Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 16: Comforts of Home

Last night, I entered the dining room for dinner and saw what was for dinner and wasn't very excited... maybe because I was headed to do Taebo and was focused on that, not eating. later, I came for dinner and much to my surprise realized it felt so much like comfort food. It took me back to my grandma's old house, where I would always sit anxiously at the dining room table awaiting her amazing meals.

This is what we had for dinner...
Now, it was a little different, but pretty great for the ship:) My grandma would've made her famous baked beans, which I love with my grandpa's home-grown corn, ham bought from the amish market and bread that she baked that morning... but this was a great taste of home... and the view wasn't bad from the window either...
 In that moment, I truly felt blessed. God knew what I needed that day- some comfort food after a day that wasn't bad, but not wonderful either. It started with me spilling a cup of yogurt with frozen blueberries all down my front and all over the floor in a carpeted area..... our yogurt is super runny, but delicious.... and it was ALL over me and the floor and splattered the furniture... I was embarrassed and more worried for the carpet than my clothes, though I must say it was totally a great excuse to get my laundry done that morning:)  The day was full of hurdles and new roadblocks, but at the end of it, this really made my day- Thanks Ken and the team!!:) 

Today, I realized how blessed we were to have real dishes daily when I was met at lunch with this...
Small paper bowls..... I like to eat a nice salad at lunch, but today I was flabbergasted and felt like a fool- it looked like I was eating for two people, but the bowls were so tiny I had no chance of eating what my body needed with just 1 bowl.... Then I was thankful and blessed to remember our amazing silverware and crockery we normally have... my fingers are crossed we'll have it back again soon.

On a less superficial note, Here's another HUGE blessing. I got to meet these guys rather early on, but didn't get to see him post-op, which was disappointing. But- look how incredible his story is!!!! :) 
Credit for that blog goes to Tiffany Bergman:) Beautiful story and a beautiful way of telling it;)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 15: Patients... not Patience

Recently, I've found my life to be cluttered- not enough time to do the things I need, let alone want, to do. I've had to cut tv and movies out almost completely(tv via dvds) because of the way they affect my sleep, so that's freed up time, I gave up facebook until Easter, which certainly frees up time, but despite all of that- I still had no time to just be. That's when I decided to start waking up earlier, where I have 2 sets of 45 minutes before work where I can do what I want/need to do before my day- most of the time get in touch with God and journal or something. 

Still, my life was too cluttered. I'd added some things- such as Toastmasters, exercise classes, and teaching piano lessons, but those are indespensible. I cannot do without those things- they feed me body and soul. So, I decided that working in the Cafe on Tuesday nights wasn't going well. I was always so exhausted from my day of work, which normally led RIGHT up to the time I opened the cafe. I was grumpy, not nice, and hated being there. I decided it had to go.

But wait- the Cafe is something I LOVE doing... how could it become the bain of my existence so quickly? So, I told the manager, I can't do it anymore- I'm sorry. I need more room to do other things. But something else came to mind... I have this weird time on Sundays where I have to get up in order to eat breakfast and get my lunch packed, but if I do a podcast, cabin church becomes overwhelming...... there's at LEAST an hour, depending on how late I was up on Saturday, where I am doing nothing..... and even more, there's nobody to open the Cafe on Sunday mornings.....PERFECT! So, that's how I moved that around and it works beautifully... and I get a free coffee to take with me to cabin church- couldn't get much better.

Now that my cafe time moved, I was still busy until 8pm straight from the morning, Wednesdays straight until 8:30pm, Thursdays off and on until 8:30, Fridays after 7 I had free time, but that was all.... hmph... There's something I love SO much, yet haven't done in a long time due to various reasons.... visiting the patients. 

My friends(a family) go down often because they have a 'befriend a patient' program, where you sign up to visit a patient daily/as much as possible. They've had me come with them 2 weeks in a row, and I realized it is time for me to dive back in. Then it all came together in my head... Tuesday nights free....PATIENTS!! So, last night after laying down post-dinner and letting myself relax for a while, I decided to head down to D ward (the Maxillofacial ward).  

I got down there and was met with smiles, as I'd been down a few short days before. One of the translators was asked to help translate and told me to takeover his card game. Now, the tricky part is I in no way speak the language of the man I played with, but I had to figure it out... I got it pretty quickly after lots of 'EHH!!'s :) He's a man with a Noma, which is an infection that essentially eats the face bit by bit. He is missing his whole mouth area. thankfully, his nose was not affected, but he's in for a ride. They have to take a skin graft from his chest and graft it on to his face, making lips for him. This is will take time. He will have to come to the ship for more surgeries for reconstruction over the years. Right now, he's been operated on his chest, but nothing else at this point. We had a grand old time... at the end of the night I smiled really big at him and I could see his cheek muscles raise- the best he could smile. 

I also saw a sweet 13 year old girl all by herself in the corner. She has a bi-lateral(2 sided) cleft lip, which looks like was attempted to be fixed in the past, but failed. I decided to show her my version of Mancala... it's not quite right and I made it up yesterday, but it was fun nonetheless:) Then my 8 year old friend, Elsa, wanted to make bracelets for people and she made one for my new friend. After that, we had a dance party the second someone put on Shakira's 'Waka Waka' :) Then we played games and just had fun with eachother.... amazing.... I left certainly feeling blessed.

I was reminded recently I need to be tracking my hours of volunteering for job applications, but not only am I now building that up a bit more again, but I'm back in the place on the ship I feel at home the most- on the wards. Blessed, Blessed, Blessed!!!:) 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 14:Prayer Part 2

Since I don't have facebook, I'm not able to post things going on in my life, so I just wanted to include a bit of a request for prayer in here. My Grandfather(Poppop) is one of the people in my family who just holds my heart... I'm a daddy's girl, but I'm also a Poppop's girl...BIG time. He is in his mid 80s now, which is awesome and I'm so excited to still have him with us- he's gotten to see 2 great grands born... awesome.

In his past, he worked in factories- lots with asbestos, as well as tons of other conditions I'm sure I have no idea about. This has wreaked havoc on his lungs. He was diagnosed a few years ago now with chronic lung disease, which has placed him in and out of the hospital numerous times. Each time, my heart leaps in fear that this is the time my grandpa won't be able to get better. Some of his hospitalizations have kept him for only 1 day, some a few weeks. In the last month he's been in the hospital twice now.

Part of me is terrified, but then I'm reminded of 1 thing. "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."Philippians 4:6.  God's got a plan, and it's perfect. I just need to take my burden to him and tell him my thoughts and my needs, and he'll take care of it, but I also need to be thankful for all he has already done.

Now, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. One thing I've always dreamed of is having my Poppop at my wedding. It brings tears to my eyes just to think about my Poppop grabbing my hands to dance a slow dance and rejoicing together. Every little girl wants her daddy to be at her wedding- of CORSE I think about the walking down the isle and all of that and get excited about it, but my daddy's supposed to be around for a long long time. Supposed is the key word. We don't know what God's plan is for us, but my grandpa- I've never ever thought I'd see the day I'd be married and having him there. I've always wanted to see that day, but part of me has known while I hope that, it won't happen. But, with God all things are possible, right? So this is always going on in the back of my head whenever he is hospitalized. I need him to be at my wedding- he's going to be a big part of my day...

Then I'm taken back to reminding myself of the Lord's plans, which are FAR greater than mine... I know either way, my grandfather will see me on my wedding day- whether on earth or in heaven. When you're so far away, it's so hard to think about, so it's just so much better to hand it over to God and let him take it for me....sometimes I slip backwards and go 'oh my goodness....what if....' But, I feel a hand on my shoulder lovingly guiding me from those thoughts and reminding me that my plans may be different from God's, but he's got this.

What a blessing it is to know that someone far greater and far more powerful is looking over me? He knows my deepest desires because he placed them there. He is both here and with my grandpa, who very much loves him.

On another note- please pray for my sweet baby nephew James. He needs to gain some weight before he can go home with his mommy and daddy, who I'm sure are very ready to get him home with them. Please join me in praying that he'd start taking on weight, he'd start feeding better and that all in all they'd be able to release him from the hospital with no concerns this week if possible.

James Baxter Wilson- about a week ago.
Isn't God so good? I feel so blessed to have a direct line with him... that He is always right there with me- closer than my breath, even when I feel like he's miles away.... all I have to do is call on his name, and he's right beside me. Definately a blessed girl....;)

Day 13 and 14: Toastmasters and Sleeping in

Day 13: Toastmasters

Toastmasters is a club on board whose goal is learning to speak with more confidence publicly  learning to write a proper speech, and keeping your audience listening. Toastmasters was never something on my radar.... everyone always said I should join, but I was apprehensive. I kept saying to myself 'I got a DEGREE in ACTING.. I don't need to know anything about public speaking... I got it in the bag....'. Speechwriting, on the other hand, is quite a different battle.

My first speech- my Icebreaker- was really very easy- I talked about me and I had to come up with 3 key points and go for it.... practiced it like a monologue and I was fine. Next week is my number 2 speech, and here is where the ways part.  I have to WRITE my speech in a certain format and practice it. Thankfully notes are still allowed, but on Speech 3, they aren't. I'm in this time crunch to get my speeches in before I go- trying to get as many in as possible, since I don't know what Toastmasters clubs are available to me at home.(anyone at home a part of one?)

Last night, the club truly blessed me. We've all gotten very comfortable with each other- maybe sometimes a little too comfortable so the professional feel can go down, but man is it a riot. There were some quotes that came out of last night that just CRACKED ME UPPPP!! Also, I was the only female in the group who wasn't evaluating- I was time keeping, but they needed a female to do the 'table topic'. Basically the Table Topics Master comes up with topics and the person in the hot seat has from 1-2 minutes to speak on. She was animate that it would be a female, so I sacrificed myself.

The topic: I just won the Oscar for Best Actress and I have to enter the room and give my thank you speech. The second she said it I thought to myself, 'You just picked the person in the room who is most comfortable with this kind of thing... bad choice... but okay.' :) It was pretty fun, but surprisingly hard to get to the minute mark....I was a bit... melodramatic... and vain... and... a diva:) It felt so good to act again. Earlier in the day, my friend said, "Michelle, you always direct, but I'd LOVE to see you act, since you've said that's something that really makes you happy." ... I got to last night and felt really blessed to have the opportunity. I got no feedback on it, so I honestly have no idea how it went, but to me it felt good to be up there and performing.:)

Day 14: A Sleep-in day
Today, the Elementary are on a field trip. Normally, I meet up with the teachers at 7:45, then help out with devotions for the Elementary, then go back to doing what I was doing pre-devos.

Currently, my morning schedule goes something like this:
Up around 6:15
Get ready for the day
Breakfast around 6:45
Listen to a podcast, or do a devotional, or reading a book I need to learn something from.
7:45- teachers meeting
8-8:25- devos with the kids
8:25-9:10- More podcast or piano time, which I always love doing.
then it's work, work, work.

But this morning was more like:
Up around 7:05
Get Ready/Shower
Breakfast around 7:20(while listening to some Mike Knott- this one's for you daddy;))
Podcast and ipod time/ whatever I want to do time from 7:30ish- 9:10

Sounds good to me. I'm still tired, but thank God for yummy blueberry green tea!! Thanks Kaye!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 12: Bags, Cabins, Naps, and Repetition

Again with the Internet issues... it'll be more consistent during the week time and less during the weekend- merely because I'd rather spend my mornings doing things on the weekend that are not on a computer, but I have a computer-y job, so on the weekdays it's good;)


So, my first bag has arrived at home.... The Youth Pastor from my church came to visit and took a bag home for me. I honestly don't know him hardly at all, but was glad to host him, as I was sure he'd do fine without any hand holding, and he was:) Some people looked down on me for this, saying I was a bad host, but, when you've got a visitor who is a person who likes to do their own thing, I think I did what I could and he did the rest.

Thursday, our ship shop got lots of new crafts in, so I swooped in. A woman who has lived locally with her family since the 80s provides an amazing service to our ship by going to the market for us to provide us fair prices for items right here in our home, as it can be difficult to navigate markets for those who don’t know markets.... or if you're like me and just don't love going all the way out to the market to argue. I like bartering, but this is WAY more convenient. Thursday, I went and Got as many things as I could that I thought would be amazing gifts, or even things for my future home(a SWEET carved stool). Then I proceeded to wrap everything up tightly in the fabric I had and padded it all with bags I was sending home and it was off. It'll be interesting to see when I get home how much of the stuff I take back is mine versus gifts... I'm so excited about some of these gifts, and I have gifts for people from Togo AND Guinea!!! So my blessing in all of this was that I got a bag sent home for free and it is chock full of things to give to other people when I get home.

This put a bit of a reality check on my shoulders... 1st bag home.... I got 2 boxes sent with books and such that would be too heavy to get back, but I simply cannot part with(my Israel books, journals, etc) and more gifts. I leave in less than 3 months now.

Out of fairness to all of you, let me explain my coming home. I don't really plan on telling many people what date I'm getting home. This is merely so that I am not bombarded. The first week home, I need to take care of me, have some time alone, reflect, get over some culture clash issues and re-connect with my family and my closest friends. Then, I'll head out to see my sister, if the time is right, to meet my new sweet nephew James:) I'll be there as long as she wants me to stay. From then until the first week of July, I'll be home and fair game, but just so that you understand when I post “I'm HOMMEE” and you say, but why didn’t' you tell us you were coming this week... that's why... :) Though, you church people will be in for a fun surprise the week I do come home, as I will go to church and see all of you:)

Another blessing that happened today, rather than earlier in the week, is cabin church. Cabin church is something my friends created. They have a baby, thus making it difficult to get off ship to go to a local church. So, we download a podcast from my friend's Church and listen in on that each week. We worship, listen, and share. This week was especially exciting for me, as the pastor caught my attention early on. At first he said, “I'm going to mess around and joke about something today... don't get mad at me for it, but I hate musicals..... well... actually there is 1 that is exceptional that I'll mention today.... Les Miserables.” He had me yelling in anger and cheering in joy within the minute. Sorry to anyone who had no idea what was going on:) This time with my friends has been excellent- time to be with others- a smaller group- and dig into God's word is exciting- we're doing Hebrews- a surprisingly LOADED book.

Right afterward, I realized I hadn't made myself a lunch. On weekends, we have breakfast and dinner provided, but not lunch, so you're supposed to pack a lunch at breakfast. It completely slipped my mind this morning as I wanted to rush to open the cafe for an hour before church- I love being a barista for an hour a week...:) I mentioned I forgot this detail, and my friend whipped out a PBJ sandwich. She said, “My husband will probably get food made for him anyway, so here- have one.' Thankfully I decided jelly and PB were allowed during lent- jelly only once in a while though. Her husband is from Liberia, and there's an incredible woman on board who is also from Liberia who loves making African food for her friends- especially on the weekends when we're limited to sandwiches. At this moment I was eternally grateful.

I made my way back to the cabin and set up shop to edit a film. I'll go into more detail about this another time, but one of my awesome 12 year old friends and I decided to make a film, and today was the editing day. Surprisingly, it took less time to edit the film than to record the song that goes with it... it's an Musical Comedy Parody of sorts. I sat on my bed, ate my sandwich and edited, realizing after a few minutes I needed 1 more scene, running to reception, and filming my friend Femi pretending to make an announcement- THANK YOU FEMI!!!:) Then.. it was done... I truly felt blessed the process was smooth- in the past it hasn't always been, but this time was easy cheese. Then I layed down for a nap. I always intend to sleep for a short time. Today I knew I needed more sleep, since I didn't sleep well the past few night so I was going to allow an hour and ½... turned into 2 hours because a migraine crept in during the nap, but boy was I thankful that I was able to have a CHILL Sunday for once that I truly enjoyed... it almost felt like home:)

Then I had dinner with my friends and church on the ship. Now sometimes church 2 times in a day is too much, but tonight, I was feeling a little better from my migraine, so I went. I was SO thankful I went. It was wonderful. The songs really touched me where I am, a friend of mine is making a mosaic scene for Easter, where she puts another batch of pieces of tissue paper on the board each week during worship. So intricate and precise- it was refreshing to see another form of worship. Reminds me of those people who draw incredible pictures reflecting scripture during worship... then I was in for a surprise. One of my friends was speaking, who I haven't heard speak in a LONG time.

The topic: the battlefield of the mind- that truth comes from God's word and Satan loves feeding us lies that quickly become our reality because we allow them to and we are not rooted in the word... guess what a friend I had a deep conversation about yesterday? Guess what I'd heard during cabin church? Guess what I heard on the TV after church as I cut up a mango? All the same thing..... I knew this was no mistake and that I need to take it seriously- Satan REALLLY loves using my thoughts to freak me out- he's really gotten it down pat...... but I need to stop letting him...I need to ground myself. Guess what my new goal is? Praise God for directing me and giving me clear direction in what I need to be doing.... Awesome!!!!!!

God is so good, people... like... truly... I'm learning so much and so thankful. This season is one of growing and with it comes growing pains, but even flowers have to get through all of the dirt before they can spring up and grow, then bloom(thanks Beth Moore for the quote). I am blessed... SO blessed. Thanks, God... you are incredible.

I'm looking forward to Easter now more than ever.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Day 11: Friends and God's Voice

This is yesterdays... I waited too late to write it and the net blocked me out... so here it is... look for another soon;)

Today came together like a perfect package for me.

I woke up and did my usual routine. On my way, I acknowledged a potentially awkward situation, but decided to pray about it. The situation dissolved before my eyes... it was kinda incredible. Then at Lazare's, God really showed me and a friend a lesson I need to learn through the relationship I have with one of the kids.

 I got back and was kinda feeling down, but finished filming our film festival videos. On my way to collect my things, I said, 'God would you just show me what to do tonight?' Less than a minute later, my bouncing little 8 year old friend said, "Miss Michelle- do you want to come to the ward then watch The Little Rascals with us??? My mom said to ask you." To that I jumped up and said 'YES!' I felt it on my heart to get back down to the wards more often and boy was it a blessed time... full of me talking to cleft lip/palate patients and their caregivers, just loving on some of the patients who were clearly not feeling well, goofing off, realizing the way to explain how I say my name versus the way locals say my name, lots of laughs, a few tears and a great time.

Little Rascals was great and I made headbands looking forward to what the summer will bring to me- Camp!(if all goes as planned so far...). Then I passed a friend carrying a big bag and I realized that a pretty good friend of mine who left the ship in the summer arrived tonight for a visit!!!! I popped up behind and he greeted me with a very excited hug and hello.... strangely it felt like a piece of home came back to the ship to make it more like home... weird but today was totally blessed

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 10:Honey and Pumpkin Seeds

Sometimes Blessings can  take unusual forms..... such as...

PUMPKIN SEEDS!!! They got these in the ship shop a few weeks ago and I'm LOVING snacking on them!!:)

All Natural Honey... it means I'm allowed to eat it11 My friend got it sent from her friends at home and heard I'm only doing natural sugars... and boy does it taste incredible!!!:)

Them Together!! I mean.. I don't eat them together, but still... exciting:)
There's something else that has hugely blessed me lately... it's this song... if you haven't heard it, please do... It's not only beautiful but really hits me where I'm at...

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

I've been having a patch of cloudy skies again after some beautiful sunny days in the world of Michelle and this song has really helped me out a lot. Not only has the song, but a wonderful family friend sent me the devotional that goes with it and it has not only blessed me, but inspired me to live it out as well as to memorize the scripture that goes with it all. Incredible.

Thank you God, for loving me even when I'm quite unlovely.... that's a blessing for sure!!!! :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 8: Itunes U and Day 9: Taebo

The internet is a HORROR at night, so I'm trying something new... I”m going to write my blessings in the morning now, but in order to do that there might be a short time of clustering them... be patient- I haven't lost count...;)
Day  #8: Itunes U
One of my greatest blessings as of late has been Itunes U. Many of you don't know what that is, so let me explain... Itunes U gives the option to download University course lectures as well as published journals read aloud onto your I-device. So far I've gotten to listen to lots of 4 minute stories about children in the health care system- some happy some tragic and I've gotten to listen to the beginning of a seminary school course on Ruth, who I have always been fascinated by and wanted to learn more from.... The best universities have lectures on here... it's a HUGE blessing to me because I LOVE learning.. I LOVE it... I've even found courses I wanted to take and now I get a glimpse at the course to see if I want to actually take it when I get home.... AMAZING.

If you have an I-device..I HIGHLY  recommend this app... especially if you have lots of gigs and a good internet speed.... my internet is poorly, but if I let it sit overnight, sometimes it starts to work....;)  Check it out- it's a HUGE blessing to this girl who LOVES learning both about my career and the bible:)

Day #9: Taebo

Taebo has always been something that I love... like really.. I don't know why.... maybe it's the idea that I can pretend punch something and get exercise out of it, or that it doesnt make me want to collapse at the thought of it(though after today I may've changed my mind). Either way, Billy Blanks has become a friend and his loyal assistant Shelly has become a friend as well.. they're whipping me into shape.

This evening, I went up to set up our wednesday workout, since my partner in exercise was sick. I decided we'd start with a Zumba warmup, hit the Taebo dvd then cool down with Zumba. Little did I realize that when it says 'Taebo Express' and '10 minute segments' that they didn't mean you're supposed to do some of the segments together, but it's your way out of a 30 minute workout if you don't have time for one... which really.. who can't spare 30 minutes in their day to take care of their body.. come on. But anyway... I got going and was doing well... then Billy started getting to me. I had some people watching tonight- a deep conversation happening behind me as I lept into the air, punched and did knee-ups- but nobody came to play tonight- it was just me and Billy- probably better that way... So this first one I did was punch and knee- the punch part I dug, the knee part... OH MY GOODNESS... Killer. So I did that and wanted to give up, but wanted to know what 'combo express' was, as I knew 'boot camp power' was not for today after that workout, 'fast footwork' didn't sound fun, 'kick express' sounds good but not then, etc etc as I went down the list... Combo express seemed to be the only one my mind and body liked. So I popped it in and THANKFULLY it was much easier- less repetition of the same thing over and over and more combinations- I like those:)Afterward I did my cool down, which was super great and then put all of the chairs back...

Now, since there are limited spaces on this lovely floating home of mine, we book out the International Lounge on Mondays and Wednesdays for these exercise classes. We range from 1-sometimes 20 participants on any given night- you never know who you're going to get. Tricky bit is that we have lots and lots of chairs in this room. It's the only room on the ship meant for all of the crew to fit in at once- with about 400 something chairs and standing room. So we clear out a section each time- this time on my own, and put them back as neatly as we can. Thankfully, housekeeping is wonderful and straightens them out after we've butchered it all week. There's an art to putting these chairs back. If you stack them a certain way, all you have to do is pull a bunch off and take one at a time off as you go... you have to see it to know what I mean. New crew are always like 'wow... you really know how to do this, huh'. To that I snicker and say, 'I've only been here 2 years' or …. 'I've only been here FOREVER!' :

International Lounge at the 2011 Film Festival
Today, however, this time alone... well alone minus my friends having their conversation in the back, was much needed. In the middle of the day, I wrote down 'I just want to be alone'... guess what I got... alone time.. well... Billy time, but still.. it was kinda perfect and just what I needed. I didn't want to talk(may come as a shock to many), I didn't want to do anything but be alone and do something- there was my chance and my blessing of the day.

THANKS MOM for getting me the DVDS... I LOOVE Taebo... I may've said this once before, but I love it soo much. I think it originates from 7th grade when I wanted to get into some shape and tried it out and kinda liked it, but then my FAVORITE teacher of the 7th grade- Miss. Rainey started teaching kickboxing classes after school- just like Taebo- I was so excited and signed up and gave it my all...  and now I still love it... those middle school teachers sure did make an impact on me come to think of it... all stories for another day;)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day 7: The Island

Now for the post I wanted to write on Saturday, but didn't get to due to what turned out to be exhaustion(from the sun, lots of exercise, etc.)

I feel SO blessed to have a place of escape from time to time here in Guinea. As much as I've tried to resist, Guinea has swept me away- the people, the scenery- incredible. My heart is here right now.

This is how you get to the island(well..on this kind of boat packed with Mercy Shippers:
It can be very hit or miss with me, but this time I was having fun doodling and enjoying the space, as our particular boat only had a few people on it and there was lots of room to spread out... my stomach churned a little bit, but what's new:)

When we got there, my friend Kelly brought out the paddle boards... I'd never heard of them before but was thrilled to try them out with her. Thankfully the island has a calm side and a rough side... we stuck to the calm side since I'm terrified of waves. Here's what my adventure on the boards looked like....

And so the adventure began....
David helping me get out

It took a while for me to get on my knees, but I did(I'm the one on the left).

 Clearly, I was determined 

First attempt up

I'm Up....

And crash...

Trying again with less help


Getting back on/resting for a minute

Decided to go on my knees for a while, so I could get a handle on steering/rowing

Eventually Kelly switched out to give Ryan a turn... this is me from afar attempting to get up again(on the left).



Afterwards, Kelly and Ryan decided to take a bit of an excursion, so I met these lovely people who peeled me a grapefruit. Essentially, the colored part of the rind is peeled off, leaving the pith/the white stuff there... you cut a hole in the top and squeeze the juice(and the bounty of seeds) out. Once you've juiced it to your liking, you flip it inside out and eat the insides.... amazing... I think I'll do that at home if I can... but the peels to grapefruits here are about 1/2 inch thick...;)

After they got back, We headed to the rougher side of the island, where they paddle boarded the waves(oh no- you would NEVER get me out there doing that...), so I set up a hammock my friend let me borrow for the day, was forced to buy a coke(which I couldn't drink) to set up there, a great guy helped me get the hammock set up(takes a lot of weird knots for the- who knew!), and gave him the coke as a thank you.

After a while, I headed over to see about lunch- I'd ordered shrimp. Then we waited... and waited... it was 2:15 and the boat leaves at 3, so I decided to go back to my area(probably 1/4 mile away), pack my things up and bring them over so that once the food was here we could eat and go..... and we waited.... around 2:40 the guy finally showed up.... we chowed down like nobody's business. My friends got a fish with plantains and I got shrimp and fries, so naturally we all dug in... with our hands mostly... and enjoyed eachother's food:) Amazing fish... the shimp were... hm.. my mom makes better- I mean they were just out of the ocean- can't beat that, but fish straight out of the ocean is way better...:)

We took our hour-long boat ride back and when we got back, I took what felt like the best shower of my life after being in sand for 7 hours. And I just relaxed. However, later that night I got really exhausted- literally- nearly passing out and about to vomit, but once I layed down, I was good to go and slept a long night(where I then posted that blog). Totally worth it for the amazing day:)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day 6: The Story

This song, The Story by Brandi Carlile, is one that has struck me as an amazingly beautiful, but cutting song. This morning I turned it on, as I was in a melancholy mood, but realized this is my blessing. For so long, I moped around saying 'I have nobody... I wish I had someone to share this song with'.... Then this morning it donned on me... I DO.... This is totally perfect- Jesus and I are this way- he knows everything about me- every scar, every line on my face, he knows my thoughts without me speaking them, and I was made to SERVE him... how incredible does that make this song... pretty amazing.. This picture fits perfectly too..

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you
I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
But baby I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do
I was made for you
You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what 
I've been through like you do
And I was made for you...
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true...I was made for you

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Day 5: Beds and Sunsets

As I lay here feeling not so good all of my plans for this blog go out of the window. But this picture says it all... Also I'm thankful for a safe place to sleep and a mostly comfortable bed to sleep in.

Pray an extra prayer tomorrow for peace for Guinea.

Day 4: Lazare's Orphanage(sorry it's late- internet went weird last night when I tried.

Let me preface this by saying that each time I go to this place, I am blessed by it, so you may see this one come up a few times, however, each time I'll hone in on what blessed me THAT day...

Today I struggled to wake up- this hasn't happened in some time, so that frustrated me, putting me in a hurry to get ready to go to Lazare's this morning.

Now, let me explain in a very small nutshell what Lazare's is... it's an orphange/care center. Some of the parents have parents who simply can't take care of them, some abandoned for various reasons, and some have lost their parents. About 1/2 of these sweet ones have HIV and their ages range from about 2 months(that's one of the caretaker's babies though) to 13. This has become my heart and home in Guinea.

So, I got up and got ready quickly, and we were off- doing my usual call to Ansuman- our incredible translator and someone who is quickly becoming a friend of mine- to be sure he'll be waiting at the gas station near his home for us to get him to take him along in our land rover.

We arrived and today I was the one who got to knock. I knocked on this huge metal gate and it just echoes... it's kinda fun:) The door pulled open by one of the workers and to see the smiles on those children's faces as I walked in... how can that NOT bless you? They rush you with hugs and joy- especially those who they know(I've gone at least 2 times each month since we've gotten here and most recently weekly- it's become my hi-light of the week).

This time I came on in, my little man- Moise, who has become very attached to me, found me within a minute. I worry for his attachment to me sometimes, so I've begun to pull myself away from me. He knows he has a safe and comfortable place to sleep and feel safe and loved with me, but I also want him playing and learning while we're there. When he's only with me, he is grumpy Gus, but when he's playing his little face shines- it lights up and just shines and shines. After a bit, I separated myself from him and went to the kitchen to help cook- it's become something I love to do, as I love cooking but more-so I want to love on these caretakers who are so easily forgotten. Then was our usual story then play time.

Now, I have weeks I come home from Lazare's with energy and excitement, and times I come home with my heart in shreds trying to understand how if God loved his children so much, these children were in such bad shape. Today... I left wondering what God's got planned for me. One of the aunties looked at me and said 'you're trying to learn it all.. you're becoming African..' And I can't help but think that there's a reason I feel this sudden urge to learn Susu, french, how to cook, how to tie babies to my back. It could be that it's because i"m leaving soon, or it could be because I may very well be back in Africa in the future. The ship- maybe, maybe not, but Africa- definitely.

The greatest of all of my blessings today was seeing those children. When we came, so many were just in such bad shape- many new to the center. No life in their eyes, no smiles, no interaction, some would just lay there, or cry all of the time with no consolation. Week by week, I've seen little sparks ignite in some of these sweet babies. It's beautiful.

Me and Joseph the week we found he had gained weight!!!
Joseph is older than he looks and until very recently could not sit up on his own. A few weeks ago, I held him and massaged his back as he layed on his tummy.... now... that's when I realized something was wrong. Turns out little man has scoliosis. He has a full mouth full of teeth, but can't sit up, or walk, and hardly had any life in him. When I first held him I thought he was a 6 month old at the most- so light, bumps all over his skin, feverish- a wreck. A few weeks ago, there was a sudden change. I picked him up and he was heavy .... like... HEAVY.... and I rejoiced- nearly in tears for his gaining weight! Then I realized he was interacting more... last week he started shaking his head super fast, I got a smile and a laugh, I got him interacting with me... something that NEVER could've happened a few weeks ago... I nearly bursted into tears.... The ship has agreed to do PT on him to help with his scoliosis so he can grow up mostly normal and boy has it changed him!!! My friend came to me before we left today saying 'Joseph can sit up on his own.' I JUMPED for joy!!! :)

Then there's sweet Esther. I don't know her whole story but a few weeks ago she got VERY sick with an infection that was wreaking havoc on her skin and eating away at it.... she used to be a clingy and protective child, but when she got sick she was even more so.... clearly in pain all of the time and only wanted attention from very few- agony was written all over her face. Today, I saw her carrying a wagon full of toys behind her as she walked and smiled..... and of course, I couldn't help but get this HUGE smile on my face and tell everyone about it....

These are the moments I know God has brought us here not just for a fun missions trip- but for a reason- to further his Kingdom- to love those who have been forgotten.

Earlier I put my little man Moise down for his nap and I heard crying and crying and crying. Went to find out what was going on and one of the little ones- maybe 2 years old- was in the middle of the floor just crying. She saw me and ran straight for me and jumped into my arms. I still couldn't get her to stop making sounds of fear.... so I sang to her.... I realized she felt like nobody could hear her- can you imagine at 2 years old how that must feel.

Now, let me make something VERY clear. The Aunties at Lazare's are INCREDIBLE women of God who are doing their best to make this place run smoothly. But, think about this- maybe 8 total aunties to 27 children... do that math.... most of the kids under age 3... Pray for them please... they need help- they especially need men to come and be role models for these boys(our oldest kids are all boys) and show them love despite the clear rejection they've had by their own families. Pray for the aunties to have energy and for more to come their way to help out in any possible way. Also, pray for sweet Mariatu- a 2 year old who badly broke her leg and almost lost it due to lack of medical care available  thankfully someone was willin to help her and save her leg, but pray that the healing would go quickly- she's in a full cast(up to her ribs) and can't sit up or move much- pray that the healing would come quickly and with little issue. Thank GOD he used the right people and we were able to save her leg!!!! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 3: James

My greatest blessing in my life over the past week is this:
This is the newest addition to our family-my nephew James. He had a bit of a rough go being 6 weeks early, but he's already blessed me SOOOOOO much... just look at him!!:) Truly- he's a miracle and a blessing to each and every one of our family members and beyond... he's also named after my current favorite book of the bible... ;)

Short and sweet today- not feeling much like writing, but this picture speaks louder than any words I could give.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blessing number 2: Honesty

Really the only thing that comes to mind right off the bat without any force today is simply- honesty.

I've been dealing with lots of different trials lately related to all aspects of life. During it, I've really had a hard time... trying to figure out why those things have been happening to me, going to friends moaning and groaning all about my problems and seeking counsel from THEM.

Here's where the honesty part comes... I had been struggling with a situation and I had prayed and prayed and prayed about it and thought it was going to end up just the way I had hoped- a few nice words, a hug and we'd be back on track. What happened in real life however, was much more startling. My friend was honest... BRUTALLY honest with me... All of my hopes of a great conversation dashed and I cried for literally 1/2 of the conversation. Anyone who knows me knows that's  a big deal- unless watching a movie, I don't cry for ANYTHING unless it's serious...

You may be asking yourselves, ' then how was that a blessing....'. Whenever people are honest with me, I take a punch, but I come back stronger. Sometimes I have to take multiple punches to the same area of my life before I decide to come back and fight stronger- this certain situation was one of those moments... a life-long battle I've had within me was being addressed right to my face, but my friend, my dear friend was HONEST with me.

I'll admit, after the conversation, I was struggling... I cried for at least an hour, I prayed, I got angry, I stomped on the floor... But then I realized, 'Michelle... this is your chance for change... do it'. God's so good, right? I ended up resting in him for a while and listening.... I started realizing this was not going to end me, I didn't need to run and tell anyone about it- it was for me and him and my friend to have- nobody else and it was going to be a hard adjustment, but a change is in progress for the better because that friend was hoest with me... and God had wrapped his huge arms around me and gave me peace and comfort by the end of the day that surpasses anything any human could've given me.

Honesty has always been reallllly hard for me to swallow.... it's like putting the worst medicine in my mouth and forcing me to swallow- reminds me of a story actually...

When was little, I had to be on an antibiotic for something or other- I was always taking something between my ears, my lungs and the rest of me. But this time I was really little... Normally I had some Hawiian Punch(anyone else miss that stuff?) to mask the taste and I could pretty much get it down, but we had run out...My mom and dad had the plan down.. one at my head to hold my head still and restrain me, one at the feet. They tried and tried and wasted I don't even know how much medicine on me spitting it out. There's the method of holding the mouth and nose shut, which I'm pretty sure is what happened during this, but I REFUSED to swallow the stuff- it tasted like poison... so I threw up all over the place...after that moment, my mom told the doctors I was allergic to it- not because I was, but because we didn't want to go through that again... we claimed this for quite some time:)

That's how hard honesty can be for me to swallow.

However, honesty has always been the one thing to bring a relationship closer and more true. the only way I've been able to stay friends with certain people in my life is their brutal honesty and their willingness to do so- and recieve it as well. There's a huge difference between being brutally honest and giving truth with love though.... when truth is given in love for the other person, good always comes from it. Sometimes it SUCKS to hear that certain aspects of your personality make people want to not be around you, or you are too much this or that when all you're trying to be is yourself... but... God really works through those honest moments.

For the record- things were miscommunicated a little in that conversation between us, but the after-effect is still tough to take... but God's teaching me- 'don't put all your eggs in a basket and really you should come to me first, not them anyway- they are imperfect humans....they will let you down'... you'd think I'd know this by now... time after time is happens, but hey- God loves to use these moments and turn them into BLESSINGS... though they may be in disguise for a little while;) 

I'll end with a quote...

" He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and his unchanging and unfailing love stustains me when nothing and no one else can." -Bill Bright

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent Challenge Day 1 and Explaination


I've never been one who participated in lent, as it was simply never a part of the Baptist tradition to do so.  However, given the great opportunity and surroundings, this year I decided it was not only something I wanted to participate in, but something I NEEDED to participate in.

Over the last few weeks, I've been growing closer to God than I have been in a very long time. While this is exciting, it's brought its challenges. I've also been making an effort to make a better me- a new years goal more than resolution, but this means taking care of myself better and getting into good shape so that I can live a long and healthy life, not one cut off by preventable illnesses. There's also lots of ideas of what the future looks like twirling around this head of mine, so I figured, I should certainly participate in the fasting during Lent and see what comes of it, as I'm sure God is going to bless the time.

I won't mention everything here, but the biggest change for me is that I will NOT be using Facebook. I have deactivated my account(I will re-activate on Easter). Facebook has been one of the greatest tools for me to keep in touch with my dear friends at home and all of you, of course. However, it's also become a huge stumbling block. I've found myself countless times in front of the computer checking up on people and facebook 'stalking' people rather than doing what I need to be doing with my day. It's become a time sucker, and not what it was originally intended to be- a point of contact. I was also finding myself divulging more information about my personal life than one maybe should be at any given moment- I'm a very spontaneous thinker and emotional person... this can be dangerous on facebook. Therefore, it's out of my life for the next 40 days. If you want to talk to me, please feel free to email me at I'd love to hear from you, see your pictures, and participate in your lives still- just not through Facebook.

I've also taken on a few things I'm 'giving up' to focus on getting rid of some of my bad eating habits (no fizzy drinks(as they call them here) or extra sugars- natural sugars are allowed but nothing with extras.... we'll see how this one goes. I've been told you may pick 1 day where you're 'off the hook' and I won't ever be off the hook on the facebook one, but this one... I will. My birthday is smack dab in the middle of Lent- March 9th.... so I decided I may enjoy my foods on that day, but then go right back to it the next day.

I've also made a few personal challenges that I won't share, but I'm excited to see how God grows me through them.

Blogging was my last challenge to myself... 40 days.... I want to write 40 days of blessings I have in my life... so this is where we will begin...

Blessings Day 1: My Mom

Now, I'm fairly certain the way my mom loves to love people is through gifts.

As you may or may not know, the youth pastor from my home church is currently on board. Now, he was not my youth pastor, but the one right after and has done some really great things for our church community. He wanted to see what Mercy Ships is all about, and we figured now would be great because my mom would be on board and help show him around,etc. However, plans changed a few months ago. My mom needed to pull out due to work-related issues, which in turn became a HUGE blessing because then my nephew James was born on the 11th, when she was SUPPOSED to be here.

I picked up Ryan from a friend of Mercy Ships' home... long story... and he said 'this is your bag'. I was like 'um... what?' The things I had ordered for myself were small and should've taken up no space at all, so I was confused when I saw this duffel about 1/2 full of items. I opened it up and it TRULY felt like Christmas.... I had tapped into my savings ordered myself as a treat some goodies for me to enjoy during the rest of my time here- books, a new Itouch, etc. I had also requested a few other things (Taebo dvds, toothpaste)... just a few things. I open the bag and I'm beyond myself- I see valentines candies and more valentines  candies- and wait- MORE valentines candies, as well as my favorite cake mix(no doubt for my birthday), and another cool cake mix, which I'm sure was intended for Valentines day, but I may save until after lent so I can try one- Pink Lemonade cake mix and icing- who knew? I also plan on saving some of the valentines candies for myself later as well;)

In that moment, I was full of joy.... I realized in that moment something I had kinda known my whole life but was confirmed in this moment- I'm certain my mom's main love language(at least in giving) is gifts. She doesn't love getting them(merely for the attention I supposed), but LOVES showering them on us- especially when I'm so far away and there's a way to..... for that I feel extremely BLESSED today- Thanks mommy!! I love you and miss you.

With about 3 months left on this journey... I'm excited that about 1/2 of that time will be me spending it focusing more on God and the Great things he has done for me.

<3 M