Thursday, April 20, 2017


"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father..."
-James 1:17

- - - 
Fresh cut flowers
Sunshine on my face
Crocuses and daffodils in bloom
A new ladies study at church
Conversations with friends over steaming coffee and scones
Jonah snuggles
Just-right songs
Spring break "reset"
Grilled burgers with the fam
A flaming sunrise
Farm-fresh eggs
Deep, refreshing sleep
Skype calls to far-away friends
Answered prayers

...Just a few of the gifts I'm thankful for lately.  How about you?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Auntie Corner

 Because why wouldn't you wave your spoon around while you ate?!

When you take the picture yourself before Auntie Rachel is ready, her finger happens to be in the way.

I love the following sequence -

His signature look: that ridiculously cheesy smile.

He adores his little sister.  It melts my heart.  (And makes me wish - just a wee bit - that I'd had a big brother growing up.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Fast

I hear my neighbors get up earlier than usual.  They're talking and laughing and frying French fries.

It's still dark, and this is Ramadan, the month of fasting.  People get up before dawn to eat a meal, usually something heartier than the normal fare of baguettes.  Breakfast needs to stick with them, since they won't eat (or drink!) again until the sun slips below the horizon.

The city is full of billboards, wishing people a happy Ramadan and advertising this brand or that.  All the supermarkets have special sales.  Even the phone carriers have promotions going on right now.

The sun comes up, and the streets seem oddly quiet.  In part, that's because the breakfast stands are all closed.  Almost all the lunch stands will be closed, too.  Even the bakeries won't have the normal stacks of baguettes at noon.

As the afternoon wears on, you can feel the collective tension of a city growing hungrier and hungrier.  Arguments break out on the buses.  People spit on the sidewalks constantly (not only are they not allowed to drink, many people believe they can't even swallow their own saliva while fasting).  Shopping in the markets is an unpleasant experience.  The lines at the bakery are now well out the door - everyone is waiting to buy bread (and baked treats) for the nighttime meal.

Finally, just as the sun disappears, everyone seems to vanish from the streets.  They retreat to their homes to break their fast - often with family or friends.  Dates are typically the first food eaten to break the fast.  This is followed by a meal, more elaborate than what they'd normally eat in the evenings.

I hear the talking, laughing, and feasting.  It will continue late into the night.  After a few hours of sleep, they'll wake up and repeat the process - again and again until the month is over, which will be marked with a big celebration called Korité.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Open Hands

Several weeks ago, I stumbled across this song, and the words tore right through the layers of contentment and happiness I was wearing down to somewhere deep and ugly.

I felt content with life, but my hands weren't completely open to God.  No, as the song played and I hid my head in the couch, He showed me what I was holding onto.

The list was longer than I wanted to admit.  Far longer.

For starters, I'm a big one for questions.  I like to know why.  I like to understand.

Most of the time, that's helped me learn - new skills, a new job, a new culture.

Sometimes, however, I bring that question to God with the unspoken idea that He is obligated to give me an answer.

See, when I came back from Senegal, I tossed pretty much everything from those two years in a metaphorical box - the memories, the lessons, the questions - and put the box on a shelf.  The future called for my attention and I had neither the time nor mental energy to sort through the box.  So it sat there.

Sooner or later, as was bound to happen, that box started bugging me.  A good friend and mentor, Jackie, offered to help me unpack that box, to go through a debrief of sorts with me if I thought that would be helpful.  I said yes.  She gave me some resources beforehand and I started slowly working my way through them.

What was I hoping to get out of it?  I guess, more than anything, I wanted those nagging Whys laid to rest.  To come out the other side with a clear picture of God's purpose for that part of my life.

And then one evening, He stopped me short with a song and I had to rethink everything.

There's no doubt it's time to unpack the box.

And though I want resolution and answers and an understanding of His purpose in it all, I realize now this is no right I can hold onto.

Open hands.

Giving it all to Him means I may never get what I've hoped or prayed for.
I may never understand - this side of heaven - exactly why He chose to lead me to Senegal, only to bring me back after two short years.  He may never give me that missing puzzle piece.

Am I okay with that?  Truly?

If I'm not, I'm still holding onto something.

Surrender isn't an act we put on to convince God to be our genie in a bottle.  "Your will be done" isn't some magical phrase we can tack onto a prayer to get what we want.

No, open hands means just holding onto anything.

It feels like an incredibly scary, vulnerable, empty place to be.  And it is - unless we have a greater joy and security.

Have I ever regretted giving something to the Lord, even if it was excruciating?  I asked myself.

Never!  On the contrary, anything I have given up has only brought me closer to Him.  I knew it would be the same this time, too.

Still, I expected emptiness on the other side of that letting go - especially for things I'd held onto for far longer than just my questions about coming back to the States.  But it wasn't there.

There was a freedom, a lightness, a peace in my heart.  What I thought was somehow giving me security had actually been weighing me down and I didn't even know it.

Knowing Him is the greatest joy I can have, worth so much more than anything I might be tempted to clench my hands around.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Never Teach Students

I remember him saying, "Never teach students.  Teach teachers."

It makes a significant difference in your teaching approach if you are simply imparting knowledge to students, or if you are hoping to give them the tools to one day impart that knowledge to others.  It changes how you interact with those you're teaching.  It changes how you explain things and how you measure success in your teaching.

While I'm not in any kind of formal teaching role here, the principle is still a relevant one.  All around me are opportunities for mentoring, encouraging, and discipling young ladies.

These are the people who may one day be my coworkers.  And God has been challenging my thinking -

Am I treating them like that?
How would it look if I kept that in mind as we interacted?
What are ways I can teach teachers, mentor mentors, disciple disciplers?

Pray with me, would you?  I want to approach these opportunities well.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The First Tulip

On March 6, my first tulip started peeking out from the green.  I planted the bulbs back in October, I think, and I'd been eagerly waiting for this -

I every time I see them, I find myself smiling inside over the fact that God created these beautiful flowers - not because He needed to, but simply because He's a good God who loves to give us beautiful gifts.

Grace again...