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.

That Cash Budget Life: Dave Ramsey

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I just made my first “Big Girl” purchase: a couch! I have received all my other furniture for free (thanks Mom + Anna), so I’ve been spared 27.5 years from buying my own furniture (excluding my $40 mat in Africa). Since I made my first major purchase today, I wanted to blog about what has helped me financially!

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My cousin, Kim, who peer pressured me into attending FPU.

It’s been about two years since I was peer pressured (by my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin mind you) to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class. I couldn’t really say no because, well… My Aunt, Uncle and Cousin led the class. I’d be shamed at our weekly family dinners if I didn’t say yes, so I just agreed to go. I don’t like shame.

Growing up, I experienced two extremes financially. I was raised in a single-parent home in Memphis, and we hit some hard times along the way. When my mom moved us to Chicago and got remarried, we settled into more financial security. From living at both extremes, lack and surplus, I grew up having a dysfunctional relationship with money. I was horribly fearful of it, honestly. [Ironic that God called me into missions where I have to depend on Him to provide for my daily bread… It’s been quite hilarious actually.] Especially with all my “baggage” in regards to money, Dave Ramsey’s course was SO helpful for me.

Little did I know, it would be THE BEST class I’ve ever taken. I’m not quite sure why I ever learned about Media Law and Ethics (come on, the US media is not ethical.) when I could have been learning about THIS in college. Being support-based, financial responsibility is high on the list of priorities for me. People give to my ministry, and not only do I want to be responsible with those resources, but I want to be responsibly for my personal finances as well. Those two are related. Fortunately, or unfortunately.

STARTING POINT: The most important thing I learned in the class was how to create a Zero-Based Budget and how to stick to it. The Zero-Based Budget’s core rule is to take every cent and find it a home in your budget. You take your paychecks and divide them up into your tithes, savings, debts, and then expenses. You don’t leave one cent unassigned. (IE: If I get a $500 a paycheck… $50 goes to tithes, $50 goes to savings, $200 goes to rent, $100 food, $30 to this, and $70 to that.) (all these numbers are theoretical).

I don’t know if you’re like me, but if I’m like, “Oh, I have like $35 bucks leftover from X.” I forget that I don’t have $35 leftover because I spent $6 here and $9 there. I end up overspending. A zero dollar budget helps prevent that, if you stick to it.

STEP TWO: I was using the Zero Dollar Budget sheet for about a year and a half and then finally committed to the Cash Budget life about 8 months ago. A Cash Budget is where you use only cash for your expenses.

Once I’ve figured out my budget and have seen what I want to use cash for, I begin to organize my “envelope system.” I use a coupon organizer and divide up my sections into the different categories of my budget. This does require a little bit of planning ahead and a trip into the bank (for example: my Summer Mission budget on the 10th is $35. ATMs don’t give 10s or 5s, so I have to calculate how many 20s, 10s and 5s I need for all categories to sort it correctly). Once I’ve figured the denominations for for the 10th and the 25th, I write it on a post it and stick it in the front pocket of my new wallet. That way I don’t have to remember, “How much do I take out on the 25th and the 10th? That goes where? And how much?”

My notecard/post it looks like this (obviously not real numbers…)

Food: $130 (need 6- 20s, 1- 10)

Fun: $20 (need 1- 20)

Clothes: $30 (need 1-20 and 1- 10)

At the end of my notecard, I calculate how many of what I’ll need. So with the examples Ive listed, I’d need 8 twenties and 2 ten’s. I do this for the withdraws on the 10th and the 25th.This saves time, frustration and your teller won’t totally hate you.

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This one has a little spot in the front for a change purse, so your change doesn’t fly around everywhere. Oh, and your lipstick.

Here’s what I DON’T use cash for:

  • Rent (check)
  • Savings (EFT)
  • Household Utility Bills (Check)
  • Car Insurance
  • Car Gas (Credit Card*)
  • Giving to Missionaries + Charities (Credit Card*)

Here’s what I do use the cash budget for:

  • Food (grocery and eating out budget)
  • Entertainment (movies, girls outings, etc)
  • Clothing
  • Beauty (toiletries, makeup, etc)
  • Misc.
  • Gifts (wedding presents, birthday gifts, etc)
  • Church Tithes
  • Money for students to go on Summer Mission/other conferences (HINT: students, send me a support letter!!!)

This method has helped me save for life’s necessary expenses, and it helped me to not overspend with that pesky easy-to-forget-swipe. It’s easy to remember you spent money when you’re looking into your envelope system and you see that there is no money in there!:)

The Financial Peace class  is something I will encourage most of my graduating students to attend. It’s so incredibly helpful. I really feel like I am experiencing financial freedom and a greater joy and capacity to give. I can see sacrificial giving when I’ve “maxxed out” my giving budget and take it from another budget. And that’s super cool. I love that.

Here’s some great resources I would HIGHLY recommend.

Zero Based Budget

The Seven Baby Steps

Envelope System

And last, but DEFINITELY not least, go to one of the classes! You can find one near you HERE! 

 

My Favorite Planner

A few people have asked me about my planner, so I thought I’d share…

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My support coach, Becky, taught me during support raising that I needed to use a planner with an hourly layout (ie: the google cal.). While I am our social media coordinator, me and The Googs just aren’t super compatible.

I love tangible notes. If I don’t write notes down, they don’t get done. Writing notes helps me focus. Also, there’s nothing like crossing something off your To Do List. I’m a tactile person, I suppose.

A few years ago I began the quest to find the perfect planner that Becky would approve of. I liked Target’s designs best, but weekly planners leave me wanting. And that’s pretty much all Target has. My job is pretty “entrepreneurial”, so I set my own schedule. There’s a lot of moving parts and I tend to overdo my hours. When I can see 12 hours (9-9) laid out, I can figure out how to block off 2/3 of my day and only work those hours. Well, try to only work those hours.

While I could put all my info on Google Cal and then print it out, that’s not super pretty.  I am tactile, but I am also highly obsessed with aesthetics. Since I couldn’t find anything that met every criteria I had, I decided to design my own planner. I found IHeartOrganizing’s planner, and while it was working for a while, it starts so early and it’s not the cutest. [Who has 5-11 days? Does that person only sleep from 11-5? I’d be exhausted.] I tweaked hers a little bit to fit more of my schedule. Here’s mine. Feel free to download a copy for yourself here: Calendar

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I slipped in some of the immovable, weekly things in my schedule (staff meetings, Bible studies, weekly meetings, training, etc) and printed those out, but wanted to keep the things that sometimes change (discipleship appointments, my planning time, CityWides, Outreaches, Ministry Partner Development times, etc) off. I’ll write those in each week just in case a student cancels or for some reason I have to move our time around. Like this week.

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I insert into this schedule (by hand) my weekly meetings with students. That way I can confirm with them that we’re still good as a reminder of the commitment they’ve made, but also just to make sure I maximize my time just in case they can’t meet one week.

Okay, so here’s what else I’m doing…

Since my schedule will be changing in May for Summer Mission and again in August, my hands are pretty tied with making a planner for the whole year. That’s kind of a bummer.

Jan-May: Print the filled in design.

May-August: Print the blank design.

AND THEN.

Print THIS WONDERFUL MONTHLY PDFs. And organize them. January sheet- 4 weeks of filled in designs. February Sheet- 4 weeks of filled in designs. ETC Until May, then I use the blank ones. And then until August when I have to put a pause on my schedule until I know what’s going on with LIFE.

I print all these at FedEx. Organize them how I like. And then take them in to be bound and covered. And then I have the perfect planner!

I hope this is a good resource for you. I love doing life this way and the only thing I could see working better would be to jump on the Google Cal life. And that life just ain’t for me.

Let me know what you think and if you’d like me to email you the PDF or design one for you with another phrase up top, I can!:)

MLou

 

 

Adventuring Across Detroit Metro

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In my quest to make Detroit feel more like home, I’ve done a few things I’d recommend (Tiger’s game, explore Detroit famous restaurants, and just drive through downtown with no agenda or a map) and a few things I wouldn’t recommend (driving around downtown with no agenda alone… at night). One of the things I would recommend checking out is the local farmer’s markets. I’m currently living in Royal Oak, so I checked out the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market with a staff friend, Madi this morning.

Ignore the no make-up, messy hair look. That wasn't a purposeful crop, but just... bless it.
Ignore the no make-up, messy hair look. That wasn’t a purposeful crop, but just… bless it.

If you’re into farmer’s markets, but can be overwhelmed by the crowds and time restraints of the Eastern Market, I would suggest swinging by the RO Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings all year from 7am-1pm. Madi got an amazing spread of veggies including giant sized zucchini and sweet potatoes. Since our kitchen won’t be finished for another two weeks, I passed on the most of the “need to cook veggies” and instead indulged in a $12 bottle of Pure Michigan, Pure Maple Syrup. When in Michigan, right?

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While I didn’t necessarily go to shop (really just went for quality time with Madi and a fun adventure), I need to RAVE about this chocolate croissant I got. I have pretty high expectations from living overseas and eating croissants from a french colonized country, you know? I mean… Let’s be real. You can’t sell this girl just any croissant. But, dang was this good! It was from a patisserie called Golden Wheat, and it was de-licious! It had a crunchy enough top layer, but not enough to be burnt and a perfect center. The patisserie is based out of Hamtramck too. Looks like I’ll be visiting my Chattanooga friends more often.😉

Overall it was a great morning walking around seeing so many veggies, jams, soaps, flowers, Christmas decor, and my new “people.” It was a great start to the day. Thanks Madi for the invite:)

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