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.
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.
In my current pregnant state it is easy to rattle off 10 things I miss about America. What is much harder right now is to remember why we came here and remind myself why I chose to stay in this place. I am not forced to be here. My husband did not drag me here. God did not twist my arm. This was my decision and my husband and I continue to make that decision with each passing month. Check out the Top 10 Things I Miss as well as the Top 10 Reasons We Keep Making This Place Home on the Velvet Ashes Blog.
I have just visited my new favorite European city for the first time. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know it existed until three months ago when we starting looking at cities to visit along the Dalmatian Coast. The moment we rounded the bend along the coastal road from Montenegro, it was clear why Game of Thrones had picked Dubrovnik as King’s Landing. The city juts into the sea surrounded by ancient walls dating back to the 7th century. Read the rest of my post on the We Are Travel Girls Blog.
Sometimes we just need a little inspiration to get in the kitchen after a long day. Here are the cookbooks and guides inspiring me to find my way to the kitchen every day, multiple times a day, to create and spread my table with sweet and savory goodness. Check out these five cookbooks on the Upper Barn Blog.
Since I was small, I sat in my Grandma Walt’s library and gazed at photos of my grandmother in an elegant wedding dress and dreamed that one day I would wear that same dress. But the dress was forgotten and many of my childhood dreams buried in reality. Read more about why I will never regret wearing her grandmother's wedding dress as well as her great-grandmother's veil on the Upper Barn Blog.
I was born and breed in Ethiopia, but my birth parents are an American Viszla and an American Pitbull that immigrated to Ethiopia to find a better life for themselves. Let’s face it, the food in Ethiopia for dogs is so much better than America. In America, they feed dogs these hard round balls of corn. Here in Ethiopia I get fresh meat, eggs and bones every day. My mom tries to sneak some veggies and rice in there too, but that’s okay. Read more about me on the Paw Tribe Diaries.
Thank you for supporting me a few weeks ago when I accidentally killed one of my mom’s chickens. I was grieved to report the situation has got far worse and the chickens are taking over my life. Literally.
Did you ever wonder where the idea of serving chicken noodle soup when someone is sick came from? It’s not just because it is easy on stomach and warm. Chicken soup started as home remedy because of the nutritional value of chicken stock (broth) to repair and calm the lining of the small intestines, bringing healing to the body. Read more about the how and why of chicken broth on the Upper Barn Blog.