Friday, September 30, 2011


"I am the Light of the world. 
If you follow Me, 
you won't have to walk in darkness, 
because you will have 
the Light that leads to Life." 
(John 8:12)

No matter how dark it gets, there will always be a Light. In good times, and in hard times when we don't think we can go on, we are promised a Light. A Person to follow, who is Light.

Photos in this post taken along the Arno River in Florence, Italy.

Thanking God for these words which I read recently, thanking Him for being Light in good times and hard times, and thanking Him that we don't have to walk in darkness.

Linked to Word-filled Wednesday

More from Florence

We were in Florence for three full days and four nights. Although there were unlimited things to be seen in the city itself, we also wanted to be able to see the Tuscany countryside around the city. On our second day there, Gary and I took an hour and a half bus ride to nearby Siena, while Lance spent the day in Florence. Our plan was to take some other bus routes to view the countryside, continuing on from Siena, but that plan did not work out because of the bus schedules.

Instead, we spent some time at the beautiful Piazza del Campo, the central gathering place in Siena - visiting the little shops, enjoying some gelato (ice-cream), and viewing the beautiful, old buildings. One of the many things I loved in Italy was the buildings - such beautiful shades of browns, rusts, and grays.

The next day, our last full day in Florence, we took the bus to Fiesole, a little town just shortly north of Florence, where we had a great view of the city of Florence, and also the countryside around it. Riding on the bus was an experience in itself, as it wound through the narrow streets of Florence and also Fiesole.

We did enjoy the bus rides, as each one gave us more glimpses of the city and the country - and once in Fiesole, we stopped for a light pasta lunch at a little cafe with a view overlooking Florence. After our meal, we walked up to an even higher hilltop area, and were rewarded with a great view of Florence and the surrounding area.

Later, after taking the bus back to Florence, and then a long walk back to the apartment (as we could not figure out where the connecting bus stop was, and so decided just to walk), and also making a quick visit to the nearby Boboli Gardens, we met up with Lance for a pizza meal together at a sidewalk cafe.

The apartment we stayed at for our Florence visit was on the second floor above the landlord's ceramic shop. Our host and hostess were so gracious to us, and we loved their beautifully decorated apartment complete with a deck.

The living room had a sofa bed, making a very comfortable place for Lance. This was also our only apartment during our stay in Italy where we had wi-fi - so handy for the three of us, as we all had our laptops along.

So much more to be seen, but it was time to prepare to move on to our next location. From Florence we went in two different directions for the next few days and nights - Lance went on to Rome, while Gary and I took a short trip to a beautiful little town on the coast.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Birthday Praise

Such beauty everywhere as we walked through Venice, on our recent trip to Italy.

It is impossible to fully comprehend all the beauty of God's love - it will take a lifetime and an eternity, and we will never tire of His endless, total, all-encompassing Love. At times I think that I have a handle on it, and then my eyes are opened to more, and I am reminded of how little I know of this Love.

My prayer today (on my birthday), and every day - that I will grow in my awareness of this great Love, this Love that I was made for, this Love that I desire and long for. Other things cloud this desire and longing at times and block our view, but always, we are drawn back to this craving for Love. And it is ours to receive and hold.

How fitting that I would read these words in my Jesus Calling devotional this morning ~

"Open your mind and heart - your entire being - receive My Love in full measure. So many of My children limp through their lives starved for Love, because they haven't learned the art of receiving. This is essentially an act of faith: believing that I love you with boundless, everlasting Love. The art of receiving is also a discipline; training your mind to trust Me, coming close to Me with confidence."

And also these words that fill my mind and heart this morning -

"I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources, 
He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. 
Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. 
Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong.
 And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, 
how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. 
May you experience the love of Christ, 
though it is too great to understand fully. 
Then you will be made complete with all the fullness 
of life and power that comes from God." 
(Ephesians 3:16-19)

Loving Lord, thank You for the glimpses that You allow us to see of Your incomprehensible Love. Glimpses that we see through trials that You carry us through, as You show Yourself strong for us in our desperate needs - glimpses that we see through the unexpected surprises that You bring our way, such as our recent trip to Italy - glimpses that we see as Your Spirit opens our eyes and hearts to truth as we read Your Words. You are Love; open our minds and our hearts to receive all that You have for us, and all that You are. 

Unending Love for us, unending surprises and joy as we live our days here on earth, and then as we live with this Love for eternity.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, 
through His mighty power at work within us, 
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine." 
(Ephesians 3:20)

Linking up at Walk with Him Wednesdays,  Word Filled Wednesday, and Brag on God Friday

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Ancient Charm of Florence

Founded by Julius Caesar in 59 BC, and later reawakened by all the flourishing achievements of the Renaissance, Florence stands today as a beautiful monument of the past. We wondered, as we left Venice by eurail train on Sept. 10, how our next destination would match up to what we had experienced already in Venice. And although Venice holds a uniqueness like no other place, we were also captivated by the charm of Florence.

We arrived in Florence mid-afternoon, and after searching for an ATM (as all of our lodging had to be paid for in cash with euros), we walked the 20 minute route from the train station to our rental - although it took us about 45 minutes with all of our luggage in tow on a very hot day. We found our lodging, and were again amazed at it's location, set in the perfect spot in this incredibly charming city. We had scrambled to line up our lodging online for this trip, as we had jumped into the planning quite late, and were continually amazed at how God orchestrated everything for us.

After settling into our apartment on the second floor above a beautiful ceramic store operated by the apartment owners, and after quickly purchasing some groceries at a nearby market, we set out to explore the area. We found that our apartment was located very near a central attraction in Florence - the fascinating area around the Old Bridge, which spans the Arno River.

It was early evening when we walked up over the Old Bridge, and we were captivated - such beauty; the charm of this city is incredible. There was a crowd gathered at the center area of the bridge overlooking the Arno River, and the music from the guitarists added to the magic of the evening.

Shops line each side of this bridge that spans the Arno River ...

The next day we set out on foot to explore more of the city. The city is quite compact, and most of the attractions are accessible without using public transportation. 

The majestic Duomo, with its massive stone dome which was completed in the 1400's, was a scientific marvel in its time, and continues to be one of the main attractions of Florence.

The city was filled with art; everywhere we went there was beauty to be seen, artists at work on the sides of the streets, artwork on display and for sale. 

We also loved the beauty of the food in Italy - a place where meals are drawn out and conversation continues on throughout the various courses. And such a treat to enjoy eating out in the sidewalk cafes, which were everywhere in Italy. We absolutely loved our times eating together as a couple, and also the meals that we enjoyed together with our son, Lance. Some of the high points of our trip were the great conversations that we had together with Lance while enjoying meals together in some of the many sidewalk cafes.

The beautiful red rose Gary purchased for me as we ate our pizza meal together our first evening in Florence - sold by an Italian who made his rounds around the sidewalk cafes in that area.

A full course Italian meal our second evening in Florence - enjoyed together with Lance, and filled with good conversation that continued on into the late evening. A highlight of our time in Italy - spending time with Lance, and enjoying good talks together.

And we cannot talk about the food in Italy without mentioning the "gelato" shops - everywhere we went, in every city that we were in, there were gelato (ice-cream) stores. Especially perfect on the hot days of sight-seeing (weather was mid to upper 80's, and sometimes in the 90's during our visit in Italy) - and especially perfect for me, ice-cream lover that I am! We enjoyed ice-cream cones together many times during our visit in Italy.

(More to come on our time in Florence ... )

Friday, September 23, 2011

More from Venice

Our 17-day trip to Italy is now history - and we are so thankful for photos to help us hold onto the memories, and also, to share with friends and family. The trip was more amazing than we even imagined, and we are full of thanks to God for the incredible privilege of spending time in Italy celebrating our 40th anniversary, and also connecting with our youngest son in the midst of his travels through Europe.

More beauty from the enchanting city of Venice, Italy:

Piazza San Marco, a central spot and one of the city's most celebrated attractions.

The view of Venice from the top of the bell tower (see first photo), looking north. 

And the view south - the long narrow island of Giudecca is where we stayed for our three-night stay.

Canals everywhere - smaller ones, and also the main Grand Canal that cuts through the city in the shape of an "S".

We could not take in enough of the beauty of this city - a French envoy to Venice in 1498 declared the canal to be "the most beautiful street ... that exists in all the world." (from our Italy travel guide).  

We walked the pathways and rode the vaparetto (water buses) through the Grand Canal, captivated by the beauty. There were no cars or other vehicles - the way to travel was on foot, or on water vessels.

There is so much history to this enchanted island - the old buildings and apartments along the canals speak of years ago, and have a beauty that cannot be explained, or even captured adequately by camera.

Sidewalk cafes were everywhere - one of the things I loved most about Italy. Each city that we went to had sidewalk cafes set up in the larger piazzas and along little sidewalks, wherever little tables would fit.

Gary and I ate at this dreamy restaurant our last night there - it was set out on the water, with the island of Giudecca in the distance (to the right of photo).

This photo is taken from the little bridge that we crossed over to get to our apartment (on the island of Giudecca). In the distance you see the main islands of Venice. 

The view from one of our apartment windows. The varying shades of brown, rust,  and deep red were beautiful.

A spacious apartment we found through VRBO, complete with a kitchen. Our first night in Venice we walked to a neighborhood food store and stocked up for our breakfasts and some lunches.

Loved the comfort of the apartment, rented to us for three days by a very gracious Italian hostess, Caterina. 

A second bedroom, the perfect place for Lance to rest up amidst his travels through Europe.

And the beautifully-decorated master bedroom. 

Our three nights and two full days in Venice came to a close too quickly - but it was time to move on to Florence!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Enchanting Venice

Venice - a fascinating, unique city, with streets of water, and holding a charm that cannot be explained. We could not believe it when we stepped out of the Venezia Santa Lucia train station on Wednesday evening (Sept. 7); it was as if we were stepping into an enchanted land.

"Venice is a collection of 118 islands, most of them separated from each other by narrow canals but linked by hundreds of small bridges. Cutting an "S" through that checkerboard is the relatively wide Canal Grande. Venice is located in a shallow lagoon, protected from the Adriatic by a narrow strip of land known as the Lido." (Italy: spend less see more)

There are no motor vehicles in Venice, and to get around you need to travel on water. Right after arriving there, we purchased our 72-hour vaparetto (water bus) passes for 33 euro each. Good for unlimited water travel around the islands for the three days that we would spend in Venice. 

We jumped aboard for our first vaparetto ride to the island of Giudecca, on the southern side of the maze of islands, to find our place of lodging for the next three nights. We had searched the internet for reasonable lodging in this very expensive city, and were so happy to find a place right on the islands instead of back on the mainland. It was like living in a dreamworld for the next three days ...

Approaching the beautiful island of Giudecca, where we would stay during our days in Venice ...

We stepped off the vaparetto, with all our luggage, met our very gracious and friendly Italian hostess, Caterina, and walked right along the water's edge with her, towards our apartment (vacation rental by owner). A spacious, comfortable apartment set off the main walkway, with an inner courtyard garden - beautiful!

After settling in and making a quick trip to the neighborhood food store, we took the vaparetto back to the main train station to meet our son, Lance! So exciting to meet up with him in Venice! He came into the main station area with his luggage in tow, looking happy and excited, well-tanned from his previous month of travels through England and France. We felt like we were in a storybook - meeting up with our youngest son in the enchanting city of Venice.

The next day the three of us took off to explore the islands - by waterbus, and on foot. A day we will never forget - everywhere we turned there was beauty; our eyes could hardly take it in. Our cameras were clicking constantly, trying to capture the indescribable charm of this city and land. What an incredible gift to be here on our 40th Anniversary - and to be able to see it together with Lance.