15 August 2017

Over the weekend some atrocities occurred in Charlottesville that make me want to scream and cry and rant and rage while at the same time curl up into a ball and weep - along with a huge number of Americans. But also, the terrorist attack in Burkina Faso that probably never made the news in America; the mudslide in Sierra Leone, the devastating famine in East and Southern Africa (how can we let people starve to death today?), the racism and sexism and hatred spewing all over this country and world...  It is all tragic.  

And if I screamed and ranted and raged all over about everything I find awful and wrong about the world... that is all I would do. ever. 

But I don't see the point of that. Especially on social media.  I am not a public figure nor do I have a following of people that in any way would be influenced by my calling out of atrocities.  And going to marches or protests or whatever else? What is the point?  What does that actually accomplish?  

Read this New Yorker piece that is much better at asking that question than I am:  Is there any point to protesting? 

I'm not saying it's bad. Go march if it feels like it will fill something inside of you.  But it seems like an empty action to me. 

But I know the flip side. The flip side that says silence is supporting them, or our lives begin to end when we stay silent about things that matter (Martin Luther King Jr).  I don't want to be silent either...

But anyone who knows me or knows even a little bit about me, I certainly hope, would never question my intentions.  Anyone who knows me would know I stand for love and truth and hope and life and light and joy and peace and freedom.  Silence isn't just about words. Silence is about actions. And I am a woman of action.  Standing for what is right doesn't mean going to the local rally or demonstration, necessarily.  

It looks like volunteering your time or resources to serve and love others, especially those who are different than you.  That's what will change the world... not screaming your lungs out, but loving your life away.  Go feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, or love the unloved, the forgotten, the widows, the orphans, the lonely... If you want there to be more love in the world... go put more love in the world. Go love the world. 

At least, that's my take on it. And that's what I'm going to do. Join me. 

Until next time... 

All in.

15 August 2017

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks of adjusting and readjusting and resetting and lowering expectations until finally they’re just chucked out the window. Moving across the earth and starting a new life in a foreign place Is. Not. Easy. But it certainly is an adventure, and there are many, many fun moments intertwined in those that may, in the most generous terms, be categorized as tolerable.

In two weeks I’ve visited two different churches; I’ve ridden my bike throughout the city several times; I’ve tried a new running club and I’ve played several games of Ultimate Frisbee; I’ve gotten a bank account and a drivers license and registered to vote and got health insurance and found a primary care doctor and gotten a library card; I managed to get furniture and work clothes and run around the city a bit and even explored Lexington and Concord last weekend.

In it all, a phrase has been uttered by several different people, when hearing of my various adventures and escapades: Wow, you’re all in.

Yep, I am.

Because you know what? Why not?

That first visit to the ultimate Frisbee field?  A field full of strangers of whom you have no idea if there are any players of your ability or gender or friendliness level or age level or anything at all… that first visit is going to be miserable and you’re probably going to want to bail and may even want to throw up beforehand as all the nerves in your entire body rebel at the thought of showing up and being seen. Regardless of whether I do it in my first week or my hundredth week, it’s going to be miserable. So why put it off? Then you just get to feel that anxiety and the dreaded I should really go and the worry every week until you finally bite the bullet and go. Ridiculous.  Do it now and get that part over with.

Because if it’s awful?  You don’t ever have to go there ever again.

But if it’s wonderful? Think of what you would have missed out on, because you let fear be the boss of you. 

Replace that Frisbee field with the running club or the church meeting or riding my bike in the city for the first time and you have my first week of life in Boston in a nutshell: lots of scary things, and lots of deciding not to let fear make decisions for me.

I’m all in. And there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Until next time…
The Concord river - beautiful! I want to go canoeing down it! 

Bending my brain with algebra and statistics in real life.  I love feeling my brain turning on again! 
That's Louisa May Alcott's house - home of Little Women! I need to go back for a tour... 

The boss of me.

05 August 2017

Fear is not the boss of me. Love is the boss of me.

I’m not sure where I read or saw or heard someone say that the first time; if I did, I would give them a ton of credit. This mantra has been a life-giving truth I’ve repeated to myself at least a million times in the last few months.

I said it to myself on repeat the first time I got on my new bike and rode around the city. I’ve certainly ridden many bikes in my life but never in an urban environment, filled with cars and pedestrians and traffic signals and how DO you make a left hand turn when the bike lane is on the right? I had images of blood and flying through the air and bones breaking and road rash and a mangled bike… and I said, louder than the voices telling me to just walk instead, fear is not the boss of me. And I asked some experts the questions and rode sort of slowly and got off when I felt unsure… and it was awesome.
My new wheels.

I yelled it to the windshield of my rented Nissan on the way to return it to Logan airport. It was beautiful and sunny and warm in Cambridge when I drove out, as it had been since my arrival; somehow in the 6.2 miles between my home and Logan a hurricane formed (well, it seemed like it!) and dumped inches of rain, hail, and massive winds while I was trying to follow signs to rental car return.  It was legitimately nerve-wracking but instead of giving in to fear I methodically decided how to proceed in the most safe, comfortable manner I could. And arrived, relieved, and very happy to drop off the car.
Boston Public Garden - such beauty!
It’s my mantra right now as I think about going to play ultimate Frisbee tonight on a strange field full of people I’ve never met.  Love is the boss of me.  A successful night does not look like impressing all of them with my Frisbee abilities… it looks like showing up and being light and speaking life and running around and playing a game I love. If it’s absolutely terrible, I never have to go again.  But if it’s wonderful, well, that’s worth the anxiety ball in the pit of my stomach, it’s worth putting myself out there even if I’m not the greatest player, or… even if I drop the Frisbee (gasp…). 

A fine place to sit in the shade and eat an apple.
It’s written on a small post-it note on the corner of my mirror, where I can see it and remind myself that a good Sunday and first church visit will mean showing up and experiencing all that I can, and trusting the rest.  A good Monday will be showing up, filling in forms, being kind, open minded, open hearted, and relaxed as I start my new job. It’s about showing up and being seen and loving well and while fear gets to be in the room, too, it doesn’t get to call the shots. Fear is not the boss of me. Love is the boss of me.

Until next time… 

Urban life.

01 August 2017

One of the biggest adjustments of the season (that I wasn't really expecting)? Living in the city.

I’ve never lived in a truly urban environment.  Sure, I’ve lived on the ship in giant cities, but the ship was a calm, quiet, predictable retreat from the city…. I never lived on land in the chaos. I grew up in the woods and lived in the suburbs in the Seattle area… and out in the desert in the Peace Corps. 

So I live in Cambridge, just across the river from Boston proper, in a high-density neighborhood.  It’s a quiet pocket, to be sure, with trees and green space… but definitely urban.  There are people, everywhere. Walking their dogs, going shopping, walking to work.  There are cars everywhere.  The streets are narrow and packed with parked cars, and oh, what a nightmare!  My naïve suburban self thought it would be helpful to have a car for the first few days I’m here… well, it’s stressing me out more than it’s helping. It took me ten minutes to get to the furniture store yesterday, not too bad; but took me thirty minutes to find a parking space, a half mile from the store, that cost me twelve dollars for a few hours. I was so stressed out after driving around for thirty minutes that I ended up buying the first set of furniture I liked just so I wouldn’t have to go to any other stores.  (A bit more than I planned to spend but I think it’ll work out fine) I totally get why everyone says a car is not necessary here and I’ll be dropping it off sooner rather than later!

There’s also noise in the city I’m not accustomed to. It’s not terrible, but there is trucks and vehicles and planes overhead and workmen down the street that hopefully will all fade into the white noise of life in the coming days and weeks. I have to remind myself I’ve only been here two days and any big move like this takes time to adjust to!  And let me be clear – I’m not miserable.  I think I will really like this place once I can get my bedroom organized (furniture arrives today!) and my commute figured out and my schedule and rhythm put into place. Thankfully it’s been gorgeous weather – blue skies and mid-70s.  I can’t wait to get my stuff organized so I can go explore the city and the surrounding area.  I’ll be buying a bike in the coming days as well which will be fun!!

So glad I made sure to carve out this week of settling in – I would be pretty stressed out if I had to start work today or tomorrow! Thankfully I don’t start until next Monday, so between now and then I’ll be able to actually properly read the emails and information I’ve received from my team and feel ready to begin. 

Thanks for all the encouragement, friends.  I’ll take every bit right now.  Until next time…

p.s. most helpful friend comment yesterday – I was giving myself a bit of grief for slogging through a run that felt terrible, and she said “goodness girl, if I had gone through what you have done in the last month, I’d be curled up in the fetal position in the corner for at least a week”.  Thanks, friend. Erring on the side of compassion for self at the moment Jx

On Compassion.

31 July 2017

I woke up unusually slowly this morning – my body felt stiff, my mind foggy.  I squinted into the early morning sunlight (I really must get some curtains…), looking around my seemingly huge bedroom (anything is bigger than the closet-sized space I had on the ship) that more closely resembles a thrift store drop-off location than a place of rest and calm and peace.  Plastic bins of clothes, bags and bits strewn around, a gigantic pile of cardboard boxes and packing material piled up in one corner against blank beige walls. 

And I thought why is it still such a disaster? Get it together, Kristin!

Barely conscious and having moved in 36 hours ago, 16 of which were spent sleeping, and I’m already berating myself for not having my bedroom oasis/new life in Boston neatly organized and put together.

Somehow compassion seems to come incredibly naturally when directed at others, and is nonexistent towards myself. What is that about?  There's something in there about privilege and probably a little guilt thrown in for good measure; like if there are people starving or desperate for healthcare I deserve to be hard on myself for the privilege of a job and a place to live and food, blah blah blah. But even if it was a friend in this same situation, regardless of the state of the world, I wouldn't say that to them.  I wouldn't even think it. 

So as I cleared the cobwebs and stretched out the lingering kinks from cross-country driving and packing and unloading, I asked myself overly critical self what I would say to a friend in this situation.

It’s always chaos in the beginning – I think it’s incredible that you have been there not even two days and already have a bed set up and clothes hung! AND you managed to feed and water yourself?  AND find your way around to the grocery store and the other big-box chain store AND thrift store in a city you’ve never been to?  You’re amazing! It will come together, give it a few days. Give yourself some grace.

So today I will take one step at a time and show my own self a little compassion.  I’m going to run along the famed Charles River and then try to find some furniture to get my clothes and stuff off the floor and out of bins.  It’s a beautiful summer day which I think will be better spent enjoying the journey, rather than being upset with myself for not being super human and waving the wand and getting it all finished already.  It’s a new experience, all of this, and I’m grateful for the journey.

Until next time….

Until next time...

26 July 2017

It was summer of 2002.  I knew I wouldn’t stay in my hometown and indeed, even with the economic difficulties resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attacks I had gotten a job offer in a tiny little town north of Seattle. I had never been there, didn’t know anyone and really didn’t have a great idea of what I was getting in to… but it was right.  So just over fifteen years ago, I packed up my car in my mom’s driveway with everything I owned and headed west into the next right thing with a little faith and a little fear and a whole lot of hope and trust and excitement and anticipation. 

Fast forward fifteen years, and I find myself doing exactly the same thing. I’m packing up my [rental] car in my mom’s driveway with everything I own, this time heading east to a city I’ve never been to, where I don’t know but a couple people and I don’t have a great idea of what I’m getting in to… but this time I have a little more faith and a little less fear and a whole lot of hope and trust and excitement and anticipation.

How on earth did I get to be so incredibly blessed??   

The last few months have been absolutely everything I hoped and needed.  France was filled with hiking and exploring and resting and reading and writing my thesis and enjoying a pause in the chaos of transition.  The last week I’ve been with family in Minnesota, with lots of time at the lake, quite possibly my most favorite place in the world.  I’ve got about a dozen half-written blog posts, thoughts about transition, about living in America again, about saying goodbye and saying hello and adventures and wrestlings and wonderings and dreams...  I’ll get to them sometime soon.

But for now, I find myself saying once again until next time to my family and my hometown; this place I’ve never wanted to move back to but always love to visit.  It’s eerily reminiscent of my first move fifteen years ago; I’ve leaped into the great unknown many, many times since then and thankfully I can say it does get easier.  I’ll be driving to Chicago tomorrow and will visit a friend I haven’t seen in over eight years; after lunch with a friend in Cleveland and a stop in Niagara Falls I’ll get to the Boston area next weekend and will have a week to settle in, take care of business, find my way around and figure out how things work before starting my new job at Harvard Medical School.

Thank you, dear ones, for being a part of my journey. Until next time…

The iconic Aerial Lift Bridge in my hometown of Duluth - taken this afternoon!

Take a breath.

23 June 2017

It's been five days since I arrived in France, and it's been a glorious time of rest and renewal.

I've slept, I've eaten well, I've hiked and run and went for a bike ride and walked and shopped and explored and relaxed.

What a gift this is, the gift of time; time to take a breath, to drink in the beauty of mountains and green and songbirds and church bells in the distance.  It's different this time, for the first time in many years I have been able to truly relax, with no work to be concerned with, no programs to plan or problems to solve or conference calls to plan around.  I've only got my thesis to write, which is really and truly enjoyable, not stressful for me at all, and I'm way ahead of where most students are just ten weeks in.

But I'm also not one to waste my time; I want every moment to be intentional, on purpose.  Sometimes that purpose is to sleep just a little bit longer.  Sometimes that purpose is to bless others, like taking the time to mow the lawn.  Sometimes it's physical fitness, sometimes it's intentional stillness, listening, feeling, breathing, living.  Sometimes it's kicking back and reading a book that's not a school book. Sometimes it's working on my thesis. It's all important.  I don't want to get to the end of my time here and wonder where it went.  But I do want to bless and to be blessed, to breathe and embrace all the goodness I possibly can.  What a gift this is.

Le départ.

16 June 2017

It’s T-minus-one day until my departure from Benin.

My research has gone incredibly well, and thanks to a string of non-rainy days and hard working translators, I’ve changed my ticket to leave a week earlier than planned. I’m thrilled to be heading to the south of France for some time to breathe, to unwind, to process this transition and some residual baggage that I’d like to have sorted out before tackling the next adventure.  But I’m also sad to be leaving this place, where I’ve spent over three years of my life. 

It’s a different leaving this time; when I waved goodbye to my dear village friends nearly six years ago after two and a half years of life together, I thought it was forever. I remember the leaders of a previous service trip I had done telling everyone to please not tell the kids we were serving that you would see them again, that you’d be back. The last few days together are incredibly emotional, and you might feel with everything you are that you couldn’t possibly continue on in life without coming back here, and the kids are sad and you want to comfort them by saying you will come back, promising you will come back… but nearly always, without fail, you’ll get back to America, to your life there, and things that maybe seemed less important when you were hugging the necks of the needy across the globe feel more important when they are right in front of you, and you have to think of your family, and money, and time, and the zillions of other things that fill our American consciousness… and the promise is forgotten, and the kids are disappointed yet again, and stop believing the promises of the foreigners, and instead grasp on to foreigner visits as what they really turned out to be; not relationships or people who care deeply, but rather people who come to give them things, so they learn to take advantage while they can.  It’s problematic in so many ways, and not easily repaired; but as a start, please don’t promise them anything... especially your return.

It resonated with me deeply, those instructions, and still echo throughout, every time I come to the end of things; which, on this journey of mine, has been more times that I can keep track of.  When I left Benin those years ago, I knew it was possible I might return, in the same way anything is possible for an adventurous nomad like me. But when I said goodbye, in my mind, it was a permanent goodbye. But somehow, in my heart, it never was. I’ve always felt I’ve left a piece of myself here. It’s always been in my head that I need to come back, in a way that I’ve never felt for any other place I’ve visited.  But I held it loosely as I hold most things, and when the journey brought me full circle and I returned, I felt that little bit of myself slip back into place.

I carried a lot of invisible baggage from this place; baggage that doesn’t need to be shared but needed to be sorted out and forgiven and redeemed.  And this last eleven months, it has been everything I needed it to be.  I’ve encountered incredible, beautiful, loving people who have left me feeling nothing but hope and contentment in this place. I can look back on my time here with joy and not with regret. I can remember fondly this place, and not feel as though I have unfinished business here. 

And as I process through this, I realize, I won’t miss it here, the way I don’t really miss any one place.  I remember fondly every place I’ve been, and I would love to return to some of those places once again, but somehow the feeling of ‘missing’, of longing to be elsewhere… I don’t feel that, and I’m glad I don’t feel that.  Because I want to be present completely, in whatever place or whatever company I find myself in.  I don’t want to feel as though I’ve left a part of my heart elsewhere.  My heart is so full; so grateful for the journey, for the players in the story, whether in big roles or small, and I’m looking forward with anticipation that which is to come.

So as I walk through yet another departure, without any guarantee or promise of return, I will squeeze out every drop of glory I can.  Final visits with people I love, filling my face with peanuts and pineapples and other deliciousness that just isn’t the same anywhere else, last photos and smiles and gifts and kisses and treasured moments that last to eternity.  I love this place, I love these people, and I hope and pray I have the opportunity to return one day.


14 June 2017

I can’t sleep.  I can’t her face out of my mind.

She’s beautiful.  She’s 22 years old, her whole life ahead of her, full of possibility and hope and dreams.

Except she’s blind and lives in here. So she doesn’t have any of those things.

So I lay here in bed, inside I’m railing and kicking and screaming and yelling about the injustice of it all, in the way that I do; silently, the tears escaping the corners off my eyes and dampening the pillow. 

It’s not fair. It shouldn’t be like this.

If she was born in America, she probably wouldn’t be blind. And if she was, it wouldn’t stop her from living a full life of possibility and hope and dreams.  But she wasn’t born there, she was born here.  Doctors have passed her around from one clinic to another, taking her money and giving her eye drops or pills and promising they would help.  Empty promises.

This, this is why I do what I do.  This is my thing.  I can’t stand that it’s her reality.  I can’t stomach the injustice of it.  It’s why I’ll keep fighting for her, for them, for the five billion people who lack access to safe, affordable surgical care. It’s why I’m thrilled to be joining the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change at Harvard, it’s why I think I’ll probably be back with Mercy Ships someday, it’s why I can be so confident in my calling that doesn’t include children of my own or roots in the ground somewhere.  Because I’m fighting for her and for the billions like her, and I will not give up.

Upside down.

10 June 2017

Is my life truly meaningless and void of purpose if I don’t ever have children?  Because I haven’t had them, does that mean I’m incomplete, missing out on what is surely to be the most magical experience that will encapsulate all my hopes and dreams and longings forever?  It might seem as though my life is pretty awesome already, but clearly nothing will ever come close to the ecstasy and fulfillment I could feel with a child in my arms, and until that happens, well, I’m really just biding my time and taking up space until this real, true, divine purpose for those of us blessed with two x chromosomes has been achieved.

These phrases and questions probably seem like one of two things to you – either they are completely ridiculous, or you believe they are, to some extent or another, basically true.  I hear a lot of these types of things regularly.  Not always put in such a blunt manner, but it seems especially recently I’ve been around people who seem to adamantly believe I won’t ever be fulfilled, or my life is a waste, unless I’ve reared children.   I’ve written previously here and here about the fact that I’m single and totally okay with it, but it seems it’s time to address this child topic.

I don’t want children. 

Now, did I say I will never have children? Nope. Have I ever said that? Nope.  I’m not interested in putting God in a box.  Might I have children some day? Yep.  Absolutely I might and I’m totally open to that possibility. When will I know when it’s right? When I want them.  When I believe with all my being it’s the next right thing, not just for now but for the rest of my days on earth, to raise children. When that happens, bring it on.  But it isn’t now.

And when the topic comes up at the dinner table and I answer the question I was asked, that’s when the condescending, patronizing, and downright obnoxious comes out of a lot of people’s mouths. 

Oh, you’ll want them.  You’ll regret it someday.  Your work will never be as important as your children.  You don’t realize now what you are missing out on.  They’ll turn your life upside down. Five years from now you’ll be holding your own bundle of joy and wondering how you lived without them.

Sure, that’s a possibility.  Again, maybe someday I will want them, or regret not having them.  But I think it would be far worse to regret having them. Maybe I’m called to this nomadic life, of adventure and of travel and meetings with first ladies and prime ministers. I couldn’t have gotten on the plane to Guinea with three days’ notice if I had a family.  And it’s not actually the words that bother me, it’s the attitude, the condescending, patronizing way in which they are spoken over me, as if I don’t really know what’s really important.  As if I won’t really experience life to the full without being called mama, as if I am somehow incomplete in this life I lead.  

Side note: would anyone ever say that to a man? That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. Anyway.

I would much rather live a life without children than ever, ever look my child in the eyes and feel regret at having them.  I want to know I was born to be a mother.  One of the big problems of the world today? There are far too many people out there who have no business being parents.  They had children because they were supposed to or because they wanted someone to love them or to try to hold on to a wayward spouse or any one of a million wrong reasons to have a child.  The one reason to have a child? You were born to do this, you have been called and created to raise up this person to be an upstanding citizen of the earth.  And there are millions and billions of amazing parents out there living out that calling on their lives.  You’re amazing, it’s an amazing calling, well done.  But it’s not mine. Not now.

And really, let’s be real.  I want to say sometimes to these type of people, who clearly feel they know much more about the realities of life than I do, that I could go get knocked up if you think I would experience this nirvana you seem to think childrearing is.  I could find someone to marry me, too, if that’s what the world is waiting for.  I could probably be married and pregnant in a matter of weeks – is that really what you want for me? Not at all. I think what people want is really what I want as well, and that is the best God has for me; but they can’t possibly open themselves up to the possibility of imagining God’s best might not include children.

I know there’s an argument that the reason women exist is to have children, to multiply and fill the earth.  I get it, though I completely disagree.  But let me suggest that the earth is already full.  The earth can barely sustain the people we have in it.  But that’s another discussion for another day, a rabbit trail I’m not going to continue down right now.  For now, let’s just maybe consider God’s best for me may not include a spouse or children, and I’m okay with that.  But the rest of the world seems not to be.   



There’s been a lot of talk around the world in the last few years especially about privilege.  White privilege, American privilege, male privilege, upper class privilege, etc.  It’s the idea that one group of people is better off than another.  Some people say it doesn’t exist.  They’re either blind or closed-minded or both, and it seems most of those people are actually the most privileged of them all. 

It’s from a privileged place that I have a choice, and I know it.  I can choose not to have children.  In many, many countries across the globe, this would be a death sentence, to be alone as a woman with no one to care for me later in life.  And it grieves me that so many don’t have the choices and options and opportunities I have.  So they marry for necessity and have babies for security and sometimes there is love and respect but sometimes there isn’t, and there isn’t anything they can do about it.  It breaks my heart and makes me want to rail against the injustice of it all.  I had this conversation just the other day with the guys I’m working with. They asked why I don’t have children. I don’t mind the question, especially from these guys; they work in a place where your very survival is dependent on having children.

But for some reason beyond all human comprehension, I wasn’t born there. I was born in middle class educated America, where my value is not determined by my progeny, although it seems in some eyes it still is.  Where I can work and own land and vote and save for my future and decide where I want to live, things millions of women can’t do.  I recognize it and don’t take that privilege lightly, I’ve been gifted a tremendous amount of favor and desperately want to steward it well.   It’s one of the reasons I do what I do, living this life that is not about me but is about us, this collective race called humanity that is terribly unjust and needs people willing to stand up and speak up against the injustice of it.


It takes a village.

A few years ago I was thinking about this whole mothering thing, wondering if there was something broken in me that made me weird and different, asking God to speak to whatever that was. And it was stunning. 

What first came to my mind were the faces of some of the amazing women who have helped shape me into the person I am today.  My mom is awesome but it truly takes a village; one person cannot raise a child. I think about all the incredible other women who played that role at one time or another in my life; Shirley, Debbie, Cynthia, Kathy, Yvonne, Ruth, Kelly, Kim, Leslie, and many, many others ahead of me in this journey who have offered guidance, wisdom, truth, correction, safety, compassion, and the zillion other virtues who have shaped and guided me to the present.  I still need them and am eternally grateful for being a part of my story.

Then what came to mind were the beautiful faces of some of the young women I’ve had the privilege and honor of mentoring through one season or another.  Incredible girls and women I’ve offered guidance, wisdom, truth, correction, safety, compassion, and the zillion other virtues that shape and guide them into their future.  Some for a short season, some for a longer season, but all of them also a part of my story.  The children of my heart.  It takes a village, it takes incredible women pouring into incredible women, regardless of their genetic makeup and story and struggle. 

One author I love always says there is no such thing as other people’s children.  And I choose to live my life in agreement with that statement. 


Upside down.

Often after telling me in condescending tones that someday I will want children, they will also say something like they’ll turn your life upside down.  And yes, I know this to be true, and believe it wholeheartedly.  And what I’d like to say (and occasionally do) is EXACTLY, why on earth would I want to do that? Because my life is awesome, thanks.  And I’m not eighteen years old making brash statements about a life I can’t imagine. I’m thirty-six and have done pretty well for myself, (no) thanks for your concern.  In the same way God doesn’t call all of us to be married, or to work overseas, or to be mechanics or bankers or teachers or doctors, he doesn’t call all of us to have children, either.

So finally, a public service announcement and I will get off my soapbox: I know you mean well.  I know you just can’t imagine life without children and want me to be as happy as you are.  And I mean well too, when I say, I can imagine life without children and right now it is much more appealing to me than a life with. And that doesn’t diminish my value as a woman, as a sister and aunt and friend and member of the human race, striving to leave this earth a bit better for those who follow in my footsteps and stand on my shoulders and reach greater heights than I could ask or imagine. 

Field research, day 1.

06 June 2017

It was a sunny, steamy morning yesterday; I picked my way around the giant puddles left by the deluge of rain over the weekend, silently thanking the sky for being blue and sunny on this day, my first day in this student-researcher role.  I woke up a ball of nerves, anxious about anything and everything related to this thing I was embarking on.  What if no one would talk to me? What if I actually really suck at this? What if none of the photocopy places were open today and I couldn’t get started? What if... Maybe this was really a big, silly, stupid idea and I would be better doing something that I wasn’t actually responsible for; sometimes being a cog in a wheel sounds like an amazing career choice.  I really felt like a little girl playing dress-up; pretending I belonged here. But then I remember who I am; strong, independent, and smart, among other things, and this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing, I do belong here and I have everything I need.

It’s not always easy, that.  I mean, someone a week or so ago used the term ‘fearless’ to describe me and the coffee I was drinking nearly shot out of my nose.  Fearless? Never.  I’m a big ball of fear and anxiety and nerves much of the time… but I don’t let those things make decisions for me.  I won’t let fear stop me from doing what I need to do. And today, that’s putting one foot in front of the other, trusting my education and experience, and being okay with the possibility of failure.  Because risking failure is worth it, if it means trying. The alternative is to hide in a closet.  

So, having reduced the anxiety level to a nervous quiver in my stomach, I set out of the comforts and confines of the house and out into the world.  Picking my way around those puddles, the hem of my Beninese skirt skimming the surface, the security guards greeting me with a respectful Bonjour Madame, I couldn’t help but smile huge as contentedness filled my whole being.  I love this place.  I love being on land.  I love speaking French and I love that I get to spend my day solving problems and trying new things and collecting stories and spreading my wings.  And I can’t wait to begin, as I take a deep breath and dive into this next project.

It was fantastic.

The guys I am working with are two Beninese translators I worked with on the ship; they are wonderful men of excellence who care for me as their own sister. I feel very safe with them, and together we discussed the project, advising each other on how to best go about collecting the data we need.  The data we need is stories; I’m really a story-collector, and the stories are beautiful.  I can’t share them now, but someday I hope to; these former patients so eager to receive us, so welcoming, so honored that we would come chat to them and willing to share anything that might be helpful.

I felt truly alive, and honored that I get to do this.  I’m thrilled at how things have fallen into place and that I was able to start on the day I had hoped to when the plans started forming several months ago.  I know not every day will be this wonderful, but I’ll warmly receive the gift it is, squeezing out every moment of glory, purpose, joy and fulfilment I can wherever I find myself. 

The other side.

03 June 2017

Day two on the other side of the gangway; it's pouring down rain and I'm doing my best to catch up on a few months' of lost sleep.  Life is good. 

It was a sunny day on Thursday, and I kept my departure time somewhat quiet - I hate long drawn out goodbyes on the dock, preferring to say goodbye and give hugs throughout the day instead.  A few dear friends came to see me off and waved until the car was out of sight; while I didn't think I needed this, my heart argued and was filled with gratitude.  If I'm honest, as irrational as it is, I believe most people are just relieved to see me gone; so to experience the opposite was touching and brought tears to my eyes. 

I'm settled now in my temporary home on land; staying with friends in Cotonou for at least three weeks to do my thesis research.  I'm so excited to get started and that story is one of favor as well.  I officially started the thesis portion of my Masters in Public Health on April 8, and I have ten months to submit the final paper.  I'd be matched with an advisor who would walk me through the whole process of approvals first; proposal approval, ethics approval, etc.  I'd read some horror stories about this part of the process from other students who were five months into it and still didn't have an approved proposal.  I'm staying in country on my own dime, and have a job waiting for me back in the states, so I really pushed hard from day one to make it clear I have no intention of dinking around, and thankfully I got matched with a great, very responsive and encouraging advisor. I had my proposal approved in ten days and just yesterday got my final ethics approval, which can sometimes take months in African countries with less--than-straightforward approval processes. It means I can start contacting participants, our former patients, on Monday and plan to have all the interviews, about their experiences of surgery and perspectives of surgery as a result, done in three weeks' time.  

It's a lovely thing, to be focused on just one thing right now.  I've juggled multiple projects simultaneously plus being a student for the last several years; to be solely a student, to not even have to think about community expectations either, is such a breath of fresh air.  I get bored easily and won't be one to stay in this place for long, but for right now, I'm embracing this season for the blessing it is. 

Thank you, friends and followers, for continuing to read my blog. I've changed the layout about a dozen times, and think I'll leave it like this at least for a little while... let me know if you have any feedback! 

Good night.

31 May 2017

One last walk up to deck 8 to gaze at the beauty that is found there, under cover of darkness and lights.

The port at night

It’s finally here, the last night.  I was thinking about how crazy this life is; I’ve lived five years on board a hospital ship, where I’ve moved a dozen times and never even had to pack. And all my friends came with me. I’ve met presidents and first ladies and prime ministers, and zillions of incredible people serving in one way or another across the globe. It’s been awesome and hard and I’ve cried and I’ve laughed and I’ve wanted to quit and I’ve wanted to stay forever and ever; I’ve loved and I’ve hurt and I’ve forgiven and I’ve learned so much about who I am, what I’m made of, and what makes me feel alive.

Just this afternoon, I felt tears pricking the back of my eyes.  It was almost a relief, as for several months now I’ve just been so excited about what is next I haven’t felt much about leaving. For the final time I’ll be rocked gently to sleep, and tomorrow the rest of my stuff will end up in bags or in the dumpster and I’ll close this chapter entitled Mercy Ships.   Tears remind me what complex creatures we are; they roll down my face while my heart sings with anticipation, with peace, with joy.

I really, really hope my story will bring me back here someday. But until then, I will embrace the season in which I am living; grateful for all the people and places that have brought me to this day, to this place, for the oxygen I breathe and the blood in my veins, for the hope and purpose that propel me to never stop reaching for greater heights in serving, in loving, in living, in life to the full.

I plan to keep writing; expect a few changes on the blog in the coming days, but as long as God gives me words to share I will be obedient in the sharing of them here.  Thanks for reading. Thanks for encouraging.  Thanks for being a part of my story, too. 

Good night, dear loves; sweet ship, home, friends, and family. Good night.

A rousing success.

30 May 2017

It was a beautiful thing to go back to Guinea over these last few days.  

Photo courtesy of Tim Drysdale

We built this playground four and a half years ago, as our Gateway Field Service project (entry training for long-term Mercy Ships volunteers). 

It’s not surprising it's disintegrating; in fact, it’s exactly what I was expecting to see.  But it does cause me to think and to wonder.

Was it ever used as a playground?  Kids here aren’t accustomed to playgrounds. It was in an open area usually baking in the African sun or drenched by the African rains; was it a place of joy, laughter, imagination, freedom? Or was it abandoned shortly after the last photo was taken and the team of foreigners left? Was there questions of what is that thing, anyway? Did we actually meet a need or did we just do something that made for good pictures and kept us busy for two weeks?

These are the questions I ask about many short term missions trips; I think there is a place for them, but I also think we need to be realistic about their supposed impact. I don’t think anyone in our group expected it to have a huge impact; we all, of course, were just two weeks from joining the ship we had all dreamed about and looked forward to for months and years, and I think we were realistically just doing something with our two weeks in country required practicum before getting to the real service, the ship.  It’s a fond memory for me, one of team building and adventure and community and new experiences for many, and I don’t in any way believe the time was wasted.  But it does cause me to wonder if it really was the best use of us, if we could have made a real impact using those two weeks in a different way.

It’s not worth dwelling on, here and now.  It’s worth considering for the future, for short term missions, for projects like this, for bringing playgrounds to kids who don’t play on playgrounds, or who won’t go near the grass for fear of snakes and scorpions, or whose play time is hindered by the scorching sun or soaking rain.  Maybe I’m a pessimist; I hope I’m more of a realist, who wants to learn from experiences such as these; I was created to make a difference, and I want the work of my hands, regardless of time or place or team, to be purposeful, to have meaning, a lasting impact.  

So while I look at the work of our hands disintegrating before me, I recognize and appreciate the lasting impact of this project was not the structure but rather the joy and excitement and sweat and teamwork that went into it; I will always remember fondly the group of people that did this together and the feeling of accomplishment we felt in handing it over to the preschool director.  If our goal was to come together as a team and create something, it was a rousing success.  

Thank you, gateway family, for the love poured out, for the relationships forged through long days in the hot sun, for the collective heart longing to impact the world in some way or another.  That in itself is inspiring and hopeful.  May the impact be more than a structure, some wood and paint that cannot withstand the elements; may it be deep in that place that will not ever be questioned or extinguished, more than we can ask or imagine. 

From Guinea, with love.

25 May 2017

It’s a sweet evening, here in Guinea. The sun is setting behind pastel-tinted clouds as I sit in the humid, warm evening trying to catch a breeze and swatting away the mosquitos’ incessant whine humming around my ears.  I’ve captured my first bit of solitude since Tuesday morning; I passed on dinner out tonight as lingering stomach upset and non-stop extroverting leave me feeling the need to remain behind.  Breathing deep, I finally have a free minute to reflect.

Back on the ship, it’s the big night of goodbyes.  I would have been one of them, except for this trip; I don’t get to be a part of praying out the two dozen or so long-term crewmembers who are walking down the gangway for the final time in the coming weeks.  I’m sad to miss it, but know I’m exactly where I should be. 

It’s been crazy, which is really the only thing you can completely count on in a trip like this.  Plans have changed constantly; my schedule has so many things crossed off and put elsewhere and other appointments added that it’s almost illegible.  We started out with a bang, meeting the Prime Minister, and it’s been one thing after another since then.  Today was a holiday in Guinea but that didn’t stop us from a few hospital tours and a working lunch; the afternoon was filled with report writing and analyzing and figuring out how and where I could squeeze in a few more meetings.

And I love it. This work, telling people about Mercy Ships and explaining what we do and why we do it; the expansion of our training programs since our last visit and how our deepest hope is to leave a lasting impact for every tribe and tongue and life in this beautiful place.  The puzzle of people, the thrill of discovery, the challenges of culture and infrastructure and technology and the unknown, while it can be frustrating, is somehow oddly exciting and invigorating at the same time.  The people have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating and generous, as is the standard for African hospitality.  Most have heard of us, or have visited the ship or know someone who has, but the excitement they show when we explain our return in 2018 is heartwarming and encouraging.  I’m only sad I won’t be sailing in on that big white ship to their welcoming arms.

Some things have changed since our last visit; buckets to rinse your hands in bleach water are everywhere, shaking hands is no longer a regular greeting especially in a hospital setting, and the traffic seems to have only gotten worse.  Some things haven’t changed; the need for healthcare is great, the need for training even more so, the hopefulness in the conversations about our arrival is palpable.  I’m so honored to be here, to bring the news of our return and to start laying the groundwork for what is sure to be an incredible field service.   

To all those who getting their goodbyes tonight, know I'm praying from afar and grateful to have shared this season at sea.  


A sweet goodbye.

23 May 2017

It's tradition aboard the Africa Mercy for long-term crew who have gone through the onboarding (entry training) program to get an all-crew goodbye.   They get a few nice words said about and to them, and then they are prayed for by the community of faith.

I've prayed out hundreds of crew members.  It's such a beautiful thing as a community to send people out with blessings into the next right thing.

After praying thousands of crewmembers out over the last five years, Sunday night was my night.  Thank you, sweet AFM community, especially Kirstie and Dianna, for the kind words and beautiful prayers of blessing and favor over me into the next season.  I'm deeply grateful.

And then there was three.

21 May 2017

A last minute change of plans; there's a need to fill and I can fill it, am pleased and honored and grateful to do so, and suddenly I find myself down to only three days left in my floating home of the last five years.

Tuesday I head to Guinea on an eight-day assessment trip; the person who was supposed to go is not feeling well, so suddenly the twelve days I had left here is three, and I'm simultaneously ridiculously excited and achingly sentimental... such is the time of last things.

I'm thrilled to be able to do assessment; I've done them in several countries and it uses all my skills and abilities and experience and strengths in a way that truly makes me feel alive. I have incredibly fond memories of Guinea; that's where my onboarding class (the entry training for long-term Mercy Ships crew) did our field service, that's where I met some of my closest and dearest friends, that's where I started the journey of finding out who I really am and what I was created to do.

I'm the opposite of a procrastinator, I'm not sure what the word is for that, but in this last week I found myself feeling the same sort of restlessness as I felt the month before I left for the Peace Corps and the month before I left for Mercy Ships the second time; a sense of restless boredom, that I've already completed all my work and I've already grieved my departure and saying goodbye to friends and I'm just ready to get this show on the road.  I was stressed out in April trying to get all my work done because I couldn't stand the thought of panicking the last few weeks trying to get it all done.  But now it's done, and I'm absolutely thrilled to be able to jump into a last minute adventure where I am needed, my skills are useful and I'm really, really excited about it.

But at the same time, suddenly the last things are here; the last frisbee game, the the last community meeting, the last coffee with this friend and meal with that friend.  I don't really consider myself a sentimental person, but walking up to deck 8 this morning I gasped in realization that this view of my backyard, this panorama I've gazed at countless times over the last five years will soon be but a memory; while I am very much looking forward to seeing trees and grass out my window instead of concrete and steel, the water, the sky, the containers, the ships, the birds, even the trash floating in the water is the familiar landscape of my life; a landscape about to dramatically change. I'm thrilled and excited but would be lying if I said not even a little piece of me will miss this and is still grieving the goodbye.

So my days are numbered; filling quickly with friendly tea and hugs and goodbye cards and packing and finishing up the odds and ends here and there that still need to be crossed off the list. Tuesday I'll hop over to Guinea, returning the following Wednesday to one last night in my floating home, walking down the gangway the last time on Thursday to a new season of life on land.

Thank you, treasured friends, both here and there, for being a part of the journey.  I am deeply grateful.

My backyard.


Frisbee Fridays.

20 May 2017

One of my favorite things about this season on the Africa Mercy has been Frisbee Fridays.

Since my first stay on the ship back in 2011, I've played ultimate frisbee with crewmembers from dozens of countries, with varying skill levels and language fluency; on different surfaces including concrete, sandy beaches, and dry and sometimes squishy muddy waterlogged soccer fields.

I remember in Sierra Leone, where we walked up bad-boy lane to the school up the road to play in a dusty field; for some reason I specifically remember one game on someone's birthday, every time that person (DC) caught the frisbee, Ali would yell "Happy Birthday DC".  I remember thinking this community is really remarkable.

So many weeks I planned around the Friday frisbee game, because I knew that getting sweaty and dirty and sprinting around on the field in a competitive yet not too too competitive game was absolutely the best thing I could do for my emotional, mental, and physical health.  I've left anger, frustrations, irritations, blood, sweat, and tears out there on that field.  For me, it's been a healing game; an opportunity to practice patience, teaching others how to play; an opportunity to love this community in a different way and shape and time and place.

Last night was my last frisbee game; I will desperately miss this piece of this season. Thank you, Frisbee players, for welcoming me into the fold; for welcoming everyone into the game, for teaching me patience and how to lessen my competitiveness, at the same time as giving me a socially acceptable place to work out my irritations, aggressions, and still allow my competitive side to show up. I will always remember with fondness the Frisbee Friday sunsets, playing until we can hardly see; the stinky car rides back to the ship, the glorious shower afterwards, and the incredible community represented in the game.


15 May 2017

This photo was snapped at the Congo screening day in 2013. It was the last time that Mercy Ships did a massive one-day screening; I understand why they don't now, of course (infection control, safety, logistics, etc) but there was something incredibly special about how the day was meticulously planned and every single person who wanted to be a part of it had the opportunity to do so.  HR and sales people helped take medical histories; teachers and students played with kids and passed out water to the thousands of patients waiting in line.

I wrote about it here: Well done,  and it will always remain a special memory of my time with Mercy Ships.  I was new in my job but spoke French well enough to be useful (or dangerous, wink) and ran around doing whatever those who had been around much longer than I had been told me to do.

But this moment, the moment this photo was snapped, will always remain high on the list of #howisthismylife moments.  Donovan, our ship managing director at the time, called me over mid morning, tossed me the keys to his personal car and said "can you go pick up Don and Deyon?"

Gulp, no pressure. Those cars are bigger than the usual landrovers we use, and I hadn't ever driven one before.  Donovan hardly knew me, if I scratched his car would it get me sent home? At the very least it would be mortifying and I didn't know if I would outlive the embarrassment.  And even worse, imagine if I did it with Don and Deyon in the car? They're the Mercy Ships President and founders, by the way.  Kind of a big deal and I was admittedly starstruck. I didn't know them and they had no reason whatsoever to trust me driving them around and neither did Donovan trusting me with his car.

And while all those thoughts and fears raced through my head in a millisecond, I calmly said 'sure' and did what I was asked to do.  No scratches, no drama, but I will always remember it; they had no reason to trust me but they did.  There's something powerful about being trusted not for what you have proven you can do... but for who you are.

Thanks Donovan and Don and Deyon for trusting me that day, and all the days and years since then, with little things and big things and everything in between.   I've loved being on your team.


In the arena.

13 May 2017

Things have been off with a friend. For awhile.

Let’s be honest, it would be so much easier to just skirt around and sit on the sidelines; to paste on a fake smile and do everything in my power to disappear, to not take up space or time or energy because heaven forbid it hurts and I’m sick of hurting.   And I’ve done that for a few weeks now.  Trying to avoid conflict because I shouldn’t feel this way, because it’s irrational and illogical and there’s no great win in stirring it up, it will only be ugly and painful and may not end well.  So just clench your teeth in a smile and bear it for just a little bit longer; you’re almost done, for crying out loud stop feeling. 

Because something kept saying stop with the feeling.

But how many times have I said over my own life? I am glad that I can feel, it means I am alive.

And the dissonance between what I believe and what I was doing finally screeched loud enough and painfully enough for me to stop with the hiding and running and take the risk; knowing I’ll probably do it wrong and it was going to be painful and bloody but at least it’s real and not some fake imitation of life, of becoming a non-feeling robot solely focused on the finish line and negating everything that comes with life to the full.

Life to the full includes feeling.  We belong in the arena.

And it was everything I dreaded; it was painful and ugly and bloody and hurt something awful, but it was real.  And we survived.  Stronger because of it; experts will tell you, muscle fibers actually need to be broken down to grow strong.

And I look back and think yeah, it was messy, and I could have done it better or differently but I did the best I could with what little courage I could muster… and I went into the arena.  There is no effort without error and shortcoming. And maybe next time it won’t take so long, it won’t be so painful; the muscle memory of a successful rumble in the arena will point me in that direction sooner.  Because in this journey, it’s not about winning.  It’s not about winning.  It’s about being present, and alive, and feeling… not running from, but into the arena.    

Even when you only have a few days or a few weeks left.  Even when everything in you screams and shouts like a toddler not wanting to go to the dentist.  Success is showing up and feeling and being present and embracing the pain and joy that come with life to the full.   



And I love you.

07 May 2017

I booked the day away months ago, knowing this last sprint to the finish would be challenging, and if I didn’t book in space to breathe I just wouldn’t.  I went to the beach. Salt water is always the remedy.  I sat down on the damp sand, and tears filled my eyes so quickly I actually gasped. What was that about?  My heart longed for peace, and in the crashing waves and salty breezes I knew this was exactly what I needed.  Something about life on this ship is so intense; and lately all the intensity of it seems magnified… I realized the noise of rights and wrongs and shoulds and shouldn’ts had tangled and wrapped themselves so tightly I could hardly even take a deep breath.

I’m doing this all wrong.  I should be at that event today. I’m so selfish.  I can’t do anything right. I’m such a terrible friend. Why can’t I just suck it up and be more generous? Giving? Selfless? I shouldn’t be withdrawing from people, I should be diving deeper into relationship.  I can’t seem to do anything right for that one person. I bet she can’t wait to be rid of me. I’m not feeling enough. I should be desperately sad about leaving this place, what kind of callused, heartless robot am I?  I must be too controlling about that one project.  I’m probably being too hands-off, they’ll accuse me of ‘checking out’.  Where is the line between the two? I can’t seem to find it. I can’t make anyone happy.  I’m doing this all wrong. This weekend is supposed to be a time of refreshing, why can’t I just forget it all and relax? Trust? Find the joy?  What time is it? Is it time for lunch? What if I don’t want lunch? What if she wants lunch? Will lunch now be the wrong choice? What if I’m waiting too long?  Argh, this isn’t what this weekend is supposed to be like…

And that was just the first few minutes.

Once I calmed the crazy and focused on the moment, the breath filling my lungs, the heartbeat that continues on regardless of the crazy in my head thanks to the spark of the divine within, the crashing waves mimicking the pulsing hum of life flowing through my veins, I could hear it.

That still small voice that was shrouded in the cacophonous noise of doubts and fears and worries and anxieties of the past and the future and everything in between...

What if there is no right or wrong? What if you’re just doing it?  You’re okay. And I love you.

I’m doing life. Work. Transition. I am okay.

It doesn’t look like what the books told me it would look like.  Except that one that said expect the unexpected. I’m slowly unplugging from this place, from these people.  It’s not right or wrong… it’s how I’m doing it. Because if I pull out all the plugs at one time on that day I leave? I won’t survive it. My heart can’t withstand that kind of an assault.  So it’s little by little.  Some friendships will last through it. Some won’t.  I’m forever grateful for the season of life I’ve been privileged to carry out in this place and the people who made it what it was.  And just because a friendship or a connection only lasts a season it doesn’t negate the beauty and the richness and the value of the investment – they don’t have to be forever to be successful. They are.  And I’m loved, regardless.

The work I’ve been called to do in this season, I’m closing out and handing over.  I’m doing the best I can to hand it over well; thoroughly, completely, to give every opportunity possible to set up the future stewards for success.  Instead of analyzing every response, every reaction, every facial expression as a verdict on me somehow simultaneously being too controlling and too hands off, that I’m doing it all wrong…  I’m doing it.  And I am loved.

Oh, the relief. The freedom to breathe again and not wonder if it was right or wrong or good or bad. Since when did I care so much about others’ verdicts?  There’s really only one that matters.  You’re okay.  What I needed to hear. What we all need to hear sometimes. 

May the remainder of this season at sea be one of gratitude, of love, of expansive light and life and friendship and humanity and healing and hope.   May it not be wrong or right or good or bad… may it just be what it is. 

You’re okay.  And I love you.

On light.

17 April 2017

The sun always rises.  Sunday always comes.  Light brings hope and truth and new beginnings. 

I am so grateful these things are true, and have always been true, and will always be true, until forever.

I’m so grateful for the caring love that was shared after my Saturday post. I’m also grateful that I don’t sit in that darkness forever.  I want to assure the well-meaning readers out there that the depth of feeling I shared in that post – that isn’t my living, breathing, daily gasping for breath. That was a moment in a sleepless night that somehow felt worth capturing and sharing.  I am grateful that God uses vulnerability to speak to others, to make others feel a little bit less alone in the world, in their feelings, in the depths.  I am grateful I feel deeply because it means I am alive.

I am grateful for seasons that bring us to our knees. I am grateful for seasons that are filled with joy. I am grateful to have friends on the journey, and grateful that vulnerability allows light to shine in to dark places. If we hide the places that are dark, light won’t ever get in.  I am grateful to have a platform to share light, and life and truth and the journey, and I'm grateful that he always shows me it’s never actually about me anyway.

I am grateful God has given me a gift of words, and I am grateful when I have the courage to be obedient and share them.  I am grateful for the quiet seasons, and grateful for the crazy ones. Each and every season is a gift, is part of the rhythm of life, and the sun rises and the sun sets and we have another day and another opportunity to arise, shine, let our light out into the world, into the darkness, into the places thirsty for hope and healing and life and goodness. 

I am grateful for quiet office days that help me to feel less overwhelmed with the work to be done. I’m grateful for lighthearted laughter and friends to share life with.  I’m so grateful for team members who are incredibly capable, willing, and able to help share the load.  I’m grateful the work of bringing light and life to the world is not only on my shoulders; that I am gifted for a purpose and want to see that to fruition, but beyond that lies only trust and hope. It doesn’t mean the hard things aren’t still there… it means they aren’t quite so scary. 

I am so grateful for the light.  

In the meantime.

15 April 2017

I’ve avoided writing lately… because I’m a bit afraid of what will come out, if I let it. 

It’s a hard, dark season.

I feel guilty for even writing just that.  I’ve got an incredible life and get to do incredible things; I’ve got a dream job lined up and a great place to live already and both came so easily it feels scandalous, like somehow I believe these things are supposed to be hard and because they weren’t at any minute the glory will crack and crumble and all will fall apart.

I’m about to embark on a major life transition, and I’ve read all the books and the blogs and the words of wisdom from others who have gone before me.  It’s an exciting time and I’m thrilled about where I’m headed but in the meantime… in the meantime… the darkness is real.

Seven weeks left in this place and what feels like eighteen weeks’ worth of work to do in that time. In my sane moments I’m excited to hand it all over and watch it thrive and grow and flourish under someone else, but what if it doesn’t?  Because I’m analyzing everything I’ve done and trying to capture it appropriately into manuals and how-to guides and final reports, all I can see is where I’ve failed.  Where I’ve made the wrong decision or didn’t do as well as I could have; seeing all the places I wish I had more time to develop…  I desperately wish I could have made a bigger impact, I could have done more, I would have worked harder and longer and better and maybe then I would leave a legacy in this place worth remembering. 

Have I made a difference?   Many of my closest friends have left and I find myself withdrawing from those who remain… withdrawing from community, because it will be easier to leave in a few weeks’ time without the hassle of emotional ties and tears.  The masses of people present at a recent goodbye highlights the impact those people had on this community, and it was beautiful; but comparison steals joy and I feel like that wisp of smoke that remains after the candle has been blown out; no one notices when that disappears.  Maybe I should have tried harder.  Maybe I should just disappear without saying goodbye.  Who would notice, anyway?

So I spend more time alone in my cabin or at my desk, pouring all my energy into what is left to do; the things I can control, the things that don’t require emotional investment, drinking coffee to stay awake, eating enough to get by, but trying not to feel too much.

My thesis is breathing down my neck and I wonder constantly if I will be able to do what I need to do when I need to do it. I can’t control the timeliness or response of the proposal reviewers and I can’t control the timeliness or response of the ethics committee and in the meantime I need to plan flights and housing and visas as I’m staying in Benin after ship departure to finish the research, but I can’t possibly guess the timeline, which means costs creep up by the day and my tuition bill is due this week and I wonder how on earth I’ll make it through the next few months of crazy expenses without anything coming in.

Anxiety lurks constantly. And then there’s the sciatic pain I’ve been experiencing the last few weeks; I’ve never had nerve pain before, and suddenly it’s clear to me why people get addicted to pain medication.  Running, biking, Frisbee, they all keep me sane in this place, they keep my moodiness in check, so to gradually be doing less and less of these things isn’t helping my current mental state.  The darkness whispers, what if this problem can’t be fixed? What if this is just a side effect of getting older and I’m destined to a life of pain and minimal activity for as long as I remain on earth? I won’t be able to join that running club in Boston I’m excited about, or play Frisbee ever again.  How will I stay healthy?

And then lurking even further back, that biopsy I had a few weeks ago that I haven’t gotten the results of… it’s probably nothing, I’m sure it’s nothing, but the darkness keeps sending me back to the what ifs, what if that’s how this story ends? What if I’m about to take a drastic turn that I’d never considered?

And I lie in bed in the darkness, exhausted all day but suddenly wide awake all night with fear clawing at my chest and tears dampening my pillowcase.  I just need to make it to morning; things are much less scary in the light.


It feels incredibly raw to write and feel… but somehow it seems appropriate to share this, this day. This darkest day.  This day when the light of the world was extinguished.  The hope of a nation… I can only imagine the hopelessness, anguish, fear, desperation that was plaguing the followers of Jesus on this day.  This king that was supposed to come in glory and throw off oppression, who brought hope and healing and life and light to the world, lay dead in a tomb. 

How could God be dead? Is any of this even real? What do we do now?

They didn’t have the privilege I have.  I know what is coming.  And because I believe in the resurrection, I can feel deeply the pain and the sorrow and the separation of this day, knowing it isn’t forever.  And because of the resurrection, I can feel deeply of the pain and the fear of this season, knowing it isn’t forever. 

I’ve been practicing lectio divina throughout this season of lent; meditation and centering prayer focused around a specific piece of scripture each day.  Last weekend the scripture was the story of Lazarus… and what I realized this time was that Jesus knew what was going to happen, what he was going to do, that he would raise Lazarus for His glory, but in the meantime, he still grieved and felt deeply. He still entered in to the depths of pain and despair felt by Mary and Martha, to the point of weeping.  I get hard on myself for feeling deeply sometimes; for being anxious when I know and believe things will work out and all is for good and I trust and blah blah blah.  Emotions, tears, they feel illogical and a waste of time… but Jesus didn’t think so.  He entered in, and felt, and loved, and held, and wept. 

As He did again on the cross. The candle, blown out; the people, hopeless, and fear, and anxiety, and the darkness whispered and taunted and swirled and I am sure, it felt like drowning.

It was a dark day for the followers of Jesus, but light was coming.

It is a dark season for me, but light is coming.  The Hope of Glory. May it be so.

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