My Plan After Mercy Ships? Swim Upstream

January 18, 2017

Airport life these days

The man at the front of the queue went up to the airport desk clerk pointing and looking toward the end of the counter. He was describing someone –a woman, red hijab, with black polka dots. Just as the clerk hopped down to look for her, she came running around the corner with two massive suitcases on wheels. At first I thought it was the man’s wife and he had lost her, but as she rejoined her pile of unattended luggage and added the two she was carrying, I understood. She had left her bags unattended and needed to return to the main entrance one more time to get the last one. That’s a big airport no-no. The man in line had tattled on her.

She explained her situation. The clerk’s answer? “Too bad” (my paraphrase). Finally she ran to get the one more and added it to her pile at the front of the line. As she moved to go to the back of the line, the clerk told her she needed to take her bags with her, because, well, no unattended bags allowed. Whatever. Rules are rules. The entire queue of people ignored her while she struggled to move her bags, two by two, from the front to the back. And then allllllllll the way down the empty back-end of the line. Did I say she was doing this two by two?

Maybe everyone thought she deserved the trouble for making them wonder if they were about to get blown up by unattended bags. For a split second, I wondered the same thing. I snapped out of it. This was obviously just a woman. What if I was in that situation? What if I had all the bags, and Ruben had left to park the truck and I had to maneuver them all by myself? While everyone gawks at me while I plead with the airport clerk to let me get my final bag on the other side of the desk?

It’s just ridiculous. If your line-buddy wants to detonate a bomb, she probably wouldn’t have put as much effort into her makeup as this gorgeous lady did.

Ruben and I agreed I should help her shuffle her bags down the line. It took 15 seconds. I hoped that anyone with half a heart in line felt guilt-tripped that they didn’t help her themselves. They probably didn’t. Life continued on and I saw her with her husband on the tail-end of that flight after arrival in Istanbul. A normal woman with her husband and her suitcases full of makeup.

I don’t ever want to be a bystander too worried about myself to leave my place in line for 60 seconds to help.

Settle down after Mercy Ships; Upstream Field Guide; Swim Upstream
Ruben and I with part of our Mercy Ships family enjoying lunch at a hotel pool in Benin.

From Ship to real life in 6 months

Ruben and I will finish our time with Mercy Ships in July. We’re laying this inspiring, challenging season of life to rest because it’s time to let go. I’ll tell you more about that decision and process in the coming weeks. For now, let me tell you what I refuse to release hold of.

I’m letting go of Mercy Ships, but I’m not letting go of hope and healing. I’m leaving long-term volunteering behind, but I’m not letting go of serving others. Just because I’m coming home doesn’t mean I have any intention of settling down. Just because I’m sailing away from the people of Benin doesn’t mean I cease to care. And if you think my departure from the ship indicates a desire to fit into conventional living, I still want to swim upstream.

I’m just switching to conventional colored river-water. From bright orange to plain ol’ blue-green. (Seriously, though. Have we ever mentioned the orange water we encounter sometimes??)

Our 2-week Florida holiday to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with family made a few things clear and brought up questions to ponder. At the end, we had to peel ourselves away. We were incredibly comfortable among people that know us and accept us and it would have been easy to stay right where we were. Even on the days that were less than perfect, I was grateful to be making memories with loved ones. Is comfort a bad thing? Something to avoid? Any talk about leaving my “comfort zone” makes me feel like comfort isn’t a good place to settle. How will I know how and where to serve God in this new place? How will I stay committed and encouraged to run the race of faith that Jesus Christ ran?

Family Christmas 2016; Find my purpose; Swim Upstream; My plan after Mercy Ships
Our family at home in Florida. One of the rare photos where my sisters and I actually look alike.

I can barely discern my own will, let alone the will of God. So I make no claims or guarantees that I know anything for sure. What I do know is the people in my own community, city, and country are hurting, divided and in need of the good news I’ve found with Jesus. Somehow I want to be a part of that. I don’t know exactly how, but I want to serve them.

My vacation in Florida only reminded me how difficult it will be to spread the aroma of Jesus in a very different world. When I started my first blog, the title was This Dust Never Settles. I’m still attached to that name because the premise still holds true. I don’t ever plan on settling down. I don’t want to live a traditional life, do things in order, or make reasonable life decisions and do what everyone else does. The dust trail in my wake will never settle down. But I need to figure out what I’m here for.

Learning how to swim upstream

Several months ago, I invested in a course that I’m slowly working through to help me figure myself out. I’ve never paid for a course like this before, but this was part of a package deal (by Ultimate Bundles) and came with many other courses and e-books for a discounted price. 75% of the included materials were things I would use, but this course was something I had been eyeing for a looong while.

The Upstream Field Guide is walking me through different introspective steps to help me figure out who I am and what I stand for. The name indicates my ultimate goal perfectly. I’ve always wanted to swim upstream, against the current. “Write a Personal Mission Statement” has been on my to-do list for awhile and that’s one of the course objectives. This is all at my own pace using a combination of course modules, guided exercises from Tsh (the course creator) and advice from her friends on similar journeys. You can find out more about the course here. The beginning of a new year has only reminded me how much change is coming in 2017. I want to be ready for that.

(The links to Upstream Field Guide are affiliate links, meaning that if you click and purchase, I get a small commission. I stand behind this course and it’s creator and would recommend this even if I wasn’t an affiliate.)

Upstream Lessons

Here are a few things I’ve learned about myself so far:

  1. Florence Nightingale is someone I admire because her faith influenced her work and she didn’t fit the cultural norms for women in her time. She pursued knowledge across many disciplines, and lastly, her life’s work paved the way for the fulfillment of MY life and career.
  2. Stories about unfulfilled love and how the heart responds to what was lost or what can never be (i.e. Great Gatsby, Titanic) deeply move me.
  3. My favorite quotes tend to focus on loving deeply and being vulnerable. Two things I struggle with. (I’m sure I’m not the only one).

The first half of the course gave me a variety of exercises to examine my true thoughts, desires, and dreams. I’m just starting the lesson where I’ll create my personal mission statement. I will keep you in the loop regarding my progress; I still have a lot of brain-power to devote to this endeavor.

Moving Forward

I haven’t made any lofty goals for 2017. The ones I’ve written down aren’t S.M.A.R.T. goals; they are vague and emotional. Considering this is likely my last months on the Africa Mercy for quite some time, I’m just trying to slow down and enjoy this time even when I don’t. I want to utilize my free time before I have none left. I want to figure out what I stand for before I’m thrown into the confines of conventional living.

You don’t have to be perfectly disciplined, or sufficiently religious. I’m not. Imperfection at work and at home come with our humanity. No one will tell you I’m the smartest nurse and, as a wife, I’m a lot to handle. I’m no different than most of you except that I dream big and really believe that we are here for a divine purpose. That’s my message today and I don’t want to forget it when I return home.

Settle Down after Mercy Ships, Benin West Africa, Provocative Joy; Personal Mission Statement; Swim upstreamI linked up at these awesome blogs: Christian Blogger Community // Faith-Filled Friday // Fresh Market Friday.

More about ivannar@gmail.com

14 Comments
    1. Great post Ivanna! I was especially touched at how you helped that woman with her luggage. That is being a light for Jesus!

    1. I’m at a point in my life where I’m not really sure what I’m going to be doing next, but I’m excited abou the future!

      1. That’s a good attitude to start with! Enthusiasm goes a long way.

    1. I LOVE the Upstream Field Course and I love Tsh! That course is so good, and I recommend it all the time. Also, I knew someone years ago who served on the Mercy Ships 🙂 P.S., my daughter is a nurse. YAY for nurses! That’s a tough job. Blessings to you on your future endeavors.

    1. My friend is on a Mercy Ship as well. Praying for y’all as you seek God’s will on what is next.

      1. I work with your friend! I see her name on our mutual friends list 🙂 She is lovely. Thank you for praying.

    1. You are an inspiration my dear!!! I admire who your are, how free you are and dedicated to what you believe in. Im looking forward to read more into your last moments on the ship.

    1. as north americans, we tend to have such a need for productivity and personal usefulness. in moderation, this is a fine. if i were you, i’d take 90 days upon return to get a pedicure, read a couple juicy books, wake up when i’m done sleeping, and just meditate on the universe… there’s no hurry and you don’t get extra points for ‘having a plan after ms’…

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