Homes.

As we pack our suitcases and I browse through our Instagram feeds and our camera albums on our phones it’s no question that this summer was one for the books. A summer not only so desperately needed, but one that was just so enjoyed. From Minnesota to Wisconsin, Michigan to Colorado– this summer was full of memories, laughter, and time with family and friends. I don’t know how 9.5 weeks went so incredibly fast but what I do know is I’m so glad we came home. Oddly enough coming home the last two summers (after life in Korea & then Morocco) never felt foreign. This go around just seemed like we picked right back up where we left off 10 months ago. Being back in America has me realizing even more how much I love the 4th of July, the lake, and the mountains of Colorado. Even though our time has been so sweet some part of me is ready for our adorable beach apartment- for our own space and a place to call ours once again. To meet my new little nuggets of love who are ready for 1st grade. I think Morocco feels like going home… at least for now.

I cant’ tell you where we will be a year from now– only time will tell. People often ask when we are “coming back to America for good.” Our normal has looked different than our peers- but it is our reality that we love. I’ve decided this school year is the year of grace. Striving to be an example of grace to those around me even when it isn’t deserved. Morocco itself presents daily challenges and our workplace can be a breeding ground for chaos. We feel as prepared as we can be with our armor on. A solid group of friends, grounded in our faith, and as emotionally ready as we can be as we head into this school year. Even though we don’t know what’s next or where home will be… right now home feels like Morocco.

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Why Morocco?

Booking flights, lesson plans, busy days, chaotic days, stressful days, cleaning, packing, and boarding our plane.

The last two weeks of our first year in Morocco were such a blur. Before we knew it we found ourselves at JFK airport in New York. We’ve gotten pretty used to the passport control routine and we had our last connecting flight to catch back to Chicago. It didn’t take long before we realized that the big “X” on Tom’s passport meant that we weren’t getting off easy. That big black “X” meant that we got sent to a special room with national security officers where we were told to wait for our name to be called. Almost two hours later we emerged cleared for safety and we continued on our way to grab our luggage and catch that last flight.

Through all the questioning of US National Security– one big question stood out. It’s a question that has been asked to us time and time again since we’ve been back in America. “Why Morocco?” Why did we pick a Muslim country in North Africa to call home?  How did we end up here and where will we go next? It’s a place I think that is just so foreign. Some days, for us, it still feels that way. While other days we find our groove and it feels like home. The media has instilled this fear of Muslim people in the states. I can’t tell you how far from the truth the media portrays actual real life. Especially our life in Morocco. As Tom told the national security officer we moved to Morocco initially — “…because there were beaches, mountains, sahara desert” but Morocco is also so much more than it’s stunning landscape. Morocco has such a fascinating culture, passionate people, and age old traditions. The mystery of it intrigued us there initially. As we currently enjoy our summer back in America I can’t help but wonder what the next year will be like. Will we settle more into our life in Morocco? Will we feel ready to move on? Some days when it’s hard we definitely ask ourselves “Why Morocco?” but I’m so glad we said yes to Morocco.

 Korea was our first stop. Morocco was next. I just have a feeling that it won’t be the last.

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…A little different…

“Elicia, ever since you were a tiny little girl you always had this joy of life. It was relevant in your laughter and excitement as you went throughout each day. I remember shortly after you learned to talk I would call your house and you would answer the phone. Your excitement was such a joy. You would have so much to say that you would not let me talk to your mother. It is so wonderful to see this beautiful woman you have grown up to be and that you have not lost that joy of life. To see you be so excited about each day’s adventure.”

Being happy always came easy for me. It was something I never ever had to think about. It didn’t mean that life was always easy for me, but somewhere along the last year I felt like that part of me got temporarily masked. I was still smiling, but I felt like stress, hardship, trials and tribulations of Morocco began to really wear on me.

Most of you know that my life with my husband Tom looks a bit different than most of our peers. We moved abroad to South Korea soon after marriage & then we moved to Morocco where we currently work as teachers. People often ask when we are going to move “back home” and settle down. & while trust me– most days I really want to move back to America things have looked a bit different for us. You may see adventure, a fun & easy life, and maybe even wonder how we are able to do so much traveling when you look at our life through social media, but the reality is that we struggle just as you do. We have stress, anxiety, or worries just like you. Often we feel like outcasts because almost all of our friends have had/been having kids for years, own homes, and have stable jobs. We don’t quite feel like we fit in “back home” and as much as we try–we definitely don’t fit  in when we are overseas. People often ask why we chose to live abroad and while we do I think that it kinda chose us. Initially for adventure, excitement, and something new. We saw opportunity and we took hold. The reality though, is that when you make a life abroad it isn’t all just fun and games. We have real life stuff we have to try navigating in a foreign place in a language that we speak maybe 30 words of! Like buying a car, trying to decipher foreign banking, or you know, when your car breaks down on the side of the road in the middle of the night. When you just want to chat with someone familiar and you can’t find stable wifi to do so…just to name a few!

I’ve referenced that life the past year in Morocco has been extremely hard. I’ve personally struggled with how to share the challenges that we face without sounding like a negative Nancy– but I think there comes a time when you’ve got to be honest and you’ve just got to put your story out there. So here it is. If you’ve ever felt different, felt like an outcast, felt like giving up… this one is for you. This post is for those who are hanging on and who just want to throw in the towel. Who want to share their story, but haven’t found their voice. Where happiness is still there, but feels a bit far away. We’re all humans and I think that life was meant to be shared. Sometimes, life simply can’t be shared in person and so we do what we can to connect.

Here are a few ways my husband and I have found that you can encourage someone who might be struggling whether that is someone abroad or someone near to you. We’ve all had times in life where we need a little extra boost.

  1. Remind them that you’re there. They might know it, but maybe they just need that simple reminder!
  2. Regularly connect. We look forward to that consistency and that connection. We understand you’re busy. We are too. Try to reach out when you have a free moment. Even if it’s a quick text, sending a quick verse, or sharing a funny moment during your week.
  3. Listen. Sometimes we don’t need advice, but we just need to vent cause gosh dang it sometimes it’s HARD.
  4. Share. Your life stories help us feel like we aren’t alone in this thing called life- it’s likely that you’ve been through something similar.
  5. Spend time. Tom recommends that men don’t always need to hash out every detail– but rather a fun outing like surfing or something as simple as a quick hike to logically process and bounce ideas can be extremely helpful!

The reality is that life is messy- but I think that God’s greatest gift to us is each other. I think we’ve only got so much time to live here on Earth and I think it’s time we start opening up & living a little differently. My grandmother wrote the quotes at the beginning and end of this post, and I wanted to share because it’s my hope not only for myself– but for each and every single one of you too. Have you ever struggled before and what are some things that helped you?

“May your journey be fulfilling. May you both always have your joy of life, your laughter, your love of God and family. Always remember near or far, you are in my heart, on my mind, and in my prayers.”

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