Let's talk! (A how-to guide)

29 June 2013

Let’s talk. A lot. Seriously. I can’t wait to talk to some of you in person, face to face, in just a few days!  Here’s a few ideas I was thinking about today... Got one to add? Leave a comment below!

1. Lame questions will get lame answers. 
 
Example: How’s Africa?  will get a response of something like, hot, or still there, or something equally as lame, followed by how’s North America?  

Something all of us who have spent any time overseas understand – people back home don’t really want to hear about our lives. They say they do, but they don’t.  They want to hear one short, sweet story, preferably about a child, with a happy ending.  Very few people want to hear more than that.  I’m not going to jump into talking about my life. Please ask specific questions and I’ll give you all the insight and honesty you want.  Goodness knows I love talking about it, but I need your invitation.

2. Let’s talk about what matters.

Oh my gosh, Krissy, you’re so tan!  This is not a conversation starter, nor what I want to hear when I first see you after a year away. It's you stating the obvious, and might get the response of wow, you have two eyeballs. Yes, I am tan, I live in the tropics and have great skin.  I get it from my mom.  But where this comment always goes is to you then complaining about the weather wherever you’re from, and then I have to commiserate and feel appropriately guilty because I live in a sauna the tropics and have great skin thanks to my mom.  I didn’t travel five thousand miles to talk about the weather.  So please, save us both.  And on behalf of the pale-er crewmember’s families that might be reading this: wow, why aren’t you tan?  is also not appropriate.  They’re not tan because when it’s a hundred and fifty degrees outside you avoid the sun at all costs.   

3. Do not compare your life to mine.

Comparison is the thief of joy.  My calling is no greater than your calling.  It just about rips my heart out every time one of my friends says something along the lines of gosh, my life is so boring compared to yours.  It’s not, it’s just different.  Whether you days revolve around naps and diapers, or soccer and homework, or your job, spouse, or whatever you’re called to do and be in this season, that matters.  My life isn't greater or lesser than yours.  Really, truly, I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other, every day, just like you.  I just happen to do it in a bit of an unusual environment.   Comparison is the thief of joy.

4. I want to know. Really.

When I ask you about your life, kids, ups, downs, job, home, or whatever, it’s because I want to know.  Really.  Please don’t respond with oh, it’s nothing like what you do, or it’s not that exciting or nothing's really happened since you left.  I don't just want to know the big things. Please don’t assume because I don’t have children or a spouse that I don’t want to know about your little ones’ milestones or your frustrations with the schools or how much you love watching soccer or what you love and hate about your job.  I want to know those things, because I want to know you. And that is how relationships work.  Please. Allow me to celebrate potty training or a successful garden or the latest promotion or the house work with you – it’s called doing life together.   And really, I put a huge percentage of my life up here on this little blog, so you already know most of my stories and how I’m doing.  Allow me to know you, too.

5. Don’t hold back.

Are you dying to know if I have met someone special (no), eaten goat brain (yes) or other weird foods, do I really believe all the God stuff I write about (yes), do I get seasick (a little)… Please, just ask. Seriously.  No subject is off the table.  But I can’t read your mind, and remember number one, I won’t volunteer information, you have to ask.

6. Awkwardness is expected.

I don’t really fit in anymore. I don’t understand the inside jokes, or the movie quotes, or the references to news stories. I don’t know the story of what happened that one time at that restaurant last year that was just the funniest thing ever.  And you’ve changed, too.   Other people have filled in the gap that I left and now I don’t know where I fit in.  There will be awkward moments, and it’s okay. 

Got something to add? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’ve been overseas, too! All the best - Krissy

The redemption of time.

28 June 2013

One of the things that happens in this type of organization, where people come and go so often and regularly, is the attitude from burned-out or weary volunteers of “Well, I’m leaving soon, so then it’s someone else’s problem.”  It happens everywhere, I know, I just happened to run into it quite a bit this week.  I’m absolutely the opposite – “I’m leaving soon so I have to get this problem resolved now.” is more like me.    I like clean handovers with bullet points and instructions and the less unknown there is the better. 

This week was crazy, with 14+ hour workdays and me wondering the whole time how on earth I am going to be able to leave on Monday.  Unfinished projects and unanswered questions make me crazy, and I wanted to be able to leave and not think about work during my three weeks away.  When I finally locked my office door at 10:30 on Thursday night I was tired, anxious, emotional, and cross-eyed, and knew I would have to work all this weekend.

This morning I let myself sleep an extra hour, then simply asked God to redeem my time.  I needed to get about twenty hours of work done in eight. That's not a ridiculous prayer, my friends - He's outside of time and it's totally possible!  (I've prayed this prayer many times before when it comes to sleep - as in, God, I need ten hours of sleep and all I have is four. You can do that.) So I asked for redeemed time...  And then guess what? It was! (I find it incredible the amount of times I pray for something and then it happens and I’m surprised.  Sheesh) I got it done, my bullet point handovers sent, and as I left the office at 5pm I felt as though I had been totally released from all anxiety and worry about the issues that are still outstanding. What a relief!

Now my focus turns to my time in the States! I have prep work to do for camp, speaking presentations with pictures for two churches, need to organize my schedule to try to see everyone that I need to see!  I also need to write some handover notes for my replacement as when I get back from vacation I have only three days to train her and then I move into my new position.   All three weeks I am back in the states will be crazy.  I've already started praying that redemption of time prayer for both my sleep and jet lag - because I don't really have time for either one of those things! 

Tomorrow is a whole day blackout here on the ship so I will be heading out of here to an adventure of some kind… Monday the laundry room is closed so Sunday will be laundry day for me, cleaning my cabin and getting myself packed up, and working on the aforementioned projects.  I hope your weekend is fantastic – and I shall see some of you SOON!!

Krissy

Seasons.

25 June 2013

I had a glorious weekend. It felt extravagant yet simple, filled with beauty and quiet and conversations and action and stillness and everything my heart needed. I went into Monday knowing it was going to be crazy, and it was… but it was good crazy.  Today was a bit tougher… and by the end of the workday I knew I needed to get out and breathe…


~~~

If the incessant attack of jackhammers and grinding metal on my eardrums and the lingering scent of burning plastic and fuel oil weren’t enough to bring on a headache, the constant unsteadiness of a ship that is swaying far more in this port than it ever did at sea and the lack of forward progress on some critical work projects certainly did.  By mid-afternoon my confidence fizzled out under the weight of responsibility; some real, some imaginary, placed on my shoulders and multiplied by the absence of key leaders and the presence of my own insecurities stirred up again, reminding me of faults and failures that were long ago forgotten and forgiven. 

I knew what I needed – I crawled my way up to the open expanse of deck 8, that space that calls to me when the unseen becomes suffocating; a place where I can hear God’s heartbeat and feel his presence in the cool wisps of the evening breezes.   I inhaled deeply of fresh, salty air, the wind ruffling my hair and bringing up goosebumps as I settled into my chair.

The usual sounds of children playing and sunset conversations have been replaced by a solitary hum from the refrigerated container in its temporary home on the deck.  I prop my feet up on the railing, feeling the vibrations of the engines that never sleep.  I lean my head back, looking up at the cloudy sky, and let my mind start to wander… Things weren’t all right with me, in that moment, and knew I couldn’t go back in until all was well again.
 
~~~


This season is hard… harder than I thought it would be.

I want more than anything in this moment to go down to the wards full of patients; to be greeted with bandaged faces and toothless smiles, little ones grabbing on to me to paint my nails and braid my hair and slaughter me for the twentieth time in Memory. (Seriously – I’m a relatively smart thirty something that gets absolutely killed by four-year-olds at that game. It’s incredible. And humbling.) Images and memories of patients I loved and stories I cherished come drifting through my mind, and my heart aches.

It’s Tuesday night - life group night. I miss them.  I miss their stories, smiles, hugs, prayers, conversations, running the race of life and community and faith and freedom… together. 

I’m trying to pursue excellence in my work but my time is running out and several key leaders are on holiday.  I haven’t slept well the last few nights.  I miss my roommates. I’m freezing cold all the time. The tears begin to sting in my eyes…

My heart is longing for a different season.

But the reality is that where I’m from, no matter how much I desire to see snow in July or flowers blooming in January, neither is going to happen.  

This season is not for patients, small group, or African heat. This season is one of maturing, of roots growing deeper and confidence getting stronger and dependence on that which remains, the One Thing, regardless of season or situation.

~~~

What we focus on, we empower.  What we behold, we become.

As I’m mentally chewing on these things, that quote slithers it’s way in to the mix of words jumbled up in my consciousness.  It’s a gem, that one, and complete truth.  As I think about these things I’m missing or frustrated with or upset about, I realize I’ve already given them far too much time and energy.  I need to refocus.  So I plug my ipod into my ears and as Chris Tomlin drowns out the hum of the container I offer all these things up; myself, my tears, my friends, and my frustrations.  I lay them down and refocus my gaze on that which I want to empower in my life – God.

~~~

I think about the next few weeks that I’m spending in the US and try to find words to describe what I’m feeling.  Excited, of course, I can’t wait to hug friends and family and break bread and share stories and just do life with the people I love that I don’t often see. But there’s a hint of nervousness in that as well.  Allow me to be honest: There’s often an awkwardness in trying to connect with people whose stories have taken them in a completely different direction.  People change and personalities clash and somehow Seattle is home and Minnesota is home and yet the Africa Mercy is really my home now and not everyone gets that. Feelings get hurt and people forget you and somehow no one ever really truly understands, to the depth my heart longs to be understood.

I’ve changed, too.  I’m not the same person that said goodbye last September.  I hope all the changes in me have been for the better, but can I really walk it out in the authenticity that I long for? Or will the old whispers of fear and insecurity come crashing back in?

What we focus on, we empower.

Instead of giving those fears and insecurities any more lip service, I breathe deeply and hand them back to God. He hasn’t brought me this far to abandon me. This trip is a gift, and I will embrace every precious minute of it. I want to squeeze out every drop of glory I can; out of renewed relationships, exciting new challenges, joy and laughter and sunshine (or not) and all that will be shared, and the stories that are being written.

~~~

I feel the nerves and anxiety wash away.   What was once faces of patients I longed for and friends I missed was suddenly replaced with faces of all the awesome friends I will get to see and the kids I get to serve at camp and the congregations I get to speak to and share life with and the family I get to love.  I begin to pray for them, and I can feel the tears have dried on my cheeks as I can’t keep from smiling.  I can’t wait. A laugh escapes my lips as I realize the 180 I’ve done in the last hour or so up here on the deck.

I am so grateful for this season.

Instead of longing for a different season I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness for this season that I am in. I’m so thankful for all I get to do and see and say and be.   I’m so grateful that I call this place my home and that place my home and really, if home is where the heart is, and my heart is fully alive, won’t home be wherever I am?  Or maybe, home is wherever I belong.  Today, I belong here, on the Africa Mercy. Next week I belong in Seattle.  Two weeks after, I belong in Minnesota.  And then I’ll belong again back here… eventually maybe back to there, or another place, or wherever God calls me to be… That’s home.

I can look back with gratitude and look forward with anticipation, but I choose to engage fully in the present.   Once more I breathe deeply, the fresh, salty air.  Peace… and all is well again.


 

Tour of Teror.

23 June 2013

Today I went with some lovely friends to the little village of Teror (pronounced tare-ORE) which was a most quaint little place.  The trip took about an hour by bus, and on that note, huge kudos to the public transport on this island. It's amazing, and I don't think that's just from an African perspective - I feel safer and it's much easier to get around than probably anywhere else even in the States, and I don't even speak the language.  But I digress... The bus ride redeemed my view of this island - until now, I've said the beaches are nice but the rest of it isn't beautiful. Well, this part was!!  Enjoy living vicariously through me as I take you on the tour....  (Sorry the photo quality isn't great - I have to compress all my photos to be able to load them or it would take a week to get them all up...)
 

The countryside was beautiful here.  I can only imagine how lovely it must be when it rains - as it's all very dry right now...

The little village square centers around a beautiful Catholic church (to the right).  Sunday morning there's markets set up all around the church.  The inside of the church is beautiful and very ornate. (no photos... I peeked in during mass and didn't think it appropriate to take out the camera!)

Beauty all around.

Lunch! They had this sauce to put on bread (as demonstrated by the ever lovely Paula) that was really good. Might have to try to get some to share when I'm back in the states!  The waiter said, "very Canarian"(meaning, of the Canary Islands)
I had wine and cheese (the two main food groups, right?) and Marsha ordered Fish Tacos. This is what she got. (where's the taco? Never did establish that...)


This place was so cute. This was one of the side streets - fountains going right down it! I climbed up this staircase to see from above...
And this is what I saw. Seriously, it was like we were on a movie set or something. It was so adorable!!


Sigh. I love this.

Little booths were set up around the church - some selling Catholic stuff, plus jewelry, clothes, bags, etc. 

Chimney cake - never heard of it but I think it's like a European version of a funnel cake or something. It was good. (Can't go wrong with fried dough and sugar, can you?)

We sat much of the day at a little cafĂ©, eating, drinking coffee (that was delicious too) and talking.  By the time we headed out the streets were empty and the market was all packed up!

Just a random street! I love the colors of the buildings here...

Another random street I walked up!  How do you like this tour?
Paula, Me, Penelope, and Marsha took the picture.  Sigh, a beautiful day.

The ride home.

Shipyard photos

22 June 2013

They tell us the shipyard work is going well. Apparently the shipyard workers don't take Saturday off, because instead of a relaxing quiet day here on the ship I was awakened by jackhammers at work. Awesome.  Yesterday I snapped a few pictures of what we see here in the shipyard.  It's interesting thinking about the fact that I was born and raised in a large port city, and I remember our second grade field trip to the port terminal of Duluth. I wonder if any of the ships here have made a stop in my hometown...
 





Shipyard.

17 June 2013

We're definitely in Shipyard.

I often feel as though I should be wearing a hard hat just to walk through Reception. The deafening noise begins around 8, I think, and goes all.day.long.  I'm super grateful for the work they're doing - but wow, it makes my brain hurt a bit! They've completely torn out the walk-in fridges and freezers in the Galley, and so a pretty continuous metallic grinding sound fills your ears pretty much the entire forward section of the ship.  Then down in the hospital they're jackhammering up the flooring to have it replaced - not a quiet process either. A few (bad - ipod camera) photos of the work....


Stuff I don't normally see in the hallways.

The long Hospital corridor... I was wearing flipflops and no hard hat so didn't want to go any further...


the galley - on the left used to be walk-in coolers and freezers.
There are people coming and going every day, lots of shipyard workers and huge bins of construction garbage full on the dock.  The IS guys are working hard to upgrade our TV systems all over the ship, as well as the wireless internet connectivity.  Other random projects are going on here and there, too... So anyway - I'm really thankful for the work they are doing.  But I will also be thankful when they are finished. :)

~K

Gran Canaria in photos.

16 June 2013

Here are some of the photos I've collected over the last week on Gran Canaria.  The island is lovely!  We arrived on Thursday night, June 6th.  Most of the treasured friends in the pictures below left on Monday, Christina left on Tuesday, and Becky arrived on Wednesday. In between the beach time, tapas and sangria, I've actually still got work to do, so I apologize for the quiet blog.  I do have many thoughts brewing on my time here, living in the first world, the idea of culture shock, etc... but I'm still chewing on those words. In the meantime, please enjoy this short tour of Gran Canaria.  Love to all! Krissy

We love grass.  Squishy grass, that's mowed, and smells good, and feels good in your toes. The night we arrived in Las Palmas we all went off the ship and when we found this grass, you would think we had gone completely mad, we were so excited.

The little things you appreciate after life in Africa.

The sunset was stunning that night.

Treasures.

The best pizza I've ever eaten in my life. Seriously.

And an awesome person to eat aforementioned pizza with :)

Joys of the first world: Flowers!

Another beauty of a sunset over the Atlantic.

Christina enjoying her ice cream.

We celebrated this lovely treasure's birthday with tapas, wine, and blessed conversations. Each of those balloons she's hugging have blessings for her inside! It was an epic evening, to be sure.

Sangria with Missy.  Love that girl!

There are a lot of wind farms on the island. This was taken out the window of the bus on our way to Maspalomas on the south side of the island.

The Last Supper done in sand. How could I not take a picture?

We had a lovely day on the huge, long, sandy, filled with people, beach in Maspalomas. Unfortunately, clothing is somewhat optional and there were TONS of people, so I will not post any more photos from the beach. :) It was a lovely day that included a beach waiter bringing us mojitos! Becky got a bit sunburned but overall, a successful trip.

Our lunch in Maspalomas. I had a banana split and she had a tiramisu sundae thing.

The water was super clear! This was on our walk up the shore a ways, where the sand gives way to rocks.
Near the beach at Maspalomas, a big lighthouse. It was a beautiful area.


This sign is near the port in Las Palmas.

This gorgeous huge cathedral in Las Palmas.

We wandered through Old Town Las Palmas, all the streets look like this. I could totally live here.

Treasures. (This photo is out of order and should be up at the top... but I can't get it to move!)


A few thoughts on "Goodbye".

10 June 2013

Ask a few long term Mercy Shippers what the hardest part of living in this community is and I would guess the majority would respond, “goodbyes”… followed closely by “change”.

We’re warned about it before we arrive; they covered it in Gateway, articles are passed around and discussions are encouraged about how to deal with the ever present, low-level grief you can feel in such a transient community.  The only constant here is change; we move from country to country and project to project, with people coming and going every day. Part of me wonders what kind of crazy we all are to live like that… And then part of me thinks it’s actually, in fact, the healthiest place to be.

I’ve been with Mercy Ships for a year now (total), and I can honestly say this last six months have been the richest of my life. I am surrounded by some of the most incredible men and women one could ever hope to get to do life with.  I have found a fulfillment in my work I had only dreamed about in the past; not only am I doing something I’m good at but my heart is alive and passionate about the mission and calling.  I have found myself not just surviving the community culture but thriving and growing, with a circle of deep, sweet, treasured friendships that truly is an embarrassment of riches.  I’ve loved Africa ever since moving here nearly four years ago, and this year in Guinea has only increased that love.

In the last week I’ve had to say goodbye to Guinea; to the French speaking world, plantain chips and running in sewage and the joyful songs of patients and malaria ridden mosquitoes. I’ve had to say goodbye to friends I’ve come to love dearly – some I will reunite with soon, and some I may never see again.  In the next few weeks I will say goodbye to the ship and Europe and my work here… if only for a short, but significant, time away on vacation.  And when all of this is gone, when I’ve said the last goodbye, there is only one thing that remains:  God.  His calling on my life – wherever, with whoever, doing whatever. 

My life is richer because of the relationships I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with and walked with, danced with and cried with; and my life is richer because of the places I’ve seen and lived and experienced.  My story is well flavored with cultures, languages, stories, smells, accents, colors, tastes, and journeys.  And I am so very grateful for it all - but my life is not defined by those things.  Those things are wonderful, but they are temporary.  Some are more temporary than others – but ultimately, my story is not defined by them, it’s defined by God, and choosing to walk in the freedom of that life to the full.

I’m blessed this year because I don’t have any hugely dramatic, heart-wrenching goodbyes.  But I’ll be blessed next year, too, when I do have them; blessed because those treasures have flavored my story, blessed because I knew them, and blessed to be able to send them off into the next chapter with love, knowing I will see them again if not in this life in the next.

I no longer dread the goodbyes – I choose to bless those who are leaving into the next great thing.  Some of them I know it’s unlikely I will see them again… but that doesn’t make the relationship any less valid, or our time together any less special.  It was a special gift for a season – and while I might miss that, I know and trust God to fulfill all my needs – so instead of holding them, and myself, back in grief, I can release them with joy into the next season.  Some of them I know I will see again, there’s no getting around it – and those are the special ones.  Special friends like Becky, Rachel, Emma, Josh, Lisa… People who I have met all over the world who I knew within the first few hours together that they were someone I wouldn’t ever have to say goodbye to – it would always be ‘until next time’. 

Lest I sound arrogant, let it be said that I don’t have this thing figured all out.  I know I will cry and grieve and miss my friends and ship and job and continent… saying goodbye is still hard.  But instead of sitting alone with my grief in the dining room for the next three weeks, I want to embrace the season and sit with someone new, a treasure waiting to be discovered; embrace and experience the joy of new friendships unfolding and stories being told and flavors added to this incredible masterpiece God is writing.

k

Sea voyage.

08 June 2013

Just some photos I took of our departure, sail, and arrival... enjoy!

The dock... empty.


The pool is drained and all the deck chairs are put in it.


The deck is full!

My lifeboat.  They tested it and it works great. 

Our escorts out of the port. (two tugs and a pilot boat)

Goodbye Conakry.
The last thing we do before departing is a fire drill/muster - just to make sure everyone is accounted for. This is my lifeboat muster station!


These crates were on the dock and they remind me of the movie Madagascar - do you think there are animals in them?

How many men does it take to release the mooring lines?

 I love sailing, the open ocean, the color of the water out there... amazing.


 
I love this view on the bow.

 

Land!  (Gran Canaria)
 
Friends at arrival!

The tug that escorted us in!

Our current parking space for the next 6 weeks.



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