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He is worth it

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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!

What World am I In?

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We have been here for almost a month… and these are some of my thoughts from our first few days back… more to come soon!

We are in Florida, we have touched US soil… you could say we are “home”.  I have literally been dreaming for months about what these first days might look like.  Even in my dreams, I would say to myself finally it’s not a dream, we are really here… and I would wake up and it would still be a dream.

Our last few weeks in Senegal were a whirlwind.  Our house was broken into, by the grace of God only our computer was stolen along with a couple other small things.  We made the decision to move out right away because of some other circumstances making it unsafe for us to stay in our apartment.  We packed in 2 days and moved on the 3rd.  Again, by God’s grace and provision a room opened up with our mission guest house that wasn’t originally available, and we were able to move right in!

I had been excited for so long to come home, and then Irma… Irma decided to come visit.  I stopped being excited about coming home and was just concerned for friends and family all over Florida, but mainly our home of Brevard County.  I didn’t even sleep well the night the hurricane came through, I kept checking my phone for updates from people.  Finally when Monday rolled around I could finally be excited again about coming home.  We packed the entire day on Tuesday and then left for the airport at 10:30, it was an uneventful flight thankfully.  Even though we didn’t have ANY time for our layover, we made it to the plane.  My baby belly was unhappy to be sitting up for so many consistent hours at a time, but I survived.

Landing in Florida was crazy, fun, weird, exciting and disappointing.  Our expectations had gone down because of hurricane Irma, but it was pretty sad to walk out of security to no one.  I think originally we were excited about the thought of people welcoming us home…. don’t get me wrong we COMPLETELY understand… but it doesn’t change the fact that it was a bummer.  We got our bags, and TJ’s sister Ruth was waiting for us with a truck for us and all our bags… we were so grateful she could come pick us up.  I laid down in the truck on the way home, was the first time laying down in 24 hours… this baby belly was crunched!  We went right to Publix in Cocoa to get Subs.  My body was tired and hurting, I waited in the eating area while TJ and Ruth waited for about 30 minutes in the Sub line… apparently after the hurricane everyone wanted subs.  I felt like an emotional wreck ready to start crying at any moment.  I even prayed that I wouldn’t see anyone I knew in the store because I wasn’t ready yet, God is good and answered my silly prayer… also no offense it was me not you ;).

We are SOOOOOO grateful for the Dewitt family and a certain Dewitt family member who gave up her house so that we could have a place to live just our family.  They had been cleaning and getting it all ready for us to stay in.  When I saw Joyce… my dear dear friend, she hugged me and I just started crying… why?  I don’t know, because it had been two years, too long and I was tired and emotional and didn’t know how to handle myself.  When we got to our new living arrangement, we were overwhelmed with gratefulness, and feel so so so blessed to have a place for our family to live with furniture and linens and everything we need.  Some friends of friends also are letting us use their car, which will also be a blessing.

I didn’t know what to expect as far as how we would process coming back here.  We have been on such a mission, we have been working so hard to learn french, to make effort in relationships in another culture and language and it has all been hard, good but hard.  It all came to a halting stop, and then all of the sudden we are here in this really nice townhouse, living in the air-conditioning eating Publix subs and cherries.  Just in the first couple days it has been, I feel guilty in a way for enjoying all these nice things… it’s hard to put a finger on it.  I also have little fears that come up like, what if I enjoy living back here too much?  What if I don’t want to go back?  I feel guilty for wanting to be here and not in Senegal right now… I feel scared that I won’t want to go back.  My mind and body feels stretched between two worlds, and I don’t know yet how to fit them together.  In the middle of my fears and emotions that I don’t know how to process, I’m so grateful that we serve a faithful God and that he will continue to guide, that he will deal with my heart, discourage me and encourage me in ways that I need.

There were some immediate physical changes that have been obvious to us.  The air-conditioning, we are not sweating at night, my hair is not always frizzy from constant humidity (although it’s humid here, just not in the air-conditioning).  Inside our house it is. SO. QUIET, our ears are just starting to stop ringing.  Our living situation for at least the last year has been really hard, Senegalese incense and cigarette smoke always flowing up into our house from all the open windows (no air-con), constant yelling neighbors often till two in the morning.  ALL Day, every day constant reciting of Koranic verses from the orphanage that was right across from us.  Okay, back to here.  It is sooooooo clean everywhere!  Inside there is barely a speck of dust which makes sense the windows are not open all day every day.  My mind and heart feel so peaceful, I feel like I have time or maybe just the ability to stop and think, reflect.  In our new house here there is a balcony connected to our bedroom and behind there are just palm trees and green grass, I think it might be an old golf course.  It is so peaceful and a gift of a place for me to sit in the mornings and talk with God, reflect on who he is, what he has done for us, and what he is doing, a place to just think, to just be without the absolute business of life.  These things are all gifts I feel.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.”  James 1:17


Transitioning Thoughts

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Walking off the plane and into Dakar for the first time

I don’t know exactly have to summarize these past couple years.  We arrived in this country scared and excited and I felt a little out of my mind.  There were such adjustments that had to be made to my thinking, to my life, to my family’s life.  Layers have been peeled off and peeled off, and yet I have the feeling that God is not done yet.

Something that is beyond obvious to me is that I am so human.  I can see clearly that I am weak that I’m not worth anything without Jesus Christ.  When I stop to look at myself away from Jesus, I am rather disgusted.  I have to work daily at not getting too upset with my girls for their childish behavior towards each other, and then I have to watch myself to make sure I’m not acting like the child.  I have to be careful not to get sucked into binge watching netflix during the weekend because I don’t want to face that I might have to go out and talk to people in a culture that I understand better but is still different.  I have found myself in situations where I am just not liked.  I’m not trying to be conceited, but I’ve never really felt like I was super unlikeable.  I have been in relationships here that have taught me how to be humble before God and listen to his guidance, and to remember what I’m worth to Him, not what someone thinks about me.

who could ever get upset with these sweet faces?!

We put certain expectations on people and on situations without realizing it… and we can come out of it feeling like we have failed in a way because it didn’t go like we planned.  These two years didn’t go like I planned or like how I thought they might go.  But, I learned french, a lot of culture, a lot about who God is and more about who I am.  I can tell that I’m at a deeper level of need for the Lord.  At this point, I feel needy… I don’t know what I need from him exactly, maybe his love, to remember what I’m worth to him, for who I am, spiritual encouragement and rejuvenation, maybe a few worship services in my own language, maybe a few hours of singing worship songs would be amazing.  I have an idea of what I need, but again God knows that better too. I sometimes feel bitter that God brought me to this side of the world to live, away from my family away from my friends, and I am constantly asking myself how God is going to be able to use us?  Such messes of people who are gonna continue to make such cultural blunders.  I have known that what we are doing has nothing to do with what we can do for God but for what He wants to do in us and through us… It’s all him.  But I think I have a new level of comprehension (maybe just a little deeper than before) that God is asking us to be faithful and he will do the work.  If we can continue on this road and remember that he is good,  that he is faithful, it is him who changes the hearts of man, and who goes before us in each step, then we have reason to continue pushing forward and be encouraged in who God is not in what I can do for him.  No matter where we are in the world (if you belong to him), we serve a forever faithful and unchanging God, who will never leave us nor forsake us.

Cherie. and Barcelona.

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Nov 24, 2016

This is my very first trip to Europe.  I am going to be meeting Cherie in Barcelona and I cannot wait to see her!!

After getting all my baggage together, Del and family and our family took me to the airport.  TJ helped me get to the door of the airport and I wheeled my stuff up to the kiosk.  I was nervous because it had been a while since I flew alone internationally.  When I got up to the kiosk, I started handing her my passport and putting my bag on the moving band.   She then asked me for my card that I had payed for the ticket with, then she told me it was the wrong card and that she needed the card that I payed for the ticket with.  I told her that, that specific card expired, I cut it up and threw it away!!  She told me that I needed to at least find the number if I wanted to get on this flight.  THIS IS EXACTLY THE REASON I WAS NERVOUS!!!  I was sure something like this was going to happen, and it did!!!  She motioned for me to scoot over so the next person could come up.  I wanted to cry, because I could not think of how I was going to find this number.  I called TJ and told him to do whatever he could do to find it.  I started looking up amazon purchases, vitacost purchases, anything I could find where I had used the card, the thing is that we don’t use our cards here for purchasing our groceries and such for security purchases, we just get cash out, so I could not find it!!  I decided to pray, so I stopped and prayed, knowing that I could not fix this but God could.  After praying I decided to ask her again if there was any way we could bypass this or if there was someone over her that I could talk to, so she sent me over to the guy who was head of the department.  When I got over to him, I told him that I still couldn’t find my card number, and that it was expired and that I had thrown it away, he acknowledged me, but then brushed by me to go do something else, I was sure he was just blowing me off!!  After a few minutes he came over to me and told me I could go, I was surprised… I went back over to the kiosk and what do you know they over rode the system and got me through without that wicked little number!  Praise God!!  He answered my prayers.  I was still shaky and nervous, still wanting to cry from the almost disaster.

I walked through security, and when I got to the gate I sat down in a position where I could “people” watch because who doesn’t want to do that in an airport.  A couple english men came and sat next to me, we both started sharing what we were doing in Senegal, they were there for work for a couple weeks, and I shared what we’re doing.  He continued to ask questions, because anytime people ask us what we’re doing in Senegal there is no way to get around who God is and what he is doing in our lives, and how he has lead us here.  He was a science believer, but the kind of science believer that doesn’t believe in God.  He  was fine with me believing what I believe and the muslims believing what they believe, he said that was good for “them”.  I followed that up with a bit of testimony about who God is in my life, I shared how God lead us into missions and into Senegal, and how real he is, and how no man can deny that he exists, all you have to do is look around at humans trees and the entire earth to know that there is a God.  I shared that I have a relationship with him where we communicate on a regular basis and he said that boggled his mind how we could have such clear direction and clear believe when it’s just not possible… obviously that’s where he’s mistaken, and how sad!  It was sad for me to see someone completely rejecting God!  And after living in Senegal for a while I’m not used to that, pretty much everyone believes in a god, the African people are a very spiritual people and I love that!  However obviously, I would love for everyone to know the one true God and have a personal saving relationship with him.  Even though it made me sad that he didn’t believe in God or have a desire to, it also made me thankful for my relationship with God, and for the fact that he has chosen to reveal himself to TJ, me and our girls, and I am grateful that I have a chance to know my heavenly Father and that we have hope in him!  What meaning that brings to our lives, and to know the one true God… what an incredible privilege.  In the moments after I prayed for my new acquaintance that God would be able to pierce through his currently hard heart, that he would have the chance to have a relationship with our true and great God.

Dec 11, 2016

I am beyond grateful I had to the chance to spend a week with my dear sister Cherie, and in Barcelona Spain at that!!

When I flew into Madrid after going through customs, climbing several stair, going down and up elevators and going through more check points… finally I found a bench to lay down on and sleep.  I slept for maybe about an hour.  Unfortunately there was no internet so I couldn’t do anything there… I later found a Starbucks… yay!   Even if you don’t like Starbucks, it is a beautiful site after being out of the country for over a year, I’m pretty sure I spent a fortune on my coffee and chocolate muffin, and then they didn’t have cream for my coffee… no cream?  Who uses milk instead of cream in their coffee?!  Apparently the Spaniards!!  So I asked the poor busy looking girl like 3 times for more of that canned whipped cream in my coffee, I decided that if I was going to spend this much on coffee and Starbucks at that, I was going to HAVE my cream!

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After having a nice conversation with a couple newly pregnant couple in Starbucks who just finished their vacation in Spain, I found my gate.

Upon Arriving at the Barcelona Airport, and getting my luggange, find the free buss to take me to terminal 2 and then I needed to find the train… eventually found it, but had to take quite a hike… again with my luggage.  Upon finding the train I needed to buy a special transport card and then wait for the train, I got on the train swiped my card, I payed close attention to my destination, I got off at the right place, but climbed up the wrong side of stairs… I began asking those around me where I might be able to find bus 7, after walking back and forth around a few streets dragging my 2 big pieces of luggage (had lots of gifts to give and lots of gifts to bring home) trying to communicate with people who only speak Spanish, I beginning to feel quite lost, finally I FOUND the right bus stop!!  Upon arrival at the right bus stop I SAW BUS NUMBER 7!!  So I squeezed with my bags in-between some motos and knocked on the door for  him to let me in… well because he was just after the bus stop he wasn’t going to open the door. Ugh!  So I went and sat down for what I was sure was going to be an hour, I wanted to cry, but then 10 min later another bus 7 drove up… yaaaaaay!  I got on the bus and watched carefully again for my destination, when I got off, I had to again drag my luggage down the street, across a big intersection and back down the other side, when I walked into our big hotel I took a deep breath and said “FINALLY… IIIIII’m here!”

I checked in and rested for a few hours, then went out and found some yummy food behind our hotel, and then began my trek back to the airport to help Cherie with her luggage!

My first meal in Barcelona... before getting Cherie

My first meal in Barcelona… before getting Cherie

I got on the right bus and got off at the wrong stop… so I walked aaaaaaal the way back to what I thought was the train, it was the right name, but it was the metro not the train, I used my transportation card (10 uses per card) and asked someone which direction to the airport, they said metros don’t go to the airport, so I went back out to the main area and waited 15 min for the lady to help me, but when I asked her for help, she didn’t know a lick of English!!  I didn’t know what to do, so I went up and sat outside in the cold and began to cry because I couldn’t call anyone (dif country) couldn’t talk to anyone, and I didn’t know how to get to the airport or how to get ahold of Cherie!!  Here I am sitting on the bench outside the metro crying.  A man came up to me that I had just passed in the metro and asked me if I wanted to go to the train with him, and I said I don’t know I want to go to the airport, he said the train goes to the airport, he heard me talking to the lady and he said he was a little lost too, but he could help me.  I was thanking God, and then trying to hold back all my tears as I walked with him to the train.  He helped me figure out exactly what to do.  When I got to the airport terminal 2 to be exact, Cherie never came out.  TJ called me with internet, I had a little bit, and told me that Cherie needed my help, but I was confused about where she was, the only way for me to talk to TJ was if he called me, I couldn’t call him or Cherie, So I waited for like 45-1 hour for her, and wondered what the problem was, finally I looked at her itinerary again and saw that she was in terminal 2 A and I was in 2B, so I began running outside towards terminal A… And there she was!!  She said “Theeeeerrrreee you aaaaaarrre!”.  We embraced and were sooooo glad to finally be together!!  We decided to attempt this public transport again, I had successfully done it the opposite way, so we were okay.  On the train, we were together, and it was wonderful. We shared with each other the crazy happenings of the day and night before, it was an eventful trip for both of us!  Cherie gave me a world map necklace that matched hers, so we wore them together most of the week.  You say like little girls? Maybe, but I don’t care, I love this girl and it was so fun to be together!

Together with our world map necklaces!

Together with our world map necklaces!

When we got back to the hotel we settled in a bit, but were so hungry so we headed out for a late dinner, which was fine because people eat late anyway… like 10 or 11 late!  We ate Frankfurt’s and talked and laughed and talked and laughed, it was just so nice to be sitting across the table from such a dear friend and sister.

Day 1:  The next morning to our surprise we ended up getting up at 11:30, we drank some amazingly delicious espresso from the machine in our room, and I ate the waxy donuts that Cherie brought me… Oh my goodness, sooo good!!

doonuuuuuts!

doonuuuuuts!

We went out and ate some yummy lunch.  The day consisted of a semi rainy day where we walked through the mall and I bought a jacket with money from my mother in law because I was freezing, and I don’t have any jackets in Senegal.  We walked around the beautiful, fun and old city some, they were selling fresh flowers all along the streets which was so amazing for me, because it is hard to find fresh flowers other than in pots maybe

Flowers!

Flowers!

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For dinner found a place to eat “tapas” which is a normal dinner for Spaniards, it is basically like a bunch of little plates with all kinds of food, Iberian ham and quail eggs, brie cheese, fried artichokes, olives, potatoes, scallops, and many other yummy things.  And I have to tell you it was during our dinner times that we ate fun food and talked  and laughed at, and talked and laughed some more, it did my heart such good!  And after our dinner usually we went looking for hot chocolate, because there was different types of hot chocolate all over the city.

Hot Chocolate!

Hot Chocolate!

And we of course had to find ourselves some fresh cream for our coffee in one of the little local grocery stores.  We asked someone just to verify that what we were looking at was cream, and he said “well that’s for cooking and desserts and stuff”, he was confused why we would want to put heavy cream in our coffee… again people, your missing out!  We enjoyed our cream in our coffee all week.

Day 2:   We got up a little earlier, and got out sooner, and this time I had my warm jacket to wear, I thanked my jacket several times a day for being warm for me!  We walked around the “Gothic Quarter”, we visited big churches with big windows and lots of detail.

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And I found vapor decaffeinated coffee... wahoo!!

And I found vapor decaffeinated coffee… wahoo!!

Cherie LOVED visiting the churches which made me really enjoy it too, I really just enjoyed being with her, talking and living life side by side for an entire week!  I found myself some raspberries which was is a big missed item for me!

rasberries!

rasberries!

For me, I really enjoyed being somewhere different.  I LOVED walking through the streets and seeing the balconies above the skinny allies.  I loved that everything was clean and we rarely saw a piece of trash on the ground, I enjoyed not being looked at as a foreigner, it might sound funny but as long as I didn’t talk, no one knew that I wasn’t a Spanish speaking citizen, kids weren’t yelling out “toubab” every time I walked by!!

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I loved that I could actually experience the cold.  I loved that I didn’t have to be afraid to take a deep breath for fear of breathing in a smell unheard of to most Americans.  I enjoyed the lack of dust and pollution, I liked that there were fixed prices, although sometimes I wanted to barter and did!  In the afternoon we stopped for some amazing coffee with some Irish goodness in it!

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Unfortunately this is the day I started having butt problems and by that I mean it was difficult to walk because of the pain in my leg and lower back muscles.

stretching out my hurt butt

stretching out my hurt butt

We had some incredible Asian food for dinner, like I said we had so much fun eating “fun” food!!

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This was on our way to the asian restaurant. It was a little Senegalese artisan shop, it wasn’t open sadly but it was fun to see.

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SUCH delicious food!!

Day 3:  Day 3 was massage day.  We got to the place a little early so we went to the chocolate museum that was near by… it was okay.

All of this stuff was made out of chocolate!

All of this stuff was made out of chocolate!

My amazing mother paid for our massage, for Cherie’s Birthday.  I got to spend Cherie’s Birthday with her! yaaaaaaay, so fun! The massage place was in actual ancient roman baths… wow, and there were several different types of pools we could go into, salted, jacuzzi, hot bath, warm bath and cold bath.  There was candles everywhere… no other big lights! They had hot mint tea in these ancient looking pots and fresh fruit.  I’m sure people had a membership there and I’m sure they pay a lot!!  We spent 25 min in the baths, had our massages together and then spent 25 more minutes in the baths… we opted for the hot bath mostly.  After the massage, I looked around a what seemed to be health food store with lots of stuff that I can’t get in Senegal, I just looked at  a lot of stuff because honestly it was just fun to have the option of buying it even if I didn’t have the room!  After buying a couple fun items, it was time to go to our “Dinner and a Show”.  We were both very excited about this!  We made reservations to see Spanish dancing and it came with dinner, so we bought the tickets… so worth our time and money!  Again our dinner was really fun… fun food, and such sweet conversation!!  They are really big on aged ham, they have ham legs hanging out to sell everywhere and it’s not cheap! So in the restaurant they just had this leg sitting there, and they would slice the ham right off it. For dessert there was churros, but there was only one left, so I asked if they were going to make more, they weren’t but they did for me.  They also had a chocolate fountain… yes!! So I dipped the churros in the chocolate fountain.  Most everyone was done with their dinner and had already entered the room next to us where the show would be, well, I had just got my churros and wanted to eat them!!  So all the servers were just standing at the door they kept looking at us and so we started to get up and go, I just kept taking bites of my churros… too good!!

Trying to finish my churros while they gave us the "stank" eye!

Trying to finish my churros while they gave us the “stank” eye!

In my opinion we had the best seats in the house.  We were in the middle in the back, but it was a small room, so there was only two rows of people in front of us.  The dancing was so fun and different and very entertaining!!  We laughed a lot and really enjoyed our evening!!

We weren't allowed to take pictures till the end so we took some pictures before pretending that we were watching the show... lol

We weren’t allowed to take pictures till the end so we took some pictures before pretending that we were watching the show… lol

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The show

The show

We waited awkwardly behind a couple girls for like 5 min to take a picture with this backdrop.  lol

We waited awkwardly behind a couple girls for like 5 min to take a picture with this backdrop. lol

Day 4:  We Went to History of Barcelona museum,  It was very interesting, but a lot of information! haha.. lol I’m still like a kid in that if they don’t make it really interesting for me I get a little bored, but again I was with Cherie and that’s what I wanted to do.  I paid for Cherie’s chocolate museum ticket and she paid for my history museum ticket… so it all worked out 🙂  We had a lot of fun walking around the shops looking at different stuff, Cherie noticed that I like to shop… well I do like to look at stuff, that is true! 🙂

me shopping!

me shopping!

We didn’t take pictures of food that night, because well it was rather sad, however we did find some yummy Hot Chocolate again which was like dark chocolate pudding, they happened to have some Irish goodness also 🙂  The guy made us hot chocolate and then he went to whip cream, he kept smelling the bottle and then he smelled the whipped cream after he whipped it and he said no, and through it away… but we were laughing the whole time that he kept smelling it, so it was too funny, so then he left and came back with cream and whipped it and gave it to us.  And then there was another guy that gave us some chocolates and he didn’t speak ANY English, so he pointed to the chocolate and made this expression with his face and gesture with his hands away from his mouth and said “boom boom!… boom boom” We laughed and said “Mucho Gracias”  and he said with his lively voice “Danada Chickas”  Ugh… too much laughter for Cherie and I… so good! 🙂

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We went back to our hotel room and watched a show about Queen Elizabeth, and put our tired selves to bed!

Day 5: Our last full day together, we planned a big day.  We had already bought tickets to go see Gaudi park and buildings.  When I woke up in the morning I had a headache, but I REALLY wanted to go, so I ate breakfast, took Excedrin and we were on our way.  It was a really cool and fun park, but my headache persisted.

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From the 3 high crosses in Barcelona

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We still had tickets for Sagrada Familia, so we found a little cafe, had a late lunch, I took Ibupfrophen, and we headed to the huge ongoing site and church building Sagrada Familia, I felt a little better but it was still there.  The Church adn

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the inside

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From the top of the tower in the church

 

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the Outside. Wow!

When we were all done it was evening, and we went back to the hotel, and I rested for about an hour and then we went back to the same place that we had had the tapas before, but we were a little bummed because “our” spot wasn’t available outside because the heater wasn’t working, and our waiter was not waiting on us very well like our previous waiter, who also happened to be much better looking than the older balding Indian man.  Finally our previous waiter showed up apparently he was called in, and we expressed to him our regret in coming to the restaurant because he wasn’t there to make our experience better, good looks and good service goes a long way people!!

Day 6: Departure Day.  This day I had planned on going to the airport with Cherie on public transport to save money and spend a tiny bit more time with her, but that night I woke up with another raging headache and took more medicine as well as tried to find something small to eat in the room.  After taking the medicine my stomach hurt and I couldn’t sleep, and before getting up in the morning I had only gotten 1 hour of sleep.  So I decided to rest in the hotel and leave around 12 when I needed to go.  Fortunately I did feel a little better by the time I needed to go.  I took a taxi where you tag them on your phone and they come pick you up and you pay directly on your phone… pretty cool.  When I got to the airport apparently airport cleaning maintenance was on strike, they had come to the airport with newspapers and shredded them all over the inside.  I laughed all the way through the airport.

Airport was on Strike

Airport was on Strike

In Madrid when I got to my next gate, there were Senegalese everywhere speaking Wolof, and even though I don’t understand Wolaf and even though at times it has been the root of my frustration, it sounded like home, I was happy to be in my comfort zone again.  I took the day as easy as I could, but by the time I arrived in Dakar, my head was pounding and I was feeling terrible.  At one point during my flight there were several young men surrounding me asking me all sorts of questions… and finally the question came “Are you married?” and of course I say yes, and they say “Oh to a Senegalese?” and I explain that no he’s American and we have 2 daughters and like always they didn’t believe me, so I showed them a picture.  I explained that even if I was unmarried I wouldn’t marry them because they take more than one wife, and I don’t work that way… so of course we discussed that for a while.  Right before the plane landed I slipped my Senegalese skirt on over my pants to hopefully help my case as I arrived in Dakar.  Sure enough that skirt did more than I could have ever imagined!!  When I stood up to get off the plane all those same men started commenting… “Ooooh she’s Senegalese, look at that skirt” They were even showing the other women what was appropriate to wear.. whoops.. lol  When I got off the plane and arrived at customs, the man was very kind to me and started laughing with me, he told me he loved my skirt and wanted his wife to wear a skirt like that.  The comments continued through the airport, as I got out the gate people didn’t really bother me the way they normally do, because I had my skirt on, and all the way out to the car, people knew I lived here.  When I got to the airport I will wear those clothes. every. time.

Finally I got my man, and my baby Penny… poor Ava was sick in the back seat! 🙁  I was so happy to be home, but also in so much pain from the migraine.

And coming back to Senegal after being in Spain for a week, there was things I realized that I was grateful for.  It was good for me to come back to Senegal and realize how much it really is my home!!  I love that we are surrounded by Africans, I love that it is rude to not acknowledge someone, it is the right thing to do to ask a neighbor, friend or acquaintance about their family and how their are doing.  I love their desire to help one another and that relationships are worth so much here!!  I love that this is my home and this is where my family is.

This is what my family made for my coming home

This is what my family made for my coming home

 

Undoing

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We’ve been looking forward to this in the sense that we knew that our lives would be lived on the other side of the world serving God, we knew that.  I has been 11 years since God asked me to “GO”!

These days I miss home…  I really miss it!  I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been here for a year and everything is pretty much normal, and we are used to life.  After a year of living here there are things that I am missing that I didn’t really miss before, new things.  I made a meal for a group of friends the other day, which if you don’t know truly is my love language, if I work hard to make food for you it’s because I care and want to show it!  This group of friends… well they didn’t not enjoy it, but after eating my Indian Butter chicken, Naan and Raita they didn’t respond the way that some of my other friends would have responded.  I wasn’t extremely disappointed because I know this is a different land, different culture, different taste buds, but after,  I did miss those people who LOVE to eat my food… you know who you are!

Butter Chicken and Raita

Butter Chicken and Raita

I have been quite emotional… and it’s not even “THAT” time of the month.  I have missed friends and family, and church…. Home, I have missed home.  I think what I forgot is that it’s OKAY to miss home.  I think I forgot that when God asked me to come here he knew I would be leaving a part of my heart elsewhere.  I miss my car, which is weird I haven’t really thought about that for a year, but ya I miss driving and singing at the top of my lungs, having much needed conversations with my Lord.  It’s like after a year these things are becoming a reality.  Even though I know that we moved our lives here, I have still felt like we are just on this trip and we will go back home sometime soon.

Undoing.  I feel like God is undoing me a little bit… a lot-a-bit!  This refining, redefining, this undoing, redoing process is hard.  It’s sort of like a grieving process which we all know just takes time.  I think I am grieving my life, my friends, my family, my church and my culture being ripped away from me.  I am coming to the next level of realization that this has been left behind.  Because my relationships are important to me I still stay connected and my heart will always be all over this planet in the hands of close friends and family.  Today I hold tight my husband and my two daughters who I am so grateful I get to be on this journey with.  At the end of the day when I ask myself if this is worth it?  There is no question in my mind, because God is good and I honestly don’t want to be anywhere but where He wants us.  He said “GO” and here we are.  There are lonely hard moments, but as I learn to lean into him, I find that we have such sweet time together, and that daily life and small daily decisions cannot be made without him.  And what I cannot forget is that this is a privilege that He has chosen us, seriously weak people to do his work.  I am grateful for HIS clarity and knowing without a doubt that it is GOD who brought us here, and the SAME God who is working in the hearts of men drawing them to himself.

A question I realize has been entering people’s minds is, how am I doing in the baby department?  You know it’s funny!  I have been so content with where I am at and have been so grateful to just be our family this past year, to not focus on  babies, or worried about loosing babies.  I have not had a desire for more children right now, other pregnant people have not brought pain to my heart, I have honestly just been content with the break enjoying the lack of pain and suffering.

All that said, I also realized that having lost several babies, has effected my two daughters as well as the fact that they want more siblings.  So if we have more kids, that will effect them, if we loose more babies that will effect them and if we have no more kids, that will also effect them… there is no way out here.  Not too long after we moved here Ava promised that she would be praying for a brother every day, she has not failed.  Ava and now Penny pray for 2 baby boys every. single. night.  Penny now prays for their lives, she prays they will serve God, and be good Godly men, she prays for specific things in their lives.  Last week she prayed that TJ would make them a crib and told God “How can we have 2 boy babies and no crib?”, “Daddy better make a crib”.  To tell you the truth I don’t know what to do with this, and my heart is a little calloused I think.  TJ and I have been challenged to continue reminding God of his promises as we look forward to whoever baby Joseph is, so that is what we have been doing.  And most recently we have been challenged to just lean into God and who he is, to seek his face, not to look for what miracles he has for us, but to seek Him and his character.

Yesterday Ava started talking about lost babies as she often does.  She talked about Nola and told me she remembered looking at the sonogram without a heartbeat and seeing mommy cry all the way home, she remembered looking at Nola’s body before putting her in the ground.  She remembered very specific moments, and this normally doesn’t bother me, I think it’s good for her to work through the emotions and memories.  However yesterday was a little different for me, she started talking about our last baby, she said “mommy, do you remember how me and Penny were looking at those videos every week on the couch about how your baby was growing? And then all of the sudden one day we just stopped watching them?” I had forgotten about that… You know how I was doing fine?  How content I was feeling?  In this moment my heart felt an instant stab of pain like it had just happened… As those last words flowed out of her mouth tears rolled down my face.  Part of the pain is that it effects my children too, not just me or TJ, they feel the pain too!  It was the first time in a long time that I felt that really strong, pit in my stomach pain of loosing so many children.  It’s the pain of burying my daughter, the pain of seeing a pregnancy test, being excited and coming to find I have lost another one.  The pain of believing God had a baby for me and then loosing it.  Soooo… I suppose part of missing home is also from the pain of this journey with our children.  I know it’s not over yet, so here I am I can’t do anything but lean into him.  He knows me and my heart, he knows my daughters and their heart’s, he hears their cries, He hears mine.

Ava and her Nanny

Ava and her Nanny

Penny and her Nanny

Penny and her Nanny

Watch. Learn. Feel. Post #2

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There we were on our roof, pacing from one side to the other, peeking our head’s over the the edge, witnessing all the men in the neighbor’s households killing their own sheep, letting the blood flow from no longer breathing sheep.  Through out the day we continued to go on the roof to see what the neighbors were up to.  The women seemed to be preparing all day, cutting up tons of potatoes, cutting tons of onions, and wrapping what seemed like intestines around something… and we began to smell the amazing smells of a city cooking mutton.

And here we are a year later, our dreams came true and we were invited to someone’s house for Tabaski.   We didn’t know a whole lot about the event except that they kill a sheep for the sins of the family and then the women spend the entire day preparing.  We knew that there were nice clothes involved, but wasn’t sure exactly what that meant.

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I got my iron out and my ironing board which is a piece of wood and a towel that I put over our coffee table in my bedroom.  I got out my dress and the girls dresses that all match, and ironed everything.  I did each girls hair, then my own hair and my own make up.  TJ was waiting for a call to let us know when to come.  When he got the call, TJ said “so when should we come?”  he said “Now!”  We were nowhere near ready, but did what we could to get out the door.   We headed to a town about 45 minutes outside of Dakar depending on Traffic… could be two hours!

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When we got to the gas station our friend told us to go to, we got out of the taxi and found some Klondos close by that also take people where they need to go, but each person pays for their seat rather than for an entire taxi.  El Hadj, our friend talked to the Klondo driver to explain how to get there, but he needed to take someone else to her destination first, so there we were waiting, wishing we could just get a taxi, us impatient Americans… but we waited, Ava needed to pee so I helped her find the side of a building, when we returned the Klondo was there.     Our Klondo driver talked to El Hadj our friend as we went down some back dirt roads, until we saw him.  We got out of the Klondo and payed him, at this point there was almost ponds in the road because of the rain the night before and so we couldn’t drive through.  So we made it back to his house.

Upon arriving at his new house, there was his brother, continuing to clean insides of the lamb over a large bucket.  They brought us into their house that they had been living in for just a month, it was new and quite nice.  You could tell they had just moved there and they weren’t quite settled.  As soon as we walked in, our friend showed us his bedroom that we could relax in if we wanted to, I think they weren’t exactly sure what to do with us.  They brought a mattress out to put on the floor with a new sheet.  We had brought some coloring stuff for the girls and so Ava began coloring and sharing her stuff with a little girl and boy there she had just met.  Penny was a little more curious about what the men were doing, so she went out with TJ to watch the gut cleaning happenings.  Even TJ got to do some chopping 😉

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I poked my head in the kitchen area, said hi and asked if I could be of help to the women.  They said “Oh no no no, it’s okay… you rest!”  I explained to them that last year I saw all of this happening all around me, and that this year, if I got the chance to attend a Tabaski party at someone’s house I wanted to help prepare!!

A few minutes later they called me into the kitchen, and El Hadj’s new wife gave me a different skirt to wear instead of my nice clothes for preparing.  I realized who she was, because if you remember, we attended a marriage event before… well this was the couple!  So it was really nice to have already met her and have some things to talk about, there was some connection there!  I met El Hadj’s older sister and I think a cousin who was cutting onions.  After a little while of sitting there on a bench doing nothing, I grabbed a knife and just starting cutting onions Senegalese style, mind you I have cut like 2 onions like this before… I suck to say the least.  It’s a very particular method, much different from the American way of cutting onions, which I’m super good at… but this is not America and I cut onions worse than a 12 year old girl.  But, I was SOOOOOO grateful BECAUSE they let me cut onions.  They didn’t say things like others before me, like “your too slow, give that job to someone else” or “give her something easier to do!” (like a child).  So the 16 year old girl showed me how to cut onions, and she put a little piece of onion on my head so that I wouldn’t  cry while cutting onions… it kept falling off and we kept laughing about it.  I never thought I would say this, but… I GOT TO CUT ONIONS!!!”.  Penny even came in for a while and they let her pound the big mortar and pestle, I told them she LOVES to cook with me in the kitchen and so they let her do that until they started putting spicy peppers in then they took over.  They were making a large amount of yummy, onion garlic peppery paste for the mutton they were going to cook next.

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After helping prepare in the kitchen for a while we got ready to eat a meal.  It is the first meal they eat in the day.  The girls ate with the mama of the household around a platter, and we ate around a different platter with the others.  There was meat and bones spread around the platter with little dollops of mayo around, and then we ate it with bread.  The meat consisted of the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys… and it sounds like it wouldn’t be super yummy, but truth is that it was SUPER yummy!!  The flavors were popping, and the experience was rich for us.  We laughed and talked, and took pictures.  They were so welcoming and it was the beginning of a relaxing un-stressful day, where we could just live, learn and be.

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The last time we were at an event with El Hadj it was for their marriage and there was ALOT of people there, all his friends and extended family.  It was a totally different feeling, for us it was good but stressful and a little overwhelming.  We imagined this day being sort of like that and so we were trying to mentally prepare our minds for something like that.  But it wasn’t at all like that.  He really did invite us to an event with just his family, and we felt really honored to be there and to be included on this special day for them.

After the first meal that we ate about 1:00 P.M. the younger girls cleaned up all the dishes and then cleaning happened in the courtyard area in-between the kitchen and living room because that’s where a lot of the cutting up of the meat happened.  After all the clean up, I went back into the kitchen and watched them begin cooking the huge pot of onions, and the huge pot of meat with all those yummy things they had pounded in the big wooden pestle.  That cooked for several hours.

big pot of onions :)

big pot of onions 🙂

big pot of meat :)

big pot of meat 🙂

They also cooked the fries.  The sister told me that the potatoes were from Mauritania, and they were different and a little more expensive so we were going to be having some special kinds of fries with our meal.  During the afternoon, the girls played outside, colored, watched some shows on TJ’s phone, it was a relaxing non stressful time for them as well.  TJ spent hours sitting on that mattress on the living room floor with El Hadj talking about the condition of the heart and discussing spiritual things.  I was proud of TJ, these things are not easy for us to talk about in French right now. He was pushing through!!

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Around 5:00 p.m.  We all gathered around the 2 platters again and began eating the main meal of the day.  This time there was mutton in the middle (the stuff that had been cooking for hours!) and then fries and mayo around the outside.   So we ate once again with bread.  They explained that on this day no one eats rice… here they eat rice every day, but on Tabaski rice is not eaten!  The meal was sooooooo good!!

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Through out the day there were people that would come by, and it was explained to us that this day is a day for pardoning and so everyone who needed to ask for forgiveness would come by and ask for forgiveness for whatever they did wrong that year.   I was getting very tired after the meal and was just sitting on the living room mattress, and Ellage’s wife brought a bunch of pictures of her sister in law’s wedding because we had been talking about it before.  So we sat and talked about all the pictures and about the customs for a muslim wedding for them.  She explained that the day we came to see them on their wedding day they had been to the mosque to get married and then she went to her families house to celebrate with them and he went to his families house to celebrate with them, and there were lots of people at both houses.  I asked her if there would be a big celebration and when would that be?  She said there wouldn’t be a big wedding party until they have their first child, it will be then that they have a big party.

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She explained to me that she had just arrived at El Hadj’s house the Saturday before at 2 in the morning (Tabaski was on Monday) and they had been married in late May… She had JUST arrived to live with him.  She said sometimes when people get married the wife never lives with her husband, it depends on what she wants to do.  I asked her if she knew him before they got married, and she explained that his mom knew her and really liked her, because she was smart, kind, worked hard, and thought that she would be a good wife.  She met all of his family and he met all of her family, but they never met each other until their wedding day.  And if I understand right this is the first time she was actually living with her husband.  I don’t know how it is with everyone, but he was pretty excited to have her there!  She also explained to me that there is a baptismal ceremony one week after the baby is born.  The mom gets all dressed up (ONE WEEK AFTER SHE GAVE BIRTH)… I’m like what?  one week?  They said ya, maybe Africans are stronger than “toubabs” (white people).

After talking for a while, she and I went out and sat on the steps she explained to me that little kids would be coming by to ask for money.  All the kids do it, and all the neighbors give little pieces of money.  She told me she was going to go change again.  So here I was on the steps with TJ and the girls and sure enough kids all over the neighborhood were VERY dressed up and were going around asking for money.  Most of the girls wore heals, even the little little ones.  It was really fun seeing everyone so dressed up!!

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Then my friend came back out and she had this beautiful dress on, and then I noticed most people would be wearing a really beautiful dress.  Later I asked her more about it.  She said the fabric was about $22 a meter and she bought 4 meters, and it is normally about $60 to have this dress made.  For a nice wax African fabric it’s about $16 for 6 meters and then maybe $10 to have a dress made and you have fabric left over, so you can see the difference here.  You can see Tabaski is a big expense here which is why you have to be vigilant in the weeks leading up to it.  Each family also needs to buy however many rams which can range from 150,000CFA to 10,000,000CFA ($300-$17,000)  It is not cheap, and most people here don’t make this kind of money).

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Anyway, when the time arrived for us to leave, our friends did not want us to leave and they asked if we could stay the night, or maybe insisted.  We reminded them that we are learning little by little, this was a good day but we needed to go home and rest, maybe next year when we bring clothes and are prepared :).  We walked for about 1/2 hour back to the main road in the dark shining light with our phones, when we got to the road all the taxi’s were full so we got another Klondo. When we arrived into the city a little bit there, we were gonna try to get a taxi, our Klondo driver reminded us that we were the only white people out here right now and it’s sort of dangerous so to hold on to my purse good, and to get a taxi as quickly as we could… So I prayed God would provide us with one quickly and He did.  We got in the taxi, the girls fell over and fell asleep and we arrived home about 1 hour later back into the city.  It was a wonderful day and I’m grateful for the relationship and for the time to learn about people here, what they do and why, while getting to know them.  I’m super grateful to the Lord for these opportunities.

sooo tired!

sooo tired!

 

Watch. Learn. Feel. Post #1

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We the Shropshire family have been living in Senegal for over a year now.  These past couple weeks for me have been full of cultural experiences.  Before… before living here, moving here, before relationships and investing, I imagined learning culture as being outside of myself, as part of another person’s life, but as we begin to dive in deeper it is not quite what I imagined.  Yes it is the culture of another life, different from my own.  BUT. As we learn about different cultures, we are also learning about the lives of our friends and why they live the way they do, it is personal because we love these people and they are our friends, some things are wonderful and I want to fully embrace the difference, and some things are sad, and hard, or have eternal consequences and those are moments that make our hearts hurt.  Because we are learning another culture somewhat through the eyes of friends and African family, things that effect them effect us, things that hurt them hurt our hearts too, we are right there with them watching, learning, feeling.

Last week you could say that I got the opportunity to attend a catholic funeral with one of my closest Senegalese friends, but I have a hard time calling it an opportunity because it was a hard day for all involved.  My heart hurt for the family and loved ones.  I will say I got the opportunity to be with my friend “M” throughout the day, it was a blessing for me to be there for her, and to understand a little more of her pain of suddenly loosing a 19 year old cousin.

This is the dress, an old picture, but the dress indeed.

This is the dress, an old picture, but the dress indeed.

 

I had asked “M” if she could help me pick out a dress for the funeral because I didn’t know what to where, I am still trying to figure out what is appropriate dress here anyway, different dress for different occasions, I wish I had an instruction manual… It’s complicated… (whimpering noises).  So she picked out a dress, it has wide straps but wasn’t covering my shoulders, it was made out of the african wax fabric here, and was darker colors, which is probably why she picked it.  The entire day before, I was nervous about going, and wondered why I had asked if I could go with her, but she had already said yes and assumed I would be coming, I felt committed and knew it was something I needed to do.

The morning arrived and I got ready, still nervous because of everything being new, unknown, and because it was a fragile situation.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I had told “M” to please tell me everything that I need to do because I know NOTHING!!  She understood and promised that she would let me know.  Before leaving the house I made sure to put some money in an envelope for giving to the family because I knew that was appropriate, that’s about all I knew!  I brought water and something to eat, and medicine for the headache I knew I would be getting.  We left the house about 9:30 a.m. and the family’s whose son died lives close to our house so we walked there, when we arrived the family had already left, but we picked up a couple girls and then walked to the main road to get a taxi… a taxi to the hospital.  Of course the taxi-man gave a really high price, and I made a comment that it was because I was white, they laughed, and nodded.  We got the next taxi and arrived at the Morgue (next to the hospital) about 15 minutes later.

We walked across the street, through a big gated area, we came upon a big covered seating area with a rectangle of benches were people could sit facing to the inside as well as to the outside.  As soon as we walked up, “M” handed me her shawl and said quickly “cover yourself, and do not look at ANYONE!”  That was a surprise, I didn’t know why but I just did what she said.  We then walked up to the mother whose son died and I shook her hand (like you do here with anyone you are saying hi to) and I gave her my condolences “mes condoléances” we then sat facing the inside of the rectangle. As I sat there I wondered if I could start looking at people or if I still needed to avoid eye contact with the rest of the 50 women there.  I began to relax, and looked around.  I asked why I needed to put the wrap on and not look at anyone, and she said she was afraid the Older Madjack women were judging me, and she didn’t want that, she said Madjack’s can be complicated… I don’t know what that means but okay. I do however realize the next time I attend an event like this I will be wearing a dress with sleeves.

There were only women sitting in the covered area, most of the women were wearing black and white, and I asked why she didn’t have me where black and white, and she said black and white is for the family to wear.  And so I realized that this was a privilege for me and that I was here with family.  “M” is family and that is why she was there, and here I was also, I understood that this was fragile and difficult for all involved.

The young 19 year old man who died had been playing soccer with his friends on the field near our house and he just fell down, eyes rolling in the back of his head, died only a few minutes later.  It was unexpected and sudden.  He had 7 brothers and 3 sisters, it was a painful shock to all.  This was on a Thursday and he had died the Sunday previous.

As we sat there, “M” explained to me that in the room behind us and to the left, they were washing the body.  Sometimes you can hire someone at the morgue to wash the body for you, but that can be expensive and so this family opted to wash and prepare the body themselves.  After washing and preparing the body, the family would walk through the room to view the body.

So after about an hour and a half or more, slowly, women began trickling into the room to view the son, and suddenly everyone started walking towards the room.  I stood up with “M” and took a deep breath knowing this was going to be hard on all these women.  We approached the door and “M” walked in but then she backed out because I think it was just too much for her, I wasn’t going to hang around, I passed the mother who began quickly leaving the room where her son lay lifeless saying “My God My God My God My God” Tears filled my eyes as I imagined her pain, I walked in the room, saw the boy lying there in his coffin,  his body was covered with white sheets but his head visible with a brace holding his neck up, I’m assuming so that everyone would actually be able to see him.  I exited the second door, and when I arrived outside again I saw a young women in the other doorway crying out, and convulsing… almost seizing, everyone around her began holding her, someone began fanning her.  I have not personally seen anything like it before, but I later found out she was one of his sisters.  I can only imagine she was feeling the pain of grief and it was unimaginable and unbearable to see her brother lying there without life.  They laid her on the ground and eventually she calmed down, she may have fainted also, I’m not sure.

As everyone went in and came out, all the women began crying, crying out… wailing.  As most of the women came back to the seating area, there were those who stayed in the room singing songs.  After a little while, the van pulled up to the room and the men in the van put the casket in the van, and as the van drove out of the morgue property, there was more screaming and crying, I assume from the realization that he was gone.  We walked towards the gate and to the road.  We got another Taxi to head to the Catholic Church.  When we arrived, the church was empty, so we began walking behind the church, as we walked down several steps there was another building on the catholic grounds.

A side note, this was not a french day for me.  Everyone was speaking Wolof the. entire. day.  If “M” or her mom needed to tell me something they would tell me in french obviously, but everything else was in Wolof… sometimes I wonder why we’re learning french! (There is much merit to it, but on days like these, I wonder)

“M” told me that this was where the viewing would be happening.  Inside the building was benches and also where the body lay, so that people could say their goodbyes.  It was not just for family but for anyone who wanted to come.  It came to my attention that we would be waiting here for a few hours sitting under a tree or on the steps.  Through out the hours several people were concerned for me that I needed to go inside and sit down, and that I needed special attention to make sure I was comfortable, and “M” told me every time someone made a suggestion of going inside or something. I told “M” I didn’t want anything special I just wanted to be with her, and do the same things everyone else was doing, “M” obliged me and said that was fine.

People continued to trickle in to see their friend, son, brother or acquaintance for the last time.  There were again different episodes of cries and the occasional person that began seizing and fainting from grief, at one point a woman left the premises and everyone heard her fall to the ground and came to her rescue, she began screaming and seizing… she was also given some special attention.  At one point about 30 at least, young men showed up along with a few girls, and moms all wearing a shirt with a picture of the boy on the bottom saying “RIP”.  Some of them were tough young men, sunglasses on, and headphones around their neck, they went into the room to see their friend and when they came back out, there was a completely different attitude about them.  Some, you could tell were closer to the boy than others, these young men were crying, saddened by the loss of their friend.  It was hard to watch.  People completely normal would go in and when they came out were in another state, of sadness and mourning, you could tell it was an individual process for everyone, but everyone knew him and loved him.  Every once and a while you would hear singing in the room.  After about three and a half hours, the van pulled up again to get the casket, and I could tell “M” needed a minute so I left her there and gave her some space, she moved closer to the van as to witness them putting him into the van.  Every time the casket was moved into the van, it was another realization that he was gone, and there would be cries and more wailing, more crying and sadness, sometimes more fainting and convulsing.  The van drove slowly out as about 30 people, mostly family followed behind all the way to the other side where they put the casket into the church to have the service for him.

I now had that strong headache I told you I would be getting.  I was with “T” (“M”’s mom) at this point who is a believer also, and I decided I needed to get some food while everyone was in the church because it’s not okay to just eat your food in front of other people… very rude! So we went and got some food. I ate it and took my medicine and drank lots of water, I felt a little better, but not completely.  It was a tiring hot day, but I wasn’t about to start complaining.

About an hour and a half later the service was over and we went to the cemetery.  When we got there, we waited for the van, when the van got there with the casket everyone came up close behind the van. The priest was there, he put something on over his head and got some holy water ready I think, and the van began moving forward slowly.  Everyone (maybe 200 people?) not saying a word walked behind the van, every couple seconds everyone would say a prayer for the most recent deceased, a prayer for his soul.  During the walking I was separated from “M”, we walked all the way to the back of the cemetery, and when the van stopped I couldn’t see a thing, so I looked around for “T” finally I found her, she wasn’t too far away but I was afraid to make a scene getting there.  I decided it was worth it and made my way behind some of the crowd, when I got to her I could see everything.  There was the priest, each family member began taking the utensils and shaking holy water towards the casket.  There was also a large wreath of flowers to put on the grave.  After a few words were said, the brothers gathered around casket to put it into the grounds, and one of the brothers fell to the ground weak with grief, began sobbing, unable to lift himself, his brother helped him, but he couldn’t be helped… this is more than a cultural experience but a sharing the sadness of loosing someone close, my heart hurt for these people.

As they lay him into his grave, the wailing, screaming, and crying was overwhelming.  There were others who again began seizing with grief, fainting because of the inability to breath.  I found the emotional expressions of Africans very interesting and almost refreshing, because there was no hiding it.  There was no shame in being sad or showing your grief, maybe a little bit for the men but in general it was very invited and excepted.  “T” next to me also began wailing and being next to her I held her.  As the casket went into the ground everyone began leaving the premises as quickly as possible, there was no hanging around.  As I walked back I found “M” she also was weak with grief, big tears running down her face.  If we were not close I would have left others to care for her, but she is my close friend, and I was there.  I put my arm around her holding her up, and helping her walk out, she began reaching behind her and crying because of not wanting to leave the boy behind… she was having a hard time letting him go, but it was a necessary breakdown… It was important for her to breakdown in order to grieve the way she needed to.

We walked back together not saying a word, when she was strong enough to be able to walk on her own, I just held her hand all the way back to the parking lot.  Here holding hands is a sign close friendship, this was my chance to let her know that I’m here for her.  When we got to the parking lot, we walked out and got another taxi back to our neighborhood.  Being how “T” and “M” are family I stood in the long line that wrapped around the block by myself to give my condolences to the family.  I stood in line for about 45 minutes before getting my chance to shake all the family member’s hands telling all “mes condoléances” and handing the mama my envelope with money for their family as funerals bring a lot of family to town, and is quite costly to continually feed everyone.  There was a dinner that would follow later, but I was very tired, and it was not necessary I stay for dinner and staying for the condolences was the most important for me.

So I got home around eight that night. I recounted the day to TJ and then fell on the bed dead asleep for several hours while TJ put the girls to bed… Good man taking care of the girls so that I could do this.

It was an emotionally and physically draining day, but a good experience for me, to watch, to learn, and to feel.

Traveling South

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People waiting to get on the barge!

We left Dakar… and not just for a vacation 1.5 hours away, we left Dakar, crossed The Gambia  aaaaaaaaaaaannnd the Gambia River and made it to the other side… we made it to Southern Senegal for the first time.  We have many friends from Southern Senegal, but have never visited!  We left Dakar at 4:07 in the morning, packed in Del and Arielle’s car with all our things loaded on the roof.  It only took us a few hours to get to the Gambia border everyone sleeping on and off in awkward positions, Del got out of the car a few times to do different paper work and buy tickets to get across the river, and TJ went with him as to learn the ropes.  When we got to the Gambia River crossing… there was a long line of trucks on the right and a long line of cars on the left.  Each side of the very dusty dirt road there was people selling stuff, sugar, rice, mayo mustard… and many other things.  There were other vendors selling meat sandwiches and people walking around selling cold drinks and cold water, soccer balls, and “bon-bon” cookies and candies.  We pulled up behind the last car and Del thought the line and wait would be shorter seeing how we got there so much earlier than the last time they went through.  He said “welp… we’ll be here most of the day”  For some reason I didn’t realize we were going to be waiting like so for hours on end… so I attempted to ready my brain quick for the hurry up and wait situation we were in.  And as we waited there were cars and cars flying by us going right up to where they were loading vehicles onto the barge… one word:  Bribe… and we were not willing to bribe so we waited a total of 5 and a half hours to get on the barge.  So some of you may be able to relate some of you not, I have a fear of the action of “squatty pottying”  so… I wasn’t drinking tons of water, or drinking coffee… well I got a headache so eventually I bought some nescafe from a little vendor, and it was actually amazing… he put some of that sweetened condensed milk in it, and the water he poured in was REALLY hot which is good because I don’t know how clean that glass was!

Drinking my nescafe!

Drinking my nescafe!

It was a pretty hot day, and there was something like a dust storm every time a car drove by us, so I did end up drinking lots and lots of water, but managed not to use the bathroom until we got to Del and Ari’s, a total of 16 hours, pretty sure that’s a record for me.  I’m pretty sure I’m gonna need to get over this fear and figure out this squatty potty business, which honestly is a necessity for living in Senegal… one step at a time “petite a petite” as they say here.

IMG_4793TJ, the girls and I walked up to the barge at one point because we needed something to do.  There were two barges, a bigger one and a smaller one, we were looking on from the side/dock area over the railing.  We watched as all the cars and people came off, as I looked over to the left a bus was driving towards the barge, there was lots of luggage stacked on top of the bus and it was stacked in a way that caused the bus to heavily lean over to one side, and then we realized there was about 8 sheep also strapped to the top… I was sure the bus was going to tip over as it drove down towards the ramp and up onto the barge.  It didn’t amazingly enough.  Eventually we made it onto the boat after several hours of waiting, now I understand what people mean when they say you never know how long it’s gonna take!

 

We had a wonderful time with Del and Arielle.  Poor Ari was sick, but we got the chance to just be with them out of the city, and in their new little town.  It was wonderful… and for your information my squatty potty skills are getting pretty good!!  😉

It was good to just sit with no sound and listen to the Lord and what he had to say to me.  It was wonderful to connect to the area with the land and with the people.  God is good to confirm his decisions in our hearts and to continue guiding us!

This is what we took on the way back!

This is what we took on the way back we took this 7 place (there were 12 people inside!

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On our way back from Southern Senegal

 

 

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Ava got her hair braided and loves it, but she cried and felt the pain of all our women African friends

2 girls that came from Germany for a visit... Loved getting to know them!

2 girls that came from Germany for a visit… Loved getting to know them!

Marraige

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Sunday May 22nd,

We went to a wedding today… wait wait wait… let me back up.  We thought we were going to a wedding today.  As it turns out we got to see the bride and then we got to see the groom, but we didn’t make it to the ceremony… wait, I’m confused.  Lets start over.

Friday we see our neighbor outside our house who TJ has had tea with a couple times and we make effort to talk to when we see him. We saw him when we were on our way out, he tells us he’s getting married on Sunday, we were like “What?”  This Sunday? Like 2 days from now Sunday? He said “Yes, come if you have time!”  We immediately cleared our Calendar for 2 days away…  ‘Cultural experience’ was set on the docket.  We told all our friends and family we were going to a wedding on Sunday evening.  We were told that weddings don’t start when they say they start, so we wouldn’t need to get there at the time he said.

His directions to come to the wedding was “ya it’s near this gas station, in this ______ neighborhood”  So we got all dressed up and left our house fashionably late so that we would get there “on time”.

All ready to go!

All dressed up!

When we arrived at the gas station we told our taxi driver that there was a marriage happening, but we didn’t know where, so he began asking people on every corner (in wolof) if there was a marriage near by.  People kept pointing in the direction where they had been hearing the drums… and so finally we come to the front of a house/apartment building and ask if they know where the marriage is?  They said Oh, it’s here! So we pay and thank our taxi driver, we greet all the young men outside, shaking everyone’s hands as we walk down through the door way, through the kitchen area, into another door way, and into the living room, they immediately sat us down on the big couch. Next, a woman sat down in between us and they began taking pictures, they told us to squish in more and took another.  After the picture, I asked the girl who the bride is, she said she was the bride, I said Oh I thought so!  Congratulations!

The Bride

The Bride

Here we were complete strangers in a house we didn’t know, everyone was dressed up with their hair done and it looked as though a marriage would be happening.  We sat there for a few minutes talking with the girls around us, and after a little while a man told us he would be taking us to the groom’s house.  We thought the wedding was going to be at the house we were at.  I asked my new acquaintance if the marriage was at their house or at the other guy’s house, and everyone just kept saying yes… we were confused to say the least.  We went with this guy, so here we are again in a taxi off to someone’s house, maybe we will be going to the wedding now?  We were not sure what to expect.  So finally we arrive at the next place, we got up about 5 flights of stairs and enter the groom’s families house.  There was a lot of people there!  We walk into the living room, and they sit us down, we then shake everyone’s hands in the room greeting everyone there.  They, also began taking picture after picture with us, everyone taking turns sitting on the couch with us… I kept laughing and looking at TJ, like “what is happening?!”

The Groom

The Groom

We felt very honored there.  When we saw our groom friend, he was so excited to see us!  He could not believe that we made the effort to come.  He began to tell all his friends and family that TJ is not just a brother, he is now more than a brother and more than family, and such an example to him.  He told everyone how he couldn’t believe that we had ordered clothes and wore them for this event (bringing fabric to a tailer and having him make clothes for attending a wedding us normal and expected here) We however, hadn’t had clothes made just for this, but we didn’t actually say anything.  People were just flowing in and out of the house, we met probably at least 50+ people at that house.  They prepared food for us, and we ate dinner around a bowl with the other men there, they gave us drinks, and only us, once again we felt honored.  We continued to ask questions about when the wedding was, and where the ceremony was being held.  The first time we asked they said, oh ya it already happened earlier today,  we were like…. oooooh okay, and then as we were asking more questions they said oh no!  It hasn’t happened yet, that’s next month after Ramadan, the big party is yet to happen…. so in the end we didn’t really know what the day was about.

But the next day we found out that a lot of people get married before Ramadan because it is good to have a wife for the month of fasting.  They had been to the mosque that morning to be married, and so they will be together during Ramadan.  There will be a big wedding and celebration after Ramadan, which is very different than what we saw.  So interesting, and I’m so grateful we could be a part of this and learn some things.

Faux Pas

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The girls LOVED the pool and played there for hours

The girls LOVED the pool and played there for hours

We had a good time on our family vacation a couple weekends ago

We had a good time on our family vacation a couple weekends ago

Penny and Ava having a tea party on our vacation

Penny and Ava having a tea party on our vacation

The girl's playing on our vacation

The girl’s playing on our vacation

As we begin to feel more settled in our home and in our neighborhood I have felt a lack of time with African people and friends in general and I have been trying to figure out and strategize how we can fix this.  I have wanted to spend more time with our host family and with other friends but it has been hard, we have this “schedule” of classes and homeschool, and the days go by and I don’t get the time I want with my African friends (other than my language helper of course, she is definitely my friend :).  I have been desiring to go deeper in my current relationships.  It’s almost like God has been readying my heart for this, for the DESIRE and the ABILITY to deepen these relationships.

Preparing Food together with my host mom

Preparing Food together with my host mom

Soooo… this week I started phase 4 of my language study, this is phase 4 out of 6 phases… guess what the name of this phase is? “Deep Life Sharing” phase… ha!!  I knew I would be transitioning soon, but I didn’t realize exactly what I was going to be getting into.  I am nervous about this phase, but I’m also really excited.  What does it look like?  Yes, well I get to start interviewing different people about life experiences basically.  First of all I get to interview whoever I want to about what they do for work, I record them telling every single thing they do on a normal work day, and then I can take the recording back with my language helper and listen to it with her, and go over it for new words and meanings of phrases.  Second type, I get to interview people about their life stories which is a little more sensitive than the “what do you do for a living?” question.  Here when you first meet someone you don’t just ask them all about their family, how they grew up, their religion, their difficulties in life… that would be PRETTY rude!  However I CAN ask about someone’s life whom I already know, that is why it is ‘deepening relationships’ that are already in place, these recordings I don’t take back to my language helper, I listen to them on my own (or with the interviewee) and write down new words, and bring the new words back to my language helper.  And because people’s life stories are really personal I can assure them I am the only one listening to them.

They let me grill the fish... win win!  (You should have seen me try cutting the onions!  lol

They let me grill the fish… win win! (You should have seen me try cutting the onions! lol

I am so excited about this phase because relationships are my deal, not like I master them, but like… this is why I live… to get to know people, to know there hearts and what makes them beat!!   Developing deep relationships is exciting to me!!  This phase my speaking ability will also (hopefully) expand, and we will begin to learn even more about culture and life here in Africa.  Can I just say thank you Lord for preparing my heart for this next step.

I can see that God is going to grow me, and I can’t help but feel like I will be blessed through these relationships as well, and I hope that I can be a blessing also!!

We just finished a workshop last week of how this Growing Participators Program works, what we do in each phase and how we can effectively work with a nurturer who leads us along in the language and culture.  We stayed at our mission for 5 days, the kids played all day on the big play ground and inside coloring and we were in meetings in the morning and language sessions in the afternoon.  People made my every meal for an entire week… yaaaahoooooo!!!  I was so excited about that aspect of the week, and it was wonderful, I just wish that our bed wasn’t as hard as a rock, I think I would have felt a little more rested… oh well, you can’t have everything huh?  We just got back to our house on Friday evening and we are happy to be home.

Our language learning workshop last week

Our language learning workshop last week

Unfortunately on our way home from the mission we got stuck in some sand, some kids helped us get out of the sand (in a car someone is loaning us), and when we got out of the sand TJ thought about giving them a few pieces of money, and so they were all pushing on his window… well after a few seconds of 10-15 kids pushing the window it broke…  NOT what we wanted to deal after being tired at the end of the week.  The window is currently fixed, BUT we’re not going to stop next time!!

seconds before TJ's window broke

seconds before TJ’s window broke

Learning a new language has it’s curses and blessings.  One thing that comes with talking more is making more cultural “faux pas”.  I love that my level of communication is rising, but as I talk more and as my relationships deepen I am indeed making more cultural mistakes… dang it!  I feel as though we are just beginning to scrape surfaces of culture here, and are just beginning to dig into some things.  Oh the things yet to learn.

A couple weeks ago I was talking to our “Noonoo”  (Nanny) and telling her that she can tell me ANYTHING, that if I’m doing something wrong, I WANT to know!!  So she said (my paraphrase) “okay well there is something, when people come into your home it is rude to ask them if they want water or food, you just bring them water, and if your eating you just say ‘come eat!’ and they can refuse if they want to, I was like “uuuhhh…Oh my goodness… seriously?  I had no idea!!” immediately after realizing how many mistakes we had been making with this question “what do you want?”  I said “ I’m so sorry! Wow…”  Even though I felt like I instantly learned this new nougat of information, I am now realizing my comprehension is JUST beginning!!  Because of this new found information I am seeing  a lot of dots connecting  with other cultural behaviors I have actually been witnessing for the past 8 months.  By the grace of God we will continue to learn from our mistakes.

Our Host family

Our Host family

I shared with my host mom my new cultural findings, and thankfully she further explained… yay for more explanations… I am like a baby…. waaaaah I know nothing!!  Ha! seriously, living in another culture puts you right back in your diaper pants, welcome to my toddler stage people… hopefully there will be less throwing fits on my part, however I can’t guarantee there will be none!  My host mom shared with me another faux pas that I had made with her, and I was SOoooooo grateful!  I was grateful because it was the significance of our relationship going to the next level.  She felt comfortable enough to critique me and let me know where I had gone wrong.  I felt like it was the beginning of our worlds opening up to each other, and we were now going to be beginning a new chapter.  Yes God is blessing the relationship… thank you God!!

'New Clothes from our Tailer' Day delivered to our door... or to our couch ;)  We are here looking through everything and trying it all on to make sure it fits and if it doesn't we send it back with him to make adjustments

‘New Clothes from our Tailer’ Day delivered to our door… or to our couch 😉 We are here looking through everything and trying it all on to make sure it fits and if it doesn’t we send it back with him to make adjustments

 

Our Awesome Tailer!

Our Awesome Tailer!

Some of our new outfits

Some of our new outfits

On another note our ‘family’ here have been praying and looking for a second hand washing machine, and we happened to find one (seriously only by the grace of God), and the whole thing ended up being a God story with how he provided for them, it was really cool and fun to be a part of.  TJ helped install the washer which also happened to be on her Birthday.  I made a cake and we ate a special dinner with them.  At the end of the night they said we were all gonna pray before going, and so I said I would like to pray for her in English, and so after that each of them shared their thankfulness to us and their thankfulness to God.  Because they both shared, I felt it appropriate it share,  I shared with them how they were a gift to us, how we had prayed for them as our family for a long time, and how I am feeling blessed as the relationship grows, and how we are thankful for them opening up their home and heart to us.  It was the first time I almost started crying because I shared something personal emotionally driven in French… wow!!  God is good.  He really is!  I am excited about what he is doing.

Mango Season = amazing mango salsa

Mango Season = amazing mango salsa

Fresh Veggies from the Market

Fresh Veggies from the Market

Please Pray for us as we continue to learn this language, and as we learn more language that we would be sensitive to the cultural things we are learning as well.  Pray that God would be cultivating the relationships and that they would be honoring to him.  Please pray for our kids as we do ministry, language, and life together.

Someone from my home visited for a couple days, it's always fun and encouraging having visitors

Someone from my home visited for a couple days, it’s always fun and encouraging having visitors

Another visit from a friend in California

Another visit from a friend in California

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