Friday, March 29, 2013

Two Years Later!

This past week David and I had the opportunity to return to our mission in Italy for the first time since we arrived home two years ago.  One of our YSA converts was getting married to the young man who served as the president of the YSA when we were there.  We knew we had to go.

Because it had been two years, we didn't really know what kind of reception we would get.  We were overwhelmed at the love and warmth shown to us.  We surprised the bride and groom and many others by showing up for the festivities.  Cristina, (the bride whose baptism I spoke at while on the mission) burst into tears when she saw us and kept saying that she couldn't believe that we would come.  It was worth the transatlantic flight just to see that.

In Italy one must first get married civilly before going to the temple to be sealed.  This actually works well because so many of the members there come from part-member families so this allows them to have a traditional celebration that their relatives can attend. We traveled to Sicily where her family resides for a fabulous wedding.  It was held outdoors in a beautiful resort villa.  Cristina wisely chose to have many beautiful hymns and primary songs played through the speaker system for the prelude.  It really brought the Spirit to the occasion.  Her Bishop from Milan conducted and several of the ward members participated. It was an LDS service Sicilian style. All of her family who are not members of our Church filled one side of the congregation while ward members who had flown down for the wedding filled the other side.

When they realized we would be there they asked me to say the closing prayer and David to say a few words.  We had forgotten the kind of panic that can ensue when asked to do something like that in a second language with little notice!

The speakers that preceded David did such a great job preaching the Gospel in a way that was so appropriate for the occasion.  The Spirit was strong and one could see that her family was visibly touched. David had prepared a few words that he had shared with me before the service.  He did a beautiful job expressing those and then he went off script and blew us all away when he started to recite 2 Nephi 31:20 in Italian by heart. (This is the "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ scripture from the Book of Mormon.)  Now you have to know that since returning from the mission David has had a couple of scriptures that he has continued to know by heart in Italian.  Every morning since coming home I have asked him to recite to me this particular one because it is so incredibly beautiful when he does it in Italian.  Next time you see David you must ask him to do it for you and you will know what I mean :) As he began to recite it to the couple, Cristina, the bride began mouthing the words along with him. It was such a sweet moment.  I had never realized before what a great scripture this one is for a couple embarking on the new path ahead of them, beginning an eternal marriage.  The other scripture he had memorized had to do with the natural man being an enemy to God so I was glad he didn't choose that one :)

As I sat basking in the golden Italian light in a villa in Sicily and I looked on as my husband was expounding these powerful words to these precious people who have become so important to us I marveled at how if someone had shown me this scene five years ago I would never have dreamed that this would be a part of my life.
The bride's family was so kind to us. Afterwards, the father told us with tears in his eyes that when his daughter first joined our Church he was worried, but that now he could see she was in good hands. The power of the Spirit is such a force for healing.


After the service we ate and ate and danced and ate some more. (By the way, even David enjoyed the dancing)  The dinner seriously lasted over five hours.  Special music would play as the waiters wheeled out the many courses.  Sicily, being an island provided us with many fresh seafood dishes such as calamari.
Man making fresh mozzarella on the spot for us to eat with fresh tomatoes and basil.  Delizioso!

Our time in Italy was also blessed with two extraordinary experiences.  While in Sicily we were able to travel to the town where there is the  Church that our friend, Giovanni Criscione who we met on our mission, discovered 4 lines of my genealogy.  He had called ahead asking the Priest if it would be possible for me to see some of these records.  The priest said no and that it would require a special permit that could take months to obtain.  When we got to the Church the priest was not there and Giovanni had made friends with the sweet man who was the caretaker of the Church. The dear man had his friend stand watch while he allowed me to examine some of the hundreds of years old records.  I had no idea how breath-taking it is to see the name of an ancestor you are looking for in its original handwriting written hundreds of years earlier.

The second tender mercy came when we had been praying to be able to figure out how to make contact  with one of our precious YSAs who we worked so closely with and who was not going to Church anymore.  Our time was very tight and we didn't have any contact info to reach her.  While running a quick errand in downtown Milan on foot, David suggested we take a detour down a back side street as he thought it might be a short cut. Lo and behold, the next thing I heard him say was the name of this young woman.  She walked right passed us!  We hugged and cried and she shared with us an update on what had happened and why she wasn't at Church anymore. We were able to express our love to her and get her contact info.  She told us she would contact the couple whose wedding we had attended.  We marveled at what the chances were that we could have crossed paths at that place and moment.  It felt like we were on our mission once again.

It was a testimony to us of how mindful the Lord is of each of His children. After that we traveled to beautiful Switzerland to see the couple have their marriage sealed for time and all eternity.  To be in that Italian session which consisted of only those there for the sealing which would follow was truly a highlight of our lives.  As we looked around in that sacred setting seeing our dear Italian friends whom we have missed, it truly was a glimpse of what it must feel like when we will die and be reunited with so many loved ones.  Brigham Young said that we will find that we have so many more friends on the other side of the veil than we can imagine having here.
The wedding in Sicily 
It was sweet to be back in our mission but not on our mission. This time we were not there as missionaries but as friends. And we realized that we do not need the tag to continue to experience the sweet blessings of participating in this great work.
The happy couple after the sealing at the Temple in Switzerland
Reuniting with some of our precious YSAs
We had forgotten how wonderful the gelato is!  Brought tears to our eyes

With our friend, Giovanni in front of the Church where many of my family records are
Familiar image of Italian men playing cards in the square. Have you ever seen men so well dressed for a card game?
A building bombed out in WWII  in Sicily.  Amazing to still see the scars of that war on this country 
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."  2 Nephi 31:20
  "Pertanto voi dovete spingervi innanzi con costanza in Cristo, avendo un perfetto fulgore di   speranza e amore verso Dio e verso tutti gli uomini, Pertanto, se vi spingerete innanzi nutrendovi abbondantemente della parola di Cristo, e persevererete fino alla fine, ecco, cosi dice il Padre: Avrete la vita eterna." 2 Nefi 31:20

Friday, March 4, 2011


We've been home for a week now. It's quite the adjustment. All the changes combined with the jet-lag have induced a kind of dream-like quality to our lives. Did the past 18 months even really happen? Thank goodness we have witnesses and pictures and young single adults we can still talk to on Facebook to prove to us that it all really did occur.

In this final post I'd like to end with some thoughts we have had about the experience of serving a mission as a couple.

We had always planned on serving a mission, but we thought in about 5 or 6 years. We are so glad that we got "drafted" early and were able to go now. There are some real advantages to being a little bit more of a “junior” senior missionary.

Was it easy to leave our business? No. But the Lord opened up doors and blessings and people to allow us to go and still meet our responsibilities that we never dreamed were possible.

Was it easy to leave our children and grandchildren? No. But seeing them all at the airport when we arrived with signs and smiles to welcome us home telling us they were proud of us more than compensated for the difficulty of being away from them.

Did everything go smoothly at home while we were gone. No. But we saw our children rise to some difficult challenges and grow in ways that I know they would not have had we been home.

Were there times we wondered what we were doing there? There were a few times in the beginning.

Did being together constantly and under the strain of being out of our comfort zones cause us to get on each others nerves and maybe even have a few disagreements? At times. (but usually these conflicts were always driving related and were easily resolved. :)

Did we cleave unto each other and grow closer as a couple and come to love each other more than we ever knew possible. Without a doubt.

It’s a very special thing to be able to serve as a couple, focused on the same calling and to experience the struggle and joy of missionary work together. There comes an extraordinary clarity and focus to your life that only a mission can bring. It is unlike anything you can experience at any other time in your married life.

As we were in the taxi on the way to the airport to come home. David said to me, “I’m gonna miss you.” I said, "You are going home with me aren't you?" But I knew what he meant for we know that in "normal life" we will both be caught up in our individual responsibilities and callings and that the time we shared together on our mission was a very special kind of sacred sanctuary.

Was it some of the hardest most humbling 18 months of our lives? At times.

Were we stretched in ways that we never have been before? Yes.

Was it some of the best 18 months of our lives? Absolutley. Assolutamente.

In the introduction to Preach My Gospel the following promise is made to missionaries:

“The Lord will reward and richly bless you as you humbly and prayerfully serve Him. More happiness awaits you than you have ever experienced as you labor among His children.”

I testify that this is true. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church are on the earth today and we have a Prophet to guide us. I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that The Book of Mormon is the Word of God and is another witness of Jesus Christ and His ministry amongst the ancient peoples in the Western Hemisphere and it helps to clarify and complement the Bible.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has brought me more joy than I ever knew was possible. And sharing it with the people of Italy has done the same.

To the great saints in Italy and to all of you, our precious friends, neighbors and family who have traveled this journey with us, we thank you. You have been great mission companions.

Thank you for everything. We love you.

Grazie per tutto. Vi vogliamo bene.


Bianca and David Lisonbee

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Olive Tree - L'Albero di Ulivo

The Olive tree on our balcony

I've been thinking a lot about olive trees and not just because it is time to find a new home for the one we bought in the market 18 months ago. I remember well my good husband cramming it into the elevator to get it up the five stories to our first apartment because I just had to have it. It's grown a lot, but he says no worries he can now hand-carry it down the two floors of our current apartment to give it away. He's a good man. We harvested 8 olives from it. I think the Criscione family is going to adopt it.

I love olive trees. They have so much character. Did you know that if an olive tree is dying it can be revived by grafting a strong and healthy young branch into it? I talked to a member here who is a farmer and he said that he has done that. I look at some of these valiant young single adults in the Church here who are the only members in their families. They are the strong young branch who will end up saving their entire tree, both root and branch. Their ancestors and their posterity.

We are all branches broken off from our Father in Heaven. And when we are baptized we are grafted back into the Lord's family tree - the House of Israel. He is the vine and we are the branches, connected by way of covenant to the life-giving power of His Spirit. That Spirit enables us to bring forth precious fruit. We too can be that branch that will have a saving influence on our entire family tree. We too can also labor to preserve the trees in all parts of the Lord's vineyard throughout the world.

My Mom and Dad and sister and I were a little branch broken off from our Italian tree 57 years ago. We joined the church in America and now through this mission I have been able to re-connect with loved ones here, establishing a bond with the future generations of our family forever. And through this mission I have also been able to find the names of hundreds of family members on the other side of the veil. Root and branch can now be preserved.

I've often wondered if one took a branch from an olive tree here in Italy and transplanted it in America if it would grow. And could that original branch ever be grafted back into the mother tree? I think I now know the answer to that.

It's now time to turn over all the things that we have labored to grow these past 18 months to be placed into the care of other people. But we have preserved unto ourselves the sweet fruits of faith, hope and love which will endure forever.

"And the Lord of the vineyard caused that it should be digged and pruned and nourished, for it grieveth him to lose one tree, and he stretcheth forth his hand almost all the day long that he might preserve unto himself the fruit most precious unto him from the beginning." (Jacob 5 The Book of Mormon)

Olive trees in my Uncle's yard in Tuscany and surrounding area

Monday, February 21, 2011

What If President Hughes...

It's been two very emotional days. We just had our big two-day Regional YSA Conference that our stake was hosting. It was our last interaction with your young adults.

They were so wonderful. On Saturday night at the dance at the end of the evening they made a big circle and people took turns dancing in the center of the circle. We were enjoying the spectacle of fantastic dance moves (Boy do these kids love to dance!) when the next thing we knew a few of them had taken Elder Lisonbee and I by the arms and led us into the center of the circle. Well what we could we do? We had to dance, right? Of course those of you who know me know that I loved every minute of it. Those of you who know Elder Lisonbee know that his main thought was that we must maintain the dignity of the nametag. But I think that even he will admit that the cheers and delightful reaction from the young adults as we danced was really fun. Then they changed the music to a slow song and dedicated the last song to us. While dancing, David leaned over and kissed me and the next thing we knew they were calling out “bacio, bacio” Kiss. Kiss. It’s great serving a mission as a couple.

The dinner and dance ended by midnight and then we spent the next couple of hours along side of the kids helping to clean up and get the chapel ready for our meetings the next day. I’ll never forget sweeping the cultural hall with the kids at one in the morning while one of our talented Italian young adults played the music from Life Is Beautiful on the piano.

On Sunday we all met together (about 200 young adults and our Stake Presidency here in Milan) for our meetings. David and I were asked to be the speakers along with the Stake President. It was a special thing for us to have this final chance to share with so many of them our love and testimony. It was good closure. During the intermediate hymn we all stood and sang Onward Christian Soldiers. Looking out over the congregation of faces we have come to love, so many of which represent a story that means so much to us, and hearing their spirited Italian rendition of the words, "like a mighty army moves the Church of God" caused me to lose my composure bigtime. I tried to hide my tears behind my hymnbook. Usually at times like these I rely on David to calmly hand me his handkerchief, but this time he was in need of it himself.

Right before lunch they surprised us with a special presentation of a "Thank You" book they had made that contains pictures of many of them accompanied by individual messages they had written to us. It is one of the most prized possessions we will ever have.

How could we have ever lived without knowing these people? What if President Hughes had not gone against his better judgment and called us in to talk about serving this mission? What if he had not followed the promptings of the Spirit that he was receiving? Would all these precious people and experiences we have had these past eighteen months belong in some alternate universe that we would not have experienced?

We cannot even begin to imagine our life without this mission. It would be almost like trying to imagine your life if you had not ever had one of your children. It is inconceivable.

On Thursday we will meet with the outgoing group of missionaries and the mission president and his wife who we have also come to love so much, for dinner and a testimony meeting. We are looking forward to that.

We now face the task of finishing our packing and moving stuff to the apartment where the new Outreach couple who will come in April will live. Don’t you wish it was YOU!

There are many Outreach Centers opening now all over Italy. And of course there are many already established in other countries in Europe. Couples are needed for all of them. And it is not a requirement to speak the language.

We had always planned on serving a mission and thought maybe in about five or six years. But we are so grateful we got to go now. We hope to go again. But there are many advantages to having gone now. There are many advantages of being a "junior" senior missionary. It is good to go while you still have the health and ability to do things that maybe we would not be able to do when we are a little more of a "senior" senior missionary.

We will be forever grateful that President Hughes took us by the arm and led us into this mission. Kind of like our young single adults did to us at the dance. To him we will eternally say:

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Daddy, I Now Understand"

My father died when I was nine years old. He had a sudden and unexpected heart attack. I don't remember ever crying. Most of my memories of him are rather stressful. As a young child I could not understand why he seemed so tense so much of the time. I remember once during dinner he got mad and threw a plate of salad across the room shattering it into pieces on the floor. After he did it, he gave me a look that I have never forgotten. In his expression I could tell, even at my young age, that what he was feeling was not about my Mom or my sister or me. I knew he loved me and was sorry. In his deep and gentle brown eyes I saw a painful frustration that I could not fully understand. Until now.

After having lived in Italy these past 18 months and have had to speak a second language, I cannot even begin to fathom how he did what he did. My mother, who was Italian, but American born, felt so strongly that they should move from Florence, Italy to America where her family was in New Orleans, Louisiana. My father had already established a medical practice as an Obstetrican/Gyenecologist in Florence, Italy. My sister was born there. Most of his family was there. It was his home.

At the time (1953) only two states in the U.S. would even allow a foreign doctor to test. California and Virginia. Since family was living in New Orleans they chose Virginia as our home since it would be closest to our relatives.

I am now astounded that he was willing to start all over and repeat his medical training and residency in a language he did not speak and in a country he had never even visited.

His brother, Gigi, who we recently visited in Florence told me that he ran up the hill crying as he waved goodbye to my father as he was leaving to get on the boat to come to America. The boat that I would be born on. Somehow he knew he would never see his older brother again. I asked him if he resented my mother for taking that part of our family away to America. His response surprised me. He said that it was a good thing for a part of our family to go to America. He said that we were meant to go there and that he knew that our family would be blessed because of that. And it has been.

To my father I want to say, “Daddy, I now understand. I can only imagine how much you loved Mom to have been willing to leave your homeland and go to what I now know must have seemed like a strange new world to you. I now understand why you wanted us to speak nothing but English in our home and why I would often hear you in your bedroom reciting English words out loud over and over again so people would not detect your Italian accent. As I struggle to speak the language that was your mother tongue, my appreciation for what you did has soared.”

After my father died, my mother received many letters from patients who were grateful to him for the kind of man and doctor he was. Several women whom he had successfully treated for infertility problems named their babies after him. His patients and co-workers loved the Italian doctor with the charming accent. (In spite of his many efforts to eradicate it.) I remember one family in particular who brought my sister and I a special doll as a gift. The woman told us of how my father had stopped to help administer first aid to her husband who was a perfect stranger when she cried out for help when her husband collapsed during Mass from a heart attack. She said my father saved his life.

I guess part of being an adult is learning to understand who your parents really are and the sacrifices they made for you. Who would have thought it would take a mission for me to better appreciate my own father. I’ve heard that missions help one to grow up. I guess that applies to some of us older missionaries too.

Forty eight years after my father's death I now find myself crying.

Grazie, papa`. Ti voglio bene.

A photo of my father, mother,my sister Rita and me from a newspaper article about my birth when the ship docked in the New York City Harbor.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Il Salvator Mundi" - The Savior Of The World

This week we were able to have a wonderful visit with my family in Florence and Rome. My Uncle and his family live in the countryside just south of Florence. It was so beautiful there. They are a few minutes away from where Kenneth Branagh's movie, Much Ado About Nothing was filmed. Their house is in the heart of the Chianti region of Italy surrounded by wine vineyards, olive groves and Cypress trees. Very Tuscan. We had a great meal and visit together. I am so thankful that our relationship could be strengthened. I have no doubt that a big blessing of our mission service here has been to help strengthen my relationship with all my family here in Italy.
My Uncle Luigi (Gigi) He is my father's brother. He is 82 and still works in his art studio at his home expressing his creative soul. He is so precious.
David and I attended Church in Florence and were able to meet a man named Renato that our son Matt baptized when he was serving there on his mission. He wept when we told him who we were and he expressed how grateful he was for the Gospel. It is a great joy for a missionary to find out that someone they taught has continued to stay faithful. It reminded me of Alma's joy at learning that the son's of Mosiah were still his brethren in the Lord.

The Florence Duomo looked a lot different this time minus all the snow that we saw when we were stranded there before Christmas.

The most touching of our visits was with my cousin and some of his family in Rome. I had not seen them for quite a few years. It just so happened that the day of our visit was the one year anniversary of his wife's passing. She was very young and became ill quite suddenly. He has been left with two precious little girls. His brother and his mother and the girls had just come from attending a special mass in remembrance of his wife before meeting with us. They are such wonderful people. There was a very special spirit there as we were able to share in this tender time with them. My cousin Augusto on the right with one of his daughters and his brother, Francesco across from him. They are such good people. I love them so much.
I look forward to being able to take them to the Open House of the Rome temple when the time comes. Speaking of which, we went to visit the construction site of the Temple there. It is surrounded by a huge solid fence, but I was able to stick my camera through the small opening at the front gate and get this picture of the construction site. Don't you love the signature Roman Umbrella Pines?

The past is so alive in the city of Rome. A past filled with the likes of such people as Peter and Paul. It is a city where just about everywhere you turn prophets such as Moses and Isaiah, the Savior and His apostles have been immortalized in both marble and paint. It is quite remarkable. And yet unbeknownst to most of the world, not too far from the place where tour guides are saying that Peter and Paul are buried, in a city that is defined by its past, is a hill where construction is beginning on the one edifice in all of Rome, the Eternal City, where eternal blessings will soon be made available to all the Lord's children. Blessings that will encompass both past, present and future. For we believe not only in all that God has revealed, but all that He does now reveal and will yet reveal pertaining to the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Below are pictures I took of some things we saw in Rome.

Michelangelo's Moses
Remains of The Ancient Roman Forum
The old Appian Way Road - This road was built in Roman times extending From Rome all the way down to Brindisi in southern Italy. At times it was lined with the crosses of people who had been condemned to be hung on a cross. One can still see ruts carved out from wagons and chariots of years ago.

The sign at the construction site of the LDS Temple in Rome
"Il Salvator Mundi" - Latin for "The Savior of the World". The last statue that Bernini the great sculptor of the Baroque period did. He was 82 and completed this shortly before he died. He was a deeply religious man who at the end of his life wanted to do just one thing: to sculpt the image of his beloved Savior. David and I were very moved by this work. As I looked upon it I was struck with the love and devotion for the Savior that the artist put into it. I thought about how each of us is pursuing the eternal quest to have His image engraven upon our countenances. As we turn our hearts over to Him and continually repent, we allow Him to carve out of character something that in the end, created by the hand of the Master Himself will be nothing less than miraculous.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Keep Love's Banner Floating O'er You

I know I just barely posted a few days ago, but so much is happening so quickly that I want to record as much as I can. And all your comments last time were so kind that it made me want to invite you to "go the distance" with us as we finish up our last few weeks.

We are so grateful to you our blog readers. You have been like a "third companion" to us on this mission. We never would have dreamed that anyone, not even our family, would have wanted to read our posts. But your presence and love and encouragement have meant more to us than you can know. And if you are willing to stay with us, we will continue to post a few more times until we get home.

We had our last night at the Center. After the Institute we were lured into another room to distract us. When we returned we saw a sight that we will never ever forget. It took our breath away. The lights were all off except for on the stage and all the YSA (about 40 of them) were on the stage holding a huge sign with balloons and singing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." (In Italian of course.) It felt like the scene in "The Other Side Of Heaven." How can we ever leave these people? I take comfort in the blogger named "Zyzmog" who said on our blog last time that thank goodness Italian friendships last forever.

After the song they immersed us in hugs (very passionate hand-shakes from the guys for me and the girls for David) and they brought out a table of food with treats and gifts they had prepared and we had a great festa. We didn't get home until after midnight.

We spoke in Church on Sunday and everyone was so kind and gracious. And last night the Stake President asked me to join David in the Stake Council Meeting and they were all so kind in thanking us for our mission and the work at the Center. Lots of two cheek kisses. These people will forever be a part of us.

This weekend we will go to visit my family in Florence and Rome. I think I am as nervous about this than I have been about anything. They have known we were in Italy on a mission for our Church but they have not known too much about what that means. They are such precious people who I love so much.

There are so many individual people here in the Church that I wish I could tell you about. They all have a story of their own. Let me just say that the miracle of the Restoration of the Gospel is manifest in the individual lives of faithful members all over the world. Each one of them is a testimony of the hand of the Lord in the lives of those who love and seek Him.

"God be with you till we meet again, Keep love's banner floating o'er you...till we meet at Jesus' feet. God be with you till we meet again."

"Fino al giorno in cui ci rivedrem, resti puro il tuo cuore, sempre aperto all'amore, fino al giorno in cui ci rivedrem. "

Keep love's banner floating o'er you. Sempre.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Stranger In A Strange Land

As the mission nears its end, it feels kind of like I imagine when they say before you die your whole life passes before you. Not that if feels like we are dying or anything, but big transitions like this are always hard. Our hearts and minds are filled with flashbacks from the last 18 months. I've been thinking about the anxiety and stresses we felt when we first arrived. Living in a foreign land is a lot different than just visiting.

I learned a great lesson a month or so after we had arrived. Even though Italy was not that foreign to me, I was still feeling very insecure about my ability to adapt. I was apprehensive about doing things: going to get a haircut (how do you say "blow dry" in Italian?) going to the post office, doing the shopping. I remember feeling that the fact that I felt so "foreign" even though I certainly don't look it (after all I AM 100% Italian) must have been visible to everyone around me - even the other customers at the grocery store. I had a great Ah Ha moment when one day, not too long after we had been here, I was at the grocery store putting some yellow potatoes in my carrello ( cart) when a little Italian lady asked me if those potatoes were good and how did I like to fix them. I answered her and then realized that SHE couldn't tell by just looking at me that I was an outsider!

I think I was feeling a lot like the junior high student who walks down the hall thinking that EVERYONE is looking at the microscopic blemish on his face when in reality everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to even notice. How interesting that even at my age I needed to be reminded that we tend to view life, ourselves and others through the lens of our own fears and insecurities.

Wearing the name tag has helped to remind me to forget myself and to lose myself - insecurities and all. I imagine that taking the name tag off will reveal a whole new set of insecurities in me.
And I can't help but now wonder if being "home" will feel a bit "foreign" also.

Such is the joy and wonder of life with it's ongoing lessons and adventures. I guess from birth until the time we die we are meant to be pushed out of our comfort zones. I certainly have been and I'm sure I will continue to be until that great day that the Scriptures refer to when we "will go no more out" and we will be "no more a stranger nor a guest, but like a child at home."

In case you want to share in some of my flashbacks of images that will forever be part of me, here's just a few of the many photos that I have taken. These are of random subjects that are not directly connected to the people and events of our mission. I will have to save those for another post. I'm not sure I am emotionally ready to focus on the people quite yet. I'm trying not to think too much about saying goodbye. But here's a few of the things that I will remember about our life here in general in La Bell' Italia.

People on bicycles. People of all ages and dressed in every way.

And this bike had to win the prize for the best baskets ever. Made me miss my bike.

Below is an image I will not soon forget. This older couple was sitting across from us on a train. The man kept leaning over and taking his wife's hands into his and he would bend over almost touching the table with his face so that he could kiss her hands. He did this several times in the course of an hour's journey. There was such a sweet tenderness between them.

A Church on every corner. (kind of like Utah, only these are usually several hundreds of years old.)

Below is a man outside of La Scala, the famous opera house in Milan, reading a poster about the Opera. Classic.
A very common sight in every Italian city is men gathering outside a cafe or bar and talking for hours on end. I call them "The Philosophers." I called them that once to their faces when I had to walk past them and they got a chuckle out of it and let me take their picture.

Women in big long fur coats. I call them Narnia coats. They wear them even to the grocery store. They remind me of ones my grandmas had.

Bell towers and Bells. Oh how I will miss the bells.

Very old ceilings

And floors
Original un-restored steps from 14 th Century. That's a lot of people who have walked up these steps. They built things to last.

Motorcycles and skooters


Beautiful Doors

And Windows

Statues and Castles

Ancient Art
And Modern Art
This is a sculpture at an intersection in Milan. It is a needle and thread representing the fashion industry of Milan. The knot in the thread comes up on the other side of the street. It took us a while before it dawned on us what it was.

Very old fishing villages and a very old floating city

While not everything about Italy is picture-perfect its character and people imprint themselves on your mind and in your heart forever.