Monday, June 26, 2017

Wash Day

As soon as breakfast is over, I get started on my laundry.

I sit on a low wooden stool in the courtyard, plastic wash basin balanced on the ledge next to the water faucet.

I dunk the clothes in and swish them around a bit.  One by one, I pull them out and scrub them vigorously with the bar of soap that smells faintly of lemongrass.

Frotte, frotte, frotte.

Sokhna, the girl who works for Angèle, sits across from me, cleaning the fish for lunch.  She scrapes scales with the dull knife, and I catch a whiff of the comfortingly familiar scent of ocean and salt.  It's fresh - the way fish should smell - not like the nearby market on a hot day.

Each soap-sudsy piece goes into a second basin.  When everything has been scrubbed, I tip the first basin and let the dusty gray water swirl down the drain.  I fill up the second basin to rinse the clothes.  I switch between basins for about three rinses - until the water runs clear - and then wring the clothes out.

I stand up and wipe the clothesline.  There's always dust.

Sweat clings to my skin as I hang the clothes up, from the heat of the sun and from the amount of water used in the process.

At last I'm done - the courtyard is lined with clean laundry.  It's a gratifying sight.

Angèle has finished giving the boys their baths.  She hands me the baby so she can shower, too.

I settle on the couch and, from down the hall, the fragrant smell of Sokhna's lunch reminds me that somehow I'm hungry again.  Maybe I worked up an appetite doing all that laundry.  Or just maybe garlic, onions, herbs, and chilies are irresistible no matter what one has spent the morning doing.

Friday, June 23, 2017


A two-week break from life at the Bible school -

I added a few more stamps to my passport, ate heaps of rice, and (unlike last summer), actually have pictures to prove I was there.

- - -

You guys, this family...

I can't even tell you how much they have been to me.

It's largely because of them that I learned to love Senegal.  When all was still unfamiliar and unsettling, they welcomed me into their home and family, giving me unbelievable grace as I bumbled through that new world.

They taught me about friendship and loyalty and love and family and courage.

Such gifts.

- - -

This is Lac Rose (or "Pink Lake", because of the algae that turns the water pink during certain seasons), about an hour's drive from Julien and Angèle's.  I'd never been there before, so we went one Saturday with her parents and siblings and spent the afternoon there.

Picnic, Senegalese-style -

We ate rice, onion sauce, and most deliciously marinated pork.  Then we had fruit salad and drank juice.  And tea.  And more juice.

It was all so calm, so lovely, so different from the city.

Afterwards, we walked along the lake and saw piles and piles of freshly harvested salt.

Someone even gave me a little free sachet to take home - so now I have Senegalese salt sitting on my counter.

I'm not sure there's any significant difference from non-Senegalese salt...I've yet to try it. :)

One day while I was there, I'd gone to visit a friend and took a taxi from her house back to Angèle's.  The taxi driver took a route that wound right through my old neighborhood, the road I took every day to and from French class for nearly two years.

A thousand moments of everyday life came flooding back -

Sun beating down on me
The screech of a bus breaking for a turn
Sand on my feet
Laughter of the ladies at the vegetable stand
Boys with rusty tomato cans asking for a few coins
Dust and sweat clinging to my skin
The mosque's prayer call blaring from the loudspeaker
The click of heels and the swish of stiff basin fabric
Horse carts rattling past
The smell of the trash heap
The smell of the bakery
Stray kittens playing in the sand
Bougainvilleas blooming in every color imaginable

And I remembered.  I remembered how hard it was, yes, but mostly I remembered how good God was.

I wish I'd seen that more while I was there before.

It made me realize this - I want to see God's goodness as I'm going through things, not just after the fact. I want to have my eyes open, to look around and notice His goodness to me right. now.  I don't want to miss His hand; I want to have a heart of thankfulness.

The following sequence cracks me up so much -

There's more to tell, but that'll be for another day. :)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

To May (and maybe April)

I got woefully behind in that were taken weeks ago, and a whole bunch of posts mentally written but not actually typed out.

But when I look back at old posts, I guess I care less about whether or not it was blogged right after it happened, and more just that the some of the milestones and everyday moments were recorded at all.

So...that's my little intro.  I'm not sure if that was more for your benefit or mine. :)

- - -

One Sunday evening several weeks back -

He's serious about his popcorn, man.

- - -

Last fall, Kelley (another staff lady) and I started a small group based on the book Grace for the Good Girl.

The make-up of the group changed somewhat through the two semesters we were getting together, but these two girls stuck with it to the end.

From left to right, DeAnne, Kelley, Sadie, and I.

What fun it's been to get to know each of them, to watch what God is doing in their lives, and to learn together.

After we finished the book, we ended with a special dinner (Senegalese-inspired!) at Kelley and Todd's place.

Lord willing, this summer Kelley and I will be scheming planning for another small group study over the coming school year.  I'm already so excited!

- - -

More of "my" girls -

I spend most of my hours working at a desk.  I do like my work (especially now that I understand better how to do it!), but a guest house and accounts are not the main reason I'm here.

People are.

Seeing lives impacted by God's word, challenged and shaped by grace - this is what excites me and motives me to be here.  I am thankful for each and every opportunity I have to interact with the students, to listen to what they're learning in classes, to talk about life, to just hang out and have fun sometimes.

God is working, and getting a front row seat for it is one of the most amazing things possible.

The ladies of the graduating class...

No, I wasn't trying to be exclusive here, I just wasn't ready with a camera when the whole group was together.

Meet Bekah, Rebekah, and Sadie (again).

And can I brag about them just a bit?

I had the chance to work with these ladies in the guest house the past year, and I have been beyond blessed to see their hard work, diligence, attention to details, good communication, and teamwork.  In a generation where laziness and apathy are all too common, they're a perfect example of how faithfulness (even in the seemingly mundane) can impact and bless others.   Not in the picture are Jen - who probably washed a Mt. Everest's worth of guest house laundry in her two years here - and Isabelle, who was a delightful part of the crew last semester.

You cannot begin to imagine how wonderful it was to know I could count on jobs being done well - not just for my sake, but for the sake of all the guests who stayed in the guest house over the past year.

Girls?  You. rock.

- - -

And then there's Jonah.  He rocks in his own, adorable, preemie-strong way.

He melts my heart every time I see him.  Another good gift God has put in my life. :)

- - -

- - -

Lilies-of-the-valley from my coworker Linda's garden.  They were so dainty and sweet!

My friend Kayla just moved and she left four big plants with me, one of them being this ginormous spider plant with lots (eighty-seven, to be exact) of baby plants.  The realization of my evil plot to take over the school with spider plants was finally within my grasp.

I laughed a diabolical laugh when I brought the plant into my apartment and started clipping the baby plants to share.  "At last, the power is mine!  I shall rule the school!"

- - -

The school is rather in a state of upheaval, with office changes and renovations underway this summer.  Heaps of furniture line one of the halls on first floor, and I suspect it won't be long until we have dust and paint fumes to contend with.

By the way, have I ever told you how hard change is for me?  Whether it's big things or small things (and there have been a lot of both for me lately), I tend to fight against change.  Even if I know they're silly, insignificant things, or that the change will be good in the long run...just yuck.

On days when I find myself overwhelmed by change or the unknown, I force myself back to what I do know.

This -

All my changes come from Him
He who never changes
I'm held firm in the grasp
Of the Rock of all the ages

All is well with my soul
He is God in control
I know not all His plans
But I know I'm in His hands