Wrote this a couple weeks ago and forgot to post it… so here it is.

I get to eat yummy salads!

enjoying homemade lettuce wraps 🙂

We are at someone’s house for dinner.  They ask us what were the highlights from our time in Senegal?  TJ talks and I sit there, mouth closed asking myself… what were the highlights from our time in Senegal? What do I say?

Speaking objectively, I’m here in the United States of America and I don’t have to think about Senegal, and then someone asks me, what can you tell me about life there?  And my mind goes blank….  My intelligent psychologist mother once told me that often when something hard happens to us, when we look back that’s all we see, it’s hard for our brains to move past that.  We look back to a hard situation and our brains stick there, and that’s often why we have to work through that so that it is a story of God’s grace and provision rather than just a hard thing that had no rhyme or reason.

So, I’m sitting down today to process some of this life that we’ve lived.  I don’t want to look back and just see a hard thing, I want to be reminded of who God is, and how he walked us through each and every situation.

When I think about “our time in Senegal”, it wasn’t just a time or a trip, it was our lives lived, our lives being changed, turned upside down.  It was relearning how to live.  Today I went through a bunch of pictures from our two years in Senegal, and I cried through many of them.  Some of the pictures I could remember exactly what was happening and the struggles in that moment, and now I know the struggles that were ahead of me at the time.  There were phases of life in those two years, struggles that became easier and new types of struggles that we had to work through.

Life there is so different from our American lives, and yet it became our new normal, and I am soooooo grateful for those new normals!  It became normal to not have AC, during hot season to be in a constant state of sweating, even in our beds at night, sweat puddles under our bodies became the norm.  Normal for us was NOT understanding most conversations around us, yes we were learning french, but most people were speaking Wolaf or some other language.  And even when french was being spoken, we were always missing something, because it’s not our mother tongue and we were learning!  I think a new norm was the spiritual oppression.  Children in the orphanage across the street continually yelling/memorizing their Koranic verses all day long became normal, but like a heavy weight on us.  Living in our apartment where the courtyard and open windows (no AC) connected to the 3 other apartments became a HUGE weight.  One of the husbands beat his wife from time to time, and then with neighbors who are generally unthoughtful, there was always extra drama.   There was always a slight worry that someone was gonna steel our clothes off the roof while drying since it happened from time to time.  The neighbors would often stay up till 2 in the morning, kids playing in the courtyard, loudly talking/yelling all the time!   So as you can imagine our own home was no longer our own peaceful sanctuary.  Something I didn’t realize until we finished french was that our entire two years there, there was ALWAYS this burden hanging over my head that I could be doing something else to learn french, like I should be getting out or listening or I was constantly asking myself “what am I gonna do for my session tomorrow?”  I didn’t realize the constant stress that held until we had our evaluations and we were “officially” finished with the french program.  I felt like I could take a breath in a way I hadn’t been able to do in a long time.  Something that was one of the most difficult things for me was relationships.  I think that God gave me the exact relationships he wanted me to have, but I often felt like I was failing, and even with all the efforts I made I couldn’t do any more, and that weighed on me.

As I look back though I am encouraged, I am encouraged that life became normal.  And there was so much that I came to appreciate.  Before we were overwhelmed with the amount of outside noise flowing into our apartment, and even during that appreciated the fact that our windows were open ALL the time that our house was ALWAYS open.  When it rained we would hear the intense sound it created because the windows were open.  When I sat down to look at pictures from our two years, there were so many happy moments.  I am so grateful that my brother Del and his family are in Senegal, that God gave us the time together that we had.  I think about the encouragement that that brought me and I think in every moment that I was down or was having a hard time, God always knew what I needed, and he was ALWAYS there.  He was always protecting us from the evil that was always around us, from falling into despair because of hard circumstances.  God is so faithful!  He provided close friendships along with Godly guidance from our coworkers and leaders.

I enjoyed the challenge of making a certain food that I wanted with the ingredients that were available to me.  I love that there is a boutique on every corner and if I need onions, garlic or potatoes right now, they are available to me.  I love that it’s now easy to get a taxi, that I can greet others with respect.  I am grateful to have a better (but not complete) understanding of clothing.  I am grateful to be okay and used to wearing wraps and skirts.  I am SOOOOO grateful that our kids now feel normal in Senegal, that they know how to shake hands, and that it has actually become normal.  I am so grateful we can understand the sermon at church, that we can be spiritually encouraged in french from other believers in our church… which is huge!

I love how hospitable Senegalese people are.  They have time for you.  Senegalese friends will do ANYTHING for you, relationships are no light weight deal.  We have some strong connections, and that feels like such an honor!  I love a lot of the Senegalese food, it is delicious and so flavorful!  I love that my kids are used to eating around a bowl with others now, they know and somewhat follow the “rules” of eating with others.  It is easy and normal for me to barter for and buy fabric and order clothes from our tailor, and with so many Senegalese things I don’t have American expectations for finishing dates or it looking exactly like I want.  Clothes… the fabrics are beautiful and SUCH a fun part of Senegalese culture and dress.

I was REALLY ready to come “home” and now that I am here in this place that I imagined as my home, I think I am somehow looking for fulfillment in food that I missed, in friendships, being with family, and even in going to our own church .  It is satisfying to be here, and so fun to eat every kind of berry I want, live in the air-conditioning, drink normal milk and actually pour 1/2 and 1/2 in my coffee, its wonderful to see our friends that we missed so much, and it is so wonderful to again be in our church that we so dearly missed.  It is becoming clear to me that these are not the things that fulfill me, and these things will not truly satisfy me.  It may seem so cliche, but it is the Lord Jesus who fulfills me, and only him that I need.  No matter where in the world I am or what difficulty I am going through, He will remain the same.  I have these scared thoughts that I’m not going to want to go back, that I’m gonna kick my feet and say “Why God?! Why did you choose me?”  I have honest feelings of inadequacy like I can’t do this… all of this.  I can’t deal with the un-organization of missionary life and unsettling feelings of moving all the time, and not ever “being” home.  I don’t know if I can learn another language and make another set of new friends in a culture that is so different from my own.  What if these people that I’m supposed to live near and do ministry for the next 20 years don’t like me?  There are so many unknowns hanging over me about the future… I can’t think of any other way to put it other than I feel scared.

So if I go back to what I know, there are some hard facts that I can’t afford to forget.

God is faithful.  He was extremely clear about the journey he has us on.  What I am living for is so much higher and beyond myself that I can’t afford to just look at the situation I’m in.  Living for eternity is worth it.  Trusting God with all of these unanswered questions is worth it.  Living life never feeling like I have a home is worth it, because we are following him, and in the end we pray that because of our work there will be people who get to know Jesus for the first time.  This life will pass in the blink of an eye, and at the end of it, I want to be able to stand before Jesus and give an account of how we followed him, how we trusted him and loved him.  I know that for the reward it will be worth it.

We got the girls ears pierced so that they won’t be the only ones in Senegal without their ears pierced!

We remembered Nola and I bought myself some roses.

Some friends visited Nola’s grave for us, and brought some flowers. This always does my heart good. It has been 4 years since we lost her. She will always be a part of our story, and I so look forward to meeting her!

Baby is growing healthy and strong. 🙂

We celebrated our 9th anniversary on the 11th of October. Was such a fun and delicious date!