Long story short.
I think one of the best parts was putting up with Clint's antics. He really is a dork. I can say this because he is my brother.
Clay had me laughing as well. He really wanted one of the monks' grapes. He was not successful.
He did manage to snag an apple.
Clint and Melissa are beautiful.
Clay was very excited to see this sign.
I was excited to see that jasmine pants have crossed over to jeans. Oh how I love to laugh and these should give me ample opportunity.
I will never forget how Clint came to see me while I was studying in Guanajuato. It meant so much to me. This trip to see us in Europe has encouraged me so much. God has blessed me incredibly with this precious family.
P.S. We are in Spain now. I know, whirlwind, right? We are traveling with a few folks and working on a video project. Yesterday we walked to the store near our hotel and were greeted with our first real look at Spain. Not as glorious as the Travel Channel makes it seem, but Spain nevertheless :)
Clay found some mint chocolate chip ice cream last night and was very excited.
And of course, he has been hard at work EARNING that ice cream :)
Tonight we went to the church's normal Saturday night barbeque. We just got home and it's after 1 am! We had a good time talking Spanish (hooray! for languages that we can speak!) and even got in a few games of volleyball before dinner.
Our moonlit tent.
Buenas noches de Espana. And happy birthdays to Gma and Clint today! I love you both so much!
Blanca and Michael threw a sweet goodbye party for them, and, of course, Sofia was precious as always.
Last night the boys had one last mitraette at St. Germaine's.
And then, because God is merciful to me, a special treat from home: Clint and Mel are here! Family is a sure balm for my heart.
Tonight we had one last hang out time all together. A pita picnic complete with wine and a couple of games of cards. It was so good just to be together, to relax, and to laugh at how stressful things are right now.
Clint and Melissa are real troopers, let me tell you. The jet-lagged two waited patiently through our reminiscences, suffered our inside jokes, and our awkward tears (ok, mostly MY awkward tears :)
I will never forget that picnic. Together as friends. Note: I hate change.
However, change is good, even necessary, because it keeps us from getting comfortable with how things are. It keeps us from exchanging our reliance on the Lord for a cheaper reliance on people and things.
Even Tigre made the rounds saying goodbye to us all. I will miss our kitty! And check out that empty apartment!
My heart is pretty broken right now. We will miss our friends! I was doing the dishes tonight, listening to some itunes, trying to keep it quiet to not wake Clint and Mel, when a new song came on. I had to drop the dishes, close my eyes and soak up the message that Jesus is here, holding me. He's paid the price, given me life, and will never EVER leave me. He truly is incredible. As merciful as it gets. (The song was By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North, if you're interested.)
And so... go with God, dear ones, and forget not the joys and struggles, the lessons and rebukes, and the presence of the Lord who saw you through 2 years here. We will miss you.
SECRET BONUS: As a treat for those who actually made it through this depressing post, an oddity. Clay and I saw a hairless cat in a window the other day while walking. Take a gander. It is so weird and awesome ;)
"If I take one more step it will be the furthest I've ever been from The Shire."
Last night, they shot fireworks off the fort (that we enjoyed from our living room!). They claim it was to celebrate Mary's Assumption, but we Sandozes know the truth: it was to celebrate our 5 months in Huy! 5 months! Exciting and momentous, as well: tomorrow will be the longest I have ever been away from home. Whew. I have been looking forward to this day. Dreading it, too. There was this weird comfort in knowing that I had tread these waters before, that this was all old hat. But tomorrow, tomorrow begins a new chapter. Uncharted waters. Am I ready for this? I guess we'll see! Ha! Oh, Megan, you're so dramatic. I think we'll be ok :)
Summer has been a neat time. It's been hard, because most of the things that make up our weekly routine were suspended. Things like school and activities at church. Most of our friends are ones we made in French class, and with school out, it just seemed harder to get together. We've realized how much having things to do or work to do really defines us. And in a lot of ways, that's not a good thing. God has worked with us this summer to show us, by force if necessary, that satisfaction is in pleasing him and him alone. This is freeing in one respect, for we are released to not care so much about other people's opinions, but it also reveals how deeply entrenched we are in our own self-satisfaction, how good we look. Oh, aren't we all just rotten inside sometimes?! I've done my fair share of kicking and screaming (MOSTLY in my head :) this summer, but oh how happy is it to know Jesus is working on you!
So, bring on month SIX!! AGH! That's a 4th of our time here! Didn't we just get here with our eight huge duffle bags? Didn't we just leave Austin, for that matter?
Let's make the most of these days the Lord has given us, people, because I don't know about where you are, but in Belgium, time is FLYING!
Belgian waffles and zucchini noodles.
We also took advantage of the carnival down the street and introduced Reed to Belgian waffles. Of course, Clay couldn't let him eat one alone.
Waffles here are incredible, especially if you can find then hot off the griddle. They treat them like sundaes, covering them with whipped cream, ice cream, fruit, syrups, and pretty much anything you can imagine. I am glad that the carnival is only here 2 weeks, otherwise Clay might be in serious trouble :)
Ok, this next picture is to commemorate the best carnival game ever. The plexi-glass maze. I laughed so hard I almost cried watching Clay and Reed make their ways through the maze. They were running into walls all over the place. It was hilarious.
When it was time to head to Brussels to catch his flight, we accompanied him to show him some sites. Brussels hasn't gotten old to us yet. It is so beautiful and old.
And, another dinner picture, because it represents us well. Me with my zucchini noodles and Clay with his pasta and bread. And the laptop in the background which will soon be playing some fabulous show to entertain us during dinner. Sigh. Such is life.
(P.S. YES, you can make noodles out of zucchini. You just peel one zucchini, and then continue to peel it with a vegetable peeler until you reach the seeds. Sprinkle the zucchini flesh shavings with salt and let sit for a little while. Blot them dry, and you can either serve them this way or some websites say to pan fry them a little. I just eat them raw. You know what? They aren't half bad. Not as good as pasta, mind you. But not a shabby substitute. Hooray!)
So many things have been stripped away in these last few months that I know had been keeping me from him. In my life I have noticed that God does special work in me when I am surrounded by the unfamiliar. The out of the ordinary. Away from the routines I have built for myself, it seems that my walls crack just enough to let him sneak a foot in. Belgium has been that for me.
From the change in routine, to the new diet I find myself on, to the language that we are trying to wield, to the distance between us and our family and dear friends, our lives are different than they were 5 months ago. Prime ground for God to work, wouldn’t you say?
Isn’t it funny when you read the Bible and stuff jumps out at you that you are SURE was never there before? Because how could you have possibly missed such life-altering truths as this? That is how these verses make me feel. Prepare to be amazed:
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
This exploded into my brain a few months ago and has been a running theme ever since. As Christians we believe that Jesus died on the cross and paid the price for our sins so that we can be near to God again. I think that a lot of the times, this gets simplified as “Jesus died so that we can go to heaven.” While it is true that we will be in heaven after we die, what hits me about this verse is that eternal life starts now.
Jesus defines eternal life for us. It is to know God and to know Jesus. This is what he saved us for! What does this mean for me? It means that I can stop trying to be the perfect Christian. That I can stop with the act. The whole point of it all is knowing God. And guess what happens as we know God more and more?
We become more like Jesus.
We are literally transformed into beings that are more and more like Christ. And guess what happens then? We produce good works (fruit is the church-y word) for the glory of God.
I was going about it all wrong. I was going for the good works expected of me as a Christian without letting God first transform me from within. Fruit is the result of becoming more and more like Christ. Any work we do on our own is garbage. As I seek to know him more and more I will naturally be doing the things that I have been struggling to do all these years: sin less and less, shine his light more and more.
It is ultimate freedom! Freedom from doing things that I feel obligated to do. Freedom from guilt. Freedom to shoulder his easy yoke and his light burden!
And he is changing me.
Home again, home again.
A random cultural note that I think you may find interesting. ( Skip this part if you would rather not read about toilets.)
Ok, so in eastern Europe their toilets are different than the ones we are used to. The main difference is the fact that in this part of the world, the toilets have "shelves" in the bowl.
There is a dry shelf above the water line of the toilet. We did research online to figure out why exactly you would want this, and our results were varied. Check it out yourself. Anyways, all benefits aside, we think they are kind of gross. Just wanted to share this random fact with you.
Ok, no more toilet talk. Promise.
After a short flight, we arrived home to Belgium!
We stayed the night in Brussels, and enjoyed being amongst the Franco-phones again.
Today it was home to Huy. Wouldn't you know it, while we were away, the carnival came to town!! It is covering our entire side of the river! We went out today and walked the grounds, and it was pretty impressive. For the next week, there is a big fair and celebration leading up to August 15, which is Mary's Assumption day.
There are a lot of campers lining the Meuse, and one in particular caught my eye:
I have never seen a vertical pop-up camper. Whoa. Isn't that crazy? Have you guys seen one of these before??
Something else I found curious, was this:
Notice: it is a slide similar to this one we saw at the Houston Rodeo this past February:
Funny thing: The one in Houston was called "Euroslide" and the one in Europe is called "American Toboggan." Apparently no one wants to claim ownership of this slide, but they still want it at their carnivals. They are welcome to name it Megoslide if it would ease conflict.
Oh, and we have a visitor for the next few days!
Reed is here from Austin! (He is pictured here holding a bottle, and I want to assure you all that it is an empty one from dinner that he wanted to keep as a souvenir. Sidenote: there is not brown-bag law in Belgium, so if it WAS in fact a full bottle, there would have been no problem. Interesting, no? Anyways, just wanted to clarify :) So, Reed is here from Austin. He was able to visit a family living in Greece, and is now here with us hanging out and seeing what all goes into living and working in a different country. We are happy to have him here and happy to share what God has been showing us these last 5 months.
After being gone a week, it is SO good to be back in Huy. It is so precious you guys! And so nice a cool, too, after that Hungarian heat. We enjoyed walking around at sunset, feeling so thankful to be home.
Hello, Belgium. We missed you so.
Buda or Pest?
Budapest has been fun. It is a big city, pretty modern in some areas, and yet pretty and historic in others. We have walked around quite a bit, getting to know the city and our new friends that we have met here.
The Belgian representatives were in charge of game night. We decided months ago to make it a kind of "schoolyard games" theme with kickballs and wiffleballs.
I think the best part was just playing around with the bats before the games started. Did you sword fight with plastic bats when you were a kid? Robbie and I choreographed sword-fights. It was amazing. (Random memory: the first time Quinn belly-laughed as a baby was watching Rob and I do one of our choreographed bat numbers. Cutest little red-headed dimpled baby EVER. I will stand by that.)
One big highlight of the week for me was getting my hair cut.
I have been putting off a trim for months and months because I am so afraid of asking for the wrong kind of haircut and getting stuck with something horrible. I can stumble around in French and I am definitely improving, but when it comes to a haircut.... I am not willing to take chances. The lady who cut my hair here spoke English and was perfect. I will always remember her :)
We had Keith bring our new folding bikes from America! We have wheels, people!! Here they are crossing the Danube.
Speaking of the Danube, last night we took a dinner cruise. The city was absolutely gorgeous at night. You will notice Clay's wet shirt from some people throwing water over the bridge onto us. Once it was confirmed that it was just water, we actually found it quite refreshing.
Tonight we had.... Mexican food! One of our Belgian friends commented that the burrito was so big and heavy, hard to hold even- not bad, but "not good for everyday." I wanted to laugh! In Texas, everyday could very well be a burrito day. And indeed it should.
Then of course a crowd gathered to watch us fold out our bikes. Several people stopped us today to ooh and aah :) They really are super neat. Let me know if you start seeing them in the U.S. They are such space savers and make getting around so fast! One gear means they are especially pleasant when going DOWN hill :)