Beauty From Bedlam. [Of Lemons.]

“Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know an extraordinary God.” –Jim Elliot

Dayton's surprise birthday party last night.

Sometimes, Senegal feels like lemons.

I know. It’s the thing I’m not supposed to say. And trust me, I really wish I could be the girl that adores third-world life in a Muslim African country and always loves every second of campus ministry. I do.

 …but sometimes, I just don’t. Life in Senegal can feel like a load of lemons. A heap of dirty, worm-ridden, discolored, sickly Senegalese lemons. Trying to no avail to fall asleep on the dirty floor, feeling nauseous more often than not, rubbing my hands raw doing laundry in the bathtub, eating endless piles of oily rice, having heart-shattering conversations I feel like I’ve had a thousand times over with Muslim students that are entirely convinced that they can save themselves, trudging around the filthy city in the scorching heat under the suffocating, leering gazes of every man around…

With Ian and Em before her Nutcracker recital.

…sometimes, it feels like lemons. It’s been two shorts weeks and I am already certifiably exhausted.

Laundry today. This was a two hour process!

 It’s the thing I’m not supposed to say-but sometimes I just want to be home. I want to watch the leaves in North Carolina turn a myriad of brilliant shades of orange and red during Pumpkin Spice Latte season at Starbucks. I want to sit in the front row at my little sister’s Christmas ballet recital and cheer when I’m not supposed to. I want long coffee dates in overstuffed coffee-shop arm chairs with friends that can finish my sentences. I want the beautifully orchestrated life that  flows with the exquisite fluidity of running water-the one I left a lifetime  two weeks ago.

They say when life hands you lemons, to make lemonade. Between the two of us, I think it’s okay not to make lemonade sometimes. Or lemon meringue pie. Or lemon squares. Or any other mouth puckeringly sweet confection that ought to be cheerfully served in a hazy cloud of powdered sugar with a perfectly lipsticked smile, pearls and an apron. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay every once in a while to look questioningly at your rancid pile of lemons, holler in utter,

Just before one of Em's ballet recitals. How cute is she!?

deliriously frustrated exhaustion, and crumple to the floor in a sticky, sour puddle.

You can’t live on the floor, though. The floor offers a rather bleak perspective, I must say-…and it’s a hot mess down there. Believe it or not, I’m not telling you all of this to whine. I am simply convinced that it’s really important for you to understand that when it comes to walking with Jesus, I’m so far from perfect. You might think that because I’m living in Africa, I am somehow more “together” when it comes to God. The truth is, I get frustrated and react childishly and short-sightedly. I am quite possibly the single most selfish person that I know-and there are days in Africa when I crave the creature comforts that in light of eternity, are entirely meaningless. Following Jesus to Africa is not easy for me, nor am I always cheerful about it. I know some of you read my stories and think “I could never do that”. Trust me-I’m that girl that you’d never expect to “do that”. I’m a pencil skirt and heels, not sweaty t-shirts and dirty feet. I naturally love myself much more than other people-there is nothing organic in me that is well-suited to do what I’m doing. I am currently sweating in an apartment on the coast of Africa only because Jesus is good and worth following, and gives me just enough grace moment-by-moment to continue following Him in this unfamiliar place.

I really am excited that God that cares more about my character than my comfort. He has taken me where I never

The day I decorated the tree with my family, my senior year of college. Really looking forward to doing this again in just over a year. :)

 intended to go to produce in me what I could never achieve on my own. He allows bedlam into my life and makes it beautiful by showing me that in the midst of sleeplessness and heat, sickness and loneliness, when I miss home and rain and caramel lattes and Christmas, He is good and He is enough. My delight must, must, must be in Jesus! Jesus is worth following-of that, I am entirely, unwaveringly convinced. There is an unshakable joy and deep-rooted satisfaction found in Him that can be found in nothing else-and I can promise you that in the midst of dearly missing the life I left behind. Jesus is infinitely more valuable than the people and things that I miss.

He might call you to something hard. It might be across the street or across the world-and it might feel like lemons. But sometimes we need lemons. We’ve got to learn to savor the good gifts God gives us-even when at first glance, they don’t feel wonderful. How might all of our lives be dramatically, forever changed if we really believed that to live is Christ?

If you pray, I’d love it if you’d ask God to cause me to follow Him that way over the next eight and a half months-to believe at a heart level that He is

Em on Christmas morning. It's my blog, and I get to post pictures of the things I love and miss-...and really, have you EVER seen anything this cute?

infinitely more valuable than Christmas with my family, caramel lattes and being comfortable.


  1. love this post. stealing that quote.

  2. I. Hear. You. And I understand. And it’s ok to stay on the floor…so long as it’s not long before you get up again. And sometimes, when you’re really really sick, the floor is what you need. Just make it a short stay. Cuz it’s gross. I’m praying for you…Marissa

  3. Thanks Tony! And steal away-I love just about everything that ever came out of that man’s mouth. :)

    Marissa-I know you get it. :) Thanks for being in this with me from another country! By the way-THRILLED to death for you about the adoption-keep me posted over the next several months! How exciting. :)

  4. Emily’s love of wearing 10 hats at a time cracks me up!

  5. 1. All of the pictures of Emily are beyond precious!! Love love love.

    2. I also really love this whole post —

    Being in TV-town all the time, it made me think of all the instances in Grey’s Anatomy when things get utterly hard, and they just they lay down on the floor (sometimes for days)…but that Meredith or someone else always goes to lay down on the cold dirty floor with them until its gets better. Or at least until they decide they don’t want to lay on the floor anymore.

    So I will proverbially come sit on the floor with you and sit or gab or whatever until you feel like getting up again ;)

    Also, I’m emailing you or something to set up a skype date soon!

  6. Jac-I love you for being my floor friend. :) That did always appeal to me about Grey’s-that, and I’m also a firm believer in dancing it out. ;) [Another thing we do well together.] Would LOVE a skype date soon! Would love a coffee date even more. How do you feel about hopping on a plane to Africa?

  7. A friend of mine sent me a link to this post and told me to read it. I needed to read this; it was good for me. I couldn’t agree with you more. So, yeah, just thanks. Thanks a whole lot!

  8. Thanks for telling me! I’m glad it was something that you could identify with. :)

  9. HEYYY that friend was ME! =]

    Ash, as I’ve said before, and shall say again. Certifiably OBSESSED with your blog, and you ;)

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