Who was that?

We’ve been here for 10 years now, and for some reason I’ve felt the need to look back over the things that I wrote when we first arrived here.  Throughout all of the my writings, I am finding a common theme.

Who was that?

I don’t think I know that person.  She was hyperactive.  Exclamation points much?  She was all OVER the place.  I exhausted myself just reading about all of the things that I was trying to throw myself into.  Most of which had nothing to do with my gifts and talents.  I am not a women’s ministry person.  I don’t like to participate in women’s ministry activities, and I sure as glory don’t like to lead them.  So what in heaven’s name made me think I could lead a Bible study?  Granted, the Lord shut things down pretty quickly, but I could have saved us all some grief if I hadn’t been so ridiculous.

I was definitely wearing my rose-colored glasses.  Now, I am the first person to admit that I can be sarcastic, crabby and cynical–usually all before 9:00 in the morning on a good day.  But that person 10 years ago?  Her “Oh, everything is WONDERFUL and FUNNY and AMAZING and CUTE and FABULOUS and”…for heaven’s sake.  She was just over the top annoying.  If I could go back in time I would smack myself.  And I’m not sure why some of my missionary friends didn’t smack me.

I now know that we all go through a “honeymoon” phase where nothing bothers us and everything is wonderful…then we hit a wall and everything drives us bonkers and we can’t figure out why in the world we’re here and we blame our husbands for getting us into this mess although we were all gung-ho and ready-to-go and he certainly didn’t drag us here kicking and screaming.  Poor guy.  I can remember hitting the wall, and it shows in my writing–or lack of it.  Things started to slow down, and as I look back, my writing seems much more “forced”.  I remember being so afraid that if I wrote what I was really thinking and feeling, people would think I was a horrible person and wonder why in the world I became a missionary in the first place.  And since I was already thinking both of those things about myself, the last thing I needed to do was give my feelings validity by admitting them to my friends back home.  So I effused all over the paper (computer) and tried to convince myself and everyone else that I had this.

Somewhere, and I’m not exactly sure where in this journey it happened, I started to settle down.  Oh, I still get frustrated and blow my testimony sometimes, but then I do that in the US too.  I’ve learned that there are things that I simply cannot do.  I haven’t tried to lead any more Bible studies, and we’re all very grateful for that, now aren’t we?  I am not good at leading or teaching adults.  Actually, I’m just not good at being up front.  I am very good at the “behind the scenes” stuff.  You want to lead a Bible study or a women’s ministry event?  I will show up, set up, cook up, clean up and pack up for you.  You do all the talking and I’ll do all the rest.  Then I will go home and write something up about what you talked about and how the women loved you and what an amazing event it was.  I decided a long time ago that my spiritual gift is invisibility.

I love working with children.  Little tiny ones, all the way up through high school.  When I worked at the Alliance, I loved having all of the little ones come to the library and find their books, and listen to stories…and I loved the middle school and high school students with their sassy personalities and the fun and life that they brought with them.  Their parents make me crazy nervous, but I do love the kids.  And I love the ones at the daycare and at the After-school program…

I am learning, 10 years in, that it’s OK to have my own strengths, and that they don’t have to be someone else’s strengths.  I don’t have to lead women’s events, because there are people here that do that, and are very good at it.  I am trying to learn that it’s OK to say what I think, and let people know how I’m really feeling instead of glossing over things and pretending like everything is just rosy.  I’m still not very good at it.  My need for approval, and my overwhelming fear that if people knew the real me they would run screaming in the other direction, keeps me in a constant state of anxiety.

That me from 10 years ago has grown up a little bit.  I think that’s a good thing.  And although I probably wouldn’t want to hang out with my 10-years-ago-self, I do appreciate the stories she told and the lessons that she learned.  I wonder what my 10-years-from-now-self will think when she looks back at herself?

“I do understand! I understand what they do not, and that is you can only do with what you have. What God has given you. If you try to be anyone else, it is the worst thing that can happen because you cannot ever be them – and then you give up being you”
Siri Mitchell, A Constant Heart

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Pink.

OK.  Time to lighten things up a little bit around here.  The following incident took place in February of 2005.  It’s all true–every bit of it.  No names have been changed, because trust me–there were no innocent people in this one!  It is still the story that people remember most.

2/18

       What a week.  And that was just yesterday.  Our children were off of
school Wednesday and Thursday due to two days of political protests here in
Quito.  Basically, they were trying to oust the President.  And no, I don’t
have any clue whether or not they were successful.  Thursday, I had to work.
I told Heather and Kristina that they could have a friend over, as my maid
is there on Thursday.  Dan and I went home for lunch at noon, and the first
thing that greets us, tail wagging, is a PINK German Shepherd.  Followed by
a pink poodle, which in the grand scheme of things, is a little more
understandable.  Pink on a Shepherd is just WRONG.  Anyway, we proceeded to
try and find the source of the pink.  Heather and Kristina and their friends
were in the garage, painting away.  With HOUSE PAINT.  Red, blue,
purple…They had painted the walls, the floor, all of the furniture stored
in the garage, the patio, the ROOF, the dogs…It was the most unbelievable
mess I have ever seen.  And to top it all off, I ended up running interference
between the girls and their dad, because murder is illegal, no matter where you live.  He went back to work, and I spent a good part of the afternoon scrubbing and fuming.  Last night, we reached a
compromise.  You can now write to the girls in care of some boarding school
in Switzerland-I’ll let you know when I get the name.  Several people have
asked me why the girls would do such a thing.  I don’t know.  And honestly,
there wasn’t a reason that could have justified it, so I didn’t press the
matter.

The Missionary’s Prayer

The View from the Mountaintop

This morning I have been going through some things that I wrote way back when we first arrived on the field.  Things have changed so much since then.  This one particularly stuck out to me, for two reasons.  One, I wrote it in July of 2004, when we had been on the field for only seven months.  I wasn’t jaded or cynical at that point.  And two, I need to be reminded in my current jaded, cynical state that we are here for a reason, and it really has nothing to do with my own personal comfort.  Even after 10 years, I have so far to go…

The Missionary’s Prayer

   Father, help me to love these people as you love them.  Remind me that “Their ways are not my ways, nor are their thoughts my thoughts.”  Forgive my selfish pride in thinking that my way is always the best way…

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Now that’s more like it.

In October, I told you here, https://cyndimaloy.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/sometimes-its-just-a-little-too-easy/, how we-went-and-got-official-documents-and-it-was-too-easy-and-I-was-a-little-freaked-out.

All is now right with the universe.

We needed a copy of Patrick’s birth certificate.  Below is the transcript from my visit to the Registro Civil.  I had ordered them last week–today was just to pick them up.  I should have known I was in trouble when I was given the number 537 for my turn, and the board said 467.  This was going to take a while.  After I got to the window…

Nice Lady:  “Here, I’ll get those right up for you.  Now this is for Patrick Rodrigo Maloy Maloy?”

Me:  “Yes, that’s right.”

NL:  “And he was born on November 28th, 2008?”

Me:”Um, no.  He was born on September 19th, 2003.”

NL:  “Are you sure?  Because this says November 28th, 2008.  Are you sure he wasn’t born in 2008?”

(insert dumb look and words that shouldn’t come out of my mouth running through my head)

NL:  “Well, I don’t understand.  I’m sure this says…”

Me:  “He is adopted and we completed his adoption in 2008.  Maybe that is what it says.”

NL:  “No, it says he was born in 2008.  We are going to have to contact the Registro Civil in Cotopaxi (where he was born) and get them to change it.”

(at this point I go into panic mode.  It would seriously be easier to just change his birthday to 2008 and make him five years younger than it would be to open this can of worms.)

She then hands me a copy of the “incorrect” birth certificate.  I look at it…and it’s completely correct.  I showed her that the date that we REGISTERED his birth certificate (with his new name, after we finalized his adoption) was 2008.  His BIRTHDAY is September 19th, 2003.  And that is what his birth certificate says.  She then proceeds to ARGUE with me about whether or not it’s correct.  After discussing this with her for a couple of minutes, and trying repeatedly to show her that it’s correct, I finally said “Can I just have the four copies of this birth certificate PLEASE?”  She huffed and stamped them rather forcefully, all the while asking me if I’m SURE they are correct.

Dear Lady, I don’t work here and Spanish isn’t my first language, and I can STILL see that it’s correct.

That’s more like it, Universe.  I feel better now.

Ten years on…

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of our arrival here in Quito.  I would like to say that we met it with great joy and celebration, but in truth we didn’t even realize it until about 11 in the morning, and then we just mentioned it to each other and went on about our business.  It did get me thinking, though, about the differences between 10 years ago and today.

-10 years ago we were cocky, overly confident new missionaries.  We were going to change the world.  We had been to Ecuador twice before, for a week each time…and we HAD this.  Ecuador was going to love us–we just knew it.  Fast forward 10 years…we still get it, but in a whole new way.  We have a different perspective on missions.  On Ecuador.  On life.  We aren’t going to change the world.  We’re just a little piece of a BIG puzzle.  People all over the world are doing exactly what we do, for the exact same reasons.  We serve a big God, who is doing things all over the world with missionaries who are imperfect, unqualified and truth be told, scared out of their britches most of the time.  And yet, He keeps on working and things keep on happening and we keep on scratching our heads, wondering how in the world He could have made something good out of the mess that is us.

-I am a hoarder.  There.  I’ve admitted it.  This life breeds that mentality, simply because there are so many things we can’t get on a regular basis.  We all have our specialties.  My girlfriend is a “general” hoarder.  Cake mixes, spices, frostings…you name it, she’s got 12 of them in her pantry.  I am a more “specialized” hoarder.  Chocolate chips.  Starbucks coffee.  Canned pumpkin.  We may be good friends, but if you ask me for a can of my pumpkin, I will probably have to seriously reevaluate our friendship.  Boundaries, people.

-The mission field has created an amazing marriage.  For US.  I’ve seen marriages destroyed by the field as well.  There is nothing quite so terrifying as waking up on your first morning and realizing that your support system–mothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, friends…is 3,000 miles away.  You roll over and look into your spouse’s eyes…and realize that you’re all you’ve got.  For most of us, this is a sobering reality.  You have just taken your parents grandchildren and put them on a plane and moved them to God-knows-where.  The practical side of it is that you now have no babysitters.  Hmph.  The other side of it is that the next time your mother sees your son, he will be almost six feet tall and have facial hair.  It will freak them both out.  We had been married for 13 years when we came to the field.  For all of that time we had lived within 30 minutes of every member of our family.  We had never had to depend on “us” because there were others around who kept things going.  In the last 10 years, we have found “us”.  And we love it.  We have a great marriage.  Not a perfect marriage.  But a great marriage.  I don’t think things would look like they do now if we hadn’t made this move.

-We have learned to work together.  For the first 13 years of our marriage, Dan worked 50-60 hours a week, and I stayed home with the kiddos.  We had things divided up and it worked out alright.  When we moved here, suddenly we were together 24/7.  Talk about an eye-opener.  I remember rolling over one morning and thinking “Oh.  You’re still here?  Can’t you GO somewhere?”  And lest you think I’m horrible, he was thinking the same thing.  We now work together (in the very same OFFICE, no less) and it’s good.  We enjoy being together.  A lot.

-We have GREAT kids.  Kids who look at the world around them and wonder how they can make a difference.   Our kids live life with their eyes wide open.  Do I think we would have had great kids if we hadn’t come here?  Yes.  But I know that we made the right decision for them, and for us.

-We speak Spanish.  Ten years ago, language school was hands-down the most terrifying thing we could think of.  I’m pretty sure language school is a level of hell.  And when you are 34 and trying to wrap your brain around another language when some days you don’t even have a grip on your FIRST language, it’s just miserable.  The good news is that, as far as we know, language school has never actually killed anyone.  We did discover early on that the reason that they don’t teach missionaries cuss words in language school is because even the most devout of people will USE them.  If you want those words, you need to ask your kids.  Who, because they attend an international school, know them in about 13 languages.

-We appreciate technology.  We LOVE social media.  When we came 10 years ago, calling home to our friends and family involved emailing (using a dial-up connection), setting up a specific time to call, then going down to the HCJB compound and using the phone in Dan’s office, with a special code, to make a satellite call.  It was one step up from smoke signals, I swear.  Now, we have a phone line in our home with an Akron, OH phone number.  We can call anytime, and people can call us anytime.  We don’t call anytime, because I am still an introvert and talking on the phone makes me crazy, but the point is that we CAN, if we WANT to.  We also have Facebook and Twitter and Instagram…we’re so connected it’s scary.  In a good way though.

-We came to the field with three children, ages 11, 10 and 9.  Six months after we arrived, the Lord gave us an 8-month-old baby boy.  He still takes my breath away sometimes.  He has grown up with three mothers and two fathers.  Because he was 9 years younger than Kristina and our kids were into sports and drama and whatever else they could drum up, he’s been dragged here, there and everywhere.  And he is the most pleasant, easygoing child alive.  He is, without a doubt, our greatest blessing from this life that we’ve chosen.

-Being on the mission field has strengthened our faith in ways we never could have imagined.  Because we live on faith-based support, we are wholly dependent on the Lord for his provision.  And how He has provided!  We have never gone without our monthly pay.  We’ve never gone hungry.  Never had our utilities turned off.  Never not been able to get back to the US when we needed to.  And considering that 99% of the people that we work with cannot say those things, it’s very humbling.  Looking at our monthly support income is a tangible reminder that we are loved by so many people.

-We have friends all over this planet.  10 years ago we could never have dreamed that the Lord would put so many amazing people into our lives.  We are so truly blessed.

I could go on and on about what we’ve seen, how we’ve felt, what we’ve learned.  We serve a big God.  He loves us with a big love.  We couldn’t do what we do without Him right there, picking up the pieces and putting them back together.  It’s been an amazing 10 years.  We can’t wait to see what the next 10 hold.

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.”  Habakkuk 1:5

It’s your story…own it.

My word for 2014 is “Courage”.  Courage to make a difference, in the world and in myself.  We both know which one of those concepts is harder, don’t we.

I love stories.  I love people’s stories.  I love hearing where you came from, how you got here, where you’re going.  I love the tapestry that a story weaves, where you can’t see the big picture unless you step away and look from a distance.  I’m learning to love my own story–both the messy and the good.

What I don’t love is when someone takes my story away.

Tuesday night, I reconnected with a good friend who had been on an extended furlough.  In this crazy, transient life that we lead, making and keeping a good friend is sometimes a struggle.  We put up walls to guard our hearts from the inevitable goodbyes, and so for most of us “good friend” is a relative term.

She is a good friend.  I know her story.  Not all of it, but more than just superficial details.  For the last 8 years or so, we’ve been a part of the same story.  Left our homes in the US.  Moved to a foreign country.  Learned the language.  Raised our children with fists tightly clenched, praying that nothing happened.  Trying to allow them to grow wings in a very dangerous city without being irresponsible and letting them get hurt.  Losing our independence.  Questioning our purpose, our abilities and our sanity on a regular basis.  Caught between two worlds, never fully in either one.   Finding joy in little things, like small sticky children and tiny little grandmothers with wrinkled little faces.

It’s a “brutiful” story.  Brutal and beautiful.  And it’s OURS.

It hurts my heart when someone tears my story down.  It happened this week.  Someone that I don’t know started asking questions.  When someone asks me details about my life, my first instinct is to give a “pat” answer.  “Oh, things are great.  They’re wonderful.  Really.  Delightful.”  Because this person came into a conversation that was already taking place, and had heard some of the not-so-wonderful details, I felt like it would be foolish to continue along like that, so I answered her a little more honestly than I normally would.  For me, this is one of those miracles akin to walking on water.  I don’t like to talk to strangers, and I don’t give out details.  I don’t tell my STORY.

She brought down my story with one sentence.  “Oh.  When I was on the mission field, I NEVER felt like that.”  Condescending look and all.

Don’t DO that.  Don’t take someone’s story and make it about you.  It’s stealing.  And it hurts.

There are very few things in this world that we TRULY own.  You can’t take away our stories.  You can’t take away who we are and how we got here.  You may not like hearing it.  Sometimes our stories aren’t pretty.  If you can’t handle the bad stuff, walk away.

I don’t regret ONE SECOND of my life here.  I love what we do and who we do it with.  I love all of the parts of my story.  We weren’t complaining Tuesday night.  We were just talking.  Processing.  Catching up on the last few months–both good and bad.  Telling our stories.

It’s YOUR STORY.  OWN it.  The next time you have the chance to tell your story, tell it from your heart.  And the next time you have the chance to hear someone else’s story, listen from your heart.

Be courageous.

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”
Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus