Month: April 2016

My Favorite Days

I love pictures. My pictures, my friends’ pictures, strangers pictures. Don’t be surprised if I come over to your house and start asking to see your photo albums. Maybe it seems intrusive, but I want to know about your life, who you are, where you’ve come from and what are the times/places that stick out to you as THOSE times. The ones that when you think about them, bring a tear to your eye and simultaneously put a smile on your face.

As I’ve started looking over Morocco pictures, there are certain moments that I can easily describe as the ones that shaped me. The ones that simultaneously make me think, “I can’t believe we did that!” and “I wouldn’t change a thing!” So I’ve decided to share some of those moments with you.

In our first year, I had a girl that helped me around my house who really just ended up being my first, real Moroccan friend. She was a GIFT to me in so many ways. She had just moved to the city from the village she grew up in and was eager to take us back there and introduce us to her family and see her previous life.

To say I was hesitant was an understatement. I was 7 months pregnant and also had a 3 year old and an 18 month old. Since we didn’t have a car, it meant grabbing a taxi to the bus station, and then waiting around until there were enough people (or really whenever they wanted) to leave for the 2 hour trek into the mountains. (Thankfully, I was not alone. It was our family, plus my, also pregnant, SANITY SAVER Charissa and her husband.) We didn’t arrive until later in the evening, and the bus didn’t go all the way into the village – just to the bigger town. So after the bus, we flagged down a grand taxi to take us to the end of their dirt road. At this point, it’s completely dark and we are this rag tag group of foreigners in the middle of this village, just waiting for a little bit of direction. It was the point of no return when our friend’s sister came down the road with her donkey to carry our stuff. Let me just paint this picture for you. We are 2 husbands, 2 pregnant wives, 2 little kids, a donkey, and 2 local friends hiking in the PITCH BLACK up and down a dirt road that eventually leads to her house on the top of a hill. It’s about this time I’m thinking, “Hmmmm..this is a bad idea. What was I thinking?”.


We arrive around 9 and don’t worry, dinner was going to be ready, in probably another hour or so. And then we would all be sleeping together on couch-like things that lined the room. We should have been prepared by how the beginning of this trip was playing out,  that it would be epic.


The trip continued with a 6 hour a hike, a lesson in butter-making from their cow that was just milked, playing with chickens (and then eating them), picking peas for a tagine, fumbling through Arabic, lots of tea and one of the most stretching, beautiful couple days of my life.


It was one of my first lessons that loving someone well often means me being completely out of my comfort zone. It meant the WORLD to my local friend that we would take a couple days and see her life, meet her family. But at that point, there was nothing more out of my comfort zone than spending a couple of days in a village with no running water and a squatty potty.


I think that most of my life, I had allowed that pit in my stomach, “homesick for my mom at a slumber party”, feeling to dictate whether I did something or not. I have found that that feeling keeps you very far away from the line of whether something is in your comfort zone, or not.


As that comfort zone thing was pushed further and further and further; I learned that is how I can love people better and better and better. It’s hard to love people well when I need them to be just like me, and say all of the right things. It’s much harder to love people well when you have absolutely nothing in common and may not even speak the same language. This is not to say I have mastered this comfort zone thing. It does not mean that I don’t still get that pit in my stomach feeling. I’ve just decided to distinguish that feeling as the Holy Spirit prompting me to love that person well, instead of backing away in discomfort and fear.

I wish I could accurately convey to you how those “out of my comfort zone” feelings/situations are the times where I have found the most life, joy and to be honest, comfort. Maybe Jesus was really onto something when He tells us that to follow Him is to know True Life, True Freedom, True Joy.




Ode to Scottsdale

Thank you for your words of encouragement and understanding in response to my last post. After I hit “publish”,  I almost went back and deleted it many times. I thought maybe it was too vulnerable, or needy sounding. But in the end, I want to be real, honest  and an open book. So I kept it.

One of the reasons I hesitated to write it, and then wanted to delete it,  is that I have posted over and over again how much we love it here, and I never wanted to feel like I was talking about of both sides of my mouth. But I’m learning to live in the grey area of life (Which I HATE, by the way), where you can love a place and grieve a place at the same time; where you can love making new friends and building new relationships, and still grieve and miss terribly the ones that you don’t get to do daily life with. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so discombobulated in my emotions.

But we really do love it here. I will try not to make this post too long, and it will probably lead to many other posts, but Scottsdale has been a big breath of fresh air to very weary souls.

The first question people always ask when they hear that we have only lived here a couple of months is, “What brought you to Scottsdale?” I usually just keep it simple. “We have some friends here that said we should move to AZ if we ever moved to America. So we did!” And that’s that. But really there is way more to it, and since it’s such a loaded answer, it’s hard to know where to start. Do I tell this perfect stranger about the almost 2 years we prayed for where to go? Or the 2 possible jobs that never materialized? Or the fact that we said, “We will never move to AZ with just a part time job.”, which turned into, “We will never move to AZ with no job!”, which turned into, “Pack the car, we’re driving across the country with no job and no place to live!!”.  It’s hard to know how much story vomit this person wants during a 5 minute conversation at school pick-up.

But it really is so much bigger than Jay and I, and that is the hope we have, and truth that Jesus speaks to me in those serious moments of grief. I don’t really know why Jesus knit our hearts together over Scottsdale, why He gave us both a passion for this place and the church that He is planting here. But we are thankful, because it really is pretty great!

(Just a little collage of our favorite Scottsdale people/places/things. And I know you can get a margarita anywhere, but really, they’re amazing, so they always deserve a spot on any “best of” list.)

Grief that Heals

It has been awhile since I wrote anything on here, so I figured I would begin again with a  really light, happy subject…Grief. This idea of grief had always been a distant thing for me.  While I have lost Grandparents, I haven’t really experienced anything I would define as grief. I know a lot of people who had to grieve when they moved overseas, but that wasn’t me. While I probably had moments of culture shock, I never really had moments of grieving what I lost when we moved to Morocco.

This past year of transition has been the closest I have come to grief, and I’m going to be honest, it sucks. As we approach our one year anniversary of saying goodbye to Morocco, a good friend told me it would probably be a good idea to let myself feel it and that it would be helpful to grieve again. I really wanted to put on a smile on and say, “Oh I’m fine, I’m totally healed.”, but I think she could tell by the tears in my eyes that I wasn’t fine. That I needed to feel it all over again, I needed to be real with how much I miss it and the people that are there and the way that it has shaped me. I never really equated grief with leaving a life. I always only thought of grief as mourning over a person and the things you will miss about them. But for me, I have had to grieve the life I had, the community that I had, the relationships that meant so much to me. So really, grief is just loss. It’s a loss of what once was, and is not anymore.

I think the main reason I can’t handle grieving all over again is because I was a DISASTER a year ago. If you could have seen me in the days leading up to getting on the plane (and some of you did!), I was barely eating, barely sleeping, and I basically just cried all day, everyday. By the time we arrived on American soil, I was so sick (literally – bronchitis and a broken rib from coughing) from the mourning and the grief. I know that my grief would not be to that extent, but to even experience 10% of that again seems too much to handle.

And Grief is a funny thing. I’m usually doing pretty well…until I’m not. I was at a retreat in October for my new job, and the current staff members spent some time praying over us newbies, and I just LOST it. I could not keep it together. And who wants to be a weeping mess in front of your new co-workers?! I’m thankful that most of them had walked the same road before, so they lovingly handed me tissues and said, “you’re going to be ok.”. Or it’s just another weekend of the same old same old here in AZ, and I am a weeping mess and can barely get myself together to go to church.

While Jay and I are both “lay all our cards on the table” type of people, Grief also makes you super vulnerable, and who wants to do that with a bunch of people you just met. Not this girl. Part of the reason it is so vulnerable for me is that I’m a really ugly crier and I hate the vulnerability of crying in front of people. So this grief thing has been interesting trying to navigate while meeting people and forming a new community (“Hey, my name is Jackie. Sorry about the mascara streaks down my face, I’m in a bit of culture shock.”). In some ways, it’s been really nice to ease ourselves into life, but in other ways, it’s hard to start over in a new place where no one has any idea or any context for what has shaped you and what you have held dear for the past 5 years. And to be honest, I’m not sure many people ever will. And that is just another thing to grieve. We all want to be known, understood, valued, and I’m learning that that is just another piece of this grief puzzle.

The Good in all of this, is that I’m not alone. One of my biggest prayers a year ago was, “Jesus, you need to carry me through this, because I can barely function.” And He did. I clung like I have never clung before, and I survived. He did not lessen the pain, because He knew how desperately my heart needed to grieve it, but I survived. And I think that’s where I am again. Not necessarily to the same extent, but I need to let myself grieve like I did a year ago. I need to let myself feel it and be vulnerable and let people see me ugly cry. (I will warn you, it’s not pretty.) Because for me, grieving allows me the space to remember how much those people and places mean to me. I can’t just sweep the past 5 years away just because I’m scared of how much it hurts to miss it. For me, the tears validate the beauty of our years, even the hard ones, because of where He has brought us.

So to sum it all up, Grief sucks. It’s awful. But so needed and good and healing. But still sucks. (So if you Scottsdale people see me at the grocery store or at kids’ school pick-up and I look like I’ve been ugly crying, feel free to say, “grief, culture shock?!” and I’ll just laugh and probably keep crying 🙂 )

To finish this gut-wrentching post, I thought I would share a bit of our Morocco life with you. It has taken me almost a year to let myself go through Morocco pictures with a fear that I just wasn’t up for it. I wasn’t ready to grieve again. But Lydia needed some pictures for school, so it forced me to go back through them. It has actually been fun to relive that first year, and to see how absolutely crazy we were to take 2 babies to a foreign country and live in a walled city with no car!! (Why didn’t anyone warn us that we were absolutely insane?!?)  So here is a video tour of our first house in Fez. That first year was quite a year, but we often say we will never live in a cooler house. So I hope you enjoy a little taste of the beginning of our Morocco Life.