13 December 2013

Chaotic, Turbulent, Excited Christmas

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn. Luke 2:6-7

We paint a really peaceful picture this time of year with our nativity scenes; the trustworthy donkey and sleepy cows, gentle lambs and their shepherds, three wisemen and their gifts. This is the time for peace on earth, goodwill toward men, snow on pine trees and stockings over the fire. It doesn't matter that our blonde Mary and peaceful barn animals are unrealistic OR that the idea that there were only three magi and the idea that they were even there is just historically inaccurate OR that literally one half of the world is experiencing Summer rather than snow on December 25th, which is a solid 2 months later than Jesus could possibly have been born - because in our minds it's all so peaceful, serene.

Today on the radio I heard someone say, "I just picture Mary, so peaceful, grateful to have a place to put her baby." Now, perhaps Mary and I are different creatures entirely, but I cannot imagine this version of her. I cannot see her as peacefully allowing strangers to come gawk at her child right after she has been in labor for God knows how long. I cannot envision her being grateful that her sweet baby boy, the son of God, has to be put into a feeding trough.

What I do picture is a young woman of strength, who endured the terrible trek to Bethlehem at 9 months pregnant on the back of a donkey. I imagine her endurance when she and Joseph were turned away from the inn. I see her resolve looking at the stable like "This is doable, it will be okay, we will just tidy it up a bit, no problem, look at all this hay to make beds with! It will be fine." I see her bravery as she realized that she was going into labor in a barn.

If you haven't had the pleasure of experiencing labor pains, let me paint you a picture: it hurts. It hurts an impossible amount. And I mean impossible. Your whole body is in pain and you can't seem to remember what your body felt like without that pain. You are exhausted physically and mentally, everything about the process tells you that you cannot do it. You cannot make it through this - the epidural wasn't invented for the hell of it.

And you certainly cannot make it through this in barn. You cannot make it surrounded by animals who are probably less than calm with everything that is going on. You cannot make it when you need to make sure the hay you are laying on doesn't have animal feces because that might lead to an infection and at this point in history? An infection means death. There is no water to boil, no sterile instruments, no helpful nurse or doctor or midwife who has been through this before and can tell you what is next or what to expect. It is just you and your husband and the cast of Old MacDonald.

Do I think that just because Jesus is the son of God he somehow magically just popped out, no effort? No. That is ridiculous. He came into this world like all babies come into this world and it is not exactly "peaceful."

But it is worth it. Because suddenly the pain is gone, suddenly you are no longer worried about how you will make it through because you already did. And you are holding the fruit of your labor and he is perfect. His cry is not one of an angry 2 year old that can't have his way, but a muffled noise that is so precious. And this is the moment you can't imagine why it seemed so impossible only moments before.

I picture Mary looking at her perfect son, holding him against her chest and looking around at the scene and laughing. Because I would laugh. I would laugh at the stressed animals and messy hay. I would laugh at my husband's exhaustion from watching me be exhausted, his nervousness about being a father and plain talent for it. I would laugh at our lack and our obvious prosperity. I would laugh. There would not be a peaceful moment of quiet, but laughter amongst the neighs and snorts. There would be joy in that chaotic, turbulent, excited moment.

Because, what else could there possibly be?

10 December 2013

The God and the Mat

The yoga mat is a magical place where logic is enhanced and suspended, the stress of my mind is replaced by the stress of my body, and peace is substituted for frustration. Each breathe matters and here is where it matters the most. This is a place where I really can breathe out the bad and in the good, a place where I find contentment and satisfaction, a place where I meet God and God meets me and there needs be nothing but me, my mat, and God.

Namaste.

This little word. Salutations to you, it means. Not for me, but for you. The divine in me recognizes the divine in you. The God in me sees the God in you. With the pressing of palms and the littlest of bows, I create a greeting, farewell, and blessing with this little word.

Some call it sacrilege.

My mat and my little word scare some people. The people say my mat and little word cannot be separated from their pagan roots. They shun my mat and little word, they call them heresy. They tell me that I am worshiping something I don't understand with my "Sun Salutations," that I am creating little gods in people when I say my "namaste." And maybe I am.

But here's the thing,

I believe in a God who created all things. I believe in a God who is bigger than all else. I believe in a God who redeems and builds up. I believe that God wants me to be healthy. I believe that God wants me to be happy. I believe that God would encourage me to do those things which lead to health and happiness. I believe that when I breathe deeply and feel connected to His creation, this is a wonderful and awesome thing. And I believe I can worship God on my mat. That He would roll out a mat next to my own.

And I believe in a God who created me specifically. And you specifically. And I believe God lives in us. Not only because of the Holy Spirit, but because I was made in Her image. I believe I was made to resemble Her beauty and grace and power and mercy. So when I say my little word, I mean it. I mean that you were made by a God who loves you and I see what She sees in you. I see your potential and your wonder, because it is also in me! And I think God might say "Namaste" when She sees me, with just a bit of mischief in Her eyes. Not because I am worthy, but because She made me in Her image and She sees that reflection of Herself in me, even when no one else does.

This is my mat.
This is my word.
This is my God.

So I get on my mat and I say my word and I feel my God come up around me and I know.

But that's just me, you'll have to find out what you know.

05 December 2013

Far Away and Next Door

Know what I love?

I love having friends all over the world. I love checking my Facebook and seeing 4-5 languages in one scroll. I love the amazing things they are doing; from graphic design to dorm parent, Tucan Travel to Terralba, learning to teaching, single, married, engaged, young to old, stripper to preacher, loving God and people in Ecuador, China, India, Uganda, DC, Maple Valley, and so many more I feel guilty for not naming them all. I love that we have a bond, no matter how strange or distant or small. This is not a brag about how cool I am for knowing these people - this is a brag about how lucky I am to know these people.

Seriously.

These people are the best people. They are funny and sarcastic and ironic. They have deep, meaningful conversations about everything and nothing. They are talented; wood working, gardening, boat building, language learning, engineering, parenting, writing, hosting, singing, dancing, cooking, preaching, befriending - their talents are endless! They are good, good people. The kind of good people that make you check yourself when you say something nasty in traffic, not in a judge-y way, but in a makes-me-better way. They are people who love. They love through thick and thin and short and tall and all of the things. They love even when they barely know me and when they know me all too well. These people are the best people.

And do you know what I hate?

I hate having friends all over the world. I hate that they can't stop in and have tea. I hate that our friendship, while amazing and unique and beautiful, can't grow as quickly or deeply as it would if they were near to me. I hate that even if I go visit one of them, there will always be 10 more I want to visit. I hate that even when we are able to get together, it never feels like enough time. I hate that Skype planning is so difficult because of my and their schedules and time zones - and that I am just so bad about planning that out.

True story.

I want these best people next to me. I want to be able to call them without racking up a cellphone charge that physically injures my bank account. I want to be able to invite them to dinner, for coffee, for walks and talks. I want them to just randomly pop in because they know I'm home. I want them to see Rory every day so they aren't surprised when he walks across the room. I want them to laugh with me, cry with me, struggle with me. I want to see them more than once a Skype and on Facebook.

But then...

I do appreciate the Skypes - no matter how infrequent or regular. And I adore the visits - no matter how short or long. And I love the Facebook comments - no matter if we're besties or acquaintances. And I am blessed by the friends I have next door.

I love our landlords. They are like a third set of grandparents for Rory and oh! how they love him. I love my super amazing Monday night crew. I like our yoga and our deeper discussions. I love being real with them. I love my flakey friends - you know who you are. I love that we can not see each other, even though we want to, but still pick up where we left off. I love the people I am flakey with - you also know who you are. I love that you continue to pester me, please don't ever stop pestering me. I love the people I barely know who give me hand-me-downs, book recommendations, prayers, and winks. I love my Sunday people. I love my youth group kids. I love my girls who are no longer girls but collegiate women. I love the people I haven't met yet, the people I will never meet!

I love all my people. All God's people.

I love you because you are the threads of the beautiful tapestry of God's creation. You are the perfect example of how we are all so unique and so the same all at once! You are the people who struggle and bleed and laugh and sing. I love you all because you are different than me. I love you because you believe differently, try differently, dream differently. I love you because we find common ground in those differences. I love you because we have spoken every day, twice, and not at all. I love you because you are talented and gifted, because you share those talents and gifts. I love you because you surprise me and are so predictable. I love you because you are far away and next door.

I love you and today? I cannot even think of one reason not to.

Even when you are mean. Even when you do something you didn't mean to, when you say something you think might have been a mistake. Even when you let fear take over. Even when you are selfish, even when you are greedy, even when you forget who you are. I love you even when you hurt yourself, even when you hurt others.

This is not because I am some great and selfless person.

Because yesterday? I did not feel like loving anyone. Yesterday I was selfish and angry and sad. Yesterday, you all loved me. And that is why I am reminded that even when I have a yesterday, there is always a tomorrow. And I am so blessed to be loved by a God who loves me unconditionally and a you who loves me on my bad days, that I can love you all like that return. Wherever you are all over the world - far away and next door.

04 December 2013

Super Happy and Uplifting Stories




The blinking cursor is my enemy.

I literally have 9 drafts sitting in my blogger, waiting to be finished or edited or even begun. But I can't. I just can't. I don't feel like it. I don't want to. I don't have any desire to hit that publish button and let you all in on what I'm thinking, feeling, experiencing. For awhile I was too busy. Then I was too busy and too boring all at the same time. And then I was too busy and too boring and too involved in other things (I've overcommitted myself this Fall). And now? Now I don't want to talk to you anymore. Now I am struggling and I feel bad for not including you in what has been happening previously so why would I bother you with the negative crap?

But I'm going to.

Because the other day someone told me how much the loved and appreciated my blog.

-insert guilt-

So there's that. And I love to write and I am wondering if maybe, just maybe, much of what plagues me can be worked out on my keyboard. I've been reading a lot and it reminds me of why I love to write - because I love to read. Seriously, you should see my side of the bed. It is all books. Copious amounts of books. Stacks and piled and leaning and each one more desirable than the next and I just don't have time for them all which breaks my soul into pieces - book shaped pieces. But it also reminds me that I love to read because I love to write, and vice versa. They are the perfect little yin and yang that make up my ink stained fingers and hardback heart. So here I am at the computer again.

Wah wah.

Firstly, they are clear cutting around our house. Gross. It makes me want to move. It makes me want to pack our things and find some new house in the woods with goats and donkeys and chickens and coyotes and elk and all of the things. I do not live down a long gravel road so that I can have wide-open-clear-cut spaces around me. No. Just no. Trees are like my books. I want them around me. Lots of them. And when they are missing? I am incomplete. I just wander aimlessly or focus too much and too hard on stupid stressful things. Plus, my husband is like two trees away from becoming an eco-terrorist and I would really rather he stays out of prison. And I want my trees back.

Like, now.

So, I work for a church and our church is kind of small, which means we have 3 employees - *had. Our Youth and Children's Ministry Director decided to go back to school to get his Masters. This is a grand thing that I am actually quite jealous of! However, it also means that we have to hire someone new. We haven't yet. It's a long and tedious process and in the interim? I have kind of found myself in a leadership position with lots more responsibilities than I would like. This is not so much due to other people shirking their duties as it is me taking on responsibilities that no one else likes because otherwise, who will do all of the things?!?!

Needless to say, my life has kind of turned into a Circus - capital "C".

Like I said, I've been reading. Lots of things, but Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton specifically. I like her writing style, mainly because I feel it reflects my own, but also because her stories reflect my own. I was in tears by probably the second vignette. It might have actually been the first. Yes, because the book is sad, but not like a Nicholas Sparks novel sad. It's better than that. Deeper than that. It's sad in the way that real life is sad. It's sad like stubbing your toe after the worst day ever. It's sad like when you feel you don't love people enough. It's sad like realizing your kiddo is sick after you've been angry with them all day because they've been "whiny." It's sad like that. Which is the worst and best kind of sad. It makes you smaller, which actually makes you better.

That book makes me better.

Then there's the fact that I'm fat.

Well, kind of. Actually, not really. See, I had a baby and then that baby became a toddler and weaned himself and I lost weight and got skinny and I was super excited - except I didn't do anything, I just had a baby and the rest was science. So now I am realizing/remembering that in order to stay small or continue to get smaller, I have to work hard because I'm not 12 anymore. Yah. That's stupid. Why do 12 year olds get good metabolism when all they do is treat their bodies like crap? Riddle me that.

Anyway, my lazy self just wants to casually do yoga and continue to watch pounds shed like unwanted puppy fur in the Summer time. But it's Winter and I am not a dog, sooo... back to intense yoga and running. In the freezing. In the wind. In the rain. And I still feel fat most of the time.

And then there's Bible Study.

So, the youth group kids, you know, the ones who lost their youth group leader to University? They would like a Bible Study (did I already mention my life is a Circus?). And honestly? They need one. Because youth group is still kind of settling into what it looks like without a paid staff person and it's a little disastrous - definitely lacking structure, anyway. And the topics that the kids want to talk about? ARE AWESOME. They are so awesome. We have the best kids in our youth group. Thee best. I would challenge you to find better, more involved, more justice and civic minded students. All of them. From 2-20, they are amazing.

So now I am building a Bible Study and I thought I had a good grasp on what they wanted to learn - I was wrong. Or rather, I just assumed in the wrong direction. What do my very intelligent, civil servants want to discuss? All of the stuff every adult wants to hash out with teenagers - sex, abortion, gender equality, homosexuality, prayer... the list goes on. I'm super excited they feel comfortable enough to have these conversations with me, but seriously - CIRCUS.

Oh, also, poop.

Literal poop. Rory's poop is a constant conversation in our house because he struggles with his tummy and gets so upset when he doesn't feel well (as he should), but that makes Mama and Dada upset in turn. Because we want him to feel well and play nicely and snuggle, but he feels all gross inside and this leads him to be cranky on the outside. Every Circus needs poop, I suppose.

Aren't you so glad I gave you an update?

I know, you missed me.

And I missed you.

01 November 2013

October Advocacy


13-10 MM Email

Orphan Sunday. From many sources, one voice. On November 3rd, 2013, thousands of events will echo across America and around the globe, all sharing a single goal: that God's great love for the orphan will find echo in our lives as well. (from OrphanSunday.org)


One Day. One Voice. One Purpose. // Orphan Sunday

Does your family, small group or church have plans for Orphan Sunday? There are so many ways that we can honor orphans collectively as the Body of Christ on Orphan Sunday. Here are just a few:

  • Advent for Orphans Calendar -- see explanation below
  • Orphan's Table -- share a meal eaten by orphans around the world. Gather with family, small group or church for the meal, discussion and prayer.
  • Partnership Packages -- easy-to-follow Orphan Sunday event plan, enabling you to partner with an organization to create a simple event!
  • Other Resources -- videos, prayer guides, sermon notes, t-shirts & more!


    To learn more about Orphan Sunday or find an event near you visit OrphanSunday.org.



    Advent for Orphans Calendar

    Advent Home Page Slide

    This year, make Advent about more than just eating chocolate.


    We are so excited to announce this year's Advent for Orphans Calendar! What is Advent for Orphans? It's a creative way to celebrate Advent with your family, small group, church, etc. while loving and providing for orphans around the world. It's especially great for families with kids!



    Request your free Advent for Orphans Calendar today at www.LifesongforOrphans.com/Advent.



    Read More...
    Impact of Advent for Orphans -- Read about the impact Advent for Orphans had on Blake & Christine's family last year. Read More

    More Orphan Sunday Event Ideas -- Struggling to think of an event for Orphan Sunday? Read through examples of past Orphan Sunday events. Read More

    I AM LOVED -- Watch Christian Alliance for Orphan's Official Orphan Sunday video!  Watch Video


    Share Orphan Sunday -- Share the joy of Orphan Sunday with your friends by posting badge & banner on your blog or facebook page. Get badge & banner

    21 October 2013

    160 Hours of Totoro

    The title might be an exaggeration.

    Might.


    Even Batman watches Totoro.

    Rory just can't seem to kick this cold. Every time he seems to be gettin better, it gets worse again. And the only way to keep him relatively peaceful (he is called Roranicus Rex for a reason), is to give him his bottle of milk and put Totoro on. He is vastly uninterested in any other movie, but will repeatedly ask for and watch Totoro. He goes to the screen, asks, pulls the case off the shelf and brings it to you. If you ignore this request? He will try to open and insert the DVD on his own.

    Oh, the hours of Totoro.


    Classy.

    Luckily, it does allow for some premium chore doing and he knows he is only allowed one Totoro viewing per day. Though we sometimes disagree on that point...

    For awhile, I felt pretty awful about letting him watch it. You know, placating my child while I do my own thing. But it's such a good film. I never get tired of watching it either. It is good paced and simplistic, encouraging imagination while maintaining the normalcy of everyday life.


    This morning we are watching our beloved furry friend in Mama's lap because we still don't feel well. And the chores can wait. These snuggly moments of watching children's movies will not last forever.

    I will take them for as long as I get them.



    03 October 2013

    A Lack of Commitment and Other Things

    I have like six different drafts going.

    I just can't commit.

    We are trying to get Rory to sleep through the night. Kind of. It's essentially an epic battle. Two nights ago he screamed between 2:30ish and 5am. The boy has will power. Struggling to even just get him to be still, I just closed my eyes and thought "This is how God feels about me; Like, "Malia, STOP STRUGGLING, I promise I know what's best for you in this moment, just go with it - idiot."" This is comforting for reasons I can't even explain. It makes me love my son more. It makes me feel like I'm doing okay even when we've had an entire day of awful. But then there are moments like this one...
     
    My son, like his mother before him, should have had bad eyesight. Because we look adorable in glasses, Amen. He's like a miniature Clark Kent in the flesh! He took them out of his Nana's pocket and tried to put them on his face and laughed. Oh! how he laughed. The boy is full of so much joy it makes me look morose. And I'm a gaggle of fun. Sometimes. Whatever, don't judge me.

    Listen, being a mom to a dinosaur is difficult. We don't always see eye to eye - primarily because he's like 2ft tall, but sometimes because he thinks crying for three hours in the middle of the night is a good idea rather than sleeping. I should add, he slept until 10am following his disastrous wake up, so I think we all know who won that battle... him.

    But you should hear the way he says my name. Clear as could be, "Mama." And isn't it worth it? To be covered in banana and see those little feet run toward you when you get home? I can't think of anything better.





    Except Maybe This...
    video

    24 September 2013

    September Adoption

    church 100Adoption Funds. Helping the church financially support couples as they bring home children into their forever families through adoption.

    MEETING THE NEEDS // Adoption Funds

    win win win 100
    We see Adoption Funds as a "Win-Win-Win" solution: the local church is actively involved on behalf of orphans, the financial roadblock for families is removed, the orphan child is adopted into a permanent Christian family...all with minimal administrative burden for the church.

    Using the adoption matching grant and interest-free loan processes already established by Lifesong, churches can easily navigate through the details of adoption funding....all with no cost to the church.

    Church Fund Children

    ALWAYS WITH YOU // Adoption Fund Story

    Cameron and Sarah experienced the love of their church family through their adoption journey. His Kids Our Homes Adoption Fund, at North County Christ the King Church have blessed this family and others as children are brought into forever families. Listen in on their journey...

    mouse copySee how your church can benefit from establishing an Adoption Fund by visiting our website.

    Read More

    Bringing Churches Around Adoptive Families - Dave and Carrie, directors of His Kids - Our Homes (Lynden, WA) share how they have experienced the blessing of having a Lifesong Adoption Fund.  Watch Video

    "God Worked to Bring Them Home" - Scott and Kathy bring two more children into their home through adoption with the help from TAMBA adoption fund. Read more

    God's Revealing Love - Sam and Maria share how God continued to reveal His love for them and their 7 children, through their local church, North County Christ the King. Watch Video

    Adoption Fund Testimonials - Hear what Adoption Fund partners have to say about their experience with Lifesong Adoption Funds.  Watch Video

    06 September 2013

    I Am Not A Pinterest Mom

    Awhile back, I wrote on the Facebook wall of a friend from another era. Just a "Hey, how are you doing?" kind of hello. He asked me if I had beaten Pinterest yet. I wanted to kick him in the teeth.
    Best Coffee Mug.. Ever.
    Truth: I love Pinterest. It combines the two things I love most in this world after God, my family, and adoption: images and information. I am almost entirely visual. I cannot handle being told anything verbally unless I have a pen and paper. Pinterest beautifully weaves together my learning style and passion for knowledge into a blanket of lovely. If you scroll through my Pinterest you will notice that every single pin is my style of aesthetically pleasing. There are two notable exceptions: home school information (which pains me that no one has made a pretty graphic for all of it) and things I post for Marko. I have a problem.

    I try every recipe I post.
    I sew every clever project I pin.
    I plan out every housing project I would do if only my pockets were deeper.
    I create home school curriculum.
    I honestly spend more time just scrolling through my own pins and admiring all the pretty images than anything else.
    Except maybe the "Kiddo" tab.
     http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m8cwrzbk9k1rs81xfo1_500.jpg
    Adorable.

    And the Kiddo tab is my undoing. I consistently find pictures and stories that bring me to tears - happy or sad. It's ridiculous. But also found on the Kids tab are parenting articles. I'll admit (with extreme prejudice) that sometimes I find a blog that I find humorous or informative, but mostly it just makes me feel like a failure. My son is 13 months old and nowhere close to sleeping through the night - or in his own bed. We don't have a washer/dryer so we can't do cloth diapers (don't get me started, I fully understand how uneconomical and un-ecological disposables are). I tell him "No" more often than I would like. I get frustrated with him when all he wants is my attention because I want to get something done. I am upset because we live in a way that means I work part-time and I don't get to be a stay-at-home mom. I never actually got around to teaching Rory sign language. We didn't do any cute month-by-month pictures. And he ate peanut butter and strawberries before he turned one.

    Lord help me.

    I consistently forget to get my son breakfast before 11am. Sometimes he doesn't go to bed until 10:30 because I don't feel like making it a battle.When Rory throws a tantrum, I often forget to calmly explain to him the what and why and just throw a tantrum back. A "well balanced lunch" is regularly frozen blackberries with bread dipped in peanut butter and jam. I use sarcasm (in case you weren't aware) and realized yesterday that I have been actively trying to teach my one-year-old to throw things (plushy footballs, but still). I swear, I have little-to-no sense of time, I let Rory play with any tool that has no sharp edge, and enjoying watching Criminal Minds while he plays with his toys next to me.

    I am winning no parenting awards.

    http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/06/59/3e/06593eefaec275295e68ba1db9cd9863.jpg

    Last week while hanging with my wonderful girlfriend, Becca, we were discussing what it meant to let God "love on you" and we came to the decision that it was a balance of accepting who God has made you to be and really living into that. The analogy I decided on was yoga (you're surprised, I know). In yoga, there is no perfect pose because the goal of each pose is actually to go beyond physical limits; putting your forehead to your shins is not the objective, the objective is to go through your shins into the earth - but that's impossible. You are constantly accepting where you are while striving to go further in yoga. And that's what it is like to let God love on you.

    And that's what it's like to be a parent.

    I have the perfect example laid out for me in scripture. A Father who loves me unconditionally, who calls me back when I have wandered, whose heart breaks when my own is broken, who forgives me all of my many many transgressions. And I will never compare. Not to the Pinterest Moms, and certainly not to God. But one of those is worth striving towards and one of them isn't. Some perspective is in order here. Who cares if I potty train my son in three days as long as he is unconditionally loved?
    coffee
    At this point, all I can do is pray for wisdom, strength, and have another cup of coffee. Because being a mom is never going to get easier - just different. And there will be one million voices telling me I'm doing it wrong, but there will always be at least one telling me even though I will always do it wrong, it's still worth trying.

    05 September 2013

    But What Are You For?

    There are about one million versions of this quote.
    You need to stand for something
    But I'm not too cool to admit I've always liked it.

    I have mixed feelings about "Christian music." Partly because a lot of it sounds the same and it can be boring. Partly because something about God being a great artist and us being made in his image so music is all technically "worship music" - that is kind of a lengthy conversation in itself. But I have had a flat out downhearted attitude lately and have been in need of some worship - even if some (most) of it is boring. And just when I thought to myself, "this is not helping," I head this one on the radio and - well...



    Don't just roll your eyes at me, sometimes punk rocker Malia has a weak moment of Casting Crowns adoration. This is one of those times. And I am not sorry.

    "We cut people down in your name, when the sword was never ours to swing."

    Ouch. It makes me think of Peter. You know, cutting off people's ears in defense of Jesus (John 18) and then being scolded. Sometimes we put forth all this effort to defend our faith, when, if we had really been living it out, it wouldn't have needed defending in the first place. What we stood for would have done all that work for us, but we chose to strike out at what we were against instead.

    There was this one time I went to a Christian music festival and there was a company who were selling t-shirts with your premium Christian values on them, you know: gays are bad, abortions are bad, sluts are bad, porn is bad, etc (Christian consumerism at its best, folks). It spent all weekend pissing me off. And, I'll be honest, I wasn't quite as polite or refined then... or now. I can't for the life of me remember what the shirt said, but I do remember it was about abortion. I do remember it pointed a very demeaning finger at anyone who had ever had one. And I had friends, plural, who had them.

    I should be clear about the fact that I believe life starts at conception. Yah, I'm one of those. My belief plays into it, but also just being a mama. However, I also believe I have no idea what is like to be 14 and pregnant. I have no idea what it's like to live in a home where my family might disown me. I have no idea what it's like to have no support surrounding me while thinking I maybe can't do this. I have no idea what it's like to be raped and carry a child from that experience. I have no idea. And, most importantly, I don't get to judge you. I get to tell you that there are other options and I think you'd be a wonderful mother. I get to hold your hand and love you, no matter what.

    Anyway, there was a group of girls on the campground shuttle, all of them wearing the "God hates when you kill his babies" shirt while discussing the great sin of abortion and I decided it would be prudent to turn around and join the conversation.
    I should have prefaced this story with: this is what not to do.
    Our conversation went about like this:
    Me: "How can you wear that judgmental bullshit?"
    Girl 1: "Do you support abortion?"
    Me: "I think anyone who has been through that process has had enough to deal with without being damned by a t-shirt most likely made in a sweatshop."
    Girl 2: "You don't know anything, people who have abortions go to hell!"
    Girls: "Yah."
    Me: "You're idiots."
    Girl 1: "I bet you had an abortion. You're going to burn in hell for eternity."
    Me: *punches girl 1 in the nose*

    I know what you're thinking, "Way to tell that girl what for!" But I was just as guilty as those girls. I didn't let what I stood for speak for itself, I was led by what I was against.


    Here's the thing, the world has gotten a fat dose of what we (Christians) are against. From the Crusades to bad t-shirts to the Westboro Baptist Church - the world is like "We got it, Christianity, you are against things. Passionately against them." We have drawn so many lines in the sand, we are starting to look like a bad piece of modern art.

    But what are we for???

    "Oh how we love our religious yokes, not for what they communicate about God, but what they say about us. This is the kind of people we are. We say "no" when everyone else says "yes." We don't do that. We don't watch that. We don't vote that way. We don't go there. We don't include them. But God's idea of a fast is less about what we're against and more about what we are for.

    Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:6-7"
    Jen Hatmaker, 7 (and the Bible)

    As you've seen, I am guilty. My finger might be pointed in the other direction, but that doesn't make me any more right. While I should be setting an example for my fellow Christians, I am too busy informing them that they aren't being loving, caring, forgiving, etc. enough. But what if I took all that time to just be loving, caring, forgiving? What if I made it less about what is wrong with Christianity and more about what I can do right? What am I for?

    What are any of us for?

    27 August 2013

    August Advocacy



    13-8 MM Email



    Thankfulness. We honored to stand beside so many of you in your faithful service to God and His call to love and care for the orphan. Join us in praising God for the work that He continues to do through the Church!

    Listen in on HIS provision in Honduras and the opportunity to join the work through sponsorship...


    Centro Vida Construction Complete // HONDURAS
    Please enjoy this video featuring Honduras' brand new multi-purpose building, Centro Vida, which includes assembly space as well as a large kitchen. This building is just part of the incredible work going on in Honduras to equip over 575 vulnerable children & young adults with not only the Gospel, but hope for a future!

    It's exciting to see Centro Vida's completion on Plan Escalon's 25th anniversary of serving orphans and vulnerable children.

    Want to see more updates at Plan Escalon? Check out the kitchen renovation video thanks to the amazing help from our partners at Retail Orphan Initiative.





    You Matter to Me // CHILD SPONSORSHIP
    When choosing a sponsor child, Vicki noticed that Lesly was an older student, but in a younger grade. Vicki intentionally chose to sponsor Lesly, understanding that something had happened in her life to cause her to fall behind. She wanted Lesly to know she cared and believed in her.
    Listen in as Vicki, member of Retail Orphan Initiative, meets the students she sponsors at Plan Escalon and the impact that it is making not only in her heart, but in the heart of her sponsored children...







    Read more about Child Sponsorship...
    What Child Sponsorship is All About -- Beautiful story of a sponsor child moved to tears and prayer when he heard that his sponsor was in a car accident. Read more

    Be a Light Through Sponsorship -- Read a post from Lifesong's summer blog series featuring Sponsorship. Read more

    Dear _____, I love you. -- JB, student at Lifesong Liberia, wrote to a sponsor he did not yet have. Fill in the blank for JB! Read more

    "I will not stop serving the Lord" -- Watch the testimony of the life of Haggai, student of Lifesong Zambia. Watch Video

    Breaking the Cycle in Ukraine -- Natasha's life and future was changed by the mentorship she found through Lifesong Ukraine. Watch Video to hear her story.


    14 August 2013

    To A New Mama



    My sweet baby boy is now one; from breathing his first breaths, saying his first words, taking his first steps, throwing his first tantrums - it has been quite a year.

    For this occasion, I wrote the Roranicus Rex, Destroyer of Worlds, a letter. But that is private. So instead, I will share with you what I would write to myself, one year ago...

    Rory with his first Gelato Cone.


    Darling and Blessed Woman,

    This is it. You have been patient, at least, you were patient sometimes. You have have endured. You have been tried and tested; physically, emotionally, psychologically - some tests were easier than others. But this is it. That moment you have waited for. You, beautiful woman, are a Mama.

    The little one you carry in your arms is your beloved child and you are his Mama. I know it doesn't feel real and you cannot believe that he is actually yours, but believe me? He is. Write down these moments, photograph them, but mostly just live in them. For as cliche as it is, your child will grow faster than you can grasp and you will never again have this second, this millisecond, with him.

    Mama, you will get advice - so much advice. Some of it will be good, but most of it will be nonsense. You are the mama now, you make the decisions you feel are right. Trust your instincts. People will tell you that they "love this stage" and you will stare, open mouthed and covered in exhaustion from the night before. But be gracious, someday you too will be coveting the days before. Say "thank you" and move along. Time is the rosiest pair of glasses. Dear one, sometimes it will not be advice, but criticism. Know whose words to take to heart, and whose to let pass over you. There may be friends lost over such words, but there may be friendships strengthened through them as well. Keep heart.

    Speaking of advice... Drink water. Carry that water bottle with you wherever you go, along with a string cheese. You won't realize you're hungry or thirsty until it is too late. And then you will be tired, grumpy, and still needing to feed your tiny one regardless.

    Trust me when I say, it is okay to be frustrated. Sometimes you will not want to wake up at 3am. Sometimes it will be all you can do to not just put your fingers in your ears and bury your head in the covers. Sometimes, you will do those things. Say a quick prayer for patience, for calm, for love. Because it will not always be easy to just pour out love on a screaming little one, especially as he gets older. Practice doing it now. It is normal to get upset, it is normal to be frustrated, even angry! Don't blame yourself. If you need to take a moment away? Take one. That's what husbands are for, after all.

    You will be overwhelmed, Mama, by the love you feel for this small inscrutable human. Tell him. Tell him everyday. Show him. Especially on the days you don't feel like it, especially on the days he yells at you, especially when he bites you, especially when he throws his head into his hand and screams because he cannot communicate.

    Put down your phone, get off the internet, turn off the television. Spend time doing whatever it is he wants to do. Whether that is to tear all the books off the book shelf and hand them to you one by one so he can climb onto it, or run around outside eating the lettuce out of your garden. Encourage him to play by himself, but always be there to engage when he wants to play with you. Because there will be a day when he is no longer interested in asking you to join his fun. Show him how to help you do the things your doing, because he loves to do laundry with you and drawing is fun!

    You were made for this, you were made to do this. It doesn't mean it will all come naturally, it doesn't mean it won't be so difficult it brings you to tears - it simply means that it can be done and you can do it. And yes, someone else might seem to be better at it, but they aren't you. They were not made perfectly for this child in this moment, you were. He will look like his daddy, but have your eyes. He will be strong willed and full to the brim of emotion! Just like his mama.

    There is so much I could tell you, sweet new Mama, but I think I'll let you find the rest out for yourself. Pay attention, there will be so much!

    With infinite love,
    Malia

    02 August 2013

    Like They Do On The Discovery Channel?

    Marko and I attend one of the many Small Groups at our church and this Summer our topic is? Marriage. Well, at least, that's the vague one word summary of what we are studying. And this week we discussed "When Love Sizzles" ... aka sex - yah, I'm not going to pretend that the study isn't cheesy, but most of it is decent teaching. One of the questions following the session was "What are some of the damaging aspects of culture to sex?" The answers from around the room were good, but they focused primarily on the damage pop culture has done to sex - leaving out the serious damage that church culture has done to it.


    It's true that in this day and age? Sex is all we want to talk about. Where and how people are doing it and with who - or what. We are hyper-sexualized, women are only as good as what they'll show and men are only as good as their six-pack abs on a billboard. There is television, Pinterest, Tumblr, and photo after photo of what "sexy" is. Sex is easily accessible. In fact, it's hard to avoid it. Everyone has poor self image these days, it's impossible not to with all the damage this over stimulation does to our psyches.

    But we know it.

    We know the superficial nature of pop songs and that "rush" of a new relationship versus the "stagnant" nature of a long term one. We know the injury porn can sometimes place on a relationship. We know the problems with allowing young girls to read Cosmo and Teen Vogue. We see the anorexia, bulimia, rape culture - and not just in women. We watch the rate of sex before marriage sky rocket, the divorce rate rise steadily, and the number of dysfunctional teen moms captivate television audiences everywhere. We know it's damaging.

    But what about the damage we as a Church have done to sex?
    Because our sin is equal to that of the media.
    We force sex under the bed covers, shaming it and any discussion of it. With women and young girls, we teach them to "control" and "tone down" their sexuality; t-shirts over bathing suits, high-necked shirts, finger-tip length skirts and shorts. We tell them modesty only concerns keeping their legs closed and that purity is tied directly to their virginity and once you lose it? You can't get it back. We reproach men for finding a woman who is not their spouse attractive while encouraging a misplaced sense of machismo at the same time. We demand romance from our men while maintaining that they need to stop acting so feminine and "man up." It is a confusing, backwards, hurtful place where words like "abomination" and "sexual deviancy" and "aversion" are common place. The question arises, what does good sex even look like within the context of the Church? Because simply answering "marriage" doesn't do it. There is damaging and hurtful sex within marriages.
     
    It's blurry.
    Until we can openly and honestly have discussions within both cultures without the fear of being labeled "prude" or "sinful," sex will continue to be harmful. Not just when media tones down the sex and the Church amps up the "sizzle" factor, but when both come together to have an appropriate and in depth conversation. This is just identification of the problem and a lot could be said and speculated on how to heal the damage being done, but that is for another day. There is so much more to say and write on the subject and other people that I much admire have written about it here, here, here, here & here, or here - just to name a few.

    01 August 2013

    The Comeback

    You may or may not remember that for my 24th birthday, I created a Quarter List - 25 things I wanted to have accomplished/be heading toward by the time I turned 25. I think the list was and is a good idea. But I may possibly have changed my mind on several of the items... and already accomplished others!
    4 Build furniture rather than purchase it. We have remained tried and true on this point. Our pretty bathroom counter is almost finished (we were out of the state for essentially two months, give me a break) and we have much pine and other fun woods to create other furniture for ourselves - as well as for SKATEBOARDS. Yah. My husband is essentially a Superhero.

    5 Stick to a budget. So, we have not done this. But we were all over the place for two months (figuratively as well as literally), so my hope is to get a budget set up and in place by September... look at all that realistic planning from the girl who can't keep track of a planner.

    6 Size 4 Jeans. This girl? Wearing size 3 jeans and size Small leggings, WHAT UP?! Let me be totally honest, and say that my jeans fit in a snug manner and I am by no means in the greatest shape of my life. But mostly I am just really proud of myself! In two weeks it will be one year after baby and I fit in the same size jeans as I did in High School! That's awesome. I have to work hard at sticking to it though - the days of easy metabolism are kind of gone. Although, I will admit I have a strangely large amount of gelato in my diet... joy!

    7 Sew clothes rather than purchase them. Nope, haven't done it. I have a stack sitting on my sewing machine that need love and I just haven't gotten to it. Maybe once Summer calms the frick down.

    8 Continue to grow hair out.
    Photo: So awesome!

    Changed my mind! I now have a mohawk, thanks to Nikki at The Loft, and I FREAKING LOVE IT. I will try to get more pictures up as I try new things with it... Reasoning for changing my mind? One: my son likes to pull hair when he is upset or tired and ow. Two: You need a lot of time in order to really do anything with long hair where as this took me 5 minutes. Three: After I had Rory, I suddenly had this overwhelming sense of doubt that I had to sacrifice who I was in order to "become a mom," and while I whole heartedly believe in sacrificial living, I do not think that is what I was doing. I saw the image of what a mom is supposed to look like and it upset me that I did not resemble it. Having long hair wasn't the whole story, but I think I finally remembered and got comfortable with the fact that I am still that woman who loves pretty pearls and mohawks, wears gauged earrings and sun dresses, believes in minimal make-up and maximum sass - all while now having a baby on my hip.

    9. Blog twice a week. Ha. Ha. I'll work on it.

    14 Kiddo Number Two. We are not there yet, but I think it's nearing. There is a post-pregnancy period where you want want want another baby, then you don't ever want another baby, and then you come full circle to where you're comfortable with the idea, but when the time is right. And right now? We are just too busy to even think about it. Although I will say, I bought a very cute dress for a little girl the other day...

    16 Harvest our own honey. We expanded our hive in June and will maybe try to harvest a screen or two in September before snuggling the bees into a comfortable place for the winter. Our bees are doing pretty well and we love them.

    19 Second Income. Like I've said, we got really busy there for awhile, but I think we have created several avenues to maybe start an Etsy shop... I'm pretty excited to tell you about it once it's a reality!

    20 Homeschooling. I'm ankle deep in the craziness that is a homeschool curriculum for my little one, I just have to make the time to really dive off into the deep end...

    25. One Year Album. This is number one on my priority list right now, as Rory will be a One Year Old in less than two weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!! <<< Craziness. I'm trying to pool together photos and other things in order to get it all together. He already loves opening gifts, so I know he will love his birthday (we are just going to wrap empty boxes because, let's face it, he doesn't care about toys as much as the box).

    Thanks for all the love and support these last two months, it's been great. We are close to being able to send out our letter - make sure you let me know if you'd like a physical copy or an email copy or whatever you want! I will try to make dreams come true, but no promises - this isn't Disneyland...

    Or is it?