17 December 2012

Mourning the Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 December 2012

The Christian Code of Conduct

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

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

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

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

I digress.

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

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

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

14 December 2012

Most Beautiful Girls I Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 December 2012


The word of the day is Missionary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

01 December 2012

Tis the Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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