Saturday, January 28, 2012

your momma don't dance and your daddy don't rock and roll.

we were blessed on thursday to be able to host this guy
look at that face
and his sweet momma in our house for lunch and just some hang out time. his name is arban and he is the cat's meow in our church right now. a. because we don't have anyone else his age that we can all hold and cuddle and b. because he is the sweetest most content baby ever so everyone wants a piece! 
kelli and i getting lunch ready
we love arban and as his own momma says, "he is a babymaker". she's right! 

what baby doesn't love looking out the window?
his parents danielle and luli are american and albanian respectively and they are so fun to be around. danielle was an avanti worker 10ish years ago and her and luli met here in florence. they have since gotten married in colorado a few years ago and had sweet little arban. 

unfortunately they are about to have to move to the states because of work and living situations here and we will miss them so much but maybe we can visit them in the states some day. i do love colorado!

i hope to have a baby arban some day :) 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

magic carpet ride.

saturday afternoon we welcomed 2 newbies. melissa and peter. they're great!

we have been helping with their training this week but just for fun today i went back and started from the beginning of this blog skimming it and laughing at the things i thought and said at the beginning of this experience, a year and a half ago. i know between now and the end i will laugh at the things i'm saying now but i think it was good for humility and perspective. i can also say, thank you God that we never really stop growing up. that we keep on maturing and changing as we go. i'm so glad that i have stuck with this blog because i think we will treasure these stories in the years to come and next chapters of our lives. it's strange to think that as my mom says, "this too shall pass". that just like elementary school feels like a distant dream, so will this moment one day. 

today, while training the newbies, i was refreshed and recharged. re-motivated to keep fighting the good fight and do the things with a willing and joyful spirit that God has sent us here to do. it's crazy how easy i can loose focus on something that would seem so clear. that's just part of it, i guess. you've just got to know when to get yourself back on track.

some of my favorite topics so far:
- "war against the mosquitoes" - not really
- "intolerance is caused by a lack of humility" - i have never thought about it like that but it is so true and God really does hate a prideful spirit, good reminder
- "bottling things up is about as harmless as an active volcano" - just one of those memorable pearls from david
- "be in prayer about the reason God put you here and don't be slow to live it out" - we skyped eric and jessica in and this was their suggestion. it was another good reminder for me to stay focused on God's will and Jesus' mission and besides that keep my head clear. 

last saturday, we had the oldies over for breakfast and one last hurrah as a group before the dynamic changed. we took the newbies on a walking tour of scandicci and then did a cookout and movie at the bible school. 

i'm starting to get nostalgic right now and i don't know why. i do know that jesus loves us immensely and we are supposed to love others that much and i do a sucky job of it most days. because that love means:

"love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. be good friends who love deeply; practice second fiddle. don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. be alert servants of the master, cheerfully expectant. don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. help needy christians; be inventive in hospitality. bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. if you've got it in you, get along with everybody. don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. 'i'll do the judging,' says God. 'i'll take care of it.' our scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. your generosity will surprise him with goodness. don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good."
romans 12:9-21 the message

and i also know that:
"this is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples - when they see the love you have for each other."
john 13:35 the message

reenergize yourself and your mission. be in prayer that you will be reminded why God has put you in a certain place and don't be slow to live it out.
practice jesus love. that's how people will know. 

have a marvelous week. -laura

Friday, January 20, 2012

come and get your love.

photo frame found here
that guy. the ultimate teammate. my life mate. my numero uno on this earth. my bff. one of the few people who can make me laugh no matter the circumstances. he can read me like a book as hard as i try to throw him off. he's logical when i'm not. i'm ocd when he's not. not a dish do i wash that he doesn't dry and put away or a meal i cook that he doesn't do the dishes. he humors my crazy dreams and even encourages me to pursue them. we love dogs, outdoors, the same music and movies. we love being together and doing nothing. he is so easy to be with and completely low maintenance. we have the same mission on this earth and wake up every morning ready to live out that mission together. he's legit. he's kind and loving. being his wife is a joy. it's not even close to perfect; marriage was never intended to be. it's hard work, but it sure is fun with him.

when we first moved to italy, our marriage struggled in ways i never imagined. it was rough and we had no experience with any of it. everything was new and difficult. with a lot of prayer it survived and i would say it is now thriving. god planted an interesting thought in our heads. we realized how selfish we were to focus on our marriage and think that was the solution to the problem. we tried too hard to focus on each other and it just made us crazy. if the other said one wrong thing it was like went back 10 steps. i realize this is incredibly warped thinking and expectations. we have grown. we have found that we heal and grow when we serve others together. this is like medicine for the soul. we had been thinking that we weren't fit to serve others in our broken condition, but just the opposite was true. when we take the focus off ourselves and put it on others we use pure jesus love and not the selfish love of humans. that jesus love warms us and heals us and shows others what the kingdom of god is supposed to look like all at the same time. for us, it's marital gold. i don't know if this works for everybody but if your marriage is in strife, just try it. it definitely can't hurt. 

his birthday was on wednesday and as birthdays go, it wasn't the best. it was just a normal day of life here where we both had classes all day and no way to spend any time together. maybe we will go to venice soon and celebrate there.  who know? all i know is that i'm so thankful for the love of my companion on this earth.

a very merry unbirthday to ryan!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

couldn't get it right.

right now i'm reading this book...
after being here, i knew i had experienced a place more unique than most but was not and still am not able to articulate anything i saw or felt that day above a 2nd grade speaking level. (ex. um it was incredible and weird and tense?) yep, that's all i can get out. needless to say i wanted more information. obviously i knew the historical significance of this place related to our savior but that doesn't exactly explain why this city feels like it does. and apparently it's not just me; other people feel this too. it's like you own a part of it, like your "wearing" it, like you had already been there before but you have no idea why you feel that way because at the same time it's like no other place on earth. there, that was a little more descriptive but it still makes no sense. see? 

anyway, i watched an interview of this author on tv on our cruise (ironic) and bought it the day we got back to florence. it's one of the biggest books i've ever read but i'm motoring through it. it is beyond interesting and starting to explain a lot of the reasons for the incredibly overlapping cultures of the city of jerusalem. did that sentence even make sense? probably not. 

here is something the author said about jerusalem...

engaging, huh? i mean look at this place.
pondering on judea, 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ooh child.

so we are officially back from our winter break. our bible study starts back tomorrow night and next week our classes start back. i'm going to one of my students houses tonight for dinner and i'm very excited. she is so sweet and i love spending time with her. 

during our break, we were abundantly blessed (like last year) in that our families gave us money to travel. and travel we did. we took a cruise to olympia and athens greece, jerusalem and ashdod israel, and ismir and ephasus turkey. whoa, it was incredibly amazing. i wrapped up the in's and out's of our trip in a video here on facebook. we had the most fun we have ever had as a married couple, that's pretty good. i think it had to do with the fact that we got to experience some of the most unique places on earth together. it was such a special trip. 
when we got back we shared christmas eve with some american friends and on christmas day i prepared a small feast and we cuddled up to the computer and watched christmas movies all day. we bought a real and very small, very cute charlie brown christmas tree. we decked it out with our new christmas ornaments (we collect ornaments from places we travel to) and some dollar store lights. it was really cute and it made us happy. 

one of our new efforts here is feeding the homeless on sunday nights with a group of nuns. we have continued that through our break and are excited to keep doing that for the rest of the time we are here. you can read the post before this one about how i'm trying to make spending time with poor and and homeless and meeting some of their basic human needs a regular thing in my life. i'm hope i'm not "tooting my horn" but more holding myself accountable by reporting it to cyberspace. and just telling you about my life.

we had to tell another fair member of avanti bye-bye when ermenita left to start her life in america on monday. we spent some time with her this weekend but it will not matter, sadly. we will miss her like crazy...i already do. 

i have been doing a lot of painting and knitting during this break because i love to do those things and don't really have time during the semesters (not complaining just stating a fact). i have also been cooking a lot and savoring it because also during the semester we eat on the run. 

basically we've just been enjoying this time together and planning for the next few months we have here. oh, you can also tell that i have been playing with some graphic design. i got a program to help with with that kind of stuff that is easy and perfect for what i need it for. when i create things for church or other activities, sometimes i need the computer aspect to put it all together but i haven't known how or been able to do it until now. right now i'm just playing but i think it will help me be able to do a lot of cool things in the future. 

we are so thankful for this downtime that we have had oh and we are also extremely dog-sick. we might have spent a little bit of time looking at adoptable dogs online lately. anyway, i'm so excited about this upcoming semester and the things it will hold. we will have a women's retreat and a youth retreat and get to start thinking about vbs for this summer. 

time is flying and i'm so thankful for every minute. our god is so amazing and sadly it's when i look in the past that i see how he carved out my path and provided for me constantly. i'm trying to be conscious about the things THIS MINUTE that he is doing, the things he is telling us, and the ways he is providing. my heart is so happy and warm and i'm ready. ready for whatever comes next. ready to tell more people about the love of jesus. 

thank you for your love and support, 
make the most of your days, 
live for the one who is our only reason for life.