Monday, September 12, 2016

A Full Summer

After leaving the ship in June and spending about 2 weeks in Cape Town, I finally made it back to the US. I actually only ended up having about 5 weeks between arriving and departing back to South Africa to meet the ship once again. The best way I can describe this summer at home is "Full".

First of all, it was full as in packed to the brim with so much to do! I flew straight to North Carolina where I got to meet my niece for the first time. Definitely the highlight of my summer! (Huge thanks to my brother and sister-in-law who let me stay for 2 weeks so I could get lots of snuggle and play time with her!)

Me and my niece, Lora (7 months)
My parents also came up to visit and we had a great time as a family. It doesn't happen often that we can all be together so we took advantage of the opportunity and had family pictures taken. Having a new baby in the family is lots of fun and a great excuse for new pictures!

It was incredibly hard to say goodbye knowing I wouldn't see them again for another year, but it was time to make one more flight - this time back to Florida. My 3 weeks in the Sunshine State were packed with several weekend trips to see my grandparents and church family, lots of eating out with my Mom and Dad at restaurants I haven't had for a year, and catching up with friends and supporters. There was also the craziness of unpacking, restocking and repacking my life again into two 50lb suitcases. (One afternoon was also spent with a reporter from the Palm Beach Post who wrote an article about Mercy Ships and my time in Madagascar. Yikes! What a weird feeling to read about myself in the newspaper! If you haven't seen the article yet, here's the link: Welcome to any new readers who were directed here by the article!) 

These weeks at home were also full of blessings, some in ways I would have never imagined. As odd as it sounds, I was ready to be home, but at the same time, I was already looking forward to coming back to the ship! As much as I love ship life, the last few months here were hard. If you read my blog about goodbyes, you'll see part of why, but there was also the end of year exhaustion and loss of enthusiasm as things come to a close that is very draining. I physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually needed a break. Heading home, I was looking forward to a time to refresh, recharge and grow...however, you know that saying, "You don't know what you have until it's gone"? Turned out to be very true.
I went home expecting to enjoy the family time, catching up with friends and western conveniences (which were all great!) but actually I was surprised how much I really liked getting to share about Mercy Ships! No, I still don't love public speaking (and thankfully, only had to officially do that once) but get me with a group of friends or at a table with one or two others and I will happily talk for hours. This has nothing to do with me wanting to talk about myself - that part I try to avoid! What I do love is to talk about my experiences, this ministry and the miracles God did in the country of Madagascar (and how excited I was to be heading to Benin!), It's not always easy and I had a few tough questions, but being forced to put into words what happened in the previous year made me appreciate this life and feel privileged and humbled to be a part of it. I don't know if it always came out this way, but inside I felt giddy at times talking about this place I love and I hope my face lit up as much as my heart does when I talk about it.
As I was talking with people back home, I realized that most only have a small idea of what we do. I know this life so intimately and live with others in the thick of it, so it was helpful to be reminded that not everyone has a full picture of Mercy Ships. I aim to do a better job in future blogs of explaining more of that part.

While I still claim Florida as 'home', I also call this ship my 'home'. Home is difficult thing to express. I love my family and friends and wish I would be with them more often, but I also love this crazy ship and the people here. Through my time away, I've realized more than ever that this is the place I'm meant to be right now. I'm blessed to have this opportunity and never want to take for granted what a gift it is to be serving here for this time - however long God allows me to continue.