On Depression and Being Deeply Known

Y’all, I think I’m hilarious… the majority of the time. Due to my sanguine personality, stuff just flies out of my mouth before I can catch it and realize, “Uh, don’t say that.” Need examples, ask ANYONE on my staff team. There’s been quite a few doozies this year.

The extraverted, Sanguine-ness can be super fun sometimes. I love being with people. I love adventure. I love hugs. I love quality (and quantity) time with people. I’m always connecting with someone in some capacity. Being the introverts worst nightmare, I often say, “Community is the best kind of unity!” But something has been off…

A few weeks ago I went to grab lunch with a pastor and new friend, Kevin. We have had similar experiences in ministry where we are just naturally gifted and really enjoy ministry-but for whatever reason, have felt deeply alone and depressed.

My first year in Detroit was probably the hardest year of my life since struggling with severe depression 10+ years ago. I found myself in a new ministry context, new culture, new climate (God bless this weather…), new co-workers, new friends, new church and still struggling with navigating healthy family relationships (#adulthood). All this mixed in with feeling a high need to be deeply known almost instantly, led to heightened depression and anxiety. I had not experienced depression like this since before I became a Christian and was knocked back pretty hard by it. I didn’t know you could be a Christian and feel this way, so instantly I felt isolated.

I won’t get into how that manifested itself, but I will share a huge lie I was believing: Christians shouldn’t feel this way. You are supposed to be a leader. Therefore, you cannot let people see this in you.

There was a lot of shame in being open about, “Hey, I’m really struggling to see how God is good in this season.” I personally felt shame because:

  1. “Christians are supposed to trust God, right? You’re not acting life you’re trusting God voicing your fears.”- I’ve gotten this before.  Literally.
  2. My own thoughts of what a Cru staff member/missionary looks like, right? I have such high standards for what I should be like as a friend, discipler, church goer, Bible study leader, and teammate. I oftentimes feel SUCH guilt when I don’t meet my own standards.
  3. Who wants to support a missionary who can’t even confidently say 100% of the time, “God is in this; He is for me; and He is good”?

Somewhere between STINT and moving to Detroit, “Community is the best type of unity!” became just another phrase for me. I’ve lived most of my Christian life in deep, authentic, Christ-centered community. Cru was amazing for me in college-friends like Bonnie, Rachel, Lizzy, Aimee, Jasmine, Maury and Jenny were healing balm to my soul. My STINT team, I experienced such hard, sweet, redemptive community that has lead to six years of friendship with seven of the best people on Earth.

Since being in Detroit, I have been really great at connecting with my team and my students, but I have really had a hard time establishing community beyond those two. I don’t think it is because it isn’t out there. I think it is because, for me at least, depression and shame murder intimacy, vulnerability and authentic community.

The past month, the Lord has been graciously showing me my need for the body of Christ and how condemnation has no place in my life. As I sat with Kevin, he asked me about how I was experiencing gospel-centered, loving community. I talked about how I connect with my team, and am always meeting with students, but rarely have peer relationships or even “one up” relationships where I’m being poured into outside of work. Eek. Welp, not saying that is 100% the cause of my depression, but since I do have such a high need to feel valued, known and understood, it makes sense that a lack of community would lead to feeling alone and pretty miserable.

This past Sunday, Woodside taught on belonging and growing with the body of Christ. I was reminded that we need each other. I need people, and people need me. And that’s okay to be needy and to be needed. I took a risk and finally tried out a Neighborhood Group after months of pushing off my need for community. It’s easy leading and creating authentic community for others; it’s another stepping in one to be known and know others.

Yesterday, I was diving into my new favorite book Befriend: Create Belonging In A Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear by Scott Sauls and was reading about the impact shame has on us emotionally and how isolating it is. Highly suggest this read.

Today, as Ashley and I sat in our living room for an extended time with the Lord, I happened to be in 2 John. It’s the book about living in the truth, in love for one another, and in obedience to what God has called us to do: love the body of Christ. I am loving the Lord speaking so clearly to me this past month, calling me to lay down my pride and say: I’m not perfect. My life is a MESS ON SO MANY LEVELS. But, Jesus is perfect. He makes beauty of my ashes. If MESS wasn’t the norm for 100% of fallen people, then Jesus wouldn’t need to redeem or make beauty out of it.

I need Jesus, but I also need the body of Christ. And not on solely on a Great Commission journey/linking arms getting work done, but a “hey, let’s experience the beauty of the gospel and live it out together as we expand the tent of Heaven to the nations.

So tomorrow, I want to keep diving into loving the body well and allowing the body to love me well. I want to know others and be deeply known, as icky and raw as that feels sometimes, trusting that in Christ rests my identity, all the grace, mercy, and peace that I need to step into the family of God.

Thanks for being a part of this messy journey with me. I’m learning a lot, growing a lot, and as a typical ESFJ, feeling a lot. 😉

 

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Human Desire and How 50 Shades of Grey Makes Sense

You’re probably thinking one of two things: “another blog post about 50 Shades of Grey where the author is going to tell me that I’m such a heathen for seeing the film?”  -OR- “Is she a Christian anymore?” I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should see the film, here. Those of you who know me probably know where I stand, but I don’t really care to discuss that here, right now. And yes, I very much love and follow Jesus. What I do want to talk about is human desire, what truly satisfies and how 50 Shades of Grey makes sense.

I think we can objectively look at our culture and see where the majority of our hearts are by the response to the books and the film. We can see that lust, escapism, “adventure”, and passion is something that sells. If we just think about the basic structure of supply and demand, we can see that this movie will sell on those premises because there’s a demand. That’s the reality of where a lot of these women’s hearts (and men’s hearts) are at. There is a deep rooted heart-craving for “something other than what is.” In that telling sense, the international phenomenon is for a lack of better words fascinating.

Isn’t that so weird (another lack of better words) that this movie is predicted to be the 4th most successful film worldwide for 2015? (imdb.com) Now let’s just think real quick, it’s 4th to The Avengers, Jurassic World, and Fantastic Four. Those are movies you have to buy multiple tickets for (you, your spouse, Timmy, Johnny, and little Becky) and have a wider range of audience. This narrow targeted audience will be number four in ticket sales worldwide. 50 Shades fans aren’t just some off-set, marginalized group in America. This is worldwide. And in large numbers, people will be flocking to watch a sadomasochistic love story where the lines of kinky sex and abuse are blurred. (I can’t believe I just wrote “kinky sex”. Gross, sorry mom).

Are you seeing here with me that globally, there is a core-heart issue? Whether you think the heart issue is a legitimate problem or not, I think everyone can agree that people want to see this film because there is a desire for something more-whether that’s a rush, some new ideas, a spicier sex life or because their friends are seeing it-50 Shades of Grey is more than just a movie. And people read books, see films, do life for heart motivated reasons. We do things out of desire.

So, let’s deal with the heart. 

Jonathan Edwards, probably the greatest ever American theologian, expounds upon the fullness that Christ offers His creation in his sermon Safety, Fullness, and Refreshment in Christ. He first states that we are creatures that thirst. Our souls crave something more than what this temporal world offers us. We are truly in pursuit of it.

Edwards says, “First, the soul of every man craves happiness…” He says that this craving is innate. It’s something that every person on every continent wants. We pursue it in different ways. Edwards then goes on to say that some find their happiness in money, honor, or respect, but at the end of the day, they are still left with want because there is more money, more honor and more respect to be had. I can see this pursuit in my own life.

Edwards continues in point 4, “There is in Christ Jesus provision for the full satisfaction and contentment…”  That’s amazing. Full satisfaction. Full contentment. Better than happiness, Christ offers joy. Here’s a very large, but beautiful excerpt from his sermon,

“First. The excellency of Christ is such, that the discovery of it is exceedingly contenting and satisfying to the soul. The inquiry of the soul is after that which is most excellent. The carnal soul imagines that earthly things are excellent; one thinks riches most excellent, another has the highest esteem of honour, and to another carnal pleasure appears the most excellent; but the soul cannot find contentment in any of these things, because it soon finds an end to their excellency. Worldly men imagine, that there is true excellency and true happiness in those things which they are pursuing. They think that if they could but obtain them, they should be happy; and when they obtain them, and cannot find happiness, they look for happiness in something else, and are still upon the pursuit.

But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean.

The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity. It is an infinite excellency, such an one as the mind desires, in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind is used to it, the more excellent it appears. Every new discovery makes this beauty appear more ravishing, and the mind sees no end; here is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper, and never come to the bottom.

The soul is exceedingly ravished when it first looks on this beauty, and it is never weary of it. The mind never has any satiety, but Christ’s excellency is always fresh and new, and tends as much to delight, after it has been seen a thousand or ten thousand years, as when it was seen the first moment. The excellency of Christ is an object suited to the superior faculties of man, it is suited to entertain the faculty of reason and understanding, and there is nothing so worthy about which the understanding can be employed as this excellency; no other object is so great, noble, and exalted.”

I love that this 300-year-old sermon still holds relevant. Edwards, a very formal puritan, saw these same things we see in our society. This has been a heart-issue since Adam and Eve. This will always be a problem until everything is made right in the world.

The “remedies” around us change throughout the ages, but the condition of the heart doesn’t. We are all in the same boat together with our condition that seeks happiness and contentment. The only difference is the world will sell us billions of things that will “satisfy” and cure the loneliness, self-esteem issues, depression, etc. The world will profit off of temporarily curing symptoms while never showing any attention to the source of the problem.

And that’s where Christ is different.

He does not profit from you walking around with bandaids, chasing aimlessly one thing after another. He enjoys and gets glory from healing the deepest wounds.

The 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon shouldn’t be fascinating. It’s normal. Not the whole “beat up your girlfriend and call it love thing;” that’s definitely not normal. I mean the whole this-doesn’t-satisfy-let-me-go-to-more-extremes-to-see-what-will-lead-me-to-satisfaction thing. Right? This Victoria’s Secret Magazine isn’t hitting the spot… Let me go to PlayBoy Magazines. That’s not enough, so the progression continues to porn websites. Right? This is the human heart, is it not? It searches and searches for more and more to satisfy it, but let me ask you this: How’s that working for you? Are you ever fully content and satisfied? If so, for how long?

Friend, I hear your struggle. I see the exhaustion of nothing ever quite being enough. Jesus is enough. And He is for you.

Christians, let us remember that place where we were before Christ was the satisfier of our souls. Let us also remember that we did not save ourselves. It was Christ that called us out of darkness and into His glorious light. So, when we have conversations with non-Christians or even young Christians about the Ultimate Satisfier, let us do so with speech that is graceful and seasoned with salt. It makes sense that people still under the domain of darkness walk in darkness. It makes sense that people exhaust all that the world declares to be a remedy. It also should make sense that we can be used by God to bring healing and restoration to a broken world.

Sisterhood of the Traveling.. Stuff. #WCW

Welp, it’s my first night back in my Tennessee loft. There’s a lot more quiet around here than at New Staff Training (NST) and a lot less humidity. I suppose I should praise the Lord for both of these variants, but boy am I suffering from NST withdraws! I wish I could go across the hall to Amy and Cait’s room or Leslie’s and Rach’s room and laugh for hours.

I’m sorry. RUDE. I haven’t blogged in FOR_EV_ER, so you don’t know who any of these people are. Before I begin explaining who these beauts are, I want to share such a fun “spiritual yummy” with you.

My first year on STINT, a part of our team covenant was that we’d fight to believe that all the members on our team were God’s provision to us. He provided those people, specifically placed each one on our team, and we were fully complete in Christ and not lacking anyone. I loved that idea. It really helped us to value each person and seek deep relationships with each other. I learned so much from each person on my team and love them mucho.

Going into NST, I had some expectations about training, but did not expect to walk away with a new group of prayer warrior, spunky, fun and inspiring girlfriends. I really just expected the Lord to revitalize my heart, recast vision for college ministry stateside, and to leave 100% certain this was where the Lord was leading. He exceeded all of these expectations and lavished His blessing on me through these women (and MANY others!). Truly, they were God’s provision in my life. I LOVE sisterly community and felt the Lord work through these women in my life in deep ways! Each person was specifically placed to help teach me something about myself, joy, prayer, the Lord, and community. I love each of these girls!

For my first Woman Crush Wednesday in a while I’m posting a picture of all these ladies. Here’s a few of my favorite memories with them: anointing oil, wobble dance party, mooing at people in Chick-Fil-A, EATING A STINKING LEAF, nerdy bowling, Gary, 1000 puppies, “Can I borrow that?”, “Stop.”, “Doesn’t this African kid look like Mary Mac?”, dock time, what are the odds, “I just want to dance”, skin & cheese cooler, “I’m not one of the 9”, whole fears, and my last but of course not least the one and only Jasmine Foulda.

Girls, I love everything about y’all. Happy Wednesday Friendsday 😉

New Staff Training Provision.
New Staff Training Provision.

Jackie Chan Is My Husband…

It all started at a Thieb. shack.

Image

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…

Laura Beth + Tyler

History

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, grace-filled, southern belle named Laura Beth. She grew up in a small, fanciful town in North Carolina with a family that highly valued cultivating her relationship with Christ. Throughout college LB sought to deepen and enhance her relationship with Christ. She became involved with a college ministry at Peace College called Cru. In the summer of 2011, the Lord led her to go on a stateside mission trip, also known as summer project, to Santa Cruz, California. It was that summer that her heart began to break for people all across the world who were hungry to know and experience God’s love. Senegal specifically was laid upon her heart.

beautifulLB

Now meet Tyler. Tyler is a very lovable man of God. He grew up in North Carolina with parents who loved the Lord as well. After his sophomore year of college, Tyler really began pursuing a relationship with Christ and began growing in his faith. Tyler was involved in the Cru movement at North Carolina State University (go Wolfpack!). He actually led a bible study with our team leader, Ryan. He was involved with Cru’s intermural outreach that emphasized building bridges with students that were less likely to attend a Cru meeting without a personal invite. If I could briefly describe Tyler’s character it would be that he is someone who cares deeply about being intentional with everyone and loves people well.

Tyler

How They Met 

Well, let’s just be honest. This is the part that we all want to know about. Was it love at first sight? Did you say anything stupid? After you met, did you walk around with stars in your eyes for days?

This is LB’s version:

” The Friday night of Cru’s Fall Retreat, I was sitting with my small group and I heard this voice in the group beside me say “I’ll close us in prayer.” Taken away by his heart for the Lord and how cute he was, I began talking to my friend, Kaitlin, about who he was. It wasn’t until Saturday night, as I was filling up cups of ice with a staff member, that this young man came through the line, grabbed a cup and said, ‘thank you.’ With butterflies in my stomach I responded with an awkward, ‘You’re welcome.’ Little did I know that a few moments later I would lock eyes with the man that would later become my husband.

As I was finishing up my job, I noticed he was looking at me from across the room. When I was finished, I started talking to Aaron Adams about playing the game Signs. Tyler decided to join in on the conversation and smoothly looked at me and said, “Hi, I’m Tyler.” We spent the evening laughing, giggling, and playing Signs. At the end of the night I pulled a Cinderella and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow at the meeting,” when really I was leaving the retreat before then! You gotta keep the mystery, you know. 😉

After spending a whole week of his life without me, he decided that was too long! (Totally a joke!) I received a Facebook message asking for my phone number. And then he asked me out for dinner and dancing on our first date on November 18, 2011! Throughout our relationship, I still had a burden for the people of Senegal and I knew the Lord was calling me to invest a year of my life here, proclaiming his name in a nation that is over 95% Muslim. Even though I’d fallen head over heels in love with Tyler, the Lord is worth following and He is trustworthy in regards to all aspects of my life.

Over my senior year, I continued to pray for the Lord’s will in our relationship. I knew that if this was the Lord’s will for us to head in the direction of marriage, as was me coming to Senegal, this would only strengthen our relationship and provide clarity. It was not easy, as our relationship with the Lord can be, but He calls us to love and trust Him. So, in October, I fully surrendered to the Lord’s plans and let go of mine. I got on an airplane headed to Senegal, without Tyler.

Much to my surprise, Tyler actually eventually did end up in Senegal with me (even if it was only for a week and three months late). Here’s a video that highlights the most recent progression in our relationship. Please enjoy these wonderful photos that Mary took for our Save The Dates. :)”

Gives a new meaning to shine bright like a diamond :)
Gives a new meaning to shine bright like a diamond 🙂
I love this one.
I love this one.
she's such a beauty
she’s such a beauty

fave4

A Mary Manual

My current roommates put this together for the next round of STINT girls:

  1. If Mary eats breakfast, it will be a good day.
  2. Biskrem and Coke fix about 95% of Mary’s problems.
  3. Mary will be one of the firsts to have an impromptu dance party with you in the kitchen. “The Beat” by Ben Rector is one of her favorites.
  4. Mary goes through seasons: Thiebb. season, mac and cheese season, and sandwich season. No she does not want to eat anything else during these seasons.
  5. Someone needs to partner with Mary on being late. This same person should make sure Mary is out of bed 20 minutes before the meeting. Singing old hymns to her usually works.
  6. Thank us for helping Mary learn how to cry.
  7. If Mary drinks five Cokes after finishing the Daniel Fast and rescuing sick kittens, she will throw up for 12 hours straight and blame God.
  8. Boycotting things is one of Mary’s past-times. When Mary says, “I am never doing ___ again,” what she really means is, “I will not do that until again until you catch me doing it.”
  9. If you do not throw an awesome birthday week for Mary, you will die.
  10. Mary wakes up in 2 moods: Cloud 9 or asleep.
  11. Deep cleaning the apartment past 11:30 is normal; don’t be alarmed.
  12. Don’t let her stay inside for long amounts of time.
  13. She will like to give you hugs, after she’s known you for a few months…
  14. Don’t let Mary wallow in the pit of despair. You’ll instinctively know when she’s doing this because it will be 7:00 and she’ll be laying face down on her bed.
  15. If you ask her 3-4 times to do anything, she’ll really do just about anything.
  16. If she cries, you’re getting somewhere.
  17. The large amount of hair left on the wall in the shower is not a rat nor is it a sign of cancer.
  18. Ask about the Stanky Hip.
  19. Sleep is a very high priority, but Malaria medicine is not.
  20. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT LET MARY BRING HOME STRAY ANIMALS. QUOTE SCRIPTURE ABOUT FLEEING FROM SIN.
  21. Do not let Mary talk to anyone’s mom. She gets incredibly nervous and shares secrets within the first 45-seconds of conversation.
  22. Whoever you are Skyping, Mary will want to Skype with them too. She might even bring in her guitar and sing a song for your family.
  23. Don’t send her to the market for “l’extincteur de fur.”
  24. If she’s not wearing it, you can borrow it without asking. Take it.
  25. If you catch Mary working out/going for a run, stop immediately and interrogate her on why. Chances are she just looked at SELF or Fitness magazine. Tie her to a chair and force feed her chocolate chip cookies instead.
  26. What to do when Mary wakes up with furrowed eyebrows: tell her to get rid of them, hug her and pray with her. Don’t mention anything about Starbuck’s Caramel Lattes, the fact that she cannot wear sweatpants today, or the fact that she is more than likely going to be late.
  27. Mary has a PhD. from WebMD.com. Ask her how many fatal illnesses we’ve all had this year.
  28. If Mary walks into whatever room you’re in and just stares at you, this means she wants you to address her, quit whatever you’re doing and talk to her or play. If she’s wanting to talk, here’s the protocol:
  • for positive news: ask first, “what’s up?” Expect a childlike laugh to come out, a little prance towards you (she will choose the seat next to you even if there are 5 other open spaces), and then she’ll share.
  • for negative news: first ask, “what’s up?” Do not expect a prance. Expect a sigh and then an, “I don’t know…” You must ask again two more times, “What’s going on?” THEN, try to guess it and she’ll correct you by telling you really what’s wrong. By that time she’s found her way to your bed and is laying there face up in defeat over something that truly isn’t a big deal, but once you talk through it she’ll be prancing again. Just you wait!
*A special thanks to my sweet roommates Rachel and Whitney for spouting out over 40 Mary facts. Either they are really good friends and know me well, or I’m just so readable.  I love you both and am so thankful for you!

The Day Our Team Learned About Dating: Scratch That: Chocolate Bars

Our national director, Pascal, is awesome. Pascal is a Senegalese man, aged around late 40s, father of two, and husband to the beautiful Aurelie. Let me tell you something about Pascal, that man loves to laugh. At nearly every meeting we have at Pascal’s, our team goal is to make Pascal laugh so hard he cries. We’ve succeeded twice.

One day Aaron told us, “We have another meeting with Pascal after our prayer meeting. We’re dating with Pascal.”

Excuse me? Est-ce que tu peut repetes s’il vous plait? Dating with Pascal?

Yup. Ladies and gentlemen, c’est vrai. After 7/8 of us spent our Valentine’s day flying solo, Pascal thought he’d help us desperate, barely maneagable singles. Is it really that apparent that even in this culture that we are in dire need of a resuscitation into the dating world? Yup. Lord help us….

The first thing to know about dating in Senegal is that women are prized commodities, sort of.  You see, when a man wants to marry a woman he is supposed to give something like a dowry to the bride’s family. Pascal is our family here, so he has priced us all appropriately. I, personally, am worth a whopping 50 goats. Rachel, because she is blonde and has a boyfriend in the United States, is worth 100 goats. Pascal joking states that we all need to get married because he wants his goats. Now that we’ve started our dating lessons, I don’t think he’s really joking.

How endearing it is to know I’m worth this fight times 50. What a warrior…
The first thing Pascal asked us where we are on the dating spectrum: left side-dating, right side-marriage. He asked, “Mary, where are you on this line?” I replied, “About a foot away from where the paper begins on the left side.” My response was as if I said something completely horrificly perverse in front of his 105-year-old grandma. [again, I think he is banking on those goats]… His reaction wasn’t truly that bad; I’m being way overdramatic, but I think he was shocked to hear about half of us say we don’t date/aren’t dating/don’t plan on dating soon.

We then learned about what love is: agape, phileo, and eros; serving, giving, selfless, not based on an emotion, etc… We learned what it isn’t: lust, infatuation, self-seeking, prideful, controlling, arrogant, romance, etc. It was actually really helpful for me to better put into practice how to love everyone the way God does. But then…

Our homework was to be thinking about what kind of spouse we want. He then said, “I asked all the girls at our church’s dating conference what they wanted in a man. Do you know what they said, ‘I want a man with chocolate bars.’ Do you know what chocolate bars are?”

If you’re picturing this, you’re only half-way right.
I’m sorry. Even after the typical announcement of, “We’re all adults here…”, I could not keep my laughter in. I hid my face in my hands and started cracking up for a good three minutes. My uncontrollable ruckus was caused mostly because::

1. I don’t know what chocolate bars are and was too scared to find out.

2. Typically when around the opposite sex, I get a rare case of an undiagnosable disease that makes my hands sweat and truly unflattering, illogical sentences fly right out of my mouth. [Have I not told the goat story? Oh, just the worst date ever. Not with a goat. Gosh. So Awkward; it’s painful]. Talking about dating/chocolate bars with an older man just made it worse. Only solution: laugh like a 5th grader sitting through the first ever health class.

3. Even if I am almost 24-years-old, talking about relationships, seeing people fall, or hearing someone fart STILL cracks me up.

Turns out, chocolate bars are an African man’s meticulously chisled abs. Chocolate bars. Don’t let that sink it too much ladies.

So, I will keep you informed on what else we learn, how we’ve been practicing (or not), and our success with the Senegalese’s method of dating as soon as more news is to be reported. Well, I’ll probably just keep you updated until he finds out about this blog and asks me to take it down. If I hear anymore dating slang, I might just keep it to myself because as I’m sure you all love it, I’m slightly mortified knowing my mom checks my blog everyday. [Sorry Mom].

Until next time!