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.
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.
I am named after my grandma Joy who passed away recently. I wasn’t there to say goodbye to her. I wasn’t at her funeral. And it was all so terribly wrong and unnatural. It was so wrong that I didn’t get to hold my grandma’s hand one last time. It was so wrong that I didn’t get to grieve with my family. It was so wrong that my mom had to pack up Grandma’s house without me. It was all so wrong, but it is just the way it was because I live an ocean away. Read the rest of the post on the Taking Route Blog.
I always envisioned myself peeing in a porcelain toilet to confirm my first pregnancy, but there I was squatting over a hole in the ground.That was just the beginning of new experiences while navigating pregnancy in the foreign country that I call home. Somedays I embraced the adventure of it all and on others I caved in to the fear and unknown. At the beginning of my pregnancy I didn’t know what questions to ask to decide where to deliver my baby. Through this Taking Route community, I have come in contact with many women that have had babies while living abroad, but when I was first embarking on this journey I hardly knew anyone with that experience. Read the rest of the post on the Taking Route Blog.
Need, I am finding, is one of the greatest gifts in the world. Maybe it is a gift to need redemption, to need grace, to need water, to need God to provide. I have never felt my need as clear as I do here in Mekelle; it’s a combination of the brokenness I have embraced in myself in recent years mixed with the vulnerability of our life here. Away from the familiar, distant from community, and adapting to the unknown.
As the Fourth of July approaches, some of you Americans out there living overseas might already be a little bummed to be missing the annual family backyard BBQ or that epic weekend at the beach with your best girlfriends. For other Americans living abroad, it might not hit you until you are scrolling through Instagram on July 4th. Well, you aren’t the only one missing home. Unfortunately, it is our holiday routine that we are trying to change. Here are 7 Ideas to Celebrate without Fireworks on the Taking Route Blog.
The first time I spent 2 months in Ethiopia by myself, I returned to America and announced to my parents that I wouldn’t go overseas for an extended period of time until I was married because it was just too isolating. But life has a way of making me do things that I vowed to never to do. I graduated from college and got my first real job as an executive assistant. Before long, my boss was asking me to move to Malawi. Those 3 years living in Malawi, single, were some of the most complicated years of my life. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Read my 8 lessons learned the hard way on the A Life Overseas Blog.