when i fly

20120306-225638.jpg When I fly...

I touch the outside of the plane as I board.

I choose an aisle seat.

As soon as I sit down, I put my seat back just a tiny bit -- not enough to be caught, but enough that I feel convinced I've scored myself some extra room.

I keep my seatbelt as loose as possible.

I adjust the air-blower-thing to high, and angle it right at me.

I wear a sweater or zip-up for when the air-blower-thing inevitably makes me cold.

I always bring something to read and rarely ever read it.

I text my friend right before I have to shut my phone off. It's tradition. Last text before takeoff, first text after landing.

I turn my phone on as we're landing, so it is fully powered up by the time we're on the ground. (I know, I know... So I won't also tell you that I've been known to occasionally turn it on mid-flight...)

I drink ginger ale.

I never eat the peanuts. And I always wonder why they still give those things out, especially with so many people allergic...

I become completely anti-social. I'll smile and say hello, but that's where I'd prefer our interaction end. Sorry, neighbor.

Armrest down. Always down.

I try to avoid going to the bathroom on the plane, but if I do... I cover my ears when I flush. That sucker is loud! Heh. "Sucker".

I try to force myself to sleep if there's turbulence.

I am that girl whose head drops when she falls asleep, jarring myself back awake just enough to reposition and do it all over again.

I thank the flight crew on my way out.

I'm sure there's more, but I'm drawing a blank.

How about you? What do you do when you fly?

cliff notes

Cliff notes of my week: I spent time in DC with my sweet friend Tracee. The morning after I arrived, I ended up in a pediatric (don't ask) dentist's office on an emergency visit . What I thought was possibly a filling that fell out was actually half my tooth. Yikes.

We ate at one of my favorite restaurants from back home in South Africa---in downtown DC. (Holla if you've ever eaten at Nando's on either side of the ocean!) I was disappointed they didn't have Castle Lager, but the peri-peri chicken made my nose run and my heart happy.

I volunteered at Catalyst One Day in Baltimore, and got to sit in on pretty much the entire event. God's good like that. (I love me some leadership development!)

I wasn't sure what to expect from my Meet Me at Starbucks shout-out, and was blown away that 17 people showed up. It was interesting to see corners of my world collide as ministry supporters, old friends, and bloggers intersected in one spot.

Meet Me at Starbucks collage

It felt a little blind-date-esque to finally meet Tonggu Momma, The Gypsy Mama, Stranger, and my lurking "I'll never comment" reader from Oklahoma. (Hi Karen!)

I didn't realize the implications when I announced on twitter and Facebook that "my 'blind date' at Starbucks was so great!" One friend told me with a raised eyebrow that he wanted to hear my crazy blind date story.  Another called his wife to see if she knew anything about this date I went on. Oops.

At the last minute, I booked a ticket to Detroit. Since I arrived two nights ago, I've shot a promo video, met with some pastors, spent time with a friend who works at Thrive, and hung out with my Yeller. Good times in Michigan. I'm ready to get home to the HTL though.

What are some cliff notes from your week?

i packed hope

I don't remember much of what I was thinking the day I arrived in Africa. I was only 19. But I do recall feeling tired and skudgey from my way-too-long flight. I'd crammed everything I thought I'd need into two suitcases---I hoped I hadn't forgotten anything crucial. I was surprised and disappointed to see who was there to meet my flight. The drive to my new home seemed long, and yet passed all too quickly.

I was nervous. Excited. Scared. Happy. Overwhelmed. All mixed into one.

But mostly I was hopeful. I felt confident I was where God wanted me to be, and I hoped He would somehow use me to make a big difference. I had no clue what that would look like. I didn't even know what I wanted to do; I was just there to serve.

And while I know God was clearly calling me to Africa, I'd be lying if I said it was solely my faith in Him that got me there. I think it was a cocktail of faith, naivety, passion, and foolishness that landed me in Africa that day. And I'm absolutely okay with that.

If I'd known how my life would unfold, would I have still boarded that flight? If I'd known all the trials and heartaches I'd face, would I have still followed in faith? If I'd known how many times I'd have to say goodbye to people I love... if I had any clue how the AIDS pandemic would touch my own life... if I foresaw the droughts, fires, and tight finances... if I really knew how big the responsibility and weight would end up being... would I still have been obedient to His call to "Go"?

I'd like to think I would have. But I honestly don't know. My passion and faith may have easily gotten swallowed up by fear and doubt.

Some times more than others, I am grateful He only gives me enough light for the next step.

superbowl monday

I've known the outcome of every Superbowl in recent history before I even watched the game. I don't have ESP or even a magic eight ball. I've just been forced to watch it the day after for as long as I can remember. And even when I try avoiding Facebook or news websites, I inevitably hear who won before I even get to watch. Good thing I can keep a secret.

With the time difference, the game airs in the middle of the night in Africa. So we record it and watch it the next day with our staff team. Superbowl Monday has become one of our family traditions.

(Sadly, all the commercials are replaced with ridiculously tacky ones. So I miss the best part of the game.)

This year I was thrilled that I'd get to watch the Superbowl here in America, commercials and all. But then I discovered that the stuff I had going on over the weekend meant I was going to miss it. Again.

So just like old times, I taped it and watched it tonight. Pizza, beer, game, Arizona losing, and millions wasted spent on thirty-second commercial time slots... What more could I want for my annual Superbowl Monday?

What was the funniest/craziest/weirdest/saddest part of your Superbowl?

sixteen: and license-less

I guess most people get their licenses at sixteen. I was nineteen when I got mine. No, I didn't fail the driving test.

In New York you have to be eighteen to get your full license. And I turned eighteen right before leaving for a month in Africa. Days after I got back, I moved to Texas for a year. So... it didn't happen until I got back to New York just after my nineteenth birthday.

I got my license and moved to Africa. Which means I've driven way more on the wrong left side of the road than on the right.

How about you? When did you get your license? Any stories to share?

eleven: o'clock dreams

Our flight from South Africa was long and eventful, and we were so glad to touch down on American soil when we finally landed in Washington, DC yesterday morning.

As we went through customs, there were signs that read "Welcome to the United States" and a monotone voice declared the same greeting over the PA system. But nothing made me feel like I was home as when we walked through the final set of doors into the terminal and I saw St. Arbucks.


My venti non-fat, extra-hot chai in a glorious red cup of happiness was worth every penny.

We settled in at the house, ate some food, and called it an early night.

eight: years and counting

oldie but a goodieEight years ago I married the man of my dreams. I couldn't believe my luck---cause you know I believe in that sort of thing---I found a man of God who loves me and loves the people of Africa. It doesn't get much better than that! Our marriage has never been easy. I blame that on the fact that we work alongside each other in ministry every day and are from completely different cultures. And because I'm not the easiest person to live with.

Our marriage has always taken work, but so does everything else that I love. Every passion I have takes effort. My marriage is no exception.

And it's worth every ounce of relational sweat.

Right now, Niel and I need to work extra hard. For reasons that are unnecessary to share, we're in a place of needing to dig our heels in deep, and fight. Not each other, but together. For our marriage. And we're both committed to doing whatever it takes. Whatever it takes.

We looked each other in the eyes and committed to put our marriage first.

seven: out of ten

Thrive interns 08 We had ten amazing interns this year. I know I say every group is amazing, and I swear I'm not lying. The statement is never intended to be a comparison between internship classes; they are all handpicked by God to be here at the time He wants them here, and I love all of them to bits.

Okay, moving on...

Over the years, we've somehow managed to maintain a 30% "return rate" of interns coming back as staff. This year, that stat's been blown out of the water. Seven of the ten are going to be back with us next year as part of our staff team. We are humbled that so many want to return and use their gifts to help us lead Africa to thrive.

The three interns who are stepping into different things---those with non-Thrive next steps---are each heading off to do great things. We are excited with them and for them, and while we'll certainly miss them, they'll always remain part of the Thrive family.

We love our interns and we're so proud of each one of them.

Stop for a second and think: Who are you proud of? Why?

six: days and then rest... or death?

All too often I work on the Sabbath. And apparently, that means I should be long dead by now. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.

Thank the Lord for grace. I'm just sayin'.

I wanna hear from you:

What does Sabbath mean to you? How diligent are you at keeping a day of Sabbath each week? Got any tips for keeping one day "holy to the Lord"?

Talk amongst yourselves.

five: euro for condoms

Did you know there are condom vending machines in Italy? There are. Right along the busy streets, next to Louis Vuitton and a myriad of lingerie stores. Every time we saw one of the condom-dispensing machines, we joked about buying some. We finally went for it. In went five Euro. Out came a pack of six condoms.


Definitely worth the money spent. (That's what she said.)

one: left

You know that revolving door I'm always talking about? It's going around again this morning as we say goodbye to our interns (who've been with us since January). One is staying behind for a few extra weeks but the rest are boarding a plane this evening and flying home.

After our week of debriefing together, I'm confident that this year in Africa changed each of them. And after watching them engage in ministry for a year, I'm also confident that they changed Africa. They've each left their mark, their footprint. And Africa will never be the same.

Neither will I.


totally worth it

Driving for 16 hours---as the one actually behind the wheel, which I'm only clarifying because any of my passengers could justifiably say the same phrase---Anyway... Let me start over. Driving for 16 hours was totally worth it. Especially each time we laughed long and loud over goofy shenanigans in our car. And when we came up over that hill and there before us was the most exquisite vineyard-laced valley. And when we emerged from the long tunnel to see our first glimpse of Cape Town. And when we drove by Table Mountain, blanketed by a huge cloud.

Yeah, driving for 16 hours was totally worth it. Especially when the interns opened their hearts to us---and each other---in our first debriefing session this morning. And when they were still discussing Nehemiah 6:3 later in the day. And when we walked along the pier that juts into the white-capped ocean this afternoon.

Driving for 16 hours was totally worth it. Especially when Niel and I went out to dinner with some older missionary friends this evening and he had to explain his God-awful haircut. That was worth the price of admission right there!


Tomorrow morning I'll wake long before the sun does. I'll shower, dress, and put on my face with my eyes mostly shut. And then I'll load up my Yankee-mobile with a bunch of still-sleeping interns. I'll most likely drive the first few hours with only my iPod for company. Then hunger will awaken the interns, and chatter and laughter will abound. We'll stop for meals and we'll stop for bathrooms; I'll drink more than is appropriate for a road trip but is plenty appropriate for keeping oneself awake.

We'll drive through the valley of desolation; we'll pass the ostrich farm where I've yet to ride a feathered beast. We'll wind through hills and vineyards; we'll watch as the landscape gets progressively greener.

And then we'll see it: Cape Town. I can't wait; it's my favorite place in all of South Africa.

Tomorrow is day one of internship debriefing. It'll be a fun and intense week, and a whole lot like Kodak. (Huh!? I explained the connection between debriefing and film processing over at the Field Blog.)

I'm not a morning person, by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm looking forward to what's on the other side of my 4 AM wake-up call. Helping the interns prepare for what's next and digest all they've taken in this year is a joy.

And we get to say jackass all we want!

Cape Town, here we come!

four-minute friday: do me a favor

Go. I've been contemplating my four-minute post for a few hours now and, with no clear topic in mind, I finally decided to just start typing.

Last night was my last intern class of the year. It was overwhelmingly incredible, to say the least. But I already blogged about that over on the Field Blog.

This afternoon I'm taking the interns for their last visit to Hope House. I know it's going to be emotional; they've poured themselves into these kids for an entire year...

We leave Monday morning at the ungodly hour of 4:00 to drive to Cape Town for a week of debriefing. I'm looking forward to one last hurrah with them. And I can't wait to see me some jackass penguins. (I'm serious! They exist! And they live in Africa!)

I talk often about the revolving door of my life in ministry --- how I tire of the constant turnaround of people. I must confess: I've grown to dread this time of year. All the goodbyes and the need to reopen my heart to start over? Man oh man, it's hard for me.

So will you do me a favor? Every time you drink a hot frothy beverage in one of those gloriously divine red to-go cups, remember me and say a quick prayer for my heart.


THE shirt

crystal with THE shirt

Crystal's wearing "THE shirt". It makes an appearance once a year here at Thrive Africa.

It all started in 2005 with the arrival of our interns. One of them stepped off the airplane to start his year with us wearing THE shirt. He'd had it made just for the occasion. We laughed; we cringed; we told him he wasn't allowed to wear it off the mission base.

The next year, smack in the middle of our summer internship program, THE shirt surfaced again. At the end of a Family Night gathering at our house, one of our summer interns took off his sweatshirt and there it was! THE shirt! It was an incredibly fun surprise, and the rest of the night was filled with a lot of laughter.

Last year one of our interns did something similar. At the end of Thrive Church, she unzipped her fleece and revealed THE shirt! It caught us totally off-guard---once again!---and solidified its spot as a Thrive family tradition.

THE shirt collage

Two weeks ago at a staff meeting, we went around the room sharing testimonies, same as always. When it was Crystal's turn to share, she started off by saying how hot it was in the room. She dramatically pulled her sweatshirt over her head, revealing THE shirt underneath. Niel and I couldn't stop laughing.

So, in case you hadn't heard, this is THE shirt to wear this season!