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

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

5 Marzo 2013

On this day, someone very special to me turns 29. This is a person that I can honestly say the Lord brought into my life without my knowing. He was preparing my heart in a way that I was unaware of until that fateful day last year when the pieces fell into place. I guess you could say it was the Father's birthday gift to me. Or a going away present. Whatever the "category," I found myself humbled at His feet for this particular present...

At my surprise birthday party last year...
the "heck no I will NOT dance face"

To be honest, it took some coercing from the Lord for me to believe this was actually a gift that was good, timely, and unique...and lasting. This was no joke. I was told during this time that, "Sure, God has a sense of humor, but He doesn't joke with our hearts." Wise words..truth, baby. I have never had God speak so clearly and honestly through one of His children as He did through this one. Let me tell you, there were many conversations that went something like this...

him: enter wise words here
me: enter awkward "are you serious, God?" laugh here
him: "But why you are laughing?"
me: Oh nothing...God is just really funny that's all.
him: "But why you say this?"
and so on....

One day in particular when I was really wrestling with this reality of all this, the Lord gently lead me to this verse...
"The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace."
It came with the reminder, "I do actually Love you this much, daughter! And I want to give you good things. Why can't you accept my gift?"

Ouch. Like tears, on my knees, humbled BIG TIME. Humbled, but so incredibly thankful. I was now able to walk forward, totally, 100% sure of this gift. I didn't have to look back...ever. When the enemy reared his ugly head of doubt or fear I could say with total confidence, "Um...heck no, techno fool!"

All this to say, God is the giver of good gifts. He delights in giving good things to those who love Him. It brings Him joy when we accept His gifts. But He also wants us to give these good things back to Him...when we can honestly say, "God it's yours!" Personally, feeling totally inept to take care of this gift has definitely helped in this process. Not that it's been easy. Nor has it been anything I really ever could have imagined for myself (the whole "no long distance" thing? Yep...out the window...). But, my oh my, it has been good. Very, very good...

his first time in Disneyland (Sept. 2013)

So my love, caro mio, Tanti Auguri!!! I love you with as much love as is possible and look forward to celebrating many, MANY more birthdays with you...yes, they will be celebrated every year...deal with it. 

"I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil. 1:6

Saturday, March 2, 2013

National Peanut Butter Lover's Day

I don't think this is an Italian holiday...in fact I'm absolutely sure it isn't because it is "national" not "international"...


However, for all of my peanut butter loving friends, I would like to say a belated "Happy PB Lovin' Day!!!" to you! And for it I present you with the most amazing peanut butter cookies EVER. Why you ask? Because I don't like peanut butter cookies. And I once seriously helped Jill McAfee wipe a plate of these babies clean...

Oh and PS...there's only 3 ingredients...

not the best view, but trust me..they're amazing

On behalf of all the peanut butter lover's out there...I raise a cookie in your name...buon appetito!

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 2 dozen 
adapted from Gluten Free Fix
  • 1 cup peanut butter (whatever version you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup honey*
  • 2 egg whites (or one egg)*
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional...and would make these 4 Ingredient not 3...technicality)

Preheat oven to 325F (or about 162C for my European friends).  Mix all of the ingredients together in one bowl. Scoop by tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes depending on how soft you like your cookies. Us Americans preferred a nice soft interior while caro mio preferred the slightly crispy version. Now grab a glass of milk (or vino...) and mangia!!!

*to make these vegan, simply substitute the honey for agave and the eggs for one ripe, mashed banana. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dancing Feet...

It's strange...when you really love something and is so much a part of your life that it's almost like breathing, it is always a part of you. It becomes more than just something you do. It becomes the language you speak, the food you eat, the music you hear, the colors you see. It starts to permeate every part of your existence.

When we find something like this, I think it is easy to begin to force this thing to grow and thrive. We start looking for ways to make things happen..to incorporate it into every single part of ourselves. I don't believe this to be wrong, necessarily. But I do believe it can become an obsession that is so fierce, this thing that was once natural and organic becomes fake and unfulfilling. When we attempt to take control of this thing, we can stunt its growth and make it less than what it was originally intended to be.

So what happens when we step back and see it again for what it was intended to be? When we go back to the start and remind ourselves of the joy and fulfillment with which we were filled when this gift...this thing...was first discovered? That all depends on you. For me? When I stepped back and let the Creator of this love take the reins again, stuff started to happen. Real stuff. Not stuff that seemed like the original but turned out to be empty and unfulfilling. Real. Live. Stuff.

Dance happened. He moved my feet and I let Him. Well, I'm still letting Him. It's a process..."a marathon, not a sprint" as someone once told me. And no, running is not a part of this...I still think I'm allergic to running...

I started fearing that I was losing dance. That it was going to go away and all of these years of thinking it was part of me were gone...it was time to move on. Not true. It was simply time to let go.

Anxiety and stress does nothing to help. Nothing. For anyone. Let it go.


Then the Source reminds you of why you have this thing in the first place. Where it came from. What it needs to grow and be most alive. What it's all about.... Well?

Last year during the school I met a wonderful woman named Chiara. A dancer. We did a couple of events together with the other dancers and absolutely found our common ground in dance. Over the year, we kept in touch...a few emails here and there (complete with bad Google translations). When I found out I would be coming back to Italy even with the school not happening, I sent her an email. Was there anything I could do to help her? Any dance opportunities she knew about? Etc, etc...

Yes, in fact there were. This past Saturday, over a glass of wine, with the translation help of my darling, tesoro, something started to glow again. Dance became the language barrier breaker. The friendship had been formed via a common gift and love. There was purpose in this connection, we all knew that last year. We found a common ground and beyond that, I see something...I can't fully explain it, but there is something in her that is searching. Like she's looking for more, but not quite sure what "more" is. Dance is a way for people to connect. People who don't speak the same language or come from the same training still find an unspeakably strong bond through dance. Ask any dancer. It creates and relationship and understanding that goes beyond the surface. It gets into the deep places beyond words. Chiara and I haven't needed a lot of words in order to understand each other. Honestly, there aren't a lot of words we can share. But the One who gave us both dance...this thing that permeates every part of our being...has decided it necessary for our paths to cross. Maybe it's as a reminder for both of us. A reminder about the Source of this love. For me, I'm here, in a foreign place. Not for the original purpose I thought. Currently not sure of my role. Not sure of much at all. But certainly not forgotten. I think I see that now...again. For her, she's working her tail off with two daughters and a dog...on her own...to keep this dance business afloat. She is doing this on her own.

But now, I am here looking for a purpose. However, I can't actually have a "real job." Good, because she can't actually pay much..if anything. She needs help. She needs someone who has the same vision. Someone who wants to share a love of something. I don't know if either of us know what it will look like. Right now there are projects and other relationships that need be built. But the foundation is laid. The connection has been established and....we get it. There's something more to this thing. It has permeated both of our lives and is bubbling over. It needs to grow and the time is here. Spring is just around the corner after all...

Please keep Chiara and this friendship in your prayers. It is a really exciting ministry opportunity as well as an opportunity to connect with a bigger dance community here. I have already done one workshop with her (traditional southern Italian dance...awesome) and this coming Saturday her and I and two of her friends from dance in Torino are going to dive into the world of vertical dance (like hanging from the ceiling...really awesome). She's got some great vision for bringing dance into the valley for the people, but she needs help. God is up to something with this friendship so please be praying that His purpose would be the driving force behind it all. It will be a beautiful piece to watch unfold, as long as our Awesome Choreographer is in control!

Also, a few of us who are involved in the ministry I am here helping, met last night for prayer. There was a lot of encouragement for this relationship with Chiara as well as other ministry opportunities from other relationships that have been built. Currently, we are working with the local Salvation Army to organize weekly soup/pasta kitchen here in Torre Pellice. Tomorrow we are meeting with a man in Bobbio Pellice to discuss future sports camps, and Friday we are meeting with another representative from Salvation Army to discuss management of outreaches here in the valley. I am so excited to see how God is forming ministry opportunities and would love your support in prayer for continued opportunities as well as guidance for these that are already happening.

If you would like information on how you can give financially to support my ministry here please email me at dancinLo488@gmail.com. If you have questions about the way financial support works (since it is not connected with OM as it was previously) please do not hesitate to email me these questions as well!! Any and all support that we receive is so appreciated and recognized...the prayers are not in vain! You are all a part of this team and I want to make sure, as much as possible, that there is no confusion with what is happening.

Grazie mille tutti!!! Ciao...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One Year Later...

Here I am, back again in the beautiful Val Pellice...almost exactly one year later. Monday morning I was welcomed with a blanket of snow on the ground, much like the welcoming of last year...it's good to be home...

the view from my balcony...I know...

Upon arrival, Domenica sera, I moved into the flat I will be sharing with the dear Jill McAfee in Torre Pellice. Lunedi mattina brought a lovely jaunt into town to meet Marco for a cappuccino. And a surprise meeting with Chiara - she owns a dance studio here and we had connected during the school in Bobbio last year. As dancers, we were able to do some collaborations with her, and since leaving her and I had stayed in touch, discussing opportunities for further collaboration when I returned. Simply coincidental that we met on my first day back? I think not... God takes it again... This Sunday I am going to her studio to participate in a "seminario danza dal sud Italia" or "southern Italian dance workshop." Awesome. 

Let's trek back in time to the "today I have to learn Italian" lesson...starting tomorrow I will be attending local language classes twice a week here in town...for free. Amen and praise God yet again. Prayers for understanding are incredibly appreciated. 

Also, something that many of us school participants noticed last year was that during the few weeks before and the beginning of the school, there were a lot of incidences of family and friends suffering attacks and illnesses. I can see it happening again since returning and I want you all to know that you are in my prayers as well. I pray that God watches over each one of you and meets you where you are. Please, PLEASE email me with any requests or praises that are happening. Without you, I don't think I'd be here right now...let's fight this battle together. 

Also, I will be setting up an official email newsletter in this coming week so if you would like to get them, please either send me a facebook message, leave a comment on the blog, or email me (if you already have my address..I just don't want to put it publicly on here). 

At the end of the day, I can say...God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From Band-aid to Bling

I'm guessing some of you will remember this lovely incident from last year's adventure in Italy....
Not so wonderful initially. However, I was completely unaware that this tragic incident (no exaggeration..it was awful) would eventually lead to something quite wonderful indeed. No where in my mind did I expect good ol' Doc Marco to become more than just the resident (self-proclaimed) "Doc"....
On my honor (contrary to some claims) my mind never went there  until after this....
Which was a good few weeks after the toe incident. Also, I recently found out that never again will I be getting a birthday cake this big, because "the goal has been achieved." Rude. 

Many of you have been expecting some sort of news of an...advancement lets say...in regards to this relationship. Maybe you had something like this in mind...
Good call. That's exactly what happened. On February 7, 2013 on the shores of Lago d'Orta around 9pm, the relationship went from band-aid to bling...
THE spot...good job Doc....
Sometimes things start with a band-aid and some hobbling. Then as things heal you start walking normally...ease into it so as not to re-injure anything. Then it becomes regular...pleasant...and you keep going wondering what's around the next cobblestone street corner (yes, the streets were stone, the buildings were old...just like in the movies folks...).

Are you ready? Are you ready to round that corner? 

He asked...

I said yes...


Monday, February 4, 2013

Today I Have To Learn Italian...

Imagine this...you have an endless to do list. You make a habit of waking up two hours before you have to leave to go somewhere so that you can sufficiently have a moment of peace and quiet before rushing off to start another day filled with countless activities....wash, rinse, repeat. Day in and day out you are always, ALWAYS active. Suddenly you are transported into a different world. A world where stores close from 12:30-3:30pm. A world where your normal to do list suddenly makes no sense at all. A world where you cannot drive. A world where you don't speak the same language. A world where your body decides to rebel against normal functionality because...well..things just don't make sense here. Awesome.

The last week in Italy has been wonderful, trying, difficult, beautiful....(insert various contradicting adjectives of this sort here). I'm understanding much more of the language than I did just a week ago and can somewhat muster a response longer than, "Si!" or "Bene!" or "Grazie!" So yes, things have begun to look up, but there was still sort of a dark cloud looming over the whole picture. That is until the lovely Antonietta said something to me at church. We were discussing the difficulty of adjusting to a new schedule when you make some significant change of life. A lot of the conversation (through translation, thank you Marco) revolved around time and to do lists. First, it was a great comfort to know I wasn't the only one who got so crazy with the idea of having no normal schedule or list. After some time of sharing exasperated tales, she said, "Instead of waking up and thinking, 'I have nothing to do!' think, 'Today, I have to learn Italian!' and suddenly your whole day is full!" 

Simple as that. Today, I have to learn Italian. Benissimo! 

Well ok, it's not that simple. There is this deep underlying lesson that God is making crystal clear to me right now in this time. A lesson that I think is so key and simple, in theory, to the base of living a life of faith. It's the lesson of Dependence vs. Independence. When we make that jump into a life of faith, we are commanded to claim complete dependence on God. Total. 100% surrender. (enter O-Town's "'Cuz I want it all, or noooothiiing at all!!) How in the world are we, people who so easily make our own schedules and follow our own ways, supposed to just drop our nets of fish, to do lists, or whatever and follow? How does one go from complete independence to total DEpendence? I don't know. Honestly. But right now, I'm learning. Like crash-course, make it or break it, just get it lesson. God help me please...

I may not have a schedule or list right now, but I have time to learn. I have time to adjust and listen and just BE. It's rare that we are given these moments to be still and understand the purpose of these times in our lives, but I am realizing now...I have them. I have the time and the space. And my oh my what a beautiful space it is.

So for today, I have to learn Italian...

Marco 8:34-35
"Chiamata a sé la folla con i suoi discepoli, disse loro: "Se uno vuol venire dietro a me, rinunci a se stesso, prenda la sua croce e mi segua. Perché chi vorrà salvare la sua vita, la perderà; ma chi perderà la sua vita per causa mia e del vangelo, la salverà."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Waiting for the Pieces

I had been waiting to write this until I had more information. More awareness on what was going to happen. More knowledge of what I would be doing, what the schedule would be, and so forth. I should know by now that God usually doesn't give us all of the information. I'm still waiting on that spreadsheet of the next 20 years, in fact. More often than not, the "more" comes when we keep going forward while leaving the space for Him to fill. So, much overdue, here is the latest..as far as I know...

As many of you know, I was planning on heading back to Italy to rejoin the organization Operation Mobilization for the second School of Arts in Missions as a member of staff - playing the role of Assistant Dance Mentor and Student Life Coordinator. The invitation unofficially came about two weeks into the school last year, and officially came mid-July of 2012. Many letters were sent and much enthusiasm surrounded it all. In addition to this excitement, I met and began an intentional relationship with one of the Italian volunteers who had been helping at the school about two and a half weeks prior to the end of the school. Marco came out to visit and had a - ahem - rather serious conversation with my parents before he left. All this to say, things were looking great for the "plan" to head back to Italy. 

Mid-October, I received a telephone call from Mat Carson, the visionary behind the school and the one who had invited me on this adventure many months ago. He informed me that the core group of OM Arts staff had met and as a unified body decided to postpone the school for another year. I don't know if deep down God had been preparing me to receive this news without my own realization or if He just poured out abundant peace in that moment, but I was not at all surprised upon hearing the news. Not that I expected it or was thinking it would happen, I just wasn't surprised.

So, with much prayer, discussion, and tears, I made the decision to continue my journey in Italy. Ultimately, I decided to stay in California about two weeks longer than I originally had planned, and head to Italy on January 25, 2013. I will be spending about three weeks with Marco and his family in their home town, before we both return to Torre Pellice (the town where the school was held last year). I will be living with a woman named Jill McAfee who leads worship all over Europe for many of the OM international conferences and she often lead worship for us at the school last year. Not too long before receiving the news about the school this year, her roommate moved out leaving her in need of a roommate and me in need of a place to live. God fielded that one (of course) in a way I don't think either of us imagined it happening.

Over the last few months since receiving this news and adjusting to the idea of a new "plan" things have been moving right along. Dancing, teaching, visiting, and working...life has not really slowed down at all. And all of a sudden I am now sitting at the airport in San Francisco awaiting the signal to board flight 284 to London/ Heathrow airport continuing on to Milan/Malpensa. I think back to this time last year and I was in almost the exact same spot give or take a week. I thought that this year would be the same. There will be familiar faces and places, but overall, the picture has changed. I'm still not sure where the final pieces are.

Which is sort of why this update to all of you wonderful friends and supporters has been so overdue. I've been waiting. Waiting until I knew more, until I had more details or facts or seemingly logical plans to share. But what I've learned is God doesn't work in spreadsheets or 5-year plans. He is the Master of awesome ideas and big dreams, and He asks for our trust. And when we really decide to invest our trust in Him I think we sometimes expect a big life-plan reveal. What I got this time was, "I trust you with decision Lauren, and whatever you decide, I'm with you!" Hold the phone...God trusts ME???? With a big decision??? I don't know how I feel about that...

We have to make decisions though, don't we? If we have any hope of living life to the fullest extent that God intended, we have to make those decisions and take those steps. It's kind of boring otherwise...

With all of this, I promise to keep the updates more regular and active. I promise to be upfront with everything that is happening and include all of you friends and loved ones in on the puzzle picture as it unfolds. I would just ask for your prayer for my ears, eyes and heart to be wide open to the Father's incredible love as it is poured out in the unveiling of my life.

For now, I will be joining with Marco and his friend David as they start a sports ministry program in Torre Pellice (just outside of Bobbio). I will be involved in bringing dance into the weekly sports camps they run for local youth as well as into more long term youth programs they are planning right now. A blessing of having more of a free schedule is that I will be more available to invest in the culture and adapting to a new way of life. I will go with another missionary couple to language classes, which will allow me to communicate with the students I will be interacting with on a regular basis. Also, I have stayed connected with a woman in the area who owns her own dance studio and she has suggested monthly collaborations that would take place at her studio. Mostly, I want to be available for Him to move. I want to be His hands and feet and dance like crazy for the glory of His Name!

I don't have a direct account for financial support, but if you do feel led to support in this way, here are the steps...

go to fca.org

click on "donate" on the top menu bar (right side) and scroll down to click on "single donation"

on the first line of the "single donation" page under "giving to fca by credit card" scroll to choose the option "individual staff person"

underneath this line, enter "Europe, David Guehring"

fill out the rest of the information on the page

click "submit"

email David Guehring at dguehring@fca.org and tell him their name, how much their contribution was for and that it should go to Lauren Cosentino

Thank you everyone for your gracious support...I love you and will keep sharing as He keeps revealing...

In His Steps,