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.