Sunday, May 20, 2012

time of the season

well, the end of the school year is upon us and to celebrate another wonderful year with our students we had a big american cook out last friday night!

we made bbq chicken, potato and corn salads, baked beans, and cookies and ice cream galore! 

it was so much fun and at the end we had karaoke. we all sat outside together and the weather was perfect. it was the best way to end our last semester studying with our students. of course we will see them through the summer and continue our conversations but there is something so special about the set apart hour + every week that i know i will have with each student. i have learned so much from each wonderful woman that i have studied with and hope that our friendships will continue. thank you all for the blessing you have been in my life. 

here are some pictures from that fun night!
the bottom left picture is all the food that our students brought to donate to our food pantry at church! 
ryan and i with our students who came to the party

the next day on saturday some of us from florence went to a nearby city of prato for an evening devotional together with the church members there. ryan and anna (in the picture directly below) had been planning this for weeks with some of the members of the prato church and they did a great job! there were skits, wonderful singing and of course, fellowship. i was so proud and encouraged by the outreach and effort put in by this group! 

the summer schedule has already officially kicked in as the harding art group of students arrived friday. we will be preparing a lot of meals for them the rest of may and most of june. we are simultaneously planning for the vbs and camp and are getting excited about those things. july will be when we go to camp and then a time of renovating the bible school. august will be packed as we plan and organize for the nationwide church retreat that we will host in florence at the end of august. thank you for the continued prayers and encouragement as we try to finish strong with our work here. god is so good and he shows us his mercy and love daily. we are so blessed. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

say you love me

i'm gonna stop apologizing for the long distances between blog posts because that just means i'm out living life and don't have time to blog about it. 
just know that things are great, this semester is coming to a close, it's spring in florence, and god is so good (as always)! 

our spring has been full of so many fun and wonderful things, not the least of which was ryan's brother and his wife (donny and megan stephens) coming to visit us. i won't take you through their whole time here (because it was essentially a vacation for us) but we had a really fun and once-in-a-lifetime time together.

last weekend was another break from reality when we went with our friends to the casentino (the mountains where i learned to weave last summer). we rented scooters and rode all through the beautiful hills, mountains, forests, and fields of tuscany, we painted, we read, we laid in the grass, we cooked, we talked, we had church on top of a castle, we stayed in the most cute/cozy hamlet of a medieval castle; it was pretty blissful. the mountain towns of stia and porciano are some of my favorite places in italy we were so grateful to get to spend 4 more days in that dreamy and awe-inspring place.

this past weekend was another really great time. we went to a national church retreat. but we went a day early on thursday and on our way we made a small detour to southern italy (sorrento to be precise). the point was for peter bell to visit the church there to see if he had any interest in moving there. while he and david were doing this, me and the hubs (and some of the others) were on the "beach". you can hardly call the area of sorrento where the water meets the land a "beach" but there was salt water, sun and a sand like substance and it was good enough for us. don't think for one minute that i am bad-mouthing its lack of a beach, on the contrary, it just doesn't have a beach because it's practically a town built on a cliff overlooking the ocean and the bay of naples. let me demonstrate with some photos:
top - sorrento in the background
bottom - view from sorrento of it's bay, the bay of naples
and mt. vesuvius in the top left corner
lounging on the "beach"

top - our view from dinner
bottom - view from our hotel balcony

so, after walking around in town friday morning we left sorrento mid day friday and went to veletri where the retreat was.

all the speakers were incredible men of god from all over the church of italy (italian and american) and it was so encouraging and wonderful to get to be a part of what is happening and has been happening in the hearts and communities of so many strong and loving christians. 

some of my favorite topics of the weekend were "i am convinced that god keeps his promises" about the faith and example of abraham and the promises god kept to him; and "rediscovering our identity and role in the kingdom" about what the world needs from us for them to want to follow jesus. through this message, my eyes were opened to the thought that so much of the time we try to express god to others in our terms and terms that make us and others comfortable. but for others to understand jesus we have to recognize the relationship between the way god send jesus into the world and the way jesus sent us. we have to assume this mission the way jesus did: he left everything, he became less, he suffered, he accepted god's will, he absorbed injustice, he accepted shame and guilt, and he died. whoa. i'm still absorbing this message and figuring out how this relationship changes the way i live.

needless to say, the weekend was very challenging in matters of the heart and soul but at the same time very refreshing to spend time with old friends and meet new ones. it's always great to see the friends we've met through this journey in italy and spend time catching up with them, sharing, and just having fun together. 
little friends - obviously being zombies in the second picture
i can't thank god enough for the ways he blesses our lives and the people he uses to do that. when i'm aware of it, i see him every where. it's so beautiful to see his plan work it's way out and i just pray for humility to stay his path and not make my own. thank you for all your love and support and continue to pray for the things we having coming up this summer.