Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Plans, Addictions and Life

I decided to blog a little differently today. I just wanted to share a few quick updates and recent thoughts...

  • My parents are coming to visit with us in exactly one month. I cannot wait to hug them! It's going to be just the morale booster we need to finish this last stretch in Switzerland.
  • If all goes as planned, we only have 5 more months left before we can come HOME!
  • So many friends of mine are expecting or have recently had a baby. Makes me even more anxious about getting home because I want so badly to photograph these tiny blessings!
  • Speaking of my photography...I have big plans for when we return. Can't wait to share more about that in the near future! :)
  • Tot has been sick since December :( Still working to figure out what the underlying problem is. He seems to be doing better...but each time we take him off antibiotics he relapses. Hoping this time is different. If not, we'll have to do more tests. Keep praying for him please.
  • Jared is under a lot of pressure at work. Pray that God continues to reveal to him His wisdom and peace.
  • Enjoyed some Skype time with my brother and nephews over the weekend and it instantly lifted my spirits. Had to choke back a couple tears though when Isaac said "I wish I could see you in person and not over a computer." Obviously our hearts are in the same place. I wish for nothing more than that too. He might take that statement back after I hug him and don't let go once we are together again! ;)
  • I've been working on totally revamping the teen outreach website. Excited about the direction things are going. I'll be sure to share more when everything is up and running.
  • Pinterest is like an after school special. I'm totally addicted.
  • Some days, life in Switzerland feels like the movie Groundhog's Day.
  • I've never been more organized, motivated and productive as I have these last few months. I finally feel like I'm on the right track.
And that's pretty much what's going on with us lately.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Gauntlet

Living in Switzerland is a lot like running the gauntlet. Not sure what a gauntlet is? Check out this video clip from the movie First Knight where Lancelot takes on the challenge of the gauntlet.

Now that you have a better visual, here's how Switzerland is much like the gauntlet. It's as though you go through each day trying to avoid being knocked down. Each day is mentally and physically taxing because you are constantly in survival mode. Often the hits are coming fast from all sides and all at once. But the only way out is to go through it. To keep moving forward.

We're in it right now. Dodging blows. Trying to keep our heads up and taking it full on. I don't belly ache about our troubles publicly because I don't like to complain as a general rule...but I can tell you that the past 2 years have been a extreme challenge. There have been many periods during that time where surrendering to defeat sounded like a viable option. Giving up and going home sounds so good especially in moments of weakness...we've had thoughts of buying plane tickets and getting the heck out of here even as recent as this morning. But God's word resounds in my head every time I feel like I can't take one more step or endure one more day here.

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) 

Did you know that the Bible mentions strength over 200 times in the bible? When God mentions something more than once...particularly that many times...he really wants us to get it. He is encouraging us for our moments of weakness because He knows those moments will come. We are weak, but HE IS STRONG! He wants us to draw from His strength.

But he 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

There's that word 'content' again. I wrote a blog post about contentment a few weeks back. Contentment and strength seem to go hand-in-hand. Contentment is an illusive commodity today. In fact, much of the business world works hard to breed dis-content so that we will buy their product. They tell us something is "new and improved" so we will feel that we have less than the best and are somehow "behind the times." They are deliberately trying to make us feel dis-satisfied with life by playing to our greed. They want us to believe that we are not significant if we don't have the best and the newest.  

The problem with this mentality is that you are never satisfied. And if you are never satisfied, then you are unable to enjoy life fully because you feel deprived. Let me give you a definition of what the Bible means by contentment: Contentment is a state of satisfaction that is anchored to our confidence in God that results in a joyful celebration of life. 

Contentment is not something that comes naturally. Naturally, we are prone to: compare ourselves with others, to always want more than we already have, to interpret someone else's good fortune as coming at our expense, and to complain.

You don't have to teach any of these things. They come naturally to us.  Not so with contentment. Contentment is not instinctive. It is often our weakness and it is something that we must learn over time.  It is something we learn gradually. We likely will not just wake up one day feeling content.  We need to have a new perspective, a new attitude, a deepened faith. These things must be developed...they cannot be bought.

However, it is somewhat to our advantage that contentment is a weakness because God says that His power is made perfect in weakness. If we acknowledge our weaknesses and need for God we actually open ourselves up to receive God's grace and strength. But doing that takes humility and courage. It's something I personally struggle with, along with many of you.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10-13)

When we finally make it on the other side of the gauntlet I am not looking for the applause that Lancelot received. I'm just looking forward to being embraced by our family and friends and being able to say "With the grace of God....we did it!"

Friday, March 16, 2012

Innsbruck, Austria

This post is a little late, forgive me for that, but we've had a lot going on lately. These photos are actually from our visit with Emily in January. I shared our trip to Germany in a previous blog post and from Germany we drove to Innsbruck, Austria. It was a pretty scary drive. We were driving through heavy snowfall the entire way and later learned that while we were there, Austria had record snowfalls. We had dinner with a couple from Turkey while we were in Austria who were on their way to a ski trip with friends. Apparently the roads were so bad and there had been reported avalanches that many of the roads were closed and lots of people were stuck overnight. We were blessed because we got there before the weather got too terribly bad and by the next day the roads were all cleared for our drive back to Switzerland.

Austria was beautiful covered in snow. We happened to be there during the winter youth olympics so there were lots of people and things going on. Here's just a glimpse of our time there....

Snowy roads on our way to Innsbruck, Austria

Jared and I in front of the colorful buildings in Innsbruck, Austria

The Golden Roof in Innsbruck, Austria

Clock tower and narrow streets of Innsbruck, Austria

Jared and I in the Youth Winter Olympic bobsled

Vienna Style tenderloin and potato croquettes at a local family owned restaurant.
 It was delicious but more food than what we're used to living in Switzerland!

Fancy building in Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck Cathedral

The colorful buildings lining the waterfront in Innsbruck.

Hope you enjoyed our trip with us. :)

Monday, March 12, 2012


"During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered." (Hebrews 5:7-9)

This entire experience over the last year and a half has had its share of difficulties, frustrations and pain. Emotions come in waves and at the moment, I feel overwhelmed by the waters and I'm kicking desperately to stay afloat. In my weakness and desperation I have cried out to Jesus in prayer many, many times. Right now, this verse in Hebrews 5 brings comfort to me because just as "He was heard"...I know God also hears our prayers and our cries. We are learning obedience from our sufferings. And obedience to God leads to rewards of  peace (Isaiah 48:18), blessings (Deut. 28:1), safety (Lev. 25:18) and prosperity (I Kings 2:3). All of these things will be ours because of our obedience to Him. 

Although we may be suffering now, we can smile at our future because "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)  

This suffering WILL NOT last. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Until then...we pray, remain hopeful and wait upon the Lord.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Healthy Living - My Journey

I've had a healthy lifestyle change in the past year and a half and after sharing my progress with my Mom last night, she encouraged me to share it with others here on my blog. My goal is that it encourages you.

Upon moving to Switzerland our entire way of life has changed dramatically. And while it has been very difficult to adjust and cope with it at times...there have actually been some good changes that have come from our move. I have grown in a lot of ways. My spiritual walk with the Lord has taken on new meaning since I have had more opportunities here to pause and really take Him in. I want every area in my life to reflect His goodness and to bring honor to His name. I still have A LOT to work on...but I am pleased with my progress.

One area of my life that I have always struggled with is eating healthy and exercising. I used to dread the thought of running, jogging, or doing any type of exercise that involved sweating. I also didn't want to let go of the unhealthy foods I loved to eat. Moving to Switzerland literally forced me to change my lifestyle.

Dining out is not an option here. 1.) It is SUPER expensive. (just to give you an idea...a McDonald's Cheeseburger "Value" Meal is close to $20...yes...that's per person)  and 2.) Their restaurant choices are all very bland in taste anyway. So cooking at home is virtually the only real option for us. The upside though is that we eat A LOT healthier. And honestly...I actually crave healthy foods now.

On top of our food choices changing. We also exercise much more here. We don't own a car. Again, it's an incredibly expensive privilege that we simply cannot afford over here. So we walk pretty much everywhere. On top of that, I have been intrinsically motivated to add an exercise routine to my daily life. There were several external motivators that pushed me to be more active...specifically this encouragement from the gifted speaker, Beth Moore. I encourage you to watch this two-part video and hear her personally explain how exercise can be another form of worship to God. This inspired me to not want to work out so I can be thinner, fit in the clothes I like or to look better in general but to elevate my motivation so that I'm doing this with HIM as my focus. And with that as my motivation it truly is freeing.

I'm here to tell you that if I can make this can you. I was possibly the most unlikely candidate for this...Jared can testify that I was never really receptive to his offers of working out together. I always shot down any thought of exercise. But I'm here telling you...change is possible. It takes deep motivation and determination. But once you start feeling the positive results happen in your life you will feel immense satisfaction within yourself.

My advice is to start slow. Don't overwhelm yourself with changes all at once. You will likely burn out and give up. One by one, start cutting out unhealthy foods...eating out less...and replacing junk for wholesome goodness! You don't have to deprive yourself of things you like. If you like chocolate have some chocolate...but only have ONE small piece not an entire bag. It's all about moderation.

When it comes to exercising, again...take it slow. Start with something minimal that you can do and build up your endurance from there. Marathon runners don't get up the morning of the race and run 10k without first building endurance and training their body. Do enough exercise that challenges your strength but don't set yourself up for failure by doing too much too soon. For example, if you can easily do 30 sit ups...try for 50. If you can only do 10...then do 10. Gradually increase your numbers daily or weekly. You'll have much more success if you set reasonable goals for yourself. I recommend doing your work out first thing in the morning because 1.) You can get it done so you won't have to think about it for the rest of the day. 2.) It jump starts your day so that you're energized and ready to go and 3.) Exercise in the morning before your brain has time to figure out what you're doing! ;)

 Please keep in mind that I am not a nutritionist, or a fitness professional...I'm simply sharing what has worked for me. I hope this inspired many of you. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

God Doesn't Make Junk

Great video from the Skit Guys....

God doesn't make junk. You are His masterpiece. You were created for good.