Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Year in Review

A few things checked off the "bucket list" during a whirlwind trip to South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. 
A souvenir not only to remind me of my other home, but quiz me on geography! 
Throughout the year I was able to volunteer with my friends Scott and the Strausses at Cornerstone Clinic doing cataract surgery for the homeless. 
A great baseball season (just a mile away from my place) with new friends from Pantego Church. 
My roommate, Rachel, and I hosted a Operation Christmas Child Christmas Party with friends and family- 68 boxes! 
Most Saturday mornings were spent at the park for prayer walk with friends. 
So thankful for my family and time together at Christmas. 
As you pack away the Christmas tree and nativity- keep Jesus center of your heart and life in the coming new year.  

Friday, August 29, 2014


Every time I stressed about another paper I had to write for my first graduate classes of Nursing Theory and Research, my dad encouraged me “Allison, you’re a great writer- it’s just like writing a couple blogs.” (Enter APA reference I should know by now here). So I have written five papers, roughly 15 pages each, over 10 weeks, I should be caught up until the end of the year at least. However, I’m not sure how much the blog world wants to read about my concept analysis on poverty, Watson's caring theory, critical appraisals, perioperative warming and so on. My eyes have gone cross while staring at the computer for hours, I have tennis elbow from leaning on my desk and I am pretty sure a pressure ulcer. Alternating heat pads on my hunch back and sitting on ice packs have helped the healing of my first grad school wounds. I finally splurged and bought a desk chair that helps all the ailments, except for the cross-eyes that hit on the final page of each paper. Despite all the groans of school, I have now laid a foundation as a future family nurse practitioner with six hours down, 45 more to go. My roommate, Rachel, who is in business school, and I have dubbed our apartment 904.0- making sure we study hard in between game and smoothie breaks to maintain the GPA of our home at a 4.0. My friends continue to encourage me that each paper, quiz, and statistic problem gets me closer to returning to the mission field.

Besides school, I carry on with agency work in the area- mainly traveling East toward Dallas. I tell you the direction for a reason. What’s East at six o’clock in the morning? I’m not referring to the crazy truck drivers barreling down I-20, but the sun that meets me every morning as I drive toward another hospital or surgery center. I balance my coffee and the steering wheel as I head out each morning, looking forward to catching the first glimpse of the sun. Every morning it is different. It is a new sunset, never seen before as the clouds take different shape and the golden colors spill from the horizon. By the time I reach work, the sun is bursting forth in the sky with streaks of color from purple to orange like paint on a canvas.

The sunrise always takes me back to the many evenings I spent watching the African sunset. I was never a morning person on the ship and most mornings were too cloudy to see anything in the ports of West Africa. However, the sunsets were spectacular as my friends and I watched tug and pilot boats do somewhat of a “ship ballet” to dock a gigantic container ship into the neighboring berth for the night. It was a favorite evening tradition to take a cup of tea and sit on deck 8 to watch the sun disappear below the calm Atlantic waters. There was nothing like that moment- in which you could sit, breathe (sometimes not so fresh air), reflect on your hectic day, pray for your patients, and know that as the sun set- you were right where God wanted you.

Over a year ago, I left the ship and my last blog I wrote this: “As the sun sets on this chapter of my life with Mercy Ships, I look forward to what God has next for me as I go stateside. One thing I know for sure that the God that has been faithful so far will continue to do so. Thank you Lord for this magnificent display of your creation. Surely as the sun sets, you are faithful in your promises to be with us when it rises the next day. 

Now as I wake even before my alarm sounds and head to work, looking forward to the sunrise, I believe the same. God wants me right where I am. Some days I miss Africa more as I see the familiar sights on the news with the Ebola outbreak. How my heart breaks for the poorest countries of the world battling a relentless disease. I want to be there to help relieve the suffering as well as other missionaries that have been uprooted from their African home. Once your feet hit the dirt of Africa, a piece of your heart is lost forever in the people you came to care for and love. I think of my Salone friends and coworkers fighting with limited resources and with no end in sight of the epidemic. My daily prayers are with those that have lost loved ones, caring for the sick, and for healing to come quickly to West Africa. May there be peace and understanding in how to combat Ebola. For aid to not only cure, but to offer hope. And as the sun rises, may the people of West Africa know God is faithful and his mercies are new every morning. Amen. 

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
 great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


What I like to call my "creative mess" has covered my desk and part of the floor as I am in the process of making homemade notecards this week. When there is colorful paper spewed out, brads, buttons, stamp pads covering every square inch of my desk and my beloved cordless hot glue gun in my hand- I am in my happy place. While I was searching my overflowing scrap box for the perfect piece to finish a card, I realized that I was thankful for this time. I was taken back for a moment of overwhelming gratefulness. I was happy to be here, sitting in my apartment, in Texas. Don't get me wrong, I have had other joyous moments being stateside, but it has been a journey for sure to find contentment on this side of the ocean. So as I found the paisley (the nurse in me calls it amoeba) paper for the project in front of me, I caught a glimpse of a birthday card from last September. It was a bright purple card with the big "30" cutely crafted on the front. I wondered if I could come up with 30 things I was thankful so far in my 30th year (I'm over halfway to 31!) and consequently for my post on April 30th. So here it goes...

1. Reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I know I've skimmed through it before, but I love how Ann encourages us to take time to be thankful and in return we are blessed (hence this list).

2. Wheat Thins and the new Zesty flavor my mom gave me last week.

3. Being able to speak at UT-Tyler's Nurses Christian Fellowship meeting about missionary nursing. I love encouraging the younger generation to pursue their education and career with a kingdom purpose.

4. Leading a Passover/Seder meal for my home group. Hearing how God spoke to them as we celebrated how Jesus took tradition and made it his sacrificial love for us on Easter.

5. Making notecards and magnets (for ship friends) and even burning my fingers on the glue gun.

6. Skyping with my sister, Robyn, in PNG. I love seeing her pixilated face on my parents TV.

7. Plugging into a great church, finding friends in the single's ministry, and Tuesday night home group.

8. Seeing my church friends on Saturday mornings as well for prayer walks at River Legacy Park.

9. For antibiotics when I get a double ear and sinus infections after being exposed to Texas allergies (during the prayer walks) for the first time in five years. For my health always, since this was my first time to be sick since leaving the petri-ship.

10.-14. My South Africa-Zambia- Bostwana- Zimbabwe adventures. Mercy Ship reunions, elephants, Victoria Falls, and holding some cute babies at an orphanage.

15. Even through the pain of losing friends this year, but knowing that Heaven is on the other side.

16. Seeing movies like Heaven is for Real and God's Not Dead making an impact in this world (not so much for Noah). The Trio hanging out and lazy-boy recliners at movie theaters.

17. For coffee when I have to be at work at 4:30. Still not a morning person. (Hence me still being up at 11pm to post this blog!)

18. When my Dad needs help at the house and I get to use the sledge hammer. I love daughter-duty.

19. Your prayers being answered! My blood pressure while driving (and honking habits) have greatly reduced since I asked for prayer a few blog entries ago. I'm driving to Dallas often for work these days.

20. Mornings when I can sit and enjoy my tea with refills using the same bag until the flavor runs out.

21. Living with my friend, Kacy and her engagement to a great guy who decorates our apartment with flowers all the time. Laughing at her offer to buy me an online dating subscription... one day Mr. Right will show up with flowers for me the old fashion way.

22. Meeting my new roommate, Rachel, at an international student ministry just a month ago. We have similar pet peeves and joys in lives. She's moving in with me so I don't have to move again!

23. Finding another Lebanese restaurant in Arlington while looking for lamb for the Passover meal.

24. My sister-in-law, Kara, finished her FNP training. I've always been following in her footsteps. We get to all celebrate together as a family in just a few weeks. So thankful for my family.

25. Still waiting to hear about my acceptance to graduate school, but this time I have an overwhelming sense of peace that God will work it all out- the right school at the right time.

26. For cranberry-orange-strawberry smoothies. I had one today for lunch.

27. Laughing until I cry and my side hurts with new friends I've made here. So thankful.

28. Quick learning on computer charting in the OR. I told them it was my first time and they asked, "Where have you been... Africa?" No joke. Playing the missionary card helps sometimes.

29. For time to journal, to write out my thoughts, what I'm reading in the Bible, my prayers... and looking back at them now and seeing how God is faithful.

30. Tomorrow, I have the joy to serve at a low-income surgery center with former ship friends in Ft. Worth- my first mission opportunity being home! Please pray for the OR team and patients.

If you endured to the end, thank you for reading! If I didn't include you (or an event) specifically, don't think I am not thankful for you. There would be a list 100 times greater, listing everything I am grateful for, but I'll save that for May.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Awhile ago my friend, Crystal, and I sat down in front of the biggest bowl of queso we had ever seen. I don't think Crystal knew what she was ordering when she asked for the special queso at Marquez's Restaurant that night. Nonetheless, we both grabbed a chip and took the plunge into the hot cheesy goodness. It had been forever since I sat down with my dear friend. She lives a hour away on the other side of Dallas, but that's pretty close compared to the miles between us the past five years that included an ocean. We had just left the photo expo (she's amazing photographer- check her out here) at the convention center and maneuvered the long way around Arlington to avoid football traffic to get to my favorite mexican restaurant.

As we ate our way through not only the queso, but the sour cream, guacamole, and salsa floating in the cheese, we talked about our days in Arlington. It doesn't seem that long ago when we both going to the University of Arlington, right down the street. Crystal and I had met in youth group when she was dating my friend Cole. After high school, I went on to UTA to start pursuing my nursing degree and Crystal followed the year later. We joined the same Bible study on campus and we've been friends ever since. Coincidently, in the same year, we end up transferring universities- Crystal to Texas A&M and me to UT-Tyler. That night, as we enjoyed our tacos she reminded me how much I wanted to turn around at every exit we passed on I-20 as she helped me moved to East Texas. Well, God had a purpose for everything that happened the next five years in Tyler as I finished my nursing degree, went on mission trips to Guatemala, and finally found my calling with Mercy Ships. The same for her as she moved to College Station, connected and served with the Navigators, and married her high school sweetheart, Cole.

By the time Crystal and I left the restaurant with our appetite satisfied (I don't think I ate cheese for a week after) the football fans had cleared the streets. It took only five minutes to get back to my place compared to the very long and complicated path I had taken earlier. I think about this night because it reminds me how God works in our lives. Sometimes we take longer to get where we need to by choice, by our stubbornness, by pride, by a lot of things, but we eventually make it to our destination. I believe God plans some of those ups and down and twists in our lives so we have to trust Him when the journey is too much. When we do finally make it, God has something even greater in store than we could ever imagine. Almost like how our long drive was worth it for that glorious bowl of queso. Again, I recall how stubborn I was filling out nursing school applications and upset I was about moving to Tyler, but at the end God gave me the most wonderful adventures in serving in West Africa. Tonight, I need to remember this lesson as its been a difficult 10 months being back in the states and I still have no firm plans on graduate school. (I've applied twice to a very competitive FNP program. I meet qualifications, there is just not enough space in the program). I do not doubt that God has worked in my life during this time, through the highs and lows. It might sound silly, but I'm praying soon that this long road I've traveled will bring me to the big bowl of queso I need to get back on the mission field.

By the way, I just got an email from Groupon with an offer from Marquez's. So if anyone is craving some special queso or tacos after this blog entry, let me know!

Just some more food for thought:

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:33-34

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


In the previous post I mentioned I was not the same person today that I was when I left for Africa five years ago. Realizing the changes, I contemplated how I could share with the my blog audience the new me. Some things are still the same like my knack for finding clearance deals, my love of hymns, making a creative mess into the night to mail a single card, my laugh that will always be too loud, and my obsession with Wheat Thins... just to name a few.  These days I'm not sure who reads my updates since its mainly about how this former missionary nurse is coping with life in the states. However, I figured I could share a few of them as prayer points and others just for you to laugh along with me about because it may have happened to you.

1. So I'll start with a light-hearted one. As I sit here at my computer, I'm polishing off a tub of hummus. Hummus, you say? Probably something I would never have touched before 2009. However, when a Lebanese restaurant is on every corner in West Africa, that is what you eat. Our first homemade mexican dinner in Benin, my friends and I decided pita bread was the next best thing in replacing our beloved tortillas. These days I go for the hummus over the salsa when I look for a snack. I also know where to find a schwarma in Arlington or a tasty falafel wrap in Tyler. So my taste-buds have changed just a little which has helped the waist line.

2. When people ask me how I'm doing, I answer "yeah, good". Now I know this is not proper English because my roommate rolls her eyes every time I say it. Sometimes, I kind of say it with a Dutch/German accent not meaning too! I figured my time split with international friends and in Sierra Leone where they use every sentence with "yeah"- this word is in my vocabulary permanently. My family is convinced I have come home with a different accent and inflection when I ask questions too. I also find it that sometimes I am difficult to understand, not sure if its my hearing loss (from African churches' sound systems) or I use different lingo. Like today I used "swab" instead of "sponge" at work and I got some puzzling looks. Some days, I feel like Moses when he tells the Lord he is not worthy of the call because he does not have eloquent speech. Please pray that I may be able to communicate well not only at my workplace, but also it does not hinder any relationships.

3. Most Texans drink ice tea and some (East Texans) add enough sugar to make your cheeks pucker and teeth hurt. So many late nights spent in the dining room on the ship, I learned to love hot tea with a splash of milk. It took me awhile to acquire this taste, but not a day does go by that don't I boil my teapot. I am definitely still frugal and might use the same tea bag for 2-3 cups to get me through my day. Tea reminds me of the fellowship I long for these days... it was what brought people together on the ship whether to play games or just to chat about life. I also would make many cups of tea for my Bible study girls every week in Sierra Leone. Tea makes my heart happy, but these days I miss sharing it with friends. This prayer request is not for me cut to back on tea, but to find friends with the same interests and if its meant to be, to enjoy a cuppa together.

4. Last week I drove through the elements: rain, sleet, fog, and snow. I might have used my horn just a few times. Any of us that have experienced driving/riding in Africa know quite well about the honking. I explain it as cars having a conversation. You might be going around a corner or passing someone, but you always use your horn to let them know you were there. They would respond with a honk. As a pedestrian, horns were your lifesaver. So often I find myself in the maze of highways here in Dallas and I use my horn a little more often just to let people know I'm there. It is a habit I'm trying to break because I don't want to disturb the peace and quiet of the roads. Also, I don't leave home without my GPS which happens to be my phone. My auto-correct once changed GPS to God and I had to giggle a little because both guide me in the right direction. I've talked with others about coming home from Africa and driving is one most of us have to tackle. I think in Africa we learned we couldn't trust other drivers, there are no laws to follow, and you had to pray each time you braved the roads. This is the same mind-set I have when I leave in the morning for work and I ask that you pray not only for safety, but for my anxiety to lessen as I learn to navigate DFW roads with the help of my horn and GPS.

5. The most exciting news for me is I'm going to Africa next week on holiday! Another word that gets quizzical looks as I'm learning again to say "vacation" instead of "holiday". This is no ordinary trip as it requires flights from DFW to Dulles to Senegal to Johannesburg and finally to Cape Town, South Africa. So a few hours on a road trip cannot feed the need to travel, but a 20-hour flight sure gets you to where you need to be. Along with Mercy Ships friends, we are going to celebrate the wedding of our friend Estelle, my former cabin-mate. When you make friends from all over world, you travel half-way around the world to see them. So the two-week adventure involves the wedding, seeing MS friends, Cape Town sights, seeing Victoria Falls in Zambia, a safari in Bostwana, and riding elephants in Zimbabwe. When my friends Maggie & Angie plan a trip they mean serious business and the need for more stamps in the passport. I'm just happy to go along for the ride and hope for a chance to love on some kids since our hostel is next to an orphanage in Zambia. I imagine from from Feb 19- March 5th I will be in my element (and so HAPPY!) and I would appreciate prayers for travel mercies and good times with friends.

There is usually a negative stigma when it comes to change. I've come to embrace it and learn from it. Yes, change is hard and scary sometimes. I don't doubt that because since I've been stateside change has brought not only joy, but tears as well. All along I thought it was life around me changing, but I have realized more that its me that has changed. God used my experiences in Africa to form and change  me to who I am today, from my taste buds to what burdens my heart in this broken world. I cling to the hope that change comes from God and that change is good because God is good.


The views expressed here are solely mine and are not the opinion of AWC/Mercy Ships.