light at the end of the tunnel

it is miraculous thing, God's timing. while things around us may be in upheaval, He visits us with little assurances, often perfectly timed, to make sure we know He is aware.

i have often been guilty of writing things off as coincidence. in fact, in one of the first conversations i  had with my mother-in-law when i was about 16, i specifically remember her telling me that the situation we were discussing(which happened to be about devin's mission) was not a coincidence. since then i am sadly still guilty of forgetting that timing is everything.

i needed a refresher recently on what the phrase tender mercy really meant. i tend to overuse the term and it turned it into something trite and meaningless. i was surprised to remember how often the timing the blessings are to help us recognize that they come from Him. let an apostle describe it for us:

"Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.
Faithfulness and obedience enable us to receive these important gifts and, frequently, the Lord’s timing helps us to recognize them.
We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance."

essentially what i am trying to get at is that i've better recognized in the past few months, that "WHEN is just as important as HOW." source
last weekend i got some news that a dear friend is coming out to visit. in just one of those desperate moments, this was the light at the end of a tunnel for me, hope that i can make it through the christmas season overseas without my beloved family, joy from knowing God catered the timing of this gift to suit my current needs. 

the angel arrives today, and will leave just before the holidays. here is to a heavensent week with russo.


kloosterstraat, antwerp

the antique capital of belgium. thousands of gems all in one street.

this could be my favorite street in all of belgium.


stellar. cellar.

i've seen pictures of some pretty amazing cellars here in belgium. but it took actually standing in such an ancient thing for my whole soul to realize the grandeur of it.
this cellar in antwerp had a two story store overhead, and apartments on top of that. there is no telling how long ago the foundation was laid, and my mind can't comprehend how the weight has sturdily held for 500+  years. we were utterly facinated, and as usual, tried to figure out how we could replicate it, build it, or take it home with us.
being inspired is hard to beat.


"He never did any of those things that usually accompany greatness."

my grandmother raised her children to the Christmas singing king of their day: andy williams. of course, my mother then raised us on him as well. i have listened to his Christmas albums countless times, but one part of a live recording has stood my neck hairs on end without fail this year. he quotes a poem attributed to jim bishop called "one solitary man." i prefer andy's reading of it but couldn't find it on the internet, so here is the next best substitute, and the author of my grandpa's favorite carol, bing crosby. you're gonna love this:

if i had a mind of steel i would memorize this poem. i suppose there may still be time before the holidays. since we've only heard a fistful of holiday tunes played on the radio, seen a handful of lights on homes or trees, and have yet to sing a single Christmas carol in church and it is already the tenth of december!, i am grateful for people, how ever old, who took their time to share their love for Christ's story. i hope to better do the same.


finds on rue antoine dansaert, brussels

found a beautiful rue our last trip. amazing shopping. lovely apartments. great neighborhood.

get a load of this, if you can. i walked up to this window and said to devin, "if i had that gold skirt in the back i'd be in heaven." we stared at the window for a while when the epiphany came. "those are PAPER! the dresses and skirts are made out of PAPER!" they were gathered, pintucked, pleated, pressed, seamed, and hemmed all out of the stuff we write on everyday. all my patternmaking days resurfaced and i was left fantasizing. I DIED, then made devin take a picture.
if you can enlarge please do. you'll die too. 

nothing can top the above story. but someday i'd like to make a sofa thingy like this. i am in love with excess tufting.

the inspiring end.


noel in brussels

the christmas market in brussels held a candle to paris. i'm learning that french markets are famous, but belgian's are cheaper and just as grand. 

this is the snow that cancelled church. amazing.

our neighbors own a merry-go-round. i hope it's this one. it's ingenious.

place sainte catherine, the very first place we went in brussels. reminiscent. now covered in lights and stalls.

 something fried and covered in sugar. something very good.

it was painfully cold, high up on pain scale cold.

we went outdoor ice skating on our honeymoon here. we could barely move in the cold, let alone skate this past weekend. hopefully next weekend, and maybe make a yearly tradition. found a few christmas presents, but still need a few more. besides taking a few hours to dethaw, it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a saturday.


quatrieme mois

blurry devin keeping warm by a warming station in france

snow cancelled our church meetings today. we slept in. made american pancakes. got on our comfy church clothes. you know the ones, the comfy dress your mom would wear after church. i now have one, it's the kind that you can nap in-and we did that: napped. we caught a few snowflakes out our windows:) i only remember church being cancelled once  while growing up because it snowed about three feet in utah. here in beligum we only have 3 inches. sadly, instead of being with saints we watched this and this. great feasting anyway.

we've made it through our most comfortable month overseas yet. it's heartening to know we are 2/3 of the way done-less than two months left:)

-festively decorating our apartment in scads of white paper.
-watching the belgians react to what utahns consider a little snow.
-the same old meals we make are getting old. i'm really ready for my kitchen again.
-slacked in my letter writing, but not journaling. selfish i know.
-haven't started on my christmas cards yet.
-wished they had black friday over here.
-caving-we got a dryer. i think i miss line drying. wondering if i'll be loco to try it in ut.
-trying to figure out my plans for post-europe. decisions are not my forte.
-bought a french plate for my mother in law for her very own plate collection.
-blamed things on the weather, like less weekend day trips, loss of exercise motivation, and now no church.
-our first handmade thanksgiving. homemade pumpkin puree and all.
-seeing christmas from a different culture's perspective.
-tried the most famous super ultra dark belgian chocolate. no wonder they don't eat chocolate like it's is a food group. if i only had that stuff, i too would eat a teaspoon about every other full moon.
-counting down the days to our european yuletide. we are planning that this fifth month will be the best of all: scourging for our last needed gifts in our favorite antique flooded antwerp, taking our first holiday for our anniversary in bruges, ornament buying in brussels at their famous flea markets, and christmas celebrating with foreign friends.  


snowed out

there is this much snow in belge. roughly two centimeters worth. it was negative five celcius today. brrrr.

on our drive to the meetinghouse this evening, we got word that the meeting where i was to teach salsa to the combined youth was cancelled because of the snow. i don't speak french and i don't really salsa, so i was pretty much okay with the cancellation. were it not for the joy that comes from being with the saints i'd be thrilled:)

since we were already out, we drove around to see the way europeans do christmas lights.

i can't believe it's december first. 

"Love is what inspired our Heavenly Father to create our spirits; it is what led our Savior to the Garden of Gethsemane to make Himself a ransom for our sins. Love is the grand motive of the plan of salvation; it is the source of happiness, the ever-renewing spring of healing, the precious fountain of hope. As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the Holy Spirit."
Dieter F. Uchtdorf
too true not to share


Noël in Paris

i am so unstudied. i have never been to another country for Christmas. sadly, i don't know much about all of these sights, except that they are lovely and so was Christmas in Paris.

tree lit Champs Elysees with Arc de Triomphe in the distance 

the ever-calling crepe

Christmas market with gorgeous music playing

biking on Champs Elysees, just like Lance Armstrong, no?

Avenue Montaigne, the nicest shopping street in all of paris. my new favorite street in france.

Arc de Triomphe and the most mesmerizing round-about. we watched cars for 20 minutes.


belgium dressed in snow

it started last night. i woke up this morning singing "over the ground lies a mantle of white..." the white stuff from heaven has made it's graceful arrival. i think white is my favorite color. i love seeing it blanketed over the everything. my favorite attribute of snow is the tranquilizing affect it has on the whole earth. with snow things feel little more still, more peaceful, more calm (once the blizzard is over and if you don't have to drive in or walk through it, right?) those are the exact feelings this holiday season needs. no wonder Heavenly Father put angelic snow and the Christmas season timed them together so perfectly.



the weather has been our excuse for not going out the past few weekends. plus after 15 straight weekend "day-trips," we were easily tiring of the tourism thing. 
despite that, we trekked down to la ville lumière (the city of light) this weekend. as we crossed the border we noticed snow on the ground(it doesn't really stick in belgique). paris was full of dashing women braving the cold dressed up to the hilt and smothered in furs. we thrived on a whole day of bikes via velib for only 1 euro each and whizzing around crowds in breath-showing temperatures. i guess we are bigger fans of bone-splitting cold than rain.

after a full day in the city we found our car, parked on a big street, and noticed the back window of the car in front of us has been shattered. freshly broken glass. we felt watched over, and that hasn't been the first time we've felt that.



i have chills today.
not only because this very moment is the first time my little eyes have seen snow fall this season. what a magician our Father in Heaven is-he creates the most magical things.
but i have chills today because my spirit feels like it is going to burst out of my body, it is that full, and my tummy is too. though i'm thousands of miles away from the nation and people which honor the holiday we celebrated, today i am grateful. grateful that i have arms that can whip cream by hand, and a voice that can invite missionaries over for an american mock thanksgiving, fingers that can open the sweetest messages from people i love, and ears that can listen to handel's messiah.
this has been a thanksgiving we are sure to never forget. we've never done it by ourselves before, and it was surprisingly fulfilling, and a tad bit lonely without the clan. BUT absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Two thoughts that are foremost in my heart:

“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns” quote

We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance quote

hope you are hitting up the black friday sales for me! 

now on to Christmas.


life altering europe

oh europe, you bring the crossroads to us.

of course devin's path is completely different because of the two years he spent living in sweden. nothing altered his course so drastically up to that point of his life.

 in germany, a few days before my nineteen birthday, i got my first european battlewound: a softened heart and a broken eye socket. i stood at the fork then, and tried to make the best decision i could.

then together we came back last summer. a particularly poignant decision occured in paris when our credit cards were frozen for renting bikes, we lost forty dollars, and we had booked our hotel for the month previous and had no where to stay- all in about five hours, and we were unclear about our future job. i think it was one of our lower notes in life. we plowed forward.

then of course came the miracle, on a flight home from europe in 2009 we met the owner of the company we now work for. hard to believe that was merely fate.

now, here again in twenty ten, revisitng the same tutelage, the same proving grounds. like how to have a soft heart, how to get by on less, and how to be away from family when the road gets tough.  

europe is no different than anywhere else. it's just a place to learn

our heaven on earth. 2009 interlocken, switzerland.


dinner wtihout the flash

we ate out. took pictures without a flash. saw the madrid basket ball team-long lurpy giants i tell you. asked for lemonade, the waiter didn't know what that was and gave me fanta instead - .20 liters of fanta for 3 euros. asked for frites, duh, and our accent was so bad they only understood when we asked in english. a new waiter came who could understand us. paid no tips or gratuity-it's worked in the price. learned a new lesson.

we learned, probably not the first time, that we could use more dates full of distraction-free time for nothing else but each other in a great atmosphere and enjoying good food. it is no wonder they tell us to continue to court(an underused term) in marriage. nothing beats it.