Saturday, June 17, 2017

6 Months In-Another Look at Transition

As I sit by the lake watching the sun rise and writing this blog several of my close friends are preparing to leave the Africa Mercy for the final time and return to their passport countries. My thoughts and prayers drift to them often because I know a small piece of what lies ahead for them. 

It’s been 6 months now since I returned from my floating home in Africa. In some ways, it seems like it was just yesterday and in other ways it feels like years. As I was preparing to return to the US many of my friends who preceded me in the reentry process encouraged me that I would need to give myself a lot of grace and time to adjust. I had no idea what lie ahead for me. I knew I was returning to Texas first to spend time with family and friends and to rest. My first few months consisted of just that. I was so thankful to be near the people I had been separated by thousands of miles for 4 years. I had lots of time with my family, or sitting by the fire reading, or going for walks. It was a time of much needed rest and recovery. 

I was not experiencing the grief and hardship I had expected to when I arrived back stateside. I was just really happy to be back. In March I visited my brother and his family in Knoxville, Tennessee. As soon as I landed here God made it clear this is where he wanted me for my next season. I returned to Texas, spent a week packing up and saying goodbye once again and then boarded a plane to begin yet another transition. It was very difficult to say goodbye to my family and friends once again, but a little easier knowing I was a short flight away. I was thrilled to be moving to a place where there are mountains, trees, lakes and lots of outdoor activities. I was also so thankful that God made it so clear that this is where he wanted me. I love this place! That being said, the last 2 months have been extremely difficult. I am having to grow in my faith and trust in the Lord in whole new ways. 

The grief of what I had left behind on a ship in Africa hit me full force with this second transition. I feel like I am having to re-learn how to live in my own culture again as the person I am having lived 4 years abroad. I left a ship family of people I had been intimately connected with for 4 years. I left close friends who knew me and that I knew like no other friendship I have ever experienced. We were in the trenches together for 4 years and now all of a sudden, they are ALL half a world away. My heart grieves for those friendships while also trying to connect in a new place. With the pain and grief of all the recent goodbyes it makes it that much harder for me to conquer fear and be willing to connect on a deep level here even when I know it is so worth it. I am so thankful that Gods perfect love casts out all fear. I can trust him with my heart no matter what lies ahead.

He has already been so gracious to quickly connect me to a local church, small group and I am quickly connecting with several key people that its clear the Lord has divinely connected me with. This season has not been easy but I am so thankful for the way it has increased my faith and trust in the Lord.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed and encouraged me!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Farewell Texas, Hello Tennessee!

Saying "Later Gator" to my nephew Crew.

Many of you have asked what's next for me after Mercy Ships. I flew in Monday to Knoxville, Tennessee to live. I have been considering this move since July when I visited my brother and his family here on my way back to the ship. My brother and his family have generously offered for me to stay with them for a bit right on the lake. It's so beautiful here. I love being outdoors, camping, hiking etc. I have always felt closest to Jesus when I am enjoying his creation. I am so thankful for this opportunity after returning from 4 years in Africa. I fully believe God wants to do a new level of healing in me here and I look forward to seeing how he will work in and through me.

My brother Scott and I at he and his wife's 
booth at the Boat Show

Image may contain: 4 people, people smilingMy Brother Scott, his wife Becca, Cutler and Charley

I get to live with these two cuties and take them to the park anytime!

Pretty great place for my quiet time last night.

Thanks again to all of you who continue to  walk with me and pray for me in the transition from Mercy Ships. It has been a peaceful transition and for that I am very thankful.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Re-Entry From Mars?

It seems strange that I have been back in the States for over 2 months now. It seems like only yesterday and a life time ago since I walked down the gangway of the Africa Mercy for the last time. The last 2 months have been a bit of a roller coaster. When I landed December 19th I was so relieved to be back and able to enjoy my family, friends, sunshine and fresh healthy foods that I had missed for the last 4 years.

My nephew Crew who I've had lots of time with. 

I see things so differently now. I love big windows. I hear the birds singing and smell the trees blossoming like never before. I don't take for granted access to fresh, healthy food. My health has continued to improve as I rest and embrace a healthy lifestyle. I am so thankful to be here.

That being said. There are some very hard days! A few weeks ago I went to see the movie The Space Between Us. It's about a 16 year old born and raised on mars visiting earth for the first time. I found  that I oddly related to the boy. I have not been living on Mars but reentering the States after 4 years in Africa feels a little the same. Sometimes I feel like the more I try to connect the more out of place and different I feel. I am so thankful for the family and friends God has surrounded me with to give me time, space and a listening ear to walk out this transition with me.
I miss my friends from the ship. I miss the tight community I was a part of for 4 years. At the same time I am thankful to catch up with people in America. It just takes time I suppose.
Thanks to those of you have been a part of this journey and supported me in every way!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

So Good!

I wanted to update those of you who have been supporting me. I am so thankful for each one of you. I could not have done this without you. I've been back stateside for a little over a month now and it has been such sweet time. I was grateful to be able to spend Christmas with my family. I have had lots of time to rest and just be with family. I am feeling more refreshed every day. 

Many people have asked what are you going to DO now. The answer to that is I am going to rest. I am able to stay with my parents and just take a bit of a sabbatical after 4 years on the field. It has been exactly what I needed. It was a really tough decision to leave the ship midyear but God has continued to confirm that I made the right decision. 

I leave today for Grand Junction, Colorado. Mercy Ships is sending me to a 1 week debrief. I am so thankful for this time. I ask for your prayers as I think God has some great things he wants to do this week. My close friend Krystal from the ship will be attending with me so it will be a sweet time. I also really love Colorado so it's a perfect place for me to go. 

Any support sent for me up until January 29th will go to help me in this transition time. After that time it would go to the general Mercy Ships Fund. If you would like to continue supporting a Mercy Ships crew member please let me know. I have plenty of friends who would be so blessed to have you partnering with them as they continue to serve on the ship. I have already connected one family with a friend on the ship and she is so grateful.

I will be planning an update night soon to share what God has done in these last 4 years and to thank you for supporting me. I hope to see many of you there. 

My nephew Crew and I just before Christmas.
The lovely park by my parents house I have enjoyed many walks at in the last month. 
I have loved getting just to do life again with my sister! 

Friday, December 9, 2016

It's time to say farewell Mercy Ships.

It is difficult to know how to begin this blog. I am coming up on my 4 year anniversary of serving with Mercy Ships. It has been an amazing 4 years in which God has done incredible things in and through me. I am so grateful for every moment I have had here!

As some of you know it has been a very difficult year for me this year. Many of my closest friends who had been with me from the beginning departed at the end of last field service. It's hard to explain how close you get to someone who you live in very close community with for so long, but it is phenomenal. I have waded through much grief and change this year while fighting to stay engaged with a new group of people as well as maintain existing friendships. I am in need of rest.

I decided Monday that I will will be departing the ship on December 13th and will not be returning. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made but I know it's what God has for me. It will be incredibly difficult to leave in the middle of the school year and not get to finish with my students but I know I have made the right decision.

I would appreciate your prayers through this very quick transition time. I am so grateful for each of you who have supported me through these 4 years. I could not have done it with out you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

3 Students 2 Countries Multiple Languages

When I applied to teach in the Mercy Ships Academy, I had no idea what I was really going to get to be a part of. I am now in my 4th year of teaching Grade 1 onboard. I am supposed to be the teacher, but I am the one who has learned so much from each of my students.

This year already I have witnessed true courage, kindness, acceptance and love in action. Ben is from Brazil and started in the Mercy Ships Academy after only 1 month of being submersed into English. As an adult I can’t imagine the amount of courage it takes to start a new school in a new language thousands of miles from home. I struggle just to order dinner at a restaurant and he jumped right into 8 hours a day in a classroom that was taught all in English. I have loved watching my 3 students interact. Ben bravely entered Grade 1 in a new language. Adalynn and Emma have been amazingly welcoming to him and have made his transition easier at every possible moment. I am thrilled to see Ben flourishing and his confidence growing not only in speaking English but interacting with people around the ship. I believe that is in large part due to the class that God has put together this year to be a safe place where each student can grow and use their gifts to encourage each other. Each of them models kindness, patience, love and faith every day.

Most of the times that the students are given free time they choose to make cards for one another or for other teachers and crew. Each of them has gifts that they freely share to encourage others. It challenges me to step out and see whom God would have me encourage today.

Here are a few photos from our year so far:
One of many advantages of a small class is getting to pop over to the crew galley to do some baking.
They loved learning about writing friendly letters by exchanging letters with a friendly monster who wrote them back many times.

After learning about Psalm 139 and God making each of us special we made a book to celebrate the way God made. us

We had the opportunity to go and learn from the rehab team how casts are made and experience what the patients do.

Last Friday was Jabulani (Rejoice Africa) Day 
The Theme for this term was Benin. 

Thanks to all of you who partner with me to serve here in Benin. You are making a huge difference! 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Daring Greatly


A few weeks ago I started reading a book by Brene Brown called Daring Greatly. It's a book about the courage of vulnerability that changes the way we live, love and lead. I have never really thought of myself as a courageous person, but I think that is because of the way I have defined courage. I think I tend to picture the brave, courageous person as the one who is not afraid of and is willing to do anything. I'm learning that this definition is not really accurate. I think the courageous person is someone who encounters something that scares them to death but they do it anyway. If I think of courage this way maybe I am a little more courageous than I think.

The older I get the more I understand who God created me to be. I am very muchly an introvert. I can be friendly and love to have meaningful conversations with people but I need to have time alone to recharge. 4 years ago courage for me looked like signing up to go and live on a ship in Africa with 450 other people. Living on the ship takes daily courage for me. Everytime I step out of my cabin to engage the community it takes courage. My introvert self would much rather hide in my cabin and read or watch Castle. :) But courage says step out and engage people no matter the cost.

The courage it takes to live here has increased in different ways for me this year. As most of you know I had to say goodbye to many of my closest friends at the end of last year. These were friends that had been here with me from the beginning of my time on the ship. We worked together, lived together and figured out how to navigate living thousands of miles from home on a ship in Africa together. Words are not enough to describe the depth of friendship that is forged through the trials and  experiences here. I have friends here who though they have only known me a few years, know me much better than close friends from home.

I knew it would be different this year for me with all the changes but I had no idea how hard it would really be. My second week back from summer the weight of it all hit. I was in a familiar place that was not as familiar with so many of my friends gone. Lots of new, eager crew were here to take the place of my friends. I wanted to engage them, but how do you engage the new when you are just beginning to grieve the loss of the old. I met with one one of the chaplains onboard who had some really great advice for me. After me telling her that it was hard to be here and that I felt stuck in a hard place she simply asked "Do you feel stuck on the ship or stuck in your grief?" She encouraged me to step out in courage and embrace the pain and grief of the loss of my friends but to not stay there so that joy may come.
I am still working on walking that out. As grief often does, it surfaces at times I don't expect it. Coffee gatherings, pizza nights, meetings, weekends away. I genuinely want to embrace new relationships but how do I do that while still feeling the raw pain of the all the goodbyes and knowing this is most likely my last year onboard? I don't want to waste this year. I know God has called me here for a reason and I don't want to miss anything he wants to do in and through me. I will choose courage and be vulnerable. I will open my heart to the people God has surrounded me with even when it scares me. I will choose to sew into friendships even when I know the deeper we go the harder the goodbye will be.