The thoughts of a woman trying to live simply yet abundantly, contentedly yet expectantly, wisely yet adventurously... all for His glory.


to sail, or not to sail... that is the question!

I'd hoped to post some of my Paris pictures before this, but those will have to wait (along with pictures of lovely Tenerife!)

Today the ship is scheduled to sail, but whether or not that will happen is unknown. We've had some bad weather come in and the skies are dark and ominous. The captain already anticipated some rough days at sea, but leaving right in the middle of bad weather would just add to that.

(Africa Mercy docked in Tenerife... before the bad weather came in.)

Welcome to life on a ship... and welcome to life in missions. Flexibility is absolutely key. Although "TIA" (This is Africa) technically that doesn't apply yet, it's the same kind of feeling.

We've all prepared for the rolling and heaving in store for us by tying everything down, locking things in cupboards, and wedging the rest tightly into nooks and crannies so it won't slide all over the floor. Something is bound to break loose, though, and either smash into a million pieces or simply make an incredible racket.

We've all stocked up on anti-nausea meds, hoping to not need them but preparing for the worst.

All of us on the ship would appreciate prayers for:

*wisdom for the captain in knowing whether or not to start sailing today or wait for better weather
*for the engines to run smoothly without problems
*for health and strong stomachs for us all-- seasickness affects everyone differently, and to varying degrees
*for beautiful weather on the sail!

When the ship sailed from Benin to Tenerife at the end of the last outreach (I'd already gone home to the States), people had lots of pictures and stories of dolphins, flying fish, water spouts, beautifully starry night skies, and glorious sunsets over the open ocean. I'm hopeful for my share of those blessings this sail!


en route (Houston to Paris)

(Where in Paris did I take this picture? Guess in the comments)

I'm safely ensconced in my lovely little cabin onboard the AFM, reveling in the simple fact that I have within my view the following items: a mini-fridge, white Christmas lights, three chairs, a side table, and a window(!) framing the night-lights of Tenerife. I have moved up in the pecking order on the ship and am in a four-berth this year (four women living in one room with one bathroom and the amenities listed above). This arrangement is rather blissful compared to last summer when I lived for six months in a room with 5 other women and no window and no chairs, sitting area, or fridge, etc.

I had safe and uneventful travels from Houston to Paris (where I spent a day wandering around frozen to the bone--but hey, it was Paris, so I won't complain!), then from Paris through the Barcelona airport to finally arrive in Tenerife, a city in the Canary Islands (owned by Spain, but off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara).

I promised last time that I had a packing/luggage story to tell, and I do. My luggage allowance appeared to be one bag weighing less than 23kg for charge with the option to add another bag for $40. Sounds great, right? However, I ended up calling Air France to clarify whether that $40 would check the bag from Houston to Paris or all the way through from Houston to Tenerife... and thank goodness I did call! Turns out that since I was staying a night in Paris I would then be under Air France's European baggage rules, which allow for one bag of only 20 kg-- every kilo over that would cost me 15 euros. That second bag would have cost me $485, not including the $63 fee for the "extra" 3 kilos on my first bag.

At any rate, I managed to completely pare down what I was intending to pack to just the bare minimum: 20 kilos checked, plus a carry-on. Nothing that I would have packed in that second bag would have been worth the extra money--at $21 a pound, I will just make do or live without. So I am living on a mere 70.5 pounds of stuff for the next 8 months.

I've decided that you meet the most interesting people on international flights, provided you speak a little of the language or are willing to make yourself understood with gestures. When I flew to Benin last summer I sat next to a Beninoise musician (apparently a "real" one with a band and all). This time, on the leg from Houston to Paris I sat next to a Tunisian (that's in North Africa) businessman who travels to market some sort of new technology for collating MRI images. He was just friendly enough for me to learn that he's Muslim and considers Tunisia one of the more open Islamic countries (which it must be since he was watching episodes of Sex and the City on the plane... go figure). I was able to share with him what I am doing with Mercy Ships, and we talked of our families and places we'd like to travel to.

On the flight from Paris to Barcelona I sat next to a French electrical engineer who traveled to 25 countries last year on business--he does something with machines that package carbonated drinks. And from Barcelona to Tenerife I sat next to a sweet old couple--he wearing suspenders to hold his pants around his round middle and she opening and closing a fan, the kind with painted wood and black lace all accordion-folded together. Unfortunately for me this sweet old couple spoke not a word of English or French, and I can do nothing other than count to ten in Spanish. But at any rate so much fun to watch them interact.

Next post: pictures from Paris which was lovely, but freezing cold and I have decided that I don't really enjoy hauling my luggage up and down all those stairs to get in and out of the Metro. But I was able to snap some good shots in Paris despite the cold and all the luggage-lugging. Can anyone guess the locations of each of the teaser pictures in this post? (Sorry, no prizes, only the knowledge that you are incredibly more cultured than the rest of the population.)

(Where in Paris did I take this picture? Guess in the comments)


bon voyage

I am 95% packed, cross-eyed from trying to stuff all the necessaries into nooks and crannies.

More about the ordeal of packing later--I have a little horror story regarding that, but need some sleep before I can tell it properly. (Sorry if you are the curious type as you'll just have to wait.)

Here's the plan: leave Sunday afternoon. Fly overnight to Paris (attempting to sleep on plane) and spend day traipsing around cold, foggy, still-lovely-regardless-of-the-weather Paris. Spend Monday night in hostel. Leave Paris Tuesday at noon via Barcelona to Tenerife, where someone from the ship will pick me up at the airport.

(Paris and the Seine River by night, taken from the Eiffel Tower)

I would appreciate prayers for:

*safe travels, and also for hassle-free flights as I am flying with a reduced fare and have to carry papers proving my humanitarian status as well as my exemption from a visa

*safety while exploring Paris

*that my duffel bag will remain completely intact (as compared to my return from Benin last year--that duffel was ready to rip in about 4 seams, and had to be tossed after I arrived home)

*for an easy transition back to ship life: almost no space, few belongings, two minute showers, new roommates, and lots of new crew

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and prayers along the way--I'm excited to get settled in and start telling you more about what I'll be doing this year. I probably forgot to tell you, but I have a new & different job from last year... sorry but details on that will have to wait too. This is already longer than I intended!

Off to bed for one last night at home. Next post will be from either Paris or Tenerife!


how to contact me when I'm in West Africa

While I am volunteering overseas with Mercy Ships, there are several ways to stay in touch with me:

1) Email (theartofreflection [at] gmail [dot] com) and facebook are the fastest.

2) Via phone at (954) 538-6110 (extension 4337). However, it's generally easier for me to call you as I am 5 hours ahead of central time in the US. I've gotten really good at calculating the time differences when I call home so that I don't call in the middle of the night.

3) I love letters and mail! It only takes about 2 weeks for mail to reach me, believe it or not. Just be aware that if you send a package (or anything heavier than 1 ounce), it costs me $5.60 a pound to receive it... so please just be mindful of the weight! You can send letters and packages to:

Lindsay Nelson
M/V Africa Mercy – Nursing Department
PO Box 2020
Lindale, TX, 75771-2020

I look forward to hearing from you and sending you fun post cards from interesting places.


ways to support me

The countdown is well under way: I leave January 24th-- this Sunday!-- to return to West Africa to serve as a nurse with Mercy Ships.

(Relaxing after church in Benin last year with some friends)

Curious minds want to know: "how can I support you as you volunteer overseas?"

I'm so glad you asked!

  • First and foremost I must tell you that your prayers are essential. The longer I work in missions the more I learn that prayer is critical to everything. I'll keep updating my prayer requests on this blog--simply click on "prayer requests" under the "common threads" area on the right side of the page. This will bring up every post with prayer requests, starting with the most recent ones. And if you would like me to pray for you, just shoot me an email. I would love the chance to walk in faith with you in this way!
  • Secondly, I cherish each and every email, facebook message, letter, and phone call... no matter how short & sweet or long & detailed. Just the reminder that I am not forgotten is a huge encouragement to me! See "how to contact me in West Africa" in the "welcome!" section in the top right hand corner of my blog.
  • If you feel led, you can also partner with me financially. I not only volunteer my time and nursing skills, but I also pay crew fees each month to Mercy Ships--it's what keeps the ship up and running. If you feel led to support me financially, the link above will take you to a secure webpage on the Mercy Ships website. (Unfortunately, because I am a short-term missionary, any gifts made in my name to Mercy Ships are not tax-deductible.)
  • And finally, please check out the Mercy Ships website. You can read specific patient stories and learn about the organization's history, mission, and values. And there's a list of open positions if you are interested in volunteering! You don't have to be a medical person (or dental or vision) to serve with Mercy Ships--we also need teachers, bakers, housekeepers, hairdressers, engineers, computer specialists, human resources, accounting, retail, hospitality, carpenters... you name it! I would love to serve alongside you.

Thank you to each and every one of you who reads my blog--it's such a huge encouragement to me to know that people care about me and what I am doing. I can't wait to share with you how God will work in Togo this year!



Shortly after I was born, some family friends gave my parents a McIntosh apple tree. Their instructions were to plant the “Lindsay Macintosh” and watch as both tree and daughter grew.

I don’t know why I thought of the apple tree recently except that I've been thinking about the concept of rootedness. I think of rootedness as a deep sense of knowing who you are and where you belong.

I thought that living on a floating hospital ship would give me feelings of being uprooted and ungrounded (maybe unmoored would be a better word, since it's nautical and all). When asked where I am from--a frequent occurrence on the ship--what should I say? Am I from Minnesota, even though it never felt like home? Am I from Houston, even though I only ever lived there for several months over a summer’s break from college? Am I from Seattle, which was the last place I felt truly at home? I was born and raised in Idaho, but have no emotional connections there any more.

Where is home? I don't know.

But I do know that I am rooted and established in love...God's love. (Ephesians 3:17) In His love I know who I am and where I belong, regardless of where I put down physical roots. And that is enough.

As the Lindsay McIntosh tree grew, it eventually bloomed and bore fruit. I am thankful that in this season of life I too am in the stage of blooming and bearing fruit. God has been moving in my life, working in my heart when I thought all was barren, bringing me to a place of fruitfulness.  God has shown me that he has a much larger plan for me than I could ever have dreamed for myself.

As I anticipate going back to the Africa Mercy to work in Togo and possibly South Africa, I am thankful for a God who chose me, called me by name, and scripted a unique role for me in his grand narrative of redemption.


soli deo gloria

I don't make New Year's resolutions. When I was younger I thought everyone made resolutions, so I did too. But I never once looked back at what I had resolved to do and each year slipped quietly away without any progress in those areas.

Instead of resolutions, this year I've picked one phrase to serve as a reminder of why I have chosen to walk the paths I'm walking. To bring me back, as often as necessary, to the simple truth that it's not about me:
Soli Deo Gloria. 

It's an ancient Latin phrase meaning "glory to God alone ."

I won a giveaway at a beautiful blog called Bliss last summer. As a general rule I never ever win anything, so needless to say I was thrilled. I was additionally pleased to learn that I'd won a gift certificate for some lovely jewelry created by Lisa Leonard. (Just needed to give a little credit where credit is due to both of those ladies!)

Anyway, the point is this: I used my gift certificate to order a piece of jewelry that I would never otherwise have bought, and in a moment of genius had it inscribed "soli deo gloria."

My hope is that each time I put it on, I'll be reminded that everything in my life--particularly this year as I return to West Africa to serve as a nurse--is meant to bring glory to God alone.

So far, the necklace is serving its purpose. As I packed up all my belongings and said goodbyes to dear friends in Minnesota, the soft clink of the pendant around my neck whispered it is worth it--all the work, all the pain, all the uprooting. It is worth it. Go where God calls.

As I shed silent, bitter tears at the reality of the losses I'm experiencing (and causing to those dear to me, which is even worse), God spoke to my heart, saying I am worth it. I am with you. You are not alone.

One of my hopes for this year is that God would teach me that He is enough, and that I would learn more and more to live a life that brings glory to Him. Sounds grand, I know, but God has whispered this idea to my heart and I want to listen to His promptings.

Will you walk with me in this? I'll need your gentle reminders from time to time... this is such a learning process.

And if you would like to share, I would love to know your hopes for the new year--maybe you have chosen one word to hold on to, a phrase to live by, or resolutions to strive for.