Friday, October 29, 2010

Swiss Living: Trip To The Swiss Market

I've been wanting to share more videos of Swiss living and make it into a kind of video series so here is the first of it's kind. This was captured with my iPhone so I apologize for the shakey camera work...I hope I don't make anyone sick! In the video you will get an idea of a typical grocery shopping experience for us. We live on a very steep hillside and the grocery store is at the very bottom...needless to say...we get our daily exercise just by climbing up and down this hill since we don't have a car here. I hope you enjoy a tiny glimpse into our lives here and I'm sure there will be more videos of this nature in the future.

Thank you to my wonderful husband for helping me edit this video.
He's awesome! :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things I Love: Halloween

Halloween is right around the corner and it is one of those holidays where you either love it or you hate it. I love it. Now, I must clarify that I don't love everything about Halloween, but there are parts of this October holiday that I do enjoy! I love decorating for it! One year Jared and I hosted a Halloween party at our place and I went all out! Ha. But that's me...when I do something, I put everything into it (and I loooooove to decorate)! I also love (some) Halloween costumes. Yes, unfortunately there are those who use this day as an excuse to sport their underwear in public as an act of obvious desperation, but the costumes I'm talking about are the home made ones...the silly ones, creative ones and the absolutely adorable ones. I love the hay rides, the scary movies and of course the candy! Who doesn't love the infinite candy and other sugary sweets that are associated with this holiday? So while Halloween has a dark reputation, I think it is like all other is what you make of it.

Here are some fun Halloween themed items.

1.  hellonaomi
2. closetunderthestairs
3. marthastewart
4. etsy
5. modernality
6. auday
7. fashionstyleme
8. cutestfood
9. flowersfast
10. target
11. homemadesimple

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Swiss Sunset

Jared usually gets home from work about the same time every evening so I headed out to the kitchen to start dinner because he was on his way home and looked outside our window to see one of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen. The sun was setting behind the Alps and the colors were so vibrant and beautiful. So of course, I grabbed the closest camera to me which was my iPhone and snapped a shot. It didn't even come close to capturing the beauty of the sky but I went ahead and took a short video with it anyway. Afterward I ran into the bedroom and grabbed my professional camera and snapped a few shots. Those images capture the true colors of the sunset in all their vibrant glory! So here is the short video and my favourite photo of the sunset taken from our balcony here in Switzerland.

Feeling SO blessed!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review Tuesday: Blipping Music

 Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought. - E.Y. Harburg 

I have a very eclectic taste when it comes to music. I like everything from folk to reggae to techno. There is SO much music out there and if you're not actively searching for it, good music can be hard to find. So how do you find good music? You certainly won't find it on 95% of the radio stations. Before Myspace became sleezy I used to find lots of underground and unsigned bands there but got tired of all the nonsense that came along with that site. is a site I frequent in order to find similar artists to what I already like. But in the last few months my favourite music sharing site has been is a free, online music discovery service that enables person-to-person music recommendation through a social playlist. You can search for your desired track or artist, preview the track, then blip it with a brief message. 

What I love about is that it is a community of music lovers, like myself, who just love to listen to and share music. I've discovered several new favourites thanks to various Blip DJs. You can recommend songs to listeners, you can dedicate songs to friends and the best part about it is it's FREE! So if you have not checked out this very cool site then you should do it now! :) Check out my music set while you're DJ name is TheLuckiest1 Add me as a favourite DJ so I can do the same and start following your music thread! I can never get enough music! :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mental Vitamins: Twelve Extraordinary Women Series - Anna

Picking back up with the Twelve Extraordinary Women Series - this week's focus is on Anna: The Faithful Witness.

 image credit: Elspeth Young

There were very few people who recognized Jesus as the Messiah at His birth. The only people who did recognize Jesus at His birth did so because they were told by angels or by some other form of special revelation. These select few who understood exactly who Jesus was from His birth were all humble witnesses of the Messianic prophecy. One of those witnesses was Anna.

Everything Scripture has to say about her is contained in just three verses: Luke 2:36-38. She is never mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. But these three verses are enough to establish her reputation as a genuinely extraordinary woman:

"Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." (NKJV)

Like other extraordinary women we have seen so far, Anna's hopes were to see the messianic prophecy unfold in her lifetime. Her hopes were suddenly fulfilled in an instant when she discovered that the Saviour she knew in her heart would one day come to Earth was the tiny child before her. She was blessed by God to be one of the handful of key witnesses who knew the significance of Jesus' birth. And she made no attempt to keep His birth a secret. She became one of the first and most enduring witnesses to Christ. No doubt wherever Luke's gospel is proclaimed, her testimony is still bringing others to the Savior. Thus she deserves a prominent place in this list of extraordinary women.

Though there are only three brief verses about Anna, Luke's narrative  is loaded with key phrases that give us a surprisingly valuable understanding of Anna's life and character. Anna is said to be a prophetess which means she was a woman uniquely devoted to declaring the Word of God. She had a reputation as a gifted teacher of other women and a faithful encourager of her fellow believers.

She is also characterized as a widow. Widowhood in that society was extremely difficult. It virtually guaranteed a life of poverty. Anna either lived on charity or supported herself out of the remnants of her family's inheritance. Either way, she must have led a very prudent, chaste and simple life. Luke adds that she "served God with fastings and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:37) - which rounds out the picture of this elderly, dignified, devoted woman's life and ministry.

Scripture also says that "She spoke of Him to all" (Luke 2:38). The verb tense signifies continuous action. Every opportunity she had she would share the message about Jesus Christ. The Messiah had finally come and Anna was one of the very first to know who He was. She could not and did not want to keep that news to herself. She thus became one of the very first and most enduring witnesses of Christ. She literally could not stop talking about Him. Which is the most endearing part of Anna's extraordinary legacy.

I want to strive to be more like Anna. To proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ at every opportunity given to me and share about His love with such passion, dedication and excitement as she had. I want to share the same fervor that Anna owned when she witnessed our Lord's birth and realized that salvation for humanity was no longer just hopes and dreams...but a living promise...the very substance of things hoped for.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Staying Connected Via Skype

Staying connected is hard. With busy and conflicting schedules, it can be a challenge to stay in touch. Especially if you are like us and everyone you know and love is thousands of miles away....

Our favourite form of connecting with loved ones from a distance is a type of free video calling, called SKYPE that makes it easy to be together, even when we're not.

With Skype, you can talk face to face with live video! We have been able to see and talk to my parents, my nephews and other family members and friends and it helps to make me feel less far away and a little less homesick. It's wonderful to be able to not only hear their voices but actually SEE their faces too! If only Skype could offer a way to be able to give and receive real hugs then I would be set! :) But it really is the next best thing when you can't be with the ones you love. So if you have Skype....add Jared and I as a contact! We'd love to connect! But please keep in mind that we are six hours ahead so no 3AM phone calls please! :)

Hope to hear from all of you soon!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Things I Love: BLUE

The colour blue is kind of an obsession for me. Every time I see it I get happy inside! I think my love for blue grew into an obsession after discovering the blue lights at the Hulman Airport in Terre Haute, Indiana. The way the blue sparkled against the night was magical. I would drive by those blue lights religiously just to get that feeling of happiness. When I moved to Indianapolis for the first time I was right next to the Eagle Creek Airport and those blue lights were even more spectacular! I remember sharing the blue lights drive with Jared for the first time...he was the only other person who enjoyed the simple splendor as much as I did. Another reason we're a perfect match! :)

There are so many beautiful blues in the world. Here are just a few:

1. ShirlPhotoshopGirl
2. Kate A. Spreckley
3. Kaboodle
4. Ananya
5. KiwiCakes
6. Tiffany&Co.
7. Holga
8. Kaang
9. Weedecor

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Patricia Rose

Feeling far away today.

My cousin Trisha was killed in a car accident over the weekend and her funeral is today. She was only 31-years-old. I want to be there with the rest of the family, I want to feel the comfort of their love and understanding in person...through hugs, by holding their hands and sharing their tears. I am grieving the loss more than I could have anticipated. We were close growing up and as adults the distance made our visits less frequent, but I always cherished those memories. Her laugh, her smile, the way she would say "Uncle Dominick" after my Dad would tease her, how she could let out a belch that would put any man's to shame and could do it on cue and her sense of humor would leave your stomach hurting from laughing so hard. She was impossible not to love and everyone who knew her knows that. She had a way of always making me smile.

Love you Trish. Thanks for all the smiles! I'm going to miss yours.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  
1 Corinthians 15:42-57

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review Tuesday: Lee Strobel Series

I love to read. My favourite types of books are those that help me grow in my faith or that are based on true life experiences. For those of you who have been following my blog for awhile now, I have been reading and blogging a series of summaries and reflections on the book Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur. Well, I discovered a book series that I just can't say enough about. The Lee Strobel books are phenomenal and are entitled The Case For Christ, The Case For The Creator, and The Case For Faith.  Author, Lee Strobel is a self-proclaimed Atheist-turned-Christian who, for many years, was the legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. He was educated at the University of Missouri (Bachelor of Journalism degree, 1974) and Yale Law School (Master of Studies in Law degree, 1979). After his wife converted to Christianity he decided to launch an all out investigation as an attempt to, what he says, disprove that God exists. Through his many years of research and investigation he ultimately came to the conclusion that God DOES exist and his books document his findings and his own spiritual journey.

Lee Strobel has a film collection based on these books and if you are like me, and you are a very visual person, then you will agree that these DVDs are AWESOME! They are all so well done and include interviews and wisdom from respected scholars and theologians. The Case For The Creator gives excellent visual explanations of the important evidence that points to God and for some of us...just hearing the scripture or growing up in church is not enough to base our faith on...we want scientific evidence that there is a God. The conclusions of science-based evidence leaves little room for argument. The facts speak for points toward a Creator. This is definitely my favourite in the series. After viewing it it's hard to not be left with a greater understanding and appreciation of our universe, ourselves and our God.

I think the best order in which to read the books or view the DVDs is to start with The Case For Christ so you can get the background of what drove Lee Strobel to start his investigation, what steps he took to start investigating Judeo-Christian beliefs and claims, who he interviewed in terms of historians, scholars and theologians in order to gather the necessary evidence and develop this series. This was the first book in the series so I think it's natural to start there. Then go on to The Case For A Creator and be prepared to be in awe at the complexity and fine-tuning of our world, the intricate details necessary for life to exists and a greater appreciation for the God who made it all possible. The Case For Faith tackles faith-based issues and addresses questions that are potential emotional barriers to faith. I really enjoyed this one as well but like I said, The Case For The Creator is the one I recommend most if you are searching for scientific evidence to back up Christianity. After viewing it I  have a new appreciation for my surroundings, my God and myself.

To quote St. Augustine: "People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and yet they pass by themselves without wondering." We as humans are WONDERFULLY made! And the information provided in this DVD gives us a deeper look into our deliberate, and perfected design. It's really worth checking out!

Here is a sneak peek/clip from The Case For A Creator:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mental Vitamins: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

In recent weeks myself and several of those around me have experienced pain, suffering and/or the loss of a loved one. There is one question that is often asked when faced with these types of difficult circumstances and can potentially become an emotional barrier to faith and that question is: "Why does God allow suffering to happen?" If God is all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing then why on Earth would He allow evil in the world?

To understand the Biblical view of evil and suffering we must first consider an apparent contradiction in 5 core beliefs in Judeo-Christian theology:
  • God exists
  • God is all-good
  • God is all-knowing
  • God is all-powerful
  • There is evil in the world
    There appears that there is a conflict between God's goodness and God's power. If He was all good he would want to get rid of all evil and if he was all-powerful He would be able to - but evil exists so either He isn't all good or He isn't all-powerful. And I think there is a lot of confusion about what it means to say God is all-powerful. Many people think that means that God can do anything. But Scripture tells us that there are things that God CANNOT do. For instance,  God CANNOT lie. It's not that He chooses not to it's that He is incapable of lying. (Hebrews 6:18) 

    C.S. Lewis once said "Can a mortal ask questions that God finds un-answerable?"  "Yes, quite easily. Is yellow square or round?" "How many hours are there in a mile?" And if you extend that a bit yes, God can't make a square-circle. So there are things that God can't do because they would be illogical or non-sensical. So when we talk about God being omnipotent what that means is God can do anything power can do but it doesn't mean that God can violate the laws of logic and do something contradictory.

    I think we also need to take a step back and realize who the true engineer of evil is. It certainly was not God. God is the creator of all that is good. Evil is the lack of good. I think we make the mistake of believing that evil is a thing and because God created all things then He must have created evil, but here is an excellent analogy given by Greg Koukl: Think of evil as a donut hole...not the round sugar balls that you eat after church, but the missing part of the donut, or lack of donut - the hole...that is like evil...the lack of good or the removal of good. It was our free will...our freedom of choice that put a hole in goodness. The pain and suffering that we see in the world is often the cause of our own choices and our own sinful nature. We are so quick to blame God for things that we ourselves have brought about. God gave us our free will so that we could choose whether or not to love God and love other people. Love, the most valuable thing in our universe, must involve a choice. The moment love is forced, it's not love anymore.

    Unfortunately, we have abused our freedom of choice by hurting each other and that's where most of the world's suffering comes from. There are answers for the natural disasters that also cause so much harm.  When we as human beings told Jesus to 'shove off' he partially honoured our request. The result: creation was marred. We no longer live in the world as it was designed.

    People often give heart-breaking examples of how evil destroys lives and then immediately point their finger at God but those same people fail to remember that God created a way for us to escape the evil of this world. He endured the greatest suffering by being beaten, humiliated, tortured, rejected and killed...for us. He endured the weight of the entire world's sin on the cross just so that we might one day be free from the pain, the suffering and the evil. He didn't have to do that. But when we look at the evidence of who Jesus was and is and what He has done then we can view Him against that backdrop as opposed to that of an evil mastermind, and we  can see Him for what He truly is, that He is in fact a loving God who understands our hurt, our grief, our suffering and wants to rescue us from a life of evil and through His own suffering and sacrifice provides us with that very chance of redemption. Heaven was meant for us to enjoy with Him and the cross made a bridge between man and God.

    "There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark - the cross - which symbolizes divine suffering. In a world of pain, who would worship a God who was immune to it." -John Stott

    It's hard to make sense out of the suffering and the pain when it is happening but I know several people, myself included, who years later, could look back and recognize that there was a purpose in all of it. This isn't to diminish the hurt. The pain is real, there is nothing wrong with asking questions and wondering why certain things are happening in our life but I hope you find peace of mind in knowing that our God is a God of purpose and He works the all-together for good.  His intent is not to harm us, but to help us see more clearly His purpose in our lives. Sometimes it just takes time to see the whole picture. Life is not a snapshot. The pain that we may be feeling now can't compare to the joy our future holds in Christ Jesus. I hope these words find you encouraged.

    **Please check out my other blog entry on suffering by clicking HERE.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Feature Friday: The Contrast

    These past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind. We have learned just how differently they do things here in Switzerland and are realizing just how good we as Americans have it! Don't get me wrong, this is a great country with some really wonderful people in it but they simply have a different way of living that we are not used to. And there is good reason that America is called the greatest nation on Earth! We're efficient, we're cost-effective, and communication for us, is for the most part, not a problem. We are United by our culture and our language. There are of course many other aspects that contribute to why America is so great, but these are the main differences we have encountered recently. America caters to convenience and if you go anywhere else in the world...even somewhere as modern and wonderful as Switzerland you still will experience a fair amount of culture shock. I mean, we're coming from the absolute best so anything else is simply second best. Something that takes some adjustment. We are realizing just how spoiled we were in the U.S.

    In Switzerland it takes twice as long to get anything done. Now at first that may sound nice, but when it comes to your job, try to imagine not getting the equipment you need for months instead of days making it nearly impossible to do your job, imagine trying to get important tasks done on your lunch break only to find that there is a 2 hour period during the lunch hours where everything (and I mean everything) shuts down and then everyone gets off work at 4:00 or 6:00 at the good luck trying to get things taken care of in the window of time you are offered. Forget about Sundays. Everything is shut down all day, every week on Sunday and shops close even earlier on Saturdays then they do during the week. Better stock your fridge and get all the things you need for the weekend before the weekend hits. That's unheard of in America. We have 24 hour shopping and restaurants back home. We work long hours. No matter what time of day or night it is, you can most likely get what you need in a timely matter in America. Not here...that is just not the Swiss way of life. EXTREMELY laid back way of thinking.

    Everything is twice as expensive here too. (I will think twice before complaining about most American prices when we return) Every day items are shockingly high in price. A single sheet (not a set, just a single bed sheet can be as much as $60.00 depending on the size you need. A McDonald's meal will cost you $15.00 for a regular cheeseburger value meal where in the States you could feed a family of four at McDonald's for that price! One thing I do appreciate is that it forces you to eat healthier, to live healthier. We don't go out to eat here, dining out is a luxury. It's much more cost effective to cook your own meals and you have to watch for prices at the supermarket too. Meat is a luxury. Try paying $15.00 for 4 chicken breasts or a pound of ground beef.....  Fruit and vegetables are reasonably priced so that's what we eat. And we take public transportation everywhere we go. Saving energy and cutting down emissions...that part of Swiss culture I als like. We have to walk nearly the market or to the train has definitely doubled my exercise time. Again, another plus. It's forced...I don't have a choice...but when it comes to living healthier I needed this forced change. I was eating what I wanted, when I wanted and rarely exercised. I've already lost quite a bit of weight because of this lifestyle change. (DEFINITE PLUS!)

    The hardest hurdle by far has been communication. We live in a country where there are four primary languages...French, German, Italian and Romansch. There are some who speak English but it's a gamble when trying to communicate if they do or don't. I was sitting at the train station and a gentleman came up to me and asked for directions in French...I told him in French that I spoke English so he went around asking others in French for directions....he had to ask 5 different people before he found someone who spoke French and the ironic part was we were IN THE FRENCH SPEAKING REGION!! I think most Americans, myself included, have taken for granted the fact that you can go up to anyone and 95% of the time you will be able to have a conversation with that person. The odds are not in your favor here. Hearing English spoken here is like music to my ears! Jared and I are going to enroll into a French course that is provided free to his work employees and their spouses. Knowing both languages will help!

    We have also learned just how difficult it is to move to Switzerland. In fact, it is the hardest place to move to in the world. No joke. Look it up. You have to have your visa approved, then you must apply for a permit B, which is like a resident's card. But get this, they only give out a set number of these permits and they are given according to your educational and pay status. So because Jared has a PhD and where he will be working he moves closer to the front of the line. There is a guy who's profession is a hairstylist who says he's been waiting for his permit for FOUR YEARS! Crazy, right?! That wouldn't fly in the U.S. there would be rioting and lawsuits about discrimination and whatnot! But here, that's how they operate, everyone understands that and no one challenges it. So after you have all the necessary paperwork THEN you can apply for an apartment. If you do not have a permit B you cannot rent an apartment or own a home. And even with the permit it is close to impossible to find a place to rent. There is limited housing so instead of you going to the leasing office and signing a lease and moving right in after maybe having a background are in competition with other people to even be interviewed for the apartment and the landlord/agency picks who they want as a tenant out of all of the applicants. Jared's boss' daughter has still not found a place to live and she is a Swiss citizen.

    So to say the least, we are BEYOND BLESSED to have successfully moved here and secured this apartment because truthfully, all the odds were against us. But God is on our side and there is proof of His signature on everything we've accomplished thus far. He has opened doors that we never could have without His help. I'm so thankful for a God who meets our needs and takes care of every last detail. These last few weeks have really put our faith to the test. But through it all I can see how it has strengthened my faith and brought me closer to my Saviour who has been right there with us every step of the way.

    I'm certain there are more trials and hardships ahead but I know that we will never have to endure them alone.I'm holding on firmly to His promise that God is with us.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Things I Love: World Globes

    As a world traveler to over a dozen different countries and having now lived in 3 of those countries in my lifetime - I think that is much of where my love for world globes comes from. When I was a little girl I used to spin globes around and then point my finger to see where it would land and dream about going to that place one day. (I still have to mark Iceland off the list! ;) ) There's something old world about globes...something I definitely enjoy.

    Here are others who share my appreciation for globes.

    1. klara.kristina
    2. sommerwithano
    3. theoldshopteacher
    4. trinketsforkeeps
    5. thinkaboutrainbows
    6. LaneyButler
    7. ElizabethAbernathy
    8. DonToye
    9. shoplet

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Virtual Tour of Our Apartment In Switzerland

    A virtual tour of our apartment in Switzerland per request! Hope you enjoy and that many of you come and see it in person! :) We would love to have visitors!

    **please note that I am still recovering from a cold so I apologize for my scratchy voice and somewhat apathetic tone.


    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Review Tuesday: Favourite YouTube Videos

    While Jared is at work I have to find ways to entertain myself during the week. One of my favourite things to do to pass time is to watch YouTube videos. Here are a few of my favourite videos to watch on Youtube in no particular order.

    1. A Short Love Story in Stop Motion

    2. Confessions of a Hipster

     3. Crazy Carrie-Oke

    4. Never Say No To Panda

    5. Singing While In Labor

    6. ASL Your Hands

    7. 7-year-old sings Amazing Grace

    8. Charlie Bit My Finger

    9. Miracle of Life

    10. Cute Otters Holding Hands

    11. My Name Is John Daker

    12. Bad Case Of Diarrhea

    13. Groovy Dancing Chick

    14. Antoine Dodson

    15.Super Chameleon

    16. Grover Interrogation

    17. Greatest Wedding Entrance

    18. Bible In A Minute

    19. Simon's Cat

    20. Amazing Sand Art

    Mental Vitamins: Twelve Extraordinary Women Series - Mary

    This week's chapter in the book Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur is about the most well-known woman in the Bible - Mary, the mother of Jesus.

    "Of all the extraordinary women in the Scripture, one stands out above all others as the most blessed, the most highly favored by God, and the most universally admired by women. Indeed, no woman is more truly remarkable than Mary. She was the one sovereignly chosen by God--from among all the women who have ever been born--to be the singular instrument through which He would at last bring the Messiah into the world." 

    I don't think MacArthur could have given a better introduction of Mary. She was given outstanding grace and privilege and humbly understood that she was profoundly blessed. But while acknowledging Mary as the most extraordinary of women, it is important to note that we should not elevate her too much. She was afterall, a woman--not a demigoddess or deity as some religions and cultures seem to personify her. She herself was never portrayed in Scripture as a source or dispenser of Grace, but as a woman whom God bestowed upon His holy grace. Some seem to think of Mary as more approachable and more sympathetic than Christ and superstitiously imagine that she regularly appears and delivers prophecies to the world. I think we all remember the stale grilled-cheese sandwich that sold for $28,000 on eBay because it purportedly had the image of Mary supernaturally etched in the burn marks of the toast. I think I once saw a t.v. broadcast of a woman who got this grilled cheese image tattooed somewhere on her body. Clearly this whole idea of spiritual meaning behind it is a hoax and utterly absurd. There have been other "sightings" of Mary, all of which are entirely without biblical warrant. In fact, it is completely contrary to what Scripture teaches (Rev. 19:10). 

    MacArthur points out that prior to Mary's miraculous conception she was an average girl from a poor region of Israel. If you were to encounter her prior to Jesus' birth you probably would not deem her life to be very extraordinary at all. I think sometimes we as women, as humans for that matter, think that our social status has a lot to do with how God views us or how he determines our worth and that just simply isn't true. That is a very human way of thinking and judging. God sees the heart, he values a humble heart that is willing to love and to serve Him. It doesn't matter what circumstances we came from, God will bless those who are faithful to His Word. Mary is an excellent example of this. She was, in a sense, a nobody but she humbly acknowledged her own personal need for a Savior and would later be the very vessel used to bring the Savior into the world.

    Now as a woman who was once a young teenager with somewhat strict parents and who grew up in a society where teenage pregnancy was severely frowned upon, I cannot imagine what went through Mary's mind when she was told she would have a child as a virgin teenager. She must have anticipated rumors, a slandered reputation and the chance of losing her newlywed husband. But despite all of those thoughts that must have raced through her mind she responded to the angel's news by saying "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) She instantly, humbly and joyfully submitted to God's will without further doubt or question demonstrating a young woman of mature faith.

    I for one will admit that as a teenager I don't know if I would have responded as well as Mary did. I probably would have freaked out! I would have dreaded telling my parents because of the fear they would not have believed me when sharing the story that I was a virgin but was also pregnant and my child would be the Son of God. I mean, imagine having that conversation with your parents as a teenager girl! It's fair to acknowledge that in today's society, in Mary's situation, she would have been encouraged to abort her child. She could have avoided any negative responses or confrontation by discarding the evidence (the child) but had Mary been given the option and exercised her "right" to have an abortion...the fate of all mankind would have been gravely different. Sometimes what society views as a "mistake" or "problem" is really a blessing in disguise. Scripture also tells us that Joseph at first did in fact doubt the validity of Mary's story and even considered divorcing her until the angel appeared to him in a dream and confirmed the truth. So imagine how virtually alone and misunderstood Mary must have felt at that time.

    I know I have had similar emotions when it comes to my faith. There are those who question and doubt what I know in my heart to be true. There is zero doubt in my mind that my Savior not only exists but that He loves me beyond comprehension. Sadly, there will always be people who are on the outside judging something that they themselves do not fully understand and refuse to try and understand. But our job is not to convince people that God exists, our calling is to serve Him faithfully and love others just as He loves us. Some days are more challenging than others but thankfully God's mercy, grace and love are unfaltering! And I'm thankful for His Word that is filled with biographies like Mary's and others who bring comfort in a world that is full of religious persecution. God understands our pain, our frustrations and fear and replaces them with his love, compassion and courage. I so desperately need Him and I am eternally grateful and stand in wonder that He is always there when I need Him especially when everyone else in the world seems to turn their back.

    I cannot imagine the emotions that Mary endured when the time came for Jesus to bear all the sins of the world and give His life so that you and I may be saved from a life without hope. She knew that His death was necessary and unavoidable but I'm certain her motherly instincts made it incredibly difficult to witness the death of her Son. While Mary watched her firstborn Son die, others were screaming insults and taunts at Him. Her sense of injustice being done to Him must have been profound. She had raised him from infancy, she understood His absolute sinless perfection and no one could have loved Him more than she did. Mary must have understood that her steadfast presence at Jesus' side was the only kind of support she could give Him during that dreadful moment. Again, Mary was in no way a part of the world's redemption. HE was bearing the sins of the world, she could not assist with that, nor did He need her to. "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1Timothy 2:5).

    As a matter of fact, while Jesus was in the midst of suffering on the cross it was Jesus who would come to her aid! It was during this time that Jesus acknowledged His human relationship with Mary. John describes what happened: "When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple  whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (John 19:26).

    So one of Jesus' last earthly acts before His death was to make sure that Mary would be cared for throughout the rest of her life. That act epitomizes Mary's relationship with her firstborn Son. She was His earthly mother; but He was her eternal Lord. She understood and embraced that relationship. As a mother, she had provided all His needs, but in the ultimate and eternal sense, He was her Saviour and provider.

    "Mary herself never claimed to be or pretended to be anything more than a humble servant of the Lord. She was extraordinary because God used her in an extraordinary way but she clearly thought of herself as simply ordinary. She is portrayed in Scripture only as an instrument whom God used in the fulfillment of His plan. It is a shame that religious superstition has, in a sense, turned Mary into an idol. She is certainly a worthy woman to emulate but Mary herself would undoubtedly be appalled to think anyone would pray to her or worship her in anyway. Her life and her testimony point us continuously to her Son. He was the one she worshiped. He was the one she trusted with everything. He was the one she recognized as Lord. Mary's own example, seen in the pure life of Scripture, teaches us to do the same."

    It is important to remember Mary as a significant Biblical figure, and a truly extraordinary woman, but to not elevate her (or anyone else for that matter) to a level and status that no one could ever achieve and a role that cannot be filled. There is only One who is worthy to be praised.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Feature: Goodbye Hotel Living, Hello Mountain Views!

    Today we move into our new apartment and because we don't have internet set up there yet I'm doing one last blog from our hotel room. I'm excited to get settled in and really start our lives here in Switzerland! Hotel living is great...but only for so long. I want to unpack, do some laundry(never thought I'd say that (it only took having one pair of wearable underwear left I suppose), do some cooking(dining out is EXPENSIVE here!), and just have a sense of home, ya know! Ok, and I'm dying to enjoy that view from our balcony!! :)

    It's a bummer that we don't know how long we will be without internet though (it's like my lifeline, especially at this distance). The Swiss have not embraced the whole Free WiFi concept yet (not everywhere like in the States anyway) so we could be disconnected from the internet realm for up to a month depending on how long it takes them to come out and install it. :( Just letting everyone know so there wasn't any concern or confusion if days or weeks go by without an update.

     It will probably be good to have a little internet detox for awhile and enjoy more of the beauty that is around me without feeling the need to log on every hour! Jared is at work all day during the week so I will have to find creative ways to keep myself busy without him OR the internet. I'm sure I'll find plenty! I have my cats, my camera and lots of good reading! That should hold me over! :)

    So until next time...whenever next time is...

    Au Revoir! :)

    Things I Love: Campfires

    At the first signs of Autumn - when the air is cooler and the leaves are changing, I like to cozy up next to a crackling campfire wrapped in a warm blanket or comfy hoodie while sipping hot chocolate or roasting marshmallows and creating s'mores. Rustic, but not necessarily 'roughing it', it's the great outdoors with the everyday indulgences. I love the smells, the campfire conversations, the glow of rising embers and being cuddled up closely to my sweetheart, or being surrounded by family and friends in a warm circle. Taking a moment apart from modern luxuries and just enjoying the simplicities of life around a steady fire is what I enjoy most about campfires.

    Here are a few others who enjoy the warmth, sights and smells of campfires.

    1. bushelandpeckpaper
    2. campfirechic
    3. eternalsunshine
    4. graysparrow
    5. charles m. schulz
    6. loveluca
    7. frecklesunleashed
    8. campfirechic
    9. nutandbee
    10. urbanoutfitters
    11. merrimentdesign
    12. merrimentdesign

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Swiss Living

    Well it's been a week since we made the journey from America to Switzerland and in that week we have accomplished a lot! We survived the Swiss railway carrying more luggage than any two people should ever carry if they intend on traveling by train, we have found a few people in Switzerland who speak English and for those who don't we use a combination of broken French and hand gestures, Jared started his first week of work and we received the keys to our new apartment! Not bad for our first time moving overseas together!

    Jared is my hero. With the help of God, he has made our transition go so smooth! There has been a lot to think about, a lot of adjustments, a lot of trials and tasks in order to pick up our life and move it overseas. He's tackled everything like a pro and I am so so SO thankful for everything he's done for us! I'm extremely proud of my husband...I was before this experience but now it's like off the charts how proud I am of him. Of us. We broke out of our comfort zone and surrendered to faith in order to expand our horizons and better our future. There have been many moments where we thought to ourselves "What are we doing?!? What's the next step?" But time after time, God has faithfully directed our steps and I can look back and see His footprints on the path right beside ours the whole way.

    This certainly was no easy move. We had to say goodbye to so many people we love not knowing when we will see them again, we transported two cats by plane, train and taxi, we moved hotels three times, we've had struggles with the language barrier, had to get acquainted with a whole new area (find the grocery store, apartment and other necessities, consider transportation, adjust to a new work environment etc.) all these things then add a 6 hour time difference mixed with exhaustion, frustration, anxiety and at times - confusion. It's been a lot to handle and I'll admit that I broke down in tears a few times, but in just a week's time we are starting to see God's blessings and how He has orchestrated it all. He gave us the strength, courage and resources to be successful so far in our new adventure! GOD IS SO GOOD!!

    We were able to meet the tenant who lived in the apartment before us and he shared with us his trial and errors of moving here - things to know and things to do to ensure things continue to go smoothly. He and others we have interacted with here have all made the comment that finding housing in Switzerland is nearly impossible so for us coming from overseas and securing an apartment so quickly is nothing short of a miracle. Not only did we find an apartment but it is an AMAZING apartment. It's perfect for us. It's nestled among the vineyards of beautiful and very safe. It's modern, cat-friendly, completely furnished close to the train station and grocery store and has an incredible view! Oh and we're on the top floor so NO MORE TERRIBLE UPSTAIRS NEIGHBORS! :) I promised a few people I would post a video tour of our apartment and the area where we will be living and plan to do that soon but for now here are a few photos....

    Now that we have a place to call our own I am looking forward to making new memories here together. We have a guest room that needs some guests. If you're interested in visiting let us know! We'd love to have you! :)

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Review Tuesday: ECPAT International

    ECPAT International is a global network of organisations and individuals working together for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. It seeks to encourage the world community to ensure that children everywhere enjoy their fundamental rights free and secure from all forms of commercial sexual exploitation.

    The ECPAT network is composed of ECPAT groups based all over the world; the International Board, elected by the International Assembly; and the International Secretariat. In 1996, the network consisted of 17 groups. By 1999, it had grown to 53 groups and, in 2007, there are over 80 groups in more than 70 countries. ECPAT groups are very diverse: some are large coalitions of NGOs; some are small groups composed of individuals. Some groups have activities covering a wide range of CSEC issues while others concentrate on only one aspect.

    At ECPAT International, in addition to working with and supporting network members, the anti-CST programme works with governments, national tourism authorities, the tourism and travel industry, other child-rights organisations, international organisations, NGOs and local grassroots groups on various initiatives.  They vary from advocacy, specifically creating policies and legislations, to creating awareness-raising campaigns and conducting training for relevant stakeholders.  

     At a local level, ECPAT aims to strengthen and improve the capacities of grassroots organisations to reflect rights-based practices in the care and support of children. This is pursued with support for integration of care standards and child protection policies in care programs to ensure quality of services for the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration (or social integration) of children who have been commercially sexually exploited

    Preventing Exploitation of Children
    ECPAT works to ensure that the benefits of the Internet and new technologies are not compromised by those that seek to use it for the sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT works with governments, law enforcement, the technology industry and other NGOs to develop protocols for reporting and responding to such crimes, through awareness and education, reporting hotlines and other measures to help identify and assist the child victims. It also advocates and works for development of comprehensive national child pornography laws to protect children.

    Strong laws, together with effective enforcement procedures which are child-friendly, are important to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation. Yet most countries still lack a comprehensive legal framework for deterring crimes, managing investigations, prosecuting perpetrators and protecting and assisting children in their recovery.

    Get Involved!
    Human trafficking is the third largest and fastest growing criminal activity in the world. It is estimated that approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked domestically or across borders each year.  In order to end this serious crime and abuse of children and young people, ECPAT and The Body Shop have formed a partnership to create and implement the global “STOP Sex Trafficking of Children & Young People Campaign.” For more information or to join the campaign, click here.

    Speak Out!
    It's important to talk about it. You raise awareness. But you can also prevent child abuse by not letting it be a secret.

    Stay Informed!
    Connect with ECPAT International by following online, where you can get the latest news, join campaigns and help spread the word to help protect children from sexual exploitation. Follow ECPAT online by clicking on any of the following icons :

    "In my view, there is nothing more vicious and outrageous than the abuse, exploitation and harm of the most vulnerable members of our society, and I firmly believe that our nation's laws and resources need to reflect the seriousness of these terrible crimes."
    --Bob Ney

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Mental Vitamins: Twelve Extraordinary Women Series - Hannah

    Last week I took a short break from the Twelve Extraordinary Women Series but I wanted to get right back to it. This week's focus is on Hannah.

     photo credit: Elspeth Young

    Hannah's personal story makes her one of my favourite women of the Bible. The study of her life reveals the classic portrait of a godly mother. Yet, Hannah almost never became a mother. Like Sarah, she was childless and distraught over it. But Hannah exhibited tremendous faith and perseverance. Before her son, Samuel, was even born she prayed to God and promised that if He gave her a son she would dedicate him to the Lord. This was not an empty promise made in a moment of desperation - Samuel would begin serving in the tabernacle when he was just a toddler. Hannah knew that God had given her this son and she wanted to give back to God for His blessing by dedicating her son's life to serving the Lord. The value of persistent and passionate prayer is one of the central lessons from Hannah's life.

    "Hannah stood out as a ray of light. Not only was she the quintessential godly mother and wife, but in a spiritually cold generation she exemplified patience, prayerfulness, faith, meekness, submission, spiritual devotion and motherly love."

    MacArthur's description of Hannah is something I think all Christian women should strive to be. In fact, my main interest in this book in the first place was because I wanted to discover godly female role models. Contrary to social standards...I do not wish to be like famous Hollywood icons or other influential individuals in mainstream media. I want to be an example of what Christ sees as true beauty and grace and dignity. The Bible was given to us not as a book of rules to keep us from enjoying life but more as a study guide for how to enjoy God's love and our life here on earth to the fullest! The more we seek Him out and learn from His Word, the more we have a clear understanding of our purpose and our future. That is the reason I chose this book...I mean if God Himself mentioned these women in the Bible, then they truly must have been extraordinary and that's the kind of life I hope to live - one that honors God.

    We currently live in a spiritually cold generation just like in the days of Hannah and I think that it is our calling as young women and mothers to stand out as a light against the darkness. To show the world what God's love and grace looks like and practice living our lives in a way that honors Him - not necessarily living a life that is pleasing to the world. We need to teach our children to have love, faith and hope centered around God - not people, and things.

    MacArthur does an excellent job of covering all basis. He briefly talks about how some women are called to remain single and that motherhood is not the only proper role for women.  A woman does not need to be a wife or a mother before she can be deemed useful in the Lord's service. I think this is important to highlight because there are many women who cannot have children or who will never marry but can still serve a wonderful purpose. There are examples of women in the Bible who were never a wife or mother and God used them mightily apart from marriage and motherhood. (Miriam and Deborah) This should be an encouragement to any woman who may be feeling distraught by not being able to fill the role as wife or mother. We were all meant for great things, and each of us have different callings. That doesn't make any of us more or less important or special.

    Honor and eminence for women in the Bible was nearly always closely associated with home and family. Hannah understood that, and she earnestly desired to enter into the noble role of a mother.

    Of course, the Bible's exaltation of motherhood is often disregarded by our more "enlightened" age. In fact, in this generation, motherhood is frequently mocked and belittled in the name of "women's rights." Instead of viewing motherhood and family as an honor and a blessing, society views it as optional and often as a burden. Abortion has made it possible for women to be denied motherhood and children to be denied life. It has tainted the beauty of family. But MacArthur points out that it has been God's plan from the beginning that women should train and nurture godly children and thus leave a powerful imprint on society through the home. Hannah is a classic illustration of how that works.

    I am not a mother....yet. But I desire to be one someday. Not just because I love children, but because I want to create a family who lives for and loves the Lord, just as Hannah prayed for. As I look around me, I can't help but notice the consequences of not having a culture who values a Christ-centered family. My husband and I are not perfect and don't expect to raise perfect children - I mean Adam and Eve couldn't even raise perfect children and they were at one time...actually perfect (that is before sin entered the world) - but we both have a heart for God and hope that our children one day see that and choose to live for Christ too.

    I never dreamed I would be getting so much out of this book but I am really enjoying building my relationship with God through this sort of biblical interaction. I believe that personal reflection in accordance with spiritual meditation is the key to positive growth. I hope that you are also enjoying your own personal journey with God.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Feature: Swiss Newbies

    Yesterday we had to take the train from Zurich to Lausanne because this is where Jared's work is located. It is a 2 hour train ride and it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. We were traveling with 6 bags plus our cats and making sure we got ourselves plus all of our bags on the train proved to be quite a challenge! It was supposed to be a direct ride with no connecting trains but of course, the train we were on breaks down and so we had to transport ourselves and all of our belongings to another FOUR MINUTES...I don't know how we did it, but we did. But it didn't stop there....we then had to get yet ANOTHER connecting train to Lausanne which guessed it...we had to make another transition with all of our bags before finally arriving in Lausanne. Getting on and off of those trains with very little time to do it was exhausting not to mention a bit scary. There was a moment or two where Jared barely got on the train before the doors closed because there are no ramps and he had to hand me each bag before getting on himself. It was insane. If we didn't have our bags we wouldn't have had nearly the amount of struggle. But hey, we did it! And I hope to never do that again! Our cats are probably wondering what the heck we are trying to do! They've been so good through everything. Very laid back and well-behaved. I couldn't be more proud of them! They've been through a lot and seem to be coping with the temporary chaos very well.

    All of our hotels have been very nice. (we've had to move 3 times because they were booked after our first night - even though we had booked them early online. We are settled here at our final hotel before moving to our apartment. And the view is fantastic!

    We have had to ask the hotel receptionists to translate for us when calling the apartment agency because apparently only one person there speaks both English and French and they have been out of the office the last few days. Still haven't got that squared away but we were assured today that the apartment is guaranteed to us we just have to sign papers and get the process going. We are ready to start the process...we are now at the mercy of this agency getting on it and finding someone we can actually speak to. Very frustrating! Knowing French would really come in handy right now. I keep speaking Spanish to them as kind of an instinct since that is my only second language and keep having to catch myself. I feel silly everytime I catch myself speaking Spanish.

    What I've learned so far is that moving to a foreign country and not knowing the language is not for the weak or faint of heart. It is challenging, frustrating and can be discouraging. But Jared and I have each other and I know that we are going to grow tremendously through this experience. Once we are settled in our apartment I will be able to relax more and really be able to take in everything this great country has to offer. All of the people we have interacted with have been so kind and understanding - we are both so thankful for that!

    I haven't had much of an opportunity to get many pictures but when I do you can count on me to share them with you! Right now our goal is to establish a home here and start learning the language. Once we break through the language barrier life will be much less complicated. I'm optimistic! :)

    Oh, and we currently have internet at the hotel but I am uncertain whether or not we will have internet immediately at our new place so I may be incommunicado for awhile. I'll be updating as much as possible!