Thursday, March 31, 2011

Things I Love: Welcome Mats

I went on the hunt for a cute doormat today with no luck. I found a few that I liked but they were all outrageously priced! Back home I have a doormat for nearly every holiday - definitely one for every season. I don't know why but I enjoy the idea of house guests being greeted by a cute doormat even before they are actually greeted by us. It's just that little something extra to personalize your place and make it feel more inviting. Jared thinks it's silly to own so many doormats and switch them out nearly every month. But it's something I just enjoy. I'm still on the hunt for the perfect "guest greeter" for our apartment here in Switzerland. Here are a few examples of the cute doormats that are out there so that maybe you'll have a better understanding of why I have a mini obsession with them! :)

1. Spoilt Cat Lives Here
2. Pineapple 
3. Handmade using old trivets
4. Greetings
5. Shamrock (I actually have this one back home)
6. Home Sweet Home
7. Snowflakes
8. Monogram
9. Welcome Cats

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hopes And Plans

We have had beautiful weather this week and have been enjoying some wonderful quality time together. We have been lounging around, enjoying the spring weather from our balcony and talking for hours about life, about the future and about nothing at all. There is something so romantic and intimate about simply sharing in words your hopes and plans for the future together. It's amazing how words can make me feel even closer to my husband. Definitely excited about our future together.

Aside from just enjoying each other, I have been keeping busy with volunteer work. Lots of planning and preparing for some exciting things to come for Epic Alliance.  Currently we have a contest going on where young people can win a free t-shirt by "liking" our facebook page and leaving a comment of a fun or creative date idea. The goal is to encourage ways to enjoy their significant other without the need to be physically intimate as well as help ensure they receive future updates and useful information about relationships and other important life decisions through our online resources. Plus the t-shirt designs are pretty EPIC if you ask me! :) We've had a great response so far! The contest ends tomorrow and I'm excited for whoever the winners will be! If you are interested in purchasing one of these t-shirts they are also available from our online store for only $10 each so definitely check them out!

Jared has begun writing his first post-doc paper. Pretty exciting! He's also started on another new project and has definitely won the appreciation of his boss. He has extended huge compliments to Jared over the last few weeks. Jared has equally wonderful things to say about his boss too. Brilliant and inspiring are words they have used to describe each other. And from what I know about both of them, I wholeheartedly agree! I'm so thankful that Jared is having such a great experience so far. It is an excellent confirmation that we made the right decision in coming here and that his future as a chemist is bright. Which in turn means that our future is bright. God is good!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Artful Message

 I stumbled upon a series of animated videos that all contain an encouraging message. This talented artist combines his artwork with inspirational music and uses this method as a tool to minister. I'm often amazed by how God sometimes reaches us. He gave us the Scriptures as our guideline for life and He often uses our own talents to share that same truth in a modern way. I love it. I definitely found encouragement in these two videos in particular. My prayer is that God uses them to encourage you also.

This first video is an interpretation of our battle with doubt. Doubt is a bitter struggle to face as a Christian, but it is one many of us have to face. Satan is a scheming enemy who wants more than anything to crush our faith, and let our faith be stripped from us. Satan's greatest weapon is doubt but we hold the shield of faith.

I hope this video might be used by God to strengthen and encourage you if you are in the middle of this battle. Hold fast to the Lord, hold onto His promises, and fight the good fight of faith....even in the darkness of despair that so often accompanies our doubts.

This video is built on the song "Something To Say" by Starfield




This next animation is based on Christ's parable of the prodigal son. It was built on 1 John 3:1, and a song by Sovereign Grace Music.

This animation is a beautiful representation of God's grace. No matter how far we run from God, no matter what we have done, we can always turn back to His grace.What a loving and forgiving God we serve! He is always there despite our great faults waiting with open arms!

Consider Him and His love for YOU as you watch this.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Encourager vs. Destroyer

 "There are always hungry hearts that need spiritual encouragement.....help them with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault". -Robert Hein


I have seen destructive words being carelessly thrown around all over the internet as well as in everyday life. "Cyber bullying" is a popular term these days. It is essentially the act of using our words to intentionally harm someone online. And it isn't necessarily name calling or threats, but is also done by discouraging someone. I myself have been guilty of the latter.

Several weeks ago my friend shared a website link that I re-posted. The website targeted those who are self-proclaimed professional photographers and whom I personally felt were not qualified to hold that title and showcased images that are actually offensive to professional photographers. But I later realized that it would have been better or more helpful to share a photography workshop or instructional website with tips to encourage improvement rather than one that simply says "FAIL!".

My point is this...the world doesn't need more negativity. What it needs more of is love and encouragement. Before we say something, post something or do something, we need to consider our motives, ask ourselves "is this sending a positive or negative message?" and make an effort to be an encourager not a destroyer. We can accomplish so much more if we take a positive approach rather than a negative one.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Encouraging one another especially now that the day of His return draws near.  (Hebrews 10:24-2 )

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thank You's, Super Moon and Good News!

It's been a full week. I want to thank everyone who took the time to pray for me and my family and send messages with love and support regarding the loss of my Grandpa. You have no idea how much that meant to me! It was really tough, especially being this far away from everyone, but your kindness and thoughtfulness brought much comfort.

There have been good things that have happened recently too though. Not everything I feel obligated to share about, mostly because the timing isn't right. But let me just say that God is revealing Himself to me in amazing ways and I'm smiling about the future.

Something exciting that I do want to share that happened this week was the Super Moon. On Saturday, March 19th 2011 the moon was only 221,565 miles (356,575 kilometers) away. The closest it’s been in almost 20 years. It appeared 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. I was able to capture this image of the Super Moon from our balcony here in Switzerland. It was spectacular in person and this image doesn't do it justice. We were lucky enough to have a clear view of it from our apartment though and it is a memory I will have always.


I also got some good news that my dear friend Laurie is officially coming to visit!!! She will be here for the better part of September so we're definitely looking forward to that! In May my parents will be here, June my brother and sister-in-law will be here, September my Laurie will be here, October might hold an opportunity for me to tag along on a business trip with Jared in IRELAND!!! (nothing confirmed, still waiting on details) and then November we celebrate our anniversary! We still haven't figured out an alternative plan for our anniversary trip yet but we have narrowed it down to two possibilities. We're still weighing our options to see what's best. I'll definitely give an update once we decide. It's definitely going to be a good year!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things I Love: Vintage Lace

There is something feminine, delicate and beautiful about lace. Especially vintage lace. It just reminds me of an era that is close to my heart. My Nana had lots of lace accents around her house on old furniture and such. She also had a few lace pieces in her wardrobe that I loved to play dress up in. I guess I've always been drawn to lace ever since I was a little girl.

I have seen a lot of vintage lace inspired items lately. Here are just a few examples....

click for larger view

1. Lace headband  - AliExpress.com (super cute!)
2. Lace ornaments -  Iwannabe.etsy.com
3. Lace clutch purse -  Maddalena Marconi
4. Lace necklace - tessakim.etsy.com (super want!)
5. Lace modern top - blueinc.co.uk
6. Lace shoes - retrovintageshoes.com
7. Lace umbrella - pinkfrosting.com (so fun!)
8. Lace dress - google images
9. Lace bow and key - urbanheirlooms
10. Lace belt - roomofyourown.etsy.com
11. Lace pillow - octavi.etsy.com (love this!)
12. Lace bracelet - plumedematante

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Closeness

This overseas move has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. It took faith from the beginning because if it were up to me, I would have never moved so far from my family. But I knew in my heart this is where God wanted us to be at this point in our lives. So I trusted Him and surrendered to His plan...not my own. He has yet to reveal the full purpose of this experience but I know the biggest reason for our coming here was to bring me closer to Him. And to quote my wise and eloquent husband; "Maybe I could have gotten right with God somewhere in America, close to family...but it DID happen here and I would never change that did for a maybe."


I relied so much on people and things back in America and since being here I have had to rely so much more on God. I've realized in the brief time we have been here that things can change in an instant, people will leave you and let you down, and the only constant is God. I still depend very much on my loved ones to live each day in fullness and happiness but I have come to realize that no one in my life can save me or bring me the completeness I know in God. Jesus Christ is truly all I need. Everything else is just bonus or unnecessary.

In 6 short months I have lost three of my loved ones. Facing this kind of loss reminds me just how much I need God and as crazy as it may sound, I am less fearful of the future. I know that no matter what happens I am taken care of, God will never abandon me, never give up on me and each day He calls me closer to Him.

I resisted Him so much all of my life and I've finally realized that. For the first time in my life I am pursuing HIM after years of Him pursuing me. I can't seem to get close enough to Him. I know it's been an inward change that reflects outwardly because my own husband has commented on how he can "see God in me in so many ways." That is the greatest compliment anyone can ever receive....to look at you and see God through your faith. My prayer is that I stay out of the way and let God shine through me. I don't want people to see me...I want them to see Him. I want others to enjoy His closeness. There is nothing in the world like it.

I'm not special. He wants to be close to all of us. Not just me. And it's so simple. It took me nearly 30 years to figure out just how simple it is to find this peace through His love. All I had to do was humbly seek Him. That's it. He loves me regardless of whether or not I put in any effort but how rewarding the relationship with Him is when we enter it with a desire to honour and love Him completely. I could never put into words the clarity and peace it brings to know Him...not just know of Him...but to KNOW Him with my heart. To wake up wanting to learn more about Him and never seeming to get enough of Him.

I still struggle each day to keep my eyes on Him though. In fact, just last night I felt like Peter when He took His eyes off Jesus during the storm and began to sink. I took my eyes off Jesus and started to fear losing more loved ones, not being able to be there with them and just focusing on all the "what ifs". I began sinking in fear and sadness. But God's hope lifts us up. I was reminded of His promises and once I put my eyes back on Him, my peace was restored.

I am still a work in progress. I don't recognize the girl I was 10 years ago or even 6 months ago. She was so bitter and selfish. But I don't look like a pure representation of Jesus either. There is still a lot of work do be done on my heart but I have felt the Lord reshaping my heart over the years. It has been a slow process and one that will be neverending I'm sure. But if I can be in the midst of some of the most challenging times of my life and have this peace...I want to continue in God's direction because it is obvious He is my source of peace.
"Christ lived to show us what a relationship with God looks like, and died to give us a way to have it." - Mattie Montgomery  http://www.mattiemontgomery.com/


Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me. Your love and prayers are felt!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Uplifting Songs

This has been a tough week for me and my family but one thing I can say for certain that has helped me get through this difficult time apart from the love and support of my family has been encouraging songs like the following:

Josh Wilson - Before The Morning


Steven Curtis Chapman - With Hope


Josh Groban - To Where You Are


Point of Grace - No More Pain


Steven Curtis Chapman - No Better Place



Bleach - Bonus track off their Farewell Old Friends album



I hope these songs found you encouraged also.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Legacy of Love

With the recent loss of my Grandpa I am reminded that we are on this earth for such a brief time. And the truth is, it is not about "who you know" but how you love. It's not about what you have but what you give. It's not about me or you it's about something bigger than us. It's about Jesus Christ who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I may live not only today but forever. What matters most in this life is the relationships we build and the love we share. It's so easy to get distracted but we need to keep our focus on eternity and remember that our lives are to reflect gratitude towards our loving Saviour. We should leave behind a legacy of love inspired by the Creator of love.
  
Here is a photo slideshow I created of my Grandpa and my family as a tribute to his life and the lives he touched along the way. The process of putting this together helped me so much in my grieving. It helped me to reflect on my own life while honoring the life of my Grandpa. Being overseas I will not be able to attend the memorial service but this was my way of being there in a way...it has brought me much peace in that respect. And as you listen to the words of the songs I included you will better understand how they brought much comfort during this difficult time. "we can grieve with hope....we can say goodbye with hope...." I'm so thankful for the hope that is within Jesus Christ. With the gift of salvation we will be reunited in Heaven.

video     

Songs in order: 
To Where You Are by Josh Groban
You'll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins
With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman

Saturday, March 19, 2011

In Loving Memory - Domingo D. Acosta

The following tribute was comprised by my father in loving memory of his father, my grandfather, our Papi.


Domingo D. Acosta (87)

Born December 23, 1923 Havana, Cuba

Died March 18, 2011 Terre Haute, Indiana

Mother: America Acosta, Father: Diego Figueredo

Preceded in death by his first wife Lydia Moreno Acosta, (Puerto Rico), 1994; his son, Anthony Lee Acosta (Miami Fl.), 2004; his widow Lizzette Acosta (NYC); third wife Carmen Rivera Acosta, (Miami,Fl) 2008.
Surviving is his second wife (divorced) Carida Ruiz Acosta (NYC); sons, Domingo Paul Dacosta (Terre Haute,IN), his wife Mary Elizabeth Werling Dacosta; Patrick Americo Acosta, (South Bend, IN), his wife Donna Skelton Acosta; Elvis Acosta Col. US Army (Hawaii), his wife Fatima Acosta.

eleven (11) grandchildren, eighteen (18) great-grandchildren

Arrived in America (NY):  4 Sep 1947
Naturalization Date:  10 Dec 1956 in Bronx, NY
Domingo served our country during World War II as a United States Merchant Marine assigned to the Atlantic theater as a Ships Pilot and Boiler Engineer stationed in the New York City port.

He was a 30-year member of the Buildings & Trades Union in New York City (retired).  Dom loved to hunt, fish, and competition archery.  He enjoyed Italian cooking and western movies, especially "The Duke" (John Wayne). He was a proud conservative and his favorite President was Ronald Reagan. Dom worked full-time until he was 70 years old, and part-time until he was 75 years. He lived in Miami, Florida for 10 years until the death of his third wife Carmen. He moved to Indiana in 2005.

Dom attended New Life Community Church of Terre Haute (Pastor Paul Carey) and was led to the Lord and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior on February 01, 2004.

Domingo requested cremation, and a celebration of his life will be held at the New Life Community Church, Meadows Mall Lower level, Terre Haute, IN on March 22, 2011, from 4:00 pm until 6:00 pm.

The family would ask in lieu of flowers that a charitable gift be offered to:
Celebrating Life!
The Crisis Pregnancy Center of the Wabash Valley
1527 Popular St. Terre Haute, IN 47803

Friday, March 18, 2011

Heaven: A Prepared Place For Prepared People

 My Grandpa went on to be with the Lord this morning. He had been battling Alzheimer's for years and at the age of 87 left this life behind to enjoy his forever home. I am not sad in the sense of despair because I believe there are better things ahead than any we leave behind. I am only sad that I don't know how long I must wait to be reunited with him and my other loved ones who went on before him.

When experiencing the death of a loved one, we are faced with the reality that this life is not all there is. I believe that those who know Christ will go to Heaven not because it's a nice thought and it gives a sense of hope...but I have hope because I believe God's Word to be true. I don't believe it because it's comforting or palatable, I believe it because God Himself says this:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many mansions; if that were not so, I would have told you.  I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14:1-4)

If we look for truth, we may find comfort in the end; if we look for comfort we will not get comfort or truth only wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair. I look to God for truth and in His truth I find hope.

For some it is difficult to understand this kind of faith. To those who have faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. This verse addresses our lack of full comprehension of God:

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

I trust in the knowledge that some day all of God's mysteries will be revealed in HIS timing, not my own. Life on earth is just a snapshot in the full picture of our existence.

 Every one of us will eventually take our last breath and that is not said to frighten anyone but to encourage others to rely on good news that with our last breath on earth we will take our first breath in Heaven. There is comfort in knowing that we are only a breath away from true freedom and everlasting peace with our Saviour. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. My Grandpa prayed the sinner's prayer years ago to prepare him for today.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25) For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:12)


Here are a few photos of my Grandpa, Domingo Acosta. 


My Grandpa, My Grandma (also in Heaven) and My Papa

He was a deep sea fisherman for many years

My Grandpa and My Pappy - my angels

Four Generations - My Papa, Grandpa, Brother and Nephew

Enjoying one of his favourite past times. Being outdoors.

Here are a few of my favourite memories of my Grandpa:

He taught me how to salsa dance at age 10.
He put together my childhood dollhouse by hand right down to the very last shingle - a keepsake I still have.
When I was 12 he took a gold bracelet off of his wrist and told me he wanted me to have it. The way it was so spontaneous made it even more evident it was straight from the heart and so meaningful. Another keepsake I still have.
He compassionately loved and cared for his wife throughout years of her suffering with Parkinson's disease. He never left her side.
His famous quotes spoken with his Cuban/New Yorker accent: "Fuhgetaboutit" "So fah (far) so good" and "How tha hell do I know?"
The fact that he could eat an entire bag of honey drops and no one else I know could stand the nasty things! They were his absolute favourite. :)

He was a sweet, funny and lovable man. He taught me the definition of contentment and I'm pretty sure I developed my stubbornness from him too. :) I'm grateful for every moment I had with him in this life.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Things I Love: ☘ All Things Irish ☘

Those closest to me know that I have an obsession with Ireland and it's culture as a whole. I'm a total Irish-wannabe! I have about a pinkie finger's worth of Irish in my background but I embrace it fully! :) I've had the opportunity to visit Ireland not once but twice and both experiences left me more in love with all things Irish.

During our visits we enjoyed a quaint Irish Bed and Breakfast called Avarest B&B (how cute is that name!) which to this day was the best breakfast I've EVER had. We also stayed one night in Dromoland Castle...yes...a CASTLE! Every girl and woman's dream right?! And both visits we had the same carriage driver that took us on a beautiful scenic ride through the countryside of Ireland. He had a true Irish name....Michael Joseph O'Sullivan and his eyes creased at the corners and sparkled as he gave a toothless smile and told witty Irish jokes. These are just a few of the highlights from our trip.


What do I love so much about Ireland? First of all I love the Irish people. I love their accents, their wit and their laid back attitude. There are so many things about their culture that I love - their food, their dance, their landscape, their convictions, their music...they have so many traditions and aspects of their culture that I admire and enjoy.

One of the more specific things I love about Ireland is, of course, clovers. I have so much clothing, jewelry, etc. with shamrocks due to my Irish obsession. This Irish symbol was first coined by Saint Patrick for the Holy Trinity. Most of us know the legend that 4 leaf clovers are considered to be lucky but I think few know that the 3-leaf clover was used to represent how The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit can be separate but also part of the same entity. 


 In addition to my collection of clovers, I also have jewelry with the traditional Celtic Knot design often found in Ireland and one of my favourite pieces of jewelry is the Claddagh ring I got during my first trip in Ireland.

The Celtic Knot is said to symbolize eternity because the lines, due to the way it is designed, typically seem to have no beginning and no end. It is probably the most identifiable type of Celtic Art.


The Claddagh's distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown).

Claddagh rings may be used as friendship, relationship, eternity, engagement, or wedding rings depending on the intention of wearer and, in the case of a gift, of the giver. There are three traditionally accepted ways of wearing the ring which may signal someone's relationship status:

1. When worn on the right ring finger with the heart pointing to the fingertip, the wearer is free of any attachment.
2. On the same finger with the ring turned around, it suggests someone is romantically involved.
3. When the ring is on the left hand wedding ring finger it means the person is married or engaged.

This is a photo of my Claddagh ring. I LOVE that the heart is an emerald and the crown is made of tiny diamonds. 



Here are a few other traditional Irish things that I love and enjoy.....


1. Self portrait wearing the blue wool sweater and shamrock necklace I got during my first trip to Ireland. You can find these kinds of sweaters in almost every shop in Ireland.
2. Waterford Crystal vase I received from my parents. Little fact: Waterford crystal prides themselves on perfection. If there is even the slightest defect during the glass blowing process they will scrap it and start over. So every piece of crystal artwork from Waterford Crystal is absolute perfection. :) I recommend touring the Waterford Crystal factory if you are ever in Ireland...such a cool experience.
3. Traditional Irish dancers - we saw both professional performances and street dancers during our Irish visits. All of which were phenomenal and so fun to watch as they bounced around on their toes.
4. Harp is an Irish beer and I prefer it over Guinness
5. This will sound strange to some but I had the best tomato basil soup I've ever had in my life while in Ireland. My Mom and I always order tomato soup on the menu of any restaurant in hopes to find something that tastes like it. The closest we have found is the tomato soup from Mia Za's but it still isn't quite the same.
6. This is just one of the beautiful views you can find in Ireland. It's a photo of the Cliffs of Mohr taken during our first trip to Ireland.


Here are a few videos of Irish dance and music that I love.

This video is of the cutest Irish dancer I've ever seen! :)



Here are two of my favourite Irish artists - Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan



This was probably my longest blog post ever, but as you can see there are so many wonderful things about the Irish and I could go on for days sharing stories about this wonderful country and its culture!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Simplicity

Our lives might not always be the most exciting, but I love our life! I'm perfectly content being a "house cat". I find ways to keep myself busy indoors. Aside from everyday household tasks like laundry, cleaning, cooking etc. I am also actively involved in a teen outreach program that allows me the opportunity to work/volunteer from home. In addition to that, I am involved in various pro-life efforts that thanks to technology allows me to stay connected. I also love to read. I have gone through several books in our short time here and have several more on my bookshelf that I'm anxious to dive in to. In the evenings Jared and I enjoy relaxing in front of the tv, playing with our cats and if he gets home from work at a decent hour we enjoy walking the streets of our quiet little town here in Lutry, Switzerland. I'm looking forward to the longer, warmer days of spring and summer so we can enjoy more photo adventures together. We're pretty simple people who enjoy the simple things in life.

Over the weekend we went to our friends Julia and Morgan's place and enjoyed authentic Swiss cheese fondue, wine and great conversations. Julia and I often get together once during the week for some "girl time" and just hang out. We are so grateful for their friendship. In a foreign country, far from our friends and families back home, it's nice to have fun and sweet people to enjoy these experiences with.

We also enjoyed Skyping with my parents a couple times this week. It's always nice to SEE their faces and catch up. It helps with the homesickness. I feel less far away after one of our video chats. I love and miss my family dearly but I'm so thankful for the technology that can bring us together like that. I can't wait for their visit in May!

Based on many of the messages I receive I think people assume that because we are in this exciting and beautiful place that we should be doing all of these exotic or extravagant things everyday. Reality is yes, we live in an exciting and beautiful place but the keyword is we LIVE here...we are not vacationing here. We are doing our best to take full advantage of our experience here but time and money have the same limits they have on anyone regardless of location. We are grateful for each and every day and even on our most uneventful of days we are enjoying life to the fullest.

Hope everyone is staying happy and healthy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: Blood Money Film

Blood Money is a film that examines the history of abortion in America, from the inception of Planned Parenthood and the profitability of abortion clinics, to Roe v. Wade - the court ruling which made abortion legal in 1973, to the denial of when life begins, to the fight to save the lives of innocent babies, and the devastating effects it has had on the women and their families that have had them. Here is a brief trailer for the film:



I watched this documentary for the first time several months ago and noted that they did an excellent job of introducing the facts along with personal testimonies to highlight the true injustice of abortion. They interviewed post-abortive women, former abortion workers, medical experts, and many human rights leaders. One of those human rights leaders is Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who is following his lead as an abolitionist of human injustice.

The most compelling information in this documentary aside from the scientific details is the revealing truths shared by former abortion provider, Carol Everett. The horrors of what goes on inside these abortion clinics and the lies being spread by abortion proponents is almost unfathomable. Here is a video compilation of Carol's first-hand experiences working in the abortion industry. The information given is disturbing and the content may be difficult to digest so I encourage you to watch at your own discretion. (there are no graphic images in this clip)




I challenge you to watch this film in its entirety. This is the reality of abortion that very few talk about or even recognize as reality. I have to believe that if more people knew the truth of what abortion is, what it does and who it affects that abortion would not only be illegal but it would be unthinkable.

I commend the makers of this film and all those who are a voice for reason on the issue of abortion. Be a voice for reason and act now to protect the most vulnerable by sharing the truth and by sharing this film with your friends, family and acquaintances.

You can make a difference TODAY by contacting your representative and tell them to end tax payer funding of Planned Parenthood. Take action here: http://exposeplannedparenthood.net/contact-congress/

You can also be a gentle witness by joining 40 Days For Life which is currently in the middle of their spring 2011 Campaign. You can be a face of hope for vulnerable women during an unexpected pregnancy. These campaigns has saved thousands of lives over the years not only of women seeking abortions and their children but of abortion workers who because of  prayerful presence got out of the abortion business for good.

Another way to get involved is to volunteer or donate to your local life-affirming pregnancy centers so that women in need have a place of hope where they will find compassionate resources during their time of need.

Whatever you do...do something. Silence is consent. And we cannot afford to be silent on this issue.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Mom: My Encourager

I strive to stay optimistic. I want to be an encourager and lift others spirits. There is a lot of negativity in the world but if you're anything like me then you feel a great desire to spread hope and joy in the lives of everyone you meet. But to be an encourager you must also have someone who encourages you.

My Mom is my encourager. I can be facing the most difficult of situations and she is there with words of love and wisdom to help me get through even the toughest of days. She offers inspiration when I need it most. I always feel more prepared to take on any task with new courage and strength after I have talked to her. Her advice has never failed me. And I believe the reason for that is because she always turns to the scriptures and seeks what God has to say about any specific situation first. Now I don't mean she stops mid sentence and starts looking up verses but she has them stored in her heart and can quote them to me in my time of need. I admire this about her. I am still growing in my own relationship with the Lord but I hope that one day I can be a wise encourager like my Mom.

Today is her birthday and it really got me thinking about how much I not only love and appreciate her but how much I admire her. We didn't always have a close relationship like we have now - the teenage years strike us all and I had my moments of teenage rebellion. But I am so thankful that we can now enjoy a sincere friendship and loving relationship that for years I made impossible due to my own immaturity and lack of respect. There have been days where I was down right ungrateful for her. But I hope she now knows how much I need and enjoy her in my life. She inspires me to be a better wife, daughter, friend and Christian.

Happy Birthday Mama Bear! I love you to infinity and beyond!

Mama Bear and I on my wedding day

Enjoying our mixed drinks on the cruise

standing in front of Lake Geneva together

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hope Amidst Tragedy

We recently received terrible news that the cruise we had booked for our anniversary in November has been canceled because they felt it unsafe to travel to Egypt and Israel. I am so disappointed. I have dreamed of going to these places for such a long time and was very much looking forward to checking them off my "bucket list". But I was also sad because if it is unsafe for us to travel there then it is unsafe for the locals who live there. My heart and prayers go out to those caught up in the unrest going on in these countries.

 Not long after the news of the cruise cancellation I turned on CNN to find the devastation of the earthquake/tsunami that hit Japan was everywhere. I watched a video of collected footage from the aftermath, it had no audio - it didn't have to - what I saw would leave anyone speechless.



It looked like something out of movie. A horror movie. The water was continuing to move forcefully over the land and engulfing everything in its path. Homes were covered, buildings destroyed with people on roofs trying to avoid the rising waters, huge barges were overturned and were being thrown almost effortlessly by the waves - they looked more like toy boats rather than over-sized vessels. The images did not look real. But the reality of what had happened could not be ignored or wished away.

I instantly prayed. I prayed for everyone affected by the devastation. I prayed for safety of the survivors. I prayed that fear would be turned to humility. I prayed that the doubt would be turned to faith. Faith in these words: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)


There is peace even amidst the most devastating of circumstances because there is victory over misery through our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He has already saved us from certain destruction. When we believe in Him we have the hope and promise of escaping this life and living eternally with Him. My mind frequently returns to this verse because life can often seem hopeless and full of chaos and pain but knowing that the battle has already been won and our future is secure in Christ helps calm the soul.


My prayer is that in the light of recent tragedies you find peace in knowing God is in control even when the world seems to be out of control. He will rescue all of us from this world one day. Trust in that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Things I Love: Sunsets

I just enjoyed another beautiful sunset here in Switzerland and it was my inspiration for today's "Things I Love" blog post. I don't get up early enough to enjoy the sunrise (I love my sleep) but each evening I make sure to go to the balcony and enjoy the beautiful colors and breathtaking magic of every sunset.

I love that no two sunsets are ever the same. I can be in the exact same spot every evening for months and will never see the same exact sunset. I think that's AMAZING! There is something so captivating about sunsets for me. It's definitely something I look forward to each evening.

I've seen my share of lovely sunsets over the years. Jared and I used to sit on the dock near my old apartment in Indy and watch the sunset when we were dating. It was (and still is) one of our favourite spots. We saw many sunsets there together. Here is a photo I took of us sitting on the dock one of those evenings.


Another favourite was the evening I captured this photo. It was taken from our balcony in Switzerland. The photo has not been altered. This was the actual view I saw with my own eyes that night. I'm so thankful for cameras that can capture beautiful moments like this so we can cherish them forever.


Here are a few other sunset photos I found that capture the awe and beauty of this natural phenomenon. Enjoy!

all photos are from Google images

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rich In Heart

Just when I thought Switzerland couldn't get any more beautiful....springtime arrives and proves otherwise. Buds are blossoming, flowers are blooming and homeowners have begun landscaping and putting out potted plants and flowers. The weather has been mostly sunny and warm all week and the feeling of spring is definitely in the air. Hoping for good weather this weekend so that Jared and I can go walk around with my camera and share this country's beauty with everyone.

Other good news...my parents just confirmed yesterday that they will definitely be making another visit here for the spring in May. Papa Bear has clients in Zurich who have asked him to come for business - so they have a good excuse to make another trip out here. :) We're also excited about my brother and sister-in-law coming in June! I have been feeling homesick lately and missing my family a lot in the last few weeks so this news made my heart smile! Definitely counting down the days until they arrive! We have a few other friends and family making plans to visit later in the year so 2011 should be full and fun!

In unrelated news we finished our taxes last night. According to the government we are considered to be "in poverty". Which on paper...sure...we may be poor but in our hearts we are rich. Rich in happiness and love. We may not have a lot of money but we have a lot to be thankful for that is for sure! God has definitely taken care of us and continues to.

Mama Bear often refers to the first few years of marriage as "the hunger years" - a time in most every newlyweds life where money is short but faith, hope love and humility should be abundant. It's those years meant to prepare us for if or when the time comes that we are more financially blessed so we can maintain the same humbleness towards life. I believe that if we can love and appreciate what we have now we are more likely to truly appreciate any success that may come our way in the future. Disappointment and despair comes when we base our happiness on wealth and status. My most prized possessions are my relationships - the people in my life. They are what make me happiest. That's right YOU make me happy!

Take it from us....being wealthy on paper is overrated. Being rich in heart is where it's at! :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

40 Days For Life - Spring 2011 Campaign


Tomorrow, Wednesday March 9th, will be the start of the 2011 spring     40 Days For Life campaign. There have been seven coordinated 40 Days For Life campaigns since 2007.

The efforts have mobilized people of faith and conscience in 337 cities across all 50 of the United States, seven Canadian provinces, four Australian states, as well as England, Northern Ireland and Denmark.

During these unified efforts, participants witnessed countless blessings from God: 

  • Over 400,000 have joined together in a historic display of unity to pray and fast for an end to abortion
  • More than 13,000 church congregations have participated in the 40 Days for Life campaigns
  • Reports document 3,600 lives that have been spared from abortion — and those are just the ones we know about
  • 43 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked away from the abortion industry
  • Nine abortion facilities completely shut down following local 40 Days for Life campaigns
  • Hundreds of women and men have been spared from the tragic effects of abortion, including a lifetime of regrets
  • More than 1,250 news stories have been featured in newspapers, magazines, radio shows and TV programs from coast to coast ... and overseas
  • Many people with past abortion experiences have stepped forward to begin post-abortion healing and recovery

After so many years of legalized abortion, many people of faith are experiencing a renewed sense of HOPE!

The reasons for these victories are simple. God loves the babies, the women and the abortion workers. And when we witness the love of God to them through peaceful prayer, the despair that abortion survives on is crushed by restored hope in God’s love.


Ending abortion starts where YOU live!

If this is the first time you’ve participated in 40 Days for Life, you may be a little fearful and overwhelmed. That makes you normal. But as Jesus told the disciples, “Be not afraid!”

Last fall, Shawn Carney gave a talk about overcoming our fear of praying in front of an abortion facility at the national leaders conference of Students for Life of America. Listen to his real-life experiences from the field along with words of wisdom and encouragement in the following video:


  .
 


The spring 40 Days For Life campaign starts tomorrow! Will you be there? Will you be the sign of God’s love that women will see just before they enter that building?



To find the closest 40 Days for Life campaign, and to find out how you can get involved, please to go: http://40daysforlife.com/location.cfm

Let us be reminded of the words of Augustine: "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get to work!
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*Excerpts from 40 Days For Life Website

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mental Vitamins: Forgiving Ourselves

Why is it often so hard to forgive ourselves? Being both the wronged and the wrongdoer places us in the awkward position of being able to reject the forgiveness. A thief cannot reject the forgiveness his victim offers since it is not for his sake that it is offered. Yet, we can and often do refuse the choice to forgive ourselves because we are experiencing tremendous guilt and believe that we deserve more punishment. Failing to forgive ourselves is one way to keep the punishment in effect. It is a way for us to torment ourselves over and over again.

The foolishness of this practice should be self evident. What can our self inflicted punishment do to help our victim, or for that matter, ourselves? What good can come of it?

It's common to hold on to guilt and shame when we've hurt someone, but those feelings do not come from God. They come from our enemy, Satan. Guilt and shame prolong pain and suffering while providing nothing of value to anyone. They leave us looking back, and while we're busy focusing on the past, it's very difficult to move forward with Christ. 


Instead of guilt, God requires repentance. These two words mean very different things. Repentance is an acknowledgment of the wrong we have done followed by a commitment to change our ways, but guilt carries no such commitment. Guilt causes us to live in the shadow of our past disgrace, while repentance looks forward in anticipation of God's grace.  

We know that because of Christ's amazing sacrifice, all our sins are forgiven whenever we call upon the Lord with a repentant heart. God has the most perfect sense of justice in all of creation, yet in His mercy He has decreed that all offenses are paid in full by Christ's blood for those who call Him Savior. In His eyes, we stand worthy to be forgiven. 

We must forgive ourselves as we forgive others and for all the same reasons - so that we can move past anger, bitterness, loss and regret. There is no honor in guilt and there is nothing to be gained in prolonging our punishment. There is no exception in God's laws about forgiving ourselves so we must remember to apply this commandment to ourselves. Never forget that guilt and shame come from the Enemy, so do not give them a foothold. Replace guilt with repentance and begin moving ahead to where Jesus is waiting to continue His walk with you. 


 This was a very timely devotional for me. I can be my toughest critic and I tend to beat myself up over every little mistake I make. I often allow myself to be haunted by my actions - by regret. If I feel I have have wronged or offended someone I will replay it over and over again in my head and spend hours wishing I would have said things differently or acted differently even after I have asked for forgiveness and especially if I am not extended forgiveness by the person I have offended or wronged.

I too often forget that God knows my heart and He knows when I am sincerely sorry for whatever it is I have done in the past. He is a God of forgiveness even when others may not pardon me for my errors or even if I don't pardon myself.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice so that I might live a life full of His love and reprieve. Believing that I am unworthy of forgiveness is like saying that I have more authority than God. He is willing to forgive me therefor I should be willing to forgive myself and others.


I hope this also found you encouraged. Forgiving ourselves is tougher than it sounds. But with God's mercy and grace - forgiveness can be achieved so that we can continue to enjoy a life full of His love.
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*Excerpts from Delve Into Jesus Devotionals

Friday, March 4, 2011

FREE T-SHIRT CONTEST/GIVEAWAY!!!

As many of you know, I am currently the coordinator for the teen outreach group, Epic Alliance. I work with an amazing team whose primary goal is to encourage young people to live happier, healthier lives. To kick things off we are hosting a contest/giveaway for a chance to win a FREE T-shirt. Two winners will be selected - one male, one female. The full details and rules can be found on our blog. The contest is open to everyone, so anyone can enter. 

You can check out our Epic blog for more details about the contest and how you can enter to win one of these four amazing t-shirt designs. The shirts are also available at our online store if you would like to purchase them. Go to: www.epicalliance.net to buy a shirt or to check out the other information we offer there and don't forget to "like" us on facebook: www.facebook.com/EpicAlliance

Please help us make this a success by sharing with your friends! Thanks for your support and participation.


Special thanks to my talented brother for helping bring my ideas for these shirts to life. He is the printing power behind them and they turned out awesome! Thanks so much Jon! If you need a graphic designer check out his website at: http://www.iegraphicsonline.com/

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Things I Love: Spring Colors

Spring is so close I can feel it. Signs of the new season are literally springing up everywhere I look. Soon the weather will be cool but comfortable as opposed to chilly and tolerable. I'll be able to move into lighter and brighter fashion once spring finally arrives. Warm colors look best on my skin tone but I still love the bright, cool colors of the spring season.

Here are a few fashion items I found inspired by spring....


1. Mint flower charm from Forever21
2. Floral coin purse from Forever21
3. Floral scarf from Old Navy
4. Green silk blouse from Polyvore
5. Yellow halter dress (google images)
6. Colorful panel bangles from Forever21
7. Fuschia patent leather heels by RSVP Evelyn
8. China Glaze nail polish in Spontaneous

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Bloom

Sometimes I neglect to thank God for all He has given me. I can get distracted by things going on in my life and approach life with a sense of expectancy. I realized this as I was walking home from lunch with Jared on Monday. It was gorgeous outside. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I noticed the trees were beginning to blossom. I'd walked this route a hundred times since we moved here but I don't think I'd ever been that aware of my surroundings and just been thankful. The pink buds beginning to sprout and the tiny flowers springing up from the grass made me literally stop my feet, look around, take it all in and say out loud "Thank you Lord for today." Every moment is fleeting. Every day is a gift. And I have been rushing through the days and the moments without fully appreciating them.

It's so easy to get caught up in myself and the happenings going on in the world but rarely do I stop and appreciate - I mean fully recognize - the worth of life and the beauty and wonder we have been given here on earth. I now understand where they coined the phrase "stop and smell the roses." I stopped and did more than smell the roses....I froze and stood in awe of them. To some it may not makes sense or sound a bit out there but it was in that moment that I felt closest to my God. It was as though He was walking right there with me and turned to say "All this is especially for you. I hope you like it." I know He created the world for all of us, but I believe He meant for each of us to consider it our own personal treasure - our own inherited gift from God Himself - passed down from generation to generation. When thought of like that, it makes the world more of a priceless family heirloom that suggests a legacy of love behind it.

I'm certain that the days ahead will sometimes get away from me and my mind won't always be centered but my hope and prayer is that the days I take for granted are minimal from here on out. I no longer want to ignore the details or overlook the triumph of each day. I want to stay close to Him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: Unplanned by Abby Johnson

In one of my previous blog posts I shared that I had recently bought the book Unplanned by Abby Johnson. Well, I finished the book last week and couldn't wait to review it for you.

Many of you are aware of Abby's story. But for those who are not I'll provide a brief summary of how she became a well-known public figure. Abby was with Planned Parenthood for 8 years, the last 2 of those years as a Clinic Director. She left Planned Parenthood after viewing an ultrasound-guided abortion. Her book tells the story of her life before and after her experiences at Planned Parenthood as well as the time in between when she was involved in the abortion industry.

In this illuminating and moving book we get an inside look at the world of Planned Parenthood. We also get a personal look at the confused messages women are getting on the abortion issue.

It is primarily a conversion story: a conversion from death to life; from lies to truth; from darkness to light; from bondage to freedom; from doubt to faith. It tells the story of how God was at work in the life of one abortion worker, drawing her to Him, and to life.

I'm sure many of you had the same question I had when I heard about Abby's conversion which was: How could someone work at Planned Parenthood for 8 years and not be aware of, and horrified by, the reality of what abortion does?

Abby tells us that her ultimate desire was to help women and reduce abortions. She recounts how she initially became involved in the abortion industry as a young naive college student who started simply as a volunteer. After reading her story I believe her compassion for women was genuine. The fact that she wanted to reduce abortions is indicative that she knew abortion is wrong.  But in order to keep working at Planned Parenthood,  she chose to ignore her conscience. In the book she talks about the inner battle with her mind and her morals. She rationalized that she was saving women who were going to have an abortion whether it was legal or not so she wanted to make sure they were at least safe if they were going to be doing it. It was a gradual process, but eventually she was able to leave Planned Parenthood and realize that helping someone carry out a "safe" injustice or by ignoring the issue altogether is simply encouraging the injustice to continue and making anyone doing so equally responsible by assisting in it. And to quote Abby herself in a recent interview:  "Abortions are never safe whether they are legal or illegal - abortion always takes the life of a child - abortion is never safe for the child."

Abby describes her experience of the ultrasound guided abortion in her book and says she realized that she had “just participated in a death. A death. Not a medical procedure. Not a surgical solution to a life problem. Not the valiant step of a woman exercising her right to make medical choices about her own body. The death of a helpless baby, a baby violently ripped away from the safety of the womb, sucked away to be discarded as biohazard waste.” It was then that she first truly identified the pre-born baby as a human life. It's obvious from her words that it was like a light bulb moment - as though she had finally pieced together the full puzzle.

The part of her story that most captured my attention was the pro-lifers who prayed outside the clinic. At first, there were a couple of extremists such as someone dressed as the grim reaper and others with large graphic pictures of aborted babies. I have prayed outside of abortion clinics and know how this kind of approach by some well-intentioned people is not helpful but rather is damaging to the pro-life cause and actually hurtful to women.  It was the Coalition for Life that made the pro-life witness there more effective by making it prayerful, compassionate and sincere. They established a standard for those present outside of clinics and emphasized that destructive behaviour was not acceptable. They actually trained people to be sidewalk counselors to avoid and eliminate any negative interactions that were not conducive to their mission. They also helped Abby when she made the decision to leave Planned Parenthood. They reached out with love and concern for not just the pregnant women seeking abortions but to the clinic staff as well. It made me see the great need for this kind of prayerful presence and sincere desire to change hearts not just change minds.

I appreciated how Abby did not condemn people on either side of the fence. She identified that there are sincere hearts and good intentions on both sides and there are destructive actions and behaviours on both sides. The bottom line should be to lovingly reveal the truth, and the truth is that abortion kills a human life and wounds countless others. There are life-affirming options no matter what the situation is. The focus needs to be on sharing the truth in love, especially to the most vulnerable and uninformed. There is no room for judgment in this battle. Truth and love needs to be the primary focus. She emphasizes this throughout the book.

She also provides hope through her story. Hope that with love and prayer anything is possible. Change doesn't happen overnight. It took years of love and prayer before Abby embraced the truth and she is now inspiring others to not give up, to stay prayerful and continue to love others to the truth. EVERY life saved is worth celebrating. Everyone, no matter what side of the fence they are on, is valuable and should be loved. I think that is the heart of the message in her book.

I definitely recommend it to everyone. If you have already read this book let me know your thoughts!