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Something New, Something Blue…or Something

Dear Faithful Readers,
I’m happy to announce something new for this blog.
Some of you have been reading since I first opened this blog as we were getting ready to leave for Namibia in late 2011. (That’s you mom and dad!) Some jumped in during our travels (Like our Namibian–well, Dutch–host-mom, Jenneke!) Some started following along during our eastern US tour, and even more when we finally landed in New Jersey. Once we realized we were done with the cold, even more started reading in California. Then we lost our first baby to a miscarriage and I’m so thankful for the support we received through the blog we posted. That ended up being our most read blog and I hope I was able to encourage others going through difficult times through it. I also didn’t have to tell the painful story as many times, but people were able to understand what was going on with us and send their love.
So no matter where you’ve joined us on our journey, we’re thankful to have you in our lives. I know I’ve talked about the next path we’re going to follow and I’m finding I won’t have all those answers until we’re 70 and ready to retire in Italy. (Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I think it’s a great path.)
There is one thing we’re pretty certain of and it follows the trend of our marriage and our lives thus far. There is nothing boxy about the path we’re on. We hope to continue to pave new paths, to open our minds to whatever God has for us, especially when it looks like we’re about to walk into a forest full of spider-webs. “There couldn’t be anything good for us in there, right God? Pretty sure there’s no way for us to provide for a family if we do that thing that it really looks like you want us to do. Wouldn’t it be better if I just went to college and started a career so that we can make it to Italy by 80?”
Photo by Death to the Stock Photo
All this leads to my announcement. I’m planning to start focusing on writing. It’s something I love and I know I have a long way to go before I’m one of the greats, but I want to turn this blog into the start of my writing journey. For most of this blog I’ve used a mutual voice for James and myself together and I hope to continue to say things he would say and not put words in his mouth, I plan to write more and more from my own perspective to tell our story. So it’s going to become a little more something like, “the Story of Hagens, as seen through Malia’s eyes”.
I’ve also been writing at another blog, “On Eating Elephants” and I plan to combine and incorporate more posts of that sort on this blog as well. I’ll create categories so that you can easily see just the posts you want to see from the website.
I hope you’ll enjoy the changes and continue to follow our story and my thoughts on this crazy, ordinary life of ours. I also hope if you ever see my name on a book, you’ll pick up a copy. It’s been a long time dream and I’m proud to be finally pursuing it.
Whether you stay or go, I want to thank you for your faithful support thus far and I hope to continue to entertain you and make you think a little. Expect to see changes in the coming weeks.
Something New, Something Blue…or Something

Hallelujah, Blessed Savior

This week I started taking care of James Grandpa in his Aunt’s home. He’s a spunky little ninety-two-year-old italian with dementia. 
Back before James and I were dating, he was one of the things that brought us together. I was in California for Erin’s wedding and James told me later that watching me talk with his grandpa and laugh at his jokes was the first time he thought, “I bet this relationship could work.”
So grandpa has a dear place in our hearts. He doesn’t remember most of the jokes he used to tell–on repeat–anymore and he doesn’t really remember any of us at all, but he still has a light in his eyes.

I’m working 24 hour shifts, four days a week and James’ cousin, Rachel, covers the other days. 
So here’s story number one from my time with Grandpa:
Last night he got up for a bathroom break pretty early in the morning and I helped him back to bed. Then he grabbed my hand, kissed it and said something in Italian. I asked him what it meant and he said “You are. You are *insert italian phrase here*.”
I smiled, not knowing if he was flirting with me or telling me thank you, which he does quite frequently. He’s adorably sweet. In any case, I keep reminding him I’m married to his grandson, just in case he thinks he’s flirting.
I laid back down in my bed and as he’s falling asleep he usually mumbles “Hallelujah, blessed savior, blessed savior.”
But this morning, clear as day, he said, “Do I have to do more than what I can do, *same italian phrase that he called me*?”
Do I have to do more than what I can do?
I’m pretty sure I heard God speak to me through this 92 year old man on this Good Friday.
I lay in my bed wide eyed, tears peeking through.
I wanted to jump up and run back to his bed and look him in the eyes and say, “No, you can stop striving! You don’t have to do more than what you can. You don’t even have to do anything. It’s all taken care of.”
But I felt paralyzed. And I was pretty sure he’d already forgotten what he’d asked.
Somehow he verbalized a question that has plagued me a long time. 
The thing is, I already know the answer.
Now I guess it’s time to let go.
Hallelujah, Blessed Savior

A Time to Share

Most people tell you when you get pregnant you should wait 12 weeks to tell people so that you’re out of the danger zone. Once you get past 12 weeks, you likely won’t have a miscarriage and then you won’t have to go back to all the people you told and tell them the baby died.
So I didn’t tell everyone I was pregnant. We told our families and the friends who saw us regularly. Then we did have a miscarriage. And I will tell you, it was NOT easy to tell those people we’d lost the baby.
But what was harder? 
Trying to act like everything was okay around the people who didn’t know.
We had dinner with some of James’ family one night. It was extended family who didn’t know yet. A few of them did, but they didn’t want to spill our beans, so no one talked about it the whole night. It was in the first week after we’d lost the baby and I was distraught. No one talked about it but I felt awful. No one knew what was going on. No one asked if I was okay or if I needed anything.
I needed something.
I needed a hug.
But instead I talked about writing my book, and whatever it was that was entertaining us that week. But I was lying. I wasn’t entertained. I wasn’t even writing my book.
So then I told the whole world. I wrote a blog about finding out we were pregnant and then losing the baby. It was nice because I didn’t have to tell everyone individually that we’d lost the baby, and even people we never planned to tell had a little more grace for us when they were around us. Some asked, some called, some just hugged me and didn’t say a word.
I began to wonder.
Why wait 12 weeks, at all?
Yes, believe me, I understand the pain. But I found so much more healing being open with people and I didn’t have to hide my hurt from anyone. It was there and they all knew it. If I’m going to tell the whole world when I lose the baby, why not tell the whole world when I find out I’m pregnant? Even if there is a chance I might lose the baby?
I’d rather give people the chance to celebrate with me and the chance to mourn with me.

Either way, up or down, life is better when people are with you.

A Time to Share

A Strange Correlation -or- How to Read Books and Make Friends


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I’m usually really bad at reading books. But I love the anticipation of a new book.

I crack it open with the same enthusiasm Penny, my puppy, has when she hears her food drop piece by piece into her bowl. She tries so hard to contain her excitement…

The book opens and I lick my lips.

This is gonna be good.

By the end of the first chapter, I sometimes think I could write a summary of the entire book. But I determine to read it anyway. Sometimes at the end of the first chapter I’m really challenged. Sometimes the challenge hurts and I tuck the book away for a couple days to let it settle in, but surely, I’ll finish it. Sometimes I don’t notice the first chapter ended, or I didn’t want it to. Those are probably the only books I’ve ever actually finished.

I recently heard a piece of advice from one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Acuff. He said “Don’t finish books you don’t like.”

Photo by Death to Stock
Photo by Death to Stock

I’m hoping it changes my reading this year. If I’m tearing through the book and can’t put it down? Sweet. I read a book. If I didn’t tear through it and forgot what chapter one said by the time I get to chapter two? Well… today I dropped off 30+ books at the library. If I decide one day I want to read them? I’ll go back and check them out. If not? I never would have read them anyway and they would take up space in my home. Books are for reading, not sitting on a shelf.

I know this is sorta a plot twist here, but this is a two part post. One part about my new found freedom from feeling guilty about not finishing bad books, but as I read the post by Jon, I also read a post by Don Miller and I think it relates somehow very oddly. It was about how not everyone was meant to be your friend.

I think books are a lot like friends.

I promise. I mean this to be positive.

I’m always excited about new friends. Sometimes, the first time you hang out it’s flat out awkward. You realize there’s no connection, maybe you don’t have anything in common or maybe they don’t know how bad they smell. Sometimes you really get along, but you still feel like you’re putting in a lot more effort and after hanging out you’re…exhausted. And then, sometimes that first “date” of your friendship you’re instantly rolling in laughter. The next time you’re together you find yourselves going a little deeper and getting more serious, but you still walk away with a skip in your step. There are also some friends who you’ve invested in for a long time and they continue to drag you down.

Most of the close friends I have today were pretty instant friendships. I’ll happily admit, some drained me at first and I thought they would never pay off, and since I stuck with them I wouldn’t give them up for the world. So not every challenging relationship is one to quit.

I’m beginning to learn that not every relationship is worth my time… or shelf space.

When you’re trying to go one direction, say the direction of your dreams, and the people in your life are telling you you can’t or that it’s not important or somehow keeping you from getting to where you want to be, it’s okay not to finish that book. It’s okay to say, “I love you and I’m not going to spend time with you.” It’ll save you in the long run.

You don’t have to finish every book you start and you don’t have to be close friends with people who drag you down.

There will also be a few good books that stick with you for a long time and continue to encourage you and inspire you towards your dreams decades later. Don’t let go of those books–or those friends–either.

A Strange Correlation -or- How to Read Books and Make Friends