My Life Is Not My Own, It’s Yours.

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I feel like, even as a single woman, I’m starting to understand the whole “mommy blog shaming” parenting debate. You know, the one that goes along the lines of, “You’re doing it wrong… you’re poisoning your kids with Easy Mac… be more granola.” Sometimes y’all, I just feel like I FAIL at ministry. Ask my students, I’m no perfect missionary. And social media comparison is pretty much the worst.

It’s easy to look at other staff women’s Instagram accounts, at a pastor’s Facebook and feel like, “Shoot.. I do not even remotely measure up… Look at their discipleship chain… Why does my life feel so messy?… Can I just stop sinning like today, lord?” I literally feel like I was all, “Ha! I don’t have to be in the Mom Blog drama, suckaaa. Oh. Dang. Gina…. Social Media comparison is alive and well at every life stage.”

Luckily, I’m getting a a heaping dose of reality today from the actual source of life.

Some friends and I are doing a study over 1 + 2 Thessalonians. Now, I’m gonna be honest, because, well, to put it in Mom Blog terms, I like pretty granola and all, but I also like McDonalds… I’m a few weeks behind. I spent an extended time today trying to catch up, and dang gina. SO SO SO good. Talk about being challenged by the Holy Spirit, where there’s grace and truth, instead of through worldly comparisons that lack truth, or grace, and robs me of my joy.

 

I’ve been encouraged over and over again in how to walk with Jesus well, love others deeply and live life to be poured out as a drink offering. Godly conviction.

This has to start with me loving Jesus well. I will not love people (friends, family, students, co-workers) well apart from abiding in the One who is my source of life. Over and over again I’m reminded: Get in His presence. Take that time.

I used this example with my roommate the other day, as someone who struggles with anxiety, I feel like I have a fewwwwww holes in my cup. My cup runs dry so quickly when I’m not spending quality time processing with Jesus who He is, what His word says to me, who I am and how I’m feeling [I have a lot of feelings all the time]. When I allow these things to not be a priority, I burn out bad. Walking with Jesus in a deep way has to be number one.

Love people genuinely and well. Man, can I write about people in the way that Paul writes about the Thessalonians, with joy, emotion and an “all in” mentality? That’s scary to love people like that. Over and over again Paul expresses his concern and love for them and his JOY in the Thessalonians. He boldy proclaimed the gospel to them, with gentleness like a mother. He was affectionately desirous of them, ready to share his life (2:1-8).

Live life as a poured out drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of another’s faith. I think this one was the most convicting for me. In one of the questions, it had us cross reference 2 Corinthians 1:12-14 and Philippians 2:14-18. It asked the question:

Why exactly does Paul regard it as so important for himself that the ones he brings to faith should stand firm to the end? In what will Paul be boasting on the day of Christ’s coming?

Paul boasts in them. They are his spiritual children. His mommy-blog objects. Ha. It’s important in the same way you wouldn’t abandon your own children. This is a spiritual life. There is necessary growth, and things that can wreck havoc on one’s faith. It’s important to disciple and pour out your life into theirs so that they may stand firm. He was poured out for them, that they can shine as lights in the world and that they would hold fast to the word of life and cling to Christ.

The last question said, “How might it revolutionize our relationships on this earth to regard them in light of the end of the gospel story, the second coming of Christ?”

Dang Gina, again. I’m just given this picture of running onto a battlefield, rescuing people and we keep running together until we get to safety. Our safety is not ever promised here, but it’s promised in the coming Kingdom. I want continue to run this rescue mission of seeing lost students be turned into Christ-centered multiplying disciples. That we would reach the lost, run with them, see them continue in the faith, and have them grab more people to run with us until we either go to heaven or Jesus comes back. This vision must be kept in front of us.

I think keeping this in mind, would help me…

  • grow in grace and truth
  • persevere
  • greater faithfulness even in the midst of hurt
  • spur myself and others on to dip our hearts in the streams of life
  • spur people on to hold fast to the Word of life
  • urge, encourage, challenge and exhort people to live a life worthy of the calling
  • pour out my life for the sake of the gospel and…
  • push the edge of sacred space to all the nations

I’m so encouraged by this study and even though I fall so frickin’ incredibly short. I’m hopeful and thankful for growth that the Holy Spirit is doing in my life to push me to be more faithful to Christ, others and the calling He has on my life. Jesus is good.

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a wicked and crooked generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the Word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”-Philippians 2:14-17

 

 

It’s Fall, Y’all… Sort of.

“Reality is your friend.”-my boss, every day of my life.

“No.”- me.

Y’all. Fall is here, and it is GLORIOUS. I know there are people who are a little mad that it isn’t full on sweater weather, but before we must face that future reality of frigid death, can we just take some time to PRAISE HIM for the current reality? 14572224_10154596400852743_467557781099215723_n

  1. Apple Orchards are in full swing! I had never been to an apple orchard before last year, and let me tell you something… they are fun! I’d been blackberry picking, peach picking, and… that’s about it. Never had been to a Cider Mill/Apple Orchard (are they different??). My team and I took a half an afternoon to go to Blakes to pick apples, drink cider, and eat apple cider donuts! My fave part was climbing the trees to get the best apples up top!
  2. It was 80 degrees in Michigan yesterday. In October. RAISE ‘EM AND PRAISE HIM. In Jesus’ name. // Reality: this won’t last. In one month, it could snow. But today, I give thanks in the name of Jesus.

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3. COLLEGE FOOTBALL. Dude. The strug-gle of being in the presence of Big Ten-ers when you’re an SEC/ACC fan. Jokes about Hoosiers/Boilermakers just aren’t as funny… Literally, I’m smiling and nodding and have NO idea what you’re saying. #goTigers #goclemson

 

4. There’s sun. Michigan has this dreaded disease that every November-May, the sun goes away and it’s gray EVERYDAY. Okay, reality is my friend, so that’s an exaggeration, and the gray clouds do bring snow… But, man… let’s just enjoy all the Vitamin D we can.

5. Colorful trees and beautiful leaves // Let me just me honest, there’s nothing like an East Tennessee fall. Being in nature with mountainous walls of color popping out in front of your face… it’s glorious. Michigan is kind of flat. But! When I was in Senegal, I missed the fall leaves and walking through them and hearing the crunch. Senegal: no fall. Michigan: flat landscape. I’ll take Michigan’s fall over Senegal, so it’s a win!

6. STUDENTS ARE BACK ON CAMPUS! :)  Momentum keeps building at OU. WSU has been tricky, but I finally feel like I’m at a good spot with my new, sweet freshmen girls and my returning students. I’ve gotten to see girls move from death to life, and have seen more and more young women’s desire to grow in their walks with JC and have their hearts begin to burn for Him. I really, really, REALLY like the girls at OU and WSU, and just feel super encouraged by what God is doing in their lives after every meeting. It’s just been super awesome.

7. PTL for PSLs- Praise the Lord for Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I don’t think this needs much of an explanation.

How are you enjoying the fall?

 

 

How to Turn 29 When You’re 27

HowToTurn29Earlier this summer, the last day of May to be exact, I had a birthday. It was a special one. This was my very first birthday in Michigan, and due to my summer schedules with Cru this may be the only birthday I have in Michigan for a while… Nevertheless, first or last Michigan birthday it was so special for a variety of reasons. First being, I FOUND OUT THAT I WASN’T 28 and I relapsed a whole year of my life.

Y’all. Bless my friggin’ heart. I literally thought the whole entire year of May 2015-2016 that I was 28. I’m not. Well, I am now, but I wasn’t. I skipped 27!

I have several theories for what the heck I was thinking, maybe the shuffle of moving back to America, working a secular job, support raising in three cities, moving across America… There could be a myriad of reasons why I lost a literal year off my life. I could blame it on transition and the fact that after 16, 18, 21, and 25 there’s really not a birthday worth looking forward to until you’re a senior citizen and can get the Senior Pancake Deal at iHop….

I could blame it on that, minus the fact that I have longed to be thirty for as long as I can remember, so maybe it was a subconscious decision to speed up the process to reaching the golden age of “stability.” Which is 30 (if you’re over thirty, lie to me. Tell me life is perfect at 30.).

So here are a few of my tips on turning 29 when you’re only 27….

  1. Have an weird obsession with being 30. Strive for 30 and don’t let a 4 year age gap stand in your way!
  2. Do a lot of major transitions in one year- get a new job, move to another state, find a new church, make new friends, travel internationally. This one will surely joggle your brain and make you forget (among many things) how old you actually are.
  3. Work with college students where they constantly ask you your major and you just say, “I graduated a few years ago…” and always shy away from the details of what year you actually graduated so you don’t feel like a grandma… Talking about age in a relative manner will make you relatively 30. Which is your goal.BdayDinner
  4. Celebrate with new friends who will make you feel so loved even if you totally forgot how old you are. They just met you a year ago, that’s not weird at all. And they never would have caught it…
  5. Freak out that you’re doing 28 all over again, and then remind yourself, “Right. That was 27…”
  6. Comment on the exciting transitions of a student speaker at Cru on Twitter and include your incorrect age so you can seamlessly slide into a more mature age at your upcoming birthday party. Cause nothing screams “ADULT” like a month to month lease. Twitter.png
  7. Take an artsy fartsy picture next to your garden that screams, “SO MATURE.”
  8. Get a grandma moo moo from a friend and have that be your favorite birthday present. (Y’all know I love my moo moos).MooMoo

That’s all my tips that I have for you. Of course, per usual, if you would like any more advice on achieving the impossible, comment below and let me know what you’d like to know. I’ll do my best to make your dreams come true.

 

Farmer’s Market Adventures, Part 2

IMG_5564I mentioned a few posts ago about my first time at the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market with my staff friend Madi… and finding that delicious croissant au chocolat that was better than any I had ever eaten in French Colonized Senegal. [Seriously, yum.] Well, ROFMA part two came this spring season with another staff friend (and roommate) Ashley!

A few things I’ve learned about Ashley this year: she loves plants. She loves her garden. And she’s really good at tending to both and keeping them both alive. This past Saturday, Ashley planned  to venture over to the ROFM to get some new plants for her garden. Seeing this as an opportunity to look at pretty flowers and CHOCOLATE… I tagged along. While she was looking through the Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard section, my heart was pining for handmade soap and yet again, chocolate.

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I kind of was in a chocolate daze when Ashley told me, “Dan and the girls are here!” I turn to notice, my boss, Dan with his three girls. They were picking up some vegetables to grow too and Avery, Dan’s oldest, shows me her little lavender plant she got. And then it clicked, “AVERY IS A GENIUS.” I buy Lavender Essential Oils to help me sleep, why not just get a lavender plant!? “Oh, wow, it’s only $2. This is amazing! What else is there?”

…and so the rock started rolling from the top of the hill and boy did it pick up momentum…

In less than three minutes I decided that I wanted to grow Eucalyptus, Lavender, Spearmint, Corn and Watermelon. $10 later, I have way more responsibility than I hoped for. Now, listen… I’m not a plant person. I don’t even really love flowers. I bought a plant from Ikea earlier this year and killed 85% of it because I accidentally watered it with Sprite. So, I’m not too hopeful with this newfound hobby, but if by the end of the summer more than 85% of the plants are still living, I’ll call it a success.

Stay tuned to see how my little babes are doing!

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Not pictured, the planted watermelon and corn. I’ll have to show you my spot for the planted things when they look like actual things.

 

Bowerbirds, Creation, + Me

Brown Gardener (Amblyornis inornatus) bowerbird

“In the beginning, God created…” Genesis 1:1

“But why…”-me. Profound.

I know the theological answers to this truth that in the beginning, God created everything out of nothing. He created everything seen (an unseen) for His glory. All things are here to reflect God’s nature, majesty, etc. But today, I sat here thinking, “but whyyyy….“.

Creation, everything that word encompasses, is for God’s glory. All of it reflects who He is-but then again I thought, “But reflects His glory just to him?” No. The grandeur of the mountains, the vastness of the universe, and the depth of the deep all serve as reminders to His last creation of just who He is. It reminds me of his power. It reminds me of His intentionality and His pursuit of me.

So, why do I read about the day by day process God took to glorify himself? What’s so important about that and His pursuit of me? [I ask a lot of questions to God if you can’t tell. That’s why I never make it through the Bible In A Year programs.] Something cool about the day to day process that stood out to me today was that it was a preparation for LIFE. Every day had purpose and was a step closer to making man. Think, if day 1 hadn’t happened, man (and everything else) couldn’t have survived. We cannot live with the absence of sunlight. We cannot live in darkness. Day 2: separation of waters. The only thing living here if he had not separated the waters: fish. Day 3: land separated from sea. [PTL Ariel has legs!]  Day 4:  Seasons for harvest, day and night reminders to REST. Day 5: Creatures in the water. Day 6: land creatures and us.

Without one of those days, we more than likely wouldn’t have survived. We need each and every part of His intentional design. So today I read this passage as a love story. As a bridegroom preparing a home for His bride. The beginning of the love story. Just like the bowerbird.

Have you ever heard of the Bowerbird? I watched something on Animal Planet a few years ago about this goofy looking bird who in order to attract his “bird wife” he would create these amazing nests. Before mating season, he would collect all these different colored materials to construct a home that would attract a female bird. They are intricate, and oddly so stinking pretty. Now, we’re not birds. And a lot of these female birds visit multiple male birds nests… so. That’s not what I’m talking about. Haha. But just this idea of creating things to woo just stood out to me today while reading this passage.

Every step of God’s creation plan was intentional, purposeful, important to mankind. We needed a place to live: earth. We needed heat/light: the sun. We needed land to live on: earth. We needed food to eat: creatures and plants. All these things God created so that we could know him, love him, abide with him and one day

In Genesis we see God went before us and prepared a place for us. And He promised to do it again with Jesus in John 14:2.

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?-John 14:2

 

Inshallah

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There’s an Arabic word that I love so much that I WISH had a proper cultural equivalent in American English. The word is inshallah or insha’Allah. It basically means, “God willing.” While I guess that’s a pretty good translation, the context for using Inshallah is clutch. It can range from a prayer, an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty or an excuse out of things! If this is your first time hearing about the word Insha’Allah, here’s a few ways you can use this word that I learned about from my time overseas.

God actually being sovereign.

When I was in Senegal, I heard this word tossed around in probably every conversation I had with someone. “I’ll talk to you later!”- Me “Inshallah!”-friend. In this context, the person I was talking to literally meant, if God orchestrates it. “If I’m still here when you get back, then yes we’ll talk later, and that was God’s will.” It doesn’t really leave much to fate (which I don’t believe in), but really gives God all the credit for being the sovereign King that he is.

Agreement to a prayer.

I remember several times talking with girls and they would say something along the lines of, “And why don’t you have a boyfriend or husband?” I wanted to say because I chose to move overseas to share Jesus with people, but you know… that’s a little too direct. And if I’ve learned anything from dating… (Just kidding, I’m the least direct person with nonrelatives). Instead I’d say something like, “I’m waiting on God to bring a man who loves Jesus, having fun, and adventure.” They would respond with, “God will give you a good choff (Wolof for best fish in the sea).” And my response to that was, “Ameen. Inshallah.” Amen. And if that’s God’s will, cool. If not, cool.

My personal favorite was to “one up” the inshallah’s. So, girls would say, “And God will give you a husband.” I reply, “Inshallah. And may God give you a husband and twins.” They would respond with, “Ameen! Inshallah, and may God give you triplets!” To which I replied, “Insha… NO. NOPE. Noooo. I do not receive that in Jesus’ name!”😉

An Indirect No or Maybe or Yes, Maybe?

The last, and my personal favorite, is Inshallah being used as an indirect no, maybe or yes. That sounds so confusing, but declining an invite to something wasn’t always culturally appropriate depending on how well you knew the person (remind you of southern culture much?). If you invited someone to a “cocktail” and they really had no intention of coming, they could reply, “Inshallah.” That could mean maybe, yes or no, you just have no idea.

Sounds frustrating if you’re planning something, but when you’re on the opposite end it works SO well. It’s a way of saying, “if I feel like it,” but holier. Which is guilt free. And we all like guilt free.

So there’s my current favorite Arabic word. As I continue to learn more Arabic, I’ll keep you updated on more fun things I discover about the Arab language.

Stereotypically Basic Riots

Facebook geniusly stole TimeHop’s idea of doing flashbacks to what you were up to on this date since you created a FB. With most of the photos and statuses, I’ve thought, “Good lord. Deleting that… Ew… Can’t believe I dated that guy… What was I wearing?… MY BANGS…” etc. We’ve all been there. Don’t you judge.

But this one… 423657_815026159448_2139105754_n

It seems so dumb. Like, stereotypical BASIC. White girl holding a Starbucks cup. Wearing a Fossil purse (not mine tho…). I mean, leggings weren’t pants back then, so that’s out of the picture, and no, I’m not wearing Uggs. And we won’t mention the time that I actually was memed taking a pic of my first frappuccino in America post-Africa and it went viral…

But I just want to share the story behind THIS picture that so many people (even myself) would label as basic. [Extra lols: my instagram photo three days ago is a selfie holding a starbucks cup… ha… okay, maybe I am a little basic…]

This picture was taken January 28, 2012. I was living in Dakar, Senegal (West Africa) with 7 of my new best friends working with a campus ministry at Université Chiehk Anta Diop. We all moved there together in September of 2011 to spend the next 10 months launching a spiritual movement. We spent four months learning two languages (Wolof and French), building friendships with our students, getting Senegalese dresses made, loving each other (sometimes trying to love each other. Sorry Aaron.), loving the Lord and loving life.

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In the background though, there was quite the potential political disaster brewing. Abdoulaye Wade was serving as president during his second term. Sometime in the summer of 2011, he decided that because the term lengths for president were decided during his second term that his first term didn’t count(I know, idk either how there was even a second term when how did the first even end??). Basically, he wanted to create a loophole in the system and become president a third time. You know, ’cause democracy…

The public didn’t receive his idea well. I mean, who would? So.. riots began. Buildings burned down. Riots in the street. Tear gas. Rubber bullets. And a few people died.

After that, things calmed down long enough for us to get the okay to head to Senegal in September. So we began our year, diving into a place that was hard, but so incredibly lovable in some ways.

Even though things had calmed down “enough”, we were still wisely prepped for the “what ifs” of a government coup. We created a “go bag” that was to be kept packed in our apartment in case of an emergency. We had to keep enough cash in it in case the airport’s system wasn’t working and we couldn’t use a debit/credit card to buy a flight out of Senegal along with clothes, toiletries, contacts, anything valuable we didn’t want to leave.

As months went by, we began to experience this political tension in tangible ways. Riots in front of our campus over tuition and President Wade that included blocking streets and burning car tires and massive tree stumps. Students throwing bricks at police. The police would come to squelch the riots with tear gas. We got used to what tear gas sounded like and smelled like from a distance. (And two times up close… both complete accidents! Language barriers, man.)

The week before this picture was taken was so anxiety ridden. It was the week that the, shoot I forget who, parliament? Congress? Prime Minister? SOME GROUP was deciding if Wade had the right to re-run for president. Everyone had been talking about people planning riots and the potential of the government shutting down cell phone towers if they said they were kosher with him being president. People assumed the riots were going to get bad, so they wanted to block communications.

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Pacifique, my Congolese twin.

 

That week was a long, hard week. We already had plans to leave the night of the decision to head out to Spain for a conference, and were going to be gone for two weeks. But we weren’t sure if we were going to be allowed back into the country. What was going to happen? Would Senegal still be at peace? We didn’t know. And so we acted as if we weren’t going to be able to come back. We acted more boldly sharing with friends clearly, unashamedly the gospel over and over again.We said temporary goodbyes hoping that it would be only two weeks, knowing it could be longer.

The night of the decision was tense. Aaron, my team leader, made sure that we had all of our bags by the door and ready to go as soon as the announcement was made. We had to be dressed and ready the whole day. So we just waited, and waited to see what the answer was.

And then, we heard. “Wade is able to run again…” I hear Aaron yell from upstairs, “Get your bags! We have to go! NOW!” And within two minutes, we all raced down the stairs, got into two taxis, told the driver to avoid the route that we knew people had planned to protest at (which of course he took that route…) and made it to the airport.

When we arrived and made it into the airport we had like 7 hours until our flight. We all kind of sat there a little shell shocked, a little excited for Europe, concerned for Senegal, questioning what our futures looked like and just awkward.

As soon as we landed in Spain, we were all so heart-shaped-emoji-eyes at the idea of American food in the airport. And then we remembered: STARBUCKS. It’s kind of crap coffee. But it’s so American. And comfortable. And I needed familiar. So I dove in. This was my first cup, but I’m pretty sure I had like two more that day. And so much Burger King, which I haven’t eaten in America since I was 15. Senegal has no chain restaurants, so American food there is about as American as take-out Chinese is actually Chinese.

After we arrived at the conference and checked into our hotel rooms, I turned on CNN. And headlining, “Mass Political Riots in Senegal…” Okay. Cool. Pretty sure I need to let the family know that I’m in Spain and not Senegal, and that I’m okay. I think I may have called home at that time, or sent a text. I can’t remember.

 

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Aljazeera Photo

 

The rest of our conference went well. Some of us were provided with counselors at the conference to help us debrief. Looking back, I wish that had been mandatory for our team, but I’m sure that’s all kinds of illegal-to make your employees go to counseling. Yeah, nevermind…

How did I cope? PORK. I ate so much pork every morning at the hotel buffet. I literally one morning had breakfast with a guy from the Paris team, Slovenia and some other friends and had 2 eggs, a handful of bacon and 4 sausage links… I’m not even ashamed. Senegal is a Muslim country, so no pork eaters allowed. Just kidding. It’s just frowned upon and you can’t find it anywhere. So basically, no pork eating allowed.

The week following the conference we were told it was okay for us to head back to Senegal on our original tickets, but to keep our stateside directors updated.

We came back to a country that was very aware their political system was broken and could not be their source of hope. And we listened. It was a very tumultuous time for a lot of people, but I do believe that God used that political turmoil for His good. A few scattered riots occurred after we arrived, a few even not about the election but rode off the momentum of those… Things seemed to return back to normal until the elections.

And no, Wade did not win the elections that April. He was actually beat by a landslide by a guy who many Senegalese Millennials claimed was in the illuminati with Rihanna, Jay Z and Beyonce. But I guess we’ll never know that one…

Thanks for listening to my story. It’s easy to judge a book by it’s cover, so I just wanted to share: things are always more complicated and more simple than they seem. Like this picture.