Saturday, July 25, 2015

Thirty three

In a couple days, I will be thirty three years old.

I don't even know what  to say about that.  I suppose I should be happy that I've made it this far.

But I'm looking around myself, and I can't see any of those comforting sort of landmarks that indicate a productive and worthwhile (read: normal) life.

I feel like I've let go of everything that made me legit, or even just me, and all I have left is a scared, disappointed, inexorably aging, lonely heart.

I have no children.
I have no husband.
I have no home,
no ship,
no job,
not even a plan.

I haven't earned a doctorate in anything.
I haven't published any books.
I've never been on tv,
or learned kung fu.
I can't even play the piano.

I am absolutely certain that I have not lived up to the potential that has been seen in me.
I'd give back all those awards and scholarships, but I'm sure everyone else has moved on already (and besides, I spent the money).

But here are a few things I do have.

I have family and friends who love me more than I'll ever understand.  People of diverse ages and interests and languages and cultures all hold me in their hearts and number me among their dear ones.  I am loved.  If this were all, it would be enough.  But it's not all.

I also have three diplomas, two certifications, multiple certificates, and various recordings, pictures, and program notes all bearing witness to the fact that I am capable of starting something and seeing it through to the end.

I have two passports full of stamps, spanning twelve years and four continents.

I have a tattoo that reminds me that I am not alone and that some messages are important enough to be carved into your arm.

I have thousands of crazy notions, precious meetings and partings, random adventures, and spectacular opportunities all simmering away in my memory, like ingredients in a delicious gumbo, adding flavor as they steep.

I have survived failure, rejection, neglect, loss, loneliness, bitterness, confusion, doubt, and far too many fears (rational and otherwise).

I have learned the value telling the truth (and the cost), and I know how to stand before several incomplete pictures of the future and make a choice.

And while this particular birthday finds me in what feels like a crazy free fall, I have thirty three years invested in a relationship with a God who has never once failed to catch me.

So maybe it is a happy birthday after all.


Happy Birthday to me.

I am glad to be here.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Big News

I am coming home.

Don't worry, nothing terrible has happened.  In fact, this year has been one of the best years I can remember.  I wish I could go back and live it over again, just because I enjoyed it so much.  Life on this ship is beautiful and amazing, and I only see things getting better for this precious and powerful community next year.  But deep in my heart, in the place where I know things, I know that it's time for me to come home to the US and be there for a while.

Now, I imagine that you probably have one or two questions for me.  I have therefore created this handy-dandy list of "Frequently Asked Questions" for your personal satisfaction and further illumination.

Sarah's Going Home F.A.Q.s

1. When are you coming?
The current plan is for me to finish out the field service here in Tamatave, sail with the ship to Durban, South Africa, and then somehow wend my way to Geneva, Switzerland for one last hurrah with some ship friends (and my mom!).  After that, I'll fly back over the "pond" and be state-side some time around the 12th or 13th of July.

2. What are you going to do when you get here?
This is a very good question.  My first plan is to spend some good quality time with family and friends in California, Idaho, and Washington.  I'm talking like two or three weeks in each place (if you don't mind giving up your couch for that long).  I want to re-connect and to invest in these relationships, to make new memories, to just "be" for a while.
After that, I am not sure what I'm going to do.  I feel myself being drawn in a certain direction, but I haven't quite found the right words to say exactly what that is yet.

3. Where, exactly, is home now?
Honestly, I don't know.  At present, I find myself in the beautiful but heart-breaking position of saying goodbye to a place that has become my home, and to people who have become part of the everyday fabric of Me.  My life is beautiful here.  I love my students, and am so proud of the amazing people they are becoming.  I love my friends, who take such good care of me.  I love my community, this delicious variety of cultures and personalities all bound together for a common purpose.  I love what we stand for, the spiritual hope of Christ made real in the healing and deliverance of the blind, the lame and the outcast.  I wish everyone had a home like this.  I wish we all had the chance to give up a measure of independence and comfort so that we could work as communities to invest in the poor, to heal the broken, to be a living breathing manifestation of the hands and feet of Christ.  I am seriously hoping I can find some sort of community like that when I come back.  I guess when I do, that will be home for me.

4. What about money?
Currently, the money that is donated on my behalf goes into a crew account, from which my crew fees, insurance, and other costs are withdrawn.  When I leave, I would like to transfer any leftover funds into Mercy Ships' general fund, where it will be used to continue the good work that we do here.  Of course I am going to need to spend some money to travel to the states and to start over, and I have a little bit set aside in my own bank account for that purpose.  If you want to help out with that, please let me know so that I can transfer your gift from my crew account to my personal bank account.  Otherwise, any other funds that I receive between now and the end of the field service are going to be used to support Mercy Ships.

5. Is this the end for you and Mercy Ships?
No.  I will always be part of the Mercy Ships family, and I certainly hope that I find myself traveling back to the ship (or even checking out the new ship after it's finished) someday soon.  I just know that for now, I need to spend some time learning how to live in America again.

6. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
African or European?  It doesn't matter because the answer is 42.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Crew Galley

Official Disclaimer:  these are not my muffins.  They are gluten-free peanut butter and chocolate chip muffins, baked by my friend Tracey.  And they are delicious.  

I am not much of a cook.  (Ask me sometime about the 'pickle soup' debacle.)  Oh, I know enough to get by.  I did successfully feed myself for several years before I came to live on this beautiful ship with its steady and sustaining 12-week menu, but I definitely fall into the category of single adult who can be counted on to bring the chips and salsa to pretty much every potluck dinner.  Sometimes I branch out and bring bean dip instead.

My lack of affinity for all things culinary notwithstanding, I want to tell you about one of my very favorite places on the Africa Mercy:  the Crew Galley.  (By the way, "galley" is sailor-speak for "kitchen."  Just so you know.)

All of our official meals are cooked by crew members who have been specially trained to handle massive amounts of food in a real and entirely legit Galley.  I have never been there, but I imagine that it is a miraculous place (making pancakes for a crew of 400 qualifies as a true miracle as far as I'm concerned).  Those of us who like to dabble are allowed to cook things in our own little specially set-aside kitchen, affectionately known as the Crew Galley.  It is a beautiful place.

The kitchen, I think, is really the heart of any house.  You can learn more about a family from half an hour in the kitchen than you could from a whole evening in the living room.  People relax when they cook.  It's warm.  It smells good, and if the conversation slows you've still got something useful to do.  Well, the same is true of our Crew Galley, only our 'family' is a little unusual.  On any given Saturday, you'll find people from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas all cooking their favorite recipes, the ones that remind them of home.  A warm cloud of curry flavored air clashes with the scent of baking brownies and cooling pancakes, all tinged with the metallic essence of the ever-present boiling fish sauce.  Overlapping conversations blend with the counterpoint of Garth Brooks and West African gospel songs, all over the reassuring clatter of pots, pans, oven doors, whisks, blenders, knives, and plastic measuring cups.  People hover around ovens and sinks like bees performing a complicated dance.  I don't have to be part of it, really, but peeking in occasionally to watch makes me feel all contented and steady inside.  I just know that things are going to be okay. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you really ought to stop by and spend a minute or two in our Crew Galley yourself.  It's well worth the time.

The best part?  Sometimes they let you taste the muffins.