That one time.

27 February 2014

Remember that one time?

That one time, when a dear friend’s life was fading and a wedding was moved up and flights were purchased and joy was found?

That one time, when the powers that be could have said no but instead they said go.

That one time, when I had a few work projects I wasn’t sure I could leave behind… and then it would actually be better to start a week later,and no problem we’ve got it covered happened, and I could leave without a trace of worry.

That one time, when before the words had even escaped my lips and were but a brief passing thought, how can I afford it? a dear treasured friend volunteered to help with the cost.

That one time, when I wanted to go west, and my route took me north, east, east, north, and south… and I ended up in the west.

 That one time, when I got a window seat and flew in over Olympic Mountains and they were so stunning it brought tears to my eyes?
That one time, when we transformed a hospital chapel into a dream wedding venue, and we could forget for a minute that we were actually in a hospital as we were swept up in the beauty of the rings, the vows, the candles, the love?

That one time, in the words of BJ, where ‘we pulled off a wedding in five days that was better than the one we would have pulled off in six months’?
That one time, when just the right people were available at just the right time and said just the right things to my fragile heart? 

That one time, when all the people I could have seen offered such grace when I said no or didn’t even tell them I was coming?

That one time, when what could have been a gray, dreary, emotional week turned out to be a time filled with laughter, sometimes through tears, but always on the bedrock of hope, love, joy, and peace?
That one time, when 35 hours of travel and 9 time zone changes could have, and probably should have, left me jet-lagged beyond understanding, but not only was it not a big issue it was nearly a non-issue?

Oh, that one time.  These memories that will last into eternity. That one time, when I realized if I didn’t go I would regret it forever, and I won’t do that – I won’t live with regrets.  So I bought a ticket and hopped a plane and will forever be thankful I didn’t let little things like practicality and (perceived) obligation get in the way.

I’m so, so grateful for this time.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear ones, who helped make this happen, that offered grace and financial assistance and a bed to sleep in and love to bask in.  I’m headed back all too quickly but just in time, in a few hours I’ll wave goodbye to this place and these people I love and head back to the place and the people I love on the far side of the sea.

Love is.

24 February 2014

This incredible video is courtesy of our amazing communications team.  Thanks guys, I'd just add to it that love is... telling their stories. 

Enjoy. Krissy

Snow and sand.

19 February 2014

The last two days I've spent in our annual Programs Conference, where programs design, development, and strategy are discussed... while we play with modeling clay. Here's my contribution, it was cold enough in the room they could have been real!

And then we got to finish up with dinner here in paradise.  We can talk about snow but stick our toes in  the sand.   I love this place.

Love to all - krissy

Dolisie Screening Photos

16 February 2014

Photos from the Dolisie Screening... and as usual, Blogger is being difficult so they are in no particular order (no matter how I try to put them in order!)

Screening days are always tough, whether it's the giant one at the beginning of the field service, interior screenings like this one, or the smaller eye/dental screenings that happen twice a week throughout the field service.  The staggering need, the desperation, the hope that is brought behind the eyes of the hundreds or thousands that come is wonderful when we can say yes but heartbreaking for the all-too-often no.  

Ultimately we were able to schedule surgeries for 45 patients after about six hours of screening and a few hundred people.  I'm so grateful to be able to be a part of something that can offer such hope, and it spurs on my heart to wish I could just do more.  I trust God with that desire. 

My job was to handle the media.  At one point there were lots of cameras, and I was happy my French was good enough! 

This little guy was such a sweetheart.  

There's the rainforest, on it's way to the port and then to France or China.

Fantastic team.

Valentine's Day.

14 February 2014

I was asked a question today that seems simple.

So, what do you think about Valentine’s Day?

In all honesty, I had completely forgotten.  Between work, emotional fragility (see previous post), other commitments, and the Olympics, it hadn’t even really occurred to me that the 14th should be anything more than a busy Friday.

Which is interesting.

Because my first gut answer to the question is: it’s an over-marketed consumer-driven Hallmark holiday where people (Americans) spend far too much money/time/energy on trying to impress and outdo others in proving the extent of their love. 

And the fact that I had completely forgotten about it speaks well to the advertising and marketing that goes into building it up, making the viewer or the reader believe that they are a failure as a parent if they don’t provide just the right handmade cards for the kiddos or a failure as a significant other if every kiss doesn’t begin with Kay diamonds (those commercials are especially vomit-inducing, if I remember correctly).

Now, let it be said loud and clear – there is NOTHING WRONG with cards and diamonds. Goodness knows I love BOTH of those things.  And the chocolate and the roses and anything else that usually gets associated with Valentine’s Day.  I’ll take ‘em all, as long as it’s given with a heart of love and with the motive of blessing… not trying to prove anything.

Which is why I love holidays like this on the ship.  I got a few cards, a few goodies, and felt much loved, and that’s the whole purpose, right?


But back to the question, because I know that wasn’t the answer my lovely friend was looking for.  Deep within her simple question is something deeper: As a single 33 year old woman, how does your heart respond to Valentine’s Day?

It’s interesting reading my Facebook feed. There are plenty of sweet comments and status updates heralding the love of friends and family.  There are also a few that make my heart sad; in the anger, bitterness, hurt, and loneliness they reveal.

At one point, many years ago now, that was me. I was the one saying I’m just fine being single, thank you very much!  in that defensive, angry tone that leads you to believe and know that in fact the exact opposite is true.  You see, I believed the commercials, the marketing, the hype, and believed that I wouldn’t be complete without the sweetheart and diamonds and roses and all.  Every time I saw one of those Kay commercials I would feel empty, longing, my heart buying completely into the lie that unless I had those things there must be something seriously wrong with me. 

Somewhere in the last decade of world travel and service and giving and receiving love beyond what I had ever imagined, everything changed.  I’m content in a way I never thought possible, my life is awesome, and that longing? It’s just not there any longer. When people ask if I want to be married, or settle down, or have a family, my response is generally something along the lines of: I’m certainly not opposed to the idea. If God sees fit to bring someone special into my life, and calls us to serve together, great! But I’m not waiting for it or planning my life around it.

Ultimately, God knows best.  And He knows where I live.  It’s not like he’s thinking oh geez, if only she didn’t live on that weird boat in Africa, I could do something wonderful for her… That’s ridiculous.  

So the answer? I love Valentine’s Day, just like any other day.  I love that it’s a special day for a lot of people, and I love that many people find extra amounts of joy in it.  I hope that love is spoken around the world on this day… but much, much more than just this day.  I would rather have flowers from a sweetheart on some random day out of the blue that on this particular day just because Hallmark says he has to give them.  And I never, ever want a love that feels like it can be, or needs to be, proven by any material means.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends, and wherever you find yourselves, in whatever relationship status or life stage or trial or grief, seek out the joy in it.  It is there to be found.



12 February 2014

There's a verse in the Bible somewhere about God saving up our tears in a bottle, they are precious to him.  Or something along those lines. (wow, astounding my blog audience with my bible knowledge... awesome) 

This week needs more than a bottle. He's gonna need one of those huge oil drums out on the dock for the flood of tears I've shed, and it's only Wednesday.

It's okay.

Monday was just a bruising day at work.  Several different difficult interactions and comments left me feeling completely incompetent, stupid, frustrated, wondering what the heck am I doing here anyway, etc.  This tropical-storm size meltdown seemed to calm down more than once, only to flare up again and wreak havoc on the sweet and kind-hearted crewmember-friends that innocently stepped into it's wake to ask are you okay? I think I actually responded once with No! Do I look okay???  (unleash torrent)

It's going to be okay.

Tuesday I woke up with swollen alien eyes and a massive emotional hangover, so I spent extra time making my hair cute. And I did get many compliments on my hair.  And only a couple people noticed the eyes.

It was a better day, overall, while not fantastic I managed to keep most tears at bay for most of the day, and even looked back at some of the shenanigans from Monday and could chuckle about it.  I did manage to get to the doctor and confirm my suspicions of yet another ear infection... cheers.  In honor of my emotional fragility I took off an hour early to go get pizza and beer with friends, because lets face it, in that moment, that was a good life choice. (don't judge)

And then I got back to the ship and got some tragic news from home. 

You're going to be okay.

A dear friend, a cancer diagnosis, a few weeks left. 

What do you do with that? 

I love this community, I say that all the time. But it's a weird place to grieve... because I'm the only person here who knows her, and in that moment when it feels like the whole world should just stop it doesn't, and people still need things and need me and don't even realize I'm sitting alone in a little bubble of grief and despair and pain and anger and all those things that come with news like this.

You're okay.

So this morning I found myself again spending an usually large amount of time on my hair... supposedly to balance out the alien eyes but in reality I think I just needed to feel like I could control something. 

And what I've noticed over the last three days of tears is that the question that is hidden beneath all of it is simple... I just need the simple reassurance from an outside source that it's going to be okay.

It being the work situation - it will be okay.  The ship will still float, I'm not getting fired (I don't think), we'll still do amazing things every single day that would fill up volumes and volumes if every one got written down.

It being my friend - it will be okay. I believe God will heal her, either here or in heaven, and she will be okay. God is still on the throne and in our midst and in control... and I know I can trust him with her.

It being the decision whether or not to get on a plane - it will be okay. Because I know I will see her again, someday, whether it's here or there or in eternity.

It's going to be okay. You're going to be okay. 

Yeah, it is, and I am, and she is, and we are...  Thank you, AFM crew, for your patience and love and grace and compliments on my hair while pretending to not notice my alien eyes.  I do love this community.

Ship happens.

09 February 2014

Ship life has its ups and downs, both literally and figuratively; sometimes it's enough to drive you to scream and others to just shrug and say 'ship happens.'

Like when thirty people are watching the Olympics on the satellite feed from South Africa... and they start bunkering (taking on) fuel... and it makes the ship list (tilt), and it causes the satellite feed to fail.  Ship happens.  We all just sat around for a good half hour watching a black screen till Ally went out and adjusted the satellite.

Like when the containers are delayed... and delayed... and delayed some more, and it's too expensive to buy meat in Congo, so we're relegated to eating hot dogs for every single meal.  (this might induce screaming... or at the very least, blood pressure medication)

Like when you're not so keen on seeing one particular person (for whatever reason) and you end up running into them every. single. hour. and when you really miss a certain friend and hope to run in to them, you never. ever. do.

But it's also the beautiful moments; sitting with a friend to have tea, writing notes to bless others, serving coffee and sharing hugs and blessing friends.  It's the joy to be found in the use of a family cabin for even just a few hours, appreciation for air conditioning on another swelteringly hot tropical day, and how just a few well-placed words can change one's outlook on the next week, month, season...

I love this place.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my story, who has helped me to get here, to stay here, and to thrive here.  You are my heroes.



07 February 2014

It's been a crazy week that caused me to question not only my abilities but my sanity and at one point I actually thought that the whole maintaining of life, like breathing and putting one foot in front of the other, was just a chore.  A long to-do list, running all over town more than once, a trip to Brazzaville, missing home, less-than-stellar food choices due to delayed containers, a friend in need that I can do nothing for, piling up email with deadlines, and wanting to just be alone but yet desperately needing someone... anyone... at the same time.

But yet, somehow, through the weariness, I am also remembering how awesome my small group was, how I hadn't hardly prepared for the speech I gave on Monday and it went super well, the special friend who blessed me by straightening my desk, the dear one who stopped what she was doing to pray for me, the massive piles of work that got accomplished with excellence, and the staggering amount of grace and love I received this week.

And then I finish the week by sitting with about fifty friends to watch the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics; that awesome event that brings people together all over the world and all through the ship, where we all cheer for each other's home country and especially loud for Malta, under whose flag we sail.
Thankfully, unlike the Super Bowl, the Olympic host city of Sochi is just an hour off our time here in Congo - no late nights needed to watch my favorite winter Olympians!

So happy Friday my friends, and wherever you find yourself this day, seek out the joy in it! 


03 February 2014

They did it! My team, the Seattle Seahawks, who won their first Super Bowl championship at about 3:30am Congo time.  It was awesome.

Yes, this girl stayed up until 4am.  Pretty incredible for someone who generally can't make it to midnight on New Years Eve. 

KJ the amazing made a cake and decorations, and as the early morning hours went on the Broncos fans slowly made their way to bed... along with the team, apparently, who never woke up. 

Unfortunately since we were watching on a satellite feed out of South Africa (I think?) we didn't get any of the American commercials. But according to my Facebook news feed I guess there was something good about pistachios? Will have to catch them on youtube someday.  Our commercials were for things like rugby and cricket championships.  A significant percentage of Americans probably couldn't tell you what those even are.

Best quote of the night?  From the hilariously fabulous Nick Cash: Breaking: Seattle 43, Arnold Middle School 8. #SB48

Well done, Seattle.  You deserve it, for sure.  Wish I could be there for the homecoming parade!


02 February 2014

We have so much to be thankful for, and every so often I put up a list here on the ol' blog. It helps me to remember to find the good in things, to have a thankful heart and a grateful attitude no matter what comes my way.

So today I'm thankful for...

... soy milk in the dining room!

... starting up our Wednesday night small group again.

... opening the café with Dianna on Sunday mornings and the blessed community that gathers there.

...amazing chocolate from a friend.

...great roommates who offer lots of grace. 

...drinking tea with friends. it's such a ship thing.

...Laura, the best roommate ever, wrote this on our door and I loved it. 

...real turkey for sandwiches in the dining room. anytime it's not ham loaf I'm thankful.

... random uses for medical equipment in non-medical situations or environments.

... imessages with Beth.

... tribute blend via packets from starbucks - never tried it before, it's really delicious!

... random treats left on my door.

... random notes left on my door.

... sunshiny day when I have the time and desire to enjoy the sun.

... Clinique happy in bloom, picked up at random in an airport somewhere, and I really, really like it!

... Hannah and I enjoyed waffles #1 and #2 one day before Christmas and it was a lovely break on Friday morning with a lovely friend and I am so grateful for her, and blessing her into her next season as she flies out of here at the end of the week.  You're amazing, Hannah, keep in touch.

 ...The life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.  I read his book over Christmas, amazing.

...see the rainbow?  Love the reminder of God's promises.

... my iphone that was a castoff from my sister has been such a huge blessing and I've dropped it at least a dozen times and it's not broken.  phew!

... a rainy day that makes me feel okay to snuggle up inside with a book.  And the new window art that was a gift from my aunt Kathy and is now hanging in my window. love it.

... that I have a window. 

... the Holland container arrived and in it was gooooooood chocolate! wahoo!

... photos of my family on the wall. 

... every day was a good hair day in the 15% humidity that was Minnesota for Christmas.  Here? not so much....

... when we can agree to disagree and still love each other.

...a Tuesday night excursion with my Wednesday night small group ladies to eat yummy food and watch the sunset on the beach.  this was about the same time as the second polar vortex made it's way through several of our hometowns and we were certainly not sad to be on the beach in the tropics at that time!

... the Olympics start in a few days! I love the Olympics. Running in the Olympic torch relay is on my bucket list. Hopefully we can actually watch some of the events, but if I only can keep up by internet, that's okay too.

... warm showers.  (sometimes they aren't.)

... when I take a shower and the bathroom DOESN'T flood.

... running with Erin.

... special English treat from a special English friend. Percy Pigs are just delightful, I tell you! 

... Kindle connections are working on ships internet again.  They weren't for quite a long time.

... we're going back to Guinea next field service!  Excited to run the loop in the mornings, Riviera church, and trips to the island...

... this ship was flagged out of New Orleans!  You don't see American flagged ships, well, ever.  We're Malta and you see a lot of that, Panama, China... I've never seen an American flagged ship, actually.

... the coffee time (without coffee) with the ever lovely Dianna who pointed out this American flagged ship.

... friends that love me and made me feel very welcomed upon my return from vacation.  Thank you, dear ones.

Self-care, or selfish?

01 February 2014

Selfish: (adj) Devoted to or caring for only oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc.

Self-Care: (n) Care of the self without medical or professional consultation.

Today I just wanted to hide.

I was worn out from the screening trip and a long week and as a classic introvert I need time and space alone to unwind and recharge. 

But I had two different outings on the calendar; one I had planned in advance with a friend, one that came up unexpectedly that somewhere inside of me I felt I should go along to….

And the thought of going out, the whole getting ready and trying to tame my wild bedhead into something presentable and then speaking French and getting sweaty and walking and talking and connecting on a deeper level with those who I was with… it just exhausted me further.

So I said no to both and thanked them for their grace and hid in my room all day.  Because I’m an introvert?  Or because I’m selfish?

I’m always looking at my motives. Sometimes too much, I find myself intentionally searching out bad motives; and when you search long enough for something you’ll eventually find it, even if you unconsciously make it up in the first place just to have something to find. So I often have to reign in this part of me, this part that wants so badly to have pure, honest, good motives that I run myself in circles like a dog chasing its tail.

But today sort of felt selfish, as I certainly could have made it out and about, exerted the extra effort and pushed through the tiredness and loved well.

But then I read articles and remember speakers talking about the importance of self-care, especially in this line of work, when passion and purpose and faith and the wellbeing of others are all tangled together. This article popped up on Facebook today about the stress we feel and so then my self-care seems even more justified and necessary.

By late afternoon I found myself crying at everything.  I cried at a picture of my niece because I didn’t realize how hard it would be to watch her grow up from 5000 miles away.  Then a friend said I love you and tears made their way again down my cheeks, because on days like today I feel like that is in fact impossible.  Then I thought about going to dinner and cried because I just couldn’t face the sea of humanity up there.  Then I realized everything is just making me cry at this point and I need to chalk it up to tiredness, womanhood, and a long week, and grant myself the respite of self-care… which in this case might actually not be selfish but selfless because subjecting others to the crying mess that I am right now would just be wrong and unjust in itself.


I had put up on Facebook earlier today, “The line between selfish and self-care is hard to find” and received a lovely private message from a dear friend several thousand miles away.  She said the very fact that I was asking the question should lead to the realization that it is in fact self-care; a truly selfish person wouldn’t even ask the question or consider the alternatives.  True, my friend, and thank you for that reminder. I’ll stop chasing my tail now. 

Screening trip.

01 February 2014

I had the privilege and honor of spending the last two days in the interior, helping out with our last patient selection day.  A post with pictures and patient stories, including my one from this screening, will come later when the photos are released.

Photo cred Michelle Murrey.  I took the same photo and for the life of me can't figure out where it went...

We were screening at the hospital in Dolisie where I went last fall for an assessment trip.  Upon running into one of the nurses I had met before, we greeted each other again and then came this classic compliment and ensuing conversation:

Nurse: Krissy, Congo really loves you, you should never leave.
Me: Why do you say that?
Nurse: Well, you've gotten fatter since you came here to Congo! 
My desired response?  Honey, it ain't got nothin' to do with Congo and everything to do with Christmas cookies and cinnamon rolls for a month in the grand old US of A.  God bless America.

My actual response: Why, thank you!  Yes, I do love Congo.

(Note; anyone who has ever lived in Africa knows this is one of the nicest compliments, culturally-speaking, she could give me... you need to learn pretty quickly that when a local calls you fat, you can't get offended!  And the other thing is.... she's right.  No guilt either, those cinnamon rolls were amazing.  And if you live on the ship and are reading this... want to go running later?)

I was driving one of the three vehicles up to Dolisie and that road will really keep you on your toes... we counted 24 broken down trucks along the 4-hour route  My car had a couple of Aussies and a couple of Americans, and conversation ranged from ship stories to the fact no one in the car had ever been arrested to Australia going to war with New Zealand to get a state holiday (or was it the other way around?)

Photo cred Michelle Murrey

At one point this came out of my mouth:  A blind dinosaur with a razor blade near my carotid doesn't really interest me.  Prize to anyone (who wasn't there) who knows the story that involved that quote!

By Friday dinner, after an early start, long day, driving home, then waiting for dinner, I was exhausted and staring off into space... There was a TV on in the restaurant we were in and it had some kind of sci-fi futuristic show on.  Michelle and I then proceeded to have a rather comical discussion about the fact that in all futuristic dramas the characters are always in some kind of spandex-y unitard... and there are never any fat people in the future, so they always look hot in their spandex.  And thanks to Christmas cookies and cinnamon rolls, I will never star in a futuristic spandex-clad role in Hollywood.  Oh well.  (all of this while I was waiting for a four-cheese pizza)

For dinner Thursday I ate Ngoki which is baby crocodile, and wow, it was absolutely delicious.

I intended to take a picture before eating but got so excited about it I forgot.  So here's my half-eaten Ngoki. Try it someday, you won't regret it. 

The other thing that was quite quickly established was the men in our group were extremely high maintenance.  I think the ladies would have been content sleeping anywhere and eating rice and beans while the men?  Nope.  Thanks ladies, for being awesome.

So we went, we screened, we ate large amounts of junk and simple carbs, (maybe I should just keep it up and get the same compliment when I'm back there in April for training?), we came home, I crashed in bed and slept ten glorious hours.  It was a great trip and I was very happy to go, thanks team, and thanks Mercy Ships for letting me offer hope to the hopeless... and seeing the love in action.

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