Spring Break!

As blunt and exaggerated as it sounds, this past week was one of the coolest and most precious weeks of my life! My spring break was split into two parts and both equally memorable. The first half of my spring break was spent with my Mom (I know I said that last post but it is a highlight for me), mostly in Puerto Lopez. We spent a day touring Quito and I got to show my mom everything the locals showed me when I first arrived in the gorgeous Historic Center of Quito. From the 13,500 ft. city view to the ancient cathedrals, we loved and enjoyed the beautiful city buzz of Quito. We then flew to the Pacific Coast of Ecuador to the small beach town of Puerto Lopez where we enjoyed a few relaxing days in hammocks overlooking the ocean. We stayed in a cute hotel where we slept with bug nets surrounding us in our own mini beach hut. We enjoyed beach walks, seafood, wildlife, game time, sunshine, and simply talking until we had to say goodbye at the airport a few days later. My heart felt so heavy with my mom leaving, knowing that my physical support was going to be gone again, but I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that she was able to come to spend that precious time with me. I know her heart broke as well because she is such a compassionate and empathetic mom, who didn’t want to leave her child again.

All is well. Mom made it home safe to the rest of our family, and I took off for part two of my spring break with my study abroad program. This final weekend of spring break was spent on one of the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean off of the coast of Ecuador. If you have heard anything about these islands, I am sure you have heard of their extravagant beauty and wildlife, that I can say is constantly evident. They are Ecuador’s version of Hawaii with more wildlife, but also formed by volcanos. There are 13 islands in all of the Galapagos, 4 of which have small populations of people who live there. One of those islands is San Cristobal where I spent the past 4 days. Since we were a bit short on time, we couldn’t do the island hopping tour unfortunately, but we were able to pack the 4 days we had on San Cristobal with snorkeling, hiking, and boating! By boating to different parts of the island, and completing a 360 tour around the island one of the days, we were able to see everything that San Cristobal has to offer. The bright side to a short Galapagos trip in March, their hottest month, means less sunburn from the intensity on the equator! (I am proud to say that I didn’t burn, but I have also never worn so much sunscreen or wore a jacket in 85 degree weather!)

We saw all types of wild life– sharks, sea lions, sea turtles, fish, the ginormous land turtles, sting rays, eagle rays, iguanas, blue footed boobies, fragatas, and mocking birds. We were able to see these animals up close and in their natural habitats. We snorkeled in the bright turquoise water in the bays that entice wildlife and walked the white, powder beaches that look like the actual google images photos. Our walks on the black volcanic rock provided no shade but unique experiences with the endemic wildlife of the Galapagos. (Yes, endemic is the one biology word I learned and understood while I was there haha). I am not sure if I’ll ever make it back to the Galapagos again, but I know there is so much more there to explore on the other islands that will be awaiting me!

Getting back from the incredibly exhausting travel week Sunday night with school the next morning, isn’t my ideal way to jump into midterm exams, but the once-in-a-lifetime experiences were definitely worth it! To all my Hope friends and Michiganders struggling in the crazy weather that is changing daily, your break is coming so soon and I will soon be jealous of you :).

Thank you everyone for your continued prayers and support as my journey continues to unfold! I am thankful for the week I had to break from academics.

 

She’s Here!

My mom is here– like my actual, real, biological mother! Since deciding to come to Ecuador last fall, I had always hoped that my mom would be able to come visit. When I arrived in January, we began to make the arrangements for my spring break, which is next week. All I have to say is YAY, and thank you God for making this opportunity a reality!

As many of you already know, my mom is literally my best friend. I really don’t know what I would do without her. She is selfless and loves her family so much. Being away from home has shown me how much both she and my dad care for my brothers and me. Their love is more extravagant than I knew was possible.

Now that she is here, I get to show her around my new hometown of Cumbayá, my school and service learning placement. My family gets to see pictures I take when I am traveling, but I am so thankful for the opportunity I have this week to show my mom the daily life I live here. We will also be spending a day in Quito going through the historical center and churches and seeing magnificent views of the city! I am so excited for this day because it is so different from anything my mom has ever experienced, and I get to be the tour guide! After two days in the place I call home for now, we will be headed to the province of Manabí along the coast of Ecuador to the small town of Puerto Lopez. This small beach town is part of the Machalilla National Park, home to beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, surfing and wildlife, and the well-known Isla de Plata.

Of course I am excited for this travel opportunity, but I am most excited to simply be with my mom. I feel like it has been forever since I talked with someone who really understands me. My mom literally flew across the world just to spend a couple of days with me! Yes, she does get a mini vacation out of the deal too, but I know she would never take a mini trip like this otherwise for vacation. Not only that, but my three brothers are at home with my dad during one of his busiest weeks of work. Plus, my grandparents who are always the first to offer help, are also out of town. My mom is here for me.

So, here’s to a weekend of probably lots of laughter, tears, relaxing, and hugs– I know I will be savoring every moment. If I’ve learned anything in the recent months, it is that home isn’t always a physical place. I am homesick not because of my physical home (I mean, how could I be when it is located in the tundra), but I am homesick because people are my home. My family and my friends are my home and I miss them! Thanks to a loving dad, understanding brothers, an adventurous mom, and a giving Heavenly Father, I get to spend a weekend with a glimpse of my home here in Ecuador.

 

Blessed with Rest (Quito, Ecuador)

“My soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.” — Psalm 62:1

It is the weekend, I have no plans, and I love it! I have been looking forward to this week for the past three weeks because I get to rest! Remember last week when I wrote about all the travel opportunities, adventure on every corner, and the biggest bang for your buck? Those things all remain true, but I am exhausted. I have traveled by bus to a different part of Ecuador every weekend since my arrival, and I just need a break.

Immersed in a “go-with-the-flow” culture where everything is “tranquila,” my mind and my body have struggled to know how to slow down. Rest is an essential part of life that our bodies need to thrive, yet mine does not know how. Those things called hobbies that most people have or that list of Netflix shows everyone watches, my brain does not know how to enjoy. Living a life at a slower pace sounds impossible to me because I don’t know how to handle the down moments.

Apart from traditional academics, much of this semester for me is learning how to rest. Disclaimer: I honestly don’t know how to do that yet. My life before coming to Ecuador was lived at a pace way faster than what is healthy; I hated the thought of slowing down, and I thought rest was a waste of time. Culture-shock to me is that it isn’t and I need to re-learn how to live.

It’s kind of like going on a first date with myself. It feels like a long, slow, and awkward process that keeps me wondering, “how much longer until this is over.” I have to figure out how to make myself thrive with energy, happiness, and peace. My semester is about discovering the blessing of rest. The blessing of rest given by a God who longs for my soul to rest confidently and securely in Him. I’ve spent the first twenty years of my life running from this blessing because I never recognized it in that way.

This weekend I have time to rest my body and my mind, and I am so thankful. I know this means a hard weekend mentally coming my way, because like I said, I haven’t been trained for this. I am learning to see these times as a blessing, because I know that they are essential for me to grow, learn, and thrive as the person my Heavenly Father created me to be. It is a gift that I am given to enjoy this weekend teaching my soul the necessity of ALWAYS resting in HIM!

Underrated Tourism: Ecuador 🇪🇨

Students who go abroad with hopes to see many countries and travel as much as they possibly can often study in Europe where traveling is cheap. Of course, where one chooses to study ultimately should be a reflection of their interests and academic goals, but if we are being honest, everyone who goes abroad is hoping to see, learn, and experience new parts of the world. Let me be an advocate for what the underrated country of Ecuador has to offer.

Ecuador is the land of four distinct and diverse landscapes in a country the size of the state of Colorado. There are the famous Galapagos Islands, the Coast, the Sierra/ Andes/ Mountains, and the Amazon. You don’t have to travel far to see anything and everything. They are four regions of diverse climates, animals, food, lifestyles, cultural traditions, and even some languages. The best of all– traveling within the country is cheap! Hostels are typically $10 a night and are honestly nicer than some hotels I have stayed in, and some even include meals! While buses are not always the most fun way to travel, it gives you the opportunity to see even more of the country and the transportation is very cheap, and is available throughout the country! (When you get to the point of retirement, come to Ecuador to get the most bang for your buck!)

Where do you go and what do you do? Well, I am glad you asked! A better question would be, what do you want to do? There is a coast and islands of gorgeous beaches to simply relax and enjoy the sunshine and incredible sea food, or adventures of surfing, snorkeling, and experiencing ocean wildlife. In the mountains there are many hiking, biking, and bus excursions to see the mountains and volcanos that make up breathtaking landscapes. The amazon has its own adventures with distinct wildlife, indigenous communities to learn from, and adventures of hiking, river rafting, and spelunking. Don’t let me forget all the lagoons in the craters of volcanoes, canyoning, waterfalls, and archeological sites! In the big well-known cities of the country such as Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil, there is well-preserved and rich historical centers with museums, cathedrals, and architecture. There are the cute coffee shops, chocolate tours, and great eats that will give you meals to fill your belly for just $3!

As we all know, there are pros and cons to everything and one of the cons to being in South America is that flights/ travel to other countries is expensive. Being in Ecuador however, there is really everything in one small country that outside travel isn’t really necessary, (however fun, of course, if you are willing to bite the bullet of the cost of a flight).

My WHY to Ecuador: Since my college search endeavor began, I was interested in the opportunity to study abroad because of my interest in Spanish (my WHY behind that interest also has a backstory for a later day). Taking advantage of my time in college to go abroad was/ is important for me to gain language fluency as my primary goal. Often, I think students forget the lifestyle and culture that impacts one’s experience when studying in another country. For me, I knew the options were Spain, or somewhere in Latin America and Spain was a no-go. Don’t get me wrong, Spain is a BEAUTIFUL country with a rich Spanish speaking culture, but I knew the European lifestyle wasn’t something I wanted to live in for an entire semester. When I began searching programs in Latin America, I was primarily drawn to the more globally well-known countries of Argentina, Peru, and Chile. The further I researched and the more I talked with other students who had gone abroad, I stumbled upon the program in Ecuador and was intrigued by their Spanish primarily. Ecuador is different than most Spanish speaking countries in that Ecuadorians typically speak slower and without a strong/ distinct accent. This made me excited because learning a language is hard enough, and picking up a distinct accent on top of that would be exhausting.

I was drawn to Ecuador primarily in search of an effective way to achieve my academic goals through the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and the benefits of cheap travel became another benefit later. Now that I am here, I would say I have been a Student Tourist. I am obviously still here primarily for academic purposes, but believe me, I have been taking advantage of weekend trips since Week 1! Believe it or not, I have traveled so much already that I am burnt out and ready to take a break, but my bucket list says there is still much to see this semester.

While Ecuador may not be the hot topic Google presents for tourism, it is truly a country of beautiful diversity and adventure in every way! If you don’t believe me, let me be your tour guide. 🙂

Blessings,

Morgan

Family is Everything

How often do you drop everything to have three hour meals with your family? What age were you (or will you be) “kicked” out of your parent’s house? Do you always hug and kiss your family when you first walk in the door and when you’re about to leave?

I have been blessed to have grown up in a family that values one another and time spent together, and has positive relationships with extended family. I grew up having family dinners after school, going to church together, going on family vacations, working together around the house, and celebrating all holidays and birthdays with both immediate and extended family. What I thought was a lot of family time, is nothing in comparison to the time that Ecuadorians dedicate to family.

My family never spends three hours eating one meal… not even on Thanksgiving or Christmas! Sure we have gatherings in which we spend quality time together for hours, but it is often focused on other activities. In Ecuador, it is normal on the weekends to have meals with extended family that have no schedule but typically are all afternoon or all night events. This is a weekly custom, not a holiday event.

I am learning that while in my West-Michigan culture family is valued, as it is in Ecuador, the dynamics within the family are very different. The issue of machismo is very prevalent throughout Latin America and is evident in the family dynamics in Ecuador, for example. The purpose of the wife or mother in the home is to work in the house so that the man of the house can rest. It is frowned upon for a man to be helping with cleaning in the home or doing laundry or cooking. Because of this reality, many women either are unemployed to work in the house, or the families hire a family employee to help fulfill this role. Often in the United States, we think of people who have help in their home to be upper class individuals but in Ecuador it is more weird if the family doesn’t have someone helping in their home. Finances are not a factor in the equation.

Growing up in my home, Saturday mornings were dedicated to “job lists.” Given the fact that my siblings and I always dreaded them, I realize how important this aspect is in being part of a family. In Ecuador, all of the household chores are for the wife/ mother/ maid to take care of so that the man of the home and the children can rest. If you are a working man, earning money is your only responsibility. If you are a child in a family that has given you the opportunity to study, your only responsibility is to study. Children and young adults in Ecuador do not learn how to work or save money, and this becomes problematic when they themselves get married and move out. (A quick side note on when “kids” move out of their parents home in Ecuador: it is normal for kids in their upper 20’s up until 30 to be living with their parents). They move from a world where everything was given to them, literally everything, to a world where they are on their own without any phase of transition. I was talking with a woman yesterday who was talking about this issue who told me that this is a problem because she got married at age 30 and had no idea how to do a load of laundry, clean, or cook anything. My parents have always helped and supported me and my brothers tremendously, but they also taught us to be responsible by giving us specific responsibilities that had to be carried out from a young age. Wow, am I so thankful for that now!

Hellos and goodbyes are also of incredible importance in Ecuador. This goes for family especially, but really applies to every aspect of the culture. One cannot enter or leave the house without saying hello to everyone and giving them a hug with a kiss on the cheek– it would be considered very rude. This same custom is important with friends and anyone you meet. The first day I got to school I was so thrown off by everyone greeting everyone, (including professors). The first time one of my professors greeted me, I was so thrown off by what was happening and I felt like a rude gringa. I greet my friends and family at home, but not so formally. Physical contact is also not always required when meeting up with friends and family at home, but in Ecuador they explain that they are very affectionate.

It has been very interesting to learn and experience these different cultural dynamics within family. I have learned about the aspects that could benefit the family culture of the United States, but also some of the difficult cultural realities that Ecuador faces within familial roles.

Lili & Edwin

This week I began my service learning placement in a small town called Lumbísi. This small village is only about 15 minutes from where I live and here I met two shining lights for Jesus! I am serving in a business run out of the home of an indigenous family. They work in agriculture, off of the land that they have inherited from their family to produce Chocho (a locally grown healthy protein) and a large variety of fruits and vegetables.

Tuesday was my first day. After meeting the couple and getting to know a bit of their story, I worked with Lili to harvest avocados for this week’s sales. As we were harvesting we got to know each other a little bit and she was glowing the entire time. She played worship music and spoke truth over me as we were in the garden… it was exactly what I needed.

Before Tuesday, I hadn’t met any Ecuadorians who were Christians. There are many Catholics here, few Christians, and many who don’t practice any sort of religion. I quickly found out that Lili and Edwin, the sweet couple I have the opportunity to learn from, were hurting from these facts as well. They choose to live out their faith daily around people who don’t appreciate it. They choose to live their lives following God’s Word, despite their community’s rejection. They choose to live out their faith, knowing that God has a purpose for them exactly where they are at.

Thursday was day two at my placement site. We spent three and a half hours sorting through the chocho, (see attached picture), to make sure that all the broken and impure chochos were taken out. Though this task was long and monotonous, I loved it! We just sat and talked for the duration of these three and a half hours, sharing about our lives and listening to worship music. The couple was elated that I was there to help them make this process, that takes them at least 6 hours together, take 3.5 hours instead! It is amazing how even the simplest things can bring so much joy and how much you can learn by simply taking the time to talk with people.

I know that I needed this time with Lili and Edwin this week, and it feels good to know how appreciative they were of my presence as well! Knowing that I get to spend my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons with people who love Jesus, care about people, and are passionate about healthy living gives me feelings of joy and hope for what this semester will bring. I am ready to cultivate the harvest the Lord has abundantly set before me this semester!

Oh right… you’re going to school there too

“How’s it going so far? I bet you’re having so much fun!” This is the content of nearly every message I’ve received over the past two weeks. While there is nothing wrong with this and I actually do appreciate the messages, I have to be honest in saying that I am not quite sure what to say.

In preparation to go abroad, I attended the mandatory orientation session given by the Center for Global Engagement at Hope. We were told that some of the things that students experience when they go abroad is difficulty in explaining how they are feeling because no one back home can really comprehend what you are experiencing. Another was that we would likely feel extreme emotions of lifetime highs and lows. Over these past two weeks, I can already say that this is so true. I have had some of the most incredible experiences in this short time already, but also have struggled with doubt and confusion.

Week two presented a new university, classes, professors, language, friends, culture. This too, was pretty overwhelming as the first week was for me, yet I loved it at the same time. The days I spent trying to picture what my school would be like when I came to Ecuador were finally given an illustration! The university campus is beautiful, the professors are very kind and patient, and the classes will challenge me. However, the best of all perks is that the university never has classes on Friday, making traveling on the weekends more of a reality!

It has been a frustrating and mentally defeating week as well. Each day this week I have had to change my class schedule at least one time, in attempt to figure out what will count for credits when I return. I spent this past fall detailing which classes I would take and emailing professors at Hope to get them all approved before I left. When I arrived and my program directors looked at my schedule, they told me that it was going to be way too hard. I was frustrated that they couldn’t have provided us with further information before we arrived, because I was not about to take a semester’s worth of classes that didn’t count for anything. After a lot more emailing and exploring every class that the university is offering this fall, I am getting close to having my full schedule set.

My mom said it best this week when she texted me,

“I’ve been thinking and praying about this and how these alterations, roadblocks, and detours cause you stress and make you doubt your choices, the things that you are doing, and make you wonder if it’s the right thing. Maybe this is a really simplistic view, but God knew that having everything approved beforehand would be your “confirmation/green light” to go [study abroad]. He may have specifically crafted that plan to you… yet when arriving in Ecuador, He has different plans and experiences for you. He is going to figure out a way for you to be in His plan, not yours. I know its hard and things going according to plan give us security and peace. God is going to use this experience to teach you a lot of things… not just school related. Being able to rest with the ups and downs and trust God is going to be vital to your experiences in life. Remember what I said to you as you left, even if things are not going according to how you thought they would or should, trust God… He will bring it all around for His good. His plans are for you, not against you!”

Here’s to a semester of taking the experiences that I am given as they come, growing through both the highs and lows, and believing that it is well no matter what!

Love from Quito,

Morgan

¡Bienvenidos a Quito!

Welcome to the land where mountains surround, altitude sickness occurs, hectic traffic and crazy drivers rule the roads, and where people are relational above all things! I left my cozy small town of Zeeland, MI, Monday morning to arrive in the large foreign city of Quito, Ecuador, for the semester. Yes, for the semester… I am still trying to convince myself of this even as I am here.

I arrived late Monday night and met my fellow international students through IES on Tuesday. Together we were given a tour of old town Quito, Iglesia compañia de Jesús, Iglesia San Francisco, and Basilica del Voto National (pictures attached, see google for more!). These churches are incredible in the nature of their architecture that reveals the religious and political history of Quito. Wednesday through Friday this week were consumed with full days of orientation to learn about rules, safety, academics, culture, and tourism of Ecuador. While the information was helpful and needed, they were very long days.

Luckily, we were rewarded after a long week with a group excursion on Saturday to the Otavalo market that is famously run by the indigenous Andean people selling anything and everything handmade in hundreds of tents in the street. On our way we stopped for a typical Ecuadorian breakfast of bizcochos with coffee or tea at a small restaurant with a view of Cayambe Volcano. We also did a short hike on our way to the market to Cascada de Peguche, a beautiful waterfall, where we got to slightly test our lungs in the altitude. After a time of much fun and buying all things alpaca at the market, we went to Laguna Cayapas Cuichocha. This lagoon is in the crater of Cuichocha Volcano, which we later found out is active and the fourth most dangerous in Latin America. We took a boat around the lagoon in the crater to see the bubbling volcanic gasses being admitted to the surface of the water; it was beautiful!

Despite the excitement of being in a new country, being able to travel, and seeking out new opportunities in language, academics, and culture, I have struggled this week with feeling overwhelmed. Jumping into a new lifestyle is not easy for me and we had so much information thrown into our brains that is so foreign in just a few days of being here. I’m struggling with the idea that the middle of May feels so far away, yet I know that I will regret saying that by the time May comes around. Ecuador is a country that has so much to offer, I just need to learn how to live into the person I was created to be in a new place, with new people, and with new opportunities.

¡Hasta pronto!

Morgan

 

(click on first photo to view as slideshow!)

Chiloe Made Me Fall in Love with Nature

Before you begin reading, I invite you watch this video first. It better explains the title than what I have written below. I always say that a video speaks a million words. I must say that I have always appreciated nature but never was really enchanted as I was by it when I filmed this video. Enjoy.

So, it’s been about a few months since I was able to to visit one of Chile’s most scenic places, Chiloe Island. The farthest I have ever been from the hustle and bustle of Santiago where I am living. It doesn’t get any better than the tranquility of only being able to hear my breath in the silence of the shores of the island or even to appreciate the unhindered sun rays penetrating through the thickets of green on afternoon hikes on its moderate hills. Prolonged hours of walking and trekking forgiven by the scenery that it all provided. My filmer-self wanted to capture everything and was frustrated that even what I caught didn’t capture the fullness of what I experienced. But I had to try to film what I could up until I got overwhelmed by it all, put my camera away and just took it all in. Somethings, however, I had to film. Like watching waters by our hotel ripple right under the dock taking the breath away from my friends was a shot that I couldn’t miss.

My filmer-self wanted to capture everything..up until I got overwhelmed by it all, put my camera away and just took it all in. 

Or the wandering cat in the forest that became our ambivalent companion our trek. Or the horses on the plains that seemed overly indifferent to our presence than they were focused on their grassy lunch. Or even just the creativity that seven dandelions, a sandy cliff, and a still puddle of the Pacific’s water can inspire. What did we learn from running around Chiloe’s shores? That nature provides us with flowery diadems, earthy mattresses, and water playgrounds. But how could I have not seen this before? Has the life of a busy college student killed the childlike spirit within me that I have forgotten what it is like to be a child? To explore? To question? To play? Questions like these began flooding in my head as I experience this all and with another one being “Where can I go to experience this again?”

“Nature provides us with flowery diadems, earthy mattresses, and water playgrounds.”

I wanted more. It was certainly something that I would make sure that I would dedicate more of my time to in my stay in Santiago be it hiking the cordillera or exploring the areas most untouched by the metropolitan influence in the country. My next stop, I decided, was San Pedro de Atacama. With only 20 days left until I visit the world’s driest desert where the stars are so large and clear that they almost seem reachable. I only hope that when I visit that I take in the experience for what it is and not for what it could be like in my next Instagram post or documentary. But I admit, that will be difficult for me to do.

“Ser sólo con la tierra, vivir en consecuencia con la tierra solo como hermano” / “Be with the earth, live accordingly with her, like siblings”

Below are some small videobits and photos that were left out of the montage above. It will say each video is 0:00 but you will have to press play until the white bar goes all the way through and it will play.

Resorts, Rest, and Realizations

After all of the adventures that I’ve been on this semester, from snorkeling with sharks to hiking a volcano to bungee jumping, it was okay with me this weekend when we decided to take a break and have a relaxing getaway. This weekend we went to a town called Papallacta which is located in the mountains east of Quito. We only stayed for one night and that was just enough time for me.

We stayed at a hot springs resort and it was probably one of the coolest resorts I’ve ever been to. The resort has tons of hot springs everywhere for you to try out the different temperatures and what not and all of them have incredible views of the mountains. We stayed in cabins which was a fun change from hostels and we had hot springs right outside our door.

Pretty much the whole time we were there I just relaxed in the pools with my friends, having good conversations and forgetting about all of the essays that we had waiting for us in Quito.

Before leaving the resort to head back to the city, a few of us decided to stay a bit longer and do a hike in Parque Nacional Cayambe-Coca. This hike was one of my favorites because it was easy and had amazing views of the mountains around us. We would walk through segments of a forest, crossing bridges over a river while inside the trees, and would come out into the presence of the green mountains that surrounded it all. Truly beautiful in every way.

 

Eventually we left to get back to the city in the most Ecuadorian fashion: waiting on the side of the road until a bus would hopefully come by. Don’t worry, we only had to wait about ten minutes before one stopped for us. It was a quick trip away but one that was necessary and that brought just enough rest for the upcoming week.

As I looked back on my photos from the weekend I was really struck by the mountains and began thinking about this theme of mountains in my semester. I have faced a lot of mountains this semester, literally and figuratively. Here’s the thing about them: mountains are rarely easy to climb. You feel weak and inadequate and want to give up. However as this semester has gone on I have become less intimidated by mountains and the challenges they bring because I have experienced undeserved grace and constant faithfulness in the most difficult climbs. The struggles are real and that is okay. Struggles are a part of life. But there is joy that comes when the thing that once made us weak is overcome.