Friday, September 15, 2017

Are You on a Mission or a Vacation?

This is the question Russ asked us when we were chatting and mentioned we had been exploring more of the Netherlands!  Almost everyone here takes a vacation between mid-July and the end of August.  The school six-week holiday is staggered by 2 weeks depending on where you live in the country.  But just about everyone has 4 weeks off at the same time. That means the YSA’s are also on holiday……so no institute for about 4 weeks. 

The missionaries take no breaks so our assignments with them carry on as usual.  We had district meeting, zone conference/lunch for 52 with Elder Sabin of the Europe Area Presidency,


 joint teaches with Elder Lewis and Elder Watson and Paul……

  and of course, fun P-day activities like biking or hosting the zone (24) for lunch and games on zone p-day!   Anything we do with the missionaries makes us so happy and brightens our day.  We love these missionaries!

  It was a sunny day for a barbeque : )

Just chilling and playing games.  


 A few weeks ago, we had no commitments between Tuesday 1 PM and Thursday at 7:30 PM so we decided to head north and explore the island of Texel. 
Because the ferry leaves from Den Helder we took Elder Jeanfreau and Elder Ballard to dinner at The Subway shop.  It was so fun to see them.  We have missed Elder Jeanfreau!  And it was great to get to know Elder Ballard. 

We rode the ferry across the channel, a short 14-minute ride.  The island is about 15.5 miles long and 5 miles wide.  


 We were able to get an attic room at the last minute which turned out to be super luxurious in the little dorp of Den Hoorn.

We visited a working windmill that was grinding wheat and bought some fresh ground spelt flour.


We had lunch at the beach where Joe did his usual first day vacation activity which is lay down and nap wherever it’s semi-flat : )


We hiked to the top of the light house on the north shore.

 We managed to squeeze in a couple of maritime museums.  (ever wondered what you can find on the bottom of the ocean that qualifies as flotsam and jetsam? We can tell you!)  Plus we visited Ecomare, a seal/porpoise  refuge.

We visited a large dairy that was an ice cream laboratory and had delicious ice cream and inspected the stinky dairy : )  

We enjoyed driving around the country side, out of the hustle and bustle of the cities!

Of course, I found the best chocolate shop on the island!  It was really delicious: )

And lastly we had a yummy dinner at a house-turned- restaurant as we watched the sun set over quiet farmland. 

It was a refreshing 48 hours of R&R…and to answer Russ’ question, we are definitely still laboring in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission! 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thoughts on Sacrifice

Last week we had zone conference.  Elder Sabin of the Europe Area Presidency was presiding.  One of the subjects he touched on was sacrifice.  It got me thinking.  What is a sacrifice?  I first turned to the Bible Dictionary and found this:

 “Sacrifices were thus instructive as well as worshipful. They were accompanied by prayer, devotion, and dedication, and represented an acknowledgment on the part of the individual of his duty toward God, and also a thankfulness to the Lord for his life and blessings upon the earth”. 

This is a good description of our decision to serve a senior couple mission.  We came because of our desire to do our part, and to return to God in a very small way all the blessings we have received.  Our mission has been a learning experience for us, requiring much prayer along with work. 

But, someone always says, everything we have been given is the Lord’s so it’s not a sacrifice to give back.  Hmmm…but it feels like a sacrifice: )   I thought about our Savior.  His single focus was to fulfill his assignment, which was to sacrifice His life for us. If we want to be like Him, I think we must also sacrifice.   

So, what do we sacrifice by going to the Netherlands for 18 months to serve the Young Single Adults?  For me, it’s time with our family.  Watching them grow, seeing them learn new skills, and sharing new life experiences with them are the things I miss.  We often hear “when you serve, your family will be blessed”.  My dear friend told me that doesn’t mean a life of ease for them.  And she was right.  There have been issues with health, employment, family, housing, vehicles, and did I say health?!  It’s not that I think if I were there I could fix all the problems….but I could support, encourage, listen, and help them where ever possible.  I could be there for them.

So where are the blessings in the sacrifice?  They are in the extra patience, love, kindness, and service our kids are giving to one another in their efforts to fill the gap left by our leaving.  This brings us much joy! The blessings are in the growth they are all experiencing.  Mom is a big part of this love and support.  We all say “Grandma Cusick is amazing”!  and she is.  Her unconditional love and encouragement is legendary and an example for us all.

 And the blessing is in all they do for us so we can be here, doing what we want to be doing, serving the Young Single Adults in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission for 18 months. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Drive Thru

Is there anything more American than a drive thru?  Fast food, banking, pharmacy, groceries?  Well, we heard there was a drive thru windmill and of course we had to see it!  It’s in Wijk bij Duurstede, 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) southeast of Zeist.  We went with Sister Lucero and Sister Lechtenberg, our favorite biking companions!  

We saw some beautiful rural Dutch country.

 We shared the narrow country lane with bikes of all sorts and large farm equipment.

The prize at the end of the road was the windmill.  Amazing and totally worth the nearly 24-mile round trip ride!


 I think the sisters were jumping with joy when we arrived! : )

Of course, a bike trip wouldn’t be complete without a short break at the ice cream shop!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Everyday life

Saturday was a typical day.  We had Sister Lucero, Sister Lechtenberg and Ineka and Albert for dinner.  We cleaned house, grocery shopped, prepared kabobs to barbeque and made 2 strawberry/rhubarb crisps…one for dessert last night and one for the linger longer after church today. 

Shopping is part of nearly every day. 

Saturday I pedaled off with my shopping bags and raincoat (just in case : )  I passed the big park in Zeist Centrum and saw they were having a huge arts and crafts fair.  Usually we don’t have time to stop but Saturday I did.  It was fun to wander and look.  It wasn’t the normal Saturday Market stuff that is in the centrum of every town on the weekends.  It was high end, high quality handmade crafts.  As I wandered the sun started to peek through the clouds and it warmed up a bit.  I really enjoyed that little bit of sun, the music, the aroma of the food trucks and the crowd.

As I left the park, suddenly it began to pour!  I pulled up my hood, put on my helmet and pedaled to the grocery store. 

The store was 6 minutes away.  By the time I got there my skirt was soaked but not the rest of me, thanks to my trusty raincoat! 

 I have a nice gel seat cover on my bike so I decided to sacrifice a grocery bag to try to keep it dry while I shopped : )   

By the time I came out of Jumbos it had turned to a drizzle and by the time I was finished at Albert Heijns the sun was shining!  You’re never sure just what the weather will be like so you’d better be prepared!  It’s part of everyday life : )

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bicycles Built for Two

One day Sister Lucero and Sister Lechtenberg had a great idea….”do you want to rent tandem bikes with us?”  Of course, with us, the answer is always YES!  We have done it twice now.  We have decided if you want to have fun, grab a bike and go!

There is a large bike rental store at the Utrecht Central train station.  This young man has helped us both times….even getting the bikes down the stair ramp and printing a map for us!  (We are not very good missionaries….we can’t remember his name!) 

Our first outing we biked from Utrecht central southeast to Bunnik, 18 kilometers round trip (11 miles). We stopped at one of the fresh fruit stands for strawberries to eat with the cookies I brought.

l. to r. S. Lechtenberg, S. Lucero, E. Jeanfreau, E. Mancer, E. Lewis, Joe eating strawberries.

Then on to Fort bij Vechten to explore.  The fort was closed on Monday, as are many businesses and tourist spots in the country, but we walked around and enjoyed the warm, sunny day.

As you can imagine, in a country with more bikes than cars, the country is covered with bike paths.  Some are major bike routes that crisscross the country and many are connectors that follow almost all the rest of the roads/streets.  There is a signing system.  Here is a bike “road sign”.   We were looking for route 37.  The bike “road signs” are green numbers in a green circle and the bike “street signs” are printed in red with a little bike on them.  We didn’t get lost this time but we have on occasion! 


On the way home we stopped for frites, one of my favorite snacks here!

Our Bunnik bike group : )

 Our second tandem bike trip we headed northwest out of Utrecht to the Kastel de Haar.  It was a 26 kilometer round trip (16 miles) but thankfully flat!  We had transfers so E. Mancer & E. Jeanfreau were no longer with us but E. Watson had joined us. 



We decided the kastel tour was too expensive (16 euro/ticket) so we paid 5 euro to visit the grounds.

We visited the deer park.  They are little deer but with huge racks! 


           We got lost in the maze : )

And dubbed us some knights in God’s Army : )   Great p-day companions and amazing missionaries..... We love them so much!