where i've been & what i've learned

My apologies for my prolonged absence! I just got back to Seattle from the trip of a lifetime and thought I'd use this early morning (hello, jet lag) to write about it all. 

Over the past 21 days, Nick and I took 10 flights into 3 different continents for honeymoon number 2. It was a mind-bending experience and the best three weeks we've ever spent together. After making a brief stop in San Francisco to spend some quality time with the fam, Nick and I adventured our way through the Spanish island of Gran Canaria (often referred to as the "Hawaii of the Atlantic") and then hopped on over to Morocco, an indescribable country teeter-tottering between first and third world; a cultural traffic jam uniting Europe, Asia and Africa.

Since we've been gone, I've had a run-on sentence growing in my head, jumbled words mounting and crashing against one another; bits and pieces of stories yearning to be set free so I can begin to process what just happened in my life. Allow me to share a little bit of the journey with you.

Nick and I needed this trip. Badly. We had spent the first few months of our marriage settling into our new roles and learning what Christlike love and humility look like. Mostly through doing it the wrong way. Subsequently, I've been plagued with an identity crisis which has leant itself into a depressive funk that's been hard to shake. We are pursuing new career and lifestyle ventures together, and simultaneously evolving from a selfish way of thinking and living to a more unified one. No longer it's him and I. Now it's we.

Anyway, it's been a lot of growth. We needed to get away to just simply laugh. Be silly. To soak up the joy that so freely oozes out of our relationship when we allow it to. And that's exactly what we did.

Real life still exists, of course. The first morning we woke up in Gran Canaria and gazed out at the breathtaking volcanic mountainous view that greeted our eyes, I briefly logged onto Facebook using the spotty wifi I had found and saw that my great grandmother had passed away. The following days provided details into more nightmares going on back home... the kind of things you pray never happen when you're out of town on your honeymoon. I relied on Nick in ways I never have relied on anyone before and he saw me through it. 

With my new husband by my side, my heart began to heal. We enjoyed ourselves immensely as the days spilled over one another into a shimmering pool of memories. The Spanish Colonial Canary Islands are geographically closer to Africa than they are to Spain, and thus more closely resemble the Sahara landscape... with the addition of mountains dotted with pine and towering rock formations. We lumbered through the mountains some days and stayed poolside other days, enjoying coffee and food and drinks wherever we explored.

And then we hopped on a plane and found ourselves in the movie Aladdin come to life: Marrakech, Morocco.

Marrakech is almost impossible to describe. A Muslim country dotted with more mosques than Salt Lake City has temples, Morocco has seen the rise and fall of sultans and empires and has been plundered and pillaged beyond recognition. Marrakech is the heartbeat of this northern Africa country. Surrounded by desert, Marrakech boasts the world's most famous marketplace that stretches for miles and comes alive especially at night with snake charmers, chained monkeys and thousands of merchants hawking their goods. Incredible aromas fill the air. Unsupervised children run by as their mothers sit in the marketplace selling their goods, their faces covered with burkas despite the 100-plus degree heat. The prices of spices and teapots are argued and then agreed upon. Wild cats roam the streets looking for scraps of someone's dinner. Poverty is rampant and beggars sleep in the same streets the cats roam. And so it's been for centuries.

My heart is still with the reaching palm of the woman laying in the street night after night with her sleeping baby in her arms. How huge the need is. They say you really need to go to Africa in person to truly understand what it's like. They're right.

While Morocco is seeing a huge influx in European tourism, Nick and I saw no other Americans the entire time we were there (with the exception of two Peace Corps volunteers we met). We spent our evenings smoking hookah and sitting on the rooftop of our riad, looking out at the city that was so foreign to us. A place where we stood out and yet felt extremely comfortable in.

The last leg of our trip was spent in Essaouira, an old fortress town at the sea's edge used by the Phoenicians and Romans as an important stop along their trading routes. We didn't see much of Essaouira. Nick came down with an especially terrible case of food poisoning and as my poor husband lay in bed day after day, waiting for the antibiotics prescribed from a French doctor to kick in, I wandered the streets looking for fruit that wasn't covered in flies to nurse him back to health. The options were slim. There's no such thing as a grocery store there, so what would ordinarily be an easy and quick fix in America took much longer to run its course. Our trip had started out with me needing him and now he needed me.

Over the past few weeks our marriage was strengthened beyond recognition. Despite a few bumps in the road (life happens no matter where you are!), we both agree it was the best trip either of us has ever had. We learned how to truly rely on one another through the toughest of times, and we laughed every minute in between. As I opened my Bible yesterday morning, extremely grateful to finally be back in the United States where grocery stores and doctors who speak English are all within reach, I read at the end of Philippians:

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

That's really the key, isn't it? It doesn't matter who you are or what you have; contentment does not rely upon one's circumstances or status. It is the only thing that can yield true heart-giving joy throughout all seasons of life. I am thankful that God taught Nick and I on our honeymoon to not only trust and rely on one another implicitly, but that when we do and our strength is found in Him, we can get through anything. As a result, we've never been closer.

And with that, enjoy these photos from our grand adventure: