29 June 2012

Raspberry Nights

Satisfied, today's word is satisfied.

My mouth is hot. Curry powder, cayenne pepper, white pepper, and a touch of olive oil splashed into a pan with a piece of chicken, a handful of sweet onion, and some bell pepper over basmati rice with a sprinkle of salt. My mouth is hot, but happy. Yesterday, I decided my word of the day needed to be satisfied. Primarily because it was quite the opposite of what I was feeling. It has been a busy week and I needed to feel satisfied for more than 5 minutes. I needed the satisfaction I get from 90 minutes of yoga to last for more than 10 minutes. I needed the satisfaction I receive while reading or journaling to secure me for more than a fleeting moment. No matter what I did, it didn't seem to be what I needed.

Then I spent 5 seconds intentionally spending time with my husband as he got off work. Better, much better. So, this morning/afternoon, despite our prenatal check up and the minimal amount of sleep, we just spent time with one another. Phones far from sight and cuddled up in bed even after we got home from our outings. Satisfied. We did spent some time doing yoga together and, before I continue, I must retract a statement from a previous blog. Marko says he would totally down to do partner yoga, I just have to give him enough time to get into yoga-shape. I am pretty excited about it!

After not hearing anything back about even receiving our missions application, I called and discovered the Director is on vacation until the 1st of July. But they had received our application(s) and were very sorry no one had let us know. So, we should be hearing something sometime after next week. I think we will probably hear something mid July with next week being the 4th and everyone just returning from vacation. Our hopes are still high that we will be able to find placement by January 2013, but I know that whatever happens, God has a plan.

Our dear friends Jeff and Greta get married tomorrow. My first thought? "It's so weird to see people I know getting married." Oh, wait. I am married, pregnant, and seeking a career as a missionary and the idea that I am a 'grown up' escapes me entirely. Jeff and Greta have been searching for one another for longer than either realized and it is such a blessing to listen to each of their stories. They are both gifted and amazing teachers both in and out of the classroom and it has been a real privilege to walk alongside them on this journey. I know their live together will be one of intense wonder and love.

Today has already been everything I needed it to be. I am sipping on cold chai tea I made yesterday mixed with peach juice, it is satisfying. The raspberries from the garden are the perfect combination of sunkissed sweet and tart. I am starting my third yoga class for the day and am immensely happy with the light dull ache of my body that has nothing to do with my pregnant belly. I have apparently stopped gaining weight, which makes me feel light and happy, but also better about the weight I have gained. Critter is exactly the proper size, position, and has a lovely heartbeat to match his/her extremely active nature. My reading/journaling time has been an absolute consistent blessing. And I am reminded that my life always looks hectic when looking at it head on, but is copesettic as a big picture.

 Now what to do with all these raspberries?

28 June 2012

Yoga Daze

Yoga: Literal meaning of "yoke", from a root "yuj" meaning 'to join', 'to unite', or 'to attach'.

I discovered yoga in Junior High. We had to do yoga for Cross Country once a week, and while most runners loath the concept, I fell absolutely in love. I'm bendy like Gumby and getting to put my palms to the floor first try while the rest of the team struggled to hold their ankles? Made me feel like a rockstar. I then had the opportunity to take a yoga class as a Running Start student, which I liked a little less. Hatha seemed too formal, too rigid. And the constant waterfall sounds either put me to sleep or made me have to pee. After that point I would occasionally get yoga videos from the Library and would eventually come to fall even more in love with Hot Yoga. From the disgusting sweaty mess you become while on the mat to the cool clean feeling you get once you step into the shower, it was like magic. From there I taught myself.

I've watched yoga fix back problems, help a woman with MS touch her toes for the first time in her life, whip people into shape, decrease depression... so many things. It doesn't have to be insane head stand inversion yoga, it can be simple. I think the hardest part about being pregnant, especially now as I get to the "pop" part where I am my very biggest, is not being able to do as much yoga as I want. Before I found out I was expecting, I was the smallest I had been since High School, losing that? Sucks for my vanity. So in my state of waiting, I plan my comeback. And much like any comeback cliche - it's go big or go home.

I have lost what feels like all of my muscle mass, my weight is more than I feel comfortable even admitting to myself, my pants size is unmentionable, I can't breathe because all my internal organs are crowding my lungs, and it is totally 110% worth it. I am creating life. People tell me that all the time and honestly, it just makes me want to pet their face. But when I really take time to think about it? It's awesome. I wouldn't change a thing - except - I would have been much better about water, food, and working out in those first stages where all I really wanted to do was die. It is damn near impossible to think about any of those things while you're throwing up for the third time in two hour time period, but that's the most important time to do it. Go figure.

Yoga has been my workout lifeline. It calms me down when I'm overemotional (aka all the time), gives me the physical activity I desperately crave, stretches me out and makes me sore in all the right places, and just refocuses me. There is apparently a lot of controversy about doing yoga as a Christian as it has ties to Hinduism and Buddhism. People who are involved in this controversy need to take their issues to the mat. Seriously. Personally? I stay away from most of the mantras, prayers, and meditations involved with Hindu or Buddhist yoga. But that's primarily because I have my own mantras, prayers, and meditations. Yogic texts are some of the oldest in the world and while many religions have incorporated yoga into them, they cannot claim it as their own. It's just an amazing way to workout, pray, center yourself, meditate - whatever you want it to be. You are meant to make it entirely your own. So I do.

As I get all stoked to get more into yoga than ever before, I have discovered several inspiring people, videos, websites to keep me motivated. Yogis Anonymous: $15 a month for unlimited live and recorded class access in your living room? It cannot be beat. They even have rotating free videos so you can check them out and see if it's for you! Damn Good Yoga: Sometimes new age-y for my taste, but excellent insights into the world of yoga and various asanas (poses). Briohny Smyth: She's got moves. This is my post natal goal, smooth inversion ashtanga (the partner yoga is cute, but I doubt I could get Marko to do it with me without making me laugh).

It helps my sanity. Doing even 10 minutes of yoga when I have a spare minute makes my whole world slow to an acceptable pace. If you do a pre/post natal class on Yogis Anonymous, there are often moms in the classes with little babies lying on blankets in front of their mats. I think it's possibly the most precious thing I have ever seen. I am so excited to see Critter there next to me while I get my practice on. Currently the little one does not appreciate when I do too much yoga and protests by occupying my lower ribcage for the rest of the morning/afternoon/evening. I think it's cute, even if slightly uncomfortable.

All for yoga and yoga for all.

22 June 2012

Too Many To Count

The word of the day is blessed.

Pregnancy emotions are super. I've never cried so much in my life as the last 7 months. But for all the ups and downs? I have gotten to be really honest about my emotions, primarily because there is no way I can hide them, but it's nice. It's nice to tear up when I hear a really moving song on the radio. And it's nice to laugh inappropriately loud when I read something hilarious in the middle of the library. It's nice to look at my husband and know that I am absolutely oozing with love for him and he can see it. I am not used to wearing my heart so openly on my sleeve and it's really nice.

You may or may not have picked up that I'm into the whole "God thing." What you might not know, is that I can probably count the number of my friends who believe in God on one hand. Sometimes? That is really difficult. I say something about Church and there is a look that crosses over their face - like they aren't sure how to react, like I might throw a bible at them. Sometimes it's pretty funny, other times it's kind of alienating. Christianity has absolutely assaulted by it's own "believers," when all it's really about is love. I don't want to drag anyone to Church or instruct them on why they are sinners that need to be saved. In fact, I find it's almost the opposite. More people try to talk me out of believing in God than I have ever spoken to about believing. And despite the fact that so many of my friends don't understand my beliefs, they stick it out with me. I am ridiculously grateful for them. They put up with my Church and God talk with limited amounts of awkward and try to be excited for me even when they don't get it. I hope they each realize how much I love them, regardless of their faith.

When I talk about doing mission work, becoming a career missionary, a lot of people don't know how to react. To be clear, I'm not headed to hand out Bibles and westernize a savage nation. That thought actually makes me laugh out loud. I am totally down to talk religion with anyone who wants to and if you'd like a Bible, I will hand you one. But I'm more interested in living life with people, helping them create a sustainable living, getting them the medical care they need, and assisting in educating them to be self sufficient, to read and write in their own language, to help others in need. Not because I think I am better or smarter than anyone else, I am most definitely not, but because they haven't had the opportunity to learn these things and maybe haven't had anyone to give them a hand, to love on them. That is the reason my husband and I are headed on mission.

Patience is not the word of the day, but maybe it will be someday. Something I struggle with on an almost daily basis, I seek patience with almost as much fervor as I seek joy. Possibly with more, because joy is easy for me to attain whereas patience is not. I am decidedly impatient. I want things to be happening now. Right now. Not tomorrow, not a week from now, not in a year. Spontaneity is one of my greatest gifts - and most horrible curses. Patience has, however, been the theme of my life lately. I am waiting for Critter to arrive, waiting to hear back about our membership applications, waiting to hear back about our missions applications, waiting for my certificate, waiting for our home to be set up for baby, waiting to hear more about CAR, waiting on letters to arrive, waiting for Summer to finally get here, waiting for articles to be published, waiting, waiting, waiting. I am learning patience whether I like it or not (definitely not). But I am thankful for the opportunity to learn this skill because, let's face it,  life is difficult without patience. Deep sigh.

Maybe you don't understand why, but today's word is blessed. Blessed because I am overemotional. Blessed because I have friends who love me even when they don't understand me. Blessed because God has given me an absolute burden on my heart for those in need. Blessed because I am learning about patience. Blessed with an active child and loving husband, a darling Church community, a wonderful job and other job opportunities, a bed with blankets, food in my fridge, and a beautiful home with lovely landlords... there are so many things I could list. I have an overabundance of blessings in my life, too many to count. Even on the difficult days and in the hard moments, I have a beautiful life that is so full! The word of the day is most certainly blessed.

Living On Less

I am one of those people who talk a lot, but I also believe in talk should be backed up by actions. So here are some quick tips on how to live on less. It's better for you, your community, and the rest of the world. Ready?

STOP comparing yourself to others. Albert Einstein said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will live it's whole life believing it is stupid." The quote is applied to intelligence, but it could be anything: beauty, luxury, material items...

START keeping a list of things you're thankful for. And don't just write them down once, write each thing every time you happen upon it. This way of thinking can change your whole life. My short list today: Husband, Critter, friends (specifically on my heart: Jordy, Jenae, Kendall, Rachel, Becca, Nik, Eli & the triplets), early mornings, sunshine, green grass between my toes, sharpened pencils, good playlists, my certificate being in the mail, yoga, a bed with blankets, giving $20 of Safeway money, prayer, my job, hope, love, and my grandma's pickles.

FIND a purpose. Something you are passionate about, something that allows you to utilize your time, your talents, your testimony, and/or your treasure. Whether it's volunteering, doing work pro bono, sharing your story, or giving to those in need? It's important.

Figure out a budget. Do you know how much you make or spend? So many of us just check to see that our bank statement doesn't say zero and leave it at that. Calculate how much you make a month, which might vary if you work hourly or freelance, then work this math:
20-25% - Housing: rent/mortgage, taxes, insurance, interest, repairs...
20-25% - Food: groceries and meals purchased outside the home...
15-20% - Operating Expenses: electricity, fuel, telephone, water, laundry, house cleaning, yard work, autocare, auto insurance...
15% - Clothing: clothes, material for clothes, shoes, accessories...
10-15% - Advancement: School fees, tuition, books, lectures, medical or dental fees, prescriptions, recreation, vacation, contributions to charity...
10-15% - Savings: Savings, assets, life insurance...
Those numbers are obviously flexible. For instance, if you are a total foodie? You might spend 25% or more on food. If you are a shopaholic? You might need to put aside more than 15% for clothing. The important thing is to figure out your budget and stick to it. Once my husband and I sat down and did the math? We had no problem with our finances. This isn't crazy complicated stuff, just figure out the percentages and what things you want to do more/less of.

Downgrade. In a day and age where people are racing to the shelves to buy the latest such-and-such, we are in need of some back pedaling. Your cellphone; the new iPhone is pretty cool, but do you really need so many minutes, texts, and a data plan? You could wait until you got home to get on Facebook. Your computer; with all of the little options now available for those of us who only use computers for Microsoft Office and the internet, it's hard to imagine why you think you need anything larger unless you do serious photo, music, or graphic design editing. Your apartment; find something where you utilize all of the space in a healthy way instead of just acquiring stuff to fill it. Your car; I don't mean sell your beautiful new car to purchase a beater, but consider getting a car with better gas mileage rather than flash. Buy a car that is already a couple years old with low mileage, do research to find out which kinds of cars need more work done on them in the long run and which run themselves into the ground. Or, if you're located in a city, small town, or somewhere with excellent public transportation? You could ditch the car for the train, the bus, a bicycle, or even walking. If I wasn't pregnant, I'd consider a bike.

Count your pennies. I mean this quite literally. Pay in exact change when you can and keep a jar at home for the rest of your coins. Coinstar has "revolutionized" they way people look at coins, but it also takes a rather large percentage. Go down to your bank, ask the nice teller for coin rolls (they are free), and roll your own quarters. You will accumulate a full roll much faster than you think. Keep a stack and when you remember or have an extra minute to go into your bank, take them to the teller and he or she will gladly deposit them for you - without taking $0.09 a dollar or whatever Coinstar steals from you now.

Pay off your debt. I know, you hate to be told that, but it's true. A large corporate bank was informed that if they dropped the bottom 5% of loan holders, those who had defaulted on loans and had significant other debt, they would reduce the number of people who claim bankruptcy by something like 60%. They declined because that 5% are how they make almost 100% of their profit. Those people will continue to pay the minimum balance on an outrageous amount of debt until they die and then? Their children can be held responsible. Can't figure out how to break the cycle? Firstly, stop spending beyond your means. Chop up those credit cards and live on what you actually make. Numbers one and two should help you with that one. Secondly? Pay extra on your balance instead of splurging on something you may not need. Get someone to hold you accountable: a spouse, friend, family member. Can't handle plastic? Me neither. It's fake money. You slide the magic card next to the mystical computer screen and press "accept!" I have to function almost entirely in cash. Before I got married? I didn't have a bank account, I had a lock box. That might sound crazy to some of you, but I wasn't working much and lived on hourly wages. I had a Savings Account that to this day has $5.07, but no card. Now that I'm married and making a regular living? My husband and I share a bank account. But I keep cash in my wallet. Cash is real, it is tangible to me. I can see I have a $20 bill and I know exactly how to make it last for 2 weeks, no exaggeration. If plastic is something you love, but maybe doesn't love you back? You might want to consider a cash system.

Dine in. You probably hear this on a regular basis, but do you actually know how much more eating out costs? Do some research. Don't have time to come home and create a nice home cooked meal? Brown bag it, sucker. A deli sandwich costs cents to make and will probably be chalk full of all the sandwich toppers you love, instead of half-assed. Make your complicated Starbucks drink at home, purchasing a cheap espresso machine can pay for itself in less than a month, assuming you only have caffeine once every other day. Invest in that.

Learn more about your groceries. I am a fruit addict, and in December? Strawberries can cost as much as $8.99 a pound. That's ridiculous. So purchase your fruits and veggies in season, because that adds up quickly. Then teach yourself to can/jar and freeze. Jarred nectarines are not as good as fresh ones, but they are better than none. It's actually really easy and you can make probably 100+ jars in an afternoon of all your favorite produce (assuming you have the shelf space for that, I do not). Make a meal plan. It doesn't have to be specific, "Here is what I'm eating Monday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!" I know I don't function like that. Just make a general list: Here are 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners I want to make this week. And if you can have them tie into each other or do leftovers, great. Check your cupboards and fridge for what you already have and make a list of what you'll need to accomplish those 21 meals. Then shop from it. Adjust as you go. Oh and coupon. From your newspaper or online, shop the sales. It's a learning process, don't let yourself get overwhelmed. There are hundreds of blogs entirely for this purpose - utilize them.

Befriend thrift stores. Goodwill might seem tacky to you, but I've purchased a pair of True Religion jeans with the tags still on for $7.00. Granted, that was an awesome find, but assuming you are that picky? There are hundreds of designer boutiques that will only sell high quality label brands. And if you're not that picky? You couldn't ask for a better venue for shopping. Make sure you're also purchasing clothing out of season. Buy all your winter gear after it goes on sale in the Spring or Summer, get your swimsuit in November. Savings, savings, savings. There is a thrift store just down the hill from where I live that has "half-off Saturdays" which makes their already low prices of $1-7 impossible to beat. Plus, all the mocking of ridiculous items for sale in second hand stores is worth the trip in itself.

Plan for fun time. That's what you wanted to hear! And it's important. My husband and I set aside $50 a month for "date night." Maybe that means we get one ridiculously extravagant date or several little dates. If we don't use all the money one month? It rolls over. This month we spent our date night money on books at Barns & Noble and Thai food. Both were well worth the money. If you have money specifically for the fun things you want to do, odds are you'll stick with that amount rather than raiding your bank account every time you need to go shopping or whatever your vice.

Give. Trust me when I say, you have too much stuff. Get rid of it. Whether by Goodwill or a garage sale, you do not need your life to be so cluttered with material things. I'm not asking you to live on $2 a day, I'm just saying that you should stop spending frivolously on things you don't need when there are people who do need what you take for granted. Spend your money that way. No one has ever said "I regret giving a child an education." Or "I wish I hadn't sent money to that family so they could purchase a goat and create an income." Or "I hate the fact that I helped fund a well to be built so people in that community could have good water." No one. Do your research, find a cause you can get behind, support it. Maybe it's financial, but maybe it's with your time volunteering with struggling students. It will boost your self value as well as the worth of someone else.

Some more food for thought:
I get that I am on a "save the world" kick, but bear with me, dear reader. I am perfectly aware I will never save the world, but that doesn't mean I should be content in doing nothing. It doesn't mean I can't do something. It doesn't mean I can't encourage others (you) to do something as well. This week I went for a walk in a neighborhood that has gated culdesacs and 12ft fake rock fountains outside false brick 8 bedroom homes at the suggestion of a friend. Tell me the person living inside that home deserves those things while children die of HIV because someone else made a poor decision and the medicine is not available to them. Then tell me it's okay that we throw away (not recycle) 26 billion water bottles as a nation when our tap water is of the same or better quality while mere millions of people drink polluted water everyday and many die because of it. Tell me I deserve to have gone out for lunch today when there are children who won't eat this week.

I want to be clear that I do not believe everyone is called to live in the dirt on the worlds minimum wage. I don't even mean to guilt trip you, I really don't. I just believe so strongly in this, that we should all be equals on this earth and when there are those who have so much less than we do? We should help them. It doesn't have to be huge or life altering, but it can be. It doesn't have to rearrange your life, but it might. It can be so simple; living green or remembering to smile at everyone you see today or spending $25 one time to buy 2 chickens for a family in Southeast Asia or sponsor a child to go to school in Uganda... the possibilities are endless. Need some ideas? I've got a million. Feel free to ask.

There are plenty more ways to save money, but most of them start with scaling back from the consumer driven America we live in. Recognize your blessings and be satisfied, the first three tips are by far the most important.

20 June 2012

Life Isn't Fair

Sometimes life is not fair. Life isn't fair for the 147 million orphans in the world today. Life isn't fair for the 12 million refugees of war torn countries. Life isn't fair for the 3 billion people who live on less than $2 a day. And those are just some big issues. Life isn't fair. There is pain, there is suffering, there is destruction, disease, loss, heartbreak, abuse, injustice - there is so much unfairness.

Life is not fair for those who cannot afford to feed their families.

As I struggle to be a better wife, a better about-to-be mom, a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend, and a better person - there are those who struggle with worse. My blessings far outweigh any injustice in my life. It has been told to me that Americans are miserable people because of one small (huge) personality flaw that we cultivate from youth - comparison. We compare ourselves with those who have more: success, wealth, beauty, money, time, passion, talent. Therefore we are nearly always unhappy because we believe that if we had what they have? That would be the ticket. And it doesn't have to be a movie star, it can be as simple as someone for a run on your street and you think to yourself, "If I looked like that." Or seeing your perfect kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom on Pinterest and imagining, "If I had that."

By American standards, my husband and I are not wealthy. We are at the bottom end of blue collar on a rich day. But I do not understand this way of thinking because we have way more than we could ever need. We buy things we absolutely do not need, like the paper towel holder and black bear soap dispenser we purchased this week. We have too much space that is not used nearly as well as it should be. Our bank account has money in it and we are never behind on a payment. How is it even possible that we are considered the poverty line?

Life is not fair for parents' who lose their children.

This weekend a heartbreaking situation arose in my community, not even in my community, it touched the life of a friend who happens to be one of the most caring human beings in the world and brought it to my community's attention. Her cousin and his wife lost their beautiful 5 month old little girl to unknown causes. Being pregnant? I did not want to hear this story. I did not want to hear about how much they loved their child, about what good parents they were, about how they rushed their sweet baby to the hospital, about how there was nothing to be done. It tore me into pieces and placed fears in my heart that are stronger than any I have ever known. I was kind of a wreck on Sunday.

But it also led me to really think about the entire situation, what would I do? How would I react? I can't imagine, but I think I would take a deep breath and scream as loud as I could. I would, of course, blame myself, insistent that I could have done something differently, better. And then I would yell at God, because it life isn't fair and it hurts. I'm sure I would shed tears, both angry and heart broken. But I hope, that I would pick up my Bible and read. Read about years in the desert, about others who lost loved ones, about suffering. I hope I would remember the people all around the world who lose their children everyday from preventable causes because they live in places where they are too poor, too filthy, too far from help. I hope I would think of the devastation that occurs all over the world by natural disaster, plague, and famine. I hope I would remember that it is okay to be hurt, angry, sad, and heartbroken. But also remember that I am not alone in my dark place, there are thousands who live here every day. Light a candle for each of those in the dark.

Life isn't fair, but it goes on. Life isn't fair, but it happens. And there are good things, such good things. And without the hard, those good things would not be as good. We would not appreciate them, we would not even see them. I am grateful for the unfairness in life because it forces me to see unfairness elsewhere and be thankful for all that I am blessed with on a regular basis.

15 June 2012


Today, my word is provision.

Wednesday was difficult. You know the saying, "be careful what you wish for" ? Well, I feel like we only ever remember it after the fact. My prayers obviously fluctuate, but there is one thing I consistently ask God for: to fill me up and break my heart for what breaks His. The poverty, disease, preventable deaths, and all those who feel cast out by the church. I desire to show people as much love as I possibly can, and yet I remain sarcastic and whiney. I am not who I aspire to be, I am not someone to look up to, I am not as good as I could be. I want to be better, so much better. And my ask has been responded to, my heart is being torn into thousands of pieces in opposite directions as I witness people in my community experiencing hardships, have a growing love for Africa that has never been present before now, watch my husband struggle with his job that doesn't pay or appreciate him nearly enough... I am full to the brim, overflowing with love that I feel I cannot dispense quickly enough - I forgot to ask for an outlet.

I spent the day laboring to express everything pent up inside of me and only managed to exhaust myself. Then, picking up Marko from work, I was informed that I am a moron for wanting a natural birth with no medication. Unsolicited advice is an epidemic in the United States. I wanted to say that people do it all over the world every day, even in America. I wanted to say that women have been giving birth naturally without numbing the lower half of their bodies for thousands of years. I wanted to say that I didn't judge those who choose to medicate and I shouldn't be looked down upon for wanting something different. But all I could do was stare at the wall while Mark came to my rescue. I was too drained to even consider responding. We then had to drive up to Seattle to attend a birthing class, something my health care provider strongly recommends. Our generation has lost something. We now need professionals to tells us all the things that used to just be passed down from mother to daughter, grandparent to grandchild. Breast feeding is the best option for your baby, skin to skin contact will help you bond with your little one, patience is the best strategy when learning how to nurse, bathe, and rock your newborn to sleep. Please inform me as to why a class exists to tell me these things? In the same way a cookbook will never be able to teach me the way an 80 year old woman can, there is no substitute for knowledge passed down through the ages. It doesn't mean we can't decide for ourselves what is right or wrong, it just means that you have wasted 2 hours of 15 couples lives telling us what our basic instincts are. Wednesday was difficult.

Thursday I woke up with a disposition to make life better. To make my husband smile, to look at the bright side, to be the positivity I wanted from the world. Thursday was a long day, but I accomplished what I set out to do. I remembered to pray for an outlet and flew through work. I was able to lift Mark's spirits, if only slightly, I got my house in order and I spent the whole day singing. There was much to do and little energy left to do it with, but that is the wonder of provision. Even when you think you're at the end of you're rope, you find a little more. That's always the way it is with love, though. You give and give until there's nothing left, then you give some more. Mother Teresa said it best, "I think I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love."

This morning was the dreaded monthly appointment with a midwife. There were enjoyable when there were ultrasounds and I was losing weight rather than being scolded by an overweight woman for gaining too much. But today? Today we met Desiree. She answered every question without any tone of judgement, she laughed with us when something funny was said, she spoke with us about the best postpartum birth control options and even put it in the hospital notes so someone would know to order it, she reaffirmed my plan to do natural childbirth and shook her head understandingly when I gave my account of being called a moron, she gave us a list of books to check out, she measured to make sure I was the right size instead of talking to me about weight, and, of course, let us listen to Creature's heart beat. It was the most encouraging visit yet. Provision, provision is definitely the word for today.

I am reminded daily of how much more I have. I should seek to bless others as I am so incredibly blessed, seek to love them as I am wonderfully loved, seek to care for them as I am overwhelmingly cared for. I can do better, be better than I am now. Not because I am capable, but because I believe in a God who is. I want to spend my mornings reading and writing, seeking Christ's plan for my life. I want to spend my days serving my girls by taking them shopping and talking with them about their busy schedules, being there for them in each and every crisis and non-crisis. I want to spend my free time with friends, living life beside them openly and speaking into their lives as I hope they speak into mine. I want to spend my work hours doing the best I can and giving everything I am able to the cause I so believe in. I want to spend my nights snuggled with my husband, loving him beyond my capacity and having long conversations about everything and nothing. I want to be better.

13 June 2012

Get Rid Of All Your Stuff

I always see these articles in the newspaper, online news sources, Pinterest, Facebook, you name it - about how to live on less than $50,000 a year, or maybe even $30,000. There are so many articles on ways to save, books written about it. And, honestly? I'm confused.

Now, these are wonderful goals in the epitome of a westernized country: to live counter-culturally, seeking simplicity instead of extravagance, steering clear of consumerism. But there is also something sickening about it. What about the millions of people living on $1.75 a day - or less? The statistics are overwhelming and it's so easy to ignore because we don't see it. Our lives aren't directly touched by those in need. We don't witness malnutrition or HIV run rampant without medication. There aren't small children tapping on our car windows every time we brake, asking for food or change. We train ourselves to look away from the homeless and the helpless. We live in a way that encourages selfishness, that promotes conceit and egocentricity on top of indulgence.

I am guilty. I squander what has been given to me; time, talent, testimony, and treasure. I am unworthy of the gifts and blessings I am absolutely drenched in. I whine incessantly and forget to be grateful. I am so guilty. I think the most evident example of this in my own life is that the worst part of pregnancy for me is the weight gain - that's entirely vanity speaking. I can think of 3 couples just off the top of my head who can't have children and it broke their hearts. They are now 6 of the best parents I know, not only to their own adopted children, but to each child they happen across within their communities. They couldn't and I can, my discomfort is disproportionate to their heartbreak.

But what if I genuinely lived in thankfulness? What if I woke up each day and was comforted by my inability to sleep and growing waist size because there are people who long for what I am experiencing? What if I lived on as little as possible, not because it makes me a better person, but because my comfort is not worth the discomfort of another. The $100 I spend on haircare a year could pay for a child to attend school for that same amount of time. One dinner out is more than the cost of a goat or chicken that could be the livelihood for a family of 5 or 6. Your lazy afternoon could be spent at your local community center tutoring kids that don't have parents to ask for Math or English help. Telling your story might inspire or encourage someone else. There are so many examples I could use.

I can always tell when my mind is cluttered, because my space becomes cluttered. So whenever I feel overwhelmed or upset with the things that are going on in my mind, I clean. Sometimes insane amounts of reorganizing and deep cleaning ensue, other times it's just tidying up a room. Either way, it's like a weight lifted off my mind. And right now? My mind is cluttered. I am ready to be better, to do better. I am exhausted of doing nothing, of simply accepting that this is how it is, of self gratification being the order of the day. I'm ready for more.

I demand more.

08 June 2012

Word of the Day

The word for today is "encouraged."

There are so many things I could complain about today. The list is mind numbingly long. But all I can think about is how blessed I am. I am exhausted and so unbelievably busy with a number of things I still need to accomplish, but all of the things on that list? Are things that I don't mind doing, that actually kind of bring me joy. Each thing in my life that should make me tired, just fills my spirit up a little more. I also haven't seen or spoken to my husband all day, which is far too long. This week has not been conducive for us to spend time together and I miss him! But I get to spend all day tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday with him and we a realizing our dreams of living in the dirt. I have gained far too much weight to feel even the slightest bit attractive, but I have a beautiful and active critter growing inside of me who already lights up my life. There are so many people who keep putting my idea of going on mission down with snide comments and the upturned noses. But there are so many others who so fully support that idea, even if they aren't Christian!

I am so undeniably blessed and my life is just one sloppy wet kiss, you know the kind - when you're not sure if that was a good thing and, yet, you are. I got to hang out with some 10-15 students today and help them make learning fun. I had the opportunity to really share and connect with my parents this afternoon while my daddy played his guitar. I came home to a clean home and a love letter waiting up on the computer for me from my dearling husband. Tomorrow I get to continue getting my house ready for a tiny little one with my husband and then go to a family baby shower. Sunday I have to chance to hangout with my husband and two people I absolutely adore and I am so lucky to be involved in their lives while we chat about missions, Church, and God.

I am so encouraged.

By the little boy I helped read this morning. By the teacher who told me I was such a gift with kids. By the two wonderful women I had the opportunity to shadow this week, teaching me that ELL isn't always an awful and demanding subject. By the little girl I taught how to say "300" this afternoon. By kindergardeners who ask me how to spell. By hugs from little ones and waves from those too shy to hug. By my dad's guitar playing. By the book my mother gave me in support of my love of mission work, even though it breaks her heart that we will be so far away. By the loving and open conversations we are able to have. By the pennies I am earning as a freelance writer. By the absolute provision in our life, despite when we face monetary issues. By the email from Africa. By the voicemail from my best friend. By the love letter from my husband. By the kicks and somersaults in my abdomen. By the 30 minutes of yoga. By my excitement to write, whether here or for Yahoo! or in my journals or Dust Book. By my clean house. By each and every moment, whether good, bad, or mundane because I know that each of those moments are making up my life!

Today, I am encouraged.

07 June 2012

African Dreams

I am excited to report that Mark and I have our first real possibility to go on mission! We have looked at more than a handful of companies and have finally found where we fit. Now, I don't want to jinx it or get our hopes up, but I do want lots of happy thoughts toward this opportunity as it is one we would really love...

Just so you know? It's difficult to find a missions company that fits you. First and foremost? They have to be going/located where you would like to go/be located. Then they have to be willing to work with families because, hey! we are about to be a family of three. Next there is the matter of the amount of time - we aren't looking for two weeks or a month or even six. We are looking to do the career thing. You know, 5 years plus? Yah. And finally, but possibly most importantly, there is the company you go through.

I know what you're thinking - "You're a Christian! Just go with a churchy organization." Yah, one problem with that: I don't know if you've noticed? But a majority of Christians are assholes. Now, to be fair, it isn't an actual majority. It's just the ones who get all the attention and press. But those are typically also the ones who start up mission companies. There are denominations within the Church and some of them believe weird things that I want nothing to do with. Others are really legalistic and demand you follow strict sets of rules that have nothing to do with love, mercy, grace, or compassion - which are the things Jesus preached. So all of those are out. That leaves... well, not a lot. And I am really not interested in spending my life working for a company or Church that I don't agree with.

Lucky for me? I found a Church I can get behind. Small, interested in peoples stories, all different backgrounds, and nonjudgmental. And bonus points! It's the Church I already attend. So we are looking into opportunities and hopefully something will work out. Think positively for us!

I am having a difficult time adjusting to this body. It isn't mine and no one can convince me otherwise. The weight and the constant discomfort are enough to drive me into a constant emotional fit. We experienced such a thing this afternoon... I had a good enough morning! I went to a brunch and then to work, where I got a lot done in a short amount of time so I could come home to spend time with my wonderful husband. Then I tried to make myself lunch. Right then and there? My whole world fell apart. As if a meltdown had just been waiting in the wings to burst forth. Thanks, emotional rollercoaster of pregnant wonder, thanks. Our pepper grinder broke open in my hands, sending little peppercorns all over my food, our stove, and the floor. That was enough to put me on the sofa for the next 2 hours or so while my absolutely phenomenal husband made me lunch and sat with me in my teary, whiney state. I'm super glad that man loves me.

We had our monthly date night last night. Barns & Noble then Thai food! I realize it sounds mundane, and it is, but it is also date bliss. We poured over books about travel, language, crafts, cameras, mission work, and even found a funny book called "Be Prepared" for Marko. It's about what to expect as a new dad - it's hilarious. We looked through the entire "Christian" section and were sorely disappointed at the lack of books about missionaries, about travel, about the rest of the world. Most of them were just commentaries on Jesus in society, guides to reading the Bible, and "how to fix your life up." Whatever. I demand more. I want to live out love the way I believe we are meant to. I want to live in a way that lets others know that they matter. I want to live in the glow that comes from giving everything and then some. Sometimes I think the majority of "Christians" have never read the Bible. If they had? They would not be content with being comfortable or safe, not to mention judgmental.

However, in our search for books on mission, we did discover Kisses From Katie. Now here is a girl I can stand next to. She gave up everything everyone said she should want in order to live in the dust of Uganda loving on any and everyone she could - and continues to do so. This is what Mark and I want for our lives. I respect that not everyone wants nor is called to this, but I can't for the life of me figure out why the hell not.

You can check out her book on Amazon:
Kisses From Katie

Or just take a look at her blog:
Kisses From Katie

It's funny, four hours ago I was falling to pieces for the millionth time during the pregnancy. Now? I can't wait to be a part of something like this, something where I have the opportunity to love on people like the deserve to be loved. It's too far away, too long from now. But soon. Soon.

06 June 2012


Driving home from a wonderful day in Seattle with Folk Life and friends, my handsome husband posed a question that I don't really remember. Something about when I stopped doing drugs and why. Which led me looking at the big picture of my life for the thousandth time and realizing once again how amazing it is. Not that my life in itself is amazing, just that the story is amazing. You can see God moving in my life before I ever realized it, but whether or not you believe? It's a wonderful coincidence.

January of 2009, after dropping out of University and spending 6 months basically soaking my liver and brain in illegal substances, a friend texted me telling me how much she missed Washington and all of us up here. My response was to quit my both my jobs and drive 19 hours straight through the night to Riverside California. My dear friend, Jade, was attending California Baptist University. A private Christian university, things like Chapel and worship were required of students. I was sleeping on Jade's floor so I just tagged along for two weeks. I grew up in the church (little c for little minds), but God and I hadn't spoken in awhile. I left the church, assuming that included God. I was mistaken. Everyone commented on what an amazing friend I was to have driven all the way down to California for Jade, but I think that time saved my life. I just reassured Jade that she was loved and belonged in California, staying at Cal Baptist was the start of my life doing a 180. I returned home to the grey knowing I wanted something different for my life. But without the recreational substance abuse, I was forced to turn to the prescribed brands. I had anxiety attacks that would put me in a small dark corner and felt jittery all the time, most likely because my diet consisted of caffeine and medication. I rode the bus into Seattle for work and read my Bible for the first time in a long time. I remember someone asking me if I went to church and I adamantly explained that I didn't approve of church, I was just trying to figure out where/why/how all of this (Bible) fit into my life. She smiled at me. Bus riders into Seattle from Maple Valley get to know each other pretty well, so eventually we all began to have pretty interesting conversations about God, religion, church... I had a friend die that Spring. We had always planned extravagant trips and before he died he had gone on a tour of South America. "You have to go to Peru, Malia," he told me. That same week he died, I bought a plane ticket for September. As the Summer progressed, my anxiety and myriad of other mental health issues intensified. The two or so weeks before I got on a plane, I spent most of my days not being able to get out of bed. Staring at the ceiling and journaling nonsense, not eating or sleeping. I was a wreck. My mother would tell me later that when she dropped me at the airport, she thought she would never see me alive again. But I got on a plane, slept in an airport and got on my connecting flight to South America.

That first night in a hostel in Lima, I flushed all my medication. I couldn't tell you why I did it, I just didn't want to be a zombie any longer. I got on a 24 hour bus to Cusco and fell in love the moment I awoke in the middle of the Andes. Foreign grey moonscape to lush Amazonian jungle to fields of golden grass high above the clouds. I thought I was dying, "This is what Heaven looks like," I remember thinking as the sun lit up the side of the mountain to a bright glow. Maybe I was dying, because I turned into an entirely new person. In Cusco I met some young men who would change my life. The tall perfect arian and fun loving, Rolf from Denmark. Working for the travel industry, he came to Cusco in 2005 on holiday and just never left. The awkward but excellent with the ladies and dearling friend, Christian from Oxford. Traveling through South America, the US, and Asia on gap year after inventing some kind of new laundry detergent, he had stayed in Cusco longer than expected because he fell in love with it. Jesus, the Argentine graphic designer with strange sleeping hours and a love of matte and fernet with Coke from Cordoba. I lived with these three and really became who I wanted to be. I spent my days wandering the shops and streets, eventually volunteering at a school house in San Mateo, a "suburb" of Cusco if you will... if no running water and crumbling adobe buildings qualify as "suburbs." My nights were spent salsa dancing and bar hopping with the occasional Cumbia club. Then I met Tao. Tall, dark, and handsome Australian passing through Cusco on his tour of the world and I fell in love. My time in Cusco coming to an end, he convinced me to join him in New York City. I made it happen. We spent 2 weeks in blissful December joy on the island of Manhattan before he had to fly to London and I went to live in Washington DC with relatives. I combed craigslist and eventually happened upon a job as an au pair in San Miniato, Italy to the cutest triplets in the world. My life in Italy was mostly babies and adventures all over Italy with them. Eventually we went to Vermont for the Summer and I picked up my Bible again. My life was just one big coincidence after another. At the end of that Summer, I knew what I needed to do: I had to go home. I took the train across the country, stopping various places but primarily in Chicago to visit my little brother, Zach, at North Park University, then in Spokane to reconnect with a dear friend, and Soap Lake to spend time with my God Parents.

Finally I arrived home. The job market being what it was, I threw myself into volunteer work at two different churches and the community. It wasn't long before we got the call about Zach, in the hospital struggling to make it. "Touch and go," were the dreaded words. My parents went and I stayed with my baby brother Alika. This is why I was called home. Two weeks went by with Alex and I making life work on our own when my paternal grandmother passed away. My dad flew to Seattle and all three of us flew out to attend the funeral. When we returned home, all 5 of us were living under the same roof again. Zachary was recovering, slowly but surely. Alex was also recovering, from a variety of other things. I spent my time volunteering and making an odd dollar here and there through my dear friend, Wendee, at Versatile Designs. I received several offers to get out of the country, but I declined them all. Despite my empty wallet and living at home again, I knew I was doing the right thing. I went on a mission trip to Mexico by sheer grace, as I wasn't planning on going (due to lack of funds) and was reintroduced to the man who has become the love of my life. I got a paid internship and was offered a position as an Administrative Assistant for the Summer. I wasn't sure where either would leave me come September, but I was determined that this was the right path for me. I got engaged in August and in September found out my job at our Church Office could be a permanent one if I wanted it. Married in November, we found out I was pregnant in late December, and the Church offered me more hours for 2012... and I am happy. Life has it's ups and downs, but there is never a moment when I am dissatisfied. My life isn't a fairytale, but it's close enough for me.
I could have spent four years at University. I could have continued to work 2 jobs and live in a little apartment. I could have stayed abroad having adventures. I could have left the country again. I could have, I could have, I could have. And I didn't. I followed my heart and the thousands of coincidences that make up my life. But I don't believe in coincidence, I believe in God. And it's okay if you don't! I just can't seem to shake it. Now we are looking at going abroad to do mission work and everyone thinks we're out of our heads. If there's one thing I've learned? It's that people thinking I'm making an irrational decision probably means I'm headed in the right direction. Why do you need to approve of what I am doing and where I'm going? And why do you imagine you have that right? Live your life and I will do the same. If that isn't good enough for you, well, that's too bad...