Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Last day of January, Last Day before Rome

Real quick because I've got to hike back to the hotel for dinner, and with a pulled right glute, that's not exactly easy! (stairs all day every day, and then an unlucky almost-trip this morning on my run did it in) You can tell we're getting real comfortable with eachother on this trip, when I was limping and someone asked why and I answered "pulled gluteous maximus" and this individual was like "does that mean your bum?" LOL

Hopefully I'll be able to compose a better post tomorrow: we have a long bus ride to Rome tomorrow (we're near Naples now), so that should give me good post-card writin' time. Hehehe...between writing the last paper I have due.

Sorrento is beautiful, with lemon & orange trees everywhere. You can just pick them! While Assisi's still holds its place as my favorite, I would absolutely NOT mind coming back to the Amalfi coast (where we are) during the summer some day!  We can see Mt. Vesuvius accross the water, and the water itself is SO blue and clear.  A lot of people in our group went to the Island of Capri yesterday, and I think I'd like to come back in the early summer and visit there. Pompei & Herculaneum are a history fan like me's dream!  We walked in 2000 year old streets-- How cool is that!?? It's really sobering, too: those people had absolutely no idea they were about to die. There are bread loaves in ovens, political ads on the walls, children playing together...just another day in the life of a very modern, very ingenious, very wealthy, very SINFUL town. It reminds me a lot of the Flood, or Sodom & Gommorah. Or us. Just living life, and suddenly Eternity crashes in, and Time is up. I am so thankful that Eternity has already intruded on my life, and that I welcome it!!

Our hotel (the Michaelangelo) is really really nice, once again. They take care of me with gluten free goodies! There's a grand piano downstairs, where I like to doodle around when Allan isn't, and play iGrace songs. Yesterday I figured out "Jesus, Lord of Life and Glory," and that made me quite happy. =D

It's so wonderful to hear from those of you who have commented or emailed, to hear that you are praying for me! I know that I am being strengthened and blessed through them! This trip is FULL of opportunities to testify of Christ, to serve in His name, and to learn to die to myself. Since last Saturday, there's been a lot more fellowship for me, too, which is a HUGE blessing! Sat. night all us RUFers (Tierney, Carolyn-- the other C. Thompson =D-- Allan, RJ & I) prayed together for RUF and especially the Salters and Taylor, our intern. It was hard, because RUF's going through hard things, but it was so good to SHARE the burden, and to pray together. That night my Spoleto-roommate, Johanna & I were up late laughing and talking, about everything from the problem of evil to the sovereignty of God to marriage as a matrix for Christian hedonism to boys and back again! Sunday Tierney & I split an iPod & listened to a Piper sermon...Liz & I talked for over an hour about God's grace in our lives, and the Doctrines of Grace... There's been more & more as we get to know one another. But I've also been dismayed to notice a hardening of my heart as familiarity breeds at least annoyance if not contempt. It's easy to have holy, "thankful" thoughts as you watch the Amalfi coast unwind...and then... somebody takes your seat, and what then?

Oh wow, I've got to run to dinner. It took so much to get here, to find this place, and then to configure the IP address so I could access their wireless...the guy didn' know a think about Macs, so I am quite proud of myself. =D

Wow my blood sugar's low-- the room keeps spinning. Can't get into this eat-at-7 thing.

Keep praying for me!! You are all conduits of grace to me, and I am so thankful!
Ciao for now,

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hotel of the Grand Duke

Ciao di Spoleto, in Umbrato, Italy!

I refuse to believe in global warming when I am only now, after half an hour of typing, regaining feeling in my fingres. An undershirt, two long sleeve tee-shirts, a polartec vest, a sweater, scarf and polarfleece jacket are NOT signs that the earth is in danger of overheating, in my mind. Oh, and there were leggings, cords, wool socks, a baseball cap (Furman Paladins of couse), and earwarmer headband, too. :) My friends, it is winter in Spoleto.

I can't write too long, as this is the free (yay!) computer in the hotel lobby, and my group will return from their vinyard tour any minute now (having grown up in front of a vinyard, I thought I'd save my 10 euros). I couldn't even do my usual write-up-save-to-jump-drive, because this elegant machine only accomodates floppies and CDs. I brought neither. I will say, though, that my favorite spot in Italy (so far, of course), is Asissi. I can't wait to post pictures and text that may come CLOSE to conveying it. If you can go anywhere, go there!

I've liked the small towns best: Pisa, Ravenna, Padua, Asissi, Siena and now Spoleto, rather than the larger cities (Florence and Venice). Not that the towns aren't full of beauty, culture, and history! They are! I think I just love the scholasticism tangible in university towns, epecially ancient ones (aka Pisa & Padua). I feel I can grasp little towns better, they aren't so overwhelming. The countrystide is way too beautful to miss, too. That's what sets small towns apart from the cities: the backdrop. Ravenna I loved because I'm a fan of ANCIENT history over more recent: give me Byzantine over Baroque anyday.

All right, I think I've pushed my luck here long enough. Please keep praying for me.

--Edit: from email
I'm getting some opportunities for fellowship (and trying to make them when they aren't there), as well as TONS of opportunities to share the Gospel. Please KEEP praying for me! I struggle a ton with fear for man--with wanting people here to like me, and just being eaten up when I think they might not. But then on the other hand, I also really want to bear witness to Christ, and sometimes that means offending people, not on purpose, but just because their consciences bug them, you know? But then again I know that the primary way to testify of Christ's power to CHANGE a person (aka selfish me) is to be a servant... so...basically (sorry if this makes no sense), would you pray that I will genuinely LOVE people here?

Thank You Lord, for slow computers...

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for computers
for the ones that are so slow they stretch every fiber of my being into patience
for the ones that remind me of how impatient I am, and in need of a Savior
for the ones that open my eyes to yet another blessing I tend to take for granted
for the ones that are unepectedly free, and available for use!
for the ability to commnicate across miles and miles,
for friends with whom to communicate, and though whom You encourage me, and remind me
''hold on!''
for a mind to understand, and love to want to transmit,
and for the very words themselves: without them, there would be no speaking at all.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hotel Life in Florence, the inside scoop

Mine & Caye's room (I'm the one on the right, can you tell?)

Heated towel racks-- the key to drying clothes swiftly!

Firenze in Photos

My journal (proof of my presence) in "il Duomo" (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiori), Florence's main cathedral.

Some of our group-- Kira, David (mohawk), Markee (blonde), Selah (looking away), Will DuVal (back steps), and Davis (mouth full)-- on the steps of The Duomo

Pics from Ravenna, City of Mosaics

Daisies on the Mosoleum of Galla Placidia, Empress of Rome and a pious woman. Daisies stood for eternal life back then. I knew there was a reason they were my favorite!

From the Basilica di San Vitale-- Jesus is depicted looking quite the Greek hero! He's supposed to resemble Apollo- young, strong, and as our tour guide said, "The Winner!"

My favorite part of the mosaic at San Apollinare en Classe... Byzantine art-- I LOVE IT! (there are 99 stars, 3 x 33-- for the Trinity, and the parable of the Lost Sheep)

Promised Pictures, from Padua & Ravenna

Clay looking victorious because we deciphered the Latin Inscription successfully! (We took another one of him looking confused...because we were stumped for quite a while)

A church not on our tour, into which Clay, Liz & I ventured (Padua)
Me looking studious in front of the University of Padua
After a long, cold day of touring Padua, Markee (my Ravenna-roomie) and I unwound with a LOVELY snack of melted chocolate (I mean, we HAD to eat it then) and Tuscan wine... now THAT's a 4-o'clock snack!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Di Firenze, City of the Medicis

Happy Birthday, Daddy! :D

I’m feeling rather victorious after getting through every single room in the Ufizzi Galleries…though I will admit that some of the paintings are a blur. My newfound friend Clay & I were the last students to get through the museum—it only took us 5 hours! It’s beginning to be a pattern: Clay & I, Carolyn & RJ & the profs are always the cabooses at these art galleries. I really liked some of the paintings—I took copious notes (also becoming a pattern), but I won’t go into them now. My favorite painting was perhaps “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510, from Florence)—he’s the same guy who did “Birth of Venus.” I loved this painting mostly because of a character in George MacDonald’s The Lost Princess. The main character meets a magical Flower-Child, eternally young while wise and mature, whose flowers take root where ever she throws them. Since my dad read me that story as a little girl, I wanted to be that girl, and on seeing Botticelli’s rendition of Spring, I exclaimed “There she is!” I really do wonder if MacDonald had this painting in mind when he wrote that part of the book. I thought something similar when I saw Giambologna’s bronze “Bacchus.” I wrote in my notes: “Here is the wild man CS Lewis knew, the fine-featured boyish bringer of revelry, pouring wine on our heads.” (read Prince Caspian to catch that reference) Walking among these statues of gods, kings, saints and legends, I feel a bit closer to the realm of those masters of fantasy and lore—Tolkien, MacDonald, Lewis and Sayers. They were steeped in Classical myths and the history of the West, and out of those stories built their own. I’m writing down all sorts of topics I want to study now!! J I’m learning so much… among them what I have yet to learn!

Florence is beautiful. I’m so glad we have 9 days here; there’s so much to take in! We have 3 free days (Sat-Mon), and instead of going away like many of my compatriots, I think I’ll have plenty to do here! One day to rest and catch up on journals, letters, papers, and postcards; one to revisit some of the sites I was too brain-dead to appreciate; one to hike up into the “soul-stirring countryside” that surrounds the city, and voila! The bus ride through Tuscany from Ravenna was beautiful, vineyards, olive-groves, villas, and Romanesque bridges tucked away in the rolling hills… Yeah, I could totally come back and chill here a while. Speaking of vineyards, last night we had a wine-tasting, and I am about a step closer to becoming a wine-connoiseusse (feminine of “connoisseur”?). It’s going to be a tough choice deciding which to bring home!

I tried gelato! I was holding out for Rome, but Dr. Bibb had compassion on me, saying “you have to try it in Florence—it’s the best here!), and handing me 5 euro. (and I thought he didn’t like me..) I tried the cinnamon flavor, and can testify that it was well-worth savoring!

I haven’t talked much about Ravenna! My time is short but I have to mention the mosaic capital of the world! The churches there are among the oldest we’ve visited—the Basilica di San Apollinare is maybe my favorite church we’ve seen yet. It and the Basilica di San Vitale have amazing Byzantine mosaics. By amazing I mean literally breathtaking. There isn’t anywhere else on earth that has the intense blue and green of Ravenna mosaics. The Mausoleum of the Empress Galla Placidia has really cool mosaics, too. Check them out online! One thing I loved about these is the symbolism that would have shouted volumes to the 6th century worshippers, proclaiming the Truths of the Trinity, of salvation, of Victory… wow!

I’m still getting along well with people here. My roommate in Florence (“Firenze” as they call it here) is Caye, and she’s a sweetheart, too. David’s given me a nickname which he seems intent on making stick “Wikki-tina” because he says I’m a walking encyclopedia. Of course, he’s the king of trivia, especially when it comes to Australia or movies, so I don’t think he really should be talking. Seriously, I am thrilled to be a part of this group—everyone’s very friendly, and we all have our own spins on things. For the past two nights, Elizabeth (Crockett—she suffered through Religion 11 with me last Winter), Weston (the most Italian-looking of our group), and Will Hall & I have ended up together at dinner, and have spent the meal asking riddles to each other. If y’all have any good ones, feel free to pass them on. Last night RJ & Carolyn joined us, making our answers rather hilarious.

Wow, it’s felt amazing to lie/sit on my bed! Hopefully soon, I’ll be able to take my handy-dandy USB jump drive to the Internet Café by the Duomo, and upload this to my blog/email list. You should have seen the extensive jimmy I had to set up to charge this thing, quite a conglomoration of plug adaptors, voltage converters, and extension cords—talk about a fire hazard! All right, time for class. Tonight is part 2 of presentations on aspects of rhetoric. Then some dinner, then coffee with my Aunt LM & Uncle Lance!! They live in New York City, and I haven’t seen them in almost 2 years. So we figured we’d go halfway around the world to meet up…

Well, as usual there’s much much more I could say. I’m sure I’m leaving out SO many important things, but…time is as usual short. CS Lewis is so right in saying that we aren’t meant to live in time—we never feel at home in it! We’re always being surprised at its passage! We were made for more than struggle! We are made for glory! May I live that out here! Please keep me in your prayers! I need them a lot.

Trying not to seek “to rule and conquer sin, but to cleave to the One who will do all for me,” (The Valley of Vision)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

can't take a bad picture of Venice!

From Ravenna

well, I'd just gotten situated for bed, when I remembered that Dr. O'Rourke found a free wireless connection late last night, so I bolted upright and went through the hotel in my PJs (don't worry they're decent) looking for it, only to find it right in my room! My computer's about to die, though, and the plugs here don't like my adaptor, so this is ultra-short. I'm now in Ravenna, and this has been the most historically-rich/information-saturated day I think of my life. We went to 3 churches, a masoleum, a museum, and a wonderful hot chocolate shop...I mean it was like liquid mousse! Anyway, check out the mosaics of S. Apollinare di Classe-- they are amazing. Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire under Justinian, and it's still the mosaic capital of the world. Amazing.

God's teaching me so much, and I'm loving Europe. I forgot how much I love this place!
Got to go to bed...tomorrow we go to mass (optional), and then a group of us are congregating to listen to a sermon, then on we go to Florence for 9 days!! WOOHOO!

Pray for me! I need it!

Friday, January 12, 2007

From ITATLY!!!

Five days into our adventure, we are leaving behind Venice, with all her mists and canals, her tight alleys that are really streets, her red brick, her houses held together with metal bars (basically staples) because of the shifting sand that is her foundation, and Padua (or as the Italians say Padova), with her ancient university and cobblestone streets, where we spent the day, and are headed to Ravenna. I know that was a long beginning sentence, but …how do you express the sights and sounds of another continent? A little running on is bound to happen.

Venice is…beautiful. Surely there isn’t any city like it anywhere else on Earth. If anything, it reminds me a little of New Orleans, just because the similar environment (lots and lots of water) has induced certain shared characteristics. We arrived Monday in Marco Polo airport at 9 am local time—to our cramped bodies, it felt like 3 am. A bus, a walk, a ferry later, we found ourselves walking in Venice! There are no cars in the city, nor bikes—either foot, or boat to get you around. I can’t capture the beauty that is everywhere here—culture, history, care…recorded bits of times when craftsmanship was valued. We’ve visited churches, synagogues, museums, and today, Italy’s second oldest university, the University of Padua, where Galileo Galilei was Professor of Mathematics for 18 years. Honestly, though, I know I’m enriched just walking down these streets, to be surrounded by such beauty, such history. Looking back on my childhood, I realize again what an impact those 3 years in Europe had on me. One could scarcely grow up in such an environment, surrounded by such beauty, without being changed!

I definitely feel like I’m “along for the ride” here. I don’t really know what we’re doing, where we’re going, or what the history of each place is. For once, I can’t speak the language! (Today I braved the Padua Post Office, and felt completely helpless—it’s hard to even get in the correct line if all the signs and instructions are in Italian!). Most people do speak English, or we can get by with a Patois of French and Spanish, and good ol’ sign language. I’m picking up on more and more of the language, though. Kyle’s Christmas gift, a phrase book, is proving extremely valuable, and the source of entertainment at dinner. (The illustrations for the pickup lines in there are downright hysterical!)

Last night, Jen (my roommate in Venice) and I got left behind for dinner—no one told us we were leaving 15 minutes earlier than set time. But we made it through Venice and found our dinner place just fine on our own—we’ve eaten dinner every night at the same restaurant, the “Veneziano Anonimo” (the Anonymous Venician). The food is quite a different affair than in the States. We begin with an antipasta, eat through a pasta dish, a salad (no dressing—only oil, vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper, or parmesan), then a meat & vegetable plate (so far, we’ve had veal, salmon, swordfish, and chicken), before arriving at dessert. I haven’t actually gotten to taste any of the desserts, as they’re all full of The Poison (aka gluten), but from what my compatriots tell me, they’re drier and less sweet than our desserts. I was so excited when, on the little island of Burano, I was treated to my first Italian pasta! The restaurant where we ate is top-notch—the best fish I’ve ever tasted—the chef was so cute and kind. He came out when he was told I couldn’t eat gluten, bringing with him a package of gluten free pasta! “Is good?” I nodded emphatically, almost too excited to talk. He made me a sumptious dish of pasta with zucchini and shrimp, then I was served an entire fish all to myself, cooked separately from the others, and grilled instead of fried. Several of my new friends told me it made their day that I got to eat pasta in Italy—wasn’t that kind?

God is teaching me so much about my own heart, and how I fear man. I’m finally reading through When People Are Big & God is Small, and that doesn’t hurt any. But I’ve been struck by how readily I categorize people! God’s Word and Spirit are convicting me about that, and it saddens me as I realize how often I “need” (use) people instead of loving them. please pray for me about that, if you think about it. I’m being befriended by a lot of people here. We eat with different people at our table each night, and there aren’t any clique divisions, which is wonderful. I’d never met some of these people before this trip! There’s my roommate Jen, who is so innocent and sweet that it makes you smile, or Amanda, who’s finishing Furman in 3 years and is already accepted in medical school, or Clay, who as the only other Latin-reader is my inscription-decoding buddy, Carolyn & Tierney, whom I know from RUF, and who were so intrigued by comments I’d made about Ryan that last night they made me tell the whole story of how we met & started dating (and oh it was SOOO hard to get me to talk about that subject…HAH ☺), or David, the Aussie soccer player who gets these fits of laughter right in the middle of serious portions of our tours, and about 25 others whom I’m being blessed and stretched to get to know. Pray that I will really love them, and my professors—not love their good opinion of me. Please also pray for my testimony here. One of my new year’s resolves is to daily see Jesus, and it’s only as I see Him that others will be able to see Him in me. I don’t want to be the obnoxious Christian, but I also don’t want to care more about being “nice” or smart than I do about loving Jesus publicly, before the very ones who need Him, whose worship He deserves!

All right, the bus is dark and my eyes are starting to smart from staring at the back-lit screen, so I’m going to close the screen and focus on the Andrew Peterson in my headset right now. “All shall be well, yay all shall be well—the Word of God shall never fail, and all manner of all things shall be well. There’s a Light in the darkness; there’s an end to the night.”

There is going to be a day when every one on this trip will bow before the Name of Jesus, and there will come a complete and total end to the darkness that hovers over our planet, our world. May that begin to happen now!

Caught up in the bosom of the Savior even in Italy,

Friday, January 05, 2007


Anna's response to the portion of Ryan's blog-post Mom read aloud to her:

"Ryan's blog...a bulimic's new best friend."

gotta love sisters...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Coming Home to Pink Carnations

So tired... but so happy.

I did just that-- came home, to find pink carnations waiting for me by my bed. Not sure how they got there. Anna says they're from Ryan, though she "doesn't know what she can say." Hmmm. He did promise me flowers when we had to leave the others--- I mean the bouquet I found waiting in Courtney's room for me in Canton. (Courtney's Ryan's little sister, and she lent me her room while she was in Virginia and I was visiting with Ryan's fam in Georgia)

I haven't said much about the "us" in my life on this blog, have I? Sure, there've been a couple pictures, mention of him here and there, but I haven't expressed much feeling, that's for sure. The main reason is that I know he reads this. "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." So, while there is little I love to discuss more than the dream that God is being pleased to make true-- MY LIFE!!-- I've kept the feelings closely in check, in front of him, and certainly in cyberspace.

But now I'm coming home to pink carnations, and somehow that captures in an image the past week. He told me that he loved me in the freezing cold, and I knew he wasn't stealing my heart-- he was asking for it. More, he was giving his first-- all in good time, and rightly ordered. I first began to "fall for him," as Ashlea can attest, when he asked for my permission to walk me to my car at each parting, back in June. He further won my respect (and in that my heart) when he asked my father's permission before he told me those 3 words I'd seen clearly to be true for the past 5 months: "I love you." Knowing he had every right to tell me made it a real gift, not borrowed or stolen... What a joy to be able to put in simple words the truth we've been praying towards and seeking to live out before one another: genuine, abiding love. Serving of one another, and affection. A choice and action first, now free to be a delicious emotion... love. Romance.

A week of the stuff real dreams are made of-- him calling me beautiful when I'm too sick to breathe without coughing, sweet reconciliation after silences in the car that aren't exactly comfortable, picking up the cards I threw at him when he beat me yet again at Speed, praying together every night, laughing uncontrollably just when we SHOULD be quiet, and my favorite: wanting so badly to be
near one another that we'd scrunch all our stuff into one side of the truck cab, meaning that I have to climb into the tiny middle seat, around the gear shift, from the driver's side...

I was planning on posting something like this even before I got home, and decided I'd do it right away when I read what he wrote on HIS blog. You may have already read his description, and if you haven't, you can read it now, so I won't repeat him, but I DO want to shout it from every mountain, even the virtual ones: I'M IN LOVE!!! =D

My friends, it's ok to laugh at me. I couldn't welcome laughter more.