Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

This Easter weekend was a long weekend for us; I was very much looking forward to it!  Here was my plan: Sleep in, do my laundry, write, clean my space, write some more... I have quite a few things in me that need to get written, along with blog updates, a newsletter, emails about summer plans, etc.  I thought wow, this is going to be a great, productive weekend!  After all, the the last week was crazy with this new job thing, and then this week I'd been feeling a little sluggish and not really myself....

So that was the plan.... and then the reality?

Malaria.

Those evil little demon parasites lurking in my blood decided to make a grand entrance and knock me right off my feet and every productive thought for the weekend went out the window.

As I mentioned I had been feeling less than stellar this week, had a persistent headache, muscle aches, and tiredness I had simply chalked up to a busy schedule and a good run.  But by Friday morning it was clear I was not well and my lovely nurse friends Rachel and Laura hauled me down to the hospital.  I'm so glad I live in a hospital. 

Since then I've been sleeping. Literally, the first day I couldn't stay awake longer than about fifteen minutes; yesterday, about an hour... today I am going to try to make it to two.  I'm so grateful for amazingly awesome friends who are also nurses who came to my bedside to draw blood and woke me every two hours for meds and fluids; because the only thing worse than being sick is being sick alone. 

I'm definitely on the mend, the headache has receeded to a tolerable level and I was able to eat some food today without issues. I think it'll be a sluggish week but very much looking forward to being able to leave my cave cabin and be a part of things again.  I did make it to the Easter service this morning, which was really lovely, then barely made it back to my cabin to crash for another three and a half hours. 

So anyway, that's why you haven't heard much from me... Happy Easter to my friends and family across the globe! Krissy

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A New Adventure

One of my un-resolutions I wrote at the beginning of the year:

4. Say YES to adventure.

                This is nothing new. If you know me, you know I’m an adventurer at heart. I mean, look at what I do, where I live! But a friend said something to me last summer that I’ll never forget, when I was trying to decide, at the last minute, to run a 200-mile relay race. He said – “You’ll never regret shared adventures with friends”. And I wholeheartedly believe it to be true. I said yes to that adventure and it was incredible. I want to continue to face new things, adventures, and life changes with this mentality.

Well, I’ve just said yes to another adventure... Glad to know I'm keeping my un-resolutions!

Beginning this summer I’ll be transitioning out of my job as HR Facilitator on board the Africa Mercy and will be joining the Hospital team as Hospital Projects Manager.  It was a crazy week this last week, I went from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ to ‘yes’ and was faced with some tough questions and even tougher answers.  But at the end of it all, I know with 100% certainty that this is why I am here.

It’s a big job; much bigger than me.  I’ll be managing the new healthcare education initiatives, conferences, trainee programs, and maintaining relationships with the department of health and other NGO’s in Congo.  (Or something like that… :))  It feels huge and I feel completely inadequate; but as a dear friend reminded me, that’s exactly where I need to be, because that’s where I know it’s not about me and my skills and strengths but about God and what He’s called me to do and be. 

The most awesome thing?  This isn’t just a new job that I’ve agreed to.  As I was looking at the team of people I will be working with, I realized I would call every single one of them a friend.  Some are very dear friends, some I’ve only just had one or two positive interactions with; but I can see how this last four months has been preparing me for this next step.  This time has been integral for getting to know these people, so that now it’s not just another job with new coworkers, what I’ve agreed to is really a shared adventure with friends.  These people are incredible, amazing adventurers like me who are just choosing to put one foot in front of the other and glorify God to the best of their abilities, whatever that looks like. I fully believe I’ll never regret saying yes, and I’m honored I get to embark on this adventure with such an awesome team.  

It’s all come up in just the last two weeks.  I stumbled through the deciding process, and I realized there was no right or wrong answer; only the question of what will draw me closer to the heart of God and the purposes for which I was created.  I sought the counsel of wise friends and mentors, people who know me well and can look past the emotions and to the realities of what each option presents.  The beauty of choice, however, is that it’s ultimately mine to make.  Though the week was filled with both fear and excitement, nervousness, apprehension, and every other similar feeling… when the word ‘yes’ finally slipped off my tongue, only peace remained.   And for that, I am grateful.

A huge thank you shout to everyone who has walked with me and helped me through this last few weeks! And I will miss you, HR team… thanks for being awesome. :)
k

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Nametags

You know those nametags we love to hate, that say ‘Hello my name is” and then a big white space?  For some reason, I’ve been thinking of those lately.



Of course we carry the name that our parents give us.  That’s my first identity – Krissy.  (Kristin actually… but no one calls me that)

But there’s more to it than just my given name.  The question that has been rolling around in my head the last couple days is what is your name, but more in a sense of who are you, today?  And then, beyond just knowing that in my heart, what if that was on my nametag for all to see? Am I living that out?  When someone new comes in to my office to ask a question, what is the impression they get?  As I interact with coworkers or crew or patients, what’s the lingering sense they have of me when I leave? Which pieces of my personality are showing the brightest?  And does what I am projecting actually match up to my name? 

I imagine each one of us wearing one of those nametags all day, every day.  What is written on yours?
 

Hello my name is… Snarky? Irritated? Overworked? Stressed? Cranky?  Exhausted? Angry?

OR

Hello my name is… Joy.  Chosen.  Treasure.  Loved.   Grace.  Peace.

Every day is a new opportunity to choose what I will wear that day… what it says on my nametag.  What I feel is not a reflection of who I am.   So even if I feel irritated or snarky or stressed or angry… that is not who I am.  My nametag says joy and I will live, breathe, and share in joy. 

What does yours say today?
k

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Comparison...

Comparison is the thief of joy.

I can't remember the first time I heard or read this quote, but it is one that has stuck to me like a magnet... A Google search reveals it was either said by Teddy Roosevelt or author Dwight Edwards... Neither of whom I’ve read so I'm sure I saw it quoted in another book or publication somewhere along the path of my life.
 
I say it at least two or three times a week; usually in conversation with someone else, occasionally as a reminder to myself.  If the word ‘compare’ ever enters a conversation, this is the first thing that pops out of my mouth.  I probably drive some people crazy as often as I say it.  And someone on the ship has apparently noticed; this photo is of a magnet that I found stuck to my door this morning!

 
I LOVE IT.  So whoever left it, thank you!! 
Why do I love it so?
Many, many reasons. Most of all, it’s truth.  And I love more than anything to speak truth into every life, situation, and conversation I find myself involved in.  (That’s a redemption story in itself… I have not always had such a high regard for truth… but that is another story for another day!)
And because I love words, and the power that words hold, let’s look at the definition of comparison.
Comparison: The act of comparing. Well, didn’t whoever wrote that dictionary go to third grade? I think that’s where I learned never to use the word you are defining in the definition of that word!  So, scratch that, let’s take a look at compare.
Compare: to examine (two or more objects, ideas, people, etc.) in order to note similarities and differences.
Okay.  Well, I can see how this is beneficial in life outside of myself. For example, it’s always best to compare two different fabrics to determine which is the better quality.  Or to compare the vegetarian lasagna with the beef lasagna at dinner and decide which one I like better.  No problem there.
Where we run into problems as the messy complicated humans that we are is when we start to compare people… most notably, ourselves.  This is the comparison that is the thief of joy.
What good can come out of comparing myself to someone else?  None, none at all.  We do it, though…  All. The. Time.  It’s inherent in our human nature.  Mine, anyway, I suppose I shouldn’t generalize so much. But really, comparison does nothing but rob us of contentment and peace within our own selves and lives and situations and circumstances.  It doesn’t matter if you are larger than her, have less money, a bigger house/cabin, run slower, sing better, have a higher level job, are friends with the boss,  are less creative or more generous.  It doesn’t matter. 
You are enough. Just you, for you. And that, my friends, is the truth.
k

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thankful

Today I'm thankful for...



... Mail call!  And my mom, who writes to me every single week. And the fact that I can get mail here.  And that I usually get two or three letters at a time.

... Sour cream with dinner.


... being able to bless people in ways that are little to me but big to them. 

... how wonderful it will be when there is soy milk in the dining room again.  I'm thankful we haven't had it for over a month now because it will be that much more awesome when we have it again.  And I'm thankful that I can be thankful about that.

... Cherry coke from heaven/Shelly.

... "You make known to me the paths of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy." Psalm 16:11


 

... incredible sunsets

... The British Embassy pool and my lovely British friends inviting me along.

 
 
...My roommates Laura and Michele - the most incredible roommates ever. So so so so so thankful for them.

... being able to speak French. And the joy that it brings to my heart to speak French.

... Josie's cinnamon rolls.

 
...That I see random things like this little green boat out the window on a regular basis.  Nice view.
 
... Nap time coffee with Dianna.
 
... A friend's baby, though delivered two and a half months early, is doing well! cheers!!!
 
... Running.
 
... my ipod touch - a goodbye gift from my coworkers at the walt disney company... still love it, still very thankful for it.


... My amazing friend Kirstie who brought me a coffee mug and dark chocolate Toblerone from England.   Coffee and chocolate.  What could be better??

... A really fun time with the mums and my small group yesterday and an ice breaker that went really well with very little groaning or complaining. :)

... the gift I've been given with words...and God redeeming that within me...and God using them to bless others... and the power that words have...

... speaking truth and life

... how comfortable I am driving a huge land rover. A small car in the States will feel very flimsy, methinks...

... SUKI is coming!!!  (Please consider donating - HERE)

... scary medical tests for a friend came back normal.  (WAHOOO!)

... that the container is over a month late... because I will love and appreciate and be so very much more grateful for the triscuit crackers and dark chocolate that are on it once it finally gets here.

... coffee with Diana who was visiting the ship for a couple of weeks.

... the beautiful words and conversations that have come out of some of my more recent blog posts. Thank you, my friends. I am so grateful for you.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Shipwrecks... and hope.


Most often when I go up to deck 8 what I see is the sun reflecting off the hazy water, a few birds diving for their dinner and perhaps the odd plastic bag or flip flop floating by…  This afternoon the tide was exceptionally low, and I saw the carnage that is usually hidden from view.  Surrounding the Africa Mercy, throughout the port of Conakry lay the skeletons of about a dozen sunken vessels; their disintegrating hulls and decaying structures bear little resemblance to the grand ocean liners and tankers they once were.  Their glory days are but a memory as the birds gather and squawk and stalk the fish swimming in the murky depths below.

Why so many shipwrecks?

I’m obviously not a mariner, so please forgive me if this is woefully ignorant or simplistic.  But from my limited understanding, there are three possible reasons.

They were mishandled.  The pilot, whoever was at the helm, was inadequately prepared or distracted or unqualified or unaware they were in imminent danger. The lights weren’t working, or the warning systems weren’t firing, or the driver fell asleep at the wheel; something went horribly wrong and as a result the ship crashed into rocks or a pier or the dock or another ship. 

They were abandoned. Somewhere along the line someone decided they were unable to maintain it or the ship wasn’t worth keeping up; the coat of paint that would keep the rust under control was just too costly, or the engine maintenance to keep them chugging along was simply too difficult, or no one was able to repair the cracks in the hull because there wasn’t any access to the right equipment and tools.  Eventually, after years of disrepair, of being pounded down by the relentless waves and rain and wind, they were slowly swallowed up by the darkness beneath, succumbing to the brutality of their environment.

The storms proved too fierce.  The winds whipped them around, the environment was dark and destructive, the storm surge became too strong, too dangerous, and the ships were thrown mercilessly into the rocks.

Isn’t this the reality of life for our patients? Somewhere along the line something went horribly wrong; someone wasn’t paying attention when the baby fell into the fire, or their broken leg wasn’t set correctly, or the obstructed labor went on for days.  Or perhaps when the tumor started to show there weren’t any doctors, or the costs to repair the cleft palate was more than they made in a year, so they were abandoned or banished to the shadows, slowly swallowed up by the darkness.  Or maybe the environment in which they were born into proved too much; the infection viewed not as a treatable disease but as a curse, or the child malnourished because no rain had fallen for many months.

Let me take this one step further: Isn’t this our reality? Life is brutal on hope. Perhaps not as much a physical reality as it is for our patients, but our hearts are mishandled, either by accident or on purpose; something goes horribly wrong and as a result we run ourselves aground, unable to make forward progress. Or we decide that it’s just too costly to pursue joy and freedom and life to the full, to fight the rust and leaks and decay that find their way in, that we may as well just give up and sink to the depths of our despair.  Or, just look around; no one would disagree that life is just hard, the reality of the storms of life causing us to feel like we’ve crashed and burned.

My heart cries out, it doesn’t have to be this way! I look around at where I am standing, this incredible place I call my home, the Africa Mercy.  It’s huge and strong and freshly painted; we have crews of specialists, men working around the clock to keep the engine running and the rust at bay and the ship afloat. We are literally a beacon of hope in the midst of the carnage of life around us; our patients come and we love them, we see through their deformities and into their hearts. We remove the tumor and straighten the legs and repair the damage on the outside; at the same time, we offer them the hope of restoration to the devastation and decay inside.  We offer a shelter to the storms raging around them, a safe place where the flicker of hope can grow into a flame.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Those ships didn’t have to sink.  You don’t have to live in the shadows. You are worth fighting for, maintaining, guiding, teaching, saving.  You are worth it, for all of these people to come together from all over the world, to love you and restore your hope.  You are worth it…and so am I. 


~k

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

100th post!!

So this is my 100th post!

I tried to think of something clever to do with 100...

First, I thought to list 100 of the biggest blessings in my life - 100 people whom I am most grateful for.  However, once the list got started, I couldn't stop at 100.  I might well be able to come up with 1000 people for whom I'm grateful.... so out went that idea.

Then I thought to write100 things for which I am grateful.  But, in thinking, most of those things end up in my grateful/thankful lists I post every couple of weeks, so maybe not such an original idea.

After that I considered 100 favorite quotes, 100 favorite verses, 100 jokes... but lets be honest, I don't have a ton of time to devote to this, and if it's just going to be a cut-and-paste job from someone else's quirky blog, then what's the point?

Maybe 100 great photos?  Oh dear. Not with this slow internet. Might take me a month to upload that many photos….

So then I thought hey, I'll take a look at my old Peace Corps blog and see what my 100th post there was about... and it was really funny to start reading about my own life there! Example: this was written about a month and a half before I completed my service in Benin...

54 days to Freetown.

Well, I'm back at post, and it is good to be here, even if I WAS greeted by a house full of dead cockroaches and a flooded kitchen.

54 days until I fly to Freetown, Sierra Leone! Cheers

Hahaha! wow, I remember those days like they were a dream... coming back to a hut full of dead cockroaches and a flooded kitchen.  Oh my word.  I loved my time in Benin, but gosh... so glad I live here now!

This one made me tear up again… even though it happened years ago now…

Um... excuse me... you forgot your baby...

I had a rather odd/sad/rip your heart out kind of thing happen to me at the health center this morning. Thursdays are baby weighings and immunizations, and I help out where I can, sometimes teaching, sometimes just doing paperwork and keeping things organized. Towards the end of the morning a mom came in with month-old twins, a girl and a boy. The moms hold the babies as they are being immunized so once the girl was done, I took her to just hold her while the mom held the boy to get his shots - I do this alot, it's just kind of natural, I guess. I sat back down at the table where I was filling out paperwork and the baby girl I was holding was surprisingly calm considering she had just gotten a shot! Well, anyway, I was doing some work and greeting some new arrivals when I realized I had been holding this baby an awfully long time, so I looked around... her mother was gone.

The village is not that big and just about everyone at the health center knew where this woman lived, so we walked to her house to give her baby back. When we got there she was crying... and begging me to please take her daughter with me. She already had four or five small children and her month-old twins were proving to just be too much.

It was hard to watch because the people here really have never heard of compassion or empathy, basically the health center lady yelled at her for awhile and then pushed her baby back in her arms.

Sometimes Africa just rips your heart out.

True story.  Africa does just rip your heart out sometimes.

Then I couldn’t stop reading my random other stories.  Like the time I ate python for dinner and wrote that it tasted like chicken. Or the work I did eradicating polio. The stories of the kiddos I loved dearly and the ones who drove me nearly insane.  The times I loved my service there and the times I hated it.  My incredible travels around Africa, the girls camps I worked on, the heat and dust and piles of bugs and hauling water and parasites and injuries and my crazy kitty that was eaten by my neighbors. 

I couldn’t figure out which post was my 100th, but now I don’t really care. I’m just grateful for where my life has taken me, the fact that I’ve written thousands of blog posts from all over the world and the adventure just keeps on going.  Thank you for being a part of it, and for reading this, my 100th post.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Suki! and updates...

MY SUKI IS COMING!



For those of you who don't know her, Christina is my 'little sister' who also goes by Suki... She's coming here!!  Christina applied last year but there weren't any spots open for her; just a week ago she was informed a spot had opened up!  As long as she gets the support she needs, I'll be hugging this lovely girl's neck on April 4th!  So she needs to raise about $4k in like a week or something crazy.  Would you please consider supporting her? It would be such a giant, amazingly wonderful blessing for her to come here, so if you want to bless ME, please donate to HER :)

(I'm so very excited... YAYAY!!)

click here to donate to Christina or read more of her story....

In other news, thank you to everyone who has been praying for calm in Guinea.  In case you weren't aware, there's been heightened political tensions here as of late, and at one point last week, it became more ethnic than political... (which makes me sick, actually...).  Thankfully things seem to have calmed down out there and the powers that be have slowly lifted restrictions on travel and movements in the city.  I'm so grateful to work for this organization, I've never once felt in any danger, and they're very cautious with us.  The biggest problem we faced was our patients and day workers unable to make it here, but it seems as though things are getting back to normal.

Life on the ship is going well.  Thanks for all the kind words about my last few posts, yes they've been a bit heavier, but hey... life is heavy sometimes.  But I am so grateful for this place, the people here, my work and experiences and ups and downs... thank YOU for being a part of it!!

Right now we're pushing our way through these last few months of the field service.  This is plastic surgery season on the ship, and hot season outside!  In just two and a half months we'll be all packed up and sailing!  Preparations for the Congo field service are going well, and where we're headed after the Congo is still unknown.... (I'm hoping for Cameroon but we'll see what actually happens!)

Please drop me an email and let me know how YOU are doing!  All the best and much love to all - krissy

Saturday, March 9, 2013

At the same time.

A friend lost her battle with cancer yesterday.  My heart grieves for her and her family, but at the same time, I feel joy knowing she’s no longer in pain.

A friend’s newborn has an unexplained high fever. My heart aches for that little one and his family, but at the same time, I’m at peace knowing their faith rests in a loving Father.

A friend was in an accident while on vacation and has a spinal cord injury.  My heart feels pain for him and his family, the shock of their shattered world, but at the same time, I’m hopeful because I believe in a God who heals.

A friend is facing scary medical tests, trying not to succumb to the darkness of fear and ‘what if’ questions.  My heart feels heavy for her and her family, but at the same time, I feel at rest because I know the God who directs our paths is for our good.

A friend is confronting some difficult decisions and challenging situations in her workplace.   A friend just lost her brother.  A friend is battling through alarming pregnancy complications, fighting for her own life and the life of her child.  A friend is searching for light through the oppressive fog of depression.  A friend is struggling to breathe on her own.  A friend is in dire financial need.  A friend is desperately trying to get pregnant…

I grieve deeply, but at the same time, I am grateful, because I love deeply.

At the same time. 

That’s the wonder of the human race; this ridiculously complicated, beautifully messy, glorious reflection of our Creator.  Nowhere in the physical world can anything hold two opposing characteristics; light and darkness cannot simultaneously exist in the same place.  There’s no such thing as a circle with corners.  A plant is either alive or it’s dead.  According to the rules of the universe, two things like joy and sorrow should not be able to coexist.  But they do… in us.

So today I find myself embracing… at the same time. Sorrow and joy.  Grief and hope.  Pain and peace.  Desperation and gratitude. I’m embracing the fact that I can feel… because it means I am alive. 

I wish I could be there, for each of them.  I wish I could just bless them… hold a baby, make coffee, clean the house, build a ramp, care for the other children, make dinner, make a plan, do laundry, speak life and truth over each of their situations.  I wish I could… but, at the same time, I know I am where I belong.

And I will speak life and truth over each of them.  An ocean apart is but a breath on the wind for the One who covers us all, the One whom I trust. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Unraveled.

I’m feeling unraveled.”  I’ve heard this statement several times in the last few days… from others, and from my own mouth.
The image that comes immediately to my mind, of course, is one of a rope: One strong cord made of hundreds of strands, their strength together proving infinitely greater than each individual thread; but it's cut, bluntly, without care or concern.  I see those strands slowly separating from the others, bravely reaching out, pitifully unaware of their weakness once separated from the rest.  The rope has lost its strength, and as it continues to unravel, it will lose its very identity and existence.
Another image flashes to mind: I see a beautiful cashmere sweater brought to destruction by the smallest and most seemingly insignificant snag; the yarn slowly works its way free, the cavity getting bigger and bigger, the devastation slowly spreading.  Before I even realize it, I have nothing left that resembles the original; only an unidentifiable pile of yarn, limp and without form, useless and discarded.
I’ve equated this to my friends, and my own, current circumstances, emotions, and journey…. That which I have carefully crafted, what has been held together by unseen forces, slowly unraveling, to a shapeless, unidentifiable, weak pile of nothing. 
Or, is it? 
My dictionary reveals two very different definitions for the word unravel…
1.       To separate or disentangle the threads of a woven or knitted fabric, a rope, etc
2.       To free from complication or difficulty; make plain or clear; simplify; solve.
Wow.
What if, instead of looking at my unraveling circumstances and emotions through the lens of definition number one, I look at them through the lens of definition two?  What if I’m not being made into a mess… what if I’m being freed from it?  Instead of this unraveling making things more complicated, what if it is actually making things plain and clear?  Breaking the complex into the simple, freeing me up to move, grow, change, and be made into more of His image and less of my own.  What if the end result is not a weak pile of nothing, but rather a softer, more easily crafted and more beautifully presented reflection of His hands and feet? 
Oh, that it may be! Lord, keep unraveling me!

(note: nothing big is happening. i'm not leaving. i'm healthy and content. please don't freak out. this is just what was on my heart to write today.....k)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kassa Island Trip

A few weekends ago I had the privilege of going away to Kassa Island for a weekend with some very dear friends. It was a lovely time, relaxing, rich with conversation and quiet, blessings and peace. The food was excellent and the atmosphere, well, divine. :) Here are some photos...

Someone asked me about the bee on my backpack - this little guy came from a McDonalds Happy Meal I got in Romania in 2008. I thought it was a cheap toy that would fall off in a matter of hours or days, and now five years, and thousands of miles across three continents, the little guy is still hanging on.

We got picked up in a boat owned by the hotel we stayed at. 

The hotel dog that made friends with us very quickly.

Sunset on the first night.

Missy and Rachel, and the dog, going for a hike the 2nd day. They thought it would be an hour or two, they ended up getting back like seven hours later.

Sunset the 2nd night.

These little crabs were everywhere at night, and in the morning the hotel owners had to pull a few up out of the pool that they had crawled/fallen into in the night.

Evening rations.  Bug spray, wine, and chocolate. The conversations we had at mealtime were so rich and beautiful, I think it was my favorite part of the weekend.
Breakfast of champions. The restaurant people were lovely, as we took two hours for breakfast then asked for more coffee and bread (2nd breakfast anyone?)
It was a lovely weekend, with lovely friends, in a lovely place. I LOVE my ship community but it was nice to get away for a bit, too. :) Krissy