Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Recipe from the Zampieri's first Christmas...

Things are going to be yummy this year! Stinky, yes, but the end result is soooo worth it...

We are headed to Marco's aunt and uncle's house tomorrow morning to spend the day. There will be a TON of food and I cannot tell you how excited we are to spend the time together enjoying the bounty we will share. Marco, his parents, and I are preparing something yummy to bring to the feast and I thought it'd be fun to bring a little bit of our Christmas to you!

We have a delicious and super smelly antipasto called bagna caüda. It is basically a pureé of garlic and anchovies in olive oil, served hot with raw vegetables for dipping. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I promise you...it's one of the most amazingly delicious things I've ever eaten. Here's the recipe...

Bagna Caüda
  • 300g anchovies cleaned/person
  • one full head garlic/person
  • olive oil
  • panna (heavy cream)
  • milk
  • raw vegetables for dipping (we like carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, fennel, and celery; fingerling potatoes and onions that have been roasted plain are also good)
Cleaning the anchovies is the biggest job. If you buy anchovies in a can or get them from the market salted they will most likely need to be cleaned at home. If you buy them already cleaned and in oil, make sure to rinse them well to remove some of the saltiness, otherwise your mouth will hurt after eating! Set the cleaned and rinsed anchovies aside in a strainer to let some of the water drain off. Clean the garlic you will be using - peel and remove the middle part where it looks like a new sprout is growing. Place all of the cleaned garlic cloves in a pot on the stove and cover them with milk. Bring to a boil and let cook until garlic is soft and can be smashed with a fork. Drain milk from garlic and set aside. Heat some oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the anchovies. Place anchovies in pan and cook until they have completely disintegrated - add oil until about half of the anchovies are covered. While the anchovies are cooking, place the garlic in a food processor and process until you have a paste. When the anchovies have cooked down completely, add them to the food processor and process together with the garlic. Add milk until the consistency somewhat runnier than hummus (you should be able to take a spoonful and allow it to easily drizzle out). The best way to serve this is in a ceramic pot similar to one you would use for fondue (with a candle underneath) so it stays warm the entire time you are eating it. Gather around the pot with your veggies and enjoy!

a good dose of garlic purée....                                                        ...and a healthy dose of anchovies!               

God Bless Us Everyone

Cucina e finita. The kitchen is done and we have arrived at Marco's parents house for Christmas and New Years. Christmas Eve is here and it will be my first year without clam chowder, minestrone, pies, stockings on Christmas morning, successfully overdoing the cookie baking (due to a single function gas oven and no baking sheets to speak of) and many other traditions which have taken their place in the Sturm/Cosentino family Christmas celebration.

But what about those new things? Like, my first Christmas as a wife. My first Christmas with a husband. My first Christmas with a new Christmas dinner menu. My first Christmas in a different country. It's all very exciting and overwhelming....

Our hope this Christmas is for the Light of God to shine. I love Christmas, truly. I love the lights, the trees, the stockings, the traditions...all of them. But more than all of these things this Christmas, I have realized the whole point of it all. Not for the first time - it is certainly something I've known - but this Christmas without all of the "normal" traditions my mind has been on other things. I haven't had the usual happenings going on all around me and I believe our wonderful Teacher has been using this time to make me so incredibly aware of His presence in spite of traditions as well. I've always known He was there in the midst of traditions, but now, without the "norm"...He's still here. And I feel more aware of Him than ever. And my biggest prayer this Christmas is for others to see Him too. To see Him more brightly as the lines and lines of brake lights that make up Christmas traffic (it's an international thing, trust me). To see Him more prominently than the realization that another year has passed us by. More than ever before I feel so contradictory in my feelings - extreme sadness for the bleak outlook that so many people succumb to during this time of year and extreme joy at the hope and life we have to celebrate this time of year.

I pray that we would look beyond the traditions and traffic, the location and the late deliveries that we would look to our families and friends and praise God for the gifts He has poured out on us.

I think Tiny Tim put it perfectly when he said, "God bless us! Everyone!"

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

a little corner of the house..

So, we don't officially have internet, but I happened to, by complete accident, find a corner of this house in the kitchen which reaches some signal. The signal also happens to be a secure signal for which I can't imagine ever obtaining the password. In any case I thought this was a perfect set up for a brief update..

We're married. Husband and wife. Mr. and Mrs. Signore e signora. It's awesome. The end.

We are back in Italy and I am almost legal. A few more hoops to jump through and I will be here for real. A real person with a real identity. In Italy.

We have the most amazing, warm, wooden flat ever!!!! It's cute and even has a little make-shift Christmas tree as of today....

We've been able to see some friends and spend some time praying together, catching up, enjoying being back in our community here. Tomorrow I will be able to see Mavy and hopefully have more news about the teaching situation. So far, things are looking good! 

This weekend we will be finishing some details in the house - Marco's parents and uncle will come and help us change the kitchen completely (good ol' Ikea) - something we are both looking forward to so the suitcases can be put away and we can truly settle down. Of course that is all relative because there is never a lack of something to do, and we never know what will happen from one day to the next!

We have put everything we have in God's hands. He is blessing us beyond our wildest imaginations and we are loving every minute of it. Lessons are being learned everyday of course, as is par for the course when it comes to a life of faith, but the lessons are good. Solid. And we get to go through them together. It's like having a permanent buddy system in place!

Thank you to all for praying for us, supporting us, and walking with us on our journey! For more information about news, support, or just wanting to get in contact you can email at marcolauren2013@gmail.com.

Love, Blessings, and Good Tidings to all!!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Home Sweet...Where?


Re-entry commences in T-minus 10 days. 

The other day, I told a friend of mine, "I'm coming home in 3 weeks!" and her response was, "Well, technically that's your home now!"

I'm sorry...what did you say? Italy is my home now? When did this happen??????

But the thing is, it hasn't actually happened yet. Not officially. So where have we landed on the whole "home sweet home" thing? 

I honestly couldn't tell you...I wish I could! But the fact of the matter is, when you sign up for a life in missions, the idea of home becomes a lot less about square footage...

Square meters...

Metric system...I gotta get on that.

All of a sudden "home" is defined by people, secret hiding places in the woods, walks to the river, the best gelateria, the best coffee shop, the view from the window when the sun comes up...

And ultimately this...

My home is with the Lord. And wherever I am is because He wants me there. 

So right now, I'm headed back to a place that once was my physical home. Parts of it are still "home," but parts of my home will remain here in Italy waiting for me to return....

 or wait to hop on the plane to meet me on the other side of the world for a bit (12 weeks from today for those who are counting!!!)

That saying "Home is where the heart is"? 

Couldn't be more true. 

I guess now my home is just getting some more rooms...

"The Lord is my Shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalms 23

various and AWESOME God sundries...

Marco and I took Mavy to dinner a couple of weeks ago and God opened the door for him to share the Gospel and a bit of his testimony with her!! After talking with her the next evening via Facebook (easier to talk that way because I can use all my translation tools before saying anything...muahaha...) she told me that nothing in the way of religion has ever made sense for her until our conversation the night before. She saw the living proof in the two of us and is at a place in her life where she is ready to make a positive change, away from the built-up negativity. We will be able to continue our friendship via Facebook while I am gone as well as continuing the work and dance together when I come back in December. My biggest prayer is for her heart to be continually open to the work God is doing through the Holy Spirit in her life. It would be so incredible to see that "hahahahah" become a "Grazie Dio!!"

One group of sports interns is returning to Italy after only one week instead of two at their sports camp in another part of Europe. This has created a need for a new "plan" for this last week in Italy. The decision has been made to have another sports camp here in Torre, which is a fantastic ministry opportunity, but is extremely last minute. Prayers are appreciated for the kids who will be coming as well as all of the leaders - for protection, reception, and grace as we give all control to God trusting this opportunity to His hands not our own.

Praise Praise PRAISE for these last six months. My mind is beyond blown by the grace and mercy God has poured out on my time here, as well as providing open doors for our return. 

"Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help, 
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy."
Psalm 63:3-7

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

But...what do you do?

"So, what exactly will you be doing?"

"Now, what is that you do?"

Questions so familiar and common, I believe most individuals will base their identity on their current to-do list. Job description, education, qualifications, experience. No longer discussing passions and purpose, but instead pulling out their resumé and firing off the list. I'm certainly guilty of it! In a society where priority and value is often assigned according to how one answers these questions, it has become more and more automatic to live and act off of your to-do list and resumé.

In recent conversations with fellow missionaries here in Italy we've greatly discussed the emphasis placed on one's "missionary to-do list" with some sadness of heart. It seems as though, even in the church, there is great emphasis on the "to-do list." If it does not meet certain qualifications, the value of the mission is decreased. However, when one is without doubt called into the mission field - whether in a highly developed western country or in a seemingly primitive third-world country - shouldn't the excitement and support be equally enthusiastic? After all, we live in a world severely in need of a Savior, bottom line. As believers we anticipate the return of Christ. Oh, that glorious day when...

"Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended."
Isaiah 60:18-20

As believers we all play a part in bringing the world to its knees, recognizing the need for a Savior. As His children, we all have been given gifts that are a part of this grand mission. These gifts are part of our identity as His children. More than what we do, it is about who we are and how we are living for the Kingdom of God. 

For example, a dear friend of mine is a mother of three. She is here serving God with her husband and children as a missionary. Her mission? Serving her family. Meeting other mothers at the park for play dates. Meeting with me a few times a week to fellowship and exercise. Keeping a clean home. Sharing her story with others in the community. Meeting for coffee with a few women before heading to Italian class once a week. The joy that this "get-to" list brings this family overflows and has had a great impact on this community...in less than one year! A walk normally five minutes in length takes 30 minutes simply because of the relationships they have built with so many in this valley. Praise God!

So, what am I doing here? I get to dance with people whose "Religious Views" status on Facebook says "Hahahahahaha". I get to learn Italian. I get to have coffee with fellow missionaries as well as the occasional aperitivo with another dancer who would honestly be considered a modern day communist. I get to workout and fellowship and pray at the same time with a fellow American and mother of three. I get to celebrate the birthday of and pray for a young believer in the church. I get to share my passion for dance and teach some of the youth in the valley. I get to spend time with my fiancé and learn how to do life with him. And yes, I live in one of the most physically beautiful places in the world (secondo me...in my opinion)...

But it is also one of the most spiritually dark places in the world. A few facts and figures...
  • in Turin, just one hour from where I live, exists the largest satanic worship temple in the world
  • in Europe, there are fewer than 2% genuine followers of Christ - many are looking to atheism, black magic or witch craft in this continent considered to be "post-Christian"
  • an "unreached people group" is considered an area where there are fewer than 2% genuine followers of Christ in the population

So, what are we doing here? 

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." 
James 1:27

At least that is our hope. That is my hope. My heart aches for the women I get to dance with. For the youth that do not yet know the hope they have in Christ. These people who do not yet know that they are not, in fact, orphans or widows, but precious children of the Savior King. 

I would ask now that you would join in prayer for unity in the body of Christ as we all strive for this goal. Prayer for God to be always preparing the way to reach the unreached, and open the eyes of the closed. Prayer for clarity as we all forge ahead on this journey - whether that be in the form of "to-do" or "get-to." And finally, that God would speak to the church world-wide, to support those out in the field seeking to serve the lost. 

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support. And praise God for the relationships that have been formed already! He is here and moving, but the work is not done. Greater things will be done here!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April Showers...and flowers...and food

Spring brings lots of new things. And there is a reason the saying is "spring into life." So, for lack of words sufficient to describe everything happening in life, I give you the illustrated version. Buon appetito...

Happy Birthday or "Auguri!" Tesoro!
I give you the Italian Man Burger -
gorgonzola and pancetta nestled inside a juicy patty...

these two pictures represent my first meal on the balcony of spring... a delicious salad of blood orange, carrot, radicchio and fennel...with a few other things thrown in for fun and flavor. That is Mt. Vandolino in the distance...made for a glorious day.

 we got another rain yesterday after a whole week of gorgeous sun...the flowers still provided some glorious light and color on my walk home though...

 and these two pictures represent my latest culinary accomplishment -
chicken roulade stuffed with gorgonzola and balsamic-rosemary glazed leeks...
part of learning the importance of cooking as a future wife...
challenge accepted...

In the midst of questions and frustrations and fervent prayers, God continues to remind me of His incredible power and love. 
Visa issues? Don't worry. I got you.
Birthday? Be ready for anything - it will be awesome.
Late trains? Hah...ain't no thang!
Dance stuff? Oh dude...it's on. You won't even know what hit you.
Visa issues? Nope, not here. I'm staying.
Birthday? Hello, turkish bath and sauna day with Tesoro.
Late trains? We caught the next one with one whole minute to spare.
Dance stuff? June is just around the corner...time to start choreography.
I don't know why I ever doubt or act surprised when something completely God and completely awesome happens. Duh it's awesome...He's GOD!!! And does He ever change? NOOOO!!! So why do I keep looking for something different from Him? Boohh...non lo so. 
But praise His most awesomely PATIENT Name forever.

Monday, March 25, 2013

a God plan...

Yep, we're back here again. Agendas...calendars...updates...meetings...

All good in theory. But remember...I'm in Italy.

And it's spring. Which means even the weather is fickle. Awesome.

This last weekend my "plan" was to go to Rome for an event bringing awareness to the global problem of human trafficking. The film Nefarious (here for more info: Nefarious Documentary) has been making a worldwide tour and had its final stop in Rome this weekend. A group of fellow artists had been working on a street drama to attract people before the three screenings that would be happening at a local theatre. I had been asked to be a part of this drama, as well dance in the theatre before each of the screenings. Incredible opportunity! I was stoked. I knew which dance I was doing, I had created a character for the drama, I had looked at train tickets and was about to buy them when I received the "WAIT!!!" In the enthusiasm I hadn't really stopped and asked if this was a God plan. Sure it was a good plan...I mean hello! Arts, human trafficking awareness, a train adventure to Rome...sweet deal. But, was it God's plan? Apparently not. As more information was revealed I realized that I would have been abandoning commitments here in the valley. Commitments that had CLEARLY been an answer to prayer upon coming here. Not that going to Rome would have been a bad thing...from what I have read, God absolutely rocked this weekend through this event! There were lots of hurdles that came up. One being a transportation strike on Friday and Saturday. Who knows if I would have been able to even get there!

God is teaching me a lot about asking Him first. It's so easy to become blinded by enthusiasm, a need to please, an inability to say "no;" we often miss that moment, or opportunity to commune with God and find out what He wants. We have His promise that what He has is better than what we could even imagine! Shouldn't that be reason enough to ask Him about everything? I mean...think about how much more rockin' that rockin' outfit would be if you asked God what to wear first. Ok, sure that may be a stretch, but also, why not make it that much of a practice in your life. So that every single decision you make comes from Him. He gave us these brains with which we make all of our plans, so shouldn't we include Him on them too?

I pray that we would no longer be blinded by enthusiasm and short-sightedness; busyness and fear, but that the one who gave us the freedom to choose and plan would be the consultant for it all.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit' - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'"
James 4:13-15