This is one of my songs I have on repeat this morning during my time with the Lord. I love it!
This is one of my songs I have on repeat this morning during my time with the Lord. I love it!
From this very spot, I am trustfully and longingly staring at a very crusty Emmanuel. Before you begin to think I am blatantly scorning my Love, I most certainly am not. I am merely admiring something the Lord is using in my life today.
Around Christmas, John-Mark and I wanted to design and create something that represented the purpose behind Christ’s coming. We also wanted something that would remind us of His promises and His truths. We thought about it and decided upon Emmanuel: God with us.
Throughout our seriously every-day-surrendered year, this Emmanuel design has evolved from a lustrous focal point of our room to a lackluster state of crusty. From dust storms to everyday life next to the Sahara belt, this old thing has lost it’s appeal… at least based off of appearance.
Regardless of how much tape has fallen off and how much beautiful African sand it has collected, I still love the sweet reminder of the main thing the Lord has been teaching me this year: He is here and He is faithful.
I listened to a Piper sermon about being a woman in submission. It’s easy to submit to the Lord, authorities, etc. when we have our hope firmly established in the Lord and we have a steady peace that comes from trusting Him in all situations. I desire to not be shaken by anything because of the powerful fruit of confidence that fully trusting Christ produces. I desire to always stand firm and cry-out during times of hardship, “Lord, this is hard, but I trust you are in control. You are good.” I choose daily to fight for Him because He is worth the fight. He’s worth it not just because He’s fighting for me, but because He alone is worthy of my life and worship. So for today, I will continue to pray for stronger faith than yesterday’s.
As I’m sitting in my living room with LB nearby, I’m singing a trustful Hallelujah. I’m gazing at that promise encrusted upon my wall. I’m gazing at the truths that regardless of where I’m at in the world, He is with me. He’s not shocked by headlines of what’s happening in the world. He’s not shocked by what headlines are in yours. And as a friend described in her blog as “running towards the sound of guns“, He too is running towards us. And I look up. I am reminded by a crusty, half-fallen-off sparkly wire that God is with us. And He is faithful.
We’ve all had them.
If you say you haven’t, I would call you a cotton headed ninny muggin. Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t call you that, but I would highly believe you to be a liar.
The “them” I am talking about is properly referred to as hair dramas that you wish were saved for “yo mama.”
What did you do this time, Mary??
I really wish I could say this was a sudden lapse in judgement or a temporary psychosis, but I had actually been thinking about re-dying my hair for the past few months. Mind you: deciding to dye your caucasian-textured hair in the middle of Africa may not yield the results you desire/fantasize about while in reality being constrained my day-to-day “all nat-ur-al” lions mane.
So why the sudden urge to dye a portion of my hair bleach-blonde? Yes, feel free to gasp. Bleach blonde. I blame it solely, entirely, cent-percent on Elaina.
There I was. Sitting in a café listening to a John Piper Podcast on women’s beauty and their adornment not being in the things of this earth (literally.. could the Lord have been warning me anymore??), and I receive a phone call. Little miss Elaina C is at the pharmacy and found hair dye. She decided she was going to dye her hair dark brown and wanted to know if I wanted join her [apparently it's Transformation Tuesday on Instagram]. I’m working on being more spontaneous and adventurous, so I said, “Sure, let’s do bleach blonde.”
See how it’s all her fault? In all reality, I’m working on my extremes. Being adventurous can include spontaneously dying one’s hair, without jumping from one side of the spectrum to the other. Less, I divulge, I’m in progress. Sanctification doesn’t happen overnight, and apparently me learning from my past hair horrors doesn’t happen overnight either. Have I never told you about the Jennifer Aniston cut that turned out like the Cindy Brady cut? About the Pixie cut? Let’s chat sometime..
So what happened?
“MY HAIR’S BLUE. IT’S BLUE! AND I’M GETTING MARRIED IN A WEEK…. so not ideal.”-Bride Wars
Okay, so it’s not really blue. I’m being dramatic. But it is really orange.
It’s not that bad. It’s not that… baaad. Okay, it’s just confirmation on why I should never touch my hair. I’ve now decided to pack up my bags, move far away from hair salons and hair dye (apparently Africa wasn’t far enough), and I’m going to become a Mennonite so that people can restrict me from ever touching my hair… too far? Scratch that, dramatic effect sometime gets the best of me.
Really, there is hope though! There’s always hope. Praise Him! I would like to say, Elaina and LB look beautiful. Their hair turned out great. LB’s locks make her look like the sweet and innocent, 1990s version of Britney Spears. Elaina’s hair makes her look like an arab princess. Therefore, I am encouraged that even though we have a limited selection of colors, we can fix this. And I’m all for that!
Until next time, which hopefully will be an update on how I have ultimately learned my lesson and will never again fall into the horrid temptation to mess with what the good Lord gave me, I’ll leave you with the encouragement my roommates gave me during my crisis.
“Well, it is transformation Tuesday on Instagram.”-LB
Staring at me, Elaina says, “I’m thinking of a witch. No, not you. You’re hair is like a lion’s, mine is dark like a witch and LB’s is like a wardrobe. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!” To which I mentally reply, “CS Lewis would be so proud.”
“This is just to encourage you. It could be your whole hair looking like this.”-Elaina then proceeds to show me a YouTube video of “Orange Hair Dye Gone Wrong.”
“It could always be worse. You could have no hair. I mean, what if your eyebrows were like that.”-mix of LB and Elaina
“It could be a great conversation starter. A great sermon illustration: contentment in Christ.”-LB
“You’re so less likely to get hit by a car now. It’s like a reflector on your head.”-Elaina
My God, the spring of all my joys
The life of my delight
The glory of my brightest days
and comfort of my nights
In darkest shades if He appear
my dawning is begun
He is my soul’s sweet morning star
and He is my rising sun
Father, my gracious Lord, guardian of my days
Your mercies all my heart records
in songs of grateful praise
Ten thousand, thousand gifts
they find their radiance in this
that Jesus shows His heart is mine
and whispers “I am His”
Savior, true word made flesh,
Thy goodness I’ll pursue
And when I stand on Heaven’s shores,
I’ll sing thy praise a new
Where death is bound by laws fulfilled,
my praises will ring out
And all the saints will join the theme,
Let heaven’s walls resound…
I mentioned in an earlier blog post that we were so privileged to be able to go to a Cru conference for most of the international interns in Nerja, Spain. After the week-long conference, we had a week of vacation time to take.
We were needing a break from our at-times-stressful-third-world, so we took some time to relax after our conference in 2 countries in Europe. It was nice to be able to drink Starbucks, eat something other than rice, drink fountain drinks, drink water straight out of the tap, have clean feet for a week, sleep in beds that weren’t on the floor, feel cold, and EAT MCDONALDS.
What I have failed to mention was that I bought new shoes in Senegal for our vacation. Apparently packing closed toed shoes wasn’t high on my priority list in October… Anyways, I got these shoes for $10 at an African market. And here’s all the places they took me.
The Lord is faithful.
I have learned so much about God’s uncompromising and constant character the past two weeks. Just to sum up what I’ve learned: God is good regardless of my sin, other people’s sins, and circumstances. God is with me. Bad days do not disprove God’s love for me. God loves to redeem, restore, and make things new.
Those are some pretty good truths to rely on considering the day Katie and I had. Today was really sweet and really sad at the same time. Last week my friend “JaJa’s” grandma passed away. I asked her if there was anything we could do for her. She asked if I would go to the funeral ceremony to “carry the body.” I was a little concerned, but for those of you who know me, you know the love I have for “JaJa”. So Katie and I went this morning to be a support for her and to love her. The Lord really helped me out because I tend to get really nervous/awkward at funerals. I don’t know what questions to ask or what I should say. There was the ever-present language gap between me and most of the family, so I hope they still saw that I was wanting to be there for JaJa. Oh, and I wasn’t asked to carry the body. Phew! Close one.
It was hard because I love “JaJa” and I hate to see her and her family hurting. There, of course, was sadness that came from seeing the distress, devastation, and lack of hope that was there for the family. Family members were sobbing uncontrollably, shaking, and singing songs to Allah begging to let the grandmother into Paradise. The pain that they were feeling-of losing someone they loved so much-was so thick you could touch it. I couldn’t help but feel a little of what they were feeling; I wanted to take that pain from them. For this family that is predominately Muslim, there is no assurance of salvation. There is no promise that after they die, they won’t be in Hell. There is no escaping their sins. All I could think about was this is the way every funeral is going to be like for this family, for their village, and for this country if no one reaches them with the message of salvation through Christ.
And all of that is really challenging for me. I have to battle against my mind and my heart because I want to doubt God and His plans. I think, “Is this what it’s going to be like for “JaJa’s” children? Are they going to be pleading with Allah to let her into Paradise too?” I act as if I have more love for her then the God who formed her has. But then I remember the truths that I’ve been learning. God is good. God cares for “JaJa” and her family. He is with them. He is the only redeemer and the only One who can restore us to Himself. Seeing the devastation of sin, and the eternal effects of it, didn’t cause my heart to become angry at the Lord today. It caused my heart to press into Him and to desire to go out to the people who need Him with the hope that they are all longing for. God desires to bring His lost home.
And so today I was encouraged to be thinking about this eternal home. I am excited to die and be in Heaven. I know that sounds weird and depressing, but we’re promised an eternity with a loving God and no more sin-heartache, tears, anger. We get to worship and sing praises to the God who loves us more than anyone we’ve ever met could. We are in total bliss with brothers and sisters from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping the same God. I’ll be speaking Wolof fluently with Jesus. I’ll have the best French accent while singing praise songs to my King! I’ll get to eat Yassa Poulet out of the same plate as Jesus. I’ll get to worship God on the tops of mountains that I couldn’t climb in this body! I’ll get to sing songs with old friends and one’s that I don’t yet know. I’ll rest in His presence, goodness, love and beauty for an eternity.
I was gently reminded that this is not the end. Until I get to the end, I will continue to long for something greater than what the World has to offer. For those who believe in Christ, we’re promised an eternity with Him not based off of anything we could ever do but because He died in our place. I fully believe I am bound for the kingdom, and I would love Senegalese, Americans, Saudi Arabians, Indians, Brazilians and for you to come with me.
Please pray with me for “JaJa’s” family and for the gospel of eternal hope to go forth in this nation.
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel; “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Hi friends and family!
I’ve been having a little difficulty emailing out my prayer letters because the documents are too large. So, I figured that for some I would post them here on my blog. Obviously, there are some I can’t post on here and would gladly email you the content and maybe do a picture post? I don’t know. I’ll figure it out. So, here is January’s.
Many of you who might be reading this blog might not even be considering doing a Short-Term Internship (STINT) with the organization I work for. Even if you aren’t, please bear with me and read this post. I think we could all use a little encouragement in setting a fire in our hearts for evangelism and also lighting a fire under our feet to move us into action in going forth to all nations with the hope of our Lord.
This past week we had our annual mid-year conference in Nerja, Spain. Let me just show you a picture of the scenery so that you can get a glimpse of how refreshing this past week was:
At this conference, over 200 STINTers from all over the world gathered to debrief hard things, be encouraged by staff, encourage other teams by what God is doing within their ministry, and come into Christian community. I was so encouraged to hear about amazing things God is doing in countries I had never even heard of before STINT. How faithful is He?! This week I was encouraged by many other teams that are working in locations like ours, that God is beginning a movement in Senegal. That’s what we are there for: to develop a fully student led evangelistic ministry on our college campus.
What God has been doing in Senegal: We’ve seen weekly evangelism with students initiating and sharing the gospel, many for the first time. One of our students, Israel, has a new nickname: Soul Winner. Literally every time he shares the gospel, someone gets saved. Our student meetings (much like Thursday nights for you UTC/Lee people) is almost 100% student led. Last week, one of our students, Kante, led the message on humility! And Israel and Stanislass led worship. Amazing things are happening in this country that is known for being super hard to the gospel. 95% of the people in my country do not know Christ. They do not have forgiveness of sins. They do not have assurance of salvation or hope. But, God is faithful. We’re beginning to see steps towards a movement of around 10 students taking the gospel out to a campus of 65,000. Slowly but surely! or in Wolof, Ndanka danka moy jappo golly ci ney (Little by little we will catch the monkey in the forest). I mean totally applicable in your context, right….
Really, what I’m wanting to say is that we are praying for you.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are being prayed for by hundreds of STINTers and international staff from all over the world. There are people in the regional offices who are praying for you. There are people who don’t know Christ in countries I can’t even name who are crying out to God for people to share with them who Jesus is. You are being prayed for.
The last session at our conference was taught by a man who had lived in an unnamed country for 12 years. He had this to say (paraphrase of course):
Building a movement in a foreign land takes blood, sweat, tears, energy, and sacrifice. If you don’t believe me, look at Jesus’ ministry. Right now there are 8,000 unreached people groups. Unreached doesn’t mean your neighbor who has never been to church. Unreached is where people do not have access to hearing about God for whatever reason (living conditions, government control, etc). People who will not have access to information about Christ unless people are sent.
Here’s the great news: movements are launching in places where there have never been Christian movements before. Think Senegal. God uses college students in most of the significant movements worldwide. Revivals that lead to missions starts a lot of the time with college students. I think you guys are the most daring. Way to go! You are unique. There’s only 1 out of every 50,000 college students that would STINT. I wish there were more, but as of right now, that’s it.
And the last thing he mentioned:
“We need you. If you don’t do it, who will? There aren’t 1000s of people lining up to do this… We want to invite you into that, but the Lord has to lead you.”
I love that so much. Again, I wish that there were 1000s of people lining up to follow Christ to the end of the world, to share the gospel, to build up believers, and to send them out with the same mission. That isn’t the case. But I don’t believe it’s due to people being selfish. I think it’s because no one has ever presented the opportunity to go to the nations. Maybe you’ve never been encouraged to pursue that. Maybe you wouldn’t know how to. Please, talk to me about STINT. If you’re in college and there are Cru staff at your campus, talk to them about possibilities of STINTing.
I want to let you know that I am not perfect. I am not holier than anyone else because I’m a STINTer. I’ve been redeemed with the same blood you have. When God looks at you, He sees the same Christ that He sees in me. There’s no difference. So, if you’re thinking, “I’m not good enough…” or whatever those phrases in your head are, you’re right. You’re not good enough. But Christ is. And good news, Christ is in you. He’s the only one who can change hearts and bring His lost home. He wants to use you to do that.
So, here’s a few questions I would love for you to process through:
Again and again, like this man said, I want the Lord’s plans for your life. I don’t want you to feel pressured to serve internationally overseas if that’s not where the Lord is leading you. I want you to follow Him faithfully wherever that is. If it’s to Starbucks every morning, a daycare, to India, wherever! I want to follow Him and I want you to also. I do want to let you know that I had to be challenged to go on STINT otherwise I never would have considered it. So, I want to let you know I’m challenging you to go to the nations because I am so thankful someone challenged me.
My heart is for you to walk in obedience and sometimes that obedience is staying until He says go. So, just know that we (people scattered all over the world) are praying for you. You who are reading this, I’m praying right now that the Lord would give you clarity on what is next for you. I love you and let me know how else I can be praying or if you have any other questions.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, grace-filled, southern belle named Laura Beth. She grew up in a small, fanciful town in North Carolina with a family that highly valued cultivating her relationship with Christ. Throughout college LB sought to deepen and enhance her relationship with Christ. She became involved with a college ministry at Peace College called Cru. In the summer of 2011, the Lord led her to go on a stateside mission trip, also known as summer project, to Santa Cruz, California. It was that summer that her heart began to break for people all across the world who were hungry to know and experience God’s love. Senegal specifically was laid upon her heart.
Now meet Tyler. Tyler is a very lovable man of God. He grew up in North Carolina with parents who loved the Lord as well. After his sophomore year of college, Tyler really began pursuing a relationship with Christ and began growing in his faith. Tyler was involved in the Cru movement at North Carolina State University (go Wolfpack!). He actually led a bible study with our team leader, Ryan. He was involved with Cru’s intermural outreach that emphasized building bridges with students that were less likely to attend a Cru meeting without a personal invite. If I could briefly describe Tyler’s character it would be that he is someone who cares deeply about being intentional with everyone and loves people well.
How They Met
Well, let’s just be honest. This is the part that we all want to know about. Was it love at first sight? Did you say anything stupid? After you met, did you walk around with stars in your eyes for days?
This is LB’s version:
” The Friday night of Cru’s Fall Retreat, I was sitting with my small group and I heard this voice in the group beside me say “I’ll close us in prayer.” Taken away by his heart for the Lord and how cute he was, I began talking to my friend, Kaitlin, about who he was. It wasn’t until Saturday night, as I was filling up cups of ice with a staff member, that this young man came through the line, grabbed a cup and said, ‘thank you.’ With butterflies in my stomach I responded with an awkward, ‘You’re welcome.’ Little did I know that a few moments later I would lock eyes with the man that would later become my husband.
As I was finishing up my job, I noticed he was looking at me from across the room. When I was finished, I started talking to Aaron Adams about playing the game Signs. Tyler decided to join in on the conversation and smoothly looked at me and said, “Hi, I’m Tyler.” We spent the evening laughing, giggling, and playing Signs. At the end of the night I pulled a Cinderella and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow at the meeting,” when really I was leaving the retreat before then! You gotta keep the mystery, you know.
After spending a whole week of his life without me, he decided that was too long! (Totally a joke!) I received a Facebook message asking for my phone number. And then he asked me out for dinner and dancing on our first date on November 18, 2011! Throughout our relationship, I still had a burden for the people of Senegal and I knew the Lord was calling me to invest a year of my life here, proclaiming his name in a nation that is over 95% Muslim. Even though I’d fallen head over heels in love with Tyler, the Lord is worth following and He is trustworthy in regards to all aspects of my life.
Over my senior year, I continued to pray for the Lord’s will in our relationship. I knew that if this was the Lord’s will for us to head in the direction of marriage, as was me coming to Senegal, this would only strengthen our relationship and provide clarity. It was not easy, as our relationship with the Lord can be, but He calls us to love and trust Him. So, in October, I fully surrendered to the Lord’s plans and let go of mine. I got on an airplane headed to Senegal, without Tyler.
Much to my surprise, Tyler actually eventually did end up in Senegal with me (even if it was only for a week and three months late). Here’s a video that highlights the most recent progression in our relationship. Please enjoy these wonderful photos that Mary took for our Save The Dates. “