional Coordinator of Latin America and the Caribbean and have exchanged emails with RC of Europe, Russia & Africa and several Country Coordinators. All that remains (which is a fairly big "all") is to determine a specific location and fundraise. We will most likely be commissioned in June of this coming year and leave between September and January 2014 - probably. It is important we remain flexible and willing to take part in whatever God has planned for us.

We aren't positive, but it seems God is calling us towards South America for our first mission term. There are several promising locations that we feel would really fit with our passions and their program needs, but nothing is concrete. We are eager to further connect with country directors and find where we could fit. Our church, Cedarcreek, has been wonderfully supportive - despite the fact that this means they will lose yet another Church Admin - and continue to ask what they can do for us. We are eager to send out our first support email and let people know more specifics (an email detailing where we are at and specific prayer needs, we won't be asking for money). If you are interested in receiving a support email, let me know! We would love to include you!

Recently, we have been in touch with a young family similar to our own who have raised their young son on the mission field of Ecuador. They moved to South America when their son was only 3 months old and maintain that they prefer raising their son in Ecuador to the US. Latin American culture has a stronger sense of family than the Unites States and children are permitted to be themselves without being reprimanded. They were able to tote their son around to all meetings, schooling, etc. and it was more normal than securing a babysitter because family remains the primary value within South America versus the head importance of work/success in America. Our exchange reaffirmed everything Mark and I have felt about raising Rory outside of the US on mission. We understand there will always be dangers, but we also understand that for us the benefits heavily outweigh the concerns. And any anxieties about our safety remain the same here in Seattle as they would be abroad.

So much blessing and so much work. We have been making strides as a family to really put aside the business of this season in order to spend time with one another. We have also been working to be missionaries where we are at, because we know that the mission field is not just across country lines but everywhere. Mark and I just celebrated our one year anniversary and love our life together. Rory continues to grow at an astonishing rate and will be four months old this Tuesday. He is happy, he is healthy, and he is obnoxious. With parents like he has, is it any wonder? If you want to know more about what is going on with Rory or Mark and I, you can check out our new venue for parenting and marriage psycho-babble at http://themarkandmalia.blogspot.com. It will probably be mostly me, but Mark will be contributing occasionally as well. This blog will continue to be my thoughts and you can also check out Marko's blog to see his, our new space will simply be for the day to day things that we want to share.

As always, I'm glad to share my life with you. Let me know if you'd like be receiving support emails from Mark and I and please know how much I appreciate your readership. With all the love I possess,

01 December 2012

Tis the Season

I was reminded of a very important truth just before Thanksgiving. Comparison is the death of all that is good. We have this bad habit in the Western world of measuring ourselves by what others have/do/aspire to and it makes us miserable. Whether it's money, success, a job, a significant other, or a jean size - we are born and raised to covet it.

I often find myself longing for the small body type of other moms I see in grocery stores or for the money/laundry facilities to do cloth diapers. I am jealous of the showered, well-dressed parents I see everywhere when it took all our faculties for Mark and I to crawl out of bed. I want the beautifully woven stories of an international missionary and I desire the finances to travel and help wherever we are needed as a family.

And then there is the other side of it. Smuggly securing superiority in my mind when I see a baby that isn't as adorable as our sweet Rory (which is vastly untrue and completely ridiculous) or judging anyone who looks like they spend too much money on what I deem unecessary objects. Because I am obviously the foremost expert on how everyone should live their lives.

The truth is: we are each one strand of a most spectacular tapestry. We are each lovely in our own respect and together create a lovely design that would be incomplete without all of the threads. Comparing one strand to another is meaningless, all are needed for their own reasons. It's beautiful in a simple sort of way. I am needed and yet so small in the whole of things. It's funny, the importance of knowing your worth without being prideful. Balance is everything I suppose.

It isn't that we should never take cues from others or not look up to anyone, but we should also recognize that we are not anyone but ourselves and shouldn't waste time attempting to be. How much time and energy would we - would I save? I keep looking around at my life, trying to imagine how it would be better if I had the things someone else has. But I can't see it. Probably because nothing core value wise would change. We had more money when Marko was working, but we didn't have more joy/peace/love. I was smaller before I was pregnant, but I wan't happier/satisfied/contented. I could go on...

I love the study that was done concerning the levels of happiness within a country. Sweden was number one on the list, not because they had more wealth/beauty/time, but because they didn't expect as much from life. Not in a bad way - they just didn't feel like they needed the latest iPhone/flat screen/fad diet. Their expectations did not rely on comparison and they were immensely happier than the rest of the countries involved in the study. Including the US of A.

Rather than allowing joy to die at it's hands, we must kill comparison within our own minds. There are countless verses I could quote at you, but I'll let you read your Bible on your own time and simply say: When you're happy with what you have, you will receive so much more. As we enter into this season of materialism, I would beg you to consider this truth. Rather than wishing on paychecks for what other's have, take pleasure in what you already have! Recognize that there are so many with so much less that are so much happier.

This Christmas, why not consider trying something new? Like this or this or this or this or this. In case you didn't know, today is World AIDS Day. As someone who has lost loved ones to this preventable disease, I urge you to consider doing something today. Whether it is just spreading the word, donating to the cause, going on a trip to educate those exposed - it is all important. Especially to me.

Happy Advent, darling readers, I am praying for you and I love you dearly!

16 November 2012

Self(ish) Image

My husband thinks I am beautiful. More over, I genuinely believe he finds me to be the most attractive woman on the planet. Maybe that's naive, but I believe it. Not that movie stars and models are not sexier than me, but to him? I top everyone else. He tells me this and I believe him. Perhaps it's because I am his wife and the mother of his child and God calls him to love me like this, or maybe it's due to my unbelievably serious rack - no pushup bra needed. But he finds me to be stunning and captivating.

I? Do not.

We've discussed this a little. I have poor self esteem (me and every other woman on the planet at one point or another), not all the time, but a lot of the time. Especially since creating a tiny beautiful little life. Is Rory worth the crazy changes to my body? Yes. Do not mistake me, I love my little boy and I do not resent him (except maybe at 3:30am, but that is for entirely different reasons). However, just because I don't blame him for my current physical state, doesn't mean I struggle with it any less. "Give yourself at least a year to get rid of the baby weight!" That's fine in theory, but in practice? I am much harder on myself.

My mom is a 5'9" red head with pin straight hair and blue eyes and grew up with that slim and slender body type all over fashion magazines. To say I looked at her Senior Portraits as a high schooler with envy is an understatement, I was green with jealousy. I have never looked like my mom. I am 5'5" with curly auburn hair, green eyes, and serious curves. I have always been a bit boyish, despite my not so boyish physique, and let me tell you: androgyny does not work on the curvy women of the world. I know, I've tried. It isn't so much that I don't think I'm pretty as much as I don't look the way the world (media) says I should. There are days I am the most beautiful woman in the room, and others that I wish I could disappear.

As a Christian, this view of myself is problematic, but I'll get to that. You grow up, especially as a girl, hearing a lot of "God knit you together in the womb!" speech from the Church (Psalm 139), to encourage good self image. And yes, I believe God created me - cell to fetus to child - however, I feel like that is yet another one of Christianity's big cop out verses. I know God made me, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't look the way I want to right now. And then there is the media's input: You can always work towards a better you! Sure I can, but there is only so much I can work towards or alter about myself before putting myself beneath a knife and carving myself into what I want. And at that point, am I even me anymore?

What it comes down to is this: Do I believe God makes mistakes? No. Therefore, I am not then, not now, not ever going to be a mistake. If I never embrace the bits of me God graced me with though media tells me are not necessarily the loveliest? Then it is not my self image that is suffering, but my selfish image. I should never want to change the looks God has given me, but care for them. If I feel unhealthy, I need to eat better food and do more for my body physically. But the truth is that while I can straighten my hair? It is curly. And while I can work out and eat well? I will never be rail thin in slacks in suspenders, that's not what God gave me to work with. And God makes no mistakes.

14 November 2012

Charity Miles

Hello friends. Specifically: Hello running/walking/biking friends. Do you like to work out? Good. Do you like to do good? Work out. I am not a big proponent of smart phones. I think they detract from human intimacy (not just sexual) and remove us from society. I do not do "apps," although my husband probably takes care of that for the both of us (Jurassic Park is a special favorite of his :]), but I have discovered an application I can get behind one hundred percent - or rather, get on(?). So whip out your smartphone and play with this app.

Charity Miles. For every mile you walk or run you earn 25¢ and bikers earn 10¢ per mile, up to an initial $1,000,000, to donate to one of the 9 charities Charity Miles features:
1. Achilles International
2. Autism Speaks 
3. Feeding America
4. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria
5. Habitat for Humanity
6. The Michael J Fox Foundation
7. The Nature Conservancy
8. Pencils of Promise
9. United Nations World Food Programme
That's right, all your working out isn't just doing justice for your body, but for the world! And before you whine about spending $0.99 or some other tiny amount to do good? The app is free. You read me, free. Your cheap American breeding is giddy with excitement, isn't it? Mine certainly was!

Not only can I raise money for a cause I love, the more attention Charity Miles receives, the more sponsors and charities it can fund. Think of all your favorite granola charities that get less than their due that could benefit from something like this! And think of all the big corporations that would be doling out change to them, all because of you! So many. It makes my heart skip a beat.

Now, to be perfectly candid, I do not get out there and run as often as I like. But the app sits nicely on the screen of my phone for every such occasion as I have to walk (around the grocery store) or go on a run (I don't own a bicycle). And I am excited for this! It's wonderful to see good works keeping up with the times. I hope to see more of it.

"Now that I have seen, I am responsible."
Brooke Fraser, Albertine

11 November 2012

And He Shall Be Called

Lalo is the pastor of the Miskito church in Waspam on the Coco River of Nicaragua. He and his wife have eight children and two grandchildren living with them. Lalo makes a living by planting beans and rice, but he rarely has enough money to support his family.
One day a man floated down the river with his family on a small raft. His wife was pregnant and having problems. The doctor in Waspam said that the only way to save her life was to take her to the regional hospital eight hours away. The ambulance would take the parents, but not the preschool boys. So the man left two poorly clothed boys at the house at the Baptist church and told one of Lalo's older children that he would be back in a few weeks.
Lalo cared for the boys as if they were his own. When no one returned for the children after several weeks, I asked Lalo what he would do. He repliead, "I will raise them as my own. How can I do anything less when God has entrusted me with these children?"
Eventually, the parents with the new baby did return. The pastor's family was sad to see the boys go and Lalo asked why they had brought the children to the church. The father replied, "I heard you were good people and could be trusted."
Are we willing to sacrifice for others in need?
Viola, a missionary in Middle America and the Caribbean

This is an excerpt from a daily devotional that was given to me. 365 stories from different missionaries around the world of God working where they're at. Honestly? The devotional often does absolutely nothing for my spiritual life, but this particular one struck me at my center. Firstly, because I am head over heels for adoption and caring for the less fortunate. So, no surprises, I was in joyful ridiculous tears about this wonderful man, Lalo. But it's more than just the story of a good Samaritan...

I love that this man was not Lalo's friend or neighbor or even acquaintance - he never even met Lalo, he only spoke with his child. I love that this man trusted strangers and I love that those strangers took up the burden he laid for them without question. There was never another option for Lalo but to care for these boys. He could have called around or passed them off to someone better off financially or with fewer mouths to feed, yet the words that poured forth from his mouth were "How can I do anything less?"
How can any of us?

Rory is three months this Sunday. Mark and I were looking for a specific picture on the computer and stumbled across our sweet boy just days after he was born. Our six pound baby has doubled in weight and grown close to 6 inches. We have adjusted his carseat straps for his height and he wears 6 month onsies. He loves to stand (with assistance obviously) and can keep himself sitting upright against a pillow. He talks almost incessantly and tries his hardest to crawl when he's on his belly, but it mostly just looks like a really intense oblique exercise.

Mark and I are hardly impoverished (except by American standards), but could I imagine caring for two preschool aged boys? In our studio apartment? With our one and a half incomes? Would I take them in and treat them with the same love and affection as I do my little Rory? Knowing I would only be caring for them for several weeks? Knowing it might be forever? How would I respond? Would I document their growth and pay attention to them with the same fervor as I do my own son? How could I not?

As you may know, I work for a church. A very small church with only three employees, which allows me serious diversity in my job description. I clean the bathrooms and take out the trash every Friday, but I also get to design our website and create the cover art for our worship programs. Advent is coming and we are preparing. Part of preparing has been designing the cover art for the sermon series. The verse is Isaiah 9:6,
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be on His shoulder,
and His name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Being a mom rewrites my life constantly. Everything takes on a new meaning, everything takes on new importance - this verse takes on new meaning, new importance. I think of when we decided on Rory's name and how we could suddenly see him, see his personality and future wrapped within that name. I am so eager to meet the man I am raising (not too eager, I can wait). And in considering this verse, I am beginning to see it from the perspective of the child being called these things rather than the man. Because Jesus didn't grow into being God. He was from the moment he was born.


My name, gifted to me by my grandmother, is a poem about an angel who came to earth to live as a flower rather than remain among the hosts of Heaven because fleeting life is a precious gift. Rory's name is beautiful, strong, generous, wave-breaking anchor of Christ. Because that is my hope for his future. If I wrote one for Mark it would be strength through unconditional love, because that is who he is and what he brings to our family. And we are called. Not only by name but by what God has entrusted us with. How can we do anything less?

05 November 2012

Soap Boxes and Guy Fawkes Masks

Yesterday was Orphan Sunday, also known as Hope Sunday, but I like Orphan Sunday better. Orphans deserve a Sunday, indeed they deserve much more than I was obscurely given. I look at my little one and think about what if he was orphaned some how (I realize ten or so of you just jumped in your seat and said, possibly outloud, "I'd take him!"). But this is imaginary land and in it, Rory is an orphan. The estimated number of orphans is somewhere between 150 and 210 million. That's a lot to compete with. And with each day Rory ages, the less likely it is he will be taken into someone's home. How can we have possibly allowed so many children to live without a family?

I think it's easy to pass off responsibility to someone else, to say you don't have enough money or space or time. But if you're reading my blog? You have enough money to access a computer, more than a 50 square foot mud house, and plenty of time to waste on blog reading (not that I don't appreciate you!). I'm just saying, there are three self proclaimed Christians to every orphan. By these statistics alone, assuming only Christians adopt (which is vastly untrue), there should be no more orphans due to the fact that we are called to look out for the least of these, the lost and the broken and those without. Who is more lost, broken, and without, than a little orphan?

To prove this is not just another soap box, Mark and I are beginning to diligently pray about and research adoption as we save our pennies to go across the world on mission. Yes, we have a brand new baby. No, we don't have a lot of money. Yes, we are still planning on living in the dirt in some developing country. I don't know if adoption is in our near future or a little further out, but I would urge you to consider as we are considering.

This week was a weekend of reminders:

We are called to Africa, the heavy sun on red earth. We will raise Rory there with a love of drum centric music and bare feet. He will learn to speak more than just English and hear more than just words. It isn't normal and I don't pretend to imagine it is for everyone. But it is for us and what we are called to. And we are eager to follow that call to the heart of Africa and the heart of God.

The mission field is not just Africa, but here. For now, we find ourselves in a small corner of Suburbia in the Pacific Northwest and we are called to love each of these as much anyone else. Here people are poor internally rather than externally, starving spiritually rather than physically, and have deep needs that cannot be met by material gain. And as much as they pain and frustrate me, as much as I cannot stand their accumulation of wealth and complaining manner, as much as I find their stagnant consumerism and lack of desire to go into the rest of the world infuriating? I must love them. They know nothing but the life that they live and for many, that is enough. I do not know their call as they do not know mine and if I desire for them to allow me my dreams, I must allow them theirs. Loving each person where they are at, seeing them for their potential, and praying for them each and every day.

Adoption is in our future. Maybe not today or tomorrow or even next year, but it is an ever present weight upon our minds. A needed focus in our prayer lives. Somewhere there is a child (or children) we are parents to that we have not found yet. Perhaps we may not discover each other for some time, but they should still be in our hearts as we seek them out.

Rory has had an upset tummy several times this weekend and we experienced an inconsolable little boy for the first time. Not just cries, but screams and tears and so much sorrow wrapped up in the package of our sweet son. It was difficult, but we have managed. And that got me really thinking about our relationship with God. I cannot imagine having 7 billion children to hear hurting, mourning, and in pain, a lot of them all at once. Trying to comfort them with many pulling away, desiring to deal with it on their own or not wanting to recognize Your arms attempting to wrap around them. I can't fathom the time, energy, and pain spent on all of us rebellious children who refuse to see Your comfort and love as such and still You yearn for us. Never turning Your back on the difficult moments or falling apart because we won't allow You to intercede. All I want is to follow that example of parenting, to have even the smallest bit of that kind of devotion towards my little boy and future children.

These are the sweet reminders that have blessed me this weekend. Each reminder often tearful and overwhelming, but lovely and delicate all at once. I am so grateful for my amazing husband who battles a frustrated Rory 3 out of 4 mornings they spend together and still has enough love and compassion and joy to pour over onto me as I stumble over being a good wife. And that Rory is communicating what he wants and needs a little better and we know what to do when he goes into a fit. I am glad of our beautiful little house with it's donkeys and goats and gravel road and extensive property. I am blessed by our wonderful church and community, my dear friends and my flexible job, and our laid back hippie demeanor that allows us to be grateful for our "below the poverty line" life.

Quickie last thoughts: Regardless of who or what you're voting for, if you are able? There is no excuse not to vote! And, "Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gun powder treason and plot. I know of no reason the gun powder treason should ever be forgot." I am not just discussing V for Vendetta, I am discussing Guy Fawkes. Ideas live even after we are gone.

02 November 2012

Clear and Lovely

I used to believe God lived in the ceiling. It wasn't necessarily that He only lived in the ceiling, and He could most certainly come out of the ceiling whenever He pleased, but that was where He resided on a regular basis. This thought occupied my mind probably until the last couple of years. And even now, when I am looking for God I usually look up - as if I might catch a glimpse of my Creator hanging out in the rafters, and maybe I will yet. But lately I haven't been looking for God so much as listening. Stretching my neck towards the Heavens in such deep need to hear. And He is ever faithful.

Driving along our beautiful back roads, rain falling in fat drops on the yellow leaves, I heard His Voice. It was clear and it was lovely. Considering why I had been sent back from travelling abroad, I suddenly had the answer. "I sent you back for Mark," the Voice was warm inside my heart, "I sent you back for Rory, I sent you back so you could hear a new call to the drums of Africa." I laughed as the tears of joy streamed down my cheeks - you know, like a crazy person.
Before this Summer, I had never felt Africa on my heart or mind. Before last Summer, I didn't even like Mark Dullanty. Before the previous Summer, I would never have considered being a missionary. God needed to change my heart towards mission work, my mind toward Marko, and my call towards Africa. I would have called you a liar and I would have been shamed as this beautiful love story unfolded before my eyes. But I heard the Voice I had been straining so hard for. He didn't bestow ultimate wisdom upon me, He simply spoke the quiet truth I needed to be reminded of.

That same weekend we hosted friends for dinner and as a gesture of love one of them said, "Rory will be such a wonderful missionary baby." The words left my mouth before I even considered them, "He already is, he is a missionary to Auburn and Maple Valley and Black Diamond." I am eager to leave. Get on a plane with all my family and all our belongings and leave to have most wonderful African adventures! But I also need to be aware that I am already on the mission field. We are always on a mission field. How can you go love those in Africa if you cannot love those where you are now? You can't.

A dear friend of mine, who has always wanted children, is coming to find out that may not be a possibility for her. Adoption had never crossed her mind and she called me. I am a little adoption ridiculous, I don't talk about it because I just had a baby of my own and we probably won't be adopting for some time - but I want to. Dear God, I want to. I want babies of every color and shade and personality. I sent her an overwhelming amount of information. Yes, I follow adoption blogs and research the costs and grants on a regular basis, don't judge me. She is being stretched beyond what she ever imagined, and I am being stretched to remind her that being a mom doesn't always mean your children come from your womb - without being a pretentious and entitled ass because I've just had my own.
Our Little Ewok

I don't pretend to know what the next step of our journey is or to know the path in front of us, but I do know what God is calling us to and that he is calling us to it as a family. We will continue to be stretched thin over the will of Christ, but it will be marvelous and wonderful and we will be better for it. There is nothing that cannot be achieved by the glorious hand of God. And I am excited! So excited. I have once again heard the Voice I live to hear and returned in order to do these things that have been laid before me, all that stems from it and is yet to come is still mysterious and lovely.

26 October 2012


My son, warm and snuggley in my arms as I try to type one handed, makes a noise that only Mark and I are meant to hear. The soft purr he makes only in our arms. Rory might not mind being handed about, but he knows when he is returned to us. At two months, he knows us. He has his flirty smile that he gives to people he recognizes, "aunts" and "uncles" and grandparents, but there is one he reserves for us. There is a recognition in his eyes that calms him when he looks at us. We are his comfort and his shelter and he rests beneath our wings.

This is what Christ would ask of us, that we look up from His hands, ever reaching to catch us as we fall, and recognize Him. That we reserve not just pieces of ourselves for Him, but all of us. That every action and reaction would be for Him, the good along with the bad - the easy things and the difficult ones. In the same way that my sweet little boy listens for my voice above the rest and looks to find me as he hears it, so God would have us listen and look for Him.

As overwhelmed as I become by the pain and suffering in this world, I know God. And I know that suffering builds character and creates empathy as well as opportunity. As humans, we listen to those who have experienced the pain we know, we look for others who can empathize more than sympathize. We seek that comfort and shelter that love provides. And that love is always Christ.

I know that I cannot save the world or even one soul, only God is capable of such things. But he can use me to accomplish them, I need only be willing. I must be open to whatever is in store for me; physically, mentally, and spiritually. I must be prepared to act according to God's plan for my life, as His hands, feet, and voice. I am called to such great things! So much greater than I am, but still I am called. It is not the same as your calling, we each must do something different in order to accomplish more.

Mark and I have discovered a secret. Still and quiet in the recesses of parenting, there comes a sweet knowledge of self sacrifice. The very thing I have been so eagerly seeking. When you become a parent, you must give up any inkling of selfishness. Because your child will cry and they will need you to be the best you can possibly be and you will not have time to be self-absorbed.

My self image has never been anything astounding, but since having Rory it has had to take a back seat. Because if I had my way, I would be self destructive on that front and that is not healthy and not something I am willing to put my son through. I cannot think about how much I would rather be sleeping at 4am when Rory is upset because he is cold and hungry, he must be my priority. I must die to my selfish desires in the same way the Christ would ask of me.

I don't believe you must become a parent in order to understand sacrifice, but I believe I understand it better now. It has created an entirely new perspective that I cannot deny and, in fact, must seek after will all of my being. My heart breaks for those who suffer in a way that is different from before, and I am ever learning. How I see the world and my place in it will never cease to shift and change because God is moving in me always.

This week the way I am helping the world is by raising my son and making him a priority in my life, following only my husband and my God. For he is precious and dear and grows more every day at an astonishing rate and I refuse to miss even one minute of this beautiful gift.

Rory the Activist

17 October 2012

Overwhelming Lack of Hearing

Today my word is often.

So often am I moved. So often am I reminded. So often am I overwhelmed by grace and love and the capacity for humanity to use these things. So often I am disappointed when they don't - when I don't.

There is a weight of responsibility that comes with having a child, a conviction that bears down on the soul. How do I want Rory do grow up? Comfortable and content with the life he has, untouched by the difficult and dirty things of this world? Or do I want him to passionately seek a life of sacrifice, marked by compassion and love and giving? You should already know my answer, darling reader.

I want my son to be so much better than I am. Sure of himself and his beliefs, whether they mirror my own or take on an entirely different look. I want him to be ever fighting for his convictions rather than hypocritically tearing himself apart internally (see his mom).

"We cannot carry the gospel to the poor and the lowly while emulating the practices of the rich and the powerful." Jen Hatmaker

Why are we entitled to the life we were born into? It was purely blessed circumstance that placed me in a middle class American home and someone else in the slums of Mumbai and another in a compound of former soviet Russia. I haven't earned my first world life. How could I have? How could any of us? The more I consider these things, I become less angry at the wealthy and more sad for them. For us. I am beginning to believe that our daily indifference, our Starbucks coffees and kitchen expansions, is what is killing us from the inside out. We give, but still we waste. I am guilty as any. We should enjoy the little things in this life, but we should recognize that they are only that - little things. We should never allow them to distract us from what matters.

"Compassion is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there," Henri Nouwen

Often: many times, frequently, in many cases. What if Christ meant it when he said that we must go to the poor and the outcast? What if he truly meant that we must give up everything to follow Him? What if those weren't hyperbole or metaphor? Then I am lacking. Even in my obnoxious quest to better my world, I am so inadequate. I have not heard the words I have read over and over, but merely listened without obeying. My heart is broken for each man, woman, and child who suffers. So many suffering needlessly! Even the smallest portion of what I have capable of giving them a better life. How have I not already gone to them on hands and knees with tears on each cheek, apologizing for my lack of compassion, my lack of hearing. I have often been indifferent. That is someone else's calling, another will care for that need, others will do that work. Too often have these been my words, rather than the words that have already been given to me.

I apologize for yet another moment of overwhelming conviction, but they are what plagues me during these days. Often. So often. And my heart is broken for every person I have hesitated to aid, to love. It physically pains me to see such hypocrisy bleeding out of me. I desire a sacrificial life and continually ignore the most simple sacrifices that present themselves to me. It isn't about one big gesture, but a life filled with small opportunities to serve. And I must take them as often as they come. I am beyond exhausted by all of this, so I will leave you with some food for thought.

"May my privileges continue to drive me downward toward my brothers and sisters without. Greater yet, I am tired of calling the suffering "brothers and sisters" when I would never allow by biological siblings to suffer likewise. That's just hypocrisy veiled in altruism. I won't defile my blessings by imagining I deserve them. Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice." Jen Hatmaker

"Suddenly the terrible dangers of lacking nothing became clear to us. Having everything just because you can is a trap. It numbs and blinds the human spirit. It can separate us from our calling and our privilege as Christians in this needy world." Mike Yankoski

"In a world overwhelmed with words, sometimes the most powerful communication is action fueled and inspired by love." Mark Scandrette

"You who are God's servants are living in a foreign country, for your own country is far away from this city-state. Knowing which is yours, why do you acquire fields, costly furnishings, buildings, and frail dwellings here? Anyone who acquires things for himself in this city cannot expect to find the way home to his own city. Do you not realize that all these things here do not belong to you, that they are under a power alien to your nature? ... Acquire no more here than what is absolutely necessary. Instead of fields, buy yourselves people in distress according to your means so they might have more and you might have the same." Hermas

"If I am crazy, it's because I refuse to be crazy in the same way the world has gone crazy." Peter Maurin

15 October 2012

World Food Day

"Nearly one in seven people suffers from undernourishment, yet the world has the means to eliminate hunger and fuel sustainable development."

This Tuesday, October 16th, is World Food Day. Created in 1979 by FAO, it is meant to raise awareness and promote solutions concerning hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. There is enough food already produced to feed the entire world population, yet there are still around 868 million people who suffer from malnourishment. FAO believes it is not only possible, but very feasible to provide access to regular and nutritional foods to those without. They believe Coops, small farms and sustainable living are the answer.

Find out what you can do to help at http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/act.

13 October 2012

The War on Plastic

Plastic. It's become so absolutely vital to our everyday living that what we did before it seems an absolute mystery. Maybe you're thinking to yourself, "No, I don't use all that much plastic!" You're kidding yourself. From your car to your computer to your Ikea furniture to your packaged food, none of us can claim to be free from it. But we did live before it... somehow.

You might think that you recycle most of your plastic, but less than 7% of the plastic consumed in a year is recycled. And often times the plastic in your recycle bin is melted down into textiles, furniture, and other non-recyclable types of plastics. Now, I'm not asking you to break up with plastic. Even with all my hypocritical ethics, I must admit that it would be difficult. I guiltily love our iMac and our little Honda Fit and having a refrigerator... but that doesn't mean that we have to do nothing.

Plastic bags. They're everywhere. Our groceries, our clothes, our fruit, our garbage - it's difficult to know what we carried things in prior to our precious plastic. 500 billion bags are used world wide every year, 100 billion of those in the United States. We use them so often and readily that we hardly consider where they come from or their cost (financially or environmentally). You will rarely hear your cashier ask you "Paper or plastic" any more and many clothing boutiques don't even have a paper option - those who do typically come with plastic handles for your convenience. Oh hey there, Western plastic addiction!

Plastic bags aren't free, at $0.03 to create each thin grocery bag (several cents more depending on your other shopping stops) plus another $0.17 in "recycle and waste charges" per bag? You are paying about $0.20 a bag, the cost neatly tucked away in the total cost of your consumer goods. But, I mean, $0.20 a bag isn't thievery - until you realize those reusable bags are $0.99 one time. Or free if you have a friend (mother) who hoards them in their coat closet and would love to let you have a few! Or you could make your own, also free. Seriously: you just take an old t-shirt, cut the sleeves, sew the arm and neck holes shut and use the cut off sleeves to make a handle. Easiest thing in the world. Or Google more options to DIY - there are a million out there.

But we can recycle plastic bags, right? Well, kind of. There are those huge bins in the lobbies of grocery stores that claim to be recycle bins, but the truth is that many companies end up paying landfills to take them because recycling is so expensive. And even those are only the small percentage that people return to the bins. Less than %5 of plastic bags are recycled each year. They one of the top pollutants because of their light weight and flexibility, known as "urban tumbleweeds." They are in the top twelve trash items found along coastlines and garbage in the ocean and take over 300 years to photodegrade despite their thin nature. Not to mention the countless animals that are killed each year from swallowing, suffocating, or getting caught in plastic bags.

The key ingredient to any good plastic is polyethylene, the thermoplastic derived from oil. The creation of plastic contributes to the rising prices in foreign oil and you pay for that with your taxes, so the truth is that we pay a lot more than $0.20 a bag. Other countries seem to have caught on to the upset as plastic bags are banned in Bangladesh and Rwanda and have ban proposals in Israel, Canada, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Taiwan, and Singapore. They are taxed Ireland and China. There are several cities in the US that have bans, but most seem to flip-flop on the issue regularly.

Biodegradable plastic bags are becoming trendy, especially in your local produce section, but the truth on that front is that they often cost three to four times more than your regular plastic bag and still take three or more years to photodegrade. Biodegradable plastic also releases large amounts of green house gases as it breaks down because it is made from more "natural" fibers. And the research on biodegradable plastic seems to be constantly shifting it's perspective as it is still a young invention. It is obviously a superior choice to regular plastic, but whether they are merely creating a separate problem remains to be seen.

So here is my challenge to you: From ziplock to grocery to garbage - stop the plastic bag madness. Help our environment, lower consumer cost, and be a little responsible for our world weakening the rather disturbing hold plastic holds over our lives. Use reusable bags when shopping, use glass tupperware, purchase groceries that are without so much of the plastic packaging, buy "green" garbage bags (Bio Bag, Seventh Generation, Pridegreen, etc.), grab the biodegradable bags in the produce section, do even one of these things. We are irresponsibly filling up our world with waste when we have been commanded to care for it. Let Wall-E and The Lorax be stories, not our future.

Hello Hollywood, here we come. Just keep me up, keep me up, keep me up.

Want to more about plastic bags? Here are just a few links...

09 October 2012

Change For Your Mind Pocket

"I was overwhelmed for you." This has been the almost unanimous response to my previous blog. By unanimous, I obviously mean the four-ish people I talked to. At first, I felt a little guilty. Sorry, dear reader, I didn't mean for you to get the full brunt of what I was feeling. Except... I did. I did mean for you to feel the full weight of what I was saying, despite the fact that it was exceedingly burdensome. I hope you felt overwhelmed. I hope it weighed on you. I hope it made you feel small and rather helpless. Because that is exactly what it should have made you feel.

We have this expectation (especially in America, but primarily just in this day and age) that ideas should wrap easily so they might be presented easily. We want others to really understand where we are coming from so we work dilligently at underwhelming our audience. Small, easy, step by step formulas that are simply comprehended by the masses. But I say no! No! You're smarter than that! And I know you are! If I lower my level of excitement and passion just so that you can more neatly understand my meaning, then I have dumbed down that meaning. You were meant to be overwhelmed by my last post! Because I was overwhelmed! Vastly and insatiably curious as to how all the weight of the world can possibly be contained by our minds. And it can, oh it can.

My burden is great, but it is not too big. It is not too grand or over-the-top. It is just right - Goldilocks would consider theivery at this point. But how to make it tangible? That is the real question. It doesn't need to be smaller or easier to understand, it just needs to work. There needs to be an action to accompany this desire for a better world. So, what to do? It has been my all-consuming thought long before my post. My want is for a love that the rest of the world can see, but how? It wasn't a short or sudden epiphany, but it struck nonetheless. This is the answer. Writing. As I work world responsibility into my life in real ways, I will let you know how you can too. I have ideas simply bursting at the seams, trying to squeeze themselves onto paper and eventually to this blog. You don't have to agree with any of the plays I introduce, but maybe you'll discover a way to love the world you hadn't thought of before. And that is my intent. Let's love the world.

So here's the thing - I'm going to introduce ways you can live a life of world responsibility each week(ish). Maybe it's a totally new idea that you have never thought of - maybe it's something you've known about - maybe it's something you couldn't care less for. The point is that it's one way for you to help be responsible for our beautiful, lovely, majestic planet earth. Hopefully I will come up with at least one concept that blows your mind cavity (mind cavity doesn't work nearly as well as chest cavity, but I digress). I will also be writing profiles on radically good groups/charities/businesses/people who are working towards a brighter future. If you have any suggestions for either ways to love the world a little more or groups/charities/businesses/people that you think should be recognized - let me know! The world only gets to be a better place through cooperation... and sunshine. And Sour Patch Kids.

This is short, but I'm prepping. I thought there weren't enough hours in the day before I had a baby, now I know better - the hours in the day are actively working against us. Seriously. There is sleeping (kind of), nursing (incessantly), playtime (he's so cute!), work (it's Fall so let's run around like headless chickens), more nursing (oh yah), eating (I need to eat?), working out (aka interrupted yoga or walks), doctors appointments (yuck), time with friends (too much time alone is bad for the psyche), time with husband (cue crying baby), grocery shopping (we forgot _____ again), blogging (... I have a blog?), Rory naps (because I am not dealing with the nuclear meltdown that occurs from no naps), showering (see: 5am or 11pm), Bible time (intentional intentional intentional), other literature (hello, nursing), dishes in the sink (again, I need to eat?), other cleaning (haha, hilarity ensues), and the list goes on! I am not sure what I did before I had a child... nothing. A whole lot of nothing. Nonetheless, this new concept for blogging is in the works and it is something I feel fiercely passionate about sharing. Ideas will be thrown at you soon enough, so wear your baseball mitt regularly.

The only two things keeping me (in)sane.

04 October 2012

Fast, Like a Turtle

Fasting. It’s a strange topic to discuss even within a church setting, but I’ve been learning quite a lot about it. Primarily because I’m not very good at it. I don’t have the discipline. I purge, I don’t fast. Going through my house and getting rid of stuff because I am tired, no, exhausted of having too much. Exhausted by the excess, the exorbitant amount of waste, the selfish indulgences, the gross inequality. I am tired of being considered below the poverty line when I have more than I could possibly need. I have clean water, a roof over my head, a car, health insurance, and more than enough food. This upsets me. In fact, it upsets me to a point where I need to be cautious about what I say because I might offend someone (both un and intentionally). My lack of voice in this matter only makes me want to shout all the louder, “Can’t you see?! If only we would live on less so that others might have enough!” And then I remember, not everyone is settled with my same burdens. They can’t be, everyone must be called to something different. Just imagine if there were more than one of me… yikes.
Divine burdens. This is mine: world responsibility. Oh yah. It’s broad, it’s big, it’s overwhelming – and I can’t make it any smaller. I want people to use energy efficient products and stop wasting water on lawn care. I want everyone to recycle and garden. I want people to buy locally and learn to make things from scratch rather than purchase preservatives. I want the world the cease buying things consumer-driven companies tell us we need (iPhones, Victoria Secret, Sephora, a bigger house, a newer car, the latest toy, caffe-latte-mocha-chinos). I want people to really connect instead of just reading blogs silently, Facebook stalking, Tweeting, Pinterest scrolling, and 4Square (I actually don’t know what 4Square is). I want us to be concerned with prevention rather than a cure. I want others to care about people living on less than $2 a day and those dying of preventable diseases. I want us to visit prisoners, give medical aid to the sick, free slaves, care for the widow and orphan. Is it any wonder I am a terrible faster? I want to give everything away! Not just some things, everything! My possessions, my time, my money, my talents! All of it, I want to give all of it. And I want the rest of the world to feel as strongly as I do about even one of these issues, even if it’s just a smaller piece of one.
Oh, Malia... I am inconsistent at best. I get all riled up about how badly I want to save the world and then I get distracted. And not by emergencies or anything big, it's always the little every day things. I get wrapped up in the state of our flat and bills and my ailing self image - Hello, vapid selfish life, I... missed you? Except, I didn't miss you. I specifically did not miss you. I was just out in my super hero cape when I suddenly found myself trying on new clothes and grocery shopping for things I absolutely do not need (specifically the ingredients for cookies - I will wear my pre-pregnancy clothes again, I will!). There is no balance. Either I am storming the fort of selfish consumerism or I am skipping through fields of menial chores and shiny objects. So where is the equilibrium? The harmony to even out my burden and my life? Should my burden be my life? Or should my life exclude this burden in order to live "normally?" There are no easy answers, but I believe some are found in fasting - the very subject I have been spending so much time on.
"I don't know what it all means, and your American Dream? Baby, it just isn't me. I know that what I'm thinking may not be on your mind. I know the words I'm saying are not your favorite kind. It doesn't mean I'm afraid of all the things that you say, but I just think we should stay here in the moment today."

When I say "fasting," I don't only mean abstaining from food or drink. I mean removing excess in order to better spend time with and focus on God. Even if you aren't a believer, tell me you don't ever need time for yourself. Quiet or noisy, on your own or with a loved one, in the wilderness or in the city - if you don't have something that is your own relaxing/focusing/you time? Well, then you have no soul and there's no hope for you. Just kidding... but seriously, do yourself a favor and figure that out. Fasting can be anything from cutting out food to technology to stress to spending to... well, just about anything. And it doesn't need to be an extreme all or nothing scenario (though it can) it can be as simple as limiting the time you spend on the internet or watch TV. Or how many venues you shop at or how much food you're consuming. And you don't need to do it permanently (although you can) it can be as long as you feel you need. One month, one week, one day, one year. But it's important to not fast for the sake of it, the point is to be giving something up. It should be difficult, it should be hard, it should be sacrificial and those moments you feel it should be the moments you spend remembering why you're doing it - whether to focus on Christ or just get back to yourself.
Prayer stacks, covering the expanse as far as the eye can see above Colca Cañon.

And this is what I need to learn, fasting rather than purging. Getting the most out of giving, being sacrificial rather than just getting rid of crap to feel better about myself. Did you know the original Christian church was communal? There was no merit based system of "Well, this job is more important than this one." It was all about giving everything to the church so that all it's members functioned on the same level. They all had enough food, enough shelter, enough care, enough to give it away to everyone who came through the door. People mocked how nice and kind and caring Christians were - wait, what? You mean the original church wasn't full of right-winged bigots that everyone chastised for being unaccepting? Stop that nonsense, that can't be true. Except that it is. They fasted with every facet of their lives. They sacrificially gave it all and then some. To complete strangers and people who persecuted them and the "unclean." At what point did we trade Christ for religion? And who authorized such a shitty deal?
I want to be like the first church, not just purging or priding myself on being minimalist - I still have more than I need. I want to give continuously and open myself to the possibility (probability) of more. I was always smart in school, but sometimes I learn life lessons turtle slow. Patience is something I lack, but I think fasting is helping me to discover that as well. My fast begins now and I know exactly how much I must give. I am called to this fast, giving everything so that I might hear God more clearly. I am called to go out into the world and serve those we would consider the least. If I can feel injustice break my heart, but am not doing anything about it, how can I ask anyone else? You don't need to understand where I'm coming from, but you should know where I'm headed. I know Mark and Rory and I cannot save the world but we can do our part to help, and you can do yours (whatever it is). If we don't fill the role we are called to fill, who will? We must fast as we need to fast, burden ourselves with our burdens, and take the steps to fulfill our calls. Whether to live simply, speak into others' lives, work with children, research medicine, rally against injustice, etc. ... each call as important as the one before.
How much do I miss by being selfish with what I have? By forgetting to fast and come back to the heart of the issue? The remedy seems simple and clear. It all comes back to living a sacrificial life for me. To put others first, not just in theory but in actuality. To give all I have not only some of the time, but all the time. What have I done to deserve a "better" life than anyone else, than any of these children I've photographed? I just happened to be born here rather than in a dusty Mexican village, an Andean commune, or a small farm in the Sacred Valley. Why should they need to ask for what I take for granted? Why should I not go to them in order that we both might be enriched? Fasting. It forces the hard questions. Honestly, too many questions. I end up in a fit if I spend too much time really thinking about it. But sometimes it's good to become absolutely wrecked about something. Sometimes it's exactly what you need. What I need.