Monday, December 29, 2014

Gifts.

Gift [gift] noun
1. Something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.
2. Something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned.

This season brought something out in me that I didn’t like.  I’ve wrestled with it and cried and complained and whined and wrestled some more, and then of course thought why don’t I write about it so the whole world can have a window into my very pathetic-ness… Because I know I can’t be alone in this.

Gift giving, and gift receiving, somewhere along the line, was hijacked from what was once intended to be a beautiful thing; a way of showing love and affection and appreciation, voluntarily without payment in return…

It has turned into a joy-stealing competition and an open door for self loathing, pointing out my  failures and inadequacies.

Wow, seems a lot harsher when I put it in black and white, but I can’t soften it… Because it was so true in me this year… And I don’t want it to be true any longer.

~~~

There are some amazing people out there with incredibly giving hearts who have no ulterior motive in gift giving except to bless and love on the recipient.  And that is so beautiful and a lovely reflection of the heart of God, who gave and continues to give freely with no strings attached.

Gift giving is one of the five love languages, a fabulous book if you haven’t read it… And I will let you in on a little secret – its not mine.

I’m not a natural gift giver. And while I try to receive them well, this year I found it especially hard, as all I could think was oh no, I didn’t get her anything! Which quickly morphed in to I’m a terrible friend.

~~~

It looks different everywhere… Back in my previous life it looked like that deep need to one-up last year’s gift. It might look like the need to be the one who spends the most, or the one with the handmade pinterest paper and perfectly tied ribbons; the parents who are frantically searching for that one thing that their child must have this christmas;  or carefully comparing each receipt, making sure the same amount is spent on each child or family member, or making sure everyone has at least a few big gifts, so one doesn’t feel left out or less loved because of the size of the pile of presents.

Christmas and the heart behind the exchanging of gifts was long ago hijacked by marketing schemes and toy makers; it’s a good business model and I don’t fault them for that, having worked retail much of my younger days I know how important it is, this isn’t a soapbox against marketing or presents or santa or any such thing.

It’s a soapbox I’m standing on to ask, why? What is our motive?

One would think it would be different on the ship, and it is to some extent. We don’t have a huge amount of stuff, the ability to get it or the space to put it.  But the same question remains.

I know there were  crewmembers who were frantically writing out more christmas cards at ten thirty on Christmas eve, because they saw they had received gifts or cards from someone and hadn’t given them anything. There were comments in the hallways about the huge piles in front of some peoples’ doors, other comments like what if they have a small pile? They might feel bad! So lets go dig around under the bed to find something to give away to someone they barely knew just to make sure no one felt bad.

To which I ask… When did our self worth become tied to the size of our Christmas gift pile?

~~~

I see the same thing happening concerning birthdays on the ship, I feel like somehow its become fact that the value of a crewmember directly coincides with the extravagance of hallway decorations that greet them that morning.  Over the two and a half years I have been here, I have seen door decorations get bigger and bigger and spread into hallways and offices and entire sections of the ship.  And really, let me reiterate, I have no problem with this at all! If you want to decorate for a friend, by all means, go for it.

But I just want to ask as i often do, what is the motive?

When I saw someone just a few weeks ago frantically getting some friends gathered to throw together some paper and glitter and balloons to get on someones door because… Heaven forbid… Its her birthday tomorrow and we didn’t know!!! The despair in her eyes and the panic in her voice seemed exceptional for the circumstances, as if somehow by not knowing when someones birthday is we admit that we are a failure as a human.

~~~

I’m not really a terrible gift-giver, its just that I don’t want to be dictated to by marketers or Hallmark that I need to love and appreciate my friends and family on one particular day over all others.  I’ve written before how I feel about Valentines Day, how I don’t ever want to be with someone who feels the need to give me flowers or candy on that particular day. I don’t want my friends to feel loved and appreciated on Christmas, I want them to feel loved and appreciated every single day.

I want to give them a birthday card on a random day in the middle of the year, because I want to celebrate the fact that they were born, not just on one day but on any day.

I want to give a gift to a friend because I know they love it and because I love them, not just because the calendar says its December 25th and that is what I am supposed to do.

I want to pick up special things for special people when I think fondly of them, when I see something special that I know they will love, and give it to them when we can enjoy the gift together.  Not buy gift cards online and send them in the mail because I life a couple thousand miles away.  That just feels heartless.

~~~

The best gift?

It's different for different people.  But for me, the best gifts I have ever received and treasure more than any other are words.

Words that are written out of love, treasured and holy.  I can’t remember the number of people who gave me peanut butter m&ms or various other sweets last year for christmas, but I absolutely do remember the special cards, because I still read them.  Put a sticky note or a scratch piece of paper on my door with sweet words and I guarantee I will save them.  There is no better response to feeling bad about your state of affairs than to say it is written… I am loved.

Sometimes I feel bad just offering words. Like, sorry I can't be cool enough or rich enough or clever enough to give you a real gift, but all I have to offer is my heart… Er, my words.  But just today someone told me how much they have treasured something I wrote for them, and I am reminded how life giving words are. When I was away from the ship for several weeks with advance, a dear heart friend asked what I would like for her to send me.  Could you just send me some words, please?  Honestly, I love getting care packages in the mail, but what really really warms my heart and encourages me in this marathon called life? Words.


~~~

My birthday is coming up… and I want to give every single person reading this permission to give me nothing. My worth is not tied to my gift pile or the number of people at a party or the amount of decorations on my door.  I don’t need any of that.  (Especially not balloons. I don’t like balloons.)   But the flip side is, if you do want to give me something, I will try really hard not to be the grinch I was at Christmas, unable to receive anything well.  (Sorry friends.)

But this post was not intended to be about my birthday.  This post was written to give you, and me, permission to live and breathe and give, free of fear.

Generosity is a beautiful thing. It is a reflection of the heart of God.  Goodness knows I live on the generosity of others, its my very existence. Gifts are a beautiful thing, with the right heart and motives.  And my attitude and motives this season were not good.  So, here is my proposal to you, my friends…

I won’t give gifts out of fear of being a bad friend or daughter or human.
I wont give gifts because someone sometime in history decided I should on one particular day.
I will celebrate and love my friends and family the best way I can, not just one day of the year but every day.
I will receive gifts with love and appreciation for those that are giving, and I will not feel like a failure as a friend or human for not giving something in return.

May you know the beauty and love of our generous Father this final stretch of 2014. Xxk

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Thrill of Hope.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.


Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

~from O Holy Night, penned by John Sullivan Dwight

I’ve got so much to write I can’t figure out where to start, so instead of pulling together my own words out of the jumbled mess I start with these beauties.  These holy, inspired words that have been rattling around incessantly since the beginning of the Advent season, the season of waiting.  The words encouraging my soul to feel its worth, the words that regularly bring me to my knees in reverence to the king who was born on this day, words that for some reason resonate more deeply this year than ever before. Today it’s a different phrase of the same haunting lyrics that has got a hold on my heart.

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Weary [weer-ee] adj.

                -Physically or mentally exhausted by hard work, exertion, strain, etc.
                -Fatigued; spent; tired; empty.

My heart is weary. Last week was one of the hardest weeks I’ve experienced in a long time, for various reasons to be explained at a different time and place.  I’ve been pushing hard since I left Gran Canaria to start Madagascar advance and haven’t really stopped more than a day here and a day there; in the marathon that is this life and this season, I’m still running but at a very slow pace and it’s time for a fuel break.  I am not alone in this; just about every person I have talked with on the ship in the last few days has made mention of the weary they feel.  My lovely friend Deb captured it beautifully here, the same words haunting her that have haunted me.

Thankfully, I know the bigger story at play.

Though I feel completely empty, my heart rejoices with hope – in my small story, this is the promise of some time away, of mental recharging, of relaxing with friends and a good book and no demands or devices or expectations or emails. And that is wonderful and I can’t wait. 

But in the bigger story, the story of ages and centuries and the rise and fall of the human race, hope is worth rejoicing in.  The world is weary, life is just hard sometimes, we find ourselves separated from our creator in a way that was never mean to be and left us fractured and broken and desperate… for hope. If we can get our focus off ourselves for just a few seconds and realize the magnitude of the beauty found in the manger, the promises he brought on his sojourn here on earth, we would not be able to contain the thrill that is hope. 

Dwell on that for a minute.

Do you feel the thrill? The wonder of it all? The joy that is ours to claim, from a baby born in a barn who came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. The hope that there is more than just this, that we are part of something bigger than our small stories; and I know my weary heart will soon be renewed, as will the weary world, one day.

A new life brings hope. And hope breathes life into weary hearts.  Beauty, in life.

Fall on your knees.

And the weary world rejoices. Oh, that we might know the depth of this night, the significance of the baby we celebrate together, the thrill of hope that he brings for you and I.  This is my prayer for you, this holy night, this night divine.

Much love to all, and Merry Christmas.

~Krissy
 
 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lefse!

I've come back to the ship from a long ten days in Antananarivo running a course and meeting with some governmental officials... I promise I will write more about that trip, and the work I get to do, but today I managed to serve coffee in the morning, get about four hours worth of work done in two, and then got to make lefse!!
If you know my family at all you know this is a staple throughout the Christmas season.  It's a Scandinavian thing, a thin potato pancake that my family usually eats with butter and sugar. Well, this is my sixth Christmas season in Africa and the first time I've gotten to be a part of making some of this delicious treat! It was a fun time! And knowing my family is together today eating lefse too, on the other side of the earth, makes my heart both miss home but be happy because at least we have one thing in common today. :)
 
I am sure my sister's lefse will be much prettier, as she actually has an official lefse stick and griddle, but here in Africa we make do with pancake turners and fry pans.  It was absolutely delicious. Thanks to Ann-Marie and Tom for making it happen!!

 








Sunday, December 14, 2014

And the Soul Felt its Worth.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
                ~from O Holy Night, penned by John Sullivan Dwight

I can’t stop thinking about these words.

I love Christmas carols… there is so much depth to them.  They aren’t just some words we sing in this particular season, they are words that were written to commemorate the depth of the season, the reality of what it means to have a Savior.

But these words in particular this year are resonating, deep into my core.  The world was fallen, then He came… and the soul felt its worth.

Sit with that thought a minute.

Until recently these were just words, sung but not dwelled upon, hidden in a season full of songs that are rich with meaning but sung from memory while thinking of other things.  At first it doesn't seem like a big deal.  Like, huh? That’s why he came?  But the longer I sit with it… the longer I can’t get it out of my head, the longer I realize… That is why he came.

It’s easier to think of in regards to someone else.  When I think of my friends, the people I love, that’s what I long for and pray for, for them – that she would just know and understand how amazing she is!  That she is so deeply loved for who she is, that she is so beautiful in her pursuit of God… I just want her to know that!
                                                                                                                                      
Because of Jesus, we are deeply valued and deeply loved, regardless of sin or circumstance or decision or life choices or situation.  And we are worth fighting for, to come out of the shell of a person we have become due to those things.  You, the real, deep, truest version of you – is what he came for.  And he wants to set you free.

I came to proclaim the good news and set people free. ~Jesus (Luke chapter 4)

And really… my heart wants it too.  I read this line… and the soul felt its worth… and I feel a tug in the center of my being; a longing, an ache, a whisper of could it be?  I want that… I want my soul to feel its worth.

I know I am just beginning to understand the depth of this.  I’m starting to taste what true freedom is, and how much worth my soul has.  How feelings of inadequacy, failure, feeling generally worthless… how those things have plagued me for too long, how untrue they actually are, how much my heart matters to God.  So does yours.

If we know who we are… if we know our worth, as sons and daughters of the King… we can do absolutely anything.  We can walk with our heads high and not be prisoners of insecurity and comparison and other insidious things that can take us right out of life to the full.  If we know our worth… we can move mountains.

And that is the miracle of the savior born in a barn.  We were once lost, then…

He appeared…. And the soul felt its worth.



Friday, December 12, 2014

Transformation.

What do I actually do here?

It’s a great question.  Quite valid and I apologize for not being more clear more often about what kind of work I am up to.  I manage to post photos of tropical getaways and funny animals and different foods; but I’ve not managed to write anything as of late about what I am here doing, what I have been called to do, what I have been supernaturally equipped and wildly blessed and monumentally honored to be a part of.   It’s one that will take more than one post to answer, so prepare yourselves.

The short answer?  I manage our Medical Capacity Building programs.

The better answer? I get to be a part of transformation.

Transform – v. [trans-fawrm]
1. to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose.
2. to change in condition, nature, or character; convert.

Everyone on the Africa Mercy gets to be a part of transformation, within both of these definitions.  We see it every single day – in our patients.  We see a young man who must hang his face to hide the tumor that once defined his future leave our hospital with his head held high.  We see a young girl who cannot run and play with her friends learn how to use her new legs and dance her way home again.  We see a woman who has lived in hiding for years because of her incontinence have her fistula repaired and her outlook on life completely renewed.  We see a little baby with a broken smile made whole, whose mama can take him out in public again and who will never know the rejection that was once his future.

It’s incredible.

I pray that those beautiful eyes and hearts will find new hope; that their transformation would go beyond physical, that they would rise up in the greatness they are created for, and that they would lead their nation into a future of abundance and favor and hope.

But there is more.

Because if all we did was come in and fix the broken faces and legs and hearts, that would be incredible.  What is even more incredible is…. that isn’t all we do. 

The reason we are able to come in and transform patients?  The care they need is either not available here or they can’t get to it or afford it.

My dream for this nation, and every one that we visit, is really to put myself out of a job. 

I dream of a day when every person in Madagascar is able to have access to the care they need.  I want to see a transformation in this country that means that Mercy Ships will no longer be needed to bring hope and healing.   And I think it is possible.  Because transformed people can transform nations.

The transformation that I get to be a part of is among these incredible Malagasy healthcare professionals with whom I have come to know and love.  It’s not a transformation that happens overnight.  It all starts with relationship – the thing I have been doing since my feet first touched this land just over three months ago – building relationships.  I’ve seen too many broken programs that come in and try to fix problems without first building relationships with the people.  Those are the programs that don’t last beyond a week after the team departs, or the clinic that is beautifully renovated falling into disrepair just a few months later.  Relationship is key, and it builds up from there. 

I had the privilege of sharing my heart with the greater Mercy Ships organization a few weeks ago and talked through the process of transformation.  Here’s the summary:

It starts with relationship.

Once a relationship is built, over time and commitment, you build a level of trust.

Then, and only then, it’s time to impart knowledge/skills/attitudes (teaching or infrastructure).

That step, in collaboration with relationship and trust and more relationship, can lead to behavior change.

True transformation comes when you have all of these things, plus… Behavior change is good, but anyone can grudgingly wash their hands or try to be nicer to patients.  Behavior change within a relationship with a level of trust, and a pinch of faith, can transform a person from one who just follows rules to one who dreams big dreams; believes passionately and strongly in improving things that can be improved, encouraging and championing change in their immediate environment, and pressing forward to change systems and structures and ultimately a national health system.

Transformed people – transformed hospitals – transformed national health system.

It’s possible.

That’s enough words for today.  I will endeavor to write more about specifically what that looks like for me, in the everyday and in my dreams for the future.


Dr. Andry, one of our education participants, with Dr. Frank and a patient. 


xxk

Monday, December 1, 2014

Calendars, postcards, and dreams

I just spent the most incredible weekend in the most beautiful place on earth.  It's seriously a place of calendars, postcards, and dreams - crystal clear waters, sunshine, amazing friends to share it with and an amazing God to thank for it.  I've not been this relaxed since summer and I'm already looking forward to the next time I can find myself in this place called paradise. 

All these photos courtesy of the ever lovely Jen.  I know there are other good ones out there that I must collect from fellow adventurers, but here's a taste. 

















Thursday, November 27, 2014

This life I lead.

This life I lead, it's so completely beyond anything my wildest imagination could have ever conjured up when I was a child dreaming of the future. This is my sixth Thanksgiving in Africa; five different countries (the first two were both in Benin) and a million different adventures, friends who have come and gone and some who have come again, different jobs and different seasons and heartache and joy and new passions and people and bigger dreams for the future.  I've held audiences with various heads of state and United Nations officials and I've negotiated with butchers for pigs feet and I've seen life enter the world and I've grieved it's departure. I've learned bits and pieces of dozens of languages, I've seen miracles in patients and even in my own heart, I've had moments where I can't imagine going one more step and I've had moments where I've wondered how on earth I could have ever gotten to be so so so blessed. I'm so grateful, this Thanksgiving day, for the honor and the privilege and the blessing it is, this life I lead.

But.

This is the sixth Thanksgiving I am far far far away from my mom and her pecan pie and my nana's mashed potatoes and gravy.  I have a nephew I've never met and a niece who wouldn't recognize me if I walked through the door.  Friends have lost touch or moved or get wrapped up in their own lives and families and seasons, and hearing "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams" brings tears to my eyes every. single. time.

I love this life I lead, but it comes at a cost.  I'm thankful today for so many things, not the least of which is my family here in Madagascar and there in Benin and there in Seattle and there in Minnesota and there wherever else you find yourself today. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Seasons.

I’ve been trying to put words to this season for several weeks; a brief, three or four words that can adequately describe what the last several months has been like.  I can’t do it. It’s still the beginning of the field service so it feels like it should still be August.  I completely forgot about Thanksgiving, without all the black Friday TV commercials and hoopla bombarding my eyes and ears it was a surprise to my system to hear others talking of the meal planned on the ship next week.  Emails from family asking for Christmas wish lists seem ridiculous in the sweltering humidity in the middle of the Malagasy summertime and even though I have lived in Africa for five and a half years I don’t know that it will ever become normal. But the sun rises and the sun sets and this season, whatever it is, keeps moving forward.

It’s a season of busy: I haven’t really stopped since getting the notice back in Gran Canaria of surprise, you’re heading to Madagascar this weekend!  Somehow we managed to get just about four months’ worth of work done in six weeks; my sagging clothing a result of many skipped meals due to being so pressed for time, and my deep love for this place and these people tribute to the blood, sweat, tears, and love I have had the privilege of investing so deeply already.  My quiet blog is testament to the fact that while we all have the same 24-hours in a day, I’m choosing to use mine in something other than writing lately.  And that’s okay. 

It’s a season of confidence: Last year this same week I was running my very first medical education course called Basic Surgical Skills. As the calendar would have it, we’re running it again starting on Monday and it’s like night and day compared to last year.   Last year I fumbled my way along hoping I wouldn’t mess up things too badly; this year, I know what I am doing, and I know what needs to happen to make it absolutely the best course we can possibly produce.  I’m training my (incredible) new assistant in how to manage the chaos that is my job, with none of it being particularly hard but rather the difficulty is found in managing two zillion small non-difficult details without losing your mind.   I’m finding my voice in meetings where I was too afraid to speak up before, realizing I do in fact have some valuable experience to draw on as we are growing and improving our Healthcare Education program.  I’ve got a lot more to learn, of course, but it’s a huge blessing to not constantly feel like a little kid sitting at the grown-ups table.

It’s a season of realistic boundaries: Thanks to so many things – my (incredible) assistant, my own confidence in my work, my comfortably bilingual tongue, and my better understanding of what is really important, I’m finding my work isn’t taking over my life as it once was.  I work a lot, yes, and I love my work and it’s still a busy season.  There are things that cannot wait – for example, today (Saturday) I am spending the morning trying to sort out problems at the slaughterhouse for the animal tissue we need for the surgical course, and this afternoon writing a report I haven’t found the time to write that’s due by the end of this week.  Tomorrow I have to set up for the course and meet the instructors and get everything set for the course that starts Monday. However, next weekend? I’m going away with NO devices and NO email access for three whole days.  And those emails that come in on Friday evening or over the weekend? They can wait.  I don’t have to answer my phone at all hours of the night and day and week and I’m not going to get fired for choosing time with friends in the evening over working another fourteen hour day. Reality is we are all giving of ourselves every single day and last year at this time I wasn’t sure I would make it; this year? I’m loving it.

It’s a season of challenge:  Learning to walk in big-girl shoes brings out a whole new set of challenges: managing a team, trusting and empowering them but not giving them so much they feel they are drowning; keeping on top of things without being controlling; trying out new ideas that might be amazing but might also be a complete disaster and not allowing fear of failure determine my next steps.

It’s a season for others:  One of the joys that has come from it being a season not of drowning but of growth is that I find myself thinking so much less about myself and my own survival and much of my thoughts are on others… a very welcome relief. How can I bless someone today? Who around me needs a friend? What words of life can I offer or hope can I bring to a situation or relationship?  What is the most selfless thing I can do in this situation?  It’s such a joy to my soul to feel balanced in this, to pursue relationship with others as my heart longs for the same, to not feel like I’m the one sucking life out of those around me but rather asking God how I can live and breathe and ooze life and joy to all those I have the privilege of encountering. 

It’s a season of walking it out: I have let fear rule my life for far too long; insecurity, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of what others might think, of being too needy, of being too much, of not being enough, of being abandoned or forgotten or humiliated.  Over the last several years I’ve come to recognize these things for what they are, to speak life and pursue truth and understand the reality that a woman created in the image of God does not need to live in fear.  I know the truth, but knowledge is nothing if it is not walked out in actions.  So in this season of being brave I find myself gathering courage regularly to walk it out.  And every time I don’t succumb to fear and do ask the questions or say the words or do the thing I’m supposed to do, I can hear that still small voice whispering to my weary heart Well Done.  

It’s a beautiful season, a season I am so honored and privileged to have been called to, a season filled with joy and truth and life at its fullest.  To all of you who have walked the path with me, who have supported this journey, who have prayed and loved and given of yourselves and your words and your time and your resources and your life… Thank you.  I am deeply grateful. 


Sunset over Tamatave, from the gangway.
 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lychee 101.

This morning I went to the market and bought this bag.  What is it, you ask? 
 
 
It's Lychees.  Fresh. Grown locally.  Growing up in very non-tropical locations has meant I, at 33 years old, have never seen a lychee.  In fact, I had to ask a friend what a lychee was anyway, as we had heard it talked about here.  (it is a fruit.)

 
They kind of look like strawberries growing on a bush. This lovely bag full from the market cost me 3000 Ariary (just over one dollar.)


The outside has a tough skin. 

 
The inside, a soft, juicy, kind of slimey white pulp. One doctor I was with said it is the same exact consistency of eyeballs... and wouldn't eat them.

 
So to eat them you peel off the top part of the red skin...
 

... and pop it out of the rest of the skin, right into your mouth. Then, between your teeth and tongue, you need to get all the white slimey juicy pulp off the seed in the middle, without biting into the seed.  (it's not dangerous or anything... just doesn't taste very nice.)  This can take some practice.
 

 
And this is what is left.  And with nine fresh lychees, you have consumed your daily requirement of vitamin c... but other than that, they have very little nutritional value. 
 
But they sure are yummy!  A very social fruit, best when shared among friends. :)
 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

My home came home.

 So I blinked or something, and suddenly it's Thursday, and a lot of life has happened in the last few weeks.

I went to Mahajanga on the other side of the country to assess some hospitals there.
Beautiful town, beautiful sunset. 

I flew back to Tamatave in a tiny plane and could almost reach out and touch the clouds.

Finally my home came into view and I cried a little tiny bit (in happiness).

Then I snapped the epic happy picture. Better than Christmas morning.

Watching my home come home. 


Then the President and his wife, and the Prime Minister and his wife came over with a couple hundred friends.
(photo cred Mercy Ships)

They toured our hospital and were visibly moved.
(photo cred Amy Jones)

So much love on my door.  I cried again.  I love this place. 

Since then I have been reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, working hard to move dreams into reality, and loving the people around me.  It is such a privilege.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Brave.

This is a season to be brave. ~God

~~~
Brave [breyv]
          adj. Possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance.            
           vb.  To meet or face courageously.

I want to be brave.

I know what many of you are thinking. “Krissy, you are one of the bravest people I know.”  I’ve left everything I know behind and moved across continents and oceans, several times, and most people think that is pretty brave.  But if you look at the definition of brave, it says nothing about moving far away or jumping out of a plane or climbing a mountain or any of the activities many of us think only those really brave people can do.  It says someone who is brave is someone who has courage.  

Being brave means doing that thing; that thing that makes you cringe, that makes your heart beat out of your chest, that scares you to your center.  Doing it, because you need to do it… because God told you, or because it’s the right thing, or whatever the reason is.  That is brave. 
 
And that might be leaving all you have and moving across the world.  But really? That wasn’t brave, for me.  That’s just me being me, God put this wandering heart in me and I was just following that.  It didn’t scare me. 

God put the whisper in my heart this morning - This is a season to be brave. And I had to wonder, Huh? What does that mean for me? For this season? At this time and in this place? 

(I’m about to get really real… prepare yourself)

~~~

What is my brave?  

My brave is knocking on the door of a friend when I am feeling lonely and sad, instead of sitting alone in my bed because I am afraid to bother them or to be too needy or fear they might not want to put up with me any longer.

My brave is speaking up in a medical training planning meeting even though I have no medical background or academic credibility in this field, instead of keeping quiet out of fear that my idea really is stupid.

My brave is hitting the publish button on this blog when it’s finished, instead of just keeping it to myself.

Even just putting those three things down on this word document gets my blood pressure up.

I want to be brave.

~~~

My brave today was hitting send on an email to friends about planning a weekend getaway.  It seems so silly and kind of ridiculous to say it… but I hemmed and hawed and paced and admittedly even got teary with the fear of hitting send.  
What was I so afraid of?  What if they don’t want to come because they really don’t like me and don’t want to spend the weekend with me but won’t tell me that because they are just really nice people and so they are stuck with me for a weekend and they will be miserable and I won’t know it or maybe I will and then I will be miserable and maybe I should just not send it and no one would want to go on a weekend with me anyway so it was just a stupid idea in the first place. Idiot.  
Wow. 
But the whisper. Be brave. You can do it. Regardless of what might happen.  Be brave.  
So I hit send. 
 
~~~

What is your brave?

It might be getting behind the wheel of an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar country, knowing you will make mistakes, but doing it anyway.

It might be telling your family or your significant other or a friend a deep dark secret, but on the other side will be joy and freedom.  Be brave.

It might be saying yes to a pay cut to move to a job you really love, even though it will require sacrifices of your family.

It might be asking the waiter to please bring you another beverage because the first one just isn’t right, even though you hate the thought of being needy or demanding in any way, shape, or form.

It might be hitting publish or hitting send or hitting post when it feels like you’ve put your heart out on the line, but know deep down it is right.  Be brave.

It might be leaving your job to stay home and raise the kids.  It might be putting your kids in daycare and going back to work. It might be committing to take that trip you have always dreamed of, or committing to live on a budget, or serving in a local soup kitchen, or deciding to invest in the lives of local college students. 

Your brave looks different from my brave.  But it is still brave.
 
~~~

Here is something really cool about being brave: It encourages others to be brave, too.

I had a friend who sat me down a few weeks ago and told me some things that were difficult to hear.  That was brave.  She didn’t have to do that, she didn’t know what my reaction would be.  She could have just ignored the issues or told someone else to tell me or even sent me an email.  But she didn’t, because she cares enough for me to be brave and step out and trust God in it all.  I needed her to be brave, I needed to hear those words.  I am a better person because she was brave. 

And then she told me some things my heart was desperate to hear.  Really? You want to be my friend? Really???  She was brave and in turn it gave me the courage to be brave too.  I was able to say things I had been so afraid to say before.  And our friendship is stronger because of it.  My prayer is that I would continue to be brave with her and with others, sharing my heart when it seems pretty scary and I am not sure what might happen, but trusting her and trusting God in her. 

Every time I have needed to be brave and hit send or publish, it has blessed someone else.  How do I know? They tell me.  Every time I have broken through the fear and actually knocked on someone’s door or asked someone to come sit with me when I have been upset about something has brought beauty to the heart and the relationship.  Somehow, it’s still scary though, and I don’t do it nearly as often as I should or could.  Maybe this publish will change that.

If I am brave, maybe that will encourage others to be brave. That’s a good enough reason for me.

 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

One week.

One week, and I will be standing on the dock waving like a maniac as my home and heart family pull up alongside.

I can't wait.

Advance has been incredible - we have had so much favor, and have accomplished what everyone thought would be impossible.  We've nearly got four months worth of work done in six weeks... well, more than four months, if you take into consideration we like the first assessment trip to be a year before ship arrival, and the second six months or so before, then advance arrives four or five months before the ship... well, it's pretty miraculous really. 

And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be here, to represent Mercy Ships and the hospital and the incredible people who are sailing now who will pour out their love and hope and faith and healing on this country and these people I have grown to love.

It's not been an easy time, but it has been fruitful.  I miss my friends and I miss my coworkers and I miss having a desk to work at and a bed that is not shared.  I really miss serving coffee on Sunday mornings, I miss running and community and post-its on my door and anonymous blessing text pages.  So, needless to say, I am looking forward to my home coming home, in one week.

I can't believe how much I love these people and how much I love the hospital where I will spend a large percentage of my time over the coming months.  Here's an awesome snap by Ruben with me doing what I love most - chatting with and loving on people in the hospital.

 
 
Africa Mercy - blessings on your voyage and may the seas be kind to you.  See you soon!

 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

This heart of mine.

It’s late evening on Sunday night in Madagascar.  I took the advice of several friends and colleagues and didn’t ‘work’ much today… but it was hard.  Not because I feel burdened or stressed – quite the opposite in fact.  I’m so passionate and there is so much joy in me to do that which I have been called, I can’t wait to get back to it!

So I’m sitting here reflecting on where the last year and a half has brought me.  A year and a half ago, I turned down this job.  More than once.  I didn’t think it was for me, it wasn’t what I was called to do, and really, if I was honest, I didn’t really care about the health care systems in Africa.  Or really the people that much.  I felt I had been called to serve the crew of the Africa Mercy and I loved it… and that was it.  Period.  So when I was asked to consider this position I said no.  Then I said okay I’d consider it but really, in my head and my heart, I thought there is no way.   I said God would have to change my heart, in a huge way… and I didn’t think he would.

Well, he did.

And here I sit, giddy with anticipation, my heart beating with passion and excitement and love for the people I get to work with this week.  The incredible men and women who give of themselves every day, in a filthy environment with no supplies because they were created in the image of a God who heals and serves, so they heal and serve.

And I’m just wondering how the heck God does that. How he just changes your heart.   Eighteen months ago I couldn’t have cared less and now it feels my heart will burst.  Now I can’t wait to get out there, love on people, living and walking in glory and passion and purpose and life to the full.

It’s pretty incredible, really, this heart of mine… how excited I am to get out there this week.  How much can change over a year and a lifetime.  Things that once seemed life giving no longer matter, and things that never seemed to matter now have become my very reason for breathing… And truly?  I don’t think I’ve changed… not really.  I’m not a different person than the one I was eighteen months and a lifetime ago.  I am more of myself that I ever have been.

And for that, I am speechless with gratitude.  To everyone who has spoken life and love and breathed hope and encouragement and grace into this journey – Thank you, from the depths.

Now let’s get ourselves out there.  Love, speak life, follow your heart, celebrate the fullness of joy and pursue that which makes you come alive into more of who you were created to be.

xxk

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Glimpse.

It’s been one meeting after another, crazy wonderful weeks doing assessments and presentations and meetings here and there and working with an incredible team here in Madagascar.   I haven’t had much down time in the last few weeks, but this evening I find myself in a quiet, reflective place – all my meeting notes are written and sent, my team is several hundred kilometers away so there’s no catching up to do tonight, and my only meeting to prepare for tomorrow is getting to the bus station on time and praying the anti-nausea meds I have will be sufficient for the ten-hour bus ride through mountains and valleys down to the port city of Tamatave.    So, pull up a chair or wrap your fingers around a cup of coffee and let’s chat.  What’s on my heart today?


I am so happy and blessed to be here in Madagascar. Doors are opening, favor is abundant, details are falling into place and the people are incredibly warm and welcoming.  But at the same time, I’m watching Ebola continue to destroy my friends and heart for west Africa, and it seems like every single day the scenery around me simultaneously screams beauty and also the very reason we are here and not there.   I’m sick of hearing about it, I’m sick of reading about it, and the current panic about it showing up in the states only adds to my frustration level.  And yet, like I couldn’t peel my eyes away from watching the buildings collapse over and over and over on 9/11, I can’t stop reading the headlines, the articles, the comments from ignorant and educated alike, speculating and throwing words around as if these aren’t real people and real lives and real families being destroyed right before our eyes.

Wow, take a breath.  

I almost feel guilty for having such favor here in Madagascar.  Seriously, things are going amazing and this country needs our services and God’s love desperately. We are coming at just the right time, everyone is saying so.  And I’m wrestling with what seems like an unanswerable question of how can this, what is happening there, be okay?

Let’s change topics, shall we?

It seems I’m once again back to the question that has haunted me for years – How does one pursue excellence, which is a good thing and what we are called to do, without crossing that imaginary line into the pursuit of perfection which is impossible and only leads to disappointment?  Confession – I feel like a total failure, as a person, approximately most of the time.   I know I’m not alone in this feeling and if you’re honest, you’ll admit the same thing.  Please don’t respond to this telling me I’m not a failure, I know that.  Really.  I know.  I work hard and I get to do amazing things and I’m talented and gifted and good at what I do (mostly). But there is always more that could be done, things that could have been done better, handled better, in a more loving way, with more grace, or gentleness, or whatever else might have been lacking. Always.  So what I am wrestling with is what exactly does excellence look like for me, or for this situation or that interaction… can we actually purse too much excellence?  How is that possible?  Where is the line? 

Sometimes my thought life can just wear me out.   

Another change of topic.  

Did you know the usual bride price in Madagascar is at least two zebu? A particularly helpful taxi driver informed me of that little gem.   When I passed it on to a lovely friend, she said, “Krissy, you’re worth at least four!”  Treasure.   The jacaranda trees are blooming and the beautiful purple flowers are a breath of beauty.  Mangoes are just coming into season, promising plenty of hives and Benadryl in my future.  This country also has an abundance of strawberries, a rare treat for the Africa Mercy crew.  Who, by the way, found themselves arriving safely two days ago to Cape Town, South Africa, after eighteen days at sea and twenty degree swells… no thank you.  No matter how sick I get on the bus down the mountain tomorrow, it is still better than eighteen days at sea.  No question.    But I digress.  

In other Africa Mercy news, besides doing PR tours and looking for elephants in South Africa, the crew and story of hope offered by Mercy Ships won 60 minutes an Emmy award!  Pretty cool, huh? The other cool thing, among many, is that I get to be reunited with my ship home in less than a month!  Cheers. 

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into what’s on my heart today.   Glimpse is a funny word.  Because I love words, I looked it up:  a very brief, passing look, sight, or view.  Accurate, methinks.  A drive-by into the inner wrestlings and random facts from yours truly. 

Wherever you find yourself today, seek out the joy in it.  Until next time -- xxk

The port of Tamatave as seen from outside of the general hospital.