Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Citizen of the World.

Thanks to everyone who read my last post and especially those who wrote comments or emails.  I don’t mean to say all labels are bad or that we should not ever use them; on the contrary, I think some are helpful and we all need various ways to try to fit our world/life/universe that is beyond understanding into something manageable for our finite, human brains to make use of.

I just want to be careful with my words.

Someone a few days ago gave me a label that I love and will cling to:

You are truly a citizen of the world.

Oh. Yes.

It’s been a great few weeks in France; the last field service in Madagascar was exceptionally hard and I spent quite a lot of time sleeping, reading, feeding my soul and heart and mind and body with every morsel of beauty I could; lots of hikes, lots of solitude, lots of beauty, of wine, of cheese, and of dear friends.

I celebrated the 4th of July independence day with an Australian and an English friend in France eating hamburgers on the grill and celebrating freedom, friendship, and the fact that even though we threw all their tea in the harbor we could still be friends.  I love that.  Yes, I miss my family and wish I could have simultaneously been here and there at the same time, but I love that life has brought me to France to celebrate my American-hood with English and Australian friends over burgers. Never would I have ever dreamed it for my life, but here I am. Grateful and humbled.

That’s the joy of a global citizen.

There’s also sorrow.

Every day when I look at the news I am assaulted with gruesome details of another heinous attack.  A truck in Nice.  A knife in Japan.  A gun in Florida.  Bombs in Somalia, in Baghdad, in Germany.  Just this morning a priest violently killed in France.   Those victims? They are all my people.  I don’t know every story and I wouldn’t dare claim I understand what their family feels or their friends feel or their brothers and sisters in faith or culture or race or nationality feel.  But these are my people and I grieve. 

What trumps fear, always? Love.

In the next few days I head back to the ship, travelling through Paris and Dubai… Because a few people recently have (with all the right intentions) suggested maybe I stay away from Paris I do want to put this truth out there to counteract the fear and offer a little perspective: The most dangerous thing I can do with my life right now is not go through Paris; it’s not even to move to Baghdad (although I won’t be doing that anytime soon).  The most dangerous thing any of us do is get into a car.  Worldwide deaths due to terrorism in 2015 are less than US-only national deaths due to motor vehicle accidents.  And poisoning. And heart disease, cancer, infectious disease…. On and on.  (all this info is online, try cdc.gov, or statista.com for starters). 

Moving on.

I’m heading back to the ship and I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about that… last field service was extremely hard and while I think this year will be significantly better for many reasons there is still a little fear there.  While hiking the other day I was reveling in the beauty of solitude in the woods, with the damp mulch silencing my footsteps and the birds singing loudly with the sun and blue sky peeking through the branches surrounding me as my heart was beating and my lungs filling with fresh mountain air… It was glorious.  I felt alive, abundantly.  This is heaven, I whispered… but I can’t do this in Benin.  There are no mountains and no clean air and certainly no solitude… if this is how I feel alive, how can I survive in this next field service? 


And then I remembered – I feel alive there, too. I love the African markets and the fabric and the fried dough balls and the noise and the beauty that is completely different than the beauty I experience here but it is still beautiful.

So I’m looking forward to going back, with better boundaries and priorities and with the end in mind; I really hope this means more laughing and less crying and more joy and love and life to the full. I think it does.  Stay tuned to this space to find out, I guess!

The other problem with being a citizen of the world?  As another friend recently put so eloquently: 

The problem with travelling is that you want to live everywhere. And eat everything.


Yep. The struggle is real.


xxk

Friday, July 22, 2016

Defying Labels

Several weeks ago I was having a beautiful, deep conversation with a friend about a plethora of topics; social issues, politics, religion/faith, civil rights, etc.  I say it was beautiful because even in what could be (and often is) highly emotive topics, we were both interested, engaged, free to question not out of judgement or critique but out of curiosity and a desire to understand.  We agreed completely on several issues and were fundamentally opposed on others, and there was nothing but mutual respect, love, openness, and a belief that beliefs in and of themselves matter; the heart behind them matter, and both of us will fight tooth and nail for the freedom to hold dear and respect beliefs even if they are fundamentally opposite in nature and expression.

But something did come out in the conversation that I didn’t really like; it caught me, not enough to mention or discuss in itself, but enough for me to still be ruminating on it several months later.

At one point, this dear friend said “wow, you are really a feminist aren’t you?”.  Later in the conversation she commented on how ‘liberal’ I am, “for a Christian”.

Since that conversation I’ve engaged in several others like it, where labels were also imposed on me; I’ve been called a free thinker, a perfectionist, a republican, a fundamentalist, a democrat, and an ‘old maid’.  I’ve been asked if I am pro-life or pro-choice.  I’ve chatted with people wanting to know my thoughts on gay marriage, racism, the American political system, child vaccinations, and homeschooling – not to understand my thoughts (no problem with that) but rather to give me the right label.  A hardcore republican might call me a raging liberal and a raging liberal might call me a crazy fundamentalist republican. 

I am neither.  Or both, depending on who you are asking.

If you know me at all you know I love a good discussion, and I don’t shy away from people who genuinely want to know and ask and explore differences of opinions; I also don’t know everything, I’m not always right, and there are only a few beliefs I hold that I wouldn’t be open to changing or considering alternatives if presented well.

But labels. 

What is with the need to label people?  In that particularly beautiful conversation, I was labeled a liberal feminist who loves Jesus.  She also said she didn’t think that was possible. 

What?

(all evidence to the contrary, I suppose)

Why do we need to label people? Why does everyone need to fit into a box in the grid of our worldview? 

I don’t really like that now in her mind I am a liberal feminist Christian.  I’d like to just be Krissy, if that’s okay.  Krissy, who stands for love and mercy and justice and inclusion and safety and peace and equality and hard work and relationships and strength and a pursuit of life to the full, whatever that means.  I am for medicine and for alternative therapies, for life and for freedom, for truth and science and art and music and mystery and faith and I don’t think any of those things have to be contradictory; it’s us that decide that they are and put ourselves and each other in the us vs them categories, conveniently forgetting that we are all human and we are all in this together.

I saw this a few months ago and it totally made me tear up and jump for joy at the same time. 




Yes. Can you imagine? What if we all would stop trying to force each other into appropriately labeled beige square holes, and allowed each other (and ourselves) to be who we are, shining in our respective awesomeness… can you imagine what that world would be like? Free of hatred, shame; filled with love and respect. Heavenly, in fact.


Do you think there is a place for labels? Do you think we could ever truly be free from them?  


Friday, July 15, 2016

Be the change.

Yesterday was such a lovely day. 

Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, commemorating the start of the French Revolution.  It’s a lot like our own Independence Day, with a lot of outdoor parties and the day ending with fireworks.

Lauren and I decided to go out for dinner, meet friends for dessert, and watch the fireworks together.  We went to an incredible little pizza place that was full to bursting which is always a good sign; the food was delish. I went with the gourmet pizza menu and decided on the one with goat’s cheese, cream, honey, apples, and hazelnuts – basically a dessert pizza posing as dinner.  And a Bigourd’Ale Blanche, a local craft brew that did not disappoint.

Lovely conversation and garlic bread and friends who joined us for dessert as the sun gradually made it’s way towards the horizon in cool but mostly clear skies. After dessert we wandered towards the centre-ville, where there was live music playing in the courtyard and people milling about celebrating the day.

As darkness fell, someone set off a few firecrackers.  I glanced around and remembered why no one registered any fear at that sound: no one has guns here.  It was a large crowd, it seemed all of Lourdes came together last night; it was full of laughter and different languages and a beautiful sunset.  It crossed my mind that if I was in Paris I wouldn’t have joined in a gathering this large, but then chastised myself for being silly and fearful.  Lourdes is harmless and it’s a day of celebration and relax and enjoy the moment.  I did, however, know exactly where we were and if there was a problem how to get out quickly.

The lights went off and the fireworks began; shot from a castle to perfectly timed music. I found myself blinking back tears as beauty filled my field of vision and the emotive, haunting music tugged at my heart and stirred my emotions for reasons beyond understanding. As the final shimmers faded we said goodbye to friends and headed home; chilly toes and full hearts ready to curl into a warm bed and blissful sleep.



~~~

This morning I stirred slowly, a nagging headache trying to convince me to stay in bed while a gorgeous sunny day beckoned me out. I glanced at my phone to see what time it was and squinted at dozen messages through different avenues all asking the same thing: are you okay?  Confused I glanced through and saw other words like tragic and awful and horrified, alongside we are praying for you and please let us know you are okay. My gut clenched as I stumbled out of bed, pulling on sweatpants and wondering what on earth happened, knowing it must be bad. Was it here in Lourdes? I could hear Lauren had just turned on the news in the living room; I walked out and all I could say was what happened?  

Nice. 84 dead. Terror and mayhem.

Noooooooooooooo.  (Expletives.)

We both stared numbly at the images on TV; eerily reminiscent of 9/11, of Brussels, of Paris, of Dallas.  This time it was tears of despair I found myself blinking back; grief, horror, anger, emptiness.

How?

~~~

What do I do with this?

Innocents, children, vacationers, celebrating life and freedom and summer and family and joy; blackened by hatred and anger and evil beyond understanding.  It could have been me.  It could have been any of us in any city in the world.  Senseless killings around the globe on what is nearly a daily basis. 

I wanted to reply to all the messages, NO, I’m not okay!  None of us should be okay.  We shouldn’t be okay with all of this hatred and anger and evil in action day after day.  Please, don’t be okay with this. Any of it.  Nice. Dallas.  Istanbul.  Baton Rouge.  Minnesota.  Baltimore. Brussels. Baghdad.  Syria.  Don’t just take your anger to Facebook either - get angry and get passionate and do something.  

God has put in me a heart and a longing and a love for travel; for exploring cultures and cities and nature and serving those in greatest need.  It feels deeply and loves deeply and longs for restoration of the brokenness around me. 

It’s also very stubborn.

I will not bury my head in the sand or try to find a ‘safe’ place in the world to hide away.

Love wins. 

There is more love to be spread.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Ghandi