Monday, January 30, 2012

Behind The Scenes Of A "Better View"

Do you ever feel like your strength, your spirit, your energy and your faith are completely on empty? I have. In fact, that is how I feel right this moment. Due to a multitude of stressors, disappointments and unknowns I find myself feeling desperate and weak. I knew coming into this overseas move that we would encounter tough times and have to endure difficult challenges. I did not have a fairy tale outlook about coming to Switzerland as many of my friends and loved ones did for me. I understood that this was going to be a tough 2 years. If you were to simply look at our photos it would appear dreamlike to most. Sure we may have what some call a "better view" but life is not a snapshot and the everyday challenges that are mounting up are part of the behind the scenes that often escape the highlight reel. This is not to be misinterpreted as ungratefulness...I realize I am blessed in so many ways, but I want to be real with you today and attempt to encourage others who may be struggling right now too.

My life is not perfect. I am not perfect.

In the year and a half we have lived overseas I have mourned the loss of several family members, I have gone nearly two years without being able to see and hug some of the family I love most not knowing if and when we may be reunited, I have endured isolation, financial stress, culture shock, depression, loss of friendships, life-threatening sickness, tests of my faith, living outside my comfort zone, countless disappointments and daily struggles, homesickness... you name it, I've experienced it. This is not to arouse sympathy but for others to understand life isn't always going to be picture perfect...not on this side of Heaven anyway.

We are going to face hardships that will force us to keep or abandon our faith because with every opportunity to believe God there is also an opportunity to disbelieve God. We can choose to give in to our doubts, our fears and our bitterness or we can trust that God has the power to do what He has promised. Jesus promises the He will NEVER leave us or forsake us. I know it can sometimes feel like we're facing these difficult situations on our own. We often find ourselves asking God to rescue us from our situation but we must remember...He already has! Salvation through Jesus Christ is available to anyone who believes in Him. He already completed His rescue mission and the Bible tells us that "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17) Keeping our thoughts on Him and His promises is the only way we will successfully get through these difficult times. Reminding ourselves of His blessing and mercy in the midst of heartache and pain keeps us hopeful, keeps us going.

Talking to God through prayer and being openly honest with Him about what's on our heart keeps us close to Him and we can draw from His strength especially in our weakest moments. I am in the midst of some serious challenges right now, many of which are completely out of my control. If you can relate, then I hope you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. God cares about each of us and His plan for us is always perfect, always purposeful and always good. It's our role to find that good and pursue our purpose. Don't lose faith.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Anniversary Cruise - Part VI

I apologize to my faithful blog readers that these cruise posts have been so sporadic. We've done some traveling in between, had a few stressful events occur and I have been lacking motivation to update my blog. If you missed my previous blog posts about our cruise you can view those: HERE.

I wanted to briefly share about the remainder of our cruise. We made stops in Athens, Rhodes, Olympia, and Corfu, Greece and then ended our travels in Venice, Italy. To be honest, I wasn't impressed with Rhodes, Olympia or Corfu Greece. I really don't have a lot of photos to share from those stops and don't really recommend making stops at any of these places. There are much more exciting and beautiful parts of Greece to explore. Athens, however is worth sharing about. The Acropilis and Temple of Zeus were two very impressive ruin sites. The size of these ancient ruins are so impressive especially given they were built long before modern tools.

Temple of Zeus

Temple of Zeus from on top of the Acropolis

Theater of Dyonisis

Jared and I in front of the Theater of Dyonisis

Acropolis in Athens

Acropolis in Athens

We also enjoyed the changing of the guard ceremony at the parliament building in Athens. It reminded me of that Monty Python skit "Ministry Of The Silly Walks". We were cracking up for days over it but the Greek definitely take it very seriously.

Video I took of the changing of the guards in Athens

Monty Python Ministry Of The Silly Walks for comparison :)

One more city to cover...Venice, Italy...which I'll have to save for next time because my bed is calling me. The last few weeks have left me exhausted. I'll try to post the "series finale" tomorrow sometime. Thanks for being patient! Hope you're all doing well!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Anniversary Cruise - Part V

On our anniversary cruise we went to several of the Greek Isles. After visiting Santorini, we then sailed to Mykonos. I would describe Mykonos as Santorini's fraternal twin. They have a lot of similarities but are definitely not identical. Both are absolutely beautiful. It was extremely windy the day we were there which made the water very choppy. We had to take a tender boat to shore from the ship because we couldn't get close to the port due to the waves. Being in that tiny boat on those high waves is one of the scariest things I've ever experienced. I thought for sure they were going to flip the boat. Thankfully we made it to the island and back safe and sound but I may have left permanent marks on Jared's leg from gripping him so hard. Was it worth it? I'll have to say yes. It was a charming little village. The main attractions for me were all of the blue doors and the giant windmills. :)

small church near the harbor

 fisherman's boat near the harbor

 streets of still bloom in late November there!

everyday life in Mykonos

LOVED all the blue doors

view from on top of a hill in Mykonos

this is a favourite. <3

another blue door with bright pink flowers

waves crashing against the buildings

view of the main windmills from the shore

glimpse of strong waves

one of my favourite photos of Jared, in front of the large windmill in Mykonos

another view from the island

Mykonos shoreline

You can check out the rest of our anniversary cruise adventures: HERE!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dealing With Loneliness

Isn't it interesting that in a world with nearly 7 billion people we can still feel lonely? After living half way across the world, in a country where I don't speak the language, don't have any family nearby, my husband works full time and my interactions with people primarily consists of "hello" and "thank you" to a clerk at the grocery store...loneliness became a very familiar concept for me. Within the first few months of moving here I was practically grief-stricken with the feeling of loneliness. Despite having my husband here with me each day, I somehow still felt alone. Not everyday...but there were many days that I felt confined to my loneliness. I couldn't seem to shake it, no matter what I tried. It was only after I fully grasped God's promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 that I was able to overcome this consuming fear of loneliness. It says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged...for the LORD your God is with you; He will never leave you or forsake you."

We are NEVER alone. Whether we are in an empty room or a crowded room...the Lord is with us. But His promise declares that He will NEVER leave us either. I can attest that in those quiet moments when I was seemingly all alone here in our apartment...I was actually in the greatest company. I've come to find that my "alone" time is actually the perfect time of day. It's time I get to spend with my Saviour without any distractions from the outside world. Just me and Him. I didn't realize just how much I enjoyed Him and needed Him prior to my change in situation. 

Maybe you are like have allowed the world to distract you from your relationship with Jesus. You have grown dependent on others, or on things to fill your lonely heart. Well, let me tell you dear friend...everything in this life will one day pass away...those people and things that you are dependent on will not always be around. But God's love and presence is eternal. If we continue to fill ourselves with temporal things it is like pouring water into a bucket full of holes. Eventually we will run empty. God's grace permanently repairs the holes in our punctured heart and fills us with His unending love ensuring that we'll never be empty again!

I know first hand what it is like to feel like you are all alone in this world. But I also know that loneliness is simply a lie from the Enemy and the truth is that Jesus has been with you since your beginning and will continue to be with you throughout your life. For some of us this is a very difficult concept to grasp because we've experienced so many losses...loss of loved ones, broken relationships and various disappointments so we conclude that a loving, eternal relationship like God's is impossible. But in Isaiah 55:8-10, God tells us that  "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." In other words...let us not compare man to God or God to man. One will never fail to disappoint, the other is incapable of failing us. We cannot write God off because man has continually failed us. Through every disappointment caused by man...God remains faithful and is there to love us through the disappointments, the loneliness and the pain. Let Jesus fill you up and relieve you of your loneliness.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Anniversary Cruise - Part IV

The next place we visited while on our 12-day cruise was Santorini, Greece. Santorini was the main reason we booked this particular cruise because it was one of the few that stopped there. I had been drooling over photos that I had seen of this Greek Isle for years and dreaming about seeing it for myself. It definitely did not disappoint. WOW! It is one of the most beautiful and charming places I have ever been.

Once reaching the island we had the choice of either taking the gondola up to the village of Fira or we could take a donkey. We decided to take the gondola because they were the same price and I've never had luck with riding four-legged animals. The gondola ride up the steep cliffside was actually pretty frightening. I have never been a huge fan of heights though. Once we reached the top it was totally worth it. What a view! 

view from Fira, Greece

looking down from the gondola to Fira, Greece

We headed into the village and started looking for a place to rent a scooter. All of the tourist websites I looked through beforehand recommended taking a scooter to the nearby village of Oia. So that's exactly what we did. We felt a little like Harry and Lloyd from Dumb & Dumber riding our tiny scooter but it was so much fun! :) The views on the way to Oia were amazing! We just pulled over the scooter and took some quick snapshots all along the way. It was about a 30 minute ride from Fira to Oia.

standing in front of our scooter in Fira, Greece

one of the many stops we took on the ride over to Oia to take capture the beauty

Everywhere we looked was whitewashed buildings, blue domes and cobblestone streets. It was like walking through a dream. So beautiful. We took lots of pictures of the buildings all stacked on top of one another along the cliffs, did some souvenir shopping and wandering then stopped to have some lunch. The restaurant had an amazing view and I enjoyed THE BEST Greek Salad I have ever had in my entire life. So good!

Jared and I in Oia, Greece

Oia, Greece

LOVED all the blue doors in Oia, Greece

Jared in Oia, Greece

One of the many blue domes in Oia, Greece

Where those people are seated is where we had lunch in Oia, Greece

The view from the restaurant where we had lunch

another view from the restaurant

Oia, Greece

Oia, Greece was full of blue doors, windows and gates...LOVED IT!

more views of Oia, Greece

We scootered (yes, I just created my own word) back to Fira to return the scooter and head back to the ship before sailing away into the sunset. We both agreed that Santorini is a place we would love to come back to and stay a couple days. I hear the sunsets viewed from the island are spectacular! Maybe we'll go back one day. I'm so happy we were able to see as much as we did. We had a fabulous time!

Taking the donkey path back down to the cruise ship

sunset over Santorini, Greece from our balcony on the cruise

To check out the rest of our cruise adventures go HERE.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Anniversary Cruise - Part III

With the recent holidays and Jared having some time off that we could spend together, I have virtually neglected my blog lately. But I wanted to jump back into it and finish sharing stories from our cruise as I've had many people asking about it. In Part II I shared about our first port in Italy...from there we went to Ephesus, Turkey.

Turkey shoreline from our bedroom balcony on the cruise

We both really enjoyed our time in Turkey. There is so much biblical history there. I am glad we ended up taking an excursion tour with a knowledgeable guide because they were able to share some incredible historic facts along the way.

We first went to the house of Virgin Mary which there is overwhelming agreement by historians that this was in fact where Mary spent her final days here on earth. It was incredible to walk where she walked and see where and how she lived. True to her character, it was a very humble home she lived in located on the hillside of Selcuk, Turkey.

front view of Mary's house

You couldn't take photos inside so this is a postcard of what it looked like inside. 
It's more of a shrine now as you can see.

Statue of Virgin Mary near the entrance of her home

Prayer wall outside of Mary's home with thousands of prayers written on tissue paper.

Close up of the prayer wall.

From there we took the bus to Ephesus and saw the Ancient Ampitheater where Apostle Paul spoke to over 25,000 people about Jesus Christ and was subsequently arrested and persecuted for His faith. Were it not for his boldness, courage and conviction, you and I may not know the Good News of Jesus' saving grace today. For us, this was the most memorable part of the entire trip.

Apostle Paul Theater

Jared standing inside Apostle Paul's theater

We also saw where St. John the Apostle was buried along with other historic sites.
Tomb of St. John

Jared and I Standing in front of the Christian symbol which was used as code to inform fellow Christians on where to meet. Violent persecution did not allow them to openly speak or practice their faith so they had to meet in secret.

The symbol's meaning broken down....

The pinwheel symbol actually contains hidden letters which spells out the Greek word for "fish" which is: Icythys.
 Ichthys consists of five letters from the Greek alphabet: I-ch-th-y-s. When these five letters are used as initials for five words, we obtain this Christian Declaration: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter. This is an acrostic for 'Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.' Commonly today we see the symbol of a fish representing Christianity. 

Ancient library in Ephesus, Turkey

After our historic tour we did some shopping and sightseeing on our own.
Me and a local camel in Ephesus, Turkey

Fancy head gear :o)

Shop with pretty hanging lanterns

Pomegranate Turkish Delight was delightful! :)

I hope you enjoyed visiting Turkey with us! :) You can check out the rest of our cruise experiences HERE.