Wednesday, September 18, 2013

a summary

Those of you who faithfully followed my journey last semester undoubtedly noted the cliffhanger -- I left you in my "Roman retrospect." I suppose my reasoning is as follows: the close of the semester was essentially a pandora's box of finals, essays, packing, farewells, emotions, cleaning, and travels. {Perhaps the phrase "pandora's box" is a little harsh, but I assume you get the point} The opening of this metaphorical box began shortly after my last post... Hence the immediate silence.

Italy --> California
Getting home from Venice involved three flights, an overnight in London, and a roughly twenty-four hour day {a result of chasing the sun across an ocean and a continent}; cumulatively, it took me thirty-six hours from when I left the ground in Venice until I touched down in the strangely beautiful, grungy county of Los Angeles. I think what I love so much about LA is that it feels like home. It is rather distinct from Orange County {a fact that any true "Los Angeles native", if there is such a thing, would be quick to communicate}, yet it will perhaps always bear an invisible, inextricable tie with my perception of home. The memories I posses of touching down in LAX after a trip - long or short, near or far - are innumerable. A better way to state that would be: the significance of those memories to me are unquantifiable.
Spending 36 hours in crowded seclusion was strange; perplexing initially and bewitching ultimately. During my travels I stumbled upon the realization that I had never spent so much time completely and entirely apart from a single familiar face. Of the thousands of people that I observed in passing -- each one with a story entirely their own; from unique homes and familial structures; representing numerous countries, cultures, and continents -- none knew my name none my story either. The noisiness, the busyness, the determination of an international business man to get on to his meetings as scheduled, and the anticipation of a son to reunite with his mother after a semester away; all of this happened apart from me, outside of me. My presence made little to no effect upon the mission of the populous occupying the airport terminals. Nonetheless, in a disparate sense I played a huge role simply by being there. For the individual occupying the whole plays still a significant part in it. Without each piece of the puzzle fulfilling its function, however small, the picture is never ready to be completed. But my musings have wandered off topic and therefore I will make it a point to return to the place from where I started.

Out-of-character brevity: stressful/successful travels; joyous & exhausted/delirious reunion; monstrous reverse-culture-shock, for which I did not think to be prepared; eventual feelings of settlement & clarity

I attribute my lack of wrap-up/debriefing post in the weeks directly after returning to the culture-shock.
My "it has been four months since you've been back home and you S T I L L haven't posted a closing statement?!" is entirely due to negligence on my part. I give mega props to anyone who continues to check back in every so often to see if I will finish what I started -- I hope and pray that this post in itself serves as a reward to your dedication.

I am considering starting another blog connected to this one, a "sister blog" of sorts, that can pick up where this leaves off. It is therapeutic, in a certain regard, to wrestle with my thoughts in a semi-formal platform and come to find a resolution and conclusion, whether vague or formed. It is up to you, my dear reader, to discover whether or not I am diligent in my aspiration.

That is all for now,
xoxo Em

Friday, April 5, 2013

sights-to-see, p.1

It was hard to wrap my mind around the significance of the monument. As I stated in the last post, it is so rich history both insomuch as Christianity is concerned and secular history is concerned. Though the amphitheater was not designed for the purpose of Christian persecution, how many thousands of men and women gave their lives for the sake of Christ there! It was almost haunting to think about. Yet at the same time, it was a comfort to me. The reality of the scriptures comes to life in lands like Rome. We were told by a darling husband and wife team from the Mallorca Bible college, Raf & Loretta, the story of a female martyr named Perpetua who gave her life in the Colosseum. Being able to walk around and casually take photographs in the same place where that woman -- & many others like her -- gave all for the cause of the gospel was striking.
My friend Alicia was very touched by the whole experience and she remarked quite intuitively. She said that though the building was once used for unspeakable evils against God's people, He claimed victory over the city of Rome -- now the building serves as nothing more than a landmark, a tourist attraction. He has claimed the victory over what the enemy used for evil and now has made it come to nothing. God claimed victory over Rome once before & He is more than capable of doing it again.

I went to the Colosseum multiple times during my visit in Rome. We went inside as a group once but even being on the outside only is phenomenal. The character of the building changes drastically as the sky changes; the atmosphere was new each time I went. There was an evening where I ate dinner at the only restaurant with a close view of the Colosseum. *little side note about that: how ridiculous is it that only one restaurant has that view? And the restaurant wasn't even pricey! I was literally staring right at the Colosseum, only a few yards away {what the heck?!}* I get so excited when I say that I have eaten pasta in Rome while looking at the Colosseum.. How many of YOU can say the same? Pardon my teasing, I just don't think I'll ever be able to get over how cool that is.
While on the subject of the Colosseum: I saw Pope Francesco! "How are those related?" Thanks for asking! Well, there is a traditional "passion of the Christ" reenactment that takes place in the lawn area between the Colosseum & Forum on the evening of Good Friday. The pope speaks; it is a really big deal -- they go all out. A group of us got dinner and gelato nearby, and walked past this elevated area right across the street from the Colosseum with a great vantage point. The streets were packed, as was the area we were in. However, I was able to pop my head out from the hoards of people just long enough to catch a glimpse of the tiny figure speaking on the field. How many of you can say that you have seen the pope in person, huh? Pretty neat experience, I'd say.

The Forum was an interesting place to be, as well. The view from Nero's Garden area is spectacular. I could only imagine what it must have been like to look over the city in its height of splendor! But seeing all the old Roman edifices in ruins made me reflect on the feebleness of humanity. The Roman Empire took such pride in its opulence and grandeur; they epitomized the worship of man & his accomplishments -- yet Rome fell. As with every other great civilization of old built upon the celebration of man, Rome fell. We see today merely a silhouette of what once was. Man truly is a "creature of breath, lord of a point." All of our lofty attempts to show how spectacular we are vanish like smoke. Trying to grasp earthly dominion is like grabbing at vapor. Rome, the Eternal City, the apotheosis of human brilliance, fell. It did not even fall from outside forces; it fell from within. The kingdom crumbled & I was able to go and see all around me the tarnished remnants.

St. Peter's Basilica:
I'm sure you guys have caught onto a theme throughout these posts of honesty. I esteem honesty highly & I strive to be entirely honest with you. Perhaps it makes you a little uncomfortable at times, for that I apologize, but I think it is important.
That being said...
The church was entirely too elaborate. It made me sick thinking of all the good that could have been done with the amount of money that was poured into that project if only it was spent in an effort to reach the poor and the lost. The ceiling is essentially made of gold and there is vast quantities of marble used in the flooring and in the statues of the popes. The opulence in the church mirrored the opulence in the rest of the Roman erections. If that much time, funding, and effort was exerted and directed towards reaching the unsaved & ending poverty {and a whole host of social injustices, for that matter} -- there is no telling how different our world would be today! It is nauseating to reflect upon.
Regardless of this, I do need to say that the experience was not entirely negative. Piazza San Pietro was quite pleasant and being afforded the opportunity so early in life to have been to Vatican City is remarkable. I was able to go up to the Cupola! From atop the dome, you have a view of the whole entire city of Rome. It was insane. The numerous, arduous steps to get to the top & the tight, "Alice in Wonderland" through-the-rabbit-hole curving walls were all worth it. It was slightly overcast -- which, as some of you know, I love -- making the whole thing entirely more sweet. Ahhh, it's brilliant to recollect.

You'll hear more in sights-to-see, p.2!
xo Em

"All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever."
Isaiah 40:6-8
"Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow."
Psalm 144:4

To end, here is an excerpt from one of my favorite poets:

What's earth, what's life, to space, eternity?
'Tis but a flash, a glance -- from birth to death;
And he, who ruled the world, would only be
Lord of a point -- a creature of breath;

And what is it to gain a hero's name,
or build one's greatness on the rabble's roar?
'Tis but to light a feeble, flickering flame,
That shines a moment and is seen no more.
-James Gates Percival

Thursday, April 4, 2013

the Eternal City & an Eternal Perspective

It is probably not too outrageous to assume that you faithful readers have been itching to hear all about the Rome trip last week. Right? It has taken me far too long to update, I admit. Things have been hectic with schoolwork, schedule, and sickness so blogging {while much fun} has not been a practical past-time since I've returned. However, I stayed back from morning classes today because of my cold so I finally have a good opportunity to share with all you lovely people about the trip that has changed my mindset & perspective immensely.

I think I mentioned that we had to leave from our apartment at 5AM last Tuesday? Yeah, that wasn't too fun. For those of you who know how I "stand" health-wise, this won't come as a shock: insomnia + hypoglycemia + hardly any sleep + traveling/running about all day + not much to eat = a very, very unstable Emily. *I want to point out that by 'unstable' I am not saying like crazy emotional or volatile, I wasn't running around crying about puppies & flowers or anything like that {I'm not THAT much of a girl}* Mentally & physically I was exhausted and weak. Emotionally & spiritually I felt sort of distant, you could say. In hindsight, I discovered that I was feeling this way not just because of the tangible difficulties but because of the spiritual warfare. Whenever the Lord is preparing to pour out His Spirit in a powerful way, opposition comes {i.e. family problems, health issues, emotional troubles, increased temptation -- anything to keep your eyes off of the Lord & thereby decrease your usefulness}. While I knew logically that I had no reason to feel anything but blessed and thankful, I could not help but feel almost bitter, in a sense. God felt distant & I was upset that He would take me away from the new comfort zone that I had built for myself in Montebelluna just to leave me feeling so weak and alone.
I was directed to the Psalms during my devotional time each occasion that I sat down to read. How precious the words of the Psalms are to me! Regardless of my state of mind when beginning to read, the Lord met with me and renewed my perspective. After getting some food, well-needed rest, & time in the Word, the following days began much, much more positively.

We went to quite a good deal of sights and I do not want to make this specific posting too lengthy {most of you probably won't actually read the whole thing if I do}. SO I am going to give an overview on here and then make each significant sight/occurrence it's own post. Sound good?
A list of places we went to {although by no means comprehensive, these are all the sights that I can remember off the top of my head}:
Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum & Forum, Arch of Titus, Paul's Prison, the Holy Steps, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Vatican Museum {I didn't go in because of financial restrictions}, the Catacombs, and the Apian Road

General highlights:
I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to spend time with the people from the Murrieta & Mallorca campuses. It is glorious how the Lord binds together the hearts of His people from all over the world in a matter or moments. Each day I had the opportunity to get to know another person one-on-one and enjoy fellowship with them. {Micaela: if you are actually reading this like you said you would, here is a little shout out from your fellow OC girl}
Iron sharpens iron: each conversation & interaction sharpened me in a necessary and distinct way. We had to turn in a paper for Mark class about Jesus' words in Mark 3:33-35, "Who is My mother, or My brothers... Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother." The trip gave me the practical experience for the idea of the paper: the intimacy in the body of Christ runs deeper than the intimacy in a blood-related family.

It was really strange to be in a land so rich in history, both insomuch as Christian history and secular history is concerned. One thing I have admired fondly about places like Washington D.C. is the incredible antiquity of the architecture. It dawned on me while in Rome that the oldest things to see in D.C. are from the l a t e 18th century at best, yet a majority of the buildings and ruins in Rome are from the first few centuries AD and EVEN some dating so far back as BC days. HOW INSANE IS THAT? My dad is an architect & being the faithful "daddy's girl" that I am, architecture has always been something that I admire. How close I felt to him whilst wandering those lavish streets! There is something new at every turn, another treasure for your eyes. One day I will travel back to Rome and bring my parents with me, I am determined.

By far the truest highlight from the trip as a whole is the nearness I felt with the Lord. Earlier I mentioned that I felt distant -- this quickly changed as I received fresh perspective. Oh, that I could find the proper words to express the inexpressible! Being in the presence of God is the most satisfying & worthwhile thing that a man can do. David speaks of this in Psalm 16:11, "You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."If there is one thing that I wish for you above all else, it is that you would experience for yourself this fullness. We were made for communion with God; I discover this more and more each time I sit at His feet.
I do not wish to be misunderstood: this trip was one of the most confusing, troubling, disorienting, and terrifying weeks of my life in many ways. I believe that the fruit produced in my life from it is a direct result of the level of challenge. I desire not to tell you all of the hardships I faced, those can be saved for a later date -- in person, preferably. However, I am going to tell you some of what was revealed to me about the Lord's character through it.
The Father's Heart:
There was one night that I was feeling exceptionally vulnerable after a negative experience on the metro; nothing was taken from me, by the grace of God, but I was pretty shaken up about it. Logical Emily was saying to suck it up and not make a big deal about it. Sensitive Emily was entirely unsettled. I think as humans, our natural response is to push away anything that makes us feel weak. We don't want to be susceptible, defenseless, feeble, or deficient. Plainly, it is an issue of pride; but I think it is also an issue of fear. We are afraid to be weak because if we are weak, we are likely to break. There was a huge struggle going on within me of whether or not to push away the experience completely or let it all out even if I didn't know what would happen as a result. Once I was to the point where I could not reasonably stand the tension anymore, I sat alone on the floor of the hostel and began to weep. I grabbed my Bible and started reading in Psalm 101 and read through a few chapters between the tears. Christ spoke to me the same words he spoke to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." My soul held to that promise; in that moment of my weakest weakness, I found in Christ the strongest strength -- for when I am weak, there H E is strong.
God gave me a deeper understanding of the idea of Him as my Father. Sitting all alone on the cold, hard floor of the dimly lit hostel, I wanted nothing more than to have my daddy's arms holding me. I longed more than I ever have before for the security and comfort I have in him. It is really hard to be a young single girl on my own in such a confusing world. I realized in that instant the nearness of God. As much as I wanted it, I did not need my earthly father's arms to hold me -- I have the arms of the Father who knit me together in my mother's womb and paves the path for my feet to walk holding me securely. It has been said, "the safest place to be is at the center of God's will." In my submission to His plan for my life, though scary at times, I have found the most sure foundation. I am so close with my daddy, but I must desire and seek all the more earnestly to be even closer with my heavenly Father. The Lord gave me my dad to be a picture of the unconditional love of the Father; and though Bob Bergmann has done a wonderful job at communicating to me the love of God as Father, he is a human and his love is flawed {though I must say that I have more respect for him than for any other man on earth, he really is such a good daddy}. The love of God is perfect. Where my dad will fail me, God never will & I can have confidence in that truth.

It is nearly time for my Women's Discipleship class, which means that I must come to a close.
This evening, I will post more specific details about the sight-seeing and some pictures.

I hope that you all have gained something special from my ramblings
Love you
xo Em

"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are but dust"
Psalm 103:11-14

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Road to Rome

I'm going to be on the road to Rome in twelve hours... It feels so strange to say those words. Thrilling, to be sure, but strange.

The school is going to be spending Speaker's Week in Rome {Tuesday-Saturday}. Usually, Speaker's Week is spent here in Montebelluna so our group is the first from CCBC Italy to have this experience. I'm not quite sure what to expect, as they have not given us much information, but I do know that we will be studying the life of Paul & spending time with a few groups from various Calvary Chapel Bible Colleges. We are going to go to the Colosseum and Forum, Paul's Prison, & the Catacombs. As crazy as it may sound, I am probably the most excited to be able to go to McDonald's {I sound so unhealthy, I know}! I didn't even realize just how deeply I love my "happy meals" until living in a town that doesn't have them. The closest one is probably in Padova, which is about an hour by train from Montebelluna. *All you health conscious readers, please don't judge me -- I promise I've been eating quite healthy meals; besides the few-too-many gelato & pizza stops I have been the picture of nutrition.*

General update:
I have been doing quite well lately. I apologize for not posting more often, but the work load here is very heavy {we are operating on a 12-week semester instead of a 15-week semester} and I have needed to be diligent to keep to my studies.
Those of you who had wanted to correspond with me via "snail mail" or email please please please do so! Though I have made many wonderful friendships with the girls here, I cannot help but feel kind of cut-off from my life in America at times and hearing from you all would brighten my "damper" days. It costs me roughly 2 euro to send a basic, small, light letter so it is not practical on my budget to initiate correspondence. I do know the cost of sending a basic letter to Italy from the states, it's much more affordable for you than it is for me to send mail -- so please do send a little "thinking of you" card every once in a while, if you can/want to. It's easy to feel forgotten when so far away from normalcy. The Lord has been faithful to keep me strong in spirit and away from feelings of loneliness; I certainly am not wanting any pity, just awareness.

How I wish I could communicate clearly all the work that the Lord is doing within me! It would take quite a long time and quite a few words so I will save my words for later and just share a little bit. The primary thing that God is doing, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is a maturing process. In practical ways I am learning independence {i.e. shopping for groceries, budgeting finances, time management, cooking, keeping-house}. I am also learning spiritual maturity, which is even greater and far more precious to me than physical maturity.
I still haven't a clue what my next step is after this semester, as the Lord has not clearly defined it for me yet. He has, however, been faithful to speak to my heart through His word and the girls in the apartment -- I will tell you throughout later posts what about more specifically. I feel overall that His primary purpose right now is to teach me the value & beauty of sitting still in His presence. In Psalm 16 David writes, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" {verse 11}. Colossians 1:19 says of Christ, "For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell..." Colossians 2:9-10 says, "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him..." I have been experiencing this fullness for myself. Truly in Christ, and in Christ alone, I am complete.
There is a charming old church up on a hill about a mile and a half from my house {or a 25 minute walk} that I have been "hiking" up to a few times a week. Perched upon the hill, I have a breathtaking view of all the surrounding region and the perfect spot to spend some time in solitude and contemplation. It is there that I have gotten some of the sweetest times with God this whole semester. I could easily spend hours & hours sitting there in quietness, but I try to limit it to just over an hour each time so that I don't worry any of my sisters here.

I promise that I will post again after Rome and take a whole bunch of pictures {digital & film} for you all to see! Please keep the trip in prayer and pray that it will be warm & preferable sunny this week.
Thank you all for reading along faithfully and keeping me in your prayers.
Te voglio bene,
xo Em

A little something for contemplation:
And the Lord said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
And Moses said to him, "If your presence does not go with us, do not take us up from here."
Exodus 33:14-15

a house on the way to the church; good architecture always makes me think of my talented architect father

View: looking up; the bell tower and old church building

gazing out over the Italian countryside from my perch atop the hill

Monday, March 11, 2013

thunder, lightning, europeans -- oh my!

It's fixing to storm in Montebelluna & I'll have you all know, I am feeling much much better. Thank you for the prayers and love, it was a wonderful morale booster. I have a bit of a cough lingering but the other symptoms have left me {thank goodness!}.
Let's get back to the good stuff -- the weather! It was a bit warmer today than the other days this week, so much so that a light sweater was even nearing a bit much at the warmest time of day. The Italians wear their big winter coats all year long so I get the funniest looks when I go out in my spring clothing - but hey, if it's warm enough I don't plan on burning to death in a heavy jacket. I took a walk to the "milkeria" today with a few of the Browns. The clouds were a mixture of white and gray, puffy and wispy, ominous and cheery. A couple of blue spots dared peek through and give us a glimpse of the sky beyond the cloud layer. It started to lightly sprinkle as I dropped the kids back off at their house and took my milk home. I had some homework to do, so I headed back into town to be "studious" at Café Corona {a little coffee shop owned by a kind gentleman that attends the church}. I was listening to the song "Dancing in the Moonlight" off of the "A Walk to Remember" soundtrack as the sky seemed to burst open out of nowhere. You may be able to imagine my delight. The rain cleared as I finished up my homework, which was quite a blessing because my walk home would have been very long & very very wet otherwise... especially for my computer, it's not exactly -- how you say -- water proof.
Oh my goodness, how I wish you all could have been on my walk home with me! It was glorious. Truly glorious. I talked with the Lord as I walked and I asked repeatedly that He would hold back the rain just until I made it to the safety of the apartment. He kept bringing to my mind the verse in Psalms that says "For You, oh Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as a shield." I began to understand more fully that I am His child; even in the things that I deem petty or unimportant, He cares deeply. He is concerned with the simplest of my worries and requests. Just as my daddy would do anything to get me home dry & happy, even so my Father held back the rain and gave me a marvelous view.
The skyline was gorgeous. I had a huge gray cloud looming over my head the whole way; to my right & to my left were blue patches and layers of differently colored and shaped clouds. Montebelluna seems to grow even lovelier with a new background -- the Italian sky creates an incredible atmosphere. I was trying really hard the whole way home to keep my giddiness from showing in my expression -- I don't want the straight-faced Europeans thinking I'm insane, you know.
I almost forgot! The sky flashed with lightning five times during the fifteen minute walk. I couldn't help but grin from the adventure of it all as the thunder rolled through. It was much fun, much much fun. I realized in a moment how alone I am -- I am in a foreign country where I know virtually no one, the only people I do know I have known for less than a month, I hardly speak the language of the country I  am living in, I have never seen 95% of the people I pass while walking through the streets -- but I realized even more how present the Lord is. And how thrilling this time of my life is. It is unreal that the Lord would call me, only seventeen years young, the baby of the family to partake in this experience. When I say that I realized how alone I am, I am not implying loneliness, for I certainly do not feel lonely. I do feel, however, that this time of being independent is allowing me the chance I have always wanted and never been afforded -- a chance to see the Lord mature me and grow me into a woman.
To bring this unintentionally long story to a close, it started pouring down rain shortly after I got home and it has been in the early stages of a thunderstorm ever since. We are having a movie night tonight, complete with the works: popcorn, chocolate, cookies, chips, and Pride & Prejudice with Italian subtitles. It should be the perfect amount of crazy.

We'll be chatting again soon!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

in sickness + in health

Today is a sick day. In this post I want to be careful not to grumble or complain; yet I do feel it necessary to be honest with you all {as I am sure you value my honesty & it would be nice to know some people are praying for me}.
Every Tuesday- Friday morning I have devotions at the church. After devotions on Tuesday-Thursday I have a three-hour class. Tuesday is Daniel class, Wednesday is Acts class, and Thursday is Mark class. When I woke up yesterday morning, I had a sore throat. It wasn't enough to cause much trouble -- except that I was drinking water like a fish -- so I went about my day. In the evening {on Wednesday}, I felt rather ill. I stayed home from Bible study because I knew I needed to take it easy & rest if I was going to try and make it through class this morning. When I woke up I felt like a mess. I waited until the very last minute and gently peeled myself out of bed. I got ready in like five minutes, I kid you not. "Lazy day looks" are so speedy, I should do them more often. Anyway, the walk to the church took most of my low energy away and sitting through devotions {which were led by my friend Samantha, she did the most incredible job} was really tough. I asked to be excused from class because I knew that I couldn't sit through a three-hour lecture if a thirty-minute devotion was too taxing.
When I got home, I took a bath and had what my friend Alicia calls a "homeopathic cocktail" -- basically a mixture of water, a bunch of honey, & fifteen drops each of Tea Tree Oil, Echinacea, Oil of Oregano and some other natural, disgusting-tasting immune booster. The house was quiet since the girls were gone {except for Alicia, who is also sick}, so I was able to get a solid hour of sleep. After my nap I felt incredible. I knew, though, that it wouldn't probably last for too long, so I was careful to take it easy.
On Thursdays, we have a class called "Women's Discipleship" that we host at our apartment. It is led by the Bible College director's wife, Maria, and co-led by some of the ladies associated with the college. I almost sat through the whole thing, but I had to go into my room to lay down towards the end. I couldn't fall asleep, but I felt a bit better once I was laying down. I've been up for a few hours now looking at this really cute blog made by a hairdresser living in Paris called She Lets Her Hair Down -- I know that last bit of information was probably not interesting the male populous in my following, but I can think of a few ladies who might enjoy it as much as I do *hint, hint: Krissy & Jenni*. Getting back on track, I feel pretty bad right now but I am hopeful that after I take some NyQuil and conk out, I should feel a bit better.
I would be dishonest to say that I am not feeling a tad bit homesick right now. The only time in my life that it has ever been truly hard to be away from home, and the US for that matter, is when I am sick. I miss having "Momma Jen" and "Momma Sarah" to act as stand-in doctors. I miss having my Daddy Bob to coddle/cuddle me. And I really really miss having my Momma to do what she does best, be there for me. I also miss canned soup and ritz crackers, and my silly little beagle, Dippy.
Please, please, please be mindful to pray for me, as I know most of you have been faithful to do. I love you all and I hope to be able to write to you again with renewed vigor and a lot less grogginess.
Yours, in sickness + in health,
my crazy, strange, + wonderful family {minus a few}

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Girls' World

I live in an apartment with eleven girls. I spend most of my time with them. The few times I am not with them, I am with at least one of the seven Brown girls {the Browns are an incredible family of eleven who have adopted me as one of their own during my time here, more about them later}. I come from a family with five girls; six if you include my momma. To say that I live in a girls' world is an understatement. It can be challenging, especially while trying to get ready in the morning, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Today, most of the girls went out on a day trip with the Browns to Venice. I stayed back in order to work on homework and "Chuck Tracks" -- those of you who have gone through Calvary Bible College know what I mean -- so the house is especially quiet today. On one hand, I enjoy having some peace, but I would be kidding myself to say I don't feel a bit lonesome in the silence.

The town of Montebelluna is enchanting. I haven't been here long enough to understand the culture fully, but each day I discover another layer & fall more deeply in love. I love the country. I love the food. I love the architecture. I love the walking. But more than anything, I love the people. They are strange, they are confusing, they are entirely too bold {I've found that Italian guys love to holler at girls in passing}. I don't know why most of the people here do most of the things they do; but I think that is part of why I am so fascinated by this place. Adventure is in my bones; it pulses through my veins. The more of it I have, the more of it I want. Walking with God has never felt like more of an adventure than it does now. My thankfulness to the Lord grows stronger with every breath of Italian air.
I love my family in California -- they will always be my first 'home' -- but I find myself feeling more at home here every second. I haven't a clue what the Lord wants to do with my life, but my hands are open and my heart is ready; whether He desires I make this my home or not, I certainly shall make it a point to return as often as possible.

I discovered this little milk shack kind of a place yesterday. Some of us girls call it the "Milkeria" for lack of a better name. Most of you probably don't know just how much I love milk. It scares me sometimes, I swear I'm like a baby cow or something. Those of you who have had the "privilege" of hearing me rant about my obsession with milk will know just how extraordinarily excited I was to find this place. Essentially, it is a vending machine for fresh, hormone-free, squeezed that very day milk. IT TASTES SO SO SO SO SO GOOD. Sarah Brown {the mother of the Brown clan} said that fresh milk has been known to help people with blood sugar problems; in certain cases, it can remove the issue completely. I am not going to assume that my hypoglycemia will just vanish & set myself up for disappointment, but I will be checking my symptoms to see if it does make a difference. You'll all be hearing about it if it does. The best part about this milk is the price. In the states, a gallon of this kind of milk costs an upward of $8. Here, it costs LESS than the store-bought milk. The reusable 1-liter glass bottle cost me 50¢ and the refills cost 1 euro! I've hit the jackpot, guys.
On the topic of food, the produce here is very good and very inexpensive. My 25 euro a week food budget stretches comfortably {though I should cut back on my gelato and café visits a bit}. Usually the quality of a college student's diet decreases drastically when going off to school, but mine has done just the opposite. Even the "junk" food here is better for you then the stuff in the U.S. because there are very strict rules about preservatives and artificial additives. One of my apartment-mates, Alicia, was a cook for two years at the Murrieta Conference Center. Four of us gals - Bianca, Samantha, Alicia, and I - all pitch in and do dinners & occasional lunches together. With her cooking expertise, we are eating like {healthy} queens! I'm even trying out my hand in the culinary field a bit, I made some super yummy potatoes this afternoon with some spuds I picked up at the Saturday farmer's market this morning.

I promise I'll write soon with some more information & updates.
Buona Serata!
Estera + Anna + I very serious about our milk at the Milkeria