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.
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.
After Paris, I determined to try my hand at crepes once again. Maybe I had carried the crepe magic back with me. Read more on the Upper Barn Blog to learn more about this simple crepe recipe as well as technical tips that helped me.
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.
I hesitate to write this article, because I am worried that I will unveil one of the best kept secrets in East Africa: the Ancient Rock-Hewn churches of Northern Ethiopia. To get to most of these churches you have to hike up into the mountains, where you will find hidden 1600 year-old churches that have been preserved by the monks and priests of modern and of old. Most of the churches were carved deep into the rock to protect them, as well as their history, from invaders. Read the rest of the blog on the We Are Travel Girls Blog.
Quitting my job last summer made me face my real life, or should I say lack of a real life here in Mekelle.Greg had started a business, he had employees and friends and was getting a hang of the language. It had been tons of work for him, but it was paying off. He was blossoming and I was sinking in to the shadows.
I was inspired by a friend's resolutions to give away 30 things for her 30th birthday. I am looking for ways to live more generously this year without necessarily giving away more money. Check out my 8 Ideas on the Upper Barn Blog.
Looking for inspiration on how you can do more with less in your home? When I was young, I was embarrassed when my mother went to thrift stores and bought things second hand. Then I had a house of my own and I stood wide-eyed, mouth gaping at the price of new hand-towels, much less a set of plates. My mom’s shopping habits suddenly made more sense. My mom’s whole home is from thrifting, repurposing what she already has to make a space and create peace. Isn’t that the point of a home anyway? For more inspiration for thrift store decorating visit my mom’s Etsy page called the Refurbished Farmhouse. Originally posted on Upper Barn Blog.