I am Elizabeth J. W. Spencer and this is my husband Greg.
We live in Mekelle, in the arid highlands of Northern Ethiopia where my husband manages a clean energy company that manufactures wood-burning cook stoves. Mekelle, a culturally preserved and sizeable city, is located close to the Eritrean border. In Mekelle, I buy local because that all there is and I am an avid cook because its the only sustainable dining option. I travel with my husband to remote desert towns promoting stoves to the locals and I write about the grace that has been birthed in my life through loss, rejection and my own humanness.
This blog is my journey through brokenness to the bravery I never thought I had. I started writing as a way to heal and understand my own story; connecting the scattered dots of my life. A year and half ago my story seemed past the point of redemption; reeling from fatal rafting accident and an abusive relationship, I left Malawi, THE place I lived, worked and loved, to seek healing. I looked at a blank piece of paper unsure of where to begin, but there was story in my heart and I had to find the courage to get it out. It is the story of how the Lord rescued me from myself and from my shame, setting me on a rock that is higher.
A lot has happened since I first turned to writing. The man who past in the rafting accident had haunted my dreams and day dreams, but in a miraculous encounter he became my guardian angel. I married a man that has been a physical manifestation of my Holy and heavenly redemption, finding me and calling me home. I packed up all my belongings and moved back to Africa, only this time to Ethiopia. But most importantly, the Author of life hunted me down with his love and rescued me in his grace, making me brave. Brokenness still takes up residence close to the surface of my soul some days, but healing and redemption are alive and at work within me.
These are my stories, past and present, to inspire your own brave story.
In the last ten years, I have lived in four countries and six states. At one point I had my belongings stored across three states and one country. I have no permanent residence—unless you consider four boxes in my parents’ attic a permanent residence (that is where I get my mail). In the hypothetical situation that I am moving, I decided to make a step-by-step list to keep me on task. Read the rest of this post on the Taking Route Blog.
It is easy to get burnt out while living overseas. I know that, you know that, but are we doing enough to make sure we don’t get burnt out? The answer for me is almost always “no.” Read the rest of this post on the Taking Route Blog.
Food is a central part of my family living overseas. There aren’t movie theaters, nice parks to stroll through, or hipster roof top hangs to watch the sunset from; so, we spend our time eating. And when we aren’t eating, we are figuring out how to create the food we don’t have access to. We have gotten good at it—a little too good for our waist lines. Read the rest of this blog at the Taking Route Blog.
Working out is the blight of almost any mom—we put on weight to have these precious babies, and then these adorable babies leave us with no time to ever go to the gym again. Working out seems especially hard for moms living overseas. In many western countries there are workout classes that incorporate the kids and help to keep the moms motivated. But where I live—and I am sure where you live too—there is no such thing. Read the rest of this post on the Taking Route Blog.
Hike: Moderate, 1 hour.
Paintings: 14th century, lower paintings faded, but the ones out of reach are still vivid.
What I Like: Different views, manageable hike, unique church, great painting.
Overall Experience: Top five.
Hike:Difficult, Steep 1.5 hours to reach the church.
Church Structure:Basilica style, six columns and two aisles, completely rock-hewn, locals claim that it dates back to the 4thcentury.
Paintings: Vivid, possibly the early 19thand maybe retouched in the 20thcentury.
Views: Incredible, totally different views than that of the Hawzen plain.
What I Like: I love the hard hike, unique views, and paintings.
Overall Experience:Top five, worth seeing if you have the time, great for people that can do hard hikes.
Time: Allow at least 4.5 hours for the drive, hike, and visiting the church. Allow an extra hour if you plan to take your time.
Hike: Level–Difficult. Steep with a few slippery spots, 1.5 hours to the top.
Church Structure: Large.
Paintings: 13th-14th century, damaged due to water.
What I Like: Best all-around hike for active people.
Overall Experience: Top five.
He wants me, all of me. He wants my fidgeting hands and tear weld eyes. He wants my brokenness, that is where He loves to shine. His power is made perfect in my weakness. Grieving does not mean I am not trusting, in fact transformational and healing grieving require trust. Who would let their insides pour out if they did not trust the goodness of the one in front of whom they stood? Distrust causes us to stuff pain deep within, trust in Christ is an invitation for weeping.
If your baby had a passport before it was a month old, you probably have an expat baby. Expat babies, also known as third culture kids or tcks, are a rare breed—they will have some of the most unique experiences that they will never even remember. Read the rest of this post on the Taking Route Blog.
When I was able to see past the frustration of no internet, it was interesting for me to see what I did with my time and how my creativity awakened during these periods of a forced connection detox. Read the rest of this blog on the Taking Route Blog.
- Hike: Level–Difficult. There are two sections of free climbing. For safety, I recommend asking your guide to bring a harness and ropes, but I have always done it without. One hour climb to the church.
- What I Like: I love how treacherous it is to reach this church and what treasures await you at the top.
- Overall Experience: Top five, I would only recommend this for children over twelve and please request ropes.
You don’t have to be a person of the Orthodox faith to enjoy this deeply spiritual pilgrimage past pastoral farms, up through canyon walls and into the mountains in search of these ancient treasures. The physical act of hiking to these hidden churches mirrors for me the life-long journey of the pilgrimage toward God. It is a unique opportunity to see yourself, away from the busyness of routine and habit, as you climb up into the ancient mysteries that these mountains hold.
I remember when my husband and I drove fifteen hours from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to our new home in the north. I loved every minute of the heat, the god-forsaken hotel, and the lack of water when we arrived at our new home. I vividly remember thinking, “I am the luckiest person in the world that I get to have this life.” Fast-forward six months to a year later, and guess who was crying? ME. Read the rest of this post on the Taking Route Blog.
There are rhythms all around us sending us messages. The power goes out. The water tank is empty. The internet hasn’t worked in days. The car breaks down. The baby just wants to be held. In those moments there is a very critical choice that will make or break my day; will I listen to the rhythms or try to create my own? Read the rest of this post on the Taking Route Blog.
Maybe I’m the only mom that has ever been nervous about raising and caring for a child in the developing world. I try to calm my anxiety with reason—millions of moms have raised their babies in the developing world in worse conditions. I shouldn’t have a problem. Right after my daughter was born, the reality of living in Africa became real and I honestly don’t feel equipped for the challenge. Read more of this post on The Taking Route Blog.