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.