Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How My Brain Got Fat

When I got to the campus bookstore in preparation for my final semester of college I could not believe the number of books that were required for just one semester.  That is a typical experience in college I believe, and being a Global Studies major I always tended to do quite a bit of reading for class.  But this time I had 25 books to read in just 15 weeks of classes.  I was screwed.

I did a lot of skimming in the weeks that followed, but for a girl who would normally read all day on the weekends for fun, that semester killed my desire to read.  Killed it.

It has been ten years since I graduated from university I can count on one hand the number of books I have read AND finished since I embarked on adulthood.  Which is sad, absolutely sad.

I'll be honest, I didn't make it a priority in my life.  At all.  I wished I could read all the great books people recommended to me, but I just always found other things to do after a day at work (like watch Friends for the 500th time).  I just got lazy with my education, with stretching myself.

One day, something changed.  Its as if my mind and heart woke up from a deep slumber and I was hungry for more than I had been giving myself.  My brain felt stagnant, almost like it had gained 20 pounds from sitting on the couch eating Oreos for a decade.  I once was so sure of myself and my beliefs and my feelings and over time I just lost all of it to business and laziness.  So many of my thoughts and feelings are here on this blog from years past.  I forgot about stretching myself that I had nothing worth sharing with the world for the last 5 and half years.  Wow.

But something clicked that one day.

And I knew I needed more.

I credit it to becoming a mom.  I was watching my daughter grow and all of a sudden I knew that I had to impart wisdom on her, but I didn't even know what wisdom was worth sharing anymore.  My thoughts were robotic and all repeated from someone else.  I felt had nothing genuine to give her.  And I knew the only way I could unleash myself and satisfy the hunger for the world was to start cracking open books again.  I love books.  I love the pages and underlining the sage advice from others who came before.  I have an e-reader, but I have found I'm not inspired by the words on a computer screen.  Probably because I sit in front of a computer all day at work.

Surprisingly it wasn't actual books that got me back and running again.  It was audio books.

I commute everyday for work, not long, but its still a commute and I have chosen to use that time to "read" books.  Some people have given me crap about this and said it doesn't count because I didn't actually read them, but that's dumb.  It counts.  Its been over a year since I started this habit, but I finally hit my stride at the start of 2017.  A few weeks ago I wrote down all the books I had finished since the start of the year and for just being the end of April, I was already finished with book seven.  SEVEN.  Maybe that is normal for you, or you read that many in a month.  But when you consider that I had read and finished maybe three books in the last 10 years, SEVEN in 4 months is pretty impressive.

I was shocked to say the least.  My shock turned to motivation, which caused me to wonder how many books can I read this year?  For 2017, my goal is to read and finish at least 30 books. This goal was not a New Year's Resolution, but I took something that I was already trying to be better at and said, "Hey let's keep this going."

So far this year I have read mostly fiction, but I have added in some non-fiction as well in the last month.  I am about to finish books 8 and 9, and 10 will follow shortly thereafter.

Yeah...I've gone nuts.  I'm reading three books at the same time right now.

I'm not ready to join a book club or anything, because you know that Howard motto "you can't tell me what to do."  But I have read some really good things so far this year, and if you have had a conversation with me in the last couple months I probably told you about one of the books I have found fascinating.  Right now the audio book I am listening to is probably my favorite so far.  I am enthralled with it...and its a book about time travel.  Which is not a subject matter that usually draw me in.  I think Chris Pratt should star in the movie.  But I digress.

It feels so good to be reading again.  Diving into books that expand my creativity, cause me to think about things differently than I ever have before.  And its just one way I am taking back my life from business and laziness (yes they coexist in my life).  Mostly its for me so I can figure out who I am as mom and wife and all the other labels I wear during a day.  But its kinda for my daughter too, so she can see how fun it is to learn and grow, no matter your age.

And you know what?  She recently discovered books too!  She has read way more than 7...actually we read that one book 7 times tonight.  Yup.


For Grins & Accountability, here is my current list for 2017:
1. Heaven by Randy Alcorn
2. Confessions of a Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler
3. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
4. The Red Tent by Anita Diamond
5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
6. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
7. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
8. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
9. All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The End

This is harder I thought it would be.  My heart and my head know that this chapter of my life is ending, there is no doubt.  As the lights turned off my heart sank in sadness and my eyes welled up.  This really is ending. 

For so long I have been driven to this place, the stories, the people, the brokenness.  I see a country overcoming a history of being trampled upon to becoming an equal among greats.  This place is so different now, yet very much the same.  You can find Oreos now, but the toilet paper is still like sandpaper.   When crossing the border my blue passport used to give me an advantage, now I stand in line with the rest of the world as Europeans whizz by.  Coalmines have closed, shopping malls built in their place.  Sometimes I hardly believe this is the same place I stepped foot eight years ago.  So much has changed…I have changed.

I met a young boy tonight.  He walked with a crutch and tried to impress me with his knowledge of English swear words.  I could tell he longed for affirmation, a man to come into his life and guide him.  I learned that he is a gifted musician, if you believe that one can be gifted in rap.  I heard a song he wrote, and sung about his life.  About his anger toward his abusive father.  About the belt he and his mother were beaten with.  Heart wrenching.  He now lives with a foster family.

“What is this place!?!” My head screamed.  Why is there so much brokenness?  Why is it so hard to fix?  Why now, is my chapter here ending?

In so many ways the last two weeks of closure have been affirming that my time, this season is changing.  The next one is just beginning and I have no idea what it holds.   I did not know how I would feel returning to Poland, other than knowing I am here to say goodbye.  Some moments it is easy, I have missed being away from my fiancĂ© so much and cannot wait to get home.  But others, like tonight when I realize that I may never step foot in “the Club” again.  And next time I am here, there will be many things I do not recognize. 

There are moments when I look at a friend’s face, the world turns hazy and I know deep in my heart that I will miss them.  I will miss the sound of little children playing.  I will miss seeing them all bundled up, even when its warm outside.  I will miss shaking every man’s hand and kissing every woman on the cheek when the arrive.  I will miss the slow paced culture and feeling no pressure when I sit down to coffee with a friend.  I will miss the little flower markets and Babcias selling vegetables on the street corners.  I will miss the friendships I have built and knowing that they are praying for me.

I am going to miss this place.

In the same moments when my heart sinks in sadness it is also surging forward in confidence.  Next time, Lord willing, I am in Poland…I will not be alone.  I am so excited for this next chapter to begin, to settle in as his wife.  Wife, wow, I cannot believe I am almost one of those. 
I know that the next chapter is just beginning, but I am a little nervous too.  It is unknown, and like on Christmas morning there are so many gifts awaiting you.  It is exciting and overwhelming.  I force myself forward unsure of the unknown all the while knowing I have to find out. 

As much as it pains my heart to let go of the known, and shelf a piece of my identity, I know that my “home” is Denver.  For the first time in my life I feel like a foreigner in Poland, outside of my homeland.   The unknown is exciting and nerve wrecking but it is the next adventure waiting for me.

Alongside my best friend, in a city I thought I would never live…my own backyard.

Poland, you are beautiful and I love you so much.  Thank you for teaching me about people different from myself, and how to love out of the depths of my heart.  Without you I would still be my old self, but somehow you were a place where I found God and He made me more like him.  I know I will never fully understand my place in your land, or your affect on me until heaven, but thank you for being a firm rock in my life, a place I always felt welcome.  You were exactly what I needed during this season.  You helped prepare me for this next one.  I will miss you often and I cannot wait to introduce my husband and children to you one day.  Leaving you is the hardest and easiest decision I have ever made.

I turn off the lights and lock the door behind me.  A kiss on the cheek and a tear in my eye.  “Do widzenia!”  “Goodbye!”

I feel different somehow still the same.  A smile creeps to my face because tomorrow

I will be home.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I Need Beans!

It is 7am and the line is getting closer and closer to the back wall.  The cars in the drive-thru have wrapped their way around the parking lot.  The pressure is on, we have to get these drinks out as fast as possible.  Along with eight other Baristas we have our places, everyone knows what they need to do, where they need to stay.  We are a team, highly dependent on those around us.

Last week I was working the morning rush, like usual, and my job was to make all the drinks for our drive thru customers.  There is a lot of pressure to get drinks out in the allotted time, with as few mistakes as possible.  Your ears are constantly flooded with new drink orders coming in as well as fellow coworkers telling you if you need to work faster.  Pressure.

For a while this system works, but eventually the rush takes its toll and you need more milk, or vanilla syrup, or lids, or ice.  I cannot move from my spot, I have to keep making drinks so that customers outside are not left waiting.  All I can do is yell at the top of my lungs, "I need Grande Hot Lids!" and hope someone who can run heard me.

I hear in the distance someone yell, "Grande Hot Lids!"  Relief, I have been heard, I can keep up my pace, keep doing what I need to do.  

I walked away from work that day exhausted, but completely happy.  Every request, every need that I made known to my coworkers was heard and they met it for me.  It filled my heart on so many levels, and really made me think, when was the last time I made sure I was surrounded by people and activities that fill my heart, meet my needs.  And not just when I get desperate, but looking ahead and knowing what my needs will be when I have a busy week.

Rarely, lets be honest.

If I hadn't already been blown away by having all my needs met for 8 hours straight one day, it hit the next day.  I don't know what changed, but no one heard me all day.  I was constantly calling out what I needed and no one responded.  It left me doing eight things at once and drained me completely.  I could not function like that and after time I couldn't keep up with not being heard which slowed everyone else down too.  

My life is so similar to the morning rush at Starbucks.  I go through periods when things are crazy and I need built in people and activities to help keep me sane.  If I don't build those into my life automatically then I will be left trying to do everything on my own.  Trying to get everything I need and give it all out at the same time.  

Working at Starbucks is teaching me more and more about taking care of my heart, but also looking out for the needs of others.  Not focusing so much on myself to not hear the calls for "More Mocha" or "Bacon Sandwiches" but to make sure that I am making my needs known, getting them taken care of, so that I can help in the needs of others.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Having Adventures

For as long as I can remember there have only been two things that I wanted in life: to be a missionary and to get married.  Rooted somewhere in the depths of my heart there is an intense desire to follow God wherever he leads, but equally as powerful was my desire to love a man and have him love me back.

And for so long I was absolutely convinced that I couldn't have both.

I learned very quickly that out of these two passions I had, showing that passion to the world was only really acceptable for missions.  I wanted to share about how deeply I longed to be married, but the voices of others taught me that it was not ok to desire marriage that much.

"You are too young to get married."

"Live your life before you settle down."

"You don't even have a boyfriend why are you thinking about marriage?"

My heart learned that even though I wanted to be a wife and support a man through thick and thin, it wasn't ok to desire it.

So, I ran with my other passion: missions, asking God for crazy adventures, a life of seeing Him redeem people unto himself.  My adventures took me all around the world and I was absolutely convinced that marriage and missions just didn't go together...for me.

In all of this I started to believe the lie that missions was a much higher calling than marriage.  I don't know how it started, but my heart believed it as truth.

"I knew this girl once who started dating a guy back in the states and she never went back overseas."

Look at Hudson Taylor, he left the girl he was dating because she didn't want to go to China.  Missions must be a higher calling than marriage.

In my own life every single one of my dating relationships ended because of how strongly I felt called to serve in Poland.  It was always Poland vs Men.  I tried to "convince" the men I dated that missions was awesome and they should join me.  In my head thinking, you just aren't doing what God called you to do if you don't join me in this."

I was really proud of myself.  I had taken on the missionary call, therefore I was the most awesome.  I silently judged those who pursued missions but then stopped to get married.  I told myself they were settling.  Not stepping up to what God REALLY wanted for them.

In the last eight months something has changed.  Slowly, God started to challenge me in this thinking.  Is a life of missions really a higher calling than marriage?

I started to allow myself to ask my heart hard questions

"Does God see me as a missionary failure if I desire marriage?"

"Do I have to abandon everything I am (even my crazy adventure seeking ways) in order to get married?"

"Do I even believe that God can work in marriage, just as he does in missions?"

And just as God does when he really wants you to learn a lesson I started reading all about marriage in blogs and hearing conversations around me.

It’s not about just you anymore. It’s waking up and realizing your dreams didn’t die, but now you have someone who can help you achieve them, and you’re responsible for helping them accomplish theirs too. It’s knowing that your last name might change, but your soul and its makeup don’t.

I am still me in marriage.  I can still be called to ministry, I can still love Poland in the depths of my heart AND spend forever with my best friend.

As God slowly opened up my eyes to the fact that He uses marriage to do amazing things, I was seeing the heart of my boyfriend change.  He was falling in love with Jesus all over again and talking about doing ministry with me in the future.  Not only did he change, but I changed too.

My heart still deeply desired to have crazy God adventures, but they didn't require a passport.  I started to see God where he had me.  I started to see the need in my own city, the gaps and brokenness I had never noticed in my 25 years here.

I learned that everyday with this man, my best friend, was an adventure.  And it has God's finger prints all over it.

Just like that I let my heart feel the greatness of love.  Love from a God who cares about every little desire in my heart.  Love from a man who has seen me at my best and at my worst and loves every little part of it.

I made the decision to resign from my missionary title (for now) and let God spoil me a bit with my relationship with Devin.  So yes, maybe right now missions and marriage don't go together.  But marriage and being right where God wants you does.

Two weeks ago, Devin took me to the heart of Denver, this city that we feel lead to serve and be a part of and asked me to marry him.  To start a crazy adventure with him.

Missionary Mallory is still a part of me and who I am.  But maybe just maybe, God has something bigger in mind for me that I couldn't do alone.  Teaching me once again that it is not all about me, missions never was, and marriage definitely is not.  But it is all about becoming more like Christ and He will call us to adventures that make us more like Him.

Marriage hasn’t changed our makeup, but each day, it is making us a little more selfless, a little bit more like Christ.  And that, I think, is how it’s supposed to be.

Thanks to Good Women Project for helping God open my eyes to seeing that marriage is a great thing too.  Especially for this post

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Wake of Father's Day

If you have spent any time with me in the last few years you know I wrestle deeply with the relationship I have with my dad.  My heart has taken the idea of "fatherhood" and twisted it into something frustrating, confusing, and painful.

For years I have been living in the shadow of my father's failures, letting them define how I approach the world and relate to my God.

And finally, I have broken down and realized that I don't want my cracked expectations of a fairy-tale father to dictate my life anymore.

It is painful.

It is uncovering many lies that have taken root in my heart.

Lies that have told me that my dad is not allowed to fail, he is supposed to be perfect 24 hours a day.  That he is exempt from being human, from slipping up on occasion.

Lies that have told me that I am less of a daughter because I don't feel like I can write fabulous things on my Facebook wall about my dad on Father's Day.

Lies that have told me that I don't deserve the very best from the men in my life.  That I will always be let down.  Left stranded to "deal" on my own in a tower like Fiona from Shrek.

Slowly but surely I am digging to the root of my "daddy issues."  So weird, because for the first time in my life I deeply desire to sort this out instead of burying it deeper.  I think that's God's amazing grace as bring another man into my life in a BIG way.

This year, I actually wished my dad a happy father's day. Progress.

And yesterday as I logged onto my Facebook and saw all my friends praise their amazing fathers I let God speak to my heart as I got jealous and angry all at the same time.

Am I not father enough?

Deep down in my heart I have always been a Daddy's Girl and I am making my way there again.  But this time realizing that I have a perfect father who loves me unconditionally.  My earthly father will always fail me, simply because he is human.  But it is not fair to hold him in a place of perfection.

Allow God to heal the wounds of my dad and fill those holes with His love.  

Who knows maybe my daddy issues will end up being a gift?

Battle wounds create a pain that drives us to a healer we would not otherwise know & give a God-assigned purpose we never could have found. -Lauren Lankford

“I have chosen you. The little girl with the brunette ringlets and the big blue eyes – she was and is my daughter. Have you forgotten how beautiful I created you? Have you let others speak and tell you otherwise? Let all those voices be silent once and for all, for I am the Great I Am. They cannot stand against me. And they are nothing to me. I have created you as beautiful and in my eyes you have lost none of the innocence you possessed when I first gave you life. You are like new to me every morning, just as my mercy is new to you every morning. I have heard your cries – I am the Lord.” - An Excerpt From This Awesome Blog

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Leading with the Heart, Not the Head

I have always been drawn to leadership.  Not only do I love to be in leadership, but I love to associate myself with "great leaders."  Especially men in leadership.  My heart thrives in leadership, but I have never had a problem following a man in leadership (granted done well).  This probably makes me seem anti-feminist, but as a strong, independent woman I prefer a man to take the lead.

For one, I have always believed it was Biblical.  "A husband is to rule over his wife as Christ does the church." And other such references.  I don't believe it is a call for men to act like dictators over women, definitely not.  But I do believe that God gave men their "warrior-like" tendencies in order to lead the people in their life.  

Whilst growing in and discovering my God-given femininity as a young girl I had always looked up to strong-leading men.  Many of whom were impressive leaders with an attitude of "Follow me or get left behind."  It was always a mad dash to keep up with wherever they were going, fully trusting that their sprint to the summit was the exact route and pace that God had set before them.  

From youth leaders, to boyfriends, to my father I have always been completely happy being told what to do, being controlled, and completely trusting that they were leading those in their life in the exact model Christ set up for relationships.

Then, I stumbled across this blog and it kinda rocked my world.  It challenged me to rethink how I view male leadership.  
Sometimes I get caught in the impression that leadership is about power or authority or who gets to make the decisions. But, by the end of the hike, I couldn’t help but think about how this must be what true leadership looks like: loving guidance, taking responsibility for safety and direction, carrying extra weight and running ahead to check for danger.
What? A man who leads with his heart instead of his head is a good thing?  They aren't considered weak because whilst leading, they don't stop caring about those they are leading.  They step up when the need arises, but not so far as to leave people behind.

I had always been taught that great leaders are born outside of relationship.  Not true, Christ was an amazing leader and spent 90% of his time inside relationship.  Christ was not afraid to call people out, but he also was not afraid to kneel down and heal.

Leadership happens in relationship, not outside of it.

That one sentence speaks deeply to my heart.  It affirms a desire in my soul to be lead but not left behind.  In relationships I had always tied myself to men that were fantastic head-leaders.  They could see a vision and go after it, they knew what they wanted and when they wanted it.  Which always left me in dust not sure if I could go along with their goals.  Something in my heart just didn't connect, that's not the kind of leadership I wanted in a future husband...but history told me that's all that was out there.

But its not.  Men who lead with the heart are out there, I should know, I'm dating one.  When all I have known is head-leaders, heart-leaders are really uncomfortable.  The more I sit in actual relationship with a heart-leader I know this is how God intended it to be.  You move forward together as a team, sharing the weight of each other's burdens, taking time to make sure you are still on the right path.

Leadership is not about competition. It’s about getting everyone out of the woods before dark.

A man who leads with his heart is not weak or lazy because in the end he arrives at the summit alongside those he loves...instead of alone.

Ladies, have you seen examples of good male heart-leaders?  How has that impacted your identity?

Men, how does being in leadership challenge you?  Who are some men that have taught you how to lead well?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grace in Death

It is no secret that I am deeply enthralled with God's grace.  I love sharing about God's grace in my life; how it has changed me and given me passion.  It just makes me smile!

Today it hit me, I don't often think about what had to happen for me to experience God's grace directly.

I grew up in Christian church culture.  To say that I have heard the Good Friday and Easter stories numerous times would be an understatement.  For goodness sakes, I became a missionary which in simple terms means I am supposed to share those stories with other people!  I should not be surprised that the message of Good Friday and Easter has kind of lost its fervor on my heart.

It is familiar.  And when things get too familiar, they get boring.

Honestly, I was starting to get a little bored with the idea of grace.

Admitting those things kinda makes me feel like the worst Christian on the planet.

But I know I'm not.  Because I know other people get bored with the real meaning of Easter too.  That's why we paint eggs, eat lots of candy, have brunch with family and other silly Easter traditions.  We get bored with Jesus on a cross.  We get tired of saying "He is Risen."  I get tired of how fake Easter feels...

I think we get bored because we don't really like to let the cross affect us.  We get bored with it because the deep reality of Jesus taking on all the messiness of human life is uncomfortable.  It pricks something in our hearts that reminds us that life is not our own.  If Jesus really DID go through that much torture and pain all out of love...then I feel really foolish for how I act.

I don't like feeling foolish.  Or like I have made mistakes.  And let's face it, Good Friday, when really felt, kinda slaps you in the face.


Jesus' death is the whole reason we have grace.  I like having grace that doesn't make come face to face with my mistakes.  Which is unfortunately not how this works.  Crap.

I wish I could skip right over Good Friday, go straight to Easter.  Put on a new dress and a smile and pretend like I am perfect.  But I am not.

Thanks to the cross I am redeemed.  I am holy.  I am God's daughter.  But I think I need my heart to feel the weight of Jesus' death a little more.  I don't want Easter to be fake this year, just something I do to get  extra "Christian Points."  I want to wrestle with the events of Good Friday.  So that when I celebrate Easter I can say that my burdens are really dead at the cross.  I am not clinging to my messy life any more, pretending that I'm not bored with the message of God's grace.

I want to feel the effect of grace again.  Deeply.

So I can celebrate that Jesus is alive.  Forever.