Friday, November 1, 2013

A Picture Speaks 1000 Words

Have you ever looked at a picture and there is something that speaks so loudly about it.  It isn't necessarily a great photograph but within the photo there is great meaning.

This happened recently when I saw this one.
At first it looked like a great photo from Venice.  The architecture there is phenomenal.  It is truly a city like none other.  In the years I have lived in Italy I have been privileged to go many times with friends and visitors longing to see this picturesque city by the water for the first time.  It never ceases to amaze me.  Each time we go I find something different, some little area yet to be explored.  A street, a store, even a new gelateria!   
On this occasion, Sandy and I had ventured off for the day to explore Venice for the second time in a matter of weeks.  There is nothing like a brisk autumn day with nothing pressing on your calendar 'to do' list so you take the train into Venice for a few hours.  

To me, this picture speaks volumes.  We've heard it said many times before that 'a picture speaks a thousand words'.  In this photo, one would never know that just around the corner are crowds of people, hustling and bustling about the city.  People young and old taking in the sights, others just wanting to get to their apartments so they can make the family lunch.  Laundry is strung about on makeshift clotheslines-taking advantage of the fresh air and sunshine.  Restaurant waiters are busy trying to lure in customers for a meal, tourists trying to get one last bargain, children crying because they are tired of walking.  And yet, you would never know it looking at this still photo.

This photo became so personal.  A part of me looks at it and weeps and the other part rests at peace knowing that midst the clamor and busyness one can find solitude and rest.   Weeping perhaps because you are not a part of the noise, not a part of the laughter and excitement that is found around the corner.

This past year of my life has been that way.  All around me there were exciting things happening.  People moving to new cities, new countries, new bible studies starting up, people stepping out in faith to do a new work.  You hear of new growth in churches, new people attending, events going on around you that you are no longer a part of.  It has been a year of trying to rejoice for those rejoicing all the while weeping because it is not happening for you or the place you are in.  Just like in this picture-it was like to the left and to the right there was noise, there was excitement and there you are in the middle of it all asking why.  Not asking why for the others, but asking why not for yourselves.  

A time of learning who God is in the stillness.  Who He is when it is just you and Him.  Is He enough?  

This picture also spoke to me about the need to keep walking forward and not looking back.   Our walk, our  journey with the Lord continues on.  Step by step we go forward.  As Paul says, we press on towards the goal, not looking back.  I love the depth of this photo.  You can clearly see the the steps walked to get where I am going and yet there is still more in front of me.  I love how there seems to be this darkness and gloomy grey on the stones and yet up ahead there is the light where the sun is shining.  The further I would walk, the more light would appear.  

Just like in this picture-we keep walking.  We keep moving in the direction the Lord has mapped out for us.  Noise and excitement are wonderful, but there are those times in our lives where God wants us to walk in solitude.  He wants to work something in us that is so personal and unique that it is between us and Him.  He teaches us His character.  He reminds us that though He had crowds following Him most of His ministry life, He was often alone.  During difficult moments and great temptation He was often alone.  No one wanted to journey with Him in those times.  No one could stay awake and pray with Him.  But, it was in those times that He was so intimate with His Father.  He cried out to Him and was heard.  He journeyed on.  

There came a time that day that when once again I was in the midst of the crowd.  The hustle and bustle was all around me once again.  The noise, the smells, the familiarity of the sites and the people were crowded around me.

How personal this picture is.   What a promise from the Lord.  Don't be afraid to be alone.  Don't get anxious about what is going around you or frustrated about what is not going on where you are.  God has a plan, He has a purpose and reason for those quiet times, for those alone times.  Take advantage of them because they may not last.  Take in those moments when it is just you and your Savior and you cannot hear or see the crowds to your left or right.    

Forget what is behind and continue to press on!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Prayer and Praise

Thank you to everyone who partners with us here in Padova.  We are heading into our 5th year here and excited about the things that are going on.  It's been many years of praying and waiting and to be honest even questioning at times.  This past year was especially difficult with health issues, heartaches and waiting for God to do what He has promised.  It's in those times that it becomes easy to be discouraged and yet the Lord continually gave great comfort and strength with each new trial.  He has been faithful to remind us of what He spoke to our hearts years ago and brings blessings when we least expect them.

We had a wonderful time at the annual Missions Conf in Austria.  Always a time of refreshment and encouragement with others and the teachings are a wonderful reminder to keep our eyes on the Lord and His Word and not to be distracted.  I go away feeling like so many of the messages were hand picked just for me  :)  

Tonight we have 4 girls arriving-3 are living in Austria and 1 just finished SOS in Austria and has a week before going back to the states.  We are thrilled they will be with us for the sole purpose of walking around the city and praying.  I love the promise the Lord gave to Joshua-'every place the sole of your foot touches will be yours'.  This is our mission this next week.  Walk and pray.  The university students will be arriving towards the end of the month and we want to cover them in prayer.  Our university has over 65,000 students and for the past 4 years many have been praying for them and us and how to minister to them.



We have also been looking for a building to rent for our church.  We have been meeting at a Community Center for the past years and though we greatly appreciate the fact that it is free of charge, it is not in a location that is easily accessible to those walking or taking public transportation.   We have been searching for a place closer to the city center and within walking distance for the students.  Last week Jim went to meet with different owners/realtors of several properties.  He found the one that seems to fit all of our needs and then some.  
This storefront is in a great location-easy to walk to, has parking and within walking distance to the train station.  The brick building above is for sale by a different owner.  It was actually a school.  What's great about that is we have been praying with Greg and Alice about having a Christian nursery/preschool one day. Alice is taking an exam this week that would give her the qualification to teach.  We would like to rent the bottom part and use it for church, English classes, guitar lessons, etc and then be in prayer to see about getting the top part.   

Marla is interviewing for a job in Milano this coming Friday.  She would get her own apartment and be very close to the train station and city center.  She's also excited because there are plenty of Sushi restaurants in the area :)

So, how can you be praying for us and CC Padova?  Let me tell  you :)

*Jim's health.  He needs an angiogram to check his arteries-pray the doctor will give him the referral he needs.
*Margie's back-I found a surgeon about an hour away.  I am going to make an appointment for him to examine my back but need to have the doctor in our town refer me so I don't have to pay. Patience as I await test results I had done last week.
*Home fellowship group about 45 min from us to start up soon
*Greg and Alice to be able to buy a car for their growing family
*That the finances needed for a years worth of rent on the storefront building would be provided.  
*A great week of prayer with Rebecca, Michele, Laura and Briana as we walk around Padova.
*Marla to get the job in Milano
*An abundance of God's grace, wisdom and love as we serve here in Padova. 
*Chris Brown-a faithful servant who travels an hour to Padova each week to reach out to the university students.  Also for Aoife (Ifa) who will be serving with him this year.  She is a sweet gal from Ireland who was in Padova last year.
*Finances for Jim to be able to go to the states for a visit

A couple pictures from the conference

Celebrating Marla's 25th


Monday, July 22, 2013

Jim Part 2

Hello again!

First, thank you all again for the sweet comments, prayers and abundance of love!  God is truly showing Himself to us through each of you.  As odd as it may sound, it has blessed our hearts to read the comments here and on FB and know that you are each an extension of His love and comfort.  Besides the normal stress of having Jim in the hospital and not knowing exactly what is happening with him it has been hard to be by ourselves (Marla and me) and not have a friend to just cry with and pray with.  I may say this often but please don't ever take for granted the Christian friends you have around you to pray with, laugh with, cry with, etc.   You never know when your world will turn upside down and you no longer have them around.  Maybe I have been so spoiled with the lovely friends I do have and so going through this rough time makes me ache all the more for you!!!!  It's hard for our two daughters back in the states because they can't see their Dad and love on him and give him, Marla and me hugs too and we can't give any to them.

So, with that, I can tell you that as of 3pm today Jim is HOME!!!!  You may think we are thrilled and excited, and we are, but there is the other part.  The part of the unknown, the fear and what could happen.  He was released because the two machines that are needed to do the gastro test and also the stress test are not functioning properly right now. Whether that translates to they are really both surprisingly broken at the same time or summer is here and we are very short staffed so there aren't a lot of people to operate the equipment and you are no longer an emergency.....talk about having to trust the Lord and not lean on our own understanding.  Such a test of faith. Jim's resting now.  He is not allowed to do much except rest.  No walking and not much exercise until he has the stress test.  He is on blood thinners so help with the blood flow to the heart.  Marla and I have decided that we won't be out of the house at the same time just to make sure one of us is with him at all times.  We may be overly cautious but we don't want to take any chances.  A week ago today I wasn't sure what was happening and it scared me enough that we don't want to risk him being alone.  I met his doctor today and she told me what he can and can't eat.  He is on a strict diet of 1500 calories a day....lol....I think this is a shock to him.  Marla is so great and a big help-she is already planning on filling her Pinterest with heart healthy meals :)  No fat, no sugar, no fried foods....life is going to be changing for the good :)

Thank you again for taking the time to write, send your love and to pray.  It means the world to us.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Update on Jim

I decided to take to the blog to let everyone who is interested know what happened and what is happening with Jim.  To try and write on Facebook is just too long.

First, I really apologize to those who have written asking what is going on. Besides family,  I let a few people know the day of and figured that between the three of them everyone who is close to us would find out.  I wasn't in the mood to write on Facebook, answer emails, messages, etc.  I wasn't trying to be mean or evasive but to be honest, other people weren't the first things on my mind.  My husband and his health were and still are.  So, if I haven't returned an email or responded to a message please bare with us and try to place yourselves where we are right now.  We have been in 'waiting and testing mode'.

On Monday we were out in Padova with my sister and her family.  We had lunch and then the some of us went in one direction while the guys went in another.  I happened to see that Jim and Jim (my sister's hubby is also Jim) were sitting down again.  I just figured they were bored and not wanting to walk anymore.  We met up about 1/2 later and started walking towards the car.  Not long after my Jim had to stop because he wasn't feeling well.  He rested and then attempted to continue walking but couldn't.  We sat down on a bench and my sister and her Jim went to get our car.  By this time Jim's neck was hurting and he couldn't move his head.  Come to find out the reason the guys were sitting in the first place was because his eyesight got blurry and he thought he was going blind.  Then, his chest starting hurting and he said it was like 300 lbs sitting on his chest.  His fingers and toes started to itch too.  It was scary time for us and even Jim was pretty scared.  I was so thankful for my sister being there and her husband so they could be in charge of the events and keep us all calm.

So the ambulance came and took him to the hospital and the EKG didn't show he had a heart attack.  His oxygen level was very low (86) so they had to give him oxygen.  He has been in the hospital being tested and his latest EKG yesterday was hard to get a reading on a part of his heart so they are pretty sure he has blockage in his arteries.  They will run more tests on Monday,  and hopefully we will get more results.  They want to do the angioplasty after they have exhausted the other tests-why, I don't really know.  I understand it is invasive but at the same time it would be good to just know so that we can have him back  home

We feel extremely blessed and thankful that God gave him this warning sign.  He had been experiencing chest pains a couple weeks ago but you know how easy it is to put things off and not think about the seriousness of them.  Looking back, I think of how tired he has been in the past weeks, even months.  We have been keeping busy and pretty active walking around, doing a lot so we just passed it off as being tired and of course age and being out of shape.  Now we know better to heed the warning signs in the future.

The good news is that if it is Coronary Artery Disease it is fixable.  His diet needs to change and depending on how much build up  there is will determine if he just needs medicine or a balloon inserted inside.

He has made good use out of his stay in the hospital so far-always the evangelist :)  The whole floor knows who he is and what he does-why he is here in Italy :)  The doctors and staff cannot believe he would leave beautiful San Diego for Padova!!  God so blessed him with a room that only has 2 beds.  This was a nice gift considering in Hungary there were 8 to a room and most of the rooms on his floor are 4-6 to a room.  He has me bringing in different things each day-his roommate went home yesterday and Jim gave him some audio tracts that Rob Nash gave him for evangelising.  The nurse came in the other morning and saw him reading his Bible and said "Bravo"!!!  She was so happy he was reading it :)  So, in the midst of all the scary stuff we see God's hand upon him and seeds being planted in places that we never would have thought of.

We appreciate so very much the outpour of love and prayers coming our way.  Please continue to write even if I don't respond immediately.  It really does bring joy to my heart and helps remind me that even though it feels so lonely at times, we are not alone.  I honestly cherish each message, email and fb post that you write. I feel like it is God's way of wrapping His arms around us and giving us hugs long distance.  I think I miss that a lot right now.  I know that if we were there we would get a lot of hugs and comfort :)  Some of you have written specific scriptures the Lord gave  you for us and even some have written from a devotional. Seriously, it makes me cry to know that God cares that much and uses the Body of Christ no matter how far away we are from one another to minister to us.  It's such a good reminder for us to be faithful and not to put off writing or sharing something if the Lord puts in on our hearts to do.  We never know what effect those words can have for someone.  I haven't slept more than 3-4 hours a night since Monday so exhaustion is setting in but God is faithful and step by step gives us the strength we need.  Your notes have truly given me strength and I pass it on to Jim every day.  He is so touched and thankful!

They are short staffed at the hospital so he gets to come home today for 24 hours.  This is a good sign meaning that he isn't considered an emergency any longer.  I will pick him up at 3pm today and then he goes back at 3pm tomorrow.  Pray I don't smother him and over-react at every little breath or sound that he makes :)

I will do my best to update as we know more.  Until then, cherish all that God has given you and never take anyone in your life for granted.  Life is precious and so are the people that the Lord has placed in our lives!

My Love

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Fungus Among Us

I know, I know, you are so intrigued by this title!  What in the world could I possibly have to share with you with such a title as this?!
Well, if you must know, it is exactly that-fungus!!  'I never knew Margie was a biologist or a medic' you might be saying to yourself right now-but let me assure you, though I dropped out of college, I am now very expertise when talking about fungi. And no, I am not using this post to give you countless insight on mushrooms nor share recipes that contain mushrooms.  Rather, I will talk about fungus-real live (ha ha yes it is live) fungus-growing fungus, fungus that doesn't go away rapidly, fungus that is extremely unsightly and a cause of great distress.
Now that you are completely off your seat with excitement let me begin my tale of the unknown fungus.

It started way back in February.  I had this little pin sized red dot on my leg.  Right above my ankle.  I thought nothing of it at first.  I thought perhaps it was from shaving, (which of course is rare in winter, however; it must have been some rare occasion,) or it could have been a spider bite since we live in a concrete apartment and spiders seem to love having their dwelling places all along the walls and baseboards of our home.  It didn't hurt or itch so I really didn't give it much thought.  If we are facebook friends, you may remember that I was extremely ill for at least 2 weeks in February.  I couldn't move, couldn't get out of bed, nor eat much at all.  It wasn't long after that episode that I noticed this little red dot became bigger and other dots started to appear around it.  Still, no itching, no pain, so being the person I am, I ignored it.  Well, it soon began to spread across my ankle and I decided to bring it to Jim's attention.  We thought it was probably a spider bite and being the man he is, he so eloquently advised me that there was a possibility that a spider not only bit me, but laid eggs in my leg....yes, not for the squeamish I tell ya!!!  We had some creams left over from Hungary-Jim had a really weird disease on his legs for two whole years!!!  Doctors could never figure it out but I remember he couldn't even wear shorts one summer because it looked so bad.  So, being resourceful and thrifty, I started to use the creams-any creams I could find in the cabinet I would experiment with and carefully rub them in my leg.

A friend came to visit in May and I decided to show her my leg and we took photos and sent them to a friend of hers who is a nurse in the states.  Still, noone could figure out what this was.  By now it was gross and I mean really gross.  Red, scabby, just disgusting!   We started putting some other cream on it and sure enough it seemed to be going away.  Hallelujah!!! Right in time for the summer months my yucky leg would once again be smooth and ready for some bronzing :)  But......remember my last blog post.....where oh where is Spring?  It was so cold! How cold was it?  So cold that one Sunday after church (end of May mind you) my feet were so cold I put on some woolie slipper socks that I picked up at a garage sale in CA last year and was wearing a lot this winter.  Sure enough,  I awoke on Sunday and BAM,,,,,just like that, my almost healed leg was red, inflammed, and the rash was back with a vengeance.  My heart sank.  What in the world was happening to my leg????

Of course, Jim wanted me to go to the doctor months ago and find out what this was and see if there was something they could prescribe to cure this ghastly rash.  I refused to go and decided it would just go away on its own.  I google searched every possible phrase that might result in a diagnosis and couldn't quite be sure what it was.  Google images can be quite interesting as you know-often I wanted to throw up and had to quickly turn the page because some photos were just too much to handle.  I did however start to see photos that might resemble what was going on with my leg.  The problem was, it was a bit embarrassing.  The name just sounds terrible and makes me think I was unclean-that some how I wasn't careful enough or clean enough and this came about because I failed to do something properly.  So,,,,what did I do?  Well, just  tried to ignore like I am so good at.  But, it came to the point where I couldn't take it anymore.  I showed Jim a picture from the internet and asked if it looked like my leg and he said yes.  Well folks, that meant I had ringworm!!! Ah, just to type it sounds so gross to me.  Worms, I had this vision of worms in my leg but obviously it is not that at all...which brings me to wonder who the heck named it that if it has nothing to do with worms anyway!!  Must have been a guy :)  Anyway, we were at some friends the other day and I slowly lifted my pant leg to show a couple friends what was going on and low and behold someone said oh yeah, that's ringworm!  I felt relieved that they said that and not only that they told me what it was but gave me a homeopathic cure.  Tea Tree Oil in case you are wondering.  They actually told me to use Tea Tree Oil and Grapefruit Extract but I couldn't afford both so I looked online and found that I could just use the one and that should have great results.  I went yesterday and picked up a little bottle for 13 euro!!!!  They must know we like it :)  Anyway, I am on my third dosage this afternoon and already I am seeing improvement!!  So, do you wonder why in life is she talking about this-and why is she sharing this gross stuff??????

Through all this, I learned a lesson.  Believe it or not, the Lord used it as an allegory.  How often we go about with things in our lives, something that starts out small and unnoticeable.  Not even visible to anyone around us.  We can cover it up and pretend it isn't there.  We can try to wish it away and even just hope that with time, it will cure itself and disappear.  We are embarrassed by a sin or a struggle we have in our lives.  On the outside, we look so normal.  We look like we have it all together and yet underneath the surface we are hiding something.  We are afraid that if we expose it to someone else they will judge us, they will think poorly of us and make us feel worse than we already feel.

Often times, there is a simple remedy to whatever is going on in our lives.  Whatever problems we may be facing, whatever secret sin we may be trying to cover up.  There is a remedy and more often than not, it is such a simple remedy but our pride and our fears keep us from being healed.    We don't want to expose the ugly and unsightly part of ourselves because we fear that in doing so people will avoid us or not want to be our friend any longer.  I felt this way with my leg.  If people heard I had this they would think I didn't wash my clothes properly or that my house somehow wasn't clean enough and therefore I got this fungus.  I thought if they knew then they wouldn't want to be around me because perhaps they too would catch it.

Are you going through a secret struggle right now?  Are you struggling with something right now?  Do you put on a happy smile and make everyone think you are doing ok but underneath you are so close to a breakdown?  Are you struggling with lonliness, anger, perhaps bulimia, cutting, or some other secret problem?  Are you embarrassed about it and feel like if you just give it time it will go away?  If you just keep covering it up with a plastic smile, with some breath mints or a long sleeved shirt it will be ok?

Dear friend, it won't go away on its own.  You need the salve.  You need the ointment of healing.  You need a friend that you can go to and expose what is underneath so that the healing process can begin.  Don't wait any longer.  Let today be the day that you allow the healing to begin.  Perhaps, as did the Tea Tree Oil, it burned just a bit, but the healing began.  There is balm in Gilead, there is healing-but you have to apply it.  You can no longer continue to ignore it and hope it goes away on its own-it won't.  You must begin now to take action!  Don't wait.  The longer you wait, the longer it becomes a part of you and the harder it will be to get the help needed.

Or, perhaps God is calling you to be that friend.  Perhaps the Lord wants you to be that healing ointment in another's life.  You are being asked to bear this person's burden without thinking badly about them.  Point them to the scriptures-to the One who heals, the One who forgives, the One who heals completely.  Hug them, love them!  Don't avoid the one who you see with cuts on her arm, the one who sits alone because they feel ashamed because of something in their past or something they are presently going through.  There are enough judgers and pharisees in the world.  What we need more of is down to earth Christians who are willing to come along side in love and be used by God to help the healing process begin in another's life!
Are you willing to be that person?

I decided to spare you all a picture of my leg and put the words to this beautiful hymn up instead :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spring Delayed....How Long Oh Lord

Remembering the words of the prophet Habakkuk-'how long, Lord, must I call out for help, but You do not listen'.  David, in Psalm 13 asks the Lord the same...How long oh Lord.  Will You hide your face from me, will You forget me?
Have you been there?  Have you cried out to the Lord over and over again and yet saw no change in the circumstance and began to feel that God is not listening?  If we are honest, I think most of us have been or even are in that place right now.
It seems my last 4 or so posts have been about winter passing and the expectation of Spring.  The long dreary Winter will give way to the beauty and the sweet aroma of Spring.  Yet, there are times that Spring is delayed and we cannot understand why.  Here is a picture a friend posted yesterday.  It is just an hour from us.  Keep in mind it was May 24th when this photo was taken.
Crazy isn't it!  Last year we were in the states for the month of May.  We were so happy to be there but we were happy to be here in Italy this May because it has been our favorite month since moving here.  The vineyards are starting to fill in with beautiful grape leaves, the flowers and their scent fill the air with loveliness and the sun shines gloriously morning and evening.
It would not be so this May.  For whatever reason, Spring has been delayed.  Oh, there were glimpses of it, days the windows and doors were wide open, laundry was seen hung out in every yard and terrace.  Boots, heavy coats and sweaters were carefully packed away not anticipating to be needed for another 6 months or so.  But, yesterday, the heavy coat was worn and the winter boots yanked out of their resting place to be put to use yet again.

There came a time yesterday in the midst of  begrudging  these cold temperatures, walking carefully as to avoid puddle after puddle, watching the downcast faces of a people who had not expected to be braving this kind of weather at the end of May, for an instant I thought  "Lord, are You speaking to me through this storm?  Are the winds and the rain for me?  Did You in Your tenderness allow Spring to be delayed so that You could speak to my heart?"  It was as if for a moment, the clouds were lifted up and the light of His glory shone upon my heart.  'But Lord,' my desperate heart cried,  'it's supposed to be Spring.  The calendar even says it is supposed to be Spring.  We endured the Winter and anticipated Spring.  You gave us glimpses of Spring but as quickly as it came You took it away.  It's not just raining, it is pouring, it is cold and dreary.  Why, oh why aren't You letting Spring come?  Why are You seeming to be messing with nature and the way that things are supposed to be?  Why God, why????"  And I believe that our intimate God, our gracious and patient King, sat and listened and He had a bottle for every tear that was falling and He, in a way that only He can, wrapped me in His arms and let me know it was going to be ok.
He reminded me that it indeed rains on the just and the unjust.  That He does not look at things the way man looks at them.  His ways are different than ours, His thoughts higher.

This morning when I awoke, the skies were blue.  By the time I sat to write this, grey covered the skies, the cats came running in to seek shelter as the sound of thunder echoed in the background, and once again, the heavy rains came down.  Perhaps with sadness, some will look after the rains and see their crop destroyed, their planters overturned and flower petals tossed violently across the lawn. All of their hard work seemingly to no avail.  'Why bother?', some may ask. Perhaps they will give up and stop planting.  Perhaps they will become so discouraged and think gardening or farming isn't for them.  But, we know that we will sweep up the mess, salvage what is left to be salvaged and start again to dig, to plow, to plant to water.  Why?  Because that is what the Lord tells us to do.  The labor and obedience is up to us.  The harvest is up to Him.  And, one day, we will reap.  It may not be here in the physical life.  We may never be able to enjoy a harvest this side of Heaven.  But, we are promised in His Word that we will indeed reap if we faint not.
Spring may be delayed, but our God is never delayed. He makes ALL things beautiful in His time!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spring Update


The Mister wrote an update so for all of you who would like to sit back and have a read along with some pictures here you go.   Thank you for your love, prayers and support.  Without you, we couldn't do what we do!!!

Wow, can you believe it has been a year since we were in Cali for a visit? We truly do miss you all and want to thank you for your love, prayers, and support. The fall season came and went without a trace after the annual CC European Missionary Conference in Austria and then we hunkered down for a long, cold, and sometimes lonely winter. We thought it would never end and other than the Holidays, it really was quite uneventful. However, Margie was busy with the annual Women’s Christmas Tea, which was a great success with 120 ladies attending. We were blessed to have our daughter Marla reunited with us in December and she is such a help with our ministry and household. Reminds me of those priceless years she assisted us on the mission field at CC Baja, Hungary. In January I attended the annual Pastors conference at CC Siegen, Germany, a much needed time of refreshing. I also had a couple more opportunities to play electric guitar gigs for a friend’s band doing DMB covers. It’s a lot of fun and thru music I have been able to make a lot of contacts and new friends and have had countless opportunities to witness and share the gospel. I am putting a group together for the summer and I pray for a fruitful season of extra money, sharing my music and faith, and church growth thru new relationships. Most people consider themselves to be Christians by birthright here, so I build upon the doctrines and common beliefs that we can share, i.e. the Finished Work, God’s Grace, and The Bible. It is a challenge for people from this region to let go of their tradition and try something new, especially a Protestant approach, since it really is completely foreign to them. We’ve also noticed that most Evangelicals here in northern Italy are transplants from the South or foreign immigrants from Africa, South America, or the Philippines. Our region of Veneto seems to harbor resistance to Evangelical Christianity. Please pray for developing friendships and for perseverance in ministering to people with love and patience. Statistically, 98% of Italians claim to be Catholic Christians, but only 20% actually attend church regularly. In contrast, professing Americans attend church regularly at a 40% rate. Is it any wonder that we are burdened to reach people for Christ here in Christian Italy?



Recently, we’ve been quite busy finishing up our citizenship and residency process. I am happy to report that I am an Italian citizen and so are all of our children and grandchildren. Margie has a 5 year residency card and can become an Italian in a couple years. Somehow I like the idea of holding dual citizenship, especially in this day and age that we find ourselves. Italian passports are the most welcomed in the world. As much as we miss our children, grandchildren, extended family, and friends, so much that it hurts, we want you to know that we are here for the duration, that is, until the Lord tells us otherwise. So we pray that God will continue to bring to your remembrance our mission here in Italy. At my age finding a job is difficult, but with my music connections, I hope to find side work performing from time to time and in the process meet and make new friends and share the Lord with many people. Also, Margie and Alice from the church are volunteering in an organization that helps young women, mostly from the South, Eastern Europe, and Northern Africa, get off the streets.


As Spring broke we were blessed by our dear friends Doug and Rose Martin from CC DC Metro, who treated us on our annual “Stewart-Martin Road Trip”. This year it was in conjunction with the annual Pastor’s Wives Conference that Margie and Becky Dente from CC Paris put together. Rose was one of the guest speakers and Doug and I tagged along to help shuttle guests to and from the airport and haul luggage and supplies. Then after the conference the four of us took in Paris for a couple days and then my long awaited dream came true of visiting Normandy. At the American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach, I was uncontrollably overwhelmed with tears as we walked through those endless lines of stark white tombstones and read the names of so many brave young Americans that sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom. An experience I will never forget. We were able to hike down the hill and traverse the remnants of the German trench lines, gun placements, bunkers, and ruins that remain. I was solemnly transfixed when we reached the hallowed sands of Omaha Beach and walked along the expanse with the tide far out just as it was on the morning of June 6, 1944. We also explored the bunkers, cliffs, and hundreds of bombardment holes left at Pointe du Hoc. We ended the day at the Naval Memorial at Utah Beach, after closing time, with only the sound of the flags snapping to the crisp sea breezes. After 12 years on the mission field, just the sight of Old Glory makes me cry.  The presence of God was unmistakable throughout the day at every memorial, especially in the small Chapel and throughout the gardens of the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. A trip I would highly recommend, to anyone that can venture it.






Immediately upon our return in early April we hosted an outreach team from CCV that included their renowned High School Choir. The kids sang at numerous venues, including 3 High Schools, a Middle school, the Youth Dept. at the Pollini Conservatory of Music, CC Montebelluna, CC Padova, a Nigerian Evangelical Church, 3 Pizzerias, a Gelateria, and various Piazzas throughout the center city of Padova. We were so impressed by their talent, commitment, courtesy, and energy to walk endlessly… without complaint! They were a true testimony to the kind of genuine Christian character and maturity that CCV is known for and seems to instill in its young people. We are already benefiting from the fruit of their ministry with some solid new friendships and acceptance by otherwise skeptics. Pray that God will continue to move in the hearts of those who now have a much clearer view of the Lord and their faith and that they will discover that faith and fun do go together, despite Italian misconceptions of religious piety. Saturday night the Choir sang to a full house at CC Montebelluna with people from CC Feltre and CC Treviso attending as well. Several visitors committed and recommitted their lives to the Lord at the concert after Pastor Rob spoke and gave the invitation. The following morning at our church CC Padova, we were blown away when around 50 new people attended the morning concert and service and heard the clear message of the Gospel by Pastor Rob.








(the theatre we are praying for)

 Finally, we are now at a crossroads and really need to move. Although we are a small fellowship, I believe we are on the verge of substantial growth that will be facilitated and accelerated by our move to a more central and more visible and accessible location. We are searching for a full time location in the city center for the church since the community building we use is not downtown and used only on Sunday mornings. Join us in prayer and if God leads consider helping to underwrite the new building for a season. We see a great need for midweek opportunities to connect and evangelize our community. Padova is such a beautiful city and we have fallen in love with it and desire that CC Padova will be a real beacon of light here for the glory of God. We have our eyes on an abandoned Theater on a busy walking street downtown and we pray that God would open the door and windows of heaven for that or something similar. May the Lord richly bless you and with all of our hearts and deep gratitude we thank you for your prayers and faithful support. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Is Coming

Never has a word meant so much as the word 'spring' has in the past month.  This winter season has been an extremely rough one and yet God has shown Himself to be so faithful as He always is.  It was interesting because a few weeks ago we had nice and sunny days.  All the windows and doors were open, we even put the laundry outside to dry!  I looked to Marla and said "Well, winter is finally over and we can start to enjoy a new season"  Sure enough, in a week and a half we had a snowfall.  It was unbelievable for us.  We don't usually get a lot of snow and once the sun starts to come out it is usually a sign the winter is over.  But, it was a good analogy for us because as we have gone through a really rough time the past months and we thought it was over but there was to be another surprise storm that would come.  It reminded me how easy it is to be prepared for certain things yet unprepared for others.  In winter, we expect colder temperatures (well, not if you are in So Cal lol) we expect the snow, the storms.  But when these things happen unexpectedly it throws you for a loop.  Imagine you have put away your shovels, your winter boots are packed away, you start to think about the flowers you are going to plant in the garden and BOOM...you find yourself off guard and taken back as you look out your window and see snow falling.   But, just as in the last post I wrote, Spring will come.  It can't not come.  It is a part of God's plan and we can trust that Spring will come.

In just one week God has done so much!  He has put us in contact with people and organizations that we have been praying about for years.  Jim has been meeting with a guy pretty regularly just to chat and today the guy brought his 3 brothers along to meet Jim.  Marla was hired to lead an English Conversational Group at a language school in town and I was able to begin training with an organization who help girls working on the street to have a way out if they would like.  Marla and I went to a women's coffee and had the opportunity to meet some really nice ladies and we will be keeping in touch with them.  Jim's friend who manages the park wants him to put together a band and be playing regularly there this summer.  It has been a blessing for us and to be honest, we really needed to see and hear from the Lord that He indeed wanted to keep us here in Padova.

A few months ago the Lord gave Jim the promise in Exodus that He would give us the land little by little.  The way things were going it was a bit difficult to trust in that but we held onto that promise.  The other  week in a devotional we read it was about every place that your foot treads I will give you the land.   I love how God reiterates and reminds us of His promises.  When you are just weeping, questioning, doubting, He uses a different verse but the same promise.  He is ever so tender towards us I cannot even fathom His great love and care.

With the opportunities that have been coming our way it has caused us to reconsider where we are living.  As much as we enjoy it where we are we are looking to move to the city center.  It will be much easier for Marla to get work, it will be easier for me to go to the places I need to go to and also to meet up with friends.  It will also be much better for inviting people over so they can either walk or take public transportation.  You can keep this in prayer that we would find the right place for us.  We have to give 6 months notice where we live (that's the Italian way) so it probably wouldn't be until Fall that we could actually move.

My friend Becky, who is the pastor's wife in Paris, France and I have been busy organizing a Pastor's Wives retreat in Paris March 22-24.  We are really excited and all the ladies coming are looking forward to this time of fellowship and refreshment.  Inga-Lill Guzik and Rose Martin are coming as our guest speakers so we know that we are going to be so blessed.  Our theme is from Song of Solomon 2:10  'Come Away My Beloved'.  I love the next few verses also because guess what...it talks about winter being over and spring is coming-the birds are coming out to sing!  Ah, it was such a great blessing to read beyond verse 10.  I think this is going to minister so much to all the ladies who are coming.

We are so thrilled because our home church CC Vista is coming with the CC School Choir in April.  They will be here as our very first outreach group and the timing is so good.  You can be praying for the different venues and opportunities for them to sing in the schools, connect and meet Italian high school students and just shine the love of God in this city.  Please pray for their travel, health and anything else the Lord would put on your heart to pray for them while they are here.

Jim will be writing an update in the next week but I wanted to give the 'female version' and plus I am going to try to be more faithful at the blog writing again :)

And now....guess what.....I just had a mosquito fly by my desk two times!!!  Alas, winter is over and Spring is on it's way!!!  Perhaps this is the one and only time in life I shall be happy to see this most dreadful creature!  Is it not like the Lord to use such nuisances to bring a smile to our face and remind us of what is to come!!

I will leave you with some beautiful pictures of the city that God has called us to, that our feet will continually tread upon and that He has promised us!






Saturday, January 26, 2013

His Compassions Fail Not

Yesterday I was able to catch up with a dear friend and was encouraged to once again read one of my favorite devotionals. I enjoy having them in different places around the house and reading throughout the day. This year I have been faithfully reading through Streams In the Desert. It's been so good and encouraging each time I read it. So, this morning I picked up "A Very Present Help" by Amy Carmichael. I read the first entry and though I have read this devotional a few times over the past 15 yrs or so it was like I was reading it for the first time all over again. There is something to be said for how God's Word ministers to your heart exactly where you are. It's been a really rough past 6 months or so. As many of you already know, my back is a complete mess. It's been deteriorating for years, but this past Spring's visit to the states revealed just how bad it is. Without God intervening or surgery the doctor said I probably won't be able to walk very well in a year. So you can be praying that we find a good surgeon here and we will have perfect peace because it is extremely scary to me to have a surgery-especially in a country where I am not fluent in the language!

 The entry today 'God will not fail you during the Winter season of your life'. The scripture for the devotion is Lamentations 3:19-33. I encourage you to read this portion of scripture! It's a great reminder not only for ourselves, but to remember to share with others as they go through struggles. If you would indulge me as I write down this illustration from Amy:

  You were like a leafy bush, and many little things came for you to shelter. You were not great or important, but you could help those little things. And it was the joy of your life to help them. Now you can do nothing at all. Some desolation—illness, monetary loss, or something you cannot talk about to anyone, a trouble no one seems to understand—has overwhelmed you. All your green leaves have gone. Now you cannot shelter even the least little bird. You are like a bush, with its bare twigs. No use to anyone. That is what you think. 
 But look again at this bare bush. Look at the delicate tracery of its shadow lines on the snow. The sun is shining behind the bush and so every little twig is helping to make something that is very beautiful. Perhaps other eyes, that you do not see, are looking on it too, wondering what can be made of sun and snow and poor bare twigs… The spring will come again, for after winter there is always spring. 
 But when will the spring come? When will your bush be green with leaves again? When will the little birds you love come back to you? I do not know. Only I know that the sun and snow are working together for good. And the day will come when the memory of helplessness and inability to give help to anyone else, or the memory of hard financial times, of loneliness, loss, or isolation—these will all pass as a dream in the night. All that seemed lost will be restored. 
 Now, in the midst of so much unhappiness, engulfing your heart in cold, let these words seep down—like fingers of sunlight, like trickles of first-spring rains—to refresh your inmost soul: He will not fail you, who is the God of the sun and the snow. Amy Carmichael Figures of the True

I find it comforting that when we lack the ability to put into words what we are going through, God has gifted someone else to pen these thoughts.  And to know that had they not gone through pain and suffering they would not have been able to express in such a way the very thoughts that are racing throughout your very own mind.

How often I have felt like that barren bush these past months.  The one who was always on the go, full of energy, wanting to do this and that, go here and there.  Years ago I was one of the best runners in our school and now I have trouble just walking for more than a couple of hours.  I don't think anyone likes to feel useless in life.  The beginning paragraph so wonderfully depicts my thoughts of late.

All the years we lived in Hungary and how many of the women would come to me for help and how much joy there was in being a part of their lives and watching them grown in their walk with the Lord.  To see their eyes uncovered and experience the love of their Savior they never thought possible.
 And now, I feel like that barren bush-with no leaves that are flourishing upon it.  Nothing to show for its existence.  It is just there.  I picture this barren bush in a field and there are no other bushes around it to help it stand and the winds come gusting forth and blow and try to topple it over.  Not just one storm, but storm after storm trying to knock it down until twig by twig it is broken into little pieces.  The bush is trying to hang in there and wait for Spring, but Spring doesn't seem to come fast enough.  There are hints of Spring and the hopes are high and then another storm comes and with that another twig falls to the wayside.

To read the words "When will the Spring come?  I do not know....I only know that sun and snow are working together for good"  Wow, just wow!!  We always want answers, at least I always want them.  I want to know when, I want to know why, I want to know how....but the truth of the matter is that we don't always know but God knows and He is indeed working all things together for good-even when I don't see it, even when I don't believe it-He is!

God has given me a task and I have put it off for quite some time.  I started it and put it aside for lack of motivation.  Today I realized that I need to be diligent in picking it up again.  He's allowed this season of my life for a purpose and I want to believe that He will use it. You can be praying I will complete writing the devotional I once started.  In September, when Terri and Carol were here, the Lord gave me the title "A Gentle Transformation".

No matter what any of us are going through-whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, whatever it is...He has promised that He will not fail us.

Though He brings grief, He will show compassion,
So great is His unfailing love.
For He does not willingly bring affliction
Or grief to anyone.  Lamentations 3:33


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Befana

Oggi in Italia è l'Epifania e anche la festa della Befana. Ecco le informazioni sulla Befana che ho trovato in rete: La Befana è una delle leggende più antiche e più celebre d'Italia. Ogni anno, il 6 gennaio i bambini di Italia si risvegliano nella speranza che la Befana ha fatto una visita a casa loro. Questo è un giorno importante per gli italiani, perché segna la fine della stagione di Natale e il giorno in cui i tre Re Magi arrivano alla mangiatoia di Gesù Bambino. Nel corso degli anni l'Epifania è stata una vacanza più celebre per i bambini d'Italia del il Natale. Suona abbastanza normale destro un po 'come il giorno di San Nicola in gran parte dell'Europa. La leggenda dietro Befana davvero afferrato la mia attenzione di recente. Continua a leggere: (E 'un po' lunga ma vale la pena leggere) Secondo la leggenda i tre Re Magi erano alla ricerca di Gesù Bambino quando hanno deciso di fermarsi a una piccola casa per chiedere indicazioni. Al bussare, una vecchia che tiene una scopa aperto la porta un po 'per vedere chi c'era. In piedi alla sua porta di casa c'erano tre uomini vestiti con colori sgargianti che avevano bisogno di indicazioni per trovare il Cristo bambino. La vecchia non era a conoscenza di ciò che questi tre uomini stavano cercando e non poteva farli puntare nella giusta direzione. Prima i tre uomini che escono hanno gentilmente chiesto la vecchia ad unirsi a loro nel loro viaggio. Ha rifiutato perché aveva molto da fare lavori di casa. Dopo la loro partenza si sentiva come se avesse commesso un errore e decise di andare a recuperare il ritardo con il gentili uomini. Dopo molte ore di ricerca non riusciva a trovare. Pensando l'opportunità che aveva perso la vecchia si fermò ogni bambino per dare loro un trattamento piccola nella speranza che uno era il Cristo bambino. Ogni anno alla vigilia dell'Epifania si mette in giro a cercare il Gesù bambino. Si ferma a casa di ogni bambino di lasciare coloro che erano buoni dolcetti nelle calze e quelli che sono stati male un pezzo di carbone. Riesci a vedere dove sto andando con questo! Naturalmente è tutto leggenda, ma lo trovo molto interessante. La parte della leggenda che ha mi ha colpito è come la Befana era troppo occupato per andare a cercare Gesù con i Re Magi e ora passa le sue giornate alle ricerca sperando che non sia troppo tardi. Che una grande applicazione! Dio può anche utilizzare le leggende tramandate di generazione in generazione per dare un insegnamento. Oggi vediamo che così tante persone sono troppo occupati: sono impegnate a studiare, lavorare, fissando le loro case, andando qua e là e non hanno tempo per Gesù.. Quante volte abbiamo sentito le scuse perché la gente non vuole venire in chiesa, perché non sono interessati e non vogliono sapere chi è Gesù. Ricordate la parabola della grande cena? (Luca 14:15) Il maestro aveva preparato una festa e mandò il suo servo a invitare molti alla festa. Uno per uno, tutti hanno detto scuse-acquisto di terreni, occupato con la famiglia, impegnato con il lavoro. Il maestro si arrabbiò a tutte le loro scuse! Non c'è nulla di nuovo sotto il sole! Le scuse stesse oggi come erano nel giorno della parabola. Non hanno tempo di venire via e sedersi con Gesù. Tutto il resto ha la priorità. Purtroppo, anche i cristiani sono caduti in questa categoria. Cristiani che una volta erano nella chiesa-per ogni studio biblico, ogni volta che le porte erano aperte e qualcosa stava succedendo, non ci sono stati. Non mi dispiace che potrebbe perdere una o due ore di sonno se lo studio era la sera, che stavano per ascoltare la Parola, essere in comunione. Fellowship e la Parola era la priorità. Qui in Italia le persone sono noti per la loro dedizione al lavoro domestico. Questa è un'altra cosa che trovo particolarmente interessante de la leggenda della Befana. Stava facendo una buona cosa-pulizia della casa sua. Ma, il suo lavoro domestico ha la priorità rispetto trovare Gesù! Forse sto allungando un po 'nel mio confronto, ma per favore mi indulgete un po' :) In alcune culture in cui le donne sono impegnate nei lavori di casa, Gesù e lo studio della Parola può prendere un sedile posteriore. E 'come la storia di Marta e Maria. Martha stava facendo ciò che è buono, dopo tutto, qualcuno doveva preparare il pasto giusto! Ma Gesù ha detto che Maria ha scelto la parte migliore. Che cosa stava facendo Mary? Era seduta ai piedi di Gesù, ascoltando e imparando l'assunzione in tutto ciò che poteva da lui. Quindi, qual è il punto di tutto questo??? Se ci dimentichiamo di lavori domestici-ovviamente * NO * È solo uno scherzo! Non dovremmo fare il nostro lavoro, la nostra scuola, trascorrere del tempo con le nostre famiglie? Facciamo tutte queste cose, tutto ciò che Dio ci dà da fare dobbiamo farlo con forza, come a lui. Tuttavia, nessuna di queste cose deve avere la precedenza su di Lui e la Sua Parola. Passare del tempo con Gesù e conoscere Lui dovrebbe essere la priorità nella nostra vita. Proprio come la leggenda della Befana, lei cerca ancora oggi, sperando che non sia troppo tardi. Lei cavalca il suo piccolo giro su scopa sperando di trovare Gesù. Ci sarà un giorno in cui è troppo tardi. Non indurire il tuo cuore verso la sua voce, il suo cenno, la Sua chiamata. Non siate così preoccupati con la vita che non si ha il tempo di sedersi ai suoi piedi. In Matteo 6 Gesù parla a noi in merito non preoccuparsi dove avremo il nostro cibo, i nostri vestiti. Egli si prenderà cura di tutto quello che serve. Spesso confidiamo l'ordine delle cose. Pensiamo che tutto il resto deve venire prima e il tempo in più può essere dato a Dio. No, dice che dobbiamo cercarlo in primo luogo, cercare primo il suo regno. Lui sa quello che abbiamo di bisogno. Egli conosce le nostre finanze, quante ore di sonno abbiamo effettivamente bisogno, le prove e gli esami che stanno arrivando. Prendete il vostro tempo e datelo a lui. Sì, essere fedeli nel vostro lavoro, la vostra casa, con tutte le tue responsabilità, ma non usare ciò che Dio vi ha dato come una scusa per metterlo fuori. Egli vi ha dato quel lavoro, che Egli vi ha dato la famiglia, l'intelligenza di andare a scuola, la casa in cui vivete, ecc, ma Egli non vi ha dato tutto questo in modo che potessero avere la priorità. Facciamo la nostra priorità Dio cerchiamo veramente prima le cose di Dio, per mettere ogni cosa al giusto posto nella nostra vita.