Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Becoming.

This month has found me travelling more than any other, between vacation, running courses, meetings and other things going on I have lived out of a backpack for nearly a month and have had quite a good time doing it!  It reminds me how much I love the part of my job that is pioneering; creating, dreaming, and building things that no one has ever done before. It’s such a privilege that I get to be a part of this!

Yesterday morning, first thing Monday, I needed to get to the local hospital to sort out a problem… which (side note) is actually what my job title should be – problem solver.  On the way to the hospital I needed to stop and get fuel for the vehicle I was driving.  I got to the fuel station, and sorry, you can’t get fuel, it’s all gone.  Okay.  So I continued on to the hospital where I was to have a meeting, and after waiting awhile, came to find out sorry, you can’t have a meeting, he is gone.  Okay.  So then I continued on to the airport where I was supposed to pick up two colleagues from their time abroad and bring them back to the ship.  The arrival time of the flight came and went, with no sign of the plane… And all I could think was, man, 0 for 3… if they don’t actually show, I might as well just go to bed and try again tomorrow! 

Thankfully they did arrive and after settling them back in our floating home I headed back to the hospital to wait a bit longer for a meeting.  Mornings like that can be frustrating – it feels like I haven’t really actually done anything.  Other days, days that aren’t spent in a whole lot of waiting, when I can hardly breathe between one thing and another, can still end with me wondering “what did I actually do today?”

Something that I have realized lately, in my waiting and in my busy and in my wondering what did I actually accomplish today, is that somehow I have come to believe my worth is found in the capacity of my productivity. The value of me is actually the summation of everything I accomplished.  So when it feels like I don’t accomplish much, I feel rather like I haven’t earned my space on the ship or in the universe.

But I know that’s not true, I know that what I can do doesn’t change who I am and what I bring to the ship or to the universe.  So I keep telling myself that.  And I keep showing up every day, trying to do a good thing and help a few people and shine light into dark places and letting myself be seen.  It’s an incredible journey and I’m grateful for the friends along the way who encourage me to continue in the becoming.  

The becoming of me, the becoming of someone who finds joy in the waiting, who can stand tall and know her worth regardless of the checks on the to-do list or the emails answered or the lives transformed.  Those are all great things, but they should not ever diminish the greatest thing – that is the journey, that is life to the full; that is the experience and the joy and the value of breathing, and being, and becoming.

The Glory of God is (a wo)man fully alive. –St. Irenaeus

Sunset in Toamasina, 25 January 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kind.

2016 un-resolutions:

1.       Laugh
2.       Create
3.       Enough
4.       Kind

I like one-word resolutions.  Easy to remember.

I am not a very kind person to myself.   If I talked to my friends the way I talk to myself, I certainly wouldn’t have any friends.

I’ve known this a long time. It’s not like this is a new, earth shattering idea. But for some reason I never was able to take the sentiment beyond just a sentiment and into actual practice.  Yes I know I’m not an idiot, but I am certainly going to keep telling myself I am, thank you very much. Maybe then I can get my act together.

Somehow over my vacation I realized that I have this deeply held belief that if I just get my sh** together, nothing would go wrong or I wouldn’t make mistakes  or everything would be peachy keen jelly bean.

That is the definition of shame.  Not that I have a problem but that I am a problem.

And it is reflected in how I talk to myself.  But the thing is, it doesn’t work.  Stasi Eldredge reminds me in her awesome book Becoming Myself that shame is never a motivator for change.


And for some reason, it clicked.  I am in an unhealthy relationship… with myself.

And I started talking to myself the way I would talk to a friend. 

And you know what? Something has shifted.  I'm a failure has been replaced with I make mistakes sometimes. And I am learning and growing and becoming and smart and a good friend. Among other things. 


I’m determined and committed to be kind to myself.  And I want to encourage you to do the same.

Try it. For one day. Or one hour. Or after one mistake.   You won't regret it. 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Enough.

Well, so far in January I’ve spent less than 48 hours on the ship; this last week was spent in Antananarivo running an anesthesia course plus other meetings about other projects plus some follow up on previous projects.  As I wandered out last night to put some trash in the dumpster on the dock, I glanced up at the stars and was suddenly overwhelmed with awe – here I am, on a boat, in Madagascar, helping patients and medical professionals experience transformation in their lives and practices… all the while I am continually being transformed myself.  It’s not just for the patients.  It’s for every person who walks up the gangway. 

I’ve enjoyed grasping moments to create and finding time to laugh every single day.  It’s changing my perspective and my outlook and my emotional stability as well as my friends are grateful, I am sure.   Here’s #3 on the 2016 focus list (I still dislike the word resolutions)

3. I want to cultivate a mentality of enough in my life.

Enough [ih-nuhf]
Adj: adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire
Adv: in a quantity or degree that answers a purpose or satisfies a need or desire; sufficiently

One of my all-time favorite books is Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and in it he suggests within one of the habits that we live in a scarcity mentality, but we are meant to view the world with an abundance mentality. I’ve tried to live in this mentality since I read that book a few years ago, but recently it was brought up again in Daring Greatly by Brene Brown in a different way.  

What is the first thing I think when my alarm goes off in the morning?  I didn’t get enough sleep. 

When I start to go through my day in my head, the next thought is often I don’t have enough time.

There, before I have even lifted my head or put my feet on the floor I’m already feeling not enough.  I’m already inadequate, with insufficient resources, and I spend the rest of my day trying to claw my way out of scarcity, into enough. 

At the end of the day what fills my head? What I didn’t get done, how much I am already behind on tomorrow’s tasks, how late it is and how little sleep I will now be able to get.   Scarcity is a hole I will constantly fight to dig my way out of but never will succeed.  But what if all it took was a change of position? What if I just never got into the hole in the first place?

And this is just me, personally, in my day-to-day existence. This doesn’t even touch on the scarcity mentality we have in large groups, organizations, working groups, etc. (which is Covey’s focus). That thing that makes you jealous of someone else getting recognition for something that isn’t really that awesome… what I did last week was more awesome than that and no one recognized me…. That comes out of a scarcity mentality.  That there is only so much recognition, or favor, or blessing, or whatever to go around and if someone else gets it that means you won’t. 

Covey says the opposite of scarcity is abundance.  Brown says it is enough.

I think it is both.

Because when we are living in a scarcity mentality, which we all are, enough feels like abundance.

I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly. ~Jesus, John 10:10
He is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20

More than I can ask or imagine, otherwise known as abundance, to me, today, is a good restful sleep and a productive feeling day. Actually, that isn’t abundance.  That is enough.  Abundance is a gift that I don’t know what I would do with right now. And may be a topic for a different blog post someday.

But for today, what does this mean?

When I wake up, I am taking captive the first thought of “I didn’t get enough sleep” and replacing it with something along the lines of “thanks God that I got to wake up today; thanks in advance for the energy to rise to the occasion, with excellence”. 

I’m trying to take captive any thought of scarcity…. Things like I am not smart enough or rested enough or I don’t work hard enough or I don’t have enough friends or I am not friendly enough or I am not outgoing enough or not in good enough shape or not pretty enough or not strong enough or…...  (And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!)

I have enough time today to get everything done that I need to get done for today.  I trust God with what that means. Sometimes it means things further down the priority list don’t get done.  Sometimes it’s more time for work projects and sometimes it is more time for school and sometimes it is more time for friends and sometimes it is more time for sleep.  All is unto the Lord and all is holy.

I am enough, I have enough, and there is enough to go around.

Breathe deeply in that. There is enough. You are enough. 


Peace. And all is well again. 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Create.

First off, thanks for all the kind words, funny videos, memes, messages, etc.   Yes, things have been hard, but yes, I am really doing okay, I promise!   But keep sending things like that.  I won’t reply to every single one, but I do very much appreciate every single one.

And now, without further ado…

2.   Create

I’ve always said and believed I am not a creative person.  But my narrow definition of ‘creative’ has been that of the fine, visual arts – as in, I’m not an artist by way of paint or pen.  I don’t enjoy most crafty type things and even when I try to doodle I can’t. 

But I am creative.

Recently I read a book I highly recommend called The gifts of imperfection: Letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are by Brene Brown.    Brilliant, in one word.  So good.

In this book the author outlines 10 ‘guideposts’ of what it takes to life a wholehearted life (read the book) and one of them really jumped out at me as something important – cultivate creativity.

Brene says: "When people asked me about crafting or art or creating, I relied on the standard I’m not the creative type.  On the inside I was really thinking, Who has time for painting and scrapbooking and photography when the real work of achieving and accomplishing needs to be done??"

This Brene person just totally gets me.

Her conclusion after lots and lots of study on this?

1.    There is no such thing as not creative – there are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.  Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear.  It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.
2.      The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born out of our creativity.

Another book I highly recommend? Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  She writes that creativity and inspiration are within us and all around us – and askes the beautiful question of Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?

Creativity, and fear, and vulnerability, and joy are all inexorably and indisputably intertwined.  What keeps us from being creative?  Fear of being seen as lacking. Fear of a poor review. Fear of criticism.  

BUT

A creative life is an amplified life.  It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Elizabeth Gilbert

That sounds a lot like life to the full.

Which is worth fighting for.

So just like I am choosing laughter, I am also choosing to create.

My creative outlet at the moment? You’re looking at it.  You’ll see I’ve already written more in the last three days than I did the entire month of December.  I am certainly open to other creative outlets, but I don’t have the time or energy or desire to pick up painting right now, or anything else like that. I do have the desire to write… but I often think I don’t have time or it’s not good enough or who am I anyway to think anyone would read that.  But I know God has given me a gift with words and I am desperate to steward that gift well…  and choose courage… bringing forth the treasures that are hidden within me.  I’m choosing to grab the half hour I have today with the whispers of inspiration in my head and pound out these words that I think are just bigger than me and believe even if they are rubbish, that is not the verdict on who I am.

I’ve also realized in the last few months that what I love to do more than anything, in terms of my work or that which takes up the majority of my time and energy this season, is to create.  I love creating programs and systems and structures and trying things out and fixing and improving things… and then handing them off to someone else to maintain.  I’m not a maintenance person. I’m a creative person.  

So as I put one foot in front of the other and draw up the courage to hit publish and bring forth other treasures within me - whether they are new ideas for changing the face of healthcare in Africa, or words on a page and words on a screen, or encouraging those around me to be creative as an act of rebellion against fear - I invite you to do the same.

Bring forth the treasures within you. 



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Laugh.

So I don’t really do ‘new year’s resolutions’ because I don’t like the idea of changing something major based on a calendar day.  However because the first of the year and my birthday and my time away all coincide, I have been naturally reflective and asking myself, my friends, and God what I can do to make this year a little less… well… difficult. 

I also get a bit freaked out when I try to think about the year ahead – changing behavior for a whole a year seems like an excessively daunting task.  But I can change my behavior tomorrow. And then we will see how it goes. Considering the simplicity of my list, I would think one successful day might lead to a second and a third.  We’ll see.  

I've got four at the moment, and feel each one is worth a post. So for now, drumroll please....

1.      Laugh more than I cry.

I’ve cried a lot in the last three months.  For a variety of reasons, some of which will end up being posted on this blog eventually, some of which won’t.  And I don’t think crying is bad.  I’ve said it a lot, I am glad I can feel because that means I am alive.  And I feel deeply.  But the last few months there have just been far too many tears and not enough laughter.   For me, for now, anyway – tears seem to come very naturally but laughter doesn’t.  SO I have decided that I need to be very intentional about laughing at least once a day – more than a chuckle or a smile.  True laughter.

Why?

Well, it’s fun. But beyond that it has a whole lot of health benefits. :click here for an interesting link on health benefits of laughter:

It’s about one of the healthiest things you can do for your body, actually. Physiologically it changes your body chemistry to less stress and more joy.  I’d like that.  I need that. We all do!      
    
Considering how much I have cried lately, I need to either laugh a whole lot, or cry less.  A combination of the two is preferred, and I’ve sorted out a few things in my head that will hopefully decrease the crying frequency. However, I still don’t laugh enough.  Laughter is contagious, so I will be intentionally putting myself in the path of other funny people around here, but I do travel a lot and work and school makes social time difficult….

SO I am asking for your help!  A kind of emotional support, if you will.

Have you seen a video that was just hilarious? Not chuckle worthy but laugh out loud for extended time funny? Send me the link.

Or a photo or a comic or a short story? Send them my way. I don’t have a lot of time (thus the requirement that it be worthy of more than a smile or a chuckle… that would be insufficient) but if I have come to the end of my day and haven’t laughed enough, I will be looking for things.  Or if I wake up a bit earlier than usual, that would be a great way to start my day.

I challenge you, all of my friends, family, and readers, to help me to laugh.  And if you are reading this and you are on the AFM – bring it on, too!

Comment on this blog, send me an email, a facebook message, imessage to my email address, carrier pigeon, snail mail, or a post-it note on my door, all welcome.

I can’t wait to laugh with you.



stay tuned for #2-#4….  xxk

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Happy New Year

Whelp, somehow we are over a week through 2016 already; the halls are un-decked, the busy second half of the field service has started up again and grouchy comments about cold weather and snow are filling up my Facebook feed. 

I've just returned from a beautiful week away; on a beach in northern Madagascar with no electronic devices except a Kindle full of books of the non-academic variety.  It was the week in between grad school modules so I was able to truly switch off and enjoy some sunshine, rest, and adventure with a dear friend. It was desperately needed, I felt like the last few weeks of December were far from my best; I was short and tired and grouchy and my daily prayer was reduced to the hope that I wouldn't irreparably destroy any project or relationship that couldn't be fixed later. Thankfully, grace abounds, and as far as I know neither has happened, and I am happy to be back here again in a much more pleasant-to-be-around state of mind. 

It's full speed ahead; I returned just yesterday morning and head out tomorrow to Antananarivo to run a course there, hold some meetings about upcoming training, and try to do some follow up on previous courses.  My next module of grad school has started; I am now six months into the two-plus year program and really, really enjoying it.  I am such a learner, and I find the topics of study fascinating.  I got my grades from the previous module and am still passing 'with merit', which is encouraging.  

My christmas cards are still sitting in the bag on my desk; not sure when I will get to them, so apologies and sincere thanks to all my supporters and friends and family.  Special thanks for the surprise end-of-year donations that came thru while I was away!  I couldn't do this without you all - so my sincerest and deepest gratitude. 

Happy New Year!  Blessings and favor over this new year, and always.  

This was the sunset on Dec 31, 2015 in Anjimarango, Madagascar. A beautiful goodbye to a beautiful year.


xxk