Sunday, February 25, 2007

Gladness Loves Company!!

...they say misery loves company, but I think it's GOOD NEWS that begs to be told! So, here's mine:
I consider myself most to be congratulated because,...
in God's good timing, one Ryan Szrama-- more than every prayer I've prayed and dream I didn't dare ask for--
has asked
me to be his bride!!!(it SO doesn't seem real!)

And I said "yes!"


I read this (in Isaiah 61 & 65) the first morning I woke up feeling a ring on my left ring-finger, and it brought tears of amazed joy and thanksgiving to my eyes.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a [...] bride adorns herself with her jewels. [...] Behold, my servants shall eat, [...] shall drink, [...] shall rejoice, [...] shall sing for gladness of heart..."

God's goodness was so evident, so unexpected. I wasn't "supposed" to go to Louisville last summer. I was driven there by painful circumstances and plans that "fell through..." And all along, God was plotting this. Wow! Truly, any pain that came before is way outweighed by this-- to be engaged, not just to anyone, but to THIS man, whose love for me is more evident every day, and who knows me in & out. And those verses are about joy so much BIGGER than mine, too: they're about God leading people to know Him, which is the ultimate satisfaction and cause for joy! It made it all triply wonderful to realize my joy in Ryan is a legitimate reflection of, even part of, that Greater joy!!

Rejoice with me! Woohooo!!
--a very happy girl =D

A little more on time in Portland

Ryan & I flew out to Portland, Oregon last Thursday to "meet the fam"-- most notably his father, Robert & step-mother, Joanna. It was wonderful to see each other for 4 days straight after 7 weeks without, Oregon is beautiful (and somewhere I'd never been), and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Ryan's "other set" of parents.

The future Mr & Mrs Szrama, and the senior Mr & Mrs Szrama! (this was at a really pretty park in Portland, designed by the same guy who designed Central Park)

Now I know "where he gets" SOOOO much! Joanna and I exchanged many a look of "oh, he does that too?," and she teasingly asked if, after meeting Robert I wasn't afraid to say yes. Not at all! His parents were most welcoming, and it was wonderful to have them join in our joy! Right after The Event (which apparently everyone but me knew to expect. =D), they threw us a "Congratulations!" dinner in celebration, at a Lebanese restaurant called 'Ya Hala.' There I got to meet Ryan's step-brother Willie & his wife Iala (from Cuba!), his step-sister Jenny & her husband and their adorable bundle-of- energy daughter, Shyanna . We had a literal feast a la Lebanon, complete with skewers of lamb, beef, chicken and tuna, gluten-free falafel and a chocolate mousse on the house "for the happy couple."

All throughout our trip, Ryan & I were both rather amazed at (and thankful for!) all the people who shared our joy without even really knowing us. Like the owners of Ya Hala who made the falafel without wheat just to make sure I could eat some, or Rabbi Warren who had us stand and be congratulated by the congregation and addressed us directly, or even Ryan's parents were so kind ...I mean I guess they had to be nice for Ryan, but I felt absolutely embraced, and they'd never met me before! One really special moment was when Robert & Joanna's congregation sang a traditional Jewish prayer, the Shehecheyanu, for us-- they are Messianic Jews, and we were able to go worship with them on Saturday morning. The Shehecheyanu goes like this: Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higi'anu laz'man hazeh. Amein. In English: "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign king of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season. Amen." Apparantly it is sung at the start of something new-- like the first day of a feast, or... an engagement. =D

We celebrated the close of Shabbat (Havdalah) with Ryan's can read about it to sort of understand the context you want, but at one point you pass a lit Havdalah candle around the table, and you look at the contrast of light and shadow the flame makes against your hand. It represents the contrasts, between Shabbat and workdays, between holy and profane, (light-dark) and Ryan's father told us to think about things God had taught us (changed in us) or places He'd brought about change in our lives during the past week. It was a good call to stop and think. My favorite part was Ryan's grabbing of my left hand as I passed him the candle and his holding my ringed finger up to the light so that the stones sparkled. That certainly was a change-- it wasn't there before!! =D We closed Shabbat with Vin Santo, a very sweet dessert wine which I brought from Florence, and that was quite enjoyable, too.

Ok, I'll put up a post with the proposal story later...I'm needin' to get on a beauty-sleep schedule! I also haven't been able to take a really good picture of the ring yet, but it's absolutely perfect for was the proposal. My fiance (heheh I love saying that) did good!! I'll keep trying and will post more words and pictures later!

Oh, and no date set for wedding yet...thinking end of this summer...will let y'all know!

--the very happy future Christina Maria Ruiz Szrama (how's that for an ethnically confused name?)

In Pictures (for more, click here):

The feast table-- that's Robert, Joanna, Shyanna & Jenny. hehehe, wow-- these are my future in-laws!! Yay!

From other side of table: back of Aaron's head, Willy (in the red), Iala, Me, Ryan

Joanna & Shyanna-- It was under her instructions that I took this shot. =D

Ryan, me, Shyanaa & Iala after dinner.

We thought we may as well get a plane pic, since we spent a good deal of time together on them these past couple days. I was very sad to have to leave him, right after this picture was taken. :( [hey can you see the ring?]=D

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It Never Seems Too Long...

Well, folks, I'm back in the States, and somewhat back in the appropriate time zone. I'm still waking up at 6:30 am and in a zombie-like state most of the day, but is that so unusual? =D I've enjoyed not having to jump out of bed upon waking to get in the shower, ready to go, and down to breakfast with 30 other people. Though I do miss the cappucinos every morning, the friends I made, and the sights & sounds of Italy, I'm quite content to have taken a respite from my world-traveling.

It's been wonderful to kick around in PJs until noon, wonderful to go to Starbucks with my little sis, wonderful to spend hours just talking to my mom, wonderful to have Anna bug me about whether or not I can identify her classical piano pieces, wonderful to go to church and get wrapped up in hugs and hear just how many people were praying for me!! Last night I spent 5 hours at "The Powell Estates" [aka Chris & Val, my best girlfriend's, house] making cheesy slideshows out of my pictures, making Val laugh by imitating both Guiseppe (our Rome tour guide) and Homestar, getting caught up on them and being so encouraged by all God's doing in/through them in and through our church. And Hannah's walking and talking and is way too big way too fast. I only left for 2 months, and she's all grown up on me now-- and doesn't remember "Aunt Christina." :( (by the end of the night she did come over and climb on my lap and let me hold her, though).

Most wonderful of all, though, was the hug that snatched me up at the Atlanta airport, was seeing the face I missed most all up & down the Italian peninsula: Ryan drove 7 hours to Atlanta from Louisville to pick me up, and then drove me the 2 hours to Greenville, and on Sunday, 7 hours back to Louisville. He told me he might be able to come get me last Sunday, and any concentration I might have had on Monday was a lost cause, lol. I was one happy girl when he called Monday night and said it was a go, AND I got a 6-page, handwritten letter from said studly individual...

I discovered a lot about myself on this was that the old never- homesick- Christina is gone forever. I enjoyed Italy, I really did!-- but I couldn't have stayed another week-- missing Ryan so hard just made it less than worth it. At least that's how it felt at the time. All through the 12 hour flight excitement kept me from being able to properly eat, and all of us awaiting greetings from significant others (most notably Will DuVal, Katie, Ivey & Johanna) were pretty much beaming from the moment we saw the sun rise over the Roman sky-- "today's the day!" Polly (Will's girlfriend) said her waiting at the airport felt "like the first date all over again." I think we all concur.

I said the separation seemed nearly unbearably hard by the end of the 7 weeks apart, but it seemed nothing more than a passing dream, when I found myself in his arms. "I can't believe you're here-- I can't believe you're not just a voice on the phone..." It really seemed like I never left, and when I told him so, he asked where the heck I'd been for the past 2 months then. "I haven't been gone 2 months! More like...a week." His retort made me laugh: "Then it was the longest week of my life!"

22 hours together after 7 weeks apart could seem quite less than ideal, but it was an unexpected treat, and I am NOT complaining! I will say that I am counting down the days (now two) 'til I get to be with him again, and trusting that once again, the wait won't seem "too long" when I'm back by his side.

I've got more pictures d'Italia to post, now that I have a reliable internet connection and abounding time in which to upload pics (free, high-speed internet must NOT be taken for granted!). And after Ryan & I get back from our trip to Oregon, I'll have more! I hear it's one of the most beautiful areas of the country, one I've never visited. So yippee!

Happy to be home, and so thankful I have a home in which to feel "at home,"

(pics, from top down: Roman sunrise as we rode to the airport, Me with Will DuVal, my plane-buddy both there & back, and the Alps from my window as we flew over Europe)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Goofin' Around Rome...

Sometimes when the days get long, you just got to cut up a little...

Blue Ice Gelato is just THAT GOOD

(my cousin Adriana recommended it, and she didn't lead us wrong! at least, so I hear. It isn't gluten-free, so I didn't get to partake. But I got a kick out of THEM! =D)

Sacrificing RJ at the Ara Pacis...the cost of peace, people...

[the Altar of Peace Caesar Augustus built to commemorate & thank the gods for his victories in Gaul & Hispania (France & Spain)]

Me goin' tete-a-tete with ol' Julius...

As if Romulus (founder of Rome) & Remus weren't scary enough... you would'v been frightened by the She-Wolf, too.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

My #1 Geek

I'm in love with an Alpha Geek!! I told him he'd been my 'Geek of the Month' for 7 months running now! =D

Friday, February 16, 2007

Roma—the Eternal City

…cappuccino, leather, baking pizza, European cologne, intermixed with the less appealing acrid scents of cigars or cigarettes, diesel, and city sewage: these are the smells d’Italia, of Rome. The high-pitched whine of scooters, the lower rumble of public (or tourist) buses, the stacatto hundreds of feet, and a babble of Spanish, French, German, English, and Italian form the street music; a pedestrian soundtrack, you could say (I’m always thrilled when literal music fills the streets—accordion, saxophone, or violin—the latter always playing Vivaldi – but most often, the music in restaurants, buses, and stores is old American pop. I’ve heard more Phil Collins, Jackson 5, and Justin Timberlake here than I think anywhere else!). I’ve grown quite courageous in my wanderings, having learned that despite their honking impatience with each other, Italian drivers are remarkably accommodating to pedestrians. Look both ways, look determined, and step out, that’s my motto. So far, no ill consequences! However, both my well-traveled Tia (Virginia) and our Ravenna tour guide warned “watch out for scooters!” So we do.

Today, our last free day, was absolutely PERFECT for roaming the city: cloudless blue sky, hint of a breeze, and so warm that I had no need of a jacket. For a while I walked around with a group of girls; we walked from our hotel down Via Pinciana into the Walls of the City. Feeling pretty confident, we wondered why we don't walk around Greenville much, and decided that we're going to walk downtown from campus one day when we get back. Distance wise, it's not any further at ALL than what we do every day here! I split off from the grou eventually and went on my own, to find my namesake street-- Via Maria Christina, past the Piazza Populo. Then I headed outside the walls again, and crossed the Tiber. I got my last gelato (only 5th since I came)-- banana, bacio (an Italian hazelnut chocolate that's SOOO good!) and nocciola (hazelnut). They were out of tiramisu, waaah! Anyway, it was a wonderful lunch—Ryan asked me what’s so special about Italian gelato, versus, say Coldstone Creamery. It’s made with whole milk that’s pasteurized differently, for one (so’s their cappuccinos, yoghurt, and hot chocolate), so it’s creamier…then there’s the all-natural ingredients…they actually taste JUST like whatever flavor you ordered…and it’s got a lower melting point. Yummm.

Well, Clay needs my expertise in getting wine & stuff for his fam, so I’d better go. Please be in prayer for my dad, who is in surgery as I type. It’s his eyes again. He wants us to pray for his eyesight to be restored, and for witnessing boldness during & after it! Poor man…this is to remove scar tissue from the past 4 surgeries!

Pray for me, too. There are at least three conversations I’d like to finish with people here, about the Sovereignty of God, His holiness/our need for a Savior, and about Jesus being the only Way…about us NEEDING a way to God. I’ve been reading through Isaiah, Psalms & Acts, and have been sweetly struck with a Bigger view of God. The cure for depression, self-pity and fear is to think about Him! I love this hymn, and listen to it often. May it encourage you, too!

“Survey the beauties of His Face
And on His glories dwell—
Think on the wonders of His grace,
And all His triumphs tell”

In that sweet, triumphant grace,

--Me with my Journal-- Sina gave it to me for Christmas, and it's lasted EXACTLY this trip!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Precariously Perched

My hand's starting to cramp from how I'm having to balance-- both myself on the verfy edge of Davis' bed, and the laptop in one hand, so I can get a very faint mysterious "default" wireless signal. Typing's really slow, so I'm just downloading everything and will answer emails offline, type up a blog post, and then do the old cut-and-paste...

Pics are easy to upload, though. Today was a wonderful, Daisy-Day...I'll let the pictures explain. Some of these are older-- I'm getting tired of pictures of dead peoples' tombs, so here are some from our group:

Kira, our official photographer, and my roommate here in Roma =D

Dr. O'Rourke, our Rhetoric prof (who reminds me of Don Donell)

Today I had a LOVELY day, making daisy crowns under a wind-swept-clear blue Roman sky, my mind quite away from the Ostian ruins, and quite joyful in it. =D

Carolyn ("Caro" "the other C-Thompson"), my little sis for the trip, and my daisy-chain buddy. We had sweet fellowship, great talks, and closed the day listening to Nickel Creek & Florez on the bus ride home.

I traded a daisy chain-crown for a non-ball-point pen from Will. He liked it =D

(ps the trade was HIS idea)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Speedy Entry from Rome

Well... I answered several other emails and googled gluten free stuff and read emails and deleted all my spam and now i'm out of time! I like Rome better than I thought I would for sure! Can't hate anything with this much ancient history!

Fellowship's been roommate in Rome is a fellow Singer, Kira, and we have great times together. We're like middle schoolers at a sleepover some nights. We've had really good talks, too. Pray that I can encourage her in Christ!

God's being very faithful to me...and can I just say that I have the sweetest boyfriend in the world? How is it that he can be so PRESENT when he's not even here? Seriously, he's in just about every memory...because I guess I just bring him along. =D SUCH A blessing...and I smile way too big whenever I think about him or tell anyone about him. God gets lots of glory for one Ryan Szrama!

I'm off to class!
More later

--Picture Edit:--

Me hugging the Colosseum...

Eeirily resemblant...

Newby & Maryann Gladiating to the Death

David ("Prentiss") & I on top of Palatine Hill-- the birthplace of Rome