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.

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Ce sont les petites choses..

What’s with the new blog title?

Girls, y’all will get me. You know that blistering sensation you get right before you make a rash and imprudent decision that mainly deals with your hair? You know the I-just-need-a-new-hairstyle-that-is-an-outward-expression-of-the-inward-change type of sensation? It’s one of those days… I am ardently holding fast to my long locks until I say “I do,” so I suppose this new blog name will have to be enough the suppress the hair baptism sensation.

Ce sont les petites choses… means, “it’s the little things..” [in French].

And that’s where I’m at in life. I’m asking for eyes to see the little details that point to the bigger purpose. I’m reflecting on all the little things that added up to a big batch of common grace. And I’m thankful.

In lieu of my first Thanksgiving back in the States, here’s a few pictures of things I’m thankful were in Senegal.

Bless it. A thousand times over. You will never imagine how much you just NEED frappucinos when you're dropped off in Africa for 2 years. Thankful for an "American" café run by Lebanese people. Even if it did cost $15 for transport + frozen treat.
Bless it. A thousand times over. You will never imagine how much you just NEED frappucinos when you’re dropped off in Africa for 2 years. Thankful for an “American” café run by Lebanese people. Even if it did cost $15 for transport + frozen treat.
I'm thankful for water, whichever way we get it (the sky, ocean, bottles, whatever). There were so many times when we were halfway done rinsing our hair in the shower, and the water would cut out. Praise Him for those buckets!
I’m thankful for water, whichever way we get it (the sky, ocean, bottles, whatever). There were so many times when we were halfway done rinsing our hair in the shower, and the water would cut out. Praise Him for those buckets!
Thank you Americans that donate hilarious graphic tees. While this is not my favorite, this is a GREAT one. Those days that we hated the culture, seeing a male college student walk around with a tight hot-pink shirt with glittery appliqués that spelled "Trophy Wife" just brightens your day.
Thank you Americans that donate hilarious graphic tees. While this is not my favorite, this is a GREAT one. Those days that we hated the culture, seeing a male college student walk around with a tight hot-pink shirt with glittery appliqués that spelled “Trophy Wife” just brightens your day.

Woman Crush Wednesday #WCW

I was talking to a dear friend yesterday about how life is just hard sometimes. There are trials beyond measure, and those of course are promised to come. There are sin issues, which let’s be honest, we all have that leave our souls unsettled. But in the midst of that, those who have faith in Christ and have Him as their Lord, there are rays of His goodness and faithfulness. Some of those rays shine most brightly into my life through the body of Christ.

I am amazed at the Lord’s provision with Godly community in my life. Looking back from Daytona Beach Summer Project to now, the Lord has blessed me with some pretty great roommates who seek to daily love and glorify the Lord and walk through life well with other believers. So, this begins my Woman Crush Wednesday posts. I wish I was as diligent as Kristin and could keep up with the #WIWW posts, but due to my lack of motivation to be presentable for the job I don’t have, you’re stuck with my WCW blog. 😉

Today is a double whammy: LB and Elaina.

{Bless their hearts…}

Elaina, LB and I all met each other for the first time in the Windy City at our weeklong STINT briefing. Shannon, LB, Katie, and Elaina were all put in the same room and I was put in with another African team {of course that would happen to the girl with  the Little Sister Syndrome}.  So, I moved my bags into their room and we pushed the two full-sized beds together. I slept in the crack every night that week, thus commencing the development of the roommates M+E+LB style.

Y’all. We arrived in Senegal in October 2012 and moved all of our things into a small two bedroom apartment. Not wanting anyone to have to room alone {Little Sister Syndrome again}, we brought in all of our mattresses to one room and made the other room our closet. This was how large our bedroom was:

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Why yes, our beds did always look this nice. Just kidding.

And that’s how we slept the whole year, minus a week. Our beds weren’t originally positioned that way. We discovered on a day that the temperatures were well over 95 degrees F (35 Degrees C) that our air conditioning unit in the bedroom worked. There were tears of joy from the new teammates as we had all sweat through our clothes that day. We repositioned our beds so that we could all be hit in the face with frigid, and potentially dusty, air that escaped from the air conditioner that would only blow out air set at 18 Degrees C (we later learned that 18 degrees C meant 64 Degrees F and $120 in electricity bills just from using it three times). I cried later at the lost hope of not being able to use the AC due to the outrageous price.

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Some of my favorite roommate memories include getting matching jammies {they fidn’t dit}, hoarding chocolate chip cookies {they weren’t mine to share!}, watching She’s The Man {“My favorite’s Gouda!”}, being on Team Serer for the Survivor Challenge, giggling until the wee hours of the night, making music videos, making wall decor out of printer paper, and eating cheese grits in bed.

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Go team Serer!
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They brought me breakfast in bed. 🙂

While we did have a great time as a triumphant trio, I did learn so much from each of them individually.

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My all time favorite memory has to be from our team’s briefing in Chicago. It was our commissioning ceremony night, so naturally we were all dressed up. We all got to have a banquet where the Vice President of Cru came and spoke, commissioned us, and we all worshiped together. Now, before all that goodness we had a banquet dinner. The man who put my plate in front of me tipped it a little too far to the right and sauce went all over my dress. I looked at Elaina and we just laughed about it. She took her water and napkin and helped me get as much of Bessie off my dress as possible. Not even two minutes later, Elaina begins cutting her steak and all of the sudden, with angst of returning to parts of Bessie I’m sure, Elaina’s steak flies off her plate and straight into my lap. The most hilarious thing: I don’t think she realized what happened until I hysterically grabbed her arm and pointed to my lap. Oh my gosh, so funny.

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When Elaina isn’t flinging meat at people’s dresses, she has a serious side too. This past year I learned a lot about how to thrive in my relationship with Christ despite hard circumstances. We had many a pep talks this year that were to the tune of, “Mary, He hasn’t quit on you. You’re quitting on Him.” Ha, I’m not joking. Sometimes the conversations were that straightforward. But can I tell you something? That was absolutely God’s provision in my life. I need a good, hard kick in the rear sometimes. It might have been straightforward, but I know her heart was always communicating out of love. The truth hurts sometimes, if it’s fluffed up or not. I am thankful for friends who call me out of apathy, complacency, defeat and hopelessness because it shows although those places are “comfortable” they aren’t what God has called us to. I am thankful for friends who show me that passionate lives marked by zeal and adoration for Christ and His kingdom may be rare in the world but shouldn’t be rare within the body of Christ.

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And then there’s Laura Beth, LB or ElBee. 🙂 Two of my favorite memories with LB was when we went to Goree Island and of course her engagement to Tyler Staton. We walked by this beautiful turquoise blue door that we wrongfully assumed led to nowhere. I said, “LB, get in front of the door. I want to take your picture. That’d be such a great contrast with the background.” {Taking her picture is easy because she’s so beautiful.} She asked if I wanted my picture taken. I said sure, got into position, and leaned slightly against the door that led to nowhere. Boy were we wrong about that door! It was somebody’s front door. And as I begin to lean against it, on the other side a man is trying to leave his house. He opens the door and in falls a toubab, straight into his arms. Haha, manna from heaven! I apologized over and over again in French and in Wolof to make sure all my bases were covered, but the shame was there and not leaving.

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ImageMy second favorite memory with LB was getting to be a part of her engagement and taking her engagement pictures. So much fun! I love taking pictures and I forget to so often, but I was honored to be a part of their photo shoot! Again, both of them are beautiful people, so there wasn’t one bad photo.

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He put a ring on it.

I think by being a bystander to Tyler and LB’s relationship for a year taught me a lot about relationships. I’ve been able to see them work through conflict, choose to be faithful to Christ in purity, and believe the best in each other. I love how much fun they have with each other. I remember LB watching videos they took before coming on STINT. I would sit on the couch watching them with her and just love the way they interacted. I asked her what her favorite thing about their relationship was and how it was different than other relationships she had been in. She responded with, “There is freedom to be ourselves and we just think it’s funny!” Such a  grace-filled and confident answer. Some of my favorite things about LB: consistency in the word. Stable personality. Her deep laugh. Her ability to quote anything, isn’t it? 😉

I’ve loved the Lord’s provision in my life through these two women! I’ve learned a lot through you two. 🙂 Excited for where the Lord will take you and how He will use you! Excited to have front row seats!

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Walking in Heaven

Sometime within the past two years I have become a crier. For those of you who may not know me and are reading this blog, this is a massive transformation. I used to have trouble trying to produce tears, but nope not anymore. I tend to blame a lot of things on Whitney Marie Low, but this one REALLY is all her fault. If you want to the evidence that it’s Whit’s doing, ask her about Christmas day 2011. It’s not really my story to tell. 😉

So today, I’m working on some cards for my best friend here Epiphanie. She’s a Cameroonian student here and will be returning to Cameroon before 2014. I’ve known her since my first STINT year, and I have so enjoyed walking along side of her in her walk with Jesus. The first time we met I asked her, “What kind of music do you like?” She said, “Do you know Jer-eh-mee Comp?” I was a little confused at the accent, but together we figured out that she was talking about Jeremy Camp. I looked at her and said, “Yes, he sings about Jesus. Do you know much about Jesus?” She said, “Yes, I asked to receive Jesus a year ago.”

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From that point on, I began to meet with her for discipleship, Bible study, CPC meetings, and just hangout time. If there was ever a source of life here beyond the Lord, it would be Epiphanie. She is so much fun and so easy to love. Her growth in the Lord this past year has been amazing. Seeing her pursue the Lord spurs me on to love Christ more. She told the man who led me to Christ, “Mary is my spiritual mother.” Although I didn’t lead her to Christ, it’s been sweet to walk through this life together for this small amount of time. Truly, she’s taught me, encouraged me and fanned the flames of my heart for Christ more than I think I ever did for her! She’s my best friend in all of Africa.

I’ve been working on some cards for her. With each one, I tear up more and more. The first card is a goodbye card saying, “My friend, I’ll miss you. Know I love you. These letters will be a reminder of that through the years.” You all know African mail systems and just how easy it is to lose track of someone for long amounts of time, so I have written a few letters for major events that I am thinking more than likely will happen just in case we lose contact.

I wrote her a card for the day she gets engaged to her future husband, a card for the day she gets married (which I have promised to be at her wedding but just in case!), a card for the day she finds out she’ll be a mommy, and a card for the day she becomes a mommy.

Today, I wrote the card for the day she realizes that there’s a baby growing in her belly. Ugh, I’ve never fought back so many tears in my life! Imagining what she’ll look like, how happy she’ll be, some of the hopes and dreams she’ll have for her baby… And imagining myself not being there to walk through all of that with her. I wrote a prayer for her firstborn praying that he/she would be a mighty picture of God’s redemption and mercy to the world. I encouraged her in her walk reminding her that first and foremost of her family’s needs: a wife, mother and friend that loves and follows Christ.

I’m realizing with each passing day, how hard it is going to be to say goodbye to all of these faces, friendships and memories; especially Epiphanie. I am trusting the Lord with my Muslim friends knowing that He is for them. I am trusting the Lord with change, with growth and with provision of new community. It’s so hard to love deeply for a short amount of time and potentially never see people again this side of heaven.

But, alas I am reminded of the new heaven and new earth in which the glory of the nations will be displayed all for Christ! And in Heaven, in that sweet, blissful place I’ll get to go on walks and meet Epiphanie’s little boy or girl that I’ve prayed for. I’ll get to meet Senegalese people who came to know Christ through reading a Bible they received through one of our Bible distributions on campus. I’ll get to hear cool stories of how God used CPC students to reach the nations. I’ll see people who we’ve shared with and pleaded with God to save, that we never saw the fruit of this side of heaven.

And that’s the hope that those who are in Christ have. That it isn’t about behavior modification, being a good person, but rather a belief in a God who loves you, wants to walk day in and day out with you, and has extravagant plans for your future. It is the hope that says: I know you can’t do it on your own, that’s why I sent Jesus. Trust in me and believe that I can do marvelous things because I am a marvelous God. Walk with me here and now. And believe that we’ll go on plenty of walks in Heaven.

And so now, I praise God that friendships within the body of Christ are eternal. I praise God for even the labor now that I can so quickly believe is in vain, those will testify to His faithfulness in Heaven. On my walks with Jesus I imagine Him pointing across a beautiful field saying, “You remember that taxi driver you and Elaina prayed for and gave a copy of the Gospel to? That’s his son that you prayed for. Through that book, his dad trusted in me and led him to me!” Or saying something like, “You see those groups of girls? That one over there, Fatou, received my word at your Bible distribution on campus. She took it back to her dorm and all of her roommates wanted to study it too. They had a Bible study and all came to trust in me!”

I can’t promise that’s what Heaven will be like and I can’t say that’s what Jesus will say, but I imagine seeing in Heaven the Lord’s faithfulness and seeing the fruit from being here fully displayed in His kingdom.

So, I walk here. I press on to fight the good fight of faith even if it does make me teary eyed at times. I long and confidently hope for the things of heaven, and l love that I serve a God who has amazing plans for us in this life and the next.

Jackie Chan Is My Husband…

It all started at a Thieb. shack.

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This restaurant is a team favorite. We eat here at least twice a week and we’ve dubbed it “Princess Michelle’s from the region Point E.” That’s not really the name of the restaurant, but nonetheless all of the Toubabs in Dakar now know it as Michelle’s. Thieb (also known as Thiebou Diene) is Senegal’s national dish and it is SUPERB! Michelle is owner and chef maîtresse. She’s one of my favorites.

Anyways, Shannon and I were meeting with a student named Beegaye one day at Michelle’s. She only speaks French, so we had some language difficulties. She was giving Shannon a hard time for not knowing French or Wolof, so I decided to one up her (cause let’s just be honest, that’s what Jesus would do). I started throwing out all the Mandarin phrases I knew. “Nihau!… Boo yow ni ga danchi.” Whitney told me that means, “Hello, your stuff is too expensive.” Who knows what that really means… and that’s also where my Mandarin ends.

“Ah, bon! Tu parle le chinois!” Yes Beegaye, I know Chinese. Now quit giving my friend a hard time about French! We then continue our conversation about how I learned Mandarin. “Where did you learn Chinese?!” I responded with, “My friend Jackie taught me. He’s really talented at karate. His name is Jackie Chan.”

At this point, I really couldn’t keep a straight face. She didn’t really understand my French, but luckily the man next to her translated into Wolof for us. After we get done with our conversation, our handy-dandy translator looks at me and says in English, “You’re hilarious. I lived in America for 17 years and have seen Jackie Chan movies.” HAHA! He caught me! I ended up telling her the truth that I didn’t really know Chinese I was just trying to make a point about hassling people about language. She thought it was funny, but not nearly as funny as I thought it was.

Later that day, I went somewhere in a taxi and had not satisfied my desire to talk about Jackie Chan with Senegalese people. My taxi driver began talking to me in Wolof [the nation’s first language]. He was amazed that a Toubab [foreigner, mostly applied to white people] spoke Wolof. Here’s how our conversation went:

Naanga def?-him [How are you?]

Maangi fi.-me [I am here. [I know it doesn’t make sense to me either]]

Yow, degg na Olof?-him [You, you know Wolof?]

Man? Degg na tutti rekk.- me. [Me? I only know a little.]

Ah, bahkna! Hammga jekker?-him [do you have a husband?]

Waaw waaw. Hamga jekker.-me [Of course I have a husband]

Sama jekker, Jackie Chan laa tudd.-me [My husband, his name is Jackie Chan]. At this point I start cracking up.

Deguma dara.- him [I don’t understand]

Jackie Chan, tu connais l’acteur Chinois.– [Jackie Chan, you know, the Chinese actor.]

Deguma Jackie.-him [I don’t know who Jackie Chan is].

I then had to explain in my broken Wolof that’s seriously on life-support that I didn’t really have a husband. I was just joking with him. And then I accidentally told him that I was a “say-say,” which in this context has two meanings. It could mean “a jokester” or, well let’s put this kindly, someone who plays the field for their own personal gain. ugh… #facepalm. That’s what I get. “No, I don’t really have one husband. I play the field.” 

And that’s the story of one: how I found out that no one in Senegal knows who Jackie Chan is and two: I should probably quit trying to pull people’s legs because jokes like that don’t translate here.

Because what else could make Jackie Chan look cooler than a Tiger? I think he could take him...
Because what else could make Jackie Chan look cooler than a Tiger? I think he could take him…

What’s Next?

Sometimes I really, really regret making my tag-line on my blog, “Loving living wherever He leads.” Oftentimes, it isn’t entirely true. Sure, there are a ton of things that I love about Senegal. For instance, worship in French. I love it. My sweet, sweet sisters and friends, I could not go one day without being ever so thankful for them. And Senegalese food… ask my pants how much I love the food here. But there are a ton of times when I really am not in love with where I’m at.

Senegal African

Senegal is a hard place to live. It’s one of the hardest nations to reach with the gospel. It’s been a season of going hard, striving, laboring and oftentimes seeing very little fruit. Nevertheless, I am learning to love living wherever He leads not because Senegal is worthy but because He is.

I’m now embarking on a major transitional phase in my life. This phase often invites the ever-so-daunting question of, “What’s next, Mary?” As a proper and polite response, I always want to lie. I don’t mean a little white lie. I mean a “NASA-called-and-they-wanted-me-to-bioengineer-a-silicone-infused-seat-cushion-for-all-the-astro-butts-out-there” type of lie. My not-so-southern-belle ears think that response just sounds a lot better than “I don’t know.”

I have mixed emotions about ending out this STINT year and heading back into full-time ministry right away, but the way my heart has been created, I don’t want to do anything else BUT ministry. I’m having to daily submit to what the Lord has for me and where He’s leading because right now, I feel like I’m searching out jobs in vain. I’ve applied for a few jobs and researched others (from Portland all the way to Syria). Researching Aid organizations, NGOs, missions organizations, church jobs, Embassy positions, and even considering getting a Master’s degree in French…  but I feel like it’s me stepping out trying to secure something rather than letting the Lord lead.

So, I am thinking to myself and gently asking the Lord, “What’s next?” I’m thinking the response I am looking for won’t come quickly. And I’m currently preparing for a pretty hefty waiting season, which (let’s be honest) I probably need.

And so I wait.

And I try to learn to love this season in which He’s leading. A season not defined by high-highs or low-lows; it’s just a season.

At Least the Shorts Weren’t Orange

Call to Prayer

Fridays are the Muslim holy day. It’s the day that every street around my house becomes packed with men who go to the mosque to pray. If you don’t know anything about the Friday Call to Prayer, just know that there is a pretty thorough purification process that ensues before Muslims pray. Women are allowed to pray at the mosque, but they must be older and fully veiled. This will be important later.

Our next door neighbor (the mosque) can’t hold all of it’s invited and eager guests, so there is always an overflow of men dressed in their Friday best [oftentimes the fanciest boubous I’ll ever lay eyes on] on our street and onto our porch. We oftentimes have to wait a few hours to get into or out of our house because the streets become that crowded.

Since today is Friday, I invited some American students to come to our apartment to watch the call to prayer. They, of course, needed help finding our apartment before the streets became so chaotic that there wasn’t a route in between the sea of worshippers. Remember thou shalt not touch the pure or else they will have to start the purification process all over again.

I got a call from Abby saying she was at the Mosque, but she couldn’t find my apartment. I quickly said, “I’ll come find you.” I walk outside as if I’m in America, proudly wearing  (at least for two seconds) my beloved Nike shorts and a tank top. My thought process: Yes Mary, you are wearing shorts. No, Mary it’s not culturally appropriate. Just open the gate and hope they’ve found your apartment so no one will really see you.

Of course, my plans never go exactly as I envision them. I walk down with my knees showing (the number one no-no for women here) to open the gate. I step out to peer around the corner to see if I can see any confused little Toubabs running around. Nope, just a sea full of men.

I can tell you I felt about 30 sets of eyes glaring at me as if I was the wretched, outcasted woman at the well. The steadfast men that were probably already walking at a fast pace to get their front row seat at the Mosque definitely added an extra jump to their step after seeing what I wore.  [I truly might as well have exuberantly jumped out and onto a man’s prayer mat in a Hooter’s shirt for how much shame I brought upon myself with just a pair of shorts]..

It was a bad day in the culture for me so I utterly rebelled… what can I say? Lesson learned. Just wait 2 weeks to wear shorts in America.

At least the shorts weren’t orange.