Monday, January 23, 2017

The City Wakes Up

It's still dark when the call to prayer wakes me up.

There are three mosques within earshot of my apartment.  Sometimes a fourth, farther away, can be heard if the morning is especially calm.

They never start at precisely the same time; they're staggered maybe fifteen seconds and usually it feels like they're having a shouting contest.

I toss the sheets back and my feet thump against cool tile.  This is hot season and it feels good to take in the coolness before the day begins.  I know well enough that it won't last long.

My neighbors are waking up, too.  Someone has the radio on.  I try to listen but the broadcast is in Wolof and not French, so I give up.  Dishes clatter.  A car starts somewhere.

I walk to the kitchen to start the teakettle.  On the hottest days, the unheated water from the shower head is refreshing, but this morning the temperature is on the cooler side - only for now - and I want just enough hot water to take the edge off a bucket shower.  I dip a bucket from the blue barrel and set it in the bathroom.

A horse cart or two rattles down the dirt path between my apartment building and the next - deliveries for the boutiques.  It might be onions or sodas or gas cans.

The teakettle whistles.  I swallow the last bite of breakfast and close my Bible.

The sun's slanted rays are coming up when I finish getting ready and tie my head-scarf on with a flourish.  I grab my bag and head out for French class.

One of the neighbors passes me in the stairwell and we exchange greetings.  Out in front of the building, the breakfast lady has set up her table.  She'll be serving sandwiches and maybe omelets a bit later.

It's started to warm up a bit, but it still feels comfortable right now.  If only I could lock this temperature in place for the rest of the day.

Traffic in my neighborhood is still mostly calm.  The buses are all packed, though - that's why I choose walking - and about twenty minutes from my apartment, there's a turnabout that will be predictably jammed.  That's what happens when you have only one main road through the quartier.

People are on their way to work or school, and the collective noise level is inching up as I continue my walk past bakeries, shops, and offices.

Every day the city goes through this transformation, from sleepy to awake with the life of 2.5 million people.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Manna for Today

January 5th.  First day back to work.

I was stressing out about getting back so late (registration was the 8th).  I was regretting booking that return ticket on Wednesday.  I should have come back Monday or Tuesday.  There's so much to do, I thought.

As I was getting breakfast that Thursday morning, my mind was running through all the dozens of things that needed to happen.  I could feel the panic and anxiety rising up in my throat.

I started talking to God about the day: Please help me not to panic.  Help me to just be able to keep on track, to work hard and steady.  To accomplish what needs to be accomplished without giving into this anxiety that I so often default to.

Every day that first week or so was full.  Very full.  I felt tired, but not stressed or overwhelmed, unlike last semester, which got off to a pretty rough start for me.

There has been grace for each day, as I need it.

Like manna.

There's no need to stash it away for tomorrow.  No need for anxiety because the God who scattered the manna all around me today will be the same manna-giving God tomorrow.  I can trust Him.  I can fall asleep and not worry about tomorrow, content knowing that tomorrow's grace will be waiting for me...tomorrow.

How wonderful that He is as unfailingly faithful, generous, and kind to us as He was to the Israelites during their forty years in the desert.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Little Crumbs

It's 8:00pm.

Angèle ladles from her marmite onto an oval platter while I grab the table cloth from the clothesline in the courtyard.

Everyone pulls a seat up to the table.  We pray, then cut chunks from the baguette and hand them around, thin crust shattering all over the table cloth.

I dip into the beans - nyebe - with bread in one hand.  Tomato paste, onion, garlic, and mustard have cooked into a fragrant sauce.  Angèle seasons her dishes to perfection, and my mouth waters.

Germain's spoon strays too far towards me.  "Eat in front of you," I tell him, pointing to the imaginary half-moon of space in front of him.  He stares for a second.  He's still learning the rules of etiquette - rules I was learning myself not too long ago.

He goes back to eating and Angèle pushes a chunk of beef over to me.  I pick up my spoon to cut it, something I still do somewhat clumsily with my right hand.

Julien spoons marinated tomato and cucumber onto his beans and passes the container.

We talk and laugh; the conversation flows easily as the TV plays in the background.  It's home and this is no fancy dinner.  Just warm, simple, hearty food.

Comfort food, really.

It conjures up all the same feelings as certain dishes my mom made when I was growing up.

The platter is clean; the last piece of baguette gone.  Angèle and I have our after-dinner cleanup rehearsed well.  She piles dishes up and carries them to the now-dark courtyard to wash.  I shake out the table cloth and go for the broom.

I bend from the waist and begin sweeping the floor, skirting around Julien's feet and telling the boys to stay out of the way until I finish.  I push the pile into the dust pan.

Every night it's the same thing, this pile of little baguette crumbs.

I straighten up and go to dump them out.

A thousand ordinary moments like this make a place feel like home.  Or perhaps being present in those thousand ordinary moments is what actually makes it home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Christmas Break, Part 2

Here's the other half of pictures from Christmas Break 2016.  (Is 2016 really over?  I keep catching myself when I go to write the date.  Which I have to do a lot for work.  But I digress...)

We'll go light on words today. :)

- - -

The family -


- - -

The sister-friend -

- - -

The storm - 

- - -

The dogs -

- - -

The last night -

I love those darlings so much.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Dusty Feet: Thoughts on the Incarnation

So much sand.

I hated it.  Hated. it.

Every day on the walk to and from French class, the sand would edge in to my consciousness sooner or later.  I would think things like -

If I never see a beach again in my life, I'll be a happy girl.


Sand must have been part of the curse.


What's in this sand, anyway?!  Gross!  I don't even want to know.

It rubbed me raw.  I hadn't signed up for this.  I shouldn't have to deal with it.  Sand - of all the miserable things.

One day it hit me like a brick.

Jesus did this for me - for us.

He came to our world - to a place not unlike the one I was living in.  The sand.  The dust.  The sun beating down at midday.  The animals.  The crowded markets.  The public sanitation that left so much to be desired.

He walked through our sand.  He smelled our trash heaps.

Wholly God, yet the dust and sweat of earth clung to Him.

And He chose this.

Why?  Why - when as sovereign God, He could have chosen any place, any time, any way to come and be the Messiah - would He have chosen dusty feet in Galilee?

Such unthinkable grace.

How else could He show a broken world just how much He loved us?

This One who formed galaxies and atoms and life - this is the Savior who loved with a love so great it brought Him down to us, who grasped at none of the honor and grandeur that was rightfully His, who flung Himself into our midst, wrapping Himself in the most humble of human experience.

Right down in the middle of our dirt and our need and our sun-faded hopes, He came.

Dust on holy feet.  Truth with a human heartbeat.  God with us.

Could there ever be a reason to stop celebrating?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A California Christmas

Christmas 2016 -

Beck couldn't come up for the festivities.

Dad was off work nearly the whole time (which is very unusual for him).

The California sun kept throwing me off.

We had two family Christmases, one on Friday with Sarah, Brian, and the kids, and one on Saturday with Mom's brother and his family.

Sunday itself didn't feel particularly Christmas-y.  (But what does one do?)

And here is my random assortment of mostly-Christmas-related pictures -

Trying to bring a bit of festivity to the house.

It's Kai!

Toby is my little pal.

Kai loves cheesecake.  Like his daddy.

"Auntie, you're boring me!"

He was getting all sleepy listening to The Piano Guys (that's what we used to play before we put him down for a nap).

Mom and I were looking through old pictures my uncle brought over.  (That's Beck and I.)

Mom made her world-famous fried shrimp with lemon and capers for dinner one night while I was there.

He fell completely in love with capers.  Couldn't get enough of them.  (Seriously, what two-year-old loves capers?!)

I love how he's looking at her. :)

"Baby Ava so cute!  So cute!"

He loves to read.  And it's a good thing, because he got pretty much only books for Christmas!

When I ask Brian to take pictures for me because I'm holding the baby...

I'm pretty smitten with her.  So is Malachi.

"See baby Ava?  See baby Ava?"
"Hold baby Ava?"
"Baby Ava crying?"
Etc., etc.

They were my favorite part of Christmas -

Well, that and how Beck called the Thursday night after Christmas and said, "Funny story, I'm on your doorstep."

And there she was. :)