29 September 2013

Last week I was scheduled to speak at hospital devotions. This is a time once a month when the whole hospital staff gets together - it's entirely optional, usually starts with worship and then a few announcements followed by a speaker. 

I had replied to the email a week previously asking for volunteers to speak with a 'sure, put me down whenever no one else wants to do it' - not because I believe I have something to say but rather because I believe God does and I trust him to reveal it whenever it was my turn.  Then the reply came - congrats, next week! oh dear.  Do I still trust when I have a few days to prepare as opposed to a couple of months?

Well, they were set for Tuesday morning and so I had planned on several hours to seek and discern and listen on Monday night... which was completely hijacked with other obligations and work stuff and people and the entire day left me flustered and irritated...

But the thing was I already knew what I was supposed to share.  I had been given two words and a passage of scripture and I knew it... I just didn't like it. So I ignored it.  And pleaded for words, ideas, stories, and eventually excuses as to why I couldn't do it. And then my day got busier and my thoughts more scattered and panic began to set in as I started to worry about what people would think or that expectations were high and I would just disappoint everyone... oh dear, friends, it was a mess. 

But God is gracious and loving and meets us in the mess.  And the question was raised, the still small whisper of my heart - do you trust me?

Yes, of course.

Do you really? Because you can't just trust me halfway. You either trust me or you don't.  You either trust that I have given you the words, that I haven't brought you here to abandon you, that I do speak, that you do hear and know my voice, that this day is not a coincidence, that your words matter, that I work all things for good, that my word never returns void.... You either trust all that, or you don't.  And if you don't, you have no business getting up and speaking from the front.  But if you do... then just get on with it!



The end of that story is then I said yes and got on with it and went to bed and everything was fine in the morning... but the end of my story is still being decided, like some kind of grand cosmic choose your own adventure novel where the choices of today can effect eternity and God is continually asking that persistent question of do you trust me?

Do I? It's a critical question, one that requires a response.  And not halfway, either - there's no sometimes or mostly or when it's comfortable.  Either I trust all of it or I don't.  Black or white. Yes or no. 


With a sigh of relief, or a torrent of tears, or a joyous laughter...

In everything.


Fight for Joy.

28 September 2013

I’ve entered a quiet season – a season where words seem to be more difficult to find.  It’s not just on this blog; I can’t even seem to find the words to write in my journal, which is usually full.  The last several weeks for many, many days I’ve managed to simply write the date and Father God, before just staring into space or dissolving into tears or falling asleep.

I like my job a whole lot and I seem to be finding a rhythm in that, or at least beginning to accept the lack of rhythm as normal and moving on and pursuing excellence and learning everything that I can. So that piece seems to be doing okay.

It’s everything else that’s just out of whack. 

It’s incredible how I can be surrounded by 400 other people in a small, confined area but feel desperately lonely. 

And when the cry of my heart is to be a good friend but it seems relationships are falling apart all around me and I’m faced with the reality that I really must not be a good friend… that’s devastating.

And when I’ve been completely obedient to what I believe with all my heart is a directive from God but all I’ve experienced on the other end is heartache… that hurts.

On my door right now is written, “Fight for joy, fight for freedom.” – I need that reminder.  Joy is worth fighting for, and it’s opposed.  Someone asked me a few days ago, what exactly does that look like for me, now, in this place, at this time...

It looks like getting out of bed this morning when everything in me wanted to hide away with my self pity and contempt.  It looks like going to the beach because, really, I know I will never regret going to the beach, but I will regret staying in bed all day with only my depression to keep me company.

It looks like eating dinner with someone, a stranger or a friend, when everything in me wants to skip the meal and the huge room which transports me back to junior high and that desperation of everyone having friends to sit with except me.
It looks like picking up the $1 joys - like teaching a friend how to ‘properly’ break into a Ritter bar, saying yes to the little one wanting to be carried to the car,  or the surprise donation that will help fund a Christmas getaway.

It looks like trusting and believing regardless of what I can see or feel, because that which I can see and feel is only temporary, but that which I believe and trust is eternal.  And in Him that I trust lies the fullness of joy.  And that’s worth fighting for.


$1 joys.

21 September 2013

We had a surgeon here the last couple weeks named Dr. David Levy who also did some speaking. One day he talked about $1 joys.  He said that we often spend our lives looking for and waiting for those $1000 joys - getting a boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, getting into the right school or finishing school or buying a home or having a child.  Those things are awesome, of course, but if we spend our lives looking for and longing for those $1000 joys, we will miss the thousands of $1 joys that are all around us every day. 

$1 joy - the oranges in Congo are actually orange and delicious. (in west Africa they are green and tough...)

$1 joy - ultimate Frisbee with friends. and running back together. getting nice and sweaty and smiley. oh, the joy.

$1 joy - fun post-it notes.

$1 joy - smiles and winks from friends. 

$1 joy - saying yes to tagging along to the beach this morning and cheering on the young soccer players.

$1 joy - sun kissed cheeks on a day that didn't seem very sunny.

$1 joy - clean laundry.

$1 joy - the gift of a foam mattress topper - so comfy!!

$1 joy - getting to make a sand fortress with this sweet little one.
$1 joy - one lonely soy milk with milk still in it at breakfast in the dining room.
$1 joy - sweet notes on my door from friends.
$1 joy - "we didn't start the fire" song conversation that lead to that song being in my head for the rest of the morning. I literally have not even thought of that song for at least a decade. Maybe two.

$1 joy - mail from my mom.  and the fact that she's sent me a letter every single week for nearly four years. I will not start rating or comparing my joys/blessings... but if I did, this might be a $10 joy :)

$1 joy - being in midships lounge (where I seldom go) when Rachel passed on her way to make bars, which she was missing raisins and nuts... two things I happen to have.  So we made bars together.  What a joy. 

$1 joy - tea with friends.

$1 joy - bringing tea to friends.

$1 joy - little pieces of paper that remind me of who I really am.

$1 joy - cinnamon toast crunch in the ship shop on a very busy day.

$1 joy - sweet facebook messages from friends back home.

$1 joy - getting invited to family movie night. 

$1 joy - laughter through tears... fighting for joy.

May you be overwhelmed with $1 joys today.  Much love - Krissy


10 September 2013

We joke here sometimes that this place makes you bipolar.  Some days it feels truer than others. Like today.

I ended my weekend feeling awesome about life in general, with the words this is my dream job and I love this community and assorted other comments and thoughts about how grateful I am to God for the blessings and favor he's shown me and the journey that has brought me here.  Read: flying high.

Then... Monday morning... Baby Girl (Click the link to read about what happened and have a kleenex ready....or four)

Then... a series of frustrating encounters that leave me feeling completely inadequate in my job and wondering what was I thinking?

Then... I look at the calendar and realize that tomorrow is September 11. Twelve years seems like a lifetime ago but as I think of it I can still feel the brick behind my back and the cold tile floor as I sat with hundreds of other students in the student center of my university, watching the replay of death and destruction over and over and fearing for my friends who might be drafted into this new war against terror.  With whispers of war in Syria and seemingly unending instability elsewhere, my heart longs for a world at peace.

And I find myself here again, with the the and yets or at the same times battling through my consciousness.

Because in another bed down in the ward sleeps a little two year old boy whose life was nearly gone that God brought to us just in time - now he's laughing and playing and has the opportunity to grow up and become a leader in his nation.  Despair, and yet, joy.

Because at another time in another place I knew what I was thinking, and I know better than to fall prey to the darkness... rather, I rely in the darkness on what I learned in the light and regardless of what it feels like I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be.  Frustration, and yet, confidence in my calling.

Because I know that creation groans in longing for it's return to peace, and that God brings all things together for good for those who love him.  Because I know that ultimately, light trumps darkness and the good guys win. Desperation, and yet, hope.

At the same time.

And once again I find myself realizing how good it is that I can feel, because that means I am alive. 

So I will not hide my tears, nor will I squash my joys. This is life to the full, and for that, I am grateful.



08 September 2013

So I’m not often at a loss for words, but I’ve been staring at this blank document for a good twenty minutes, asking myself something along the lines of how on earth do I write about this last week?  So thanks for your patience, thanks for your prayers (if you’re my Facebook friend you probably saw a few random, vague prayer requests and are like, huh?) I’ll do my best here to bring it all together in a manageable, sensical state….


The last week of September was a biggie, with selection day and prep and lots of meetings and getting the hospital ready to start.  That Sunday, the 25th of August, a friend and I had been given the opportunity to speak to the crew about education and healthcare in Congo, and it went smashingly well.   We were asked to present it again on Friday to all the national offices in a virtual roundtable, which also went pretty well.  Dana Perino was onboard, the founder and much of the International Board was around, and it was just a crazy, exciting week.  I was trying to keep on top of it all while preparing to run our first medical conference the following week on Radiology.  The stretching continued, and I’m amazed and honored at the story and life experience that has brought me to this place to serve these people in a way that so beautifully utilizes so much of my strengths and skills; not for my own glory but for His.


Friday afternoon – I was in the middle of three conference calls in a row and needing to head to the airport afterward to pick up one of the radiology instructors, when I was asked to meet with one of our leaders in the cafĂ©.   A bit breathless after the crazy day and week and sprint that I had been on since the start of Congo, I sat down and was informed I would be heading to Brazzaville on Tuesday to speak and present Mercy Ships to the United Nations - World Health Organization, which was hosting a large gathering with delegations from 49 of the 52 African countries as well as a group from the headquarters in Geneva, including the Secretary General.

Okay. I said.  And then ran out to do the airport run.

I was really glad my car was full of people for the airport run as it allowed me to just drive and think and pray and not engage in conversation!  It was a blur of thoughts and prayers and emotions and excitement, but ultimately, I just want to honor and represent God and Mercy Ships to the best of my ability.  I trust the leaders here and know they wouldn’t ask me to do something like this without complete confidence that I could do it well.  And I know I have a gift with communicating, and I don’t get nervous in front of an audience, regardless of who is in the audience.  I’m just honored that I get to use that gift to bring glory to God and visibility to Mercy Ships, an organization I love and believe in.


The next day I had already made plans to go hiking with friends and debated as to whether that was the best idea or if I should stay behind to work on my talk, I’m really glad we decided I should go.  My dear friend and coworker Michelle was going to make up the PowerPoint for the presentation and go over with me on Sunday the things I needed to cover.  So I went out and hiked and enjoyed the beauty of creation and friendships and exercise and fresh air and freedom from marine grade glass and bulkheads and paperwork and computer screens. It was glorious.
Hiking through legit jungle.  Incredible.


Sunday I finalized some details for the Radiology course and did some laundry and worked with Michelle and then some other people on the presentation. We weren’t really sure about anything – not about how much time we would have or the setup of the room or whether or not we would have PowerPoint availability or even whether I should speak in English or French.  So we planned for most of those possibilities and I felt (mostly) ready for any of the above. 

I’ll admit I panicked a little tiny bit about what to wear.  I mean, I have some decently nice clothing but nothing seemed appropriate to be catapulted on to the world stage… But ultimately, I reasoned, I’m a volunteer who had three days’ notice. I couldn’t fly to Paris that weekend to go shopping and I didn’t know I would need a suit and can’t get one here. So I’ll wear the dressiest thing I have with me and that will have to be good enough.  And then, of course, it was.  Phew.

Monday began the course which went really well, and I was so thankful I had prepped my day crew well enough in the first few weeks that I felt confident enough to leave them to it whilst I was away. I borrowed a nice carryon bag and ironed a couple shirts and went over the presentation again and tried to get some good sleep.
A snapshot of students learning about ultrasound techniques
Tuesday I was out at the radiology course early as we were expecting press there that day. Sure enough they showed up and I was glad to have Jay, our PR/Media guru, present. Racing back to the ship to throw the rest of my stuff in my bag I was obviously a bit worked up and nervous as I completely forgot my passport – Brenda saved me and got it to me before we left the ship but if she hadn’t, I would have not probably realized it until we had reached the airport! Traffic was especially bad, too, and it took a long time to get there. I was travelling with one other Mercy Shipper and we would meet the third at the hotel. I’m always amazed at the stuff that goes on in an African airport that you would never see in the states; nothing dangerous, per se, but it’s always extremely loud with arguments erupting here and there and security hand searching every single bag and everyone hurrying up to wait. 

The flight itself was short and we were greeted in the airport by a driver who rushed us through passport checks, no standing in line this time!  Didn’t see much of Brazzaville but what I did see was nice; wide roads and traffic circles and big parks with pine trees (those somehow always seem out of place to me here in Africa).  We met up at the hotel and talked through what would happen that evening; as it turns out it was a bigger gathering than we had initially anticipated, they expected 500 attendees and it was all Ministers of Health, Ambassadors, government leaders, and high ranking officials.  It was a huge and actually unheard-of-before honor for Mercy Ships to present to this audience; to their knowledge it’s never been allowed for a non-profit to present at this level.  It was decided the best course of action was for me to speak in English and the PowerPoint to be in French, that way we wouldn’t lose half our time in translating every word but the message would get out appropriately in both languages. I was relieved; I knew I could do it OK in French but not knowing really what the venue or audience would be like I was glad to fall back into my mother tongue.   

Then we headed to our respective rooms and I stretched out on the huge king size bed after taking a long, hot shower.  Truth be told, that was one of the most fun things about the getaway; our ship beds are smaller than a standard twin and our showers are limited to two minutes, so to enjoy the luxury of space and time was a perfect way to be mentally ready for the big event that evening.  
Snap from my hotel window.  Grass!  Beautiful. :)


The dinner was held in a huge tent - but not like any tent I have ever seen.  This tent had chandeliers and air conditioning and a dance floor and a stage and seating for 500 around ornately decorated tables.  We were early as we wanted to make sure the PowerPoint would work and after a bit of fumbling around it did. Guests arrived by the hundreds through a receiving line of elegantly dressed hostesses, the music provided by two of Congo’s best-known musical groups.  Our presentation was the first and only presentation before dinner; I was thankful to find this out as then I knew I would actually enjoy dinner and conversation in a way I wouldn’t have had it been afterward! 

It went really well, even though the room setup was awkward and I couldn’t really see the screens, and our participation served its purpose; to put the name and mission of Mercy Ships in the minds and hearts of the 500 world health leaders in attendance. After we finished dinner was served and the music began; the musicians were very good but very loud and conversations were limited.  However, we made contact with a few people we needed to make contact with and then headed back to the hotel.  


The next morning, after a restless night and another obscenely long shower, I found out at breakfast that the delegation from a nearby country with which we (Mercy Ships) very much wants to build a relationship so as to serve there in the future would be coming back to the ship with us for a private lunch and tour… and I was invited to be a part of that.  Wow, what an honor!  We packed up and headed back to the airport and after an uneventful flight back to Pointe Noire I got to experience another first: travelling in a police-escorted motorcade! It was crazy, how fast we drove as the traffic parted like the Red Sea for our motorcade heading back to the ship.  Wow! Once we arrived at the ship we were ushered up to lunch and then the tour and translating and it’s honestly all kind of a blur to me but I remember looking around a few times and thinking about the previous 24 hours and thinking, how on earth did I end up here?


Once we saw the delegation off I dove head first back into Radiology course details among other meetings and projects and reports and people. I worked quite a long day Thursday and another long day Friday followed by dinner out with our instructors and back at it Saturday morning… but it was wonderful.  I love people and speaking and tours and relationships but couldn’t do that all the time or I would go crazy. I also love administration, details, reports, supporting others, but couldn’t do that all the time either or I would go crazy.  I love that this job allows me to do both. 


So that was my week. It was crazy and exhausting and exhilarating and entirely awesome.  This week should be much calmer, and I know that I need to settle in to the marathon pace for this field service, as a sprint is just not sustainable.  Thanks, my friends, for your support and prayers and thoughts and encouragement.  I have much more to write but will leave it at that for now…. Blessings- Krissy

Lingering Faces.

01 September 2013

As I think back on screening day, still digesting all that occurred and the lingering faces of those I met still flashing through my dreams, I’m again amazed at what it is that we do here.  It’s such an incredible honor to be a part of this, a part of life changing, hope bringing, awe inspiring love in such a tangible way.   I’m humbled and amazed at how blessed I am to be a part of their stories.

They were so patient. Their waiting began years ago, long before the big white ship pulled in to their port.  They arrived by the thousands and continued waiting.  I got to be out on the street several times throughout the day, talking with the line crew, and was always surprised at how quiet several thousand people can remain even through the heat of the afternoon.  The only scuffles came when someone tried to jump the line… which was thankfully just a few and was settled quickly. 

There were about 350 crewmembers working together, from all over the globe, along with another hundred and fifty day crew – all working alongside each other, collaborating and encouraging and hugging and helping.  Dana Perino spoke in our community meeting on Thursday night and that was one thing she really noticed about us – teamwork.  Surgeons consulting other surgeons, nurses with each other and doctors and caregivers, all working together to come to the best possible conclusion for that particular patient – which was not always a yes.  Sometimes the risks simply outweighed the potential benefits and even though it meant saying no, they said it anyway, with compassion and love and patience and grace. 

All of us were given a yellow card with our name on it.  As we entered the site we were to give our cards to the gate team; it was a quick way for the site commander to know exactly how many crew we had at any given time and to know exactly who was in the compound should any trouble happen.  Though it is no longer needed I won’t throw it away – I’m keeping it close to me as a reminder.  A reminder to pray. Every time I see it when I flash my own ship badge at security or the port gate, I will remember to pray for every single person we came in contact with that day – whether we said yes or no or we’re not sure or not yet – every one of them needs our prayers. 

I don’t long for my own children the way many single 30-somethings do; I love kids but don’t have a deep need or desire for my own.  Every so often I have encounters or experiences that make me appreciate that in a deep way- Screening day was one of those.  It was hard for me to say no, but it wasn’t the visceral tearing away of my heart and flesh the way Ali describes.  I think that moms can relate in a way that I simply can’t; I don’t know what it is like to have my heart walking around outside my body, and beyond that to see my child hurting or broken.  Honestly, I don’t think I could do this if I did. 

Thank you for being a part of their stories.  Until next time - Krissy
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