Friday, December 30, 2011

Banner Year

2012 is right around the corner and I am so excited for what God has planned. Jared and I were talking tonight about all of the things that have happened in 2011. We smiled about the adventures we've shared and laughed about all of the crazy challenges we have had to face living here in Switzerland. We can laugh now because we survived it....but there were many moments that at the time we were definitely not laughing...we were praying. We prayed often for for sanity, clarity and strength.

Visiting a foreign country and LIVING in a foreign country are two totally different things. This is my second round of living overseas (I lived in Brazil, South America as a teenager) and neither experience was easy. I am not at all ungrateful for this experience. I realize the tough times were necessary for my own personal growth, but I don't want the "pretty pictures" to fool anyone into thinking that living in foreign lands is picture perfect. Yes, it's beautiful...but with that beauty comes a price. And in Switzerland it is roughly DOUBLE the price of everywhere else. Not too mention the challenge of communicating, transportation (or lack there of) and the most challenging thing of all....being so far from loved ones.

I could go on for hours - even days - about the contrast between America and Europe but the one thing I want to emphasize is that Americans are more privileged than they realize. This week I want you to go through your days and think about all of the things you have that make your life easier or better. Your car, your ability to communicate, your affordable groceries and unlimited choices, your central heating and air, relatively hassle-free housing, your family and friends...anything and everything you do and experience in your day, I want you to imagine how much tougher life would be without those seemingly "expected" things and give thanks for them. When you feel a desire to complain...replace those thoughts with gratitude of what you are already blessed with. This whole experience has made me realize that while we think we have it tough...there are others who have it even tougher. And there's always something to be thankful for thankful.

My hope for you is that this new year is filled with continued blessings and a renewed spirit. We're looking forward to seeing many of you in 2012! Let the countdown to homeward bound begin! :)

Oh...and Jared started his own blog too. You can read his first post here: Immanent Survival. It shares a little bit from his perspective. Staying true to himself it is thoughtful and purposeful with a side of sarcasm! :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Inspiration

As I sit here on this Christmas morning, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Not simply for the husband I am blessed to wake up to, make homemade biscuits & gravy with, open gifts beside or for the sweet cats cuddled by our feet, the family we get to see and talk to despite being miles apart thanks to technology or countless other blessings. Yes, I am thankful for all these things and all of these people, but as I stop to think about what this day is really all about...why we are so joyful on this day and why we celebrate, I am reminded of our Saviour's sacrifice...of His infallible gift. He sent His only Son into this world...a world He knew would reject Him and one day kill that we might be saved from death ourselves and live eternally with Him.   We honor Christmas as the day hope first entered into the world because with the birth of Jesus came the birth of hope. God's Son became our bridge to Him.

As I hear stories from family and friends about the joy they get from their little ones squealing with excitement about their Christmas gifts I can't help but wonder if God feels that same joy when we, His children, open our gift from Him...when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, receive His grace and live in gratitude towards Him. I believe there is no greater joy than when each of us opens our gift of salvation. Our Heavenly Father literally put His heart and soul in this gift for us and it is the only gift that is timeless, has not only a lifetime...but an ETERNAL guarantee and is renewed each morning. Christmas is not simply once a is every day, every moment, every breath. Today simply marks the day hope began. Embrace the love, hope and grace God has gifted you because whether you realize it or not...Christmas was inspired by YOU.

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

Monday, December 19, 2011


Have you ever waited a really long time for something? Have you ever felt greatly discouraged  during the whole waiting period? Been unsure of what steps to take in order to move forward, uncertain of what to do next, afraid of making the wrong decision? I think we all come to this place at some point in our lives, often more than once. What do you do when you're faced with the unknown? How do you respond to opportunities of faith? Did you ever consider that those moments when we are unsure of ourselves and uncertain of what to do they are actually opportunities to exercise our faith?

Just as our physical bodies need exercise...our spirit needs exercise also. We may not like the pain and/or exhaustion it can bring, but those tough trials are meant to strengthen us, to better us, and to train us for healthy lives. When we're in the middle of the mission it's easy to lose sight of the's easy to want to give in and give up. But if we endure, if we put our trust in the Lord knowing that He is our personal trainer who will never give us more weight than we can bear, our faith will be strengthened. And let's face it...there is a spiritual battle going on all around us, much of which is unseen and we need to be strong in our faith when the enemy attacks. The devil's greatest weapon is doubt, but we hold the shield of faith. Our trust in Christ will allow us to hold onto that shield even when it starts to feel heavy.

My shield has been feeling heavy recently. There has been a lot going on in our lives that has made me want to lay down my shield. I've felt weak, tired, overwhelmed, discouraged and angry. But through it all, I never laid down my shield. I kept my faith in the knowledge that Christ will never let me down. I was often reminded of this verse:

“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)

Jesus has already won the ultimate victory. He conquered death so that we can live eternally with Him. There is no battle we'll face in this life that we cannot win with the help of Christ. We can draw strength from Him whenever we feel weak or discouraged. 

These last few weeks my own faith has definitely been tested. So many things seemed out of my control. If it wasn't one thing, it was another. The struggles kept piling up. I felt helpless, worn down and on the brink of throwing my hands in the air and giving up. I did ultimately surrender...I surrendered my doubts and put my trust in God's Word...

"The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercy, oh Lord, endures forever." (Psalm138:8)

Believe me, I did not surrender easily. I did what most of us do...I tried to rely on myself to produce answers, to achieve results. It wasn't until I said out loud in my empty apartment "God, I surrender...I want YOUR plan...I want YOUR way...I want YOUR help" that I finally got my answer. After weeks and months of waiting God finally revealed His perfect plan. We have been anxiously waiting to know what our next step is from here...where will we go after our time here in Switzerland is done. There were several options but we were unsure of which option was God's pick for our lives. Imagine sailing out in the open ocean at night with no land in sight and not knowing which direction to go in to find land. That's a little how this whole situation felt. Fear, panic, and despair began to set in. But after much prayer and many trials we now know with certainty what God knew all along. 

Jared had the opportunity to speak with his boss this week and he is giving Jared the opportunity to continue doing research for him while working in America. This is a HUGE answer to prayer. Basically, nothing will change except for the location in which he will be working. He will still have the same boss, the same pay, the same research...just a different lab space....closer to family! :) Jared loves what he is doing and given the multiple papers and patents he has achieved in the short year he has been here it is evident  that he is also good at what he does. But in order to pursue a career as a college professor, which we know is God's calling on his life, he will need to be back in the U.S. to do job interviews, because flying back and forth from Switzerland to do job interviews is not an option. This new opportunity will be the stepping stone that he needs to further his career. We are so thankful his current boss is being more than supportive. I think he sees the great potential in Jared as well. He has actually called Jared a "wizard" at chemistry which I now tease him about often. :) His confidence in Jared is very encouraging because he is very well-respected in the field and as an individual.

So where will we be moving you ask? There is a professor at Georgia Tech that Jared has had opportunities to work with in the past who practically jumped at the idea of sharing lab space with him. So by the fall of 2012 we will be living in Atlanta, Georgia. We have a few dear friends in the area so we are happy to be going somewhere that we'll already have friends close by and our family will be MUCH closer than they are here in Switzerland. So look out we come!

Now that we can see enough into the future in order to relax a little, we plan on enjoying the rest of our time here in Switzerland as best we can before the brief time we have here is up. Lots to look forward to in 2012 and lots of memories and lessons from 2011 that we'll carry on with us. 

For those who may be dealing with some doubt and confusion yourself, please be encouraged by our experience. If you are looking for answers and all you seem to be getting is frustrated...remember that sometimes God's answer is "wait". His timing is perfect. Trust that He works the all together for good. (Romans 8:28) Pray it out. Ask God to help you while you wait on Him.  Ask others to pray with you. The power of prayer is the most effective tool we have.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Anniversary Cruise - Part II

Our first stop on the cruise was to Naples, Italy. We booked an excursion offered by the cruiseline (my very first excursion experience) and took a private boat cruise along the Amalfi coast which was really beautiful. All of the buildings stacked along the shoreline was very picturesque. The boat took us to the town of Amalfi where we docked for a few hours and did some exploring and shopping. I was able to test out my new point and shoot camera that Jared got me as an early Christmas present. Having a nice DSLR professional camera is great but it's a bear when it comes to taking self portraits so I was happy to have a pocket-size camera for the trip! My husband is way too good to me! :)

Jared and I along the Amalfi Coast

one of the many little shops in Amalfi

Us in front of St. Andrew's Cathedral in Amalfi, Italy.

another view of the Amalfi coast

From there we took the boat back along the coast and then hopped on a tour bus for a scenic drive to Pompeii. For those who may not know, Pompeii is an ancient Roman city that was destroyed and completely buried during an eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Touring the ancient city was fascinating. There were some plaster casts of a few of the victims that were discovered. It was a sobering sight because it captured the tragedy of literally being buried alive by the ash and lava. Some of the ruins that were uncovered still looked very well intact and our tour guide gave some very interesting historic details along the way. 

City of Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

inside one of the homes in Pompeii

Plaster casts of some of the victims at Pompeii

We couldn't go to Naples - the home of the very first pizza - and not have a we ended our day by enjoying a giant slice of pepperoni pizza! Not a bad way to start our travels! :)

Next stop...Turkey! There is a lot of history to share from our visit to Ephesus, Turkey in Part III of our anniversary cruise. It was probably our favourite part of the trip. If you missed Part I of our Anniversary Cruise adventures you can check out that blog post HERE.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weakness Is Our Strength

There are a lot of people who think I'm a strong person. But I am NOT. I am a very weak person with a very strong God. I've been through my share of struggles in my life, but in those times where I think I don't even have strength for the day, I turn to The One who is the source of strength and ask if He would let me borrow a little. In my weakness, I am pushed up against God and He steadfastly reveals that His promises are true...  "God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12.9-10) "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

I am not ashamed to say that I am weak and that I need a Saviour. I don't have it altogether, it's God that has it all together and pours out His grace on me which I so desperately need daily. Life can be overwhelming and people can often be discouraging but we shouldn't let the weight of the world intimidate us because God has already overcome the world so that in Him we can have peace. (John 16:33)  Whether we are dealing with a disgruntled co-worker or someone with a difficult personality, or experiencing financial woes or a life-altering health concern, whatever hardship we are facing, know that God will help us through it by providing us with the necessary resources. All we have to do is trust in Him.

"For we do not have a king who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our Anniversary Cruise ~ 11/11/11

Jared and I celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary this year and to commemorate the occasion we decided to go back to the place where we first the middle of the ocean...on a cruise! :)  In November we took a 12 day Mediterranean Cruise to Italy, Greece, Turkey and Croatia! We had an absolutely wonderful time and although I couldn't wait to share the trip with you it has taken me several weeks to go through all of the photos I took. As you can imagine, I took a LOT! I'm actually not finished going through them but I did want to get a few photos and stories up for those who have been asking.

A few weeks before our cruise the cruise line called us and said that they were going to upgrade us to a balcony room for no extra cost as a complimentary anniversary gift! Talk about a GREAT surprise! We were so thankful for the upgrade because it allowed us to see every sunrise, every sunset and every port as we sailed in from our balcony. The views were breathtaking. It was wonderful to share such beautiful moments with my best friend in celebration of our love. God has blessed me beyond measure.

Not only did we enjoy each of the ports of call, we also had a great time on the ship itself. We took a train from Switzerland to Civitavecchia, Italy where our ship departed. It was a small little town but the weather was beautiful and we had a view of the beach from our hotel.

The hotel had a complimentary shuttle bus that took us straight to the ship which we were thankful for. We were able to board with no problems, checked into our room and both were giddy about the balcony we had scored! :) First thing we did was check out what the ship had to offer and then put on our swim suits and headed toward to pool. We jumped in the hot tub and started off our vacation relaxing. 

our cruise ship, the Star Princess

Our first day on the cruise

Hot tubbin'!

our bedroom with a balcony

first of many sunrises from our bedroom balcony

first of many sunsets from our bedroom balcony

Along with our excitement about the bedroom with a balcony and the ship itself, we were mutually excited about all of the yummy food. Dining out in Switzerland is a very rare thing because it's not only expensive but the food is quite bland. So we were happy to have some "real" food that I didn't have to cook for a change! I'm pretty sure I gained most if not all of the weight I lost specifically for the cruise. But I'm at peace with that! LOL! It's ok to splurge now and then, right? :)

There was so much to do on the ship each day and night as far as entertainment goes. They had movies under the stars, shopping, comedians, theatre performances, karaoke, games, art auctions, a dance club, a spa, a casino, multiple pools and jacuzzis and more! We were certainly never bored. During one of the theatre shows the magician actually called me up on stage as a "volunteer" for one of his tricks. I don't like being in the spotlight but the guy reminded me of Gob from the T.V. show Arrested Development (overdramatic and takes himself way to seriously) so it was a fun time. I kept hearing The Final Countdown play in my head the whole time and tried not to laugh. :)

center of the ship

theatre on the ship for various shows and performances

main pool and outdoor movie theater

art auction on the ship

martini bar on the ship

at the martini bar

Dinner each night was a treat. It was a formal style dinner with three course meals + dessert and it was fun to try some new dishes and have dessert each night. I consumed my weight in seafood and loved every minute of it. On our actual anniversary the waiter brought us a mini cake and sang to us. The cruise staff also decorated our door with balloons and an anniversary banner. I somehow managed to still fit into the same dress I wore on the cruise where I met Jared eight years ago. I'm sentimental like that and was glad my waist cooperated. :) I also liked going to the perfume boutique on the ship and trying out a new scent each night before's the little things. I also enjoyed the two formal nights on the cruise where you get to dress up in evening gown attire and have formal photos taken. You feel fancy and special when you're all dressed up like that. The girly side of me loves that kind of thing.

formal dining room

complimentary anniversary cake

the cruise staff decorated our bedroom door for our anniversary

perfume boutique

on our anniversary 11/11/11

sunset on our anniversary 11/11/11

formal night on the cruise

Well that's a brief summary of our time on board the ship. I plan to share more about each port we stopped in during our trip in separate future posts. We feel incredibly blessed to have each other but equally as thankful to have wonderful family and friends who want to share our lives with us. Hope you enjoy going through life with us. Cheers!

studio portrait on the cruise