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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Rhonna #2: My Perfect Day Looks Like This

“And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality, when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end, when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not.” -Søren Kierkegaard

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I appreciate that the caption for this photo is not, “My Perfect Day.” That sounds far too definitive, without room for improvement or leeway for personal growth. The fact that it is followed with “…Looks Like This” gives me visionary space which my ever-changing tastes appreciates. I mean, can you imagine the travesty of saying, “This is exactly what my perfect day looks like!” There’s no room for dreaming bigger. And we all know that I like to dream big…

Yesterday was one of those almost perfect days. I started off my day reading “The Pursuit of God” by AW Tozer. I haven’t been sleeping well lately [I blame it on the espresso overdoses], so after my brain was shot from reading one chapter, I fell asleep for four hours. So intellectual, I tell you.

After a quick shower, Whit and I headed to our planned hiking date. We prayed and sang worship songs on our way to the mountain and got in some sweet sisterly fellowship. And then there was the hike…

Y’all.

Don’t let this skinny body fool you; home girl is out of shape. And I’m not talking about Whit; her skinny self is on top of it. In my defense, the climb was steep. Nevertheless, here’s a quick play-by-play of our hike:

  • Starts off strong.
  • Feeling the burn a little.
  • Wooo, man, is that my heartbeat I feel in my ears?
  • I’m not trying to twerk it like Miley, but I really just need to lean on this bench for a little.
  • “Mary, you’re laying in the dirt.”

So, why was this day close to perfect? I love seeing creation and being reminded how infinitely great the Creator is. He has designed everything so beautifully and wonderfully. The way creation mirrors His faithfulness and splendor! The way the body of Christ reflects His character too! Being pushed out of my comfort zone, embracing challenges and doing life with people who are sinful, fallen and messed up is so beautiful.  I love seeing the way Whit is so patient and walks so well in her unique gifts. She isn’t perfect, but she sure does love to try to love me like Christ. I love going through small challenges and doing things I’m not naturally good at because it allows room for humility and room for others to grow in areas they are called too as well. I love seeing people come and work together. It just reminds me we are not alone and are not meant to do life alone.

My beginning quote, however it is truly supposed to be interpreted, reminds me that this world is temporary. Everything we can see is temporary; everything we don’t see is eternal. My mind is tempted to float away into a daydream that is actually more real than here. The beautiful mountains will melt like wax. The trees will die. My body, which is apparently in tip-top shape, will decay. But then there, in the stillness, before all creation will stand eternity. We will be there, with unveiled face, before the holy of holies. And as I refocus back to the temporal, try to catch my breath, I long for the eternal to come make His kingdom here.

I’m enthralled by my King and long for the perfect day.

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.

College Graduate

I am now DONE with school!! YAY! I am no longer a college kid. I know most people say this but I feel so accomplished. From the beginning I’ve been thinking school wasn’t for me. But I persevered and finished! Thanks mom for making me stay in school for 5 years plus summer school.

Now: I’m an a full time intern with Cru. That’s a total big girl step! I’m support raising right now and it’s been amazing. I really need balance in my life and am learning it through support raising. I’m so excited to be doing ministry this summer while establishing ministry partners. But really my heart is so excited to love on these people and to introduce them to Jesus. I can’t wait to be an official big girl living in AFRICA! 🙂

Is this supposed to be really scary? I know what I’m doing for the next 14 months, so I’m not too nervous. My main worries right now are bugs, african food, and not being able to speak French as well as I’d like. In about 3 months of being there I’ll get over all of that stuff. I think towards the end of my  STINT I might get more nervous/freak out about my future. I have no solid plans and have never kept a job longer than 9 months. It’s sink or swim time. I can doggie paddle pretty well. Surely, life can’t be as hard as swimming….

I say that as I go into a part of life that’s been getting really messy. If you could possibly remember me in your prayers that’d be swell. I’m being tested on loving people unconditionally. I am letting my hurt feelings get in the way of my relationship with the Lord and others. I have let that fester into bitterness and it’s ugly. Instead of using this opportunity to continue to pursue relationships and show Christ’s love, I have chosen to back away emotionally, physically and spiritually from some people who have really hurt my feelings. It’s not healthy for me nor the body as a whole to ignore the healing the Lord wants to bring; it certainly isn’t honoring to the Lord. Christ came for reconciliation and that’s what we’re called to do as well.

I want to love well regardless of how I feel others are treating me or how I expect to be treated by fellow Christians. Christ first loved me even when I was a jerk and my sins nailed His son to the cross. He still pursued me and loved me. As a Christian, I need to set aside my pride and hurt feelings and just depend on the Lord in this situation. I’m wanting to sit in my cubicle and just ignore the issue, but I can’t. I know I can’t. So, just be praying that I am open to the Lord working on my heart and that I am yielding to His hand daily. Pray for genuine restoration. Just be praying.

Thanks readers.

Mary