Monday, April 17, 2017

On light.


The sun always rises.  Sunday always comes.  Light brings hope and truth and new beginnings. 

I am so grateful these things are true, and have always been true, and will always be true, until forever.

I’m so grateful for the caring love that was shared after my Saturday post. I’m also grateful that I don’t sit in that darkness forever.  I want to assure the well-meaning readers out there that the depth of feeling I shared in that post – that isn’t my living, breathing, daily gasping for breath. That was a moment in a sleepless night that somehow felt worth capturing and sharing.  I am grateful that God uses vulnerability to speak to others, to make others feel a little bit less alone in the world, in their feelings, in the depths.  I am grateful I feel deeply because it means I am alive.

I am grateful for seasons that bring us to our knees. I am grateful for seasons that are filled with joy. I am grateful to have friends on the journey, and grateful that vulnerability allows light to shine in to dark places. If we hide the places that are dark, light won’t ever get in.  I am grateful to have a platform to share light, and life and truth and the journey, and I'm grateful that he always shows me it’s never actually about me anyway.

I am grateful God has given me a gift of words, and I am grateful when I have the courage to be obedient and share them.  I am grateful for the quiet seasons, and grateful for the crazy ones. Each and every season is a gift, is part of the rhythm of life, and the sun rises and the sun sets and we have another day and another opportunity to arise, shine, let our light out into the world, into the darkness, into the places thirsty for hope and healing and life and goodness. 

I am grateful for quiet office days that help me to feel less overwhelmed with the work to be done. I’m grateful for lighthearted laughter and friends to share life with.  I’m so grateful for team members who are incredibly capable, willing, and able to help share the load.  I’m grateful the work of bringing light and life to the world is not only on my shoulders; that I am gifted for a purpose and want to see that to fruition, but beyond that lies only trust and hope. It doesn’t mean the hard things aren’t still there… it means they aren’t quite so scary. 

I am so grateful for the light.  


Saturday, April 15, 2017

In the meantime.

I’ve avoided writing lately… because I’m a bit afraid of what will come out, if I let it. 

It’s a hard, dark season.

I feel guilty for even writing just that.  I’ve got an incredible life and get to do incredible things; I’ve got a dream job lined up and a great place to live already and both came so easily it feels scandalous, like somehow I believe these things are supposed to be hard and because they weren’t at any minute the glory will crack and crumble and all will fall apart.

I’m about to embark on a major life transition, and I’ve read all the books and the blogs and the words of wisdom from others who have gone before me.  It’s an exciting time and I’m thrilled about where I’m headed but in the meantime… in the meantime… the darkness is real.

Seven weeks left in this place and what feels like eighteen weeks’ worth of work to do in that time. In my sane moments I’m excited to hand it all over and watch it thrive and grow and flourish under someone else, but what if it doesn’t?  Because I’m analyzing everything I’ve done and trying to capture it appropriately into manuals and how-to guides and final reports, all I can see is where I’ve failed.  Where I’ve made the wrong decision or didn’t do as well as I could have; seeing all the places I wish I had more time to develop…  I desperately wish I could have made a bigger impact, I could have done more, I would have worked harder and longer and better and maybe then I would leave a legacy in this place worth remembering. 

Have I made a difference?   Many of my closest friends have left and I find myself withdrawing from those who remain… withdrawing from community, because it will be easier to leave in a few weeks’ time without the hassle of emotional ties and tears.  The masses of people present at a recent goodbye highlights the impact those people had on this community, and it was beautiful; but comparison steals joy and I feel like that wisp of smoke that remains after the candle has been blown out; no one notices when that disappears.  Maybe I should have tried harder.  Maybe I should just disappear without saying goodbye.  Who would notice, anyway?

So I spend more time alone in my cabin or at my desk, pouring all my energy into what is left to do; the things I can control, the things that don’t require emotional investment, drinking coffee to stay awake, eating enough to get by, but trying not to feel too much.

My thesis is breathing down my neck and I wonder constantly if I will be able to do what I need to do when I need to do it. I can’t control the timeliness or response of the proposal reviewers and I can’t control the timeliness or response of the ethics committee and in the meantime I need to plan flights and housing and visas as I’m staying in Benin after ship departure to finish the research, but I can’t possibly guess the timeline, which means costs creep up by the day and my tuition bill is due this week and I wonder how on earth I’ll make it through the next few months of crazy expenses without anything coming in.

Anxiety lurks constantly. And then there’s the sciatic pain I’ve been experiencing the last few weeks; I’ve never had nerve pain before, and suddenly it’s clear to me why people get addicted to pain medication.  Running, biking, Frisbee, they all keep me sane in this place, they keep my moodiness in check, so to gradually be doing less and less of these things isn’t helping my current mental state.  The darkness whispers, what if this problem can’t be fixed? What if this is just a side effect of getting older and I’m destined to a life of pain and minimal activity for as long as I remain on earth? I won’t be able to join that running club in Boston I’m excited about, or play Frisbee ever again.  How will I stay healthy?

And then lurking even further back, that biopsy I had a few weeks ago that I haven’t gotten the results of… it’s probably nothing, I’m sure it’s nothing, but the darkness keeps sending me back to the what ifs, what if that’s how this story ends? What if I’m about to take a drastic turn that I’d never considered?

And I lie in bed in the darkness, exhausted all day but suddenly wide awake all night with fear clawing at my chest and tears dampening my pillowcase.  I just need to make it to morning; things are much less scary in the light.

~~

It feels incredibly raw to write and feel… but somehow it seems appropriate to share this, this day. This darkest day.  This day when the light of the world was extinguished.  The hope of a nation… I can only imagine the hopelessness, anguish, fear, desperation that was plaguing the followers of Jesus on this day.  This king that was supposed to come in glory and throw off oppression, who brought hope and healing and life and light to the world, lay dead in a tomb. 

How could God be dead? Is any of this even real? What do we do now?

They didn’t have the privilege I have.  I know what is coming.  And because I believe in the resurrection, I can feel deeply the pain and the sorrow and the separation of this day, knowing it isn’t forever.  And because of the resurrection, I can feel deeply of the pain and the fear of this season, knowing it isn’t forever. 

I’ve been practicing lectio divina throughout this season of lent; meditation and centering prayer focused around a specific piece of scripture each day.  Last weekend the scripture was the story of Lazarus… and what I realized this time was that Jesus knew what was going to happen, what he was going to do, that he would raise Lazarus for His glory, but in the meantime, he still grieved and felt deeply. He still entered in to the depths of pain and despair felt by Mary and Martha, to the point of weeping.  I get hard on myself for feeling deeply sometimes; for being anxious when I know and believe things will work out and all is for good and I trust and blah blah blah.  Emotions, tears, they feel illogical and a waste of time… but Jesus didn’t think so.  He entered in, and felt, and loved, and held, and wept. 

As He did again on the cross. The candle, blown out; the people, hopeless, and fear, and anxiety, and the darkness whispered and taunted and swirled and I am sure, it felt like drowning.

It was a dark day for the followers of Jesus, but light was coming.

It is a dark season for me, but light is coming.  The Hope of Glory. May it be so.




Saturday, April 1, 2017

Found at Sea.

Somehow March got away from me, and here we are, staring down April and suddenly I realize that two months from today I’m scheduled to walk down the gangway the final time. 

In those two months I’ll finish up some big projects.  I’ll teach a few more times.  I’ll travel across a few more countries for a quick visit to a surgical institute in Accra. I’ll write some project reports.  I’ll finish up the paper I’ve been working on. I’ll start my thesis.  I’ll finish recruiting course facilitators for Cameroon and hand it over to my replacement. I’ll write a manual on how to do my job (?) and hand that off, too.  I’ll play Frisbee a few more times and I’ll sit through a few more community meetings and I’ll pay my last monthly crew fees and I’ll stand in line for the last time in the dining room.  I’ll say until next time to old friends and new.

And I’ll say goodbye to the place where I found out who I am, what I’m made of, and what I’ve been created to do. 

I found a shirt at Old Navy of all places, that says it perfectly.



I love it.

I was found at sea. 

I will leave this place standing taller than when I arrived; more confident in who I am, in my gifts and my strengths, and most especially in my calling.  I feel slightly guilty that I’m not desperately sad; I’m excited about what is next and while I know this season is drawing to a close I do think I will be back at sea one day.  I know that I have been put on this earth to serve and to love and to learn and to be an agent of transformation for this continent and all within her. I’m excited to see how that unfolds, as it has already begun; blessings and favor, with a dream job and a place to live sorted long before I even started asking for them.   It’s a roller coaster of emotion; one minute, I’m frustrated and upset at something I wish I could change but I can’t… and a few minutes later, tears of awe and gratitude, because I’m just so darn happy.


It’s crazy, this life I lead.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

xKrissy

p.s. I'm facing some crazy expenses in the coming weeks, as I look at getting there and starting life up mostly from scratch in America.  If you can help, make a tax-deductible donation here.  Thank you, from the depths. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

In the simple.

I spent some time this morning doing laundry.

Laundry here entails big basins of water, a bar of soap, wrinkles in your fingers and a pretty good shoulder and arm workout. And a good chunk of time.

There was something deeply cathartic and meditative, and even restorative, about doing laundry this morning.  To focus all of your energy on that one thing for an extended period of time. The mindfulness that goes in to scrubbing and rinsing and wringing and turning and hanging each piece of clothing; the methodical nature of it, the necessity of getting clean rinse water every so often; the simplicity of focus, the feeling of the different fabrics, the temperature of the water; the feeling of accomplishment at the end, with clean empty basins stacked to dry and my wardrobe free of dust and dirt and stains, fluttering in the breeze.

It reminds me of what I loved about being a Peace Corps volunteer, and living in a small village with no power or running water.  Life was not easy, but it was simple. 

Our lives these days, with every modern convenience, are incredibly complicated.  Busyness and exhaustion is often worn like a badge, a symbol of success.  If you aren’t those things, are you really working hard enough?  The sheer number of things on my to-do list is paralyzing in itself; the tyranny of urgent or necessary things somehow overpowers the divine command to rest on the holy Sabbath. Electronic communication has replaced relationship; my heart is aching after a perceived ‘tone’ of an email has threatened to destroy a friendship, and suddenly something that was supposed to make life easier has instead made it devastatingly complicated as we work to unwind and untwist motives and perceptions and beliefs on both sides. The need I see every single day; the people whose stories grip my heart and bring tears to my eyes, that I have to say I’m so sorry, but we can’t help you leaves me feeling so helpless and tiny in a world crying out for hope and healing, 

I can’t control those things.  I have to lift them up and leave them in the hands of the One who can.  And this morning I sensed deep in my being that the next right thing was not to dwell on those things; the paralysis, the ache, the helplessness, the hopelessness.  The next right thing was to do my laundry, and ended up finding peace in the simple.  The feel of the water, the fabric, the dusty breeze, all reminders from the heavens that I don’t need to carry those things.  I let the tears cleanse my heart while my hands wrung out the last of the soapy water, and as I felt the swell of accomplishment looking at my clothes hanging on the line, I sensed the same in my soul. 

Well done, good and faithful one.




Sunday, February 26, 2017

From the Rooftops.

Someone said something to me last week that I can’t get out of my head.

I keep turning it over and over, trying to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, or analyzing where I might be misunderstanding, or really trying to blow it off.

But I can’t.

Because what he said flies in the face of much that I stand for in my life, and much that I stand up for in others’ lives.  And now, even four days later, I can't shake this need to shout from the rooftops. 

And I don’t think he has any idea.  And maybe by sharing it, someone reading this might stop themselves from making a similar mistake – not with me, because honestly I don’t care, but with those who might not be as confident as me or those for whom the darkness screams so loudly they can’t hear the truth.

We were talking about who knows what, small talk, entertaining but nothing deep or useful, when I mentioned I’ll be moving to Boston.  He asked what I would be doing in Boston and I said I’ll be working on a research project there.  He asked where? I said Harvard.

And then he said.  Wow, you’re a lot more awesome than I thought. You’re the real deal.

And I was speechless. 

And I laughed or moved on or changed the subject or whatever it was I did, but it’s stuck with me.

What I’d like to say?

Harvard does not make me awesome.  The place where someone works does not make them awesome.  And I am the real deal. And it has nothing to do with Harvard.  I’m the real deal because I seek to love and value people no matter where they work, where they are from, what language they speak, what country they come from, what faith they live or don’t live.  I’m surrounded by incredible, awesome people every day, and will be in the future, that give up comforts and family to serve the least of these. I have dear friends who are the real deal, slogging through the long days and short years of raising kids and keeping a family together and committing to love their spouses even when it’s not comfortable or easy.   Another friend who has so many health issues it’s incredible she even keeps on keeping on, when getting out of bed requires everything she has.  She’s the real deal.  It’s the momma down on the wards who prayed for her baby every day, and then trusted enough to hand her most precious gift over to different looking strangers who were speaking in tongues she didn’t understand to fix what no doctor had been able to fix, but trusted us anyway. I’d venture a guess that anyone in my future place of employment would say it isn’t Harvard that makes them awesome, or the real deal. It’s the hours and years of hard work, late nights, studying until you can’t see anymore, practicing your skills, pushing through, hoping to be heard, putting yourself out there and hoping what you think might happen actually happens.  

~~

This guy, I can just blow him off, and I have.  But this is bigger than just this one encounter.  It’s idiot statements like that, statements said in passing or nonchalantly, that stick with people.  It’s statements like that that tell children that they have to work at a certain place or get a certain place in life in order to be awesome. Statements like that make others feel less than, not good enough. 

I didn’t change. I’m not a different, better person two seconds after sharing I will be working there than I was before saying it.  And this was not our first meeting, I’d say we had shared at least 30 minutes of small talk at two different meetings before this.  But suddenly, in that moment, in his eyes, my value went up significantly.  And honestly that makes me so angry, almost sick to my stomach.  

And it makes me wonder – is this what the world is like? I’ve lived in a bubble the last five years, is this what I will face when I return to and start working and living in America in a few months?

I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it.  But for now, imagine me screaming from the rooftops: 

YOU ARE AWESOME.  YOU ARE THE REAL DEAL.  If you are breathing oxygen, and doing something, whatever your calling is…. YOU ARE AWESOME.  My calling is no greater than your calling, just like her work and calling and life is no greater or more valuable than his. We are all in this together, and it takes all kinds, and we need you right where you are supposed to be. 

Oh, may the truth of those words sink deeply into our souls, mine included.  


Love. K

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Happy.

Last week I spent four days on the road with the Checklist team, and while the days were long and the conditions sometimes less than ideal, we ended the time together still liking each other. That’s a huge win in my book. Even more than that, we had fun. We laughed. We helped each other out sometimes and other times left each other alone.  We made a difference in peoples’ lives and in hospitals across the country.  We really did.  Things are better now than they were a week ago – and that always brings me to my knees. What an honor that I get to be a part of something so incredible. 

I love my work right now. I’ve always loved the work, but through much of the last several years the actual amount of work, the number of projects and people and details and reports and balls in the air was exceptionally high, and I teetered on burnout quite often.  Thanks to a growing team on the ship, less and less is now resting on my shoulders; the workload I am carrying today is reasonable, and I’m so very grateful for that.   This week we had planned to run some very large training days here in the capital, but a few weeks ago it became clear that our original plan wouldn’t work, so that’s been pushed out a few weeks.  I’m so massively thankful; my to-do list is extensive, but the fact that I don’t have to be running teachings this week means it’s manageable.  Fun, even.  I was upset at the time, when we had to cancel this week’s training sessions, but now I’m just so, so grateful that God gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want!  And because I didn't have to work all day today, I was able to spend some time with my dear Beninese family, reveling in the beauty that is that family and their love for me, along with some of the most delicious Beninese food ever made.  My heart is so full. 

I turned in my very last paper of my Master in Public Health today. It was a total grind; a difficult one to get through and it took me nearly all of yesterday to power through it.  It’s not the best paper I’ve written but it will get me the grade I need to finish with merit… and all that remains is my thesis, which I’m looking forward to.  I get to research something I’m passionate about and curious about and really excited about, not something assigned by the instructor that is boring and dry and the reason it took me all day to write those silly 1500 words yesterday.  So grateful for the blessings I’ve been given in this season; the ability to study on top of demanding work and worldwide travel, the financial provision that has meant so far I haven’t had to take out student loans, and the encouragement and love sent from all over to help me get through the rough patches.  The end is in sight.

Time is flying by; I’m excited for what’s next, and sometimes can’t wait for things like Trader Joes and more freedom and getting out of this sweltering heat, but at the same time I wish I could slow down the second hand on the clock as I realize that the time of last things is coming quickly.  I desperately want to squeeze out every last drop of joy from this place; part of why I am so happy, I think, is because knowing I’m leaving soon means the difficult things - the injustices or the difficult people or the policies I wish would change or decisions that I fundamentally disagree with - they can fade to the background and all the fun, good, happy things can just take their place in the forefront of my consciousness.  It’s a relief, really, and such a joy to hear random people saying Krissy, you look happy!

Yes, yes I am.  And for that I am truly grateful.  



Friday, February 10, 2017

Until then.


I’m absolutely overwhelmed and amazed at the outpouring of well wishes, encouragement, contacts, and advice after my last blog.  Thank you, friends, from the depths – I’m so excited, and its infinitely increased as others are as excited as I am, and I especially love all the comments of wow, that’s perfect for you! I think so too!

So I’ll get in touch with contacts in the coming weeks; however, it’s still a bit early, I’m not starting for another (at least) 6 months, and until then, there’s so much to do, to focus on, to love, and to pour myself in to.  So thanks for your patience as I slowly make my way through sorting out Boston details over the next weeks and months; it’s super exciting, but my first priority is to finish well here and then to transition well there and in the midst of that I’ll be writing my thesis and moving my life to a different continent than the one I’ve called home for nearly eight years. 

The next four months, until that last time I walk down the gangway, will disappear before I know it; I’m travelling a lot in the next two months, doing checklist follow up trips that I wrote about two blogs ago.  I’m so grateful my work priorities have ended up sorting themselves out this way, in that I get to focus on what I love most in my final months as a crew member of the Africa Mercy. I also will spend significant time writing out a handover manual, as in the last four years with medical capacity building I’ve managed to turn ideas into really big amazing things that will soon be someone else’s responsibility, and I want to set them up as well as I possibly can for success. 

Beyond the work, I need to squeeze every last drop of joy I can out of this place.  I need to spend time with my Benin family and others that I love here.  I need to spend time with my ship family and embrace the zillions of ‘last things’ that will come in the months ahead.  Admittedly, this doesn’t come naturally; a huge part of me wants to just hole up and start withdrawing myself from community to make that final walk down the gangway a little bit easier.  But I would really regret that.  So I’m trying to say yes (almost) every invitation that I can. 

And after all that? I’m planning to stay in Benin for three to four weeks to complete my research for my thesis.  Then I’ll go somewhere in the world to write my thesis, at least get the analysis and first draft done, before I head back to the states.  I want to visit family and friends, if possible, and start the new adventure in Boston in late summer.  A lot of those details of what that whole time will look like are dependent on my thesis schedule and on money; the former will become clearer after my first discussion with my thesis advisor, the latter is still a walk of faith. 

So thank you again, you incredible amazing people, for your support, encouragement, love, money, trust, contacts, and friends.  I am a rich woman, indeed, and so deeply grateful. 


xxk