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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This one time I got a tattoo.

And by this one time, I mean multiple times. I am just going to share with you the background story of one of my tattoos and what it means to me, but first, let me set the stage for you.

The summer of 2012 was the worst summer of my life for various reasons.

I hope and pray that it will remain the worst, hardest and most painful season of my life. I had just come back from my first year on STINT and was anxiously awaiting the return to the motherland. I came back to America and struggled badly with reverse culture shock (basically, everything in your culture of origin is no longer “normal” to you). I had a hard time drawing boundaries with time and people’s expectations and the guilt that followed when I did not meet those expectations.

I was dating someone long distance and couldn’t quite figure that whole situation out. Broke up with said man, went through the ringer with another, and lost a good friend. All in 4 months. It was horrible. Sounds like the perfect time to get a permanent, ever-present, visible-at-all-seasons tattoo right? 😉 Well, that’s exactly the season I got this tattoo in.

The story.

I had been thinking about getting another tattoo for a few months. Maybe. I can’t remember. That whole summer, honestly, is quite the blur. Anyway, I knew I wanted a feather because of the illustration of God’s love for us in Matthew. [SIDENOTE: It ain’t a leaf, y’all]. While at our STINT reunion over labor day in Charlotte, I decided, “Now’s a great time to get that tattoo. John-Mark, draw me something and I’ll go get it.” I decided what color I wanted it in based off of Whitney’s nail color. Basically, this is my STINT team’s fault.

We’re in a Fish Taco place next to a tattoo parlor [Another sidenote: Fish Tacos are gross.] with time to spare, so I walked on next door and asked how much a little blue and white tattoo would be and when I could get it. The sweet lady behind the counter told me to put down a deposit and come back tomorrow. The next day, we wake up and go to church. The sermon is on Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Hilar. I decided in church that I was going through with the decision to get the tattoo. That’s not something you hear everyday…

I love that this passage talks about God’s provision to the birds and then where it segways into our importance to God. He sees us. He provides for us in all ways.  Now, note during that season I was more than likely thinking just financial. I’m a missionary. We constantly have to trust God to provide in this area of our lives. But. I have seen God use that little blue feather on my finger as a reminder to me that He meets my needs in every way possible. He redirects my heart to the truth of his word even when I think I don’t need it.

In Him, there’s fullness and joy. Our God is an abundant God and He isn’t lacking in anything, so whatever need I have (need of grace, love, acceptance, peace, etc) He fulfills it.

I’ve learned a lot about how God loves me and sees me these past two years. He is perfect. And He perfectly loves me. I see that in His beautiful and bountiful provision of grace, I’m able to run with liberty towards Him in His holiness knowing that in Him, I’m complete, secure and cared for! God is too cool, y’all.

That’s the story behind my blue tattoo of a feather on my finger.

My sister and I making mustaches and beards. :)
My sister and I making mustaches and beards. 🙂 2014
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The weekend I got it done. It was so colorful then. No touch up for me thank you!

Top Four French Language Mistakes #FRENCHPROBLEMS

Many of you know I work for Whirlpool in their French Canadian department. Quebecois is very, very different than the French I learned at university and not even remotely the same as the Frolof I spoke in Senegal. Needless to say, talking to customers all day long in what I feel like is a third language makes for some interesting times. Here are a few of my favorite embarrassing moments from work! Enjoy!

Do you know the exact date of purchase?

I ask this question on EVERY call. And for the first month, no one said anything to me about this. Instead of saying, “la dah-t da sha” I was saying, “La dah-t da shaat.” The first means, “the date of purchase,” where the latter means, “the date of the cat.” Yup. Oh Lord. Check out a French video of a cat wiping out below to see my sentiments on the issue. PS- I’m the cat.

The payments are monthly.

[THIS MIGHT BE A LADIES ONLY ONE…] Let me preface this with, I have not said this to a customer. Sophia, a girl from Haiti, was practicing a script with me and helping me  learn some new vocab. She just told me the French word for monthly. It is mensuell. Don’t confuse it with another word that sounds just like it, menstrual otherwise you’ll be telling your clients their payments are in menstrual cycles.

[NO PIC NECESSARY]

My name is Mary Lou.

This is another pronunciation issue. In my defense, in Senegal we always said, “Je m’appelle” or “Mon Mary laa toodo.” We never said it this way. So, there’s my defense. Here’s the case: Yawo, a friend from the Togo, was listening to calls with me helping me if I didn’t understand or was confused on some vocab. He stopped me and said, “Mary Lou, stop saying the “m” at the end of ‘Mon nom est Marie Lou.'” I looked at him and realized what I had been saying:: My man is Mary Lou. Bless it.

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Me as a man.

And lastly and most embarrassingly…

You can find your model and serial number on the back.

It all happened so fast that I can’t remember which definitive article or possessive article I used before the word back, but I am maybe 50% certain I used the word “votre” meaning “your” or “la” meaning “the.” I want to say that I used the word “la” because I would have a better defense, but I am pretty sure it was possessive.

You know that little French word, derriere? You know how us lil’ old Americans think its so funny to pretend like it means your butt? Well, mixed with the right articles, it does mean that in French. It also means behind, as in “My Chapstick fell behind my purse.” I was trying to tell the woman, that she would have to look behind the appliance to find her model and serial number. Instead? I either told her that her model and serial numbers were located on the butt -OR- on her butt.

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Here’s to another day at Whirlpool hoping I don’t get fired! Please enjoy this video below that will show you my French isn’t all that terrible…. 😉

Cheers!

Freestyle Freelancer

I don’t know how to say this properly so I am just going to spout it out. I’m working three jobs, y’all. How I went from no job to three utterly dumbfounds me, but it’s the truth. Scouts honor.

I am on this Freelance website where you can post your resumé, links to your work, bio, etc and then apply for jobs that have been posted on the site. I have applied for a few gigs, received VERY strange invites to interview, and a few keepers.

I mostly write content for organizations, companies and ministries. Can I tell you how life giving it is to do enjoyable things after a long day of getting yelled at in Quebecois because an appliance is broken? I do. I really love it… the whole writing thing. Canada can keep their “lors” and “blondes.”

I just got done working on some content for the homepage of a website called SnowGraffiti. It’s based out of Australia. It is pretty unique and awesome. You should check it out and buy a snowflake pancake maker. That’s right. A SNOWFLAKE PANCAKE MAKER. Need I say more?

 And if you’re planning a destination wedding, you need to look into NSW. After writing the content for SnowGraffiti, I’m convinced a destination wedding in Australia is within budget and ideal. 

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SkyBridge Blog: 7 Tips to Prepare for Purposeful Living Overseas

I always get so excited when I get published on other places, well you know, other than my own blog. 

I HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED!!

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I figured all you beautiful 62 followers needed the link to be able to read this post I wrote for an online community of expats and ex-expats. Check it out HERE. Let me know what you think. 

XOXO

Mary Lou

The God of the Nations

So, count the cost brothers and sisters. This is not an invitation to an easy life. For 2000 years, thousands and thousands of missionaries, the unnamed-no biographies written about them, just unnamed people of whom the world is not worthy, have counted the cost and put their lives at risk and reached the lost with the only message of salvation. -John Piper

anewthing

I was talking to a new friend last night about my heart for evangelism, internationals and for missions. She looked at me and said, “You’re heart is there. Go for it.” So simple if I hadn’t just sat through a service that spoke to my heart about letting go of everything and allowing the Lord to lead my life.

You see, I’ve been bouncing around America getting to see some amazing people, but also hoping that the Lord would just open a door to go back on the mission field to the unreached. If that’s in a church in America focusing on women’s discipleship and evangelism, or training students in the UK, or working at a Refugee center, I’m ready. I have been frantically searching online for missions organizations that work with Muslims/Arabs, considered applying for jobs in Seattle and the UK, and I even talked with a Missions team in Popenguine, Senegal. I have been so ready to be doing something for the kingdom that involves internationals. And that’s where the Lord checked my heart.

Mary, surrender it all to me. You can’t manipulate yourself into my will. Trust that I’ll lead you. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to… the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

I feel like this has been a sweet reminder that when I’m being anxious, that is a work of the flesh. It opposes peace. Peace comes from having trust in a trustworthy God. Anxiousness comes from trying to find rest in what I can do, what job I can find, who I can network with. He is trustworthy. I can follow Him and know that He will lead me in His calling for my life. I can have joy knowing that He is faithful not only to me, but to the nations that don’t yet know Him. He is working; He doesn’t need us but He sure does delight in using us.

I wrestled with the Lord a little bit last night thinking, “Okay God, is this burden I have for the nations normal? I feel like a freak. Is this me that made this up? Is this idolatry towards global missions in my heart? Is this your vision that you casted for me that I get to be a part of?”

This morning I shared a little bit about what God did in Senegal this past year at a church in Cleveland, Tennessee. [Y’all, bless my heart. Public speaking without having 3 cups of coffee is so not my thing.] I shared two verses that have been giving me hope. Here’s one of those verses from Revelation 21 about the New Heaven and the New Earth.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.. meaning Heaven isn’t full of people who look and sound like me. It isn’t going to be full of people who speak English. There will be people there who have never heard of Starbucks. There will be people who have seen and experienced very different things on this Earth than westerners. The nations will be represented in Heaven because God created each and every one of them and loves them. There is hope for the unreached, the lost, the hard hearted, the church goer who has played the good Christian role their whole lives without truly having life-altering faith in Christ. There is hope for each and every one. And all of us will be there because Christ died for our sins. We have faith in Him because someone shared the great news with us. Faith comes through hearing. I want challenge you with this, “The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” -Carl F.H. Henry. Are we praying, supporting or going? Are we a part of this? Is the gospel good news to us? Do we know what the gospel is? Is this just our mindset on global missions or do we even apply it to the lost in our area?

One of the sweet things the Lord has reminded me of this morning was that it doesn’t matter where we are physically. The lost are everywhere. And one of the sweet things He showed me was that I live in a country full of internationals. The two bus boys at a restaurant I ate at were from Tanzania and Nigeria. As I was walking out of the restaurant, I hear in a very distinctly Irish accent, “So, have you ever preached in Northern Ireland?” I whipped my head around so fast that I wasn’t quite sure that my body could catch up and exclaimed, “Whaaaaaaaat!?”

Three nations represented in little ol’ Cleveland within 3 minutes. Seriously, the Lord confirmed that He does want me to have a heart for the nations. He wants me praying for the Muslims at the Mosques in Senegal. He wants me supporting people going to the hard to reach nations. But He also has me here for a season too. There are so many different nationalities here that I can’t ignore the need here just because I want to go. I am “going” it just looks different than the Irish countryside I’d hoped for. 😉

The Lord was so sweet this morning to remind me that missions here matters. He just happened to use two bus boys and a group of Irish believers to catch my attention.

7 Things I’ve Learned Since Returning To America

{One} Yeah, that ever lingering stomach ache is normal. Although it is the best invention ever, I’d suggest that you lay off the Chinese Buffets for a while.  [In my defense, where else can you get Lo Mein, sweet potatoes AND jello in one location? HELLO!]  Welcome back to America, Mary. Take it easy on the high-sodium, processed and preservative-enriched “food”. Although in my book, one time at a Chinese Buffet with family=worth the upset stomach.

Thanks to my Step-Mom, Dhel, for creating this fun picture collage!
Thanks to my Step-Mom, Dhel, for creating this fun picture collage!

{Two} Figuring out what you like and don’t like is pretty simple. Last year I was having a personal identity crisis [in the middle of TJ Maxx mind you…] over trying to figure out what I liked. Fashion changed so much since I had left and dressing for college ministry stateside looks so different than in a third-world country. Hence, the meltdown. This time around, I’m taking some time to just be me. I’m figuring out what I like and it doesn’t depend on what’s popular in the US culture, because let’s be honest, I have no clue what’s popular. I don’t Pinterest on the reg., so I’m completely out of the loop. And I am completely okay with that.

{Three} Walmart is overwhelming and makes me realize how impulsive I am. Oatmeal Creme Pies and Ho-Hos have never looked better until you’ve spent two-years in a third-world, developing country in Africa. Granted, the French pastries in Senegal were amazing, they weren’t convenient. And they definitely weren’t stock-pile-your-cabinets-in-case-we-get-nuked-or-dumped available. Poor Bonnie took me to Walmart for the first time in almost a year yesterday and had to see me get goo-goo eyed over chocolate cupcakes and the vast selection of icecream for only $2.79 for a half-gallon! Really, whoever thought of putting all your home needs in one place is a genius.

Sweet Bon!
Sweet Bon!

{Four} The Mummy is the best movie ever. Downside to it being played on AMC: commercial breaks. Rachel Weisz’s character just, well, I’m not exactly sure what happened to her. I had to feed the dog I’m watching, so I missed the part where she went from alive to dead. But I came back and Brendan Fraser’s character (Rick) is holding his sweet wife in his arms, crying as she slips away from him through his fingers. And then BAM. commercial break. Ugh, AMC, what are you good for besides giving me a heart attack??

Yeah, my thoughts exactly Bren!
Yeah, my thoughts exactly Bren!

{Five} The world is full of options. In fact, far too many options. So, I am still processing through what’s next. Staff with Cru? Taking a job internationally? Going back to school? Oy vey! I kind of wish there weren’t so many options. I mean moving to Ireland to work at a non-profit or be a farmer makes total sense to you too, right?

In Ireland two years ago... be still my beating heart.
In Ireland two years ago… be still my beating heart.

{Six} People still haven’t learned to pass on the left side. I’m not even going to begin to expound upon that one because like AMC, it’ll give me a heart attack too.

Praise Him.
Praise Him.

{Seven} Almost everyone around me speaks English. Don’t forget that while talking to a friend in public. It’s so easy for me to think no one understands me. I just moved back from a country where less than 5% of the population speaks English. Whispering secrets need not exist. It’s actually funny the things you can think of to shout across a restaurant knowing that no one will understand.  But in ‘Merica? Oh, not only do they “comprendre” but they are so judging you too. So, enjoy your transistion back to America, but please use discretion while explaining to your girlfriends about just how much that Chinese Buffet is getting to ya!

Instagram? I think Insta-shame is more like it.
Instagram? I think Insta-shame is more like it. [Thanks Mashable for the photo]