Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Asking Why

When I was little and I heard something painful or disagreeable from one of my parents, the first word to come from my mouth was always, "WHY???" Now, whenever I experience a loss or trial or feel for someone close to me who experiences a loss or trial, I find the immediate question that comes from within my heart to the Lord is "Why?" This is not uncommon, nor is this response unique to me. Rather, it is a natural response from human beings who were originally created to worship and obey God in a perfect sanctuary where they could fully know their Creator. Death and loss were never part of the picture God created and thus not part of our original design. We were created for life and wholeness, not for death or pain.

In reading through the book of Job, I came across this verse that so clearly captures a time transcending question about why bad things happen.

"WHY is light given to one burdened with grief,
and life to those whose existence is bitter,
who wait for death,
but it does not come,
and search for it more than for hidden treasure,
who are filled with much joy
and are glad when they reach the grave?"
Job 3:20-22

This question sounds all too familiar from my own thoughts as well as the thoughts of those around me. Why would God allow a child to be born with a birth defect that will make their life miserable all their days? Why would God allow torment after torment to fall on hundreds of humans in captivity all around the world? Why would He allow natural disasters to separate loved ones from each other? Why would He allow the death of those who do not know Him?

Obviously, we could go through a big philosophical discussion on the problem of pain and evil in the world. We could talk about "gratuitous evil" and hash out the particulars of divine sovereignty and human free will. While the discussion would be interesting, I think something else could be more "helpful."

I heard a speaker at a conference I recently attended rightly explain that in the book of Job, God had the perfect opportunity to explain the problem of evil. The theme of the book would have flowed perfectly -- but he doesn't. Instead, He responds with chapters and chapters telling us about His character. This seems to tell us that He knows what we need the most in difficult, questioning times is not necessarily an explanation, but revelation. We need not answers, but presence.

Another interesting thought to consider is God's absolute sovereignty over Satan. Satan does not simply act within divine permission, but he actually is acting to fulfill God's good purposes! What he means for evil, God means for good. His knowledge and wisdom of each minute detail of every one million situations of every second far surpass our knowledge OR Satan's! Satan will attempt to hinder God's people but his attempts will only fulfill God's secure purposes to make His name great. Throughout scripture and history, Satan's attempt to crush the Church have only served to further it -- often more rapidly! His attempt to crush individuals who are clothed in Christ's righteousness only serves to give them patience and hope.

Sometimes I wonder even if we had the explanation of the problem of evil if we would still struggle. Often I think how amazing it would have been to have seen Jesus, witnessed his ministry first hand, eaten with him as the disciples did. Then I remember that though the disciples spend every hour of every day with him during his ministry, they too doubted. Judas was so filled with unbelief he was willing to betray him. Thirty pieces of silver are obviously of more worth when you don't believe Jesus is who He says He is. Thomas doubted. Peter betrayed Him THREE times! I don't think having the answers given directly to us or even empirically "knowing" what our eyes don't see will help us deal when family members tragically die, marriages fall apart, finances don't add up, and the future is an abyss of uncertainty. It is important for us to wrestle with these ideas rationally since, by definition, our faith is not "blind." However, during my time living in a new culture, I have learned that the things that sound good intellectually during sunny days often seem futile and shallow during the stormy ones. Both are important.

Thankfully, God has blessed us with His word by which we can know HIM. We can have revelation and presence while we wait for His return to restore all things and make our faith sight. The truths we know are that God is sovereign. His power is beyond comprehension yet his care is intimate. He is the creator and sustainer. His purposes will be accomplished.

I love this quote from Tozer:

“With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Homemade Cleaning Products

This website has lots of recipes for homemade cleaning products. I have really enjoyed doing this and have had great success!!

Between the recipes here and the other blog, I've gotten a good system down. I still have not been able to figure out what to do for laundry detergent, but I am hoping to purchase some soap nuts and have them shipped to my friend's APO address in England.

For now, the best combination I have found is peroxide and the all purpose cleaner. You cannot mix peroxide with the cleaner...unless you want instant wall extension in your house. But, I keep them in two different spray bottles, and spray one and then the other. This works AMAZINGLY well as a bleach substitute. I have a pair of white sheets that I love but that get dirty quickly. I spray one layer of the peroxide and then one layer of the all purpose cleaner before putting them in the washing machine. This also works perfectly for my floors. Living here with the windows open all the time takes quite a toll on my floors. I spray the floors with the peroxide and then go over it with a bucket of warm water with vinegar, baking soda, and some tea tree oil. You would not believe how much grime I get up.

The best part is it is cheap and natural. You don't even have packaging waste and it is totally convenient.

You gotta try it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You Guys Gotta Try This

Grilled Tomato, Brie and Basil Sandwich. A-Mazing. All of these ingredients are extremely cheap here and it made the BEST lunch. I used two slices of the bread I have been making, layered it with brie and tomato slices and then topped it with a bunch of fresh basil. I grilled it in my grill pan.

Sorry I don't have a picture. I ate it too fast. And, it didn't look to pretty because I was trying to flip it and talk on the phone in Italian. Cannot do those two things at the same time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bikes and Canaries

So, the teeny-bopper phrase, "I suck at life" actually perfectly captures my life here in Italy. I can sit and chat the night away at an aperitivo place, but don't ask me to do anything practical.

After my last fiasco at Esselunga, I haven't bothered to darken it's sliding doors until I realized last night that I had nothing to eat. Nothing. As in, I was "getting creative" 5 days ago and now my choices were some capers and dijon mustard. So, I grabbed my magical shopping bag, made a list, and hopped on my bike.

Normally, I force myself to carry a basket rather than using the cart so to ensure I don't get too much stuff to carry back on my bike. Today, however, I was feeling lazy and actually had a euro coin to unlock a cart. As I was filling my cart with everything I would need for incoming company and a big movie night at my house, I was thinking,
"How am I going to get this all on my bike?"
"...Nah, I'll figure that out later." replied my better half.
Got through the line and finally got all my bags out to my Camry...I mean bike.
"Ohhhhh crap." I said outloud to the gypsy lady begging for money beside me as I stared at the impossible task before me.
I then loaded the huge bag into the basket behind my bike and thankfully pulled out a bungee cord (cause I carry one with me at all times. Not really. I just randomly had it in a bag) and secured it.
"So redneck." I thought.
Then, I repeated the same for the front basket. By the time I stacked the toilet paper on top, I could seriously barely see over the top.
Then, I looked down and saw two more stuffed bags.
The gypsy lady stopped begging to enjoy her afternoon entertainment at this point, by the way.
I hopped on the bike and placed the two, full bags of groceries on either side of the handles.
"Okay, I can do this."
It took me a second to get on the bike and get the 75 lbs of groceries balanced...but I finally got it. And, by the way, you know you've done well if the ITALIANS are impressed by how you have packed something in!
Here I am, riding down a very posh Via Washington praying I don't die and remembering the good old days of Camries and Krogers.
Then, some Italian guy on a motorino slows down beside me and says something to me in Italian.
I thought, "Um, did he just ask me if I like canaries?? What in the world?"
Then I looked down and realized that I was wearing a bright yellow shirt and balancing a ridiculous circus on my bike of bright yellow Esselunga bags.
I looked back at him with a "you-are-such-an-jerk" look. Then, I told him I didn't speak italian and sped off.
Yea, we always dream of telling the cop "no hablo ingles" or whatever the spanish phrase is....and I finally got to do it in real life Italian style.
At least that was what I was amusing myself with while I was trying to keep my "ticked off self" contained.
Make it all the way back to my door. (I had to take the long way, by the way, because there was NO way I was going to let the bakery folks see me and tease me about it for weeks to come!)
Get off the bike and start to push it up the curb to my door. As I do, I hit the side of the curb and the entire thing falls over. I had tomatoes and zucchini rolling in the street and I was trying to convince myself that it was SOOOO funny and would make SUCH a good blogpost. Four hours later I am finally "un-ticked off" and able to write it out.

It is days such as this when a girl must make a pizza for herself with zucchini flowers and fresh mozzarella and remember that she has peace with God though Christ. As a result, her joy is unwavered by circumstances. Instead, those circumstances should draw her heart to reflecting on One who will never leave or forsake her. That is what life is all about...whether I suck at the practical things or not.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Six months here and I FINALLY feel I can express my sense of humor in Italian! I mean, it's not that good in English, but it has been killing me not being able to make people laugh...except AT me! I was having an aperitivo with some great new girlfiends when I realized this. It felt good. It felt good.

Still celebrating the small victories and still counting the red pants to keep me going....