On Feeling Out of Sorts

“But what actually happened?”

 

“You know… I wish I knew,” I told him.

 

It was a question I often get asked, a story I often avoid going into. But for the first time, it was a person asking who would truly understand. It was someone I felt safe to unpack it with, and, even more, wanted to unpack it with. I wanted some insight, I wanted understanding. But I didn’t even know where to begin, because I still don’t know. I don’t even know.
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I walked into church Sunday night exhausted. Exhausted doesn’t even come close to describing it, really. Is there a word for “every time I stop moving my body wants to fall asleep”, “there’s more things on my to-do list than minutes in a day”, “I almost cried in the aisle of Target because they were out of bananas”? Let me know.

 

A few hours earlier, I had to say goodbye to a friend as he heads back to Malawi. A friend that two weeks ago I never expected to see anytime soon, and yet his departure ripped a hole inside me. His surprise presence in my life over the last week has been such a source of joy. And such a source of challenge. It’s brought memories of good times and hard times. It’s brought about conversations that seem to flow so effortlessly with some people, and yet seem impossible with others. It’s brought a reminder of a person I used to be, a season come and now gone.

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TEDx Talks & Staying Put

1656369_10201544529670796_297150428_nTwo years ago, I gave a TEDx talk.

That’s pretty crazy. Somedays it feels like yesterday and somedays it feels like a decade ago. It’s pretty crazy, because somedays I still have problems speaking up in a group of more than 5 people. It’s pretty crazy, because I can still remember the strangest of details from that day. Even now, two years later, it still feels like a dream.

Somedays, I brush it off. It was only a TEDx talk, heavy on the x, light on the importance. Hundreds (thousands?) of people have given TEDx talks. I was only a student speaker. I was only chosen to mix up the topics (science-y UCSD needed a little warmth thrown in). I was only speaking on story – a simple topic, anyone could do that.
Somedays, the reputation of it is daunting. A TEDx talk? At 22? As a female? It is pretty impressive – so I try at all costs to avoid bringing it up around strangers, I inwardly shudder when someone new mentions it. Great, now I have to seem remarkable. Now I have to life up this idea they have of me. The pressure to perform in a manner of TEDx-speaker-worthy makes me want to go hide under a rock. Or, what I actually do, hide behind a laugh, a sarcastic joke, and a change of the conversation.
What I’m working on is landing in the middle: Being blown away by God’s ability to shine through our weaknesses, to use our passions to take us to places we never dreamed, to surprise us in the most amazing of ways. I still don’t fully understand why I was given such an opportunity. But I hope to use it like I use all the other privileges I’ve been given: to make this world a better place. Denying the prestige of my TEDx talk doesn’t help, neither does hiding from it. I need to be more open to ways God wants to use that, even two years later. Read More

The Longest Year of My Life

A year ago today I finally, finally, finally landed in San Diego – a moment I had equally dreamed about and dreaded. After 6 months in Malawi, an unexpected week in Uganda, and a freezing layover in DC, I was back! I was home! Or…. was I? I had no idea where “home” was any more.

I walked off the plane …and straight into a bathroom. Where I hid for about 15 minutes. I knew my parents, my friends, and my girls were all waiting for me at the exit of the terminal. And yet, there I stood, unable to pick up my overstuffed carry on bag and carry on with my life. Hugging myself, I tried to prepare for all the attention, all the hugs, and all the people I was about to encounter. Simultaneously, I was trying to avoid it. I was terrified. I stared in the mirror, wondering who the girl was looking back at me. Read More

I Am White

Just about a year ago – halfway through my time in Malawi – I was driving to Chinsapo with a group of our volunteer mentors, the only non-Malawian in our big van. My presence in the back seat was noticed by every passerby, and “azungu!!” was called out countless times. It was always strange to me to be instantly viewed differently than my Malawian friends; it bothered me more than I realized.
I’m not sure what to do with white privilege. I’m not sure what the answers are. But I think honestly sharing our experiences is a place to start…

I am white.
Back home, I’m considered ‘olive skinned’ on a spectrum from sunkissed to fake tanned. But here? I might as well be pale as snow for how much I stand out. If my skin doesn’t already glow bright enough, my hair instantly gives me away.
I am not from here; this place is not my home.60409_10200240339466856_949625932_n

I am white.
In town I’m seen as having endless money and endless answers; in the village I’m viewed as a celebrity from a faraway land.
Yet I am none of these. I am just Krysti – don’t they know? Do they care to know? I have never before been pre-judged simply by the color of my skin.

Is this a curse? Read More

Change

I recently finished reading The Poisonwood Bible, which is SO much better than I can describe. Everyone should give it a read, especially any American planning on traveling to sub-Saharan Africa. The book puts so much into perspective, gives you so much to think about, and sums up so much of what happens when two cultures, two points of view, and two ways of life clash.

Not only is the book a captivating story, but it’s full of poetically beautiful truths – like, “the power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes” and, “to live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story”. It also contains so many questions consider. What would Africa look like today if the original conquistadors simply kept sailing right on past it? Why do we, as Americans, tend to assume we know the right ways of doing things? How does one let the past go, forgive yourself, and truly move on?

Before I make this sound like even more of a book report, there was one quote that stood out to me above the rest. Probably because it’s been a theme in my life lately.
“You can’t just sashay into the jungle aiming to change it all over to the Christian style, without expecting the jungle to change you right back.”
Why do we do this? Why are we so foolish? It changes us right back.

Far too often, we come with plans and aims and hopes – we are going to build an orphanage, we are going to train teachers, we are going to feed hungry kids. All good things. But we fail to plan to be changed; we fail to be open to what we can learn.

When you come home from a short-term trip, you (typically) get asked “What did you do?” What did you accomplish? Did you succeed in your goal? How many ________ did you complete? (Which, sidenote, is so American. So achievement driven, so obsessed with results.) No one asks, “Hey, what did you find out that we do wrong? What are we not right about? What have we been missing all this time that they taught you?”

There’s a million different directions this blog post can go. I don’t want to shame Americans (or westerners or ex-pats or whatever you want to call us) for wanting to help, for wanting to go out and do good. But I want us to be weary of thinking we have all the answers. I want us to realize the Danger of a Single Story. I want us to learn that, sometimes, we hurt more than we help. Sometimes, our good intentions aren’t good enough. I want us to ask questions before we offer answers, to seek to truly understand before we dismiss it as wrong. I want us to see ourselves realistically as well as everyone around us realistically: all our good and all our bad, all our issues and all our solutions. I want a million things to change about how we approach change.

But, mainly, I just want us to realize that we can’t bring change if we aren’t ready to be changed.

On My Worst Days…

I’m learning life is all about perspective. A good day or a bad day all depends on how I look at it…

On my worst days, all I see is dust.
Dust on my shoes. Dust in my hair. Dust on my plate. Dust in the air. I feel it in my throat and I feel it in my clothes.
On my best days, I see the life that comes from dust. Bricks formed from the dirt. Red fingerprints in my bible. My friends, made in His image, breathed into life from creation’s first dust. Read More