27 October 2013

My job is crazy.  One day I’ll find myself in high-stakes meetings with the office of the President of Congo and the next I’m playing a mailman, delivering letters to local hospitals. I’ve been sourcing and pricing pigs’ aortas and trotters (feet) for a basic surgical skills course and played translator in an operating room watching a delivery by caesarean. (It was a bit dicey for a bit but she perked up and found her lungs.) I’m managing a team of Congolese workers going in four different directions all at once and tracking statistics and writing reports for all our education programs.  Every day is different, which is something I absolutely love, and is stretching me beyond what I thought possible. And somehow it feels like, in the last week or week and a half or so, that I’ve crossed an invisible line; I suddenly feel like I know what I’m doing more than 50% of the time.  Even if it’s still actually only about 51% of the time that I know the answer when someone asks me something or feel confident in my ability to speak on behalf of the hospital, it’s a big jump from even 49%.  I’m so grateful for that.

The little one who scared us a bit with a difficult birth but perked up and found her lungs -
less than an hour old in this photo.

Community life is crazy.  I love this place.  Last weekend was our fall carnival (even though it's technically spring here in the southern hemisphere...) where I ran the cup stacking game, had my face painted, ate some amazing goodies, and laughed at the guys during the pie eating contest. 

The cup stacking game. Simple and fun. Perfect for me. :)

Lovely job, Catherine!

Pie eating contest.

I love and look forward to working in the café every Sunday morning with my fabulously wonderful friend Dianna. It’s such a joy to bless the crew in this way, and I get to meet and interact with people I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to interact with.  And I just really like making coffee drinks. 

Dianna and I this morning, announcing "come and get it!"
 I’ve started leading a new small group with the purpose of “talking in depth about things that matter.” We’re discussing the book The Utter Relief of Holiness by John Eldredge which is a really lovely conversation starter about what holiness is and looks like and I’ve been so deeply blessed by the conversations and friendships and love shared by the women I’m honored to meet with every week. 

I’ve joined the ship Toastmasters club, which is a place to learn how to become a better speaker and leader.  It’s an amazingly talented group of people that I love hearing speak and share and watching them be stretched.  I gave my first speech last week, the Ice Breaker, which was just about me; “Called” was the title and opened with I’m honored to be called a Toastmaster, and tonight I’m going to talk a bit about other things I’ve been called.”  It went really well and I’m looking forward to my next speech in a few weeks! 

I’ve started running again after taking a few weeks (months?) off.  I used to love getting up early a few days a week and running with friends but since the summer break I’ve really had a hard time getting out there; it’s a multitude of reasons including the stress of my job keeping me awake at night and if I do happen to get up early enough I tend to need that time for some solitude with God to prepare me for the day.  So a few weeks ago I decided to just try running a few evenings a week; gold star, it works for me!  I am sleeping better, feeling better, and look forward to crawling into bed after an evening run and shower.  I also look forward every week to playing Ultimate Frisbee on Friday evenings and then running back in to the port with Dianna. The field is pretty dusty and we get nice and sweaty so by the time we get back to the ship it kinda looks like we were rolling in the mud. 

So that’s my life in this season and I feel like I’m finally finding my stride, settling into the marathon pace after sprinting and stumbling and wondering how to survive for the last few months.   I’m so very grateful for the encouragement, prayers, financial support, surprises, love, and grace all my family and friends and coworkers and shipmates have offered during this last tough season. I couldn’t do this without all of you. 


Much love, Krissy


19 October 2013

Last week I had the privilege of leading a team to Dolisie, a small-ish town about four hours into the interior of Congo from our port city of Pointe Noire. One of the four general hospitals of Congo is located there, (two are in Pointe Noire and I spend quite a bit of time at both of them!) and we're looking into possibilities of training there, along with other things. The interior of Congo is really beautiful, it was a great trip with a great group.

The majority of the way was a very windy road through the jungle.

I forget how much I love nature until I get away from the Port and into the greenery... stunning.

Suddenly, just like driving from Western to Eastern Washington, we drove out of the forest into the savannah - totally different landscape!

A giant tree that has a history to it. I can't remember the story though. But there are tons of names carved in it.
We first went to the hospital and had a tour. Very nice place and the people were exceptionally welcoming and kind.  Then we went to our hotel...

Jen trying to learn French, with one of our translators, Davy.

The pool was a bonus we weren't expecting.  No one brought their swimsuits! 

That, my friends, is porcupine, and it was alright. None of the food was really that great...

Dolisie General Hospital

In the evening we went to the Agriculture site which is not far from Dolisie. Eliphaz explained about this piece of Mercy Ships that I previously didn't know much about.  We train people from all over the country on safe farming practices and natural pesticides, nutrition, animal raising, etc.  The idea is that no matter how awesome our medical programs are, if there isn't adequate nutrition in the country we are serving, it doesn't make a lasting difference.

The sunset was stunning.

Dolisie reminded me of any smaller town in Benin - very red.

On our way out of town we fed our fabric addiction at the local market! Thanks ladies for a fun trip!

Tweet-Tweet. (Alternative title: I killed the birdy and it changed my life)

17 October 2013

I liked it at first.  The little birdy ‘tweet-tweet’ that sounded with every incoming email.  And how handy – right in my pocket on my new-to-me hand-me-down Iphone, I would know the moment someone needed anything!  It was a cute little sound, one that made me smile at first, and made my officemates laugh.  What a great feeling, carrying around the tweet-tweet with me – oh, how I could bless others with my immediate response! How I could make myself available at a moment’s notice, wherever I am, to read and be ‘in the know’ the moment something gets announced, to put out the fire erupting somewhere, to be the one who swings in at the right moment with the right words to calm a situation or to solve a problem.

And really, I’ll be honest – It made me feel important. Needed.  Necessary.  All things that every single one of us wants to feel.  We crave it, in our innermost being – to be a critical part of something bigger than ourselves. And this is how that little tweet-tweet made me feel. 

I was okay with the fact that it went off in the middle of a conversation.  Oh, how important am I?  Let me check this email before I come back to our conversation.  Oh, this is a big deal, I need to take care of it RIGHT NOW. 

But then, over several weeks, something changed – the little tweet-tweet didn’t bring the shot of euphoria it once did. Hmmm, how did that happen?   Gradually as my workload continued to increase and the email traffic along with it, I found myself slightly irritated at the little birdy in my pocket – can I please just catch a few minutes away? But oh, I’m sorry, right, this might be something urgent, I’m glad I’ve got the little birdy with me to tell me when I need to be on my toes…. It doesn’t matter that it’s a weekend or I’ve worked a hundred hours this week. I love my job and am here to serve.  So, little birdy, I’m here for you.

And just like that, I became a slave to the little birdy.  Before long that tweet-tweet that would interrupt every single conversation, interaction, or meeting.  The first thing I did when I woke up and the last thing before going to sleep was to check emails, just one more time, to make sure there isn’t anything really important.   I would fall asleep thinking about how I would word a response to something, and then dream of my poor translating of an email getting me fired from my job. 

Oh Lord, forgive me.  Oh, my friends – to you whom I’ve turned away from conversation and heart connection and relationship to answer the little birdy, I’m so, so sorry. 

I went away for the last two days, on an interior hospital assessment (blog post with photos to come later), and for the first time in many weeks, the birdie was silenced. 

Oh, the relief! 

And then, the realization that sent me to my knees in repentance – one person does not sink a ship.  Especially this one, where every single day situations and interactions remind me that this is God’s ship, not ours. How arrogant of me to believe that I am really that important, that if I don’t respond this minute that something drastic might happen that only I can fix.  How many conversations and relationships have I missed out on because of the little birdy tweeting in my pocket? And how many other people were prevented from stepping up and helping out in a situation because I had the immediate response? And how much stress and sleeplessness could have been averted had I not become a slave to the tweet-tweet?

So this morning I killed the birdy.  I shut off the tweet-tweet notification that comes from every email.  I had rich and beautiful and complete conversations with friends and coworkers and had a marvelously productive day that was laced with grace and joy and a peace I haven’t felt since the birdy first took up residence in my pocket. 

The cry of my heart - That I would never again become slave to the urgent.  That I would be known for my love, peace, joy, kindness, goodness, and gentleness, and not for the ugliness that is arrogance and pride in me.  That I would rest in the shadow of His wings and speak life into His people and love well and live free.


A textbook for world changers (a must-read book!)

14 October 2013

I'm sure I've written about books before, thoughts from whatever I'm reading that stirs up wonderings and writings and conversations both here and in real life. But I don't think I've ever actively promoted a book before, until today.
The first line:
"Sometimes I wonder if life's greatest challenge is not finding your purpose in life, but surviving it."
Gasp. Sputter. Rush of adrenaline - this woman speaks my language.
(Her name, by the way, is Sarah Cunningham and I like to think of her as a close personal friend.  Not really, but we did share an email conversation after the gasp-sputter-rush of adrenaline caused me to stalk her blog and Facebook page... actually, I just wanted to bless her and say thank you and she replied!) 
In those 17 little words she has summed up this last season for me.  I've found my purpose in life... now I'm trying to survive it!
It's full of short (2-3 page) shots of wisdom, insight, honesty, and truth, directed at those of us who have said yes to the call to serve and are now trying to navigate the sometimes murky waters of faith and calling and serving and maintaining our sanity.
"We will marvel at the endless lines of people in need (Screening day, anyone?), tremble at systemic issues so huge they seem un-dentable (corruption, greed, poor infrastructure, lack of compassion, on and on and on....), and shed blood, sweat, and tears and the two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress that can leave us wounded and panting for breath from what seems like an uphill battle."
(from the intro of the book, but the stuff in parenthesis is my own thoughts)
Wow, ya think? Welcome to my world. Seriously.
"In the meantime, our task is to learn to live well in the learning curve - to settle in and find a home in the tension between the way things are and the way we hope they will one day be."
Yes and Amen.
So, because I could seriously write the entire intro here as amazing writing, and I haven't even gotten into the meat of the book, I must leave it at that lest I get myself into a sticky situation involving copyright infringement or something.
But seriously- I would love this to be highly-suggested reading for every Mercy Shipper (especially long term as it addresses burnout prevention quite well).  And get this--
Its only $3.03 on Amazon Kindle right now as a new-release promotion. So get over to Amazon and get this little gem.  And I promise I'll be writing more of my thoughts about some of what she says in future blog posts.
oh, and if you get it, and read it, let me know 'cause I would love to talk with you about it over a hot (or cold, really) beverage sometime.  
Oh, and just to be clear - I don't actually know Sarah or have any vested interest in her selling her book except that I think it's brilliant and she actually did reply to my thank-you email, which I thought was very sweet.  :)

Come and get it!

13 October 2013

My new favorite thing to do on a Sunday morning - open up the Café with my lovely friend Dianna and bless crewmembers with a java jolt/sweet treat/sugar bath for their teeth. :)

Dianna's doodling on the countertop.
My attempt at Dianna's caramel macchiato... oops. 

Dianna enjoying said macchiato... after I cleaned it up a bit.

Caroline, Dianna's oldest daughter, is so helpful and rings people up so I can focus on other things like the music we are playing or the drinks being ordered.

Michelle so happy with her java jolt and soda!

Emma, Dianna's littlest one, feeding Tom's fish on his ipad.  Thanks, Tom, for entertaining Emma!

Me and my partner in crime, Dianna. I am so grateful for this lovely friend.

Sarah got so excited about her beverage she lost her neck. :)
Anyway, so there are a few photos of my morning. It truly brings me such joy to be able to bless others and sing 90's music with Dianna and dance and laugh and do something completely different than my 'regular job' here on the ship. I'm already looking forward to next week! Thanks to all the AFM crew who come by and bring joy - so grateful for each of you!

May your Sunday bring you as much joy as it has already brought me! (and it's not even 1pm!) :) Love to all - Krissy


11 October 2013

This is me.  Right now. Tonight. I'm still here, still smiling. Thumbs up, even.  Just wanted to send this (terrible webcam photo) out to my friends and family wondering if I've survived this last season... It's been hard, no question. But awesome. Not in a fuzzy, laughing, feel good kind of awesome but in a stretching, growing, exhausting and entirely fulfilling awesome. 

I will attempt to write more this weekend.  Hopefully. No promises.  As one lovely friend put it this week - she said, "you, my friend, are on a speedboat heading to big things... and God has got you there - so hang on!!" - Yes, this is what it feels like! So I'm just trying to hang on. 

Love to all - Krissy

Rock, or sand.

02 October 2013

It's a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet and what is sand.

~Madeline L'Engle

So if you’re a regular to my blog you have probably read that I’ve had a rough couple of weeks – in fact, this post is probably the saddest thing I’ve ever written.  I hemmed and hawed (who says that?) about hitting ‘publish’ for quite a long time, and eventually did… because that was the reality of my life, and not just a one hour or one day mood swing (which I will never write about!) but a two or three week stretch of time that was just hard.  I won’t ever publish something that I don’t feel a peace about sending, regardless of the content.  And generally the posts that are the hardest to hit ‘publish’ are the ones that resonate the most with others… and this was no different.

I’m quite honestly humbled and honored by some of the feedback I’ve gotten.  I’ve felt loved and supported and encouraged and even challenged a bit, all wonderful things. But the thing that has surprised me the most is the comments from people here on the ship.  I’m partially surprised by how many people here actually read my ramblings, but the overwhelming theme of all responses has been:

I feel the same way.

I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one who feels that way.

You could be writing my own thoughts right now.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Oh, friends, you are not alone. Come sit with me in the dining room and we’ll chat. J  But really, I’m just grateful that God has once again used my rambling words to speak to the hearts of his people.   

And there’s something about authenticity that lessens the weight of whatever is heavy on your heart.  I’m feeling better, putting one foot in front of the other, just doing what I know to do to the honor and glory of my creator and trusting him with the rest.  And like the quote above, I do think it’s important to take these opportunities to really press into seeing and understanding what you’ve built yourself and your identity on – the rock, or the sand.
 - Krissy
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