One sister was living in Paris, one was living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I was living in Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories. It was the winter of 2007. Four years prior, I’d spent a summer in Istanbul, Turkey. While there, I was given a red purse inspired by a classic Turkish rug pattern. I’d added a red camera strap with Chinese characters that I got at an antique store in Canada. I loved that purse. It was slim, spirited, light, and it kept singing to me the songs of nations long after I received it.
So, it was four years later, and my consistent use of that Turkish purse brought it to its final breaking point: after months of minor repairs, it became too zipper-stuck, strap-torn, and weary to continue. It was a sad moment.
At the time, I was quite financially dry. Thus, even the idea of needing to buy another purse felt rough. Moreover, I was several days from departing to the USA for Christmas, by way of the V.I. (Virgin Islands) and Paris. I’d originally planned my layover in Paris to spend time with my sister. However, my parents generously decided to pay for us all to convene in the V.I. first. Our Christmas gift had become a Christmas trip! It was incredible!
In talking with God about all of this, I expressed,
“I want to find a new purse before I get back to the states. I want it to be sold by an Arab, based in some kind of relationship, and I want it to be prophetic about my future.”
Well, despite stumbling upon a great store with goods from West Africa in the V.I, it was not until Paris that I came upon The Morocco Purse.
My relationship with Morocco began when I was child. Prior to loving the Middle East as a region, I adored Morocco. I collected images of Morocco: lanterns, architecture, textiles, clothing, jewelry, and those sweet Saharan dunes. I was entranced. Then, at age 16 I became passionate about the Middle East as a region.
Years later, in graduate school, I was slated to spend the summer of 2003 in Morocco doing a practicum. The trip got cancelled and I went to Turkey instead. That was also the summer I received the Turkish purse as gift.
Back to Paris and 2007: upon my arrival, my thoughtful sister Dori told me that she and her roommate had a particular outdoor market in mind to visit the next day. They’d wanted to go for awhile, but figured I’d love it also so, they waited for my arrival in order to go. The next day we went.
I told my sister, “The only thing I can think about getting is a purse.” I’d asked God how much I should pay and I heard, “Fifty dollars.” Frankly, that seemed like an awful lot to me at the time, penny-pinching as I was, but the message was clear. I’d also felt that it would be a brown leather purse. With that in mind, we entered the market.
The very first leather shop/booth drew us in. My sister translated for me as I asked the storekeeper questions. One particular purse caught my attention. It was be-speckled in coins from several nations. I asked the price. “$110,” came the reply. I politely nodded my understanding, then exited the booth. He approached us a moment later outside the booth, “Come look again, we can negotiate!” He was a pleasant balance of assertive and respectful. We returned. I expressed that the only purse I was interested in was the one with coins. He came down to $80. I assured him that I appreciated the price drop, but it was still above my budget.
“By the way,” I asked, “Where is all of this from?” “Morocco!” came the answer. “Morocco!” I exclaimed. “Are you from Morocco?!” “Yes!” he replied, launching me into Arabic. “You speak Arabic!?” he spattered. “Yes! I live in Palestine!” He asked many questions about the situation in Palestine. I answered. Soon, our conversation was a friendly ol’ jalopy bouncing its way down a country road. It was lovely.
This kinship warmed his heart. “What is your ultimate price for this purse?” he asked me. “Well, I don’t mean to offend you, but it is $50. That is the most I can pay.” “$50!!!!!!?” his voice elevated. I nodded, “$50.” He looked to the other storekeeper, busily sorting things on a counter in back. They exchanged in French. The second man nodded an assent and a shrug. The purse was mine.
Suddenly, I wondered if I had 50 USD with me. I opened my wallet. There was a $50 and two $1 bills. I remembered that, ironically, the last time I visited the moneychanger in Bethlehem, he asked if I minded taking a $50 (he usually gave $20 bills). I didn’t; and thus, I had it, as a perfect fulfillment to the direction I’d sensed from God about the purse price.
I gave the $50 bill to the storekeeper. He gave me the purse. We joyously celebrated the serendipity of our meeting, and onward I went. Walking down the wide aisle of the market, I looked down at the purse, now hanging at my side. I found myself wondering why I bought that purse. Was it truly the right one? As I gazed down on it, I soaked up the image of all those coins from nations. I felt God’s voice drift into my heart,
“I will always make a way for you in the nations.”
That was it. That was why that purse was the right match. It neatly fulfilled the aims I’d asked God for:
1. Sold by an Arab
2. Based on relationship (After all our chatting about the Middle East, the storekeeper and I felt quite bonded.)
3. Prophetic about my future (since childhood, I’ve known that my future and my calling were centered on the nations)
That purse instantly became my travel companion. In fact, weeks later I was visiting a church in California and a woman said to me, “There is something about that purse!” “Yes, I know,” I replied. “No, really, there is something about that purse. God wants to remind you of His faithfulness to you every time you look at it, and to proclaim His faithfulness to others. ” I nodded in deep agreement. That was the timbre of what I’d heard God say after I bought the purse, “I will always make a way for you in the nations.” It was the timbre of His faithfulness and a reminder that His faithfulness to me would also bless nations.
Years later, I began to plan to lead a group trip to Morocco as support to friends there who’d asked me to come. As planning went along, it became evident the timing was not right. I stopped the planning, much to my heart’s sadness. In fact, that was 2012, shortly after my now-husband and I got together. In our coming together, I saw priorities adjust. One evening I told him, “I’ve decided not to go to Morocco this year. The timing is not right. Even though I love adventure, I’ve realized that you are my adventure right now.” Tears snuck out my attempting-to-restrain-themselves eyes. It was a stretching realignment of focus. And it was beautiful.
Last fall, we wondered if the summer of 2014 might hold a trip to Morocco. Yet, we were cautious in our dreaming. We wanted the absolutely right timing. Then came a phone call from a friend (who does NOT live in Morocco) in January, “We’ve decided where we are getting married! It’s Marrakech!”
Suddenly, the parts tumbled together. I contacted our friends in Morocco. It was the right time for them too. We set to planning. We bought our flights. We plowed through car troubles and many visits to the mechanic, dreaming to replace my 1992 Toyota Celica, but knowing we’d chosen Morocco over replacing my car. It was a sweet sacrifice; and I found myself saying out loud, “I’m driving around Morocco, I’m driving around Morocco…” each time I heard another foul squeak or wobble from my car. I love investing in nations. That is more important to me than the car I drive. (And I know the right timing will come for a new car too. After all, God is faithful!)
Plus, God in His god-ness made a gorgeous recipe. Our friend marries on August 9. We arrive in Marrakech on August 3 – our one year wedding anniversary! Moreover, it just so happens that the cheapest flight gave us a long layover in Chicago, allowing us to meet up with two of the groomsmen from our wedding (dear friends of my husband who grew up outside Chicago). The cheapest flight also gave us an overnight in Madrid – a place my husband particularly wanted to go with me since he spent several days there in high school.
God is making a way for us in the nations.
On Friday, we depart for Morocco. After years of yearning to meet this land and champion it in person, we are going.
You can journey with us.
We aim to post a video snippet each day of our journey.
Plus, we will be doing a number of product reviews and hotel reviews along the way, to be posted after our August 16 return.
We hope this story inspires you. We hope you feel stirred to remember that your dreams can come true too.
We’d love it if you dropped us a line below about a place you are dreaming to visit or a place you did visit that was a dream come true!
Filed under: Travel Stories