Best.

05 December 2015

‘Tis the season here on the Africa Mercy; the halls have been decked and the garland hung and snowflakes are pasted on the inside of windows where just outside the sweltering heat of the southern hemisphere summer reflects off the sand and the palm trees. 

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent; our regular Sunday night service was a beautiful opening to a beautiful season, with a mélange of carols and words and candles and accents and languages and traditions all rolled up into this crazy wonderful community I get to call home.

The first song was a familiar one; sung multiple times every year for each of my thirty-four Christmases I am sure. The Little Drummer Boy, pa rum pum pum pum.  It was sung beautifully with some accompanying musicians and the room was lively and you could feel the excitement in the air.  As we were singing, I was captured by these lines:

I played my best for Him… Then He smiled at me.

I don’t know the real story behind the song and I don’t really need to. The words are still powerful. I imagine this little boy banging on a handmade drum in a barn.  I don’t know a lot of famous drummers either, but for the sake of analogy or allegory or metaphor (not sure which this is), let’s replace drum with cello.

This little kid did not play like Yo-Yo Ma.

Or replace it with piano.

His performance was not rivaling Chopin or Mozart or even Jim Brickman.

Or maybe opera singing.

He was not blowing Andrea Boccelli out of the water right there in that barn.

So whatever the equivalent of those brilliant musicians is in the drumming world, this kid was not them.  I am sure he played well. I am sure he put his entire heart into the performance.  I am also sure there was probably a miss-hit or two (whatever the drumming equivalent is of a wrong note) and he was technically good but not blow me out of the water amazing.

But he gave his best.  And God incarnate smiled at him.

He does the same for us.

Right now I’m not functioning at 100%.  It’s been a hard season and a demanding season and I’ve found myself teetering on the edge of burnout.  So the option was to scale back a bit or to go home.  Since I really don’t believe it is time to go home, I’ve scaled back a bit.  For a short season.  Because functioning at 75% of normal is better than not functioning at all.  My perfectionistic passionate side hates that.   I tend to be a woman of extremes; if I can’t do something excellent I don’t want to do it at all.  (and usually, in my head, excellent = perfect) But God reminded me, in that little song on Sunday night, that He smiles at our best. He blesses our best. Excellence does not mean perfect. Excellence means our best.  

He’s not expecting me to play like Yo-Yo Ma or Chopin.  He’s not expecting me to be as productive as that superhuman coworker with the incredible capacity.  He’s not expecting me to be as social or as orderly or as seemingly put together as anyone else. He’s not expecting you to have the most beautiful house decorations or the most perfect party or the picture postcard family Christmas experience.  That’s where comparison steals joy.  He’s expecting me to play like me and you to play like you.  That’s our best.  And He smiles at that.

He’s smiling at me, when 75% of normal is my best.  He’s smiling when I hit a wrong note or cry or pursue truth and joy and life to the full.  My best isn’t perfection.   My best is putting one foot in front of the other and trying to honor God with my life.  Sometimes that is long work days. Sometimes that is sleeping extra late. Sometimes it is sunset dinners with friends.  All of it is unto the Lord and all of it is holy.

And He smiles.  

May we all see and believe He smiles upon us in this season of Advent; a season of hope, of promises fulfilled, of God around us and among us and within us. 

Pa rum pum pum pum. 


Next.

28 November 2015

I just spent my seventh Thanksgiving on the African continent.  (note: yes, a previous post said eighth. unintentional math fail. apologies to every math teacher I ever had)

2009 Benin
2010 Benin
2011 Sierra Leone
2012 Guinea
2013 Republic of Congo
2014 Madagascar
2015 Madagascar

This is not the life I dreamed of as a little kid.  This is not the road I ever imagined I would walk.  Looking back at the twists and turns and surprises I feel nothing but gratitude.  Maybe that is why I have made it back to the states occasionally throughout the last seven years for other holidays but never Thanksgiving.

So what is next?

If you remember this post in 2014 we were supposed to be in Guinea, and then in Benin, but ended up in Madagascar.  This stunning country was never on my radar and while I still grieve for Guinea I am eternally grateful to have experienced this incredible place and her beautiful people, her beautiful beaches, her uniquely different culture and customs and weather patterns and personalities. The relaxed pace of life in this small coastal city is entirely different to the chaos of the large port cities in other countries. There are so many things to do and places to see and beauty to experience, it has been such a joy to be a part of this place for two years.

We will continue to serve here in Madagascar until we sail away in June, 2016, for a stop in South Africa and then onward to our next destination.  Benin.

When I left Benin after serving there over two years filled with blood, sweat, tears, sickness, love, pain, and joy; when I said goodbye to the people I had loved on and lived with and poured myself into; when I flew away into the next adventure, I never thought I would return.  I didn’t really want to return.  And when we were scheduled to return in 2014 I was simultaneously sick with fear and filled with excitement.   I left a piece of my heart in Benin, my first Africa experience, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  So after making peace with it all in 2014 and looking forward, after that trip was cancelled in 2014 I once again thought the return to the place that tried to take me out but only made me stronger was slipping through my fingers.  I put all that hope on a shelf, wondering if it would ever be needed.

But here we are, pulling it back off the shelf and dusting it off, planning our next field service while entrenched in the current one; we are scheduled to sail into Cotonou, Benin in August or September 2016. I’m excited.  I’m excited because much of what was so hard before – seeing so much need and not being able to do anything about it – won’t be as hard this time.  I’m excited to visit my village and other villages and help make surgery and childbirth safer.  I’m excited for $0.25 beans and palm oil sauce at Mama’s mud hut kitchen; I’m excited for beautiful fabrics, for Secret Shawarma, and Beninoise in a bottle; and most of all I am excited for the beautiful men, women, and children who will be able to experience hope and healing for perhaps the very first time.


It’s a privilege and an honor to continue on this path. Thank you for your support – financial, emotional, and physical – and encouragement as I continue to put one foot in front of the other and seek to honor God with every step.  


Beauty in the Broken.

22 November 2015

I was in Berlin, Germany last May and visited the Hillsong church for a Sunday morning service.  As with any Hillsong church you ever have the chance to visit, the music was incredible.  We sang in English and there was one song that really stuck with me.  It repeated over and over that “God will not be shaken”.  One of the leaders stepped up in the middle of the song and said something about how we sometimes sing songs that say we won’t be shaken, but really? We will. It’s God that won’t be shaken.  Then we continued singing the song… and it haunted me.  I googled the lyrics, what I could remember of them, for days and weeks afterward.  Even just a few weeks ago I was trying to remember them to try to google them again and still couldn’t find the song.

Then, I purchased the new Hillsong album on Itunes and had it on in the background while I did schoolwork – and what song came on?? The one we sang in Berlin!  There it was.  And it was still powerful.

Now in God we trust, in His name we hope
I know, God will not be shaken
God is here with us, He’s already won
I know, God will not be shaken

(In God we Trust, Hillsong)

~~

I will be shaken. 

We all will.

There is not one among us who, regardless of how incredible and strong and vibrant and solid and definitive our faith in God is, wouldn’t be shaken by a simple phone call. There has been an accident or It’s cancer or There’s been another attack.

I am shaken.  Syria. Mali. Paris. North Minneapolis. Brussels. Myanmar. New Zealand. Liberia.
And then if I take my eyes off the crying, broken world and put them back on my own little story? I am still shaken.

I can go from happy to tears in approximately .005 seconds.   Honestly.  A friend chooses to spend time with someone else.  Words somehow get twisted between speaking and hearing and misunderstandings open the door to doubt and fear and despair. Someone makes it clear they don’t really like me. I feel used, excluded, unwanted, lonely, unseen, unloved.

I am so easily shaken.

But my eyes aren’t supposed to be on my crying, broken self.  They aren’t supposed to be on the crying, broken world either. 

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2

What a relief!  I don’t have to keep staring, appalled and open mouthed, as the world falls apart yet again or as I fall apart yet again. 

I can fix my eyes on something else.  Something that is beauty within the broken.

I have to.  The alternative is just too awful. I can’t stand looking at the broken around me.  I can’t stand looking at the broken within me.  I have to look at Jesus, who sees the good beyond the broken, can bring peace to chaos, hope to the hopeless, and bring joy out of despair.  I can’t do those things myself.  Neither can you.  Neither can movie stars or politicians or aid workers or pastors, no matter how good of a heart they have or how good of ideas they have or how many supporters they have or how much money they have.   They, too, are shaken.  Just like you and me. 

~~

The older I get the more I realize that Jesus really is always the answer.

He is the only thing that will not be shaken.  Let us fix our eyes on Him. Let us hold on to His hand throughout the shaking and the shifting and the burning and the crying.

He’s already won.

It’s a relief

Even as I write this, likely the most bluntly Jesus focused blog I have ever written, I feel the peace in those words.  It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about him. It always has been, and always will be.

To the only God our Savior be all glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now, and forevermore. Amen.  Jude 1:25

xxk


Seasons.

14 November 2015

Yesterday I had a really great day.

That might not sound like a really big deal.  You probably think I have a lot of great days. And I do. I tend to write about those.  The highlights.  The encouraging and the profound and the exciting and the cool.

But you may also have noticed I’ve been rather quiet this last several weeks on the blog.  I haven’t had a lot of great days.  It’s been really difficult season, actually.  So the fact that yesterday was a really good day is worthy of celebration.

~~

It has been a season of knowing.

I find myself quite often lately wondering what my future holds, how long I will do this thing, where we will sail to next and how do I fit in the grand scheme of things.  

I start to get anxious when I think too far ahead.  I am coming up on my eighth thanksgiving in Africa and I never fathomed my little adventure would turn into what it has.  People ask how long will do you do this or where do you see yourself in five years and I just shrug my shoulders and say honoring God with my life and helping people, somewhere in the world.  If I try to define the structure any more than that, my heart starts to beat a little too quickly and the doubt starts to creep in and the darkness whispers who do you think you are and I start the downward spiral.

So instead of wondering how I fit in or where I belong in the coming months and years; I stop wondering and start knowing – knowing exactly what honoring God with my life and helping people looks like tomorrow.  It looks like shining light in dark places. It looks like giving the person who is in need in front of me my full attention.   It looks like speaking truth and life, be them words of greeting or encouragement or correction or blessing.  It looks like embracing my gifts and abilities as well as my faults and failures, fully aware that both are required to be a member of the human race.
I don’t need to wonder and worry over the future. I know what tomorrow looks like. That’s enough.

~~

It has been a season of climbing.

It might surprise you unless you have known me awhile, but I have always really struggled with feeling like a failure.  I know it is ridiculous and irrational and all evidence is to the contrary. But it still plagues me.

God, I am sick of seeing everything through the lens of failure. Please help.

I feel like I have prayed that prayer a million times and yet keep tripping up.  So then I think maybe it is unbeatable, maybe I won’t or can’t or shouldn’t, and if I let my thoughts drop even lower and deeper I wonder if God is maybe holding out on me, like a mean father holding something precious just out of reach, laughing as I jump and reach and flail and fall trying to get to it. But I know that the heart of my Father is one that is good; and maybe it just takes a million and one or a million and a hundred or a million billion prayers before the breakthrough comes, but I know it will come. And it is worth pressing through and pursuing. 

After all, to see the view from the top of the mountain you actually have to climb it; which is easier for the smaller mountains but the higher ones will take grit, determination, drive, a few bruises and a bloody knee; some stretches where I am gasping to even take in enough oxygen to keep my heart beating, let alone keep climbing.  I think about stopping and I dream about stopping but something within me keeps me pushing harder; maybe it’s the promise of a good view, or a nap in a hammock, or pancakes and syrup, which are pretty good things. Maybe it’s freedom.  That’s definitely worth pursuing.  I know what it is like on the smaller mountains and that knowledge is what keeps me pressing forward towards the summit.  People tell me mountain climbing is like a drug; once you see the top once you can’t wait for the next time.   I think that is true in the figurative too.  I know that I will make it to the top of this mountain.    And I will celebrate and enjoy the view, but know that I will not be satisfied and will start looking towards the next peak to conquer.

~~

It has been a season of learning from kids.

I realized I have the tendency to make things so much more complicated than they need to be.  A friend is a bit short in response to something and I immediately wonder if they are upset or did I blow it or that thing I said two weeks ago that they said didn’t offend them really did or maybe I did something wrong earlier and upset them or if only I could do something to make it better all would be okay but I can’t and wow what a failure I am as a friend.  Sigh. 

There are two little girls on the ship that keep coming to mind – A and E, both kindergartners.  If I went up to E and asked her why do you spend time with A she would say because she’s my friend. Simple as that. 

She’s not wondering and thinking and assuming and spiraling.  If they disagree, they get upset for like thirty seconds… and then they move on.  Guarantee they aren’t thinking about it even fifteen minutes later, let alone weeks like I tend to do. The recurrent wow you really blew it isn’t plaguing their thoughts as it does mine.

We’re all really just kids, trying to do the best we can here on earth.  I’m trying to simplify my thought patterns and use E and A as my teachers.  Say what we mean.  See the best. Assume others say what they mean.  If they don’t, that’s their problem, not mine.  Believe the compliments. Receive the problems with grace, sort things out quickly, don’t hold grudges and for goodness sake don’t waste time with mental gymnastics that are based far from reality. 

~~

It has been a lonely season.

Work has been extremely busy. And when you live where you work and your friends are also your coworkers, there is really no way to stop.  Still, I love what I get to be a part of.  When I am not working I am doing school work.  I love it, too, for the most part.  I love learning and I love being able to apply it to my work.  Academic writing is getting easier and I am doing well.  All good.

Many people ask or wonder out loud how on earth I can handle a very demanding job and being a student at the same time.  Honestly? It’s a lonely existence.  It’s the social that gets cut, and I knew that when I decided to pursue graduate school.  Because the only other thing left to cut is sleep, and if you know me at all you know that would be a disaster from day one.  So most evenings you find me either at my desk in my office or at my desk in my bedroom.  This isn’t a season where I meet and pursue relationships with new people. And that makes me a little sad.   And is rather isolating. 
I know that I know it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the right thing to cut. But that doesn’t make the lonely any less painful.

~~

It has been a season of beauty.

What we get to be a part of, throughout the difficulties and pains and tears, is incredible.  I get to be a part of hope and healing and shining light into dark places.  Last week I was walking down the long hospital hallway, my mind on the to-do list and not on where I was.  A girl in pigtails with a toothy grin and her legs thigh-high in casts hobbled up and grabbed my hand.  We looked at each other, my conscious snapped to attention, and held hands and walked together all down the hallway, neither saying a word and both grinning like there was no tomorrow.  She got to where she was going and let go of my hand and waved as she turned into her ward and I kept walking towards my office.  It was a beautiful moment that just reminded me why we do this thing.

The projects I help with are incredible.  Read this about the checklist project, a blog I wrote a few days ago for Mercy Ships – https://mymercy.mercyships.org/blogs/45/85 


Last weekend I went away and while I still did school work away I spent a significant amount of time connecting with friends and reveling in the beauty that is the Madagascar rain forest.  I forget how much I need beauty until I haven’t had it for awhile.  I’ve also started making it a habit to watch the sunset at least once a week.  Such beauty deserves an audience. 






Thank you for your support and love through all life's seasons. xxk

Spare time?

10 October 2015

What do I do in my spare time?  Well, I don't have a lot of spare time.  I work alot (and love it) and am also a student. So that is most of my 'spare time' that isn't spent sleeping!  But at least three-ish hours a week I try to do two things that I absolutely love - 

Play frisbee and make coffee.  

Friday evenings, whenever I am not travelling and it isn't pouring down rain, you will find me here, on the field, getting dirty and sweaty and laughing and gasping for breath and encouraging and running and falling and bruising and bleeding... or some combination of all of those things. 


On Sunday mornings from 10-12 you will find me serving coffee to dear friends, new friends, strangers that will become friends, and anyone else who wanders through.  If you really want to enjoy the experience, pull up a stool at the bar and let's talk about life.  We laugh alot, we go beyond surface conversation, it is a beautiful experience of community that I look forward to every single week.  It's funny the number of people in the states that asked me this summer, "what is this coffee thing you do every sunday? I see it on facebook!"  It's amazing friends, come and take part.


And then I thought I would throw in this photo taken from the gangway the other night.  Stunning.

xxk

Not my story.

27 September 2015

I just woke up from a very real dream. 

I was in an old coffee shop somewhere and a man that I knew in my dream, but don’t know at all in real life, told me he loved me, has loved me forever and wants to spend the next hundred years showing me how much he loves me, proving himself worthy of me, and sharing the adventure alongside each other.

Then, in my dream, he walked away.  I was left speechless, my heart beating fast and my palms sweaty and this mixture of disbelief, excitement, shock, and a hundred other feelings burned in my chest and spread throughout my entire body.  Fairly certain my mouth literally hung open.  His friend came up and asked me to give him my phone number. I then proceeded to write it at least two dozen times and throw it away because my handwriting looked like a little kids. I was laughing at myself and this other lady that was nearby was laughing with me and so was the guy waiting for my phone number, because no matter how many times I tried to write it, it came out in preschooler handwriting that was barely legible even to myself.

And then I woke up.

And my real life heart was still beating fast and my palms were sweaty and that mixture of disbelief, excitement, shock, and a hundred other feelings was still burning in my chest. 

And I knew I needed to write.

~~

The question came up several times over the summer while I was in the States.  Anyone special in your life?  I realize people are just curious and want to know but what invariably ends up happening is I say no and their face shadows with disappointment, but then they quickly realize what they have done and perk up with a forced face of what is supposed to be encouragement but looks a bit more like pity and say well, all in God’s good timing and then proceed to either pat me on the arm and walk away or tell me a story about this friend of a friend of theirs who didn’t find the one until they were in their forties so I really still have plenty of good years in me and to hold my head up and know that I am worth waiting for. And, breathe.

The ones that really do care want to park it there for a bit; they ask how am I really with that and squint as if trying to find the agony deep in my eyes and heart that must be there.  When I say something like really it’s okay I still will get a flash of disappointment or disbelief, like I must be lying to myself to be really okay with that and maybe I need prayer to break down the massive walls of defensiveness inside of me that must be there because no way would a woman of nearly 35 be truly okay with not having someone special.

One person actually asked it really well.  He said have you had to give up on any dreams to keep on doing what you are doing? I said, you mean marriage and children?  We both laughed and I said something like I haven’t given up. I trust God.

~~

The thing is, for me? It’s just settled.  It’s a completely settled issue.  I don’t spend hours or days or years agonizing or dreaming or longing or even (gasp!) praying about it.  Someone asked this summer what are you passionate about and the answer is my work; but it isn’t my work itself that I am most passionate about it is that my work is actually an extension of my faith, it is my faith with shoes on, offering blood, sweat, and tears to help make wrongs right and inequalities disappear and bring transformation and see others come alive too.  It’s the most incredible thing ever.   

And if you have ever felt that way yourself, which I sadly think very few people actually have, you wouldn’t be worried about my broken single 35-year old heart.  I am living life to the full, life abundant, and it isn’t an incomplete existence because I am not married.

~~

It’s just a settled issue. I know, to the depth of my being, that if it is the best for me, God will bring a special man into my life.  I believe that and I trust that and I don’t need to spend any time thinking about it. It’s settled. Oh, and I don’t need to move back to the states or to somewhere else in the world for this to happen – it’s not like God is up in heaven saying “Gee, if only she would get off that ship I could do something really special for her,” - that is absolutely ridiculous.  He has brought me here.  And if it is best for me, he will bring him here.  Or there. Or wherever. But I know that I do not need to manipulate my circumstances to make myself more available.

One lovely friend who I met several years ago has a story that keeps on inspiring me.  I won’t do it justice here, but basically she got a letter in the mail from a complete stranger that saw her in a video and was captivated. All the pieces just fell together perfectly in a story so wild no one but God could have thought it up, and their marriage is one of stunning beauty.  When God creates a story it’s always incredible.  I often think about that story and think to myself, if God can and wants to do that, to write a story beyond our wildest dreams and one that inspires others and draws them closer to His heart, who the heck am I to try to write my own story? Why on earth would I want to?  Who am I to think my little brain trying to manipulate a situation would ever be anywhere near as cool as a story God has written himself?  I don’t want my story. I want His.

~~

Now let’s get even more real for a minute, lest all this talk about it being a settled issue makes you think I’m somehow more holy than the single chick longing for marriage.

Do I want to get married? Not just for the sake of getting married.

A better question is do I want to fall in love? Absolutely. Who wouldn’t?  I’ve tasted it, been in relationships that spoke of it; one time I even thought was going to be forever. The love between a man and a woman that are fully devoted to God and passionately pursuing him together though trials and victories and sacrifice for each other every single day… it is a reflection of the heart of God that I have yet to experience. And want to.  If it is right and the best thing for me.

Are there some days when it is harder than others?  Yes.  Resounding yes.  There are days I am hit so hard with a longing so deep to have someone to share this with that I can hardly breathe.  There are so many adventures I want to share.  I’ve got amazingly adventurous friends and I’m certainly not missing out on life, but sometimes? Would I rather share it with my soulmate? Resounding, unapologetic yes.  There are also days I’d like to throw in the towel on this celibacy thing. (I hate that word, even).  Honestly, I’m human too. It isn’t easy.  But it is worth it, and I won’t throw in the towel, and I won’t try to mask or hide those (squishy, sometimes icky and awkward, but still real) feelings, desires, and emotions when they do make an appearance.  I will acknowledge them, feel them, and trust them to God. 

Are there days when my thoughts aren’t this holy? Sure are.  Especially when I’m lonely. That’s when the thoughts creep in like I must really be ugly or fat or obnoxious or something must be inherently wrong with me. Rubbish, and I know it, so I throw it out quickly like the garbage bag with the banana peel; get it out before it starts stinking up the place.

(Not the topic at hand but a natural follow-up question that I’ll answer now – no, I don’t really want children, which maybe is why I am really content being single while I see others longing for marriage because they are actually really longing to have children.  I’m not completely opposed to the idea, if I were to fall in love with someone who really wanted children who would make a really good father… but I’m not desperate for them either. As I watch my friends’ kids grow up I love being a part of their lives (once they are old enough to have real conversations) but don’t really have a burning desire in me to raise my own.)

~~

What is the point?

It’s a settled issue. I’m not in agony, but I am human. I won’t manipulate my circumstances or the people around me to try to create my own story, I want God’s story.  When that seems hard or I find myself starting to want to get the story line moving along more quickly than I ought, I look at my friend’s wedding pictures; the one whose story I wrote about earlier. Or I think about other friends whose stories are glorious, and I realize that I too want a glorious story. 

But the truth is my story is already glorious; it has always been a love story filled with pursuit and passion and redemption and life to the full. Maybe the plot will turn into a human love story, and maybe it won’t; but it’s not my story to write, so I won’t fight to pick up the pen.

xxk


No apology necessary.

20 September 2015

A few months ago a Facebook friend shared this quote from Glennon Doyle Melton, from the Momastery blog.  I’m not a regular reader of hers, not being in her target audience of moms, but have read it a few times and always really appreciated her genuineness.

~~
“Listen to me. Every time I go to speak somewhere — tired, worn out, wild-eyed mamas raise their tired hands and say to me, “Glennon, I feel like I’m losing it at home. I feel CRAZY.”
HOLD. UP. Okay: for obvious reasons, I am no parenting expert. But I know a helluva lot about crazy. And I want you to trust me on this one. I want you to write this down and put it on your fridge for me:

IT’S NOT YOU. IT’S THEM.
IT’S THEM.
Listen: I spent time in a mental hospital and I am here to report that everyone, every single one of the beautiful folks I lived in there with was more reasonable than the small people I live with now. All of them.
YOU ARE GOOD AND NORMAL AND REASONABLE. IT’S THEM. The crazy is not in your head. It’s IN YOUR HOUSE. We have to wait them out.  We just have to smile and wait them out. We have fought too hard for our sanity to lose it now.

Repeat after me: It’s not me. It’s THEM.”  ~~Glennon Doyle Melton, Momastery.com
~~

As I read it I really felt to the depth of my being this isn’t just for moms.  This is for me too.

I (used to) have a completely debilitating problem with blaming myself for absolutely everything.  To the max.  This comes out in saying ‘sorry’ a whole heck of a lot. For things I have no business apologizing for.    

Example: I’m sorry, can you clarify what you mean?  If you complete the I’m sorry, what exactly am I apologizing for?  I’m sorry I’m an idiot and obviously anyone smarter than me would have understood but I didn’t so I’m really sorry that I’m taking up another ten seconds of your precious time in clarifying or maybe I’m so sorry you weren’t clear in what you meant, and I’m sorry my mind reading skills aren’t working today and I’m so so sorry I’m breathing and taking up space and time and oxygen.

That’s just one example that really truly is a real one.   A friend is cross? Must be my fault.  Someone on my team forgets to do something?  I should have reminded them or did a better job of explaining, but it is clearly entirely my fault.  What a failure.  I get emotional?  I’m so sorry I’m such a disaster sometimes.  I didn’t hear what you said? I’m sorry, obviously I have hearing problems.

On. And on. And on.

After I read that quote from Glennon I felt that ever present still small voice whisper to my heart, it’s not always you, sometimes it’s them.

Transformative words, those are.

Now I am definitely not advocating for blaming all circumstances on someone else.  One of the transformative books I have read was Steven Coveys 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – and the one that really stood out then and still does is that highly effective people take responsibility for their own life, situations, emotions, reactions, words, thoughts, and actions.  Example – She makes me so mad!  No, she doesn’t control my emotions, I do.  If she is actually controlling my emotions she has far too much power.  What she does might be irritating but my response is entirely up to me. This extends beyond emotions to most aspects of life. Think of those people who put the blame on everyone and everything around them, but never themselves.  Victim mentality.  Yes of course life throws curve balls and difficult things, but we are ultimately responsible for how we respond to them.

So somehow we need to find a balance – figuring out what exactly we are responsible for, taking responsibility for that, and not taking on other peoples’ responsibilities as our own. 

~~

What does this mean for real life?

For me, it looks like wiping the words I’m sorry entirely out of my vocabulary.

I read an article at least a year ago about the fact that women say ‘sorry’ far too often.  It might have been this one.  It might have been a different, similar one that I am too lazy to search for and find. (sorry…er, not?)  But basically it said that women use the word ‘sorry’ as a crutch word, we are apologizing for ridiculous things all the time that we have no business apologizing for, and we need to stop because all it does is make us sound stupid, shallow, and wimpy.

It resonated at that time but didn’t really stick, and I kept on with my far-too-often-and-inappropriate use of that word.

But then after reading Glennon’s quote I began to think more about what it looks like to live a life free of the belief that it’s all my fault and start believing that it’s not always me and really, I’m feeding the crazy by saying sorry all.the.time.

There are definitely legit things I need to apologize for (every.single.day).  I take full responsibility for those things and I have started to use the words I apologize, plus a description of what I am apologizing for.  I apologize for… using that tone of voice, it was rude and uncalled for, please forgive me. I apologize for… not taking the time to explain things more clearly.  I apologize for…. Knocking over your full can of coke all over your computer.

Can you feel the depth of those words, as opposed to a cheap rushed “sorry”? They mean something. I know that if I turn the tables, when I get a heartfelt apology, I feel valued and acknowledged - as opposed to rushed, cheap “sorry” that leaves me wondering if they really meant it.  Like being forced to apologize to your sibling when you were young. The words come out but they are empty and meaningless.

~~

Sometimes when we say ‘sorry’ we really just need to not say anything.  But sometimes we need an alternative word. A few examples:

Excuse me – as in, when you are sitting next to someone and you shift your legs and oh the horror, your foot bumps their leg. Oh sorry! Newsflash: You haven’t caused pain and anguish, there is no need for an apology. You are human.  I apologize for allowing my fidgeting to invade your personal space. Ridiculous.  What you actually mean is excuse me. This goes for brushing up against someone in the stairwell, stepping around someone in your way, etc.

Pardon? – as in, someone says something mumbled or with their face turned the other direction and I didn’t hear or understand. I’m sorry = I apologize for your mumbling? Er, no.  This would also be an appropriate use of excuse me. or hey? or come again? or whatever you need to say to ask them to repeat themselves.

That’s awful! – as in, a friend telling me she twisted her knee, and I want to acknowledge it hurts or that it was really an unfortunate occurrence.  I used to say I’m so sorry that happened which is really just expressing my compassion. There are other words to express compassion. 

The one exception to this would be when we are breaking bad news to someone.  As in I’m sorry we can’t do the surgery you need.   I think that is an appropriate use of the word. I really am sorry we can’t, I wish we could.

~~

So I guess towards the end of all this rambling I should come to the point.  I highly recommend watching your language and trying to catch your use of “sorry”.  It’s been an eye-opening experience for me, and it still slips out and surprises me sometimes.

I’ve encouraged friends who are just stepping into new things to make their work place a ‘sorry-free zone’ – the temptation, when you are new to something, is to apologize for asking questions – YOU SHOULD BE ASKING QUESTIONS!  That’s what being new is about! 

One time I was playing volleyball with some friends on the beach and I declared it a sorry-free zone because otherwise every.single.point someone would apologize – for hitting it out or badly or not to the right person or missing it.  We weren’t there to win. We were there for fun.  No apology necessary!

These are just a few examples, but I encourage you to start trying to finish the sentence – what exactly are you saying sorry for? Is it a true apology or is it a crutch or a filler word?


Maybe one of my readers just needs to know this: Sometimes it isn’t you. It's them. 

xxk

Launch week.

18 September 2015

It was launch week here for the Medical Capacity Building team - two big projects that have both begun extremely well.  Below are two articles I wrote to promote these initiatives both within and outside of Mercy Ships!  Thanks for your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement as we seek to transform this nation's healthcare.

Launch - the Checklist Team!
11 September 2015

After a few years of dreaming and several months of planning, the Checklist team is officially about to launch!

On Sunday this team departs to the first of a twenty-city tour of Madagascar, visiting each region to come alongside the surgical teams in those regions and work together to improve surgical safety across the country. This training is in partnership with Harvard Medical School and Lifebox, a charity committed to putting a pulse oximeter in every operating room and improving surgical safety worldwide. This simple tool, along with the other critical steps included in the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist, have been shown to cut operating room deaths and complications in nearly half!



The checklist team today, left to right: Emily Bruno (USA), Dr. Hasina (MDG), Ali Herbert (GBR), Dr. Nandi (MDG), Dr. Linden Baxter (GBR). This team will be together the first three months, others will rotate through after that time.

The three-day training structure includes sessions focused on empowering surgical teams with the knowledge that safe surgery is possible, and in their very own hands. They will work together to adapt the WHO checklist to fit their specific needs and environment; a critical step encouraged by the creators of the WHO Checklist! Other sessions include Lifebox training and counting of surgical swabs, needles, and instruments. This structure of training was first just an idea of Michelle White, then piloted in Congo and here in Madagascar both in Toamasina and Mahajanga during the last field service.



Sunday the team heads to Fenerive Est, in the region just north of Toamasina. Please pray for them; their teamwork, travel safety, and an ease of communication; also pray for the participants, that they would catch the vision and the heart of the project, to see transformation for them and for their patients. Updates from the team will be regularly posted here on Navigator and all blogs will be marked public - please share!



The Checklist team in their "office" this last two weeks - Midships, deck 6!

Also launching next week is the first of twelve courses we will be running in Antananarivo! Stay tuned, more info to come next week; please pray for Joan Kotze, Course Coordinator, the facilitators coming from England and the participants coming from all over Antananarivo.

--Krissy Close
Medical Capacity Building Manager AFM


Launch - Essential Surgical Skills, Antananarivo
18 September 2015

As mentioned in last weeks’ blog, not only did we launch the Checklist Team this week (watch for an update early next week) we also launched the first two of eighteen courses being offered this field service in Antananarivo!

The Essential Surgical Skills course, in partnership with the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland and the Royal College of Surgeons offers very practical, hands-on lessons and practice in knot tying, suturing, and handling and repair of different kinds of tissue. Professor Samison, acting dean of the School of Medicine in Antananarivo and chief visceral surgeon at HJRA has wanted to run this course for years, and even had all the materials donated by Ethicon, a branch of Johnson & Johnson, but hasn’t been able to get instructors to come. Mercy Ships was pleased to offer to fill this need! Professor Samison expressed his gratefulness, “It has been my dream to offer this course, thank you for helping my dream to come true.”

The first two-day course on Monday and Tuesday brought eight senior and experienced surgeons. They were eager to participate and appreciated the opportunity to practice their basic skills and have unlimited resources, like sutures and instruments, at their disposal, even if it was just for a few days!

The following day we offered a train-the-trainer session for those who participated in the first course. This is a critical element in all of the courses we are offering this field service; training up surgeons and other medical leaders to continue this teaching long after Mercy Ships’ departure! The participants were eager to discuss how to facilitate a course and to troubleshoot potential problems. They were all invited to then come to the second course, Thursday and Friday, and assist in teaching as they were able.

The second course has been quite different in scope, as instead of senior and experienced surgeons we have a room full of first year surgical specialty students – they already have completed their basic medical education and are now in the process of becoming surgeons. Their earnest faces and nervous laughter at their mistakes has made for a fun environment of learning and practicing their new skills.

Overall the first two courses have gone extremely well and the feedback received from the participants has been completely positive. It’s such an honor and a pleasure to serve the current and future surgeons of this country! May their passion for helping others and transforming their nation never fade.
Thanks to Ethicon for their support!












Special thanks to our instructors, Dr. John Whitaker, Dr. James Byrne, the ASGBI, Ethicon, Joan Kotze, Professor Samison, and HJRA Hospital.

Krissy Close
Medical Capacity Building Manager AFM

What we need.

12 September 2015

So two weeks into my new stress management plan and it’s... well... transforming, amazing, awesome.

These last two weeks, since the ship arrived, have been absolutely insane.  What was supposed to be four to six weeks of training, start-up, and preparation time for our medical training programs became two.  Knowing that, and knowing me, you might think I’m stressed out, short with people, snappy, and grouchy.

Nope. My heart is totally full, I’m relaxed and laughing and absolutely amazed at all that has been accomplished in just two weeks.  To God be all the glory.

It’s remarkable how, when we stop trying to control everything, that we actually do get exactly what we need.  I don’t know why this surprises me.  I have a tendency to focus too much on tasks and not enough on people when I’m stressed, but God whispered something to me earlier this summer that has stuck with me – The tasks are important, but the people are more important.  During that season it meant saying yes to anyone who asked to meet with me and somehow I still managed to get all my work done.

During this season it means giving my full attention to whoever needs it at the moment – and a few times this week I had people physically lined up waiting to speak to me, to ask for something or advice or help or suggestions or clarity.  My email was out of control and some people on the other end of that had to wait a few hours longer than maybe they would have in the past.  They all survived.  And the person in front of me felt supported and appreciated and got what they needed which only encourages them to be even more amazing.

I worked long hours; everyone did, it’s just the nature of this season.  It won’t always be like this. But I also connected deeply with friends and slept well and got through the emails and kept up with my schoolwork.  It’s remarkable how, when we stop trying to control everything, that we actually can have a lot of fun watching it play out.  I’ve laughed myself into tears at least twice. 

Yesterday afternoon, (Friday), about 4:45 suddenly it was like the whole busy long two weeks of demands and service suddenly hit me; I was tired, I hit a wall.  But it’s remarkable again how he gives us just what we need; I had planned to go out with a friend last night and not work late and that is exactly what my heart needed in that moment.  I also got notice that my flight that was supposed to go early this morning to Tana was delayed until this afternoon!  SO I really could enjoy a leisurely dinner with a dear friend without worrying about getting back here, packing, and getting myself up and out early.  Instead we took our time and then I slept so well, woke up with a happy heart and plenty of time to read a little, write a little, pack, and head up to Tana.  Exactly what I needed.

So I guess the point of all this rambling on is that God does know what we need, if we can stop trying to control everything based on what we think it should be.

SO I’m heading to Tana this week to run the first of twelve courses up there and the Checklist team is heading out to run the first of twenty courses across the country and I’ll definitely write more later on both of those things.  In the meantime, you really should watch this video that so beautifully captures my heart and the heart of this incredible organization for capacity building and training programs.

xk

MPH

07 September 2015

You may remember a few months ago I wrote a blog post where I informed the universe I had been accepted into the University of Liverpool – Masters in Public Health program.  Today I want to share a little bit more about the back end of that story and an update as to where I am today.

I’ve always been a learner and loved it.  I’ve said if money wasn’t an issue I’d probably be a perpetual student; there’s so much more out there that I want to know about! I’m the one that instead of taking easy classes my senior year I jumped ahead to university and took a full course load while I was still in high school.  I’ve always wanted to go back to school, even started several years back when I still didn’t know what I was supposed to do with my life.  So the more I find myself loving and thriving in this field, the more it became apparent that it was time to pursue this degree.

The MPH is a baseline standard in the field of public and global health.  If I was to try to do what I am doing now with any other organization, I would have to have an MPH.  As we are working towards further growth in our programs and global impact, the MPH will give me a richer base of knowledge in things like measurement and evaluation, qualitative analysis and data collection, behavior change models and social determinants towards health practice.

I’m not planning to leave; rather, I would love to be here much, much longer.  This degree isn’t meant for me to be able to get a better paying job elsewhere, it is so I can do my job here better, with a higher level of academic and professional credibility.

So about a year ago I started looking at different schools all over the world. I didn’t want to leave MS so an online degree was important, however many schools offer ‘affiliate’ online degrees that are diploma mills and have no actual credibility.  No way am I going to spend the money on a useless degree!  The University of Liverpool degree online is the exact same degree as if you were there in person.  It’s also one of the recommended programs by the WHO (United Nations) for people looking to work in that organization.  So I figured if it was okay with the UN, it would probably be a good one!

If you know me at all you know I hold my future very loosely; I wanted to get this degree, but only if it was the best thing for me and had the blessing of God on it!  No way did I want to be working full time and going to school and giving up my personal time if God wasn’t going to bless it or if it was for my own selfish gain!  So I put some fleeces out there.  (Gideon put out fleeces as a way to ‘check in’ with God to verify his call and blessing…Judges, chapter 6)

One – would I get in?  Liverpool is not an easy peasy school… it’s been thirteen years since I graduated from college and while I didn’t have a reason to think I wouldn’t get in, it was certainly a possibility.  So I prayed over and over and over that if this wasn’t the best for me that I wouldn’t get in. 

Well, as you know, I did. Then comes the second fleece – will it get funded? No way will I go into debt to do this thing. I worked too hard for too long to get OUT of debt, and am now living in the favor that being debt-free offers. (It’s amazing).  So I trusted that if it isn’t the best thing for me that it wouldn’t get funded.  And I wrote that blog post and left it at that.

Well, the first year is entirely funded.  Thanks to the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Duluth, MN) Endowment fund grant, Mercy Ships, a few other small organizations, several anonymous donors, and supportive friends, family, and strangers. 

So I started the first week of July and it’s been a really fun road so far.  It’s a lot of reading and a lot of writing and thankfully both come relatively easily for me; some topics are especially interesting and some are boring but you have to jump through the hoops sometimes.  It takes up a lot of time; one of the sacrifices I willingly have made is a definite cut to personal and social time, however I do believe it will be worth it. My work has been supportive as well and I’ve been able to take some time during the week to try to keep up. 

I’ve only been back on the ship for just over a week so I’m not yet sure how well I will be able to balance work and school but I’m going to try!  My grades so far are good and I still hold it all quite loosely; I want to make it work and I will try really hard to make it work, but if it doesn’t, it won’t ruin me!

It’s a two-and-a-half to three-year program; depends on if you take breaks between modules and how long your thesis research takes.  I am hoping to get it finished on the short end of that timeline. My first year is funded so we will see how it goes, if it goes well I will need another $9k next July. Just throwing that out there.  I don’t ever have to go to Liverpool in person, but I can go there to graduate alongside with their in-person students.  We shall see if I make the trip in a few years. If I make it that far.

A huge thanks to everyone who has encouraged me on this journey so far, and those that have supported it financially.   I couldn’t do this without you!! 


University of Liverpool Coat of Arms

Let go.

03 September 2015

The last few days have been, shall we say… in the nicest possible way… chaotic.  My home came home and we hit the ground running – full speed ahead as they say.

I have an incredible team this year that has multiplied by a whole lot, and I have full confidence in their ability to blow all of our minds with their awesomeness, once they know what they need to do. Unfortunately most of that information is in MY head, not theirs yet. 

We are doing some awesomely huge, new, exciting projects this year that are all starting at the same time… now.  All of those projects need supplies, money, training, equipment, and guidance. Now.

I’m settling back into my home that left nearly four months ago, that while I was gone sailed several times in the open seas.  I can’t find anything where I thought I left it. I’m reconnecting with dear friends I haven’t seen in months and cleaning up an email inbox that collected nearly eleven hundred emails over the absence and I’m also an MPH student trying not to fail in my first module and… and… and…

At one point last week I said to my boss, “I feel like I’m barely holding on by my fingernails.”

The imagery there is that there is a whole lot going on, and I’m gripping with all my strength to hold on by my fingernails; as though I have already nearly lost my grip, that if I were to slip just a fraction of a centimeter further I would (to mix all possible metaphors) fall into the abyss of chaos and brokenness and the balls I’m juggling would all crash and burn and I would drown.

It’s a phrase I have used before; when I feel right on the edge but there is a filament of strength left in me; of fight, of determination and commitment that no matter what I WILL NOT FALL. I might be a bit short with people; snarky, irritable, even rude; but I WILL NOT FALL. 

Then… one evening as I as lifted the cries of my heart to the heavens; confessing my fear that at any minute one more thing will come along and I will fall and crash and burn and drown, the still small voice whispered two words that truly have transformational power.

Let go.

The words were simple and the imagery profound; letting go doesn’t mean crashing and burning and drowning…

It means trusting.

Trusting the one that has promised never to leave me.

Trusting He hasn’t brought me here to abandon me. 

Trusting He does care about the details.  He wants these people and projects to bring life and hope and healing to Madagascar even more than I do.

Trusting he will orchestrate my next steps, minutes, breaths… if I trust him… and stop ripping off my fingernails trying to hold on by my own strength.

It's called surrender. 

So with fingernails intact, my determination and drive and fear and striving all released to the heavens, I find myself having the most incredible week I can remember.

I’ve connected deeply with people and led meetings and attended meetings and sorted out details and made it through emails and did about six hours of schoolwork in three and shared treats with dear friends and I’ve slept well and found time I wasn’t expecting for encouraging others and offering kindness and loved well and spoken life and experienced joy and life to the full.

We can safely say I am big proponent of this (not so) new stress management plan.

Surrender. 


Let go. 


Antananarivo

28 August 2015

As I mentioned in my last blog post the ship has been delayed; what should have been a reunion with friends and a return to ship life became an extended stay in Antananarivo.  As they say in Mercy Ships, the only constant is change!  The ship is now sailing through the southwest Indian ocean and is scheduled to arrive in Tamatave on Sunday, several weeks late but right on time.

My time in Antananarivo has been very fruitful.  I have been able to meet with various government and medical leaders and put some details in place for our massive medical training program happening here this field service. It is so massive that we have brought on another crew member to join my team who will live here in Tana; so I’ve had some good time to walk through processes, procedures, and meet some of the important connections she will need for the coming year.

This transition back to Madagascar time has been the roughest of all my international travel; for some reason it took me well over a week to adjust!  It is beyond frustrating when you find yourself wide awake and ravenous at night, while during the day you can hardly keep your eyes open with no appetite at all.   In the past it’s only been a few days and I’ve been fine, so I am not sure if I can chalk this one up to getting older, or what.  I often try to have a day layover in Europe in the middle of the journey, which helps me to not only adjust to time but also get my head from one world into another; I didn’t have that this time, so maybe I will need to make that more of a priority next time!

Anyway, besides jet lag, it’s been wonderful to be back. It is amazing how comfortable I find myself speaking French to the market stall lady arguing over twenty cents for some oranges or the taxi driver in the ancient vehicle that starts up by winding two wires together and touching it with the third one.  The weather in Tana is absolutely delightful; dry, cool at night, beautifully sunny blue skies all day and not swelteringly hot. 

I have so much more to share but will leave it at that for now.  AFM family, may the seas be kind to you, I will see you soon!
Today's workspace; Antananarivo, from the balcony of my guest house.



--k

There and back again.

17 August 2015

Well hello, virtual friends, family, new followers, acquaintances, and blog stalkers - glad to see Blogger hasn't shut me down for inactivity!  

I've been away from the ship for the longest time since joining, and it has been quite a ride.  Since leaving the ship on May 10th, I've taken nineteen flights, been in eight different countries, had ten speaking engagements, ate at least half a dozen cinnamon/caramel rolls, and hugged, adventured, and laughed with  dozens of friends and family in four different states.  I was on TV and I was in a wedding and I went kayaking with seals and saw a Broadway show. I started my Masters degree, and have managed not to fail out in the first few weeks.  

I've started at least a dozen blog posts and haven't finished a single one. We'll see in the next few minutes if this one actually gets 'published' status. :-) 

I'm currently in the Minneapolis airport, having started my journey back to the ship in my hometown of Duluth.  Well, I have to take that back - plans were that I would journey back to the ship.  However, as they often do, plans have changed - and I am in fact journeying back to Madagascar while the ship is not actually there yet - it is... still in Durban, South Africa.  They have been quite delayed with some problems discovered while the ship was in scheduled maintenance over the (northern hemisphere) summer break.  I'm not entirely sure what the problem was but it was something to do with the propeller, which is rather important (or so I am told).  The good news is the ship is floating again and will be heading to Madagascar in the coming days, so I will just start my work on the ground until they arrive.  

So anyway, all of that to say, I plan to get up and writing again, so thanks for joining me here.  A special welcome to anyone 'new' who I met in various speaking engagements this summer - very much appreciate your visit to my little virtual soapbox. :-)  If you are looking for information on donating, click on the big green DONATE button to the right.  Feel free to email me at krissyonmercy dot gmail dot com if you have questions, or just comment on this blog post. 

Okay that's enough for now.  Except for a few (of many many many) photos, because everyone likes photos. 
Road trip to Coffee City. Where there is no coffee to be found. But a memorable trip, anyway. 

My friends are freaking gorgeous. Blue stripes for the win. 

My niece is pretty stinkin' cute too. 

Me and the newest nephew at the wedding I was privileged to be a part of. 

Bridget was a bit more excited about dancing than Avery was. 


Alive.

09 June 2015


~ Sitting in the setting sun of Antananarivo, thanking God for all He had done in that country… and all there is yet to do.

~ Crunching through the yellow fallen leaves on a crisp fall day in Pretoria, and remembering how pleasant it is to not be hot and sweaty all the time.

~ The gracious and extremely warm greetings and welcome from the government officials, even going so far as to walk out on to the street to help us find the office.

~ The excitement and passion expressed by the participants as they explained how the training they received on the ship in Pointe Noire has completely changed their practice, has helped countless patients, and has been eagerly adopted by their colleagues.

~ Excited smiles, squeals, kisses, hugs, and laughter as we reconnected with friends who fully expected to never see us again.

~ Story after story of patients’ lives saved and nurses lives transformed thanks to our investments, words, trust, love, and calling.

~ Exploring a new city in beautiful sunshine with a dear friend.

~ The best brownie in the history of the world, warm with vanilla ice cream and an espresso… enjoyed with a favorite friend in a favorite city.

~ An enthusiastic welcome by colleagues, strangers and friends alike.

~ Waking up on a Sunday to green beauty and birdy songs, coffee and puppy cuddles.

How does one summarize the last six weeks? In those moments where I felt the most alive.  It was incredible.  There were plenty of other moments; moments of frustration or disappointment, of anger, of fear, of doubt, of utter exhaustion… but when I look back over the last few weeks I find those moments fading to the background; the ones that remain are the moments of beauty, of redemption, of joy and love and life to the full. 

I’ve made it to Texas; the land of wide open spaces and hamburgers and really fast freeways.  Last night I finally slept through the night so I’m hoping that means I’m officially over jet lag and can return to full functioning; though my current level of sleepiness indicates otherwise.  Somehow the stories of the last few weeks will be organized into words on paper and in pages and on blogs; while I enjoy the little things like grass and whole grain bread and new faces and open spaces and cinnamon rolls. 

It sure is good to be alive. God Bless America.   --k

The coming weeks.

28 April 2015

Here's my schedule for the coming weeks:

Tomorrow I get in a car for a four-day road trip to the interior of Madagascar to follow-up with Peace Corps Volunteers who did the HBB training.

I get back on Saturday night and then head out Tuesday morning to fly to Fianarantsoa and for two more days of HBB follow-up.

I will fly from Fianarantsoa to Antananarivo, where I will meet up with Michelle and we will both fly the next day to Mahajanga where we will follow-up Checklist training.

We will both then return to the ship on Friday evening, unpack and repack, and then travel back to Antananarivo on Sunday.  After a quick overnight, we leave together to fly to Johannesburg, South Africa where we will get the necessary visas to go to the Republic of Congo.

Thursday, visas in hand, we will fly from Johannesburg to Pointe Noire, where the ship was docked for the last field service, 2013-2014.  We will spend time in three cities over two weeks in Congo, every day packed full with supplementary training, follow-up, and visits - trying to determine if what we did there in pioneering our Healthcare Education program actually left an impact. 

After two weeks in Congo, Michelle and I head to Berlin where she speaks at a conference and I will be madly writing reports for the end of the Madagascar field service as well as the Congo trip.  We will also explore a bit and hopefully have a few hours to breathe after a full on, non-stop several months.  Then I have a brief layover in London where I bid Michelle goodbye for a few months and then head through Madrid on my way to the Mercy Ships International Operations Center in Lindale, Texas, where I will spend a few weeks working from dry land while the ship makes its way to Durban, South Africa for the annual shipyard maintenance period.  It's been three years since I have been there, so it will be a great time to reconnect with team members and friends from that side of the pond.  Then, finally, I will head to Minnesota, to Seattle, to Colorado, and to various other yet-to-be-determined locations before eventually making my way back to Madagascar to begin the second field service in Toamasina.

Phew. 

It's a strange end to the field service - I've sailed away from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Congo field services onboard and this time of year is usually one of sadness tinged with hope and a season full of goodbyes.  This year I'm leaving long before the ship does and when I return the ship will be in the same place I left it; almost as if nothing has happened. 

One of the joys of ship life though is not only am I trying to get massive amounts of work done and papers ready and supplies packed for the next several trips but my home will be sailing... twice... in the time I am gone, so I have to secure everything for 20 degree rolls in the open sea, find people willing to care for my plants, and toss any food that will expire while I am away.

I had a moment today when I actually stopped and thought, "I live on a ship.  How weird!" Yes, three years in and those moments still happen.  I love what I get to be a part of and I hope to be able to post updates from time to time; but at the same time don't be surprised if you don't hear from me either! 

Thanks for your support and encouragement!!  --Krissy

Proudly designed by | mlekoshi playground |