Friday, 24 October 2014

Under a Blanket of Stars

We are hours away from ending this sail. I'm standing under a blanket of stars, a tropical wind blowing in my face reminding of where we will pull into harbour tomorrow.
Only about 48hrs ago did our journey become smooth. We spent days and days rocking so hard that it was actually impossible to sleep at night. The newer iPhones have a tilt metre which show you the degree at which your world is tilting. Well with our ship rocking and rolling, iPhones were out everywhere measuring our list. During the rockiest days we would consistently list to about 12-18 degrees on each side. One night bigger swell threw us from 20 to even 30 degrees.
To me the days were full of fun. The morning tip was wet a napkin to put under your cup and plate so that when the ship rocks your dinner will stay on the table instead of landing on the floor. With this dramatic rocking our meal times looked like juggling acts, catching cutlery as it slid off our plates and then we would slide right past the table as the chairs slipped with us in them, backwards and forwards through the cafe. It was a hoot. I laughed so much during this that a friend actually joked that I (my voice) was the new tilt metre. Walking through the hallways was absolutely impossible to stay in a straight line. Instead we looked like pin balls bouncing off the walls. Showering you had to turn the water off a million times as not to let the water spill over the lip as it sloshed side to side. Drying your feet was virtually impossible without falling on your face. Lying in bed as night the blood ran down to your head as your body slid down the bed and then the blood ran to your toes as you shifted down to the foot of the bed. Over and over. See why the whole ship didn't sleep for three nights!?

Thankfully I have sea legs and a stomach of iron and I enjoyed being thrown around the place (except at night). We spent time on deck 8 watching the waves roll our home and throw us around like a Lego in an Olympic sized swimming pool. We saw a humpback whale breach over and over only about 50 m away from our ship home, until it was out of sight. We saw some sort of tiny dolphin jumping behind the ship as the sun set one evening. We ate popcorn every night, laughed our heads off and sung our hearts out in praise to our King.

This journey has been preparation for the nurses to be ready for the work when the hospital opens. None of the information is new to me but it is preparing my heart. Some days I feel overwhelmed with how many patients I've seen come and go from this place, each taking a little piece of my heart. Now you can understand why my heart breaks over the Ebola situation. My heart lies in my patients living in those countries.
Tonight will end and as the sun rises in a few hours time and at the same time our ship will be pulling into Toamasina (Tamatave in French) in Madagascar. It is the city that I will call home for the next eight months.
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. Her people total 23 million. 90% of them live on under $2 a day. We come here not just to give free surgical care but to love them. We will love them like Jesus loves us.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Staring Out the Window

The whole reason for my extended time at home was for my sister’s wedding. It definitely held bonuses like extra time with friends and even being able to work again and earn some money. After the wedding my family had relatives stay for a week in our house. We had several adventures including a trip to Morton Island (highly recommended), a walk up Table Top and a drive to find kangaroos, wallabies and deer.

The rest of the time we sat around drinking coffee, doing puzzles and word games, chatting and swimming in our pool. The weather was perfect, sunny and blue skies with scattered clouds. Oh, glorious! I haven’t been in a country during spring since 2010 and I soaked up the seasonal change, raving about how much I enjoyed it. September in Toowoomba has a Carnival of Flowers and so it was the perfect time of year to be outdoors and drinking in the smells and colours of spring.

Extra time at home meant that I got to see the happy couple when they returned from their honeymoon and catch up with them. Extra time meant more days drinking coffee with mum and my sister Rebecca, sitting on the porch swing on the back deck and swimming in the pool being silly. Extra time meant that I had more days with my gorgeous little ones. Selfishly I was so glad the littlest has been induced three weeks early because it meant that I had five weeks with him!

this just makes me laugh

My last days in town were full of goodbyes. Although I love my life on the ship, I found it particularly hard to say goodbyes again. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all to live life far away from home, because your new place becomes home too, but this time I felt the wrench. I hate missing my friend’s kids growing up while I’m away. In February it’ll be my own niece growing up without me. I can’t stand that thought, but while I know God has me here, it’s where I’ll stay. Thankfully we have such great access to the internet on board that I can keep up with photos (provided the ones with the kids post photos!). It’s not the same as being there but it’s definitely better than nothing!

I arrived back to the Africa Mercy in Cape Town, South Africa on Monday evening. I was still feeling sad about leaving home and part of me will always feel sad about missing life there, but I was welcomed back to the ship with open arms, huge hugs, big smiles, so much enthusiasm that my heart smiled as wide as it could. And here I sit, on the same bed I left, staring out the window into an unfamiliar port, literally minutes away from sailing out into open seas. Oh, do you know where we are going? Madagascar!!!!!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

I Am Full

The day finally arrives. The night was spent mostly sleeping but listening for an alarm to sound the beginning of the day. It has been eagerly awaited. It has taken months to plan.
The sun has already risen but the day is still early. The hot rollers are switched on and ready. Hairspray in hand. Bobby pins lined up. Make-up set up and spread across the table.  It is my little sister's wedding day.

Although we had a tight schedule to keep with hair and make-up being done by us at home, we wanted to keep the morning fun and light-hearted. Champagne with hibiscus flowers bubbled happily in our glasses. I concentrated hard at making Ruth's hair the most beautiful, perfect assembly of pinned and hanging curls. She in return, did mine while I simultaneously had my makeup done by my sister-in-law, Lyndi. I stayed as still as I could while my hair tugged, and my eyes and face were painted. Lyndi said I must have been good at the game Statues when I was a kid.

Before Ruth had completed my hair up-do, when my makeup was finished, I began to braid Sarah's hair. Looking around the room, Lyndi was doing Rebecca's make up, Sarah was in front of me as I tugged in her hair, Ruth behind me placing the last pins, mum giving support and encouragement and dad documenting it all with photos. (Not quite sure where my brother had gone- perhaps too much hairspray happening for him!) In the moment I had a laugh. It felt like we were playing games and not like my sister was about to make the biggest promise of her life.

Hair and makeup perfectly set, the bridesmaid dress falling in gentle waves against my body, jewellery dangling, shoes zipped and tied to complete the look, I walked upstairs to the bride, "Time to put your dress on Ruth!"
I slipped her into her hand made gown, lacing up the back and pulling it tight. She had spent more than 100 hours putting this dress together and she looked stunning. I don't actually think I've ever seen her look so beautiful. Photographer and bouquets arrived and apart from a moment where I almost fell backwards down the front stairs, all was ready and we were on time!
The old classic wedding cars arrived, unintentionally matching our colour scheme!  Stephen wanted Ruth there on time and not late. She had promised she would be. So we pulled out of our family home, leaving behind the mess of empty champagne glasses, shoes boxes, scattered makeup, left over bobby pins and my sister's bedroom, never to be slept in by her alone again.

Stephen was beaming as we walked down the aisle. Ruth glowed. I swallowed back tears. We sang a song together as a church. As our voices rose to the heavens it was as though the church roof lifted off and the angels joined with us. The sound filled the church and overflowed our hearts. I had to stop singing to choke back my tears. He was smiling with us. Actually I think God’s heart was bursting with pride for these two. I watched the bride and groom for the rest of the day, gaze into each other’s eyes with so much hope for their future together. I am thrilled for them. I know it's just the beginning of an amazing journey and adventure together.

The following day was my mum's 60th birthday party. Again our house was full of life, love and laughter.
I love my family. I am so proud of each of them in their individual ways.  This whole weekend was full of family, love and laughter. My heart is so full. I feel God so strongly in those moments where I take a step back, look around the room at those whom I love and let my heart swell and throb with joy for all God has given me. I am full.


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