Today was so special! Although I'm excited to head to Australia soon (just two more weeks!), I was disappointed at not being able to spend Christmas here in Italy. I haven't had a "white Christmas" for several years now, and was looking forward to bundling up cozy next to a fire during the cold weather. But this morning, my sweet French friend surprised me and took me to a Christmas Village here in Cittadella! I had no idea that the village even existed, but I loved it! It definitely got me in the Christmas spirit and sufficed for the "wintery-Christmas" I was hoping for. I will miss my friends and Italian family when I leave, but luckily I will be back in March for Italian spring! Well anyways, I am excited to see how Christmas is celebrated in Australia!
Click here to see more photos of the Christmas Village and Cittadella
Today I returned to Padua, after enjoying my time at the nearby San Pelagio Castle the other day and seeing today's sunny weather forecast. I've been to Padua multiple times to attend church or just to change trains at the station, but I'd never really explored the city...I am so glad that I finally decided to! First, I went to The Scrovegni Chapel and the surrounding gardens, which was amazing...kind of like a mini-version of the Sistine Chapel. Though Giotto can't compare to Michelangelo, his work is still incredible. After soaking in the breathtaking beauty, I walked along Via Roma, the main street. This led me through a plethora of cozy cafes and restaurants and a variety of high-end boutiques as well as some of my favorite European chain-stores. After accidentally wandering into the University building, I finally I arrived at Prato Della Valle, a large plaza with beautiful scenery. From there I branched off to see a few more sights before the sun went down, and then headed back to the train station, stopping for a warm banana-and-chocolate crepe along the way. Padua definitely seems like a college-town, with lots of young people wandering around the streets. There is a lot to do there, and I will have to return to visit the many museums I saw, maybe do some shopping, and visit the Botanical Gardens that I didn't have time to see today. Luckily, Padua is really close to Cittadella! Anyways, I was very impressed by this cool city, and have deemed it my favorite in all of Veneto (yes, I liked it even better than Venice!)
See more from Padua here
Today my Italian host family and I made a day-trip to Castello di San Pelagio (The San Pelagio Castle) near Padua. There we explored the Flight Museum inside of the Castle, walked around the beautiful surrounding gardens, and made our way through a maze called "The Minotaur Labyrinth." We also stopped for lunch at a nearby "Agrotourism" restaurant, where I enjoyed an amazing meal - polenta con formaggio e funghi (polenta with cheese and mushrooms) for an antipasto, pappardelle ai fungi porcini (mushroom pasta) for a primo piatto with red wine, and tiramisu for dessert with an espresso. My Italian family explained Agrotourism to me while we ate - most traditionally, Italian agrotourism refers to bed-and-breakfasts or restaurants that serve only locally grown and produced foods. So, the pasta was hand-made and the mushrooms were grown on the same farm on which the restaurant where we ate was located.
In the late afternoon we headed back home to Cittadella, and after dinner I tried Fraggolino Bianco for the first time. This is a sweet dessert wine, typical from the Veneto region, and made from a special kind of grape that has a "strawberry" taste to it ("Fraggola" means strawberry in Italian). Fraggolino can be made as a red or white wine, but what I tried was white. This wine was especially good because it was homemade - the bottle had no label on it, and my Italian parents were only able to get it because they know the people who make it. They warned me that Fraggolino may not be as tasty if I get it somewhere else, because it is often too sweet. I asked what makes good wine good, and they responded "because it is made with love." This is definitely my new favorite wine, though Prosecco follows quickly behind.
“But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:41-42
I have really been enjoying my time here with my Italian host family, and I especially love being able to spend so much time around children. The two boys I care for are bundles of energy and fun - most afternoons I spend with them playing lions or ninja-warriors, building forts, making crafts, and reading storybooks together.
Every once and in awhile, the boys are allowed to watch a cartoon, and I generally use this time to tidy the play-room, unload the dishwasher, or go through the children’s school notebooks to make sure all of their homework is completed. But the other day, Federico, the youngest of the two boys, asked me to “please” (more like “please-ah” with his darling Italian accent) watch Doraemon, the boys’ favorite cartoon, with them. So, I sat down on the couch next to him, and he cuddled right up into my lap. I really don’t enjoy watching TV very much, especially Japanese kids’ cartoons that have been dubbed over in Italian… But I could tell that the boys appreciated me just sitting there with them, even though my presence didn’t affect the show at all.
I remember the small girls that I cared for in Honduras were the same way - they loved cuddling up with me while watching Disney movies or Barbie cartoons. Even though we weren’t talking or playing together, they just wanted me to be with them.
I thought about that this morning while reading the story of the sisters Martha and Mary in Luke 10. Jesus visits their home in Bethany, and the two sisters respond very differently. Martha goes about the house anxiously working - I imagine cleaning or preparing food, but Mary sits at the Lord’s feet to listen to His teaching. Martha becomes frustrated at her sister’s lack of help, and complains, but Jesus corrects her, telling Martha that Mary has in fact chosen what is good and important by sitting as His feet instead of serving.
So often, I get caught up in the busyness of life, rushing from one task to another methodically. Yesterday I was having coffee with Nonno (Italian for “grandfather”), and he explained to me the importance of occasionally just slowing down. “La dolce vita” (the sweet life) includes taking time to do things other than working and worrying about working - life is meant to be enjoyed.
After our talk, I was reflecting on how my relationship with the Lord has been lately, and I realized that I’ve been rushing my time with Him - reading a Bible passage quickly in the mornings, just to mark it off my “To-Do” list, but not really enjoying His presence in my life.
Work is good - in the book of Genesis we see that it was created before The Fall of Man, but life is not just work. We have been given the precious gift of a personal relationship with Jesus, and we should not forget to cherish it and take advantage of His ever-presence with us. I’m thankful for the relationships I have with the kids I care for here, as well as with Jesus, and want to be present in the time I have with both.
"Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there's nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy"
"Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You"
Christ is Enough - Hillsong United
Travel is exciting - I love the thrill of not knowing what country I will be living in next, the last minute decisions to make a weekend trip to a new city, and the challenges of language barriers in foreign places. But also, travel is difficult, especially for someone like me, who thrives on organization and having a plan. Some might even label me a “control freak.” Which OK, it’s a term that can be thrown around in light-hearted fun, but in actuality it does point to a real area of struggle in my life - that struggle is anxiety.
In general, anxiety is something that just seems to follow me around in day-to-day life, more so in some seasons of life than others. But recently, I was listening to “Christ is Enough” by Hillsong, and was convicted about how my anxiety really points to something deeper spiritually.
Worry is a good indicator to reveal what is important to us. People worry about making the football team, their kids’ safety, money, doing well in a job interview, getting good grades, losing 5 pounds, what people think of them, or the clothes they wear, because those things are important to them. And these aren’t bad things to value, so long as they are given an appropriate amount of value.
Ultimately, Jesus should be most important in our lives. Nothing else can even compare. I think that often, I wrestle with anxiety because I contemplate losing my grip on whatever it is I’m holding onto. And so my response is to grip even more tightly, giving myself a false sense of security, because I think that I “need” whatever it is I’m holding onto.
But Christ is enough. He is all and more than we ever need. It’s a matter of changing our perspective - of realizing what is important versus what is of utmost importance (Jesus!)
The thing is, our hands are closed when we grip something - meaning we are unable to receive anything more. We miss out on God’s blessings when we hold onto material things so tightly. But as we trust that God is enough, we stop gripping things of the world completely. Instead, we stand with open palms - trusting that God is enough, and allowing Him to both give and take away in His perfect timing.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” - Matthew 6:25-34
I spent this weekend in the beautiful region of Tuscany. Most of Saturday I was exploring Pisa with a friend- first hitting up The Field of Miracles and The Leaning Tower of Pisa, of course. Then we visited the University of Pisa's Botanical Garden, which was really interesting because of the diversity of the plants that are all growing in the same place. We walked around the city, got coffee, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the Arno River as we made our way back to the train station in the evening. We parted ways, and I caught a train to Lucca, where I stayed the night in a cool hostel that is an old monastery. I shared a small dorm room with three women - two Italians and one Spanish, and we had great multi-lingual conversation. Sunday morning I got up early to explore Lucca. Afterwards, I decided last-minute that I would have time to visit another nearby city in the afternoon, and so chose Prato (by comparing a map and the train schedule). Prato isn't necessarily a big tourist spot, but it was a nice city, and I met some locals in a bookstore and in a gelato shop, so I got lots of Italian practice. Click the following links to see more from Pisa, Lucca, and Prato.
So, earlier this fall I found that my plans to spend this winter in the United Kingdom fell through. I then decided to try and extend my Italian Visa, but was unable to do so, meaning that I need to leave Europe in mid-December in order to renew my current tourist Visa. After a lot of stress, prayer, and God miraculously providing me with a job opportunity, I have finally booked a ticket...to Gold Coast, Australia! I will be working there and living with a local family for 2 months, and then will fly to New Zealand to visit my best friend and backpack around the country with her for about a month. The last month has been so stressful, but I am thankful that God always knows what the future holds, even when I do not. I'm excited to see another corner of world, to learn about the cultures and enjoy the SUN in Australia and New Zealand, and to spend time with a friend that feels like a sister to me! In March, I will fly back to be with my current Italian family again and continue studying.
See more from Cittadella, the small Italian town where I currently live, here
I just got back from a wonderful 4-day weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark. I stayed with my Danish friend, whom I know from working together in Honduras. I explored the city by foot, took a boat tour through the canals, tried some local food (liver pate, mackerel, "Aebleskiver" pancake balls, and licorice candy), and attended a Danish church service (which was awesome!) Copenhagen is a beautiful city - I really felt like I was walking through a fairytale storybook the whole time :) It was so good to spend time with old friends, and to learn about a new country! I hope to return to Scandinavia again, so that I can see more of Denmark, and maybe Sweden and Norway as well... :) See more from Copenhagen here.
I'm so excited about a new project that my sister has recently started with a friend in Seattle, WA. "Streets of Seattle" is a blog aimed at telling the "stories of homeless youth in our community as a way to bridge the gap between the homeless and student populations. At the heart of this dream is a desire for the character of Jesus to be reflected in the way that we interact as a community—for all individuals, whether homeless or not, to be known and loved."
Check out the blog here
& the Facebook page here
I believe in God's grace through Jesus. I love to learn, in a variety of contexts - reading God's Word, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds around the world, and as a student of Linguistics and Foreign Languages at Western Washington University. Pages of My Passport is dedicated to sharing this journey of learning through written and visual content.