Wednesday, November 13, 2013

the thankful project: an ability

Some moments you just need to BE there in the spirit of Thanksgiving. No updates on social media. No distractions. Just you, the laughter and friends you are surrounded by, and the feeling of being incredibly thankful for those moments. This past weekend was time for me to do just that.

I wanted to continue with the Thankful Project, but when you're surrounded by a place that looks like this, you don't want to spend time on a computer, right?

However, I am back and ready to link up once again with Kenzie from Chasing Happy to spend some time in thanksgiving. 

Today's Prompt:  an ability

Today, I am thankful for the ability to travel. Large trips or small trips-it doesn't matter. Each new culture I've been able to experience has been able to teach me so much..about the world, about myself. 

Cinque Terre




Glacier lake in  Northern Peru.

Dancing in the middle of local parade in the town I lived in.
New York

New Orleans

So often we get caught up in the world surrounding us, not even realizing there's so much more to see. We make excuses. "It's too far." "It's too expensive." "I just don't have the time." Some of these trips were made over a weekend. Some took a little more planning. All were completely worth it. Whether you travel 30 minutes down the road to eat at a new restaurant, or you take a 12 hour flight to immerse yourself in a language that sounds nothing like yours, get out. Go travel. See the world. Experience new things. It's just good for the soul.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Thankful Project: a talent

Today is another day of "The Thankful Project" were I'm linking up with Kenzie to write about some talents I am thankful I have. 

I am an extreme the point of not starting a task if I have one thought that I can not give the proper attention to it. I also start many projects, then quit because I feel as if I'm not giving enough. All this to say I critique everything I do with a critical eye. I think self evaluation is very important, yet I want to make sure that I give proper thanks for things I do well.

Today's prompt focuses on that. Giving thanks for certain talents you have that you may or may not focus on  on a daily basis.

riding a horsecart.
Or driving one. Take your pick. This girl can handle both. Except for that one time I fell off the horsecart and had about 10 African women giving me advice. However, I came back from that incident stronger than ever, and can proudly say I have mastered this. It takes extreme talent!
(kidding, of course. all you really need is a sturdy back end, and you'll be fine)

 On a more serious note, language learning.
I am nowhere near where I would like to be in speaking this language. However, I have to say that I have worked so hard this past year to arrive at the level I am. I have cried over not being able to communicate. I have been frustrated. Yet, I still pushed myself to practice and learn. Now, I'm able to tell stories, joke & laugh with friends, and have good conversations in the local language. Like I said, I definitely need to continue working. But I am happy and sometimes amazed when I'm able to sit across from a sweet woman and fully understand the words coming from her heart.

Monday, November 4, 2013

giving thanks in all circumstances

Too often, when living in an unfamiliar place, we can focus on the negative points of our area. Especially during the Holiday season.
 Family lives too far away. 
Missing out on certain traditions. 
Getting creeped out by your country's version of Santa Claus. (A skin and bones Santa chasing after you just doesn't put me in the Holiday Sprit, y'all)

It's so easy to get wrapped up in these thoughts instead of being thankful for where we are now. I was talking to a friend recently who just moved back to America, and she said something that I've replayed over and over since our conversation. "It's a time of life you never get back, ya know? At times you think you're so ready to get home, but you forget once you leave you can't return to the life you led there."

So, instead of dwelling on thoughts of homesickness during this time, I'm going to really concentrate on being thankful for this country, and where I'm at in life. I'm linking up with Kenzie and writing about an experience that I am truly thankful for.

 Can't even lie, though. This experience started out r.o.u.g.h. For real. I'm not a huge emotional person, so for the first few months I lived here I held my emotions in check pretty well. However, the breakdown was coming. 

In February this past year our internet was sketching out big time. This was kind of normal. Our electricity would go out for a couple of hours, then pop back on, then it would take a day or so for the internet to come back. Except for that one time it didn't return. We went a week without internet..which, I agree, doesn't seem like a big deal. But at that point, I didn't need a big deal to get me worked up. My supervisor sat me down and explained to me that he wanted me to take care of this problem on "my own." I wish you could have seen my face when he told me this. Work out something where I'll have to speak to customer a country where customer service isn't a huge a language where my conversation level was, "Sit here. Eat." I thought he was crazy. 

It was a moment where I only wanted to call someone outside of the situation and vent. But I couldn't. Because we had no internet. See the dilemma? So I traipsed back & forth to the Internet provider. Hearing everything from we didn't pay our bill to "Don't worry. The guy is coming out today to fix it." Who knew that today actually meant never? I felt like an incompetent 23 year old, stumbling over words trying to explain the situation. Finally, somehow, a man from the capital came and ended up working his magic and fixing that little white box that holds all the goodness of connecting with the outside world. 

You see, it wasn't just the internet that I was upset about. I've gone months without solid internet before. The internet represented the fact that I was incompetent in language and life here. I was a child fumbling my way around a new culture trying to fit in, and the internet reminded me of all the ways I hadn't made it yet.

As I look back on this situation I remember how little I felt because I was struggling to fix a simple problem in a language that I did not speak. I remember how I just wanted my supervisor to step in and get the job done for me. I also know now that I am so thankful he made me work it out on my own, all the time ready to jump in if I REALLY needed him. So, even though this problem seems so insignificant now, I am thankful it happened. It showed me that I can take care of problems here. It helped grow my independence, which I didn't realize how much I needed at that point.

And now it's November, and I'm pretty much a pro here. And by pro I mean someone who still can't understand the difference between the local words for sit and cook. Thank the good Lord for context clues.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

a local celebration

1 day.
6 houses.
15 minutes trying to tie a head wrap.
Countless months recovering from all the food we consumed.

This was Tabaski-the largest holiday celebrated in our country. The base of this holiday is the story of Abraham & Ishmael.* Every male head of household must sacrifice a sheep to thank God and atone for sins committed the past year. People will go from house to house throughout the day asking their neighbors and friends to pardon sins done against them. 
*Many people here believe that God told Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael instead of Isaac.

Our town had it's own version of "Black Friday" where the Market stays open the entire night before, families come together, the whole day is spent preparing food and eating. It's a day full of joy for them, and a day of reminding for my team and I. 

As the day of Tabaski drew near, the invitations kept coming. We started with 3..then 4..then 5...then 6. SIX FAMILIES. Five of these families were close friends, and one is a house where we have been really wanting to invest in relationships. We just could not say  no. 

We experienced something new in each house, from seeing the sacrifice happening, to eating french fries for breakfast, to chugging a drink made from ginger because that's the only way I could get it past my taste buds. 

It's crazy for this American to witness holidays such as this. We read verses pertaining to sacrifice, but I never truly understood the process. As I heard prayers being done, as I watched the sheep being slaughtered, as I saw them placing their hope on a mere animal, I understood parts of scripture like never before. One house asked if we sacrificed our sheep for Easter. Hello, opportunity. Oh, how great it is to know, "It is finished!"

"he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption."
                                                       -Hebrews 9:12


Monday, October 28, 2013

sweet reminder

"...remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other. I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the East, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it."

How great are these words. Seriously. I read this right before I was preparing to tell a story in a different language. A language I'm afraid I butcher completely every time I open my mouth. But a story that causes me to open my mouth time and time again. These words were a refreshing breath. A breath that let me know that He has a plan through it all, no matter how much I stumble through the words. He has a plan. His plan will conquer all. His counsel shall stand. Praise to the One who has planned a great plan, that He carries through no matter how much I fail. He reigns. Through it all.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


It hits you in the simplest of moments.
In the most unexpected of ways.

Sitting around the bowl, sharing a meal.

 An older woman's smile.

A night spent cooking with friends.

A moto ride out to the village.

An afternoon with the girls.

A joke shared.

A child's visit.

And you realize you are falling in love with this place all over again.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Confessions of an Introvert

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

No matter your personality, whether you'd much rather curl up with a good book on a Friday night or be surrounded by fifty of your closest friends, we were created to live in community. To encourage each other. To love each other. To simply do life together. 

As an introvert, I don't think I really understood the importance of that until I moved over here. You see, I was the one who was content to curl up in bed with a good book on Friday nights. I didn't need a huge selection of friends, as long as I had my 3 or 4 I could really trust. As I live among a people who are experts at community, I see how much I've been flawed in my thinking. As I walk along the streets I pass courtyards full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, full families living together. As I share meals with them, I see everyone eating out of one platter, placed in the middle. 

And while I still love finding that quiet place with my book, I see the simplistic beauty living like this creates. They are happy to share with each other, ready to pour into each others lives-whether it's wanted or not. And I see that community is not about what you can get out of it, but more about what you put into it. I think I was content in my small bubble because I didn't think I needed anyone else. But, that's not what it's all about. Yes, you gain things from community, but how much of a greater joy is it to pour into one? 

So often I have been scared of new groups-scared that they wouldn't accept me. By doing this, though, was I accepting them? I have kept people at arm's lengths, using the fact that I'm an introvert as a crutch. Yet, I'm called to pour into my community. We are all given gifts, to edify and build each other up. If I refuse my part, then how are my gifts being used as part of the church? If you look all throughout Acts you see Paul being welcomed by different brothers in Christ. Some of these are people he didn't even know in person, yet we see over and over in his letters that he poured into them, whether face to face or in written form. This is how community is built. You have to work at it, it's not just handed to you. But the work is so more than worth it. I see it in the communities here, and I think about how much more beautiful a community would be of brothers and sisters, all having the same goal in mind. Then, I'm reminded I have this community. Even though I am separated by a ridiculous amount of distance from many of them, that does not diminish my call to encourage and build them up. 

 Then, there are those here. The community I am loving on, and my brother's and sister's in Christ. Each day I have an incredible opportunity to encourage and serve. I know I have a long way to go, but I pray that each day I am found being more and more faithful in showing them love. This is what we were created to do.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

365 days.

365 days, y'all. 365 days I have spent on the continent of Africa. 365 days away from everything I once thought familiar. 365 days of joy, tears, and every emotion in between. three hundred. sixty. five. days. 

One year ago I had no idea how in the heck I was going to survive the next year. Now, I can't imagine having spent the last 12 months anywhere else on earth. It hit me the other day how much I truly love this place. I don't just say I love it to make my mom feel better about her daughter living in some random country. I don't just say this to convince myself. I am really attached to this little piece of earth and the people here in West Africa. 

Each month has held something special, something that will forever be etched into my heart. 

In October, after two weeks of being in my "home" country, I flew to Burkina Faso to begin a month long training. This is the first time I experienced cooking outside over a gas burner. Little did I know how important these moments would become to me. Moments of sweet conversation made while cooking a meal.

In November I experienced my first stay with a local family. We stayed in this sweet baby's house in Ghana. This was the first glimpse I had of the hospitality the people of these countries have. These attitudes have taught me so much about selfless sacrifice.

 In December, I began to pick my way slowly through conversation. Hand gestures became a vital part to any conversation I found myself having. Thankful that this amazing woman stuck with me as I struggled through each word. She is the mother of a family who has become so dear to me.

  In January, I no longer found myself thinking this sight was strange. Going to the market became a weekly, sometimes daily task. I would soon get to know some of the women there on a first name basis. I was finding out that the market was not just a shopping trip, it was a social event.

 In February I turned 24. My birthday was celebrated with these friends, plus a few more. Days like this make it hard to be away from my family and friends back home. However, I saw on this night that I was making my way into a different kind of family. A family who looked nothing like me, but a family who I could celebrate the joys of life with.

In March I was able to be a tourist for the first time here. I stuck my feet into a pink lake, feared for my life while riding a running camel (I don't have good luck with riding horses and the like), and saw a few key locations in the capital. It was a good time to take a step back and really appreciate this place.

 In April I experienced my first wedding. I saw that it doesn't matter which country you are in, girls bring IT to weddings. It took me 2 hours to get ready, and I only had 2 possible outfits to wear. This is also the first time I experienced trying to drink water out of that bag I'm holding. Biting a hole into a water bag is more difficult than it sounds, trust me.

In May I found myself momentarily losing my head and running a 10k...which turned out to be 11.5k. This all happened at 4 p.m., amongst all the buses, motos, and horsecarts the city had to offer. I also experienced the water bags here. Trying to rip into a water bag after running a couple of miles in the intense Africa heat is a struggle I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. However, I finished alive, with new friends, and a t-shirt. So, worth it? For sure.

In June I took a 10 hour road trip with 3 other girls. I realized this country is really beautiful in it's unique way. I also realized I will never again take on a 10 hour road trip with no a.c. on African roads.

  In July I hopped on a little airplane, and made my way to the beautiful Italy. Over the next 10 days, I would travel all over that little country. We made our way to Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Venice, and Sienna. Another major plus was I hugged my mom and grandmother for the first time in 10 months. Such a sweet time, and such great memories were made as we hung out with gladiators, ate gelato, and fell in love with everything Italy had to offer.

  In August these five jokers showed up knocking on our door. So, of course, we welcomed them with open arms. They have been such a blessing to our team, and I am so excited to see what kind of work they will be doing the next two months they are here!

In September we were able to make our way out to a village, where we will hopefully begin to work in their school. I can't wait to see the types of relationships that are a result of these visits. So many new areas of opportunity are popping up, and I am so, so excited to see where they will all lead!

As I reflect on the past year, my heart is full. Were there tears? Yes. Intense moments of home-sickness? Of course. But, there was joy in those moments. The joy of knowing that I am exactly where I need to be. Now that this year has finished, I can look forward to the next 9 months, knowing that even greater things are going to happen.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


About 3 weeks ago, we happened to drive up on a wreck that had just occurred.  As my driver got out of the car, I saw someone put a piece of material over a young man lying on the ground. He was the driver of the horse cart that was involved in the wreck..the horsecart that a bus ran into.  My driver looked over at a woman, and asked, "Is he dead?" She let us know that he was. 

At that time, I didn't really know what kind of emotions to feel. It's a strange thing when you're confronted with death like that. So, I tried not to dwell on push it to the far recesses of my mind.

However, today, I went out to a village where some of our team members are living. As we loaded on a horsecart to go look at fields.-as I laughed with the young man driving the horsecart-as I saw him interact with his mother and the friends that surrounded him, I was reminded of the wreck and the young man lying there on the ground. At a certain moment today, the man from the wreck suddenly took on a personality in my mind. The young man from the wreck, who I don't even know his name, had a family. He left a village somewhere that morning, maybe hoping to get back to eat his mother's ceeb-u-jen for lunch.

I've seen death in the States, and I've even had a number of close family members die in the past couple of years. However, I knew where they stood regarding eternity. During these moments how do you utter words of comfort, when you're struggling with the words to say yourself? And, as I think about the people here, I am just plain overwhelmed. The task seems so big looking at it from this angle.

Please lift up this team, and this town, and these people we are trying our hardest to show love to everyday. Ask that in the moments we seem overwhelmed, we realize there are so many more players involved, who are right there in the game with us.

Thank you for being a part of this journey. For your daily encouragement. For putting up with me in the times where I don't communicate because it's so hard to put into words the things I desire to communicate. Your commitment to the people I see everyday amazes me, and I am truly thankful for you.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Do you ever feel like your words just aren't enough. 

Like that time you hung out at the Coliseum.

You can't properly describe a day like this.

Or the first time you just knew living overseas would be in your future.

  How do you even begin to explain that feeling? To tell people you aren't crazy?

Then, there are the moments you try to put your faith into words. The moments where you try to describe the one thing that means more to you in the world. The moment where you know the person on the other side of the table is absolutely clueless about the Truth-and your words just won't come. 

Where do I even start to describe a relationship that has been at work in me since I was 7 years old?  Most everyone I come into contact with in America has at least some clue as to who the Son is, and they believe He is who He says He is. However, in my day to day life here, I am surrounded by people who have no clue...and even if they have a desire to know, the world around them chokes that out. 

See, the thing is, I can't do my faith justice with my words. One thing I'm having to realize is my words alone do absolutely nothing.  I'm not the one working on their hearts. No, I am just one of the instruments being used in the process of the Father calling them to Himself.

This is hard for me to realize, though. In the times where I state what I think and a girl immediately leaves my house. This is hard in the times where my friend keeps telling me about his religious leader, and I struggle with finding the right words to tell him that there is One so much more powerful than this man-One who is relentlessly seeking after his heart. After these moments occur, I'm left thinking, "What could I have said differently? Should I have held back, said more?" Thoughts of inadequacy fill my head and my heart.

Last night, after a day full of these interactions, I was reading in 1 Corinthians.  In Chapter 2, verses 1-5, Paul is saying that He did not come to them with lofty speech or wisdom, but he knew only one thing-Jesus Christ, and him crucified. It goes on to say that he came to them in weakness and fear and much trembling, but he acted in demonstration of the Spirit. From Acts I know that this is after Paul went to Athens-after he argued at the Areopagus. He went to Athens, and he did discuss with the wise men of the city, trying to prove Christ. However, very few took what he said to heart. So, when he gets to Corinth, he knows that a man does not change by his words alone, but by the power of the Spirit.

I'm so thankful that in these moments, I don't have to rely on my words. My words are inadequate. I am inadequate, but I have One living in me who is so much more than I could ever say in my flesh. I am weak. I am full of fear. I do have much trembling, but the One living in me is Powerful, and He is already the Victor. He created each and every one I have a conversation with, and He loves them more than I ever could. I could never do Him justice, but I'm not alone. I have Him working in me, and for this I am so overjoyed. I did not come to start a work, but to join in His. He was working in these people's hearts, and He will continue working after I am gone. For now, though, I am finding joy in my weakness, and thanking Him that He is allowing me to be a small instrument in His great work.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Language Quirks

Remember that time I went some kind of time without blogging. Life changes while living on a crazy continent will do that to you sometimes. However, I'm back-and I am excited to announce something...

This month I ended language class! For the past 11 months I have been in class, learning an African dialect, Monday through Friday. Needless to say, A LOT of information has been packed into this head of mine. As strange as a different language can be sometimes, there are so many things I love about this language. Here are a few things I still laugh about..

I'll start simple. The way to say "yes" here is saying, "waaw." This is pronounced "wow." If you're really agreeing with someone, you say, "waaw, waaw." Try it's fun.

Degguma Toubab.
Toubab is the name for white people here. Most of the white people seen here are French tourists. So these people are smart, and they put 2 and 2 together. They see a white person-think they are from France-start speaking French to them. There's only a small flaw in their system. Not every white person is French-Enter Americans. So, when they start speaking French to me, I have to say "Degguma France." which means"I don't understand French." OR, my favorite, you can say, "Degguma Toubab," which literally translates, "I don't understand white people." I mean, I guess the longer I live among the people here, the more true that becomes. However, sometimes I like to think I can still think in full English sentences.

Here is just a normal set of greetings, literally translated for your enjoyment.
Question: "How are you?"
Answer: "I am here."
Q: "How is your family there?"
A: "They are there?"
Q: "How is the morning?"
A: "The morning is here only."
Q: "How is your body?"
A: "Peace Only."
Then you are allowed to start normal conversation. I always feel like I'm getting quizzed when I greet someone. My passing rate is increasing, though, the longer I live here.

Yalla bind assaman ak seuf.
 I was listening to someone tell the story of Creation, and they said this line. Literally translated, it means, "God wrote the sky and the sand." Maybe it's my love for literature and reading, but I find it so neat to think of Creation this way. God wrote the sand and the sky into existence. Isn't that beautiful to think?

"Mbooki" is the word for hyena. I don't care how many times I say this word, it will still be funny to me. You pronounce it "mmm-boo-kie." Also, last night I heard some advice from an older woman on what to do if you ever see one of these. Say "God" a lot as a way of praying, and run, run, run!

This has been such a fun language to learn, and I still get amazed every day when I understand the people around me. I am looking forward to using this language to share Truth to people who have never heard, and to hear their stories. Thank you so very much to those of you who have been lifting up my times of language!

Friday, May 31, 2013

lessons in transition

So, today I am saying a "see you later" to this little town

and these sweet people-

and I'm feeling a huge "oh snap, I'm living in the land of traffic and grocery stores and malls and toubabs (foreigners) again" because of this huge town

and these fun people.

So, basically this means I'm in the middle of another transition. However, I feel like this is a good thing. Not because I won't miss the place I've come to call home the past couple of months, but because it's given me a sense of how short my time really is here. Whenever I first came to this town in November, I knew that I would be having to leave it for a period of two and a half months come May. May seemed like forever away, though. Now it's here, and it is time to leave for a little while. Though this transition is not the easiest, there has been an abundance of lessons that I am taking away from this time.

This move is reminding me that I don't have forever living here. 
 I don't have forever to soak up the language, share life with friends, and most importantly-explain Truth in love. Two years seemed like it would never end the night I stepped off the plane, entering a culture so foreign to me. Now, I only have a little over a year left.

This move is causing me to think about expectations. 
What did I expect moving here? In what ways did I think I would be stretched and in which areas did I want to grow? In some ways life here is far exceeding my expectations. However, in other ways, I feel like I haven't been urgent enough-thinking I had all the time in the world. Speak Truth, in love, with urgency.

This move is making me trust the One who knows.
  Trusting Him in ways that are hard for me. Trusting that He loves this town more than I ever could. Trusting that He works in huge ways, though there isn't a physical presence here. Trusting that His word is going forth, and that His name is being proclaimed in the intimate moments that only He can orchestrate.

This move is allowing me a bigger sense of community. 
This may be an area of life that I have missed the most since being here. It is also something I took for granted in the States. So, my hope is to soak up every moment of living in community like this during the summer-whether it is in my language, or foreign languages. I am excited to be in the presence of the Great I Am, accompanied by the sweet spirit of a group of people who desire to be there as well.

Though this time is bittersweet, I am thankful for these lessons. My hope is that this time of transition will teach me to be completely in the "here and now." Not looking ahead, not yearning for the things that have happened, but be completely satisfied in the present moment.

...and if you need ANY packing tips, feel free to Skype me. I'm quite the pro at this point.