Saturday, December 17, 2016

10 Years Ago... Our Italian Adventure Began

View of Vicenza, Italy from Monte Berico

Today marks exactly 10 years since Arielle, Rachel, and I boarded the first airplane on our journey to join Sean in Vicenza, Italy.  It was the girls' first flight.  All of us were giddy with excitement.  I mean seriously... Italy?  Italian food... beautiful scenery... fertile soil to grow something, anything... learning Italian... jet-setting through Europe.  At least, those were the things I was thinking about.  The girls were most excited about the plane ride.  

At our gate at BWI, waiting to board our plane

Arielle, age 5, was my little trooper, pulling luggage while carrying her own backpack.  Rachel, though only 2, did me the greatest service she could have ever done -- she did not pee in her seats when she fell asleep during the flights.  I can't tell you how anxious I was about this.  I watched that child like a hawk when she went to sleep, like I would see some sign before the deed was done.  

On the plane and Rachel is asleep.  Yes, I watched her to make sure there were no accidents in the seat!  Until I fell asleep, of course.  :-)

We flew from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to O'Hare (Chicago) to Heathrow (London).  After a 6 hour layover, we flew our last leg to Vicenza.  

I must note that the only thing I remember from that last flight was the flight attendant beginning the seat belt demonstration.  The next thing I remember was the announcement to tell us we were approaching Vicenza.  The same flight attendant kindly watched me as I awoke in a sleepy haze, smiled, and remarked in her British accent, "You must be at the end of a long journey."  Little did she know that the journey was just beginning...

Sean and the girls on the playground behind our house the day after we arrived 

Overall, our stay in Italy was bittersweet for me.  It was mostly sweet in that we met some wonderful people, grew in the Lord, saw so many beautiful places, ate delicious food, and added our precious Josiah to our family.  The bitter part was not really Italy's fault... Italy just happened to be the backdrop of a life-altering health crisis.  We ended up leaving six months early, after two-and-a-half years.

I could post so many pictures of people and places and write chapters and chapters about our experiences, but I won't do that this time.  However, I will share photos of but a few of the wonderful people we met during our first six months in Italy:  

Erika (right) and her family had us over for Christmas dinner.  
They had  arrived in Italy only a few weeks earlier.

Ja'Net, me, April at Palladio Mall

Laura and Liam

The Davis Family when there were only three of them!

Sean and Terry in Genoa

Karol and I on our way to Venice

Pastor Drylie from Vicenza Baptist, the first church we attended

Here we are on our way to Venice and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

The Heck Family

It's hard to believe ten years have gone by already.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday that we were exploring downtown Vicenza.  Then at other times, it seems like it was a lifetime ago, a dream.  I am grateful to the Lord for sending us to Italy.  He taught us MANY, MANY (did I say, MANY?) lessons.  Our time there was truly once-in-a-lifetime.  In Christ, Talya

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why I Vote... or Don't Vote... the Way I Do

I did not vote in the last two presidential elections.  There, I said it.  I am not ashamed.  No need to blame me for the state of the country.  No need to attempt to convince me that I am obligated to vote because our ancestors fought for the right or I have a biblical responsibility.  I appreciate the right, am very conscious of it, and do not take voting lightly – that’s why I did not vote.

I want to make it clear that I am not “anti-voting” on its face.  I do not believe that anyone should haphazardly withdraw from the political process without any thought.  However, I am anti-irresponsible voting.  I am anti-uninformed voting.  I am anti-race-based voting.  I am anti-party-based voting.  As a Christian, I am anti-throw-Biblical-principles-to-the-wind voting.

I did not vote in the last two elections because I could not in good conscience vote for either candidate.  My criteria for choosing a candidate is very simple.   During any election season, I look to scripture, particularly Exodus 18, to guide my decision-making.  In chapter 18, Moses had been acting judge over all the people of Israel and was becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job.  His father-in-law Jethro counseled his weary son-in-law to appoint other men to judge the smaller matters, thus lightening Moses’ workload.  Jethro advised Moses of the kind of men he should seek out for the job:  “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” (Exodus 18:21)

I look for a candidate who professes faith in Christ and whose life, voting record, and platform support that profession.  I look at his stances on issues that I believe reflect an understanding of the character of God.  I am less concerned with who will put the most money in my pocket than who will uphold biblical principles concerning such issues as the sanctity of life.  I also expect the candidate’s faith to be important to him and that it should be apparent -- not a hidden aspect of his life.  If his positions are not based on faith in Christ, no matter how closely they mirror what I may believe to be biblical, I cannot trust that he will not change his mind on an issue with the blowing of the wind.  There is no sure foundation for what he believes.

I look for a trustworthy candidate.  I can only see so much of a candidate’s  private life, but what I am able to see should be marked by integrity.  Perfection?  No.  General integrity?  Yes.  In his public life, I look for consistency in standing for Biblical principles.  I would also expect him to deal honestly in his personal and professional business.  If he cannot be trusted in his daily affairs, how can he be trusted to run our country?

Finally, is he capable of the job?  Has he shown leadership abilities or does he seem to buckle under pressure?  Does he have knowledge of the issues he will be required to confront, or has he surrounded himself with trusted advisors to help with the learning curve?  Is he a biological male and identifies as such… yes, that’s where I must go in my specificity.  I would not support a woman, especially one who is charged with caring for a husband and children, in a presidential election.  I will leave it at that or this post will be much, much longer.

If I look at the field of candidates and find these qualities missing, I do not vote.

I do not vote for the “lesser of two evils”, as I hope to never knowingly vote for an “evil” be they lesser or not.

I do not see my vote as a vote against another candidate.   By that I mean, I do not think, “Well, I don’t really support either candidate A or candidate B, but I will go ahead and vote for B because I am really voting against A.”  Umm, no, you are casting your vote in SUPPORT of candidate B.  Votes are not counted as votes AGAINST a candidate but as votes FOR a candidate.

I am a conscience voter, not a strategic voter.  If I vote for a candidate, it is because I can do so with a clear conscience, whether they have a snowball’s chance to win or not.  If I vote, I try to vote in way that I believe would please the Lord according to the knowledge that I have at the time.  I do not look at the statistics and try to figure out how my vote for a candidate who has little chance of winning the nomination will affect the chances that an opposing candidate will achieve the nomination.  I no longer have the brain power for such mental gymnastics, nor do I have a desire for such.  If the Lord were to ask me about my voting record, I don’t think he’ll ask me why I didn’t vote for the winning candidate.  I think He would ask me if I voted for a candidate who upheld His principles.

Will I vote this election cycle?  Possibly.  Because we are now settled in our new state, with no moves on the horizon, I am more inclined to consider voting in the primary, as well as the local elections.  Honestly, I never paid the primaries much attention, and by the time the general election would roll around, the two candidates were not suitable, so I would decline to vote.  This time I may indeed vote in the primary.  I have until March 15th to figure it out.  However, as I look at the present delegate count, I have a feeling I won’t be voting in the general election.

I think this election season has brought many people to the point where they are truly considering not voting.  I say pray for those who do vote, pray for the candidates, pray for our country,  and press on.  Let no one shame you or guilt you into going against your conscience.  Let no one imply that you are not fulfilling your civic or biblical duty.  I say, “Poppycock!”  Romans 13:1 tells us that God appoints who He wants in authority and isn’t thwarted by anyone’s vote or lack thereof – “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” 

As believers, we must rest in the comfort that God is sovereign over all, including who will be our next president.  We must take comfort that whatever He accomplishes through this election will be for His purpose.  Let us be obedient in walking righteously before God and before all men, choosing that which is pleasing to God.  In Christ, Talya