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.

STINT, Scary Storms of 2011, and Seasons Ending

Sorry! I didn’t forget about you, promise. I just got a little distracted. You know how that goes.

STINT training:

That weekend couldn’t have gone any better. It was the confirmation that I’ve needed that this is what I’m supposed to be doing this next year. I learned a lot about how Cru operates, the heartbeat behind what we do and just how much work is going to be put in to being hired as an official intern. It was pretty tough though. I’m not going to lie. We were trained in three days over stuff that staff members are taught over two weeks in Colorado. We kind of got the short stick here… 😉

I’m learning more and more that ministry can’t be for those whose faith is not completely and utterly in the Lord. So often I think I am not as dependent on Him as I should be. My faith in His goodness and His plans for me were shaken last semester. But, I’m committing to seeing God the way He is and falling in love with Him all over again as the God of the universe who is loving and just:

Psalm 97:1-6 “1 The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. 2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 3 Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. 4 His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. 5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.”…

Psalm 100: 1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his[a]; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

School:

Well, I’m almost completely done with internship paper work. My goal is to be done with that by 6 p.m. I’m completely finished with my Senior Seminar course (final grade=B!). I have a french final on Wednesday. And I have an online portfolio due for my design class sometime next week. Then… I’ll be graduating!!! 🙂 May 7th is the big date. PTL! I can’t wait to be done!

Bible Study:

Tuesday was the last bible study us seniors will ever attend as students at UTC. HOW SAD! It was a great time of reflection, tears, and of course, chocolate. Four years ago, I wasn’t a child of God. Not even close. If someone had told me in 2007 that I’d be where I’m at, I probably would have laughed at them. It’s amazing the work God has done in me through these amazing women and through the staff and ministry of Cru. I know God is so faithful to complete the work He’s begun within me (Phil. 1:6) so He’ll provide a new group of sisters to grow with and invest in. I just can’t imagine the next group being as sweet as this one has been. I’ll post a picture soon of all the girls that I’ve been growing with for the past four years. I look forward to the future while holding these girls and the past four years close to my heart!

Oh, and those Tornadoes:

our little gang in the basement!

Well, two nights ago crazy storms hit the south bringing in over 30 tornadoes. Alabama was hit the worst with over 160 people dead. Tennessee has 24+ casualties. It’s been crazy. Yesterday we hid out in Bonnie and Scott’s basement with like 8 other people. It was fun to be with so many people that I love and adore, but super scary because we kept hearing about the massive devastation the storm was causing around us. Thankfully, no one I know was injured. Our power came back on this morning around 10:30, but thousands of people in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tenn. don’t have power. Keep praying!

Anyways, I have to go! I have a meeting in an hour! 🙂

Promise, next post will be sooner! LOVE YOU!

Praise the Lord!

I have 9 more days of college.

Yup. 9. Count them with me. 1,2,3,….9. I thought this day would never come. For a person who loathes school and has never been good at school, the next 9 school days can’t go by fast enough.

My last class in April 25th. I have to miss class this Friday because of STINT training in North Carolina. It starts at 7 on Friday, but it will take us about 9 hours to get there. I don’t think we’re allowed to be late for any reason. INTENSE. Other than that, there’s only four days the week after this one, and one day of classes before finals the week of the 25th.

I cannot wait until May 7th when they give me my diploma. I literally might do cartwheels across the stage. Considering graduation is less than a month away, I really need to get on the party planning bus. I haven’t placed an order for catering, rented tents, or tables and chairs. Oops. I’ll be sure to get on that right away…

Anyways, I’m going to go finish my French homework and try to get ahead/finish everything for the semester so I can work on my Muslims in the Media paper this week. I would like to let everyone know that I spent over 10 hours at Starbucks yesterday working on my third project for publication design. Finito! That’s dedication.

Alright, I’m out.

Mary

ps- Aimee and I got bored before Shabbat dinner at our house. Here’s the result.

This is the most normal picture we took all day.

She got new glasses. What do you think?

Uh. Ha. Beavers?
She's so scary in this one.
I'm already getting embarrassed.
Mirror effect. If only my face was truly symmetrical.

Big News

I’ve kept mum (from this blog at least) about this for a while now. Okay, it’s only been about three weeks. But that’s a long time to keep a secret when you keep a blog (which is basically publicizing your secrets).

Secret Keeper!

So, here’s my big announcement. Ahem. Me me me me me meeeee.

Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages.

I, Mary Smith, have submitted my application to go to Africa for one year in September. I won’t know if I got accepted for another few weeks. I should know by Valentines day.

What will I be doing?

I will be on a college campus in Northern Africa sharing the gospel. At this college there are 60,000 students. They come from all over the western part of Africa. Only 30% of women are literate and 50% of men. I know that we’ll be in an English group for the students who want to practice their conversational English I’m not sure about what else we’ll be doing while we are there. I’ve seen some pictures of other people who have gone and they worked with children, so there might be some of that. 🙂 I hope so!

Anyways, I’m trying to not get too excited because it’s not guaranteed that I’m going. I haven’t gotten accepted. And even if I do get accepted, the Lord might shut the door. I really, really hope I get to go in September.

Anywho, that’s all the news that I’ve got. Hopefully in two weeks I’ll have amazing news for you. We’ll see! 🙂

Thanks for reading! I appreciate it.

Freedom in Christ

Good news: Today was my first full day of feeling back to normal! Chicka-what! Praise the Lord for deliverance! Thank you Lord for that! I can’t describe to you how much better my day was than yesterday (and the many days before that). Such a blessing!

Well, I think one thing God has shown me today was how controlling I am. Yesterday, I mentioned to my bible study leader that this summer I was so confident in my ability to do overseas missions. And yesterday, I wasn’t feeling too confident in myself. She agreed with me. I think she’d rather see me do a stateside internship. Today I was looking at the application for Campus Crusade‘s STINT program. STINT is a Short Term International Internship. I had to have four references, one of which had to be my current bible study leader. My initial thought was, “Crap! I can’t put A.L. down! She won’t support me going.” This was me controlling the situation. This was me saying, “God, I know you’re calling me to Africa, but I need to try to control this area of the application so I’ll get accepted.” Wrong. If God wants me to go, He’ll make it happen. If I don’t get accepted, it wasn’t His will for me to go. I can rest assuredly knowing My God is bigger; my God is in control.

Chris Tiegreen has an amazing passage in his devotional. It says

“He is the Master of our circumstances; there is no need for our guile. The opportunities He wants us to have will be opened before us. The people He wants us to know will come into our path. No manipulation is necessary-or even welcome. All that He requires from us is our willing obedience to His plan.”

I am finding that I frequently put on the yoke of slavery that Paul warns us about in Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The cool thing about this verse is that Paul says, “… do not submit..” This implies that we have the active choice. Christ has set us free, for freedom. We are free. We, as free people (consciously or subconsciously) put ourselves under the yoke of slavery. That is not from God. Me trying to control everything is slavery to my own limitations. I cannot, but He who is in me can!