I apologize for being so long in updating my blog. The winter months were very slow and dreary and I just didn't have a lot of energy. Basically, November till March in Northern Italy is cloudy and rainy and it zaps your desire to do much of anything. Waking up day after day to clouds is downright depressing! I don't know how people in Seattle stand it. Thank goodness for the Spring. The sun has been shining and everything is in bloom. Makes me very thankful to God for the change of season and the awakening of all things new, including my spirit!
With that being said, I've been thinking recently about our time here and I'm just amazed that we've been here almost a year! We arrived on the evening of May 31, 2013, completely exhausted, a little nervous and anxious to see what God had planned for us.
The first night was a blur. I remember going to bed and I think I remember my head hitting the pillow. Other than that the next 12 hours were spent unconscious! The following day a colleague of Mark's and his sweet wife came to our hotel to drive us around and acclimate us a little bit. I remember thinking, "Okay, that's enough. I'm ready to go home now!"
What a ride it's been since then! So far we've been to Milan, Lake Como, Lago Maggiore, Lago D'Orta, Aosta, Pisa, Florence, Venice, Rome, Verona, The Italian Riviera, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and England. Not to mention the trips we have planned with friends and family who will be visiting this year. I'm overwhelmed at the thought of being able to visit so many wonderful places! It's just one of the ways God has blessed us since we came here, but there are so many other blessings...
First off, I can't imagine how tough this would have been without other Americans to support us and show us the ropes. I'm thankful for all of Mark's colleagues and their spouses who have been so nice and generous with their time and advice. It's great to be around other people who understand exactly what you're going through.
Next is the love and support of an amazing church! When we found out we were going to be living here we began praying that God would lead us to other followers. Preferably English speakers but people who really love God and want to live the way He wants them to. Oh my goodness, did He ever deliver! We attend the International Church of Milan, an English speaking church with members from all over the world. Our pastor and his wife are passionate about God and following the Bible and I feel so blessed and privileged to be a part of this great church! As sad as I was to be leaving our home church I am now in awe of God and how He gives you what you need just when you need it!
Then there are all the resources and people that have helped us learn Italian. We have a language teacher who comes to our house once a week and she's been so patient, kind and laid back, even laughing with us when we make our mistakes! I count it as a gift from God that we have a teacher who meshes with our personalities so well. We still have a long way to go but we know enough to get along and we're learning more all the time.
And,I can't count the ways I've been blessed here without including some of the things I've learned about others and about myself. It is impossible to live in another culture without learning something about the people you live among. As in any culture around the world we have met people who are nice and some not so nice. But as a whole we've been treated very well with a lot of people working to accommodate us. Italians are very protective of each other and their culture but for the most part if they know you're trying to fit in and speak their language they're very kind and will try to help you. We've experienced everything from people showing us how to pay at gas stations to people correcting our Italian. I have been very grateful for all these people!
As for what I've learned about myself...well, I don't think I've got time or room for everything so I'll just list a few. The first is patience. Nothing gets done quickly in Italy. Nothing. Really. Nothing! If you're going to live here you may just as well learn to cool your heels! Not that I was an impatient person before but I've learned a whole new definition of it here!
Next, dependence. I have always been a very independent person, so much so that it's sometimes been a prideful thing. I definitely like to do things for myself. Here, I don't have a choice other than to be dependent. Only having one car means I either rely on my husband or others to take me where I need to go, run errands for me or wait until I can get the car so I can go somewhere. For the most part I'm stranded. Not a problem as I have learned to keep very busy at home. I have also learned to savor my solitude and I love having time to paint!
And finally...humility. Maybe it comes from being very independent but I really don't like appearing foolish. I don't know anyone who does, really. Living here or anyplace where the language and culture differ from your own you are going to feel foolish at times. There is no way around it. Some of it may be self-imposed because it's very easy to feel conspicuous when you know very little culture and language. Some of it is not knowing how to do something or say something correctly. We've been embarrassed more than once but we also are much more empathetic towards people who don't quite fit in. It kind of teaches you to look for people who need help.
So when I receive comments from people about how blessed my life is I tend to look at it a little differently than they may mean it. I hope that when people make those comments, they can see more than just the surface. I know I'm not done learning yet and that's both exciting and a little frightening. There are so many things I never expected from this experience and these lessons are just part of it. But I know that whatever else comes my way, good or bad, God is God and he will work things out for my good. And that's the ultimate blessing!