Of Rootlessness and Geographical Feng Shui. [Home.]

Thirty nine days from today after a little geographical feng shui, my day will look markedly different than the one I just experienced. While I spent this morning chasing a  roach the size of a small duckling across the kitchen before I made a pot of my carefully rationed caramel coffee, thirty nine days from now I’ll disembark a plane in DC, and drag my team to Starbucks for a skim venti caramel latte with whip. [There may be tears. I’ll keep you posted.] I’ll catch a connecting flight to Raleigh where after months of waiting, I’ll finally get to tackle hug some of my favorite people in the world! And while this afternoon, I spent the better part of two hours scrubbing my clothes in the bathtub-just thirty nine days from today, I’ll be dumping a royal blue duffel full of filthy laundry into an oversized washing machine. I’ll press a magic button, waltz away, and return twenty-five minutes later to clothes that are cleaner than anything I’ve put on my body since I landed in Senegal! [Be still, my beating heart.] And though as I type this I am covered in a thick layer of dirt, thirty nine days from now I’ll finally be clean. My impossibly curly hair might even be straight after I reintroduce myself to my blow dryer and flat iron! [Ah, the flat iron. My good man.] In the heat of this afternoon, I took a taxi ride through my dusty, poverty-stricken city. I saw a herd of rather suspect looking goats wandering the streets, women with elaborate, pumpkin orange head wraps guarding dilapidated, precariously perched wooden tables boasting endless piles of spotted green mangos and canary yellow bananas for sale, and men with machetes chopping up bloody chunks of cow in the back of a rusty red and white truck. In thirty nine days, I’ll be driving an air conditioned car on the most breathtaking, green, winding stretch of back country road towards Chapel Hill while Tim McGraw serenades me in the background. I’ll buy organic spinach at pristine, air conditioned Harris Teeter-spinach that’s spritzed religiously every eighteen minutes by automatic timers. I’ll run at night for goodness sake-past the magnolia trees, fireflies and wrap-a-round porches that hallmark summertime in the south.

But forty days from now. Forty days from now, I won’t wake up on the floor next to Michelle. I won’t sit across from her in the living room sipping my caramel coffee while she drinks green tea out of a green mug, reading our Bibles in our pjs while Christy sneaks another hour of sleep. I won’t spend the first hour of my work day meeting with my team, nor will I take Miriam out to my favorite French bakery to answer some of the hundreds of questions that she has about Jesus. In fact, the odds are that forty days from now, I won’t even see a single Muslim. I won’t hear the call to prayer echo through the city, nor will I lace up my dirty tennis shoes to leave at five to run on the beach that I have contentedly succumbed countless hours of my life and two pairs of tennis shoes to. Forty days from now, I won’t stop by to see Mohammad the fruit stand man for grapes and mangos on the way home from said run. Forty days from now, I won’t cajole Dayton, Ben and Ted into running to pick up last minute dinner items while Michelle, Christy and I chatter on as we finish off dinner on the hotplate. I won’t carry bowls of food up two flights of stairs to spend an hour eating and catching up with the boys-nor will Ben be around to do the dishes after we finish. Forty days from now, I won’t make nutella banana crepes with the girls as desperate attempt to satisfy the late night chocolate cravings that always seem to hit us at precisely the same time, nor will I spend the last piece of the evening talking with Christy after Michelle has fallen asleep.

Forty days from now, I’ll wake up to an entirely different life. And while there are pieces of that I’m thrilled about, there are things I’m going to dearly miss about the world I am leaving behind in this African city that has slowly become mine. My two years in Senegal have been the hardest, most incredible years of my life. The five people that I live with in Dakar feel like my family-without them, I would have jumped ship and attempted to swim across the Atlantic long ago. And even on the most painful, homesick, tear-filled days in this city-I have loved sharing the gospel with Muslim students. What a bittersweet thing to leave-and go back to a life that is drastically different from the one that I left behind two years ago when the ink was barely dry on my UNC diploma. Many of my best friends are now gone-and that, coupled with the fact that I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing this year means that in many ways, I’m starting over. Again.

God has used the rootlessness that has characterized the better part of the last seven years of my life to tangibly teach me that my home is not to be found here. I was not-we were not-created to belong in the world. There is an inevitible homesickness that comes with following Jesus.  Somewhere between the Holy City and the City on a Hill, I will [am] learn[ing] where, exactly, my Home is. And after five moves in seven years, I am entirely convinced of one thing: home is not a place. It’s not a continent, a city, an apartment or a house. Home is a feeling. It’s a place of belonging. Restfulness. Peace. Security. Comfort. Trust. It’s an easy breath-something to close your eyes and contentedly, wholeheartedly settle into because you’re safe. And I only know One place like that. 

And so, I learn to savor where I am, and cling to the truth that I was created for God Himself-and not for a place, or even people. I belong to Him. And I choose to believe that this-right now-is precisely where I am meant to be. It is not accidental, nor am I a bit to the haphazard left or right of what God had intended. No, this is precisely  it. Today was good. And in forty days when I wake up in my bed in North Carolina, that will be good too.



  1. GAH love love love love! Totally had that feeling when I landed here and I was a month in. I was ready to just plant ANYwhere after a summer of packing, and unpacking my bags literally every 2-3 weeks.

    BUT I’ve totally been stuck these days on our citizenship being in heaven these days too. LOVE Ashley, you are so talented!

  2. Ashley–I just love reading your blog. You are an excellent writer, and very wise to boot. Those last two paragraphs really, really spoke to me today! Thanks so much!

    ~Laura Hercher

    • Thanks so much Laura. :) I imagine that you understood what I was talking about here better than most! I’m looking forward to tracking you down for coffee when I’m in Oregon visiting Christy. :)

  3. So glad to see this post. Your count down was starting to worry me.

    Having been through customs and immigration in DC yesterday, be sure to manage your expectations of at least 90 minutes before they let you out of the cage to actually get to Starbucks.

    That assumed you arrive with four other huge international flights like we did. I’m going to pray that doesn’t happen to your presh little team.

    • Ha, don’t worry, MOST days the count down has been used as a way to make sure we finish well and don’t waste time. …most days. :)

      And yes, I’ve done the DC thing one too many times-the amusing thing is, by the time I get there I’m just so thrilled to be back home that I don’t really care how long it takes me to get through customs! I mean, I live in Africa. Everything here takes ten million times longer than it ought.

      But please, pray away. I can’t get to the coffee quickly enough! ;)

  4. Kristin says:

    You know what ticked me off. They cattle prod you down that LONG hallway with windows on either side. Goodness knows you can’t be mixed up with the commoners. But what’s the first inside thing you see upon departing the plane? A Starbucks. In full view. On the other side of the glass. By the time we got through, I had to run. My mom got her Frap. I got a cup of water and bolted for Chick fil A as soon as I got in Ashlee’s car at RDU.

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