Easter In Italy

Oh we had so many plans! Plans that included us worshipping with other Italian believers in a church where many different people from so many different places would be joined together! I had even imagined that hopefully someone from church might invite us over for an Italian Traditional Easter meal! I know, i get carried away so often with my thoughts! But this Easter was going to be so very special as we had never been away in a different country for Easter! I had even written the church on FB to tell them how excited we were to be joining them today! We left the apartment an hr early to walk to the taxi stand two blocks away! We knew the church was a little over 2 miles away so we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to hail a cab! Because we had been told that taxi service would be a little restricted today because of so many drivers were off, we prayed, asking God to please send us a cab so we would be able to go to church. You would think that that would be one prayer that would be answered, but to our dismay, we were not able to get any taxi! We left after 45 min with a discouraged heart. Why had we not been able to get a ride? we had waited just knowing a cab would arrive, so we knew we would never make it in time if we walked by the time we gave up. Sounds silly but i kept thinking, we are staying at this taxi stand in faith knowing God would provide!

What happened to our perfect Easter plan? We walked away from the taxi stand with a sad heart. As we walked, it would be so easy to allow this disappointment to get me in a bad mood but as we continued to walk an old hymn came to me…

“At the Cross, at the Cross where I first saw the Light and the burden of my heart rolled away! It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.”

As i sung that song to myself I thought about those words “and now I am happy all the day!” But i wasn’t feeling very happy at the moment. But shouldnt I be? Today was Easter, Jesus Christ is Risen! Should any circumstances cause me to not be happy? Because He lives, we have hope! Because He lives, we can face uncertain days! Because He lives we have eternal life! Shouldn’t these give us cause to have unspeakable joy! We continued to walk and came upon a little pastry/coffee shop where we went in and sat down! We were the only ones there that was not from the neighborhood and the only ones who spoke English! We ordered a coffee and pastry and as we sat there watching and listening, my heart turned to gladness! These were precious people who Jesus died for also! He had put it in my heart, even before we arrived here last thurs, to pray for folks who crossed our paths! In the afternoon Randy and i were walking back from dinner about 7 and we encountered one of the sweet ladies we had seen in the coffee shop. We stopped and talked to her! It was then that i realized that maybe we were suppose to be in that coffee shop this morning exactly when we were! God has laid it on my heart to pray for this lady who we ran into again this evening! Sometimes it takes us not being in church to “be the church”! I am committed to pray for her and ask the Lord to give us another opportunity to talk with her! So I am praying for boldness to share the Good news. She spoke a little English and was such a delight! My heart was full as we walked home! Easter had indeed not been our normal routine, but as we all know, Gods ways are always perfect and maybe, just maybe, God sent our taxi to someone else trying to get to church that needed some hope and encouragement today! Yes Easter was different from our normal Easter, but it was so very special!

And we had delicious Italian Pastries! God is good all the time, all the time, God is good!

10th Floor View

As we come to the close of our time here in Orlando, we have so many precious new memories, not only with our kids who live here, but with each other and with dear friends who we had almost lost contact with in preceding years.

This morning when I was looking down to the view below and commenting to Randy that I will greatly miss waking up and looking down on the lake which is on one side of the condo, but also the Orlando skyline which is on the other side. When standing outside this morning looking across at the different scenarios of the peaceful feel that you get looking at the lake, as opposed to the feel that comes from watching cars race by headed to work or activities, this thought came into my mind…..”is this all I want?”

This question was posed to us last Sunday in church where we attended several times with our kids while in Orlando. I hadn’t thought much about that question until this morning. As the preacher was talking to us on Sunday and told us to turn to someone and ask them, “is this all you want?”, he went on to talk to us about the Christian life. Is just coming to church on Sunday, sitting in the pews and singing some songs, listening to a message all the Christian life we desire. Or do we want more? Do we want to live the abundant life that Christ has promised us? Do we want to live to glorify Him? Do we want to love Him more than anything we know or have. What is our reason for wanting to be a Christian?
We read Luke 7:43-50 where Jesus is giving us the story of the women who washed Jesus feet with her tears and hair. She didn’t worry about what others thought of her. She surrendered herself and her heart to Him in a way that none of the religious men in the room had done. Probably at the time when she was on the floor, bowing before Jesus, where her tears fell upon Jesus feet did she even realize that she was indeed washing the feet of God.
The service last Sunday was ended with listening to “My Alabaster Box” and as we heard the words of the song, it convicted my heart of the question that was ask of us at the beginning of the service. “is this all I want?” Do I want more of Jesus?
This morning as I stood out on the balcony looking below at the different views, that questioned lingered. Yes, it is easy to stand 10 floors above and look down upon the quiet, peaceful lake across the street and think, “wow, what a great life it would be to have everyday tranquil, peaceful with no ripples to my day.”
Then walking around the corner looking below at the cars rushing to wherever they are going, I start to think about the people in those cars. Do they ever think about God? Do they ever ponder what their lives are about? Do they question why life is what it is? Is there a purpose to my life?”
As I stood there this morning, thinking about this, it dawned on me that yes, I do want more. I want to be used by God to tell others the Good News. I want to fall in love with Jesus more every day and fulfill the purpose of why He allows me to wake up each morning. I want to live each day desiring to be His Heart, HIs Hands and live in such a way that others see “Christ in me.”

As the days grow closer to Easter this year, we will be in Florence, Italy having the blessing of attending Easter services there. Lord, help me to have greater desires to be used by You and that others will see Your reflection when they look at me.

Alabaster Box (Written by Janice Sjostran)

I can’t forget the way life used to be
I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound
And I spent my days
Poured my life without measure
Into a little treasure box
I thought I found
Until the day when Jesus came to me
And healed my soul with the wonder of His Touch

So now I’m giving back to Him
All the praise He’s worthy of
I’ve been forgiven and that’s why
I love Him so much

And I’ve come to pour
My praise on Him like oil
From Mary’s Alabaster box
Don’t be angry if I wash His feet with my tears
And I dry them with my hair
You weren’t there the night He found me
You did not feel what I felt
When He wrapped His loving arms around me
And you don’t know the cost
Of the oil in my Alabaster box

Lord, please help me not to be satisfied with just sitting in a pew on Sunday mornings, but to be out there, living for You and being surrendered, that You will use me to share Your love and Good News with whoever You bring into my life.” Help me to get off the balcony of life and onto the streets.

Green Chile Chicken Casserole

Tonight we took dinner to our kids. Tuesday evenings are pretty hectic in their household so it has been so neat to cook for them and have them walk in to their house to dinner.
They like chicken so I always try to think os something that will be easy to carry over there and yet something that everyone likes. Today I decided to make this casserole because it is so easy and they loved it.

1 can of mild green chile enchilada sauce (10 oz can)
2 chicken breasts cooked an diced (save some of the chicken broth that you cooked the chicken in ”
1/2 cup onion
1 oz package shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 oz package of cream cheese
3 tables butter
18 yellow corn tortillas
garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste
1 tables corn starch stirred into 1/3 cup water or chicken broth.
Oil for searing tortillas

Spray a 7×11″ baking dish with Pam.
In a skillet, melt the butter and add the diced onion. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until onion is clear and tender. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper and stir. Add half of the can of the green chile sauce to the onion mixture. Pour about 1 cup of the chicken broth into this mixture. Stir in softened cream cheese. Mixture will be thin, cook over low heat for a few minutes or until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in the corn starch mixture a little at a time stiring continually until mixture thickens. If it thickens to much, add a little more chicken broth or more green chile sauce from another can. (I always buy two cans for this reason.)
Set this aside.

In a separate skillet heat oil. Taking the corn tortillas one at a time, drop in oil for 2-3 seconds per side until all 18 have been heated in oil. Drain on paper towel.

Pour other half of remaining sauce that is in the can in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer 6 of the tortillas on the bottom. Sprinkle 1/2 of the chopped chicken over the tortillas. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over this. Layer 6 more of the tortillas,now the rest of the diced chicken and another 1/3 of the cheese. Layer the remaining tortillas on top. Pour the sauce from the skillet over the entire casserole and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes or until casserole is bubbling and cheese is all melted and lightly browned around the edges.
We served this with a pot of pinto beans and Spanish rice.

Seniors On the Run

Bonnie & Clyde, Guido & Gina, running away from so many different things. So much difference between the two couples. Bonnie & Clyde were running from the law. Guido & Gina are running from everything that is familiar, family and friends. Even though we are leaving for Italy in the month of April, we are not trying to escape tax season. We are just trying to run to someplace which will grow us as seniors. We won’t have Walgreens on every corner. There will be no Walmart to run for heartburn meds or Geritol.
We won’t have familiar faces driving down the street, stopping to engage in conversations about government or the latest neighborhood gossip. Yes, it will truly be a whole new experience for us both. It is different when you travel overseas with tour groups. Safety in numbers, right? Well, there is just the two of us, with the exception of a couple of weeks when we will be blessed with some of our kids and friends coming over to stay with us. This trip has been a dream for us for a long time. Why is it that these bucket lists possibilities are never a possibility until we are old. I am sitting here thinking about what we are going to be doing and what it would have been like going when I was 25 or 30. No fear, no thoughts of “oh my gosh, what if one of us falls and breaks a hip while trying to take a selfie at the Trevi Fountain?” What if we get heart burn so badly that we can’t tell if it is just heart burn or a heart attack? Can we really carry our 50 lb suitcase up 4 flights of stairs? What if we loose our passports? Will we get on the wrong train? What if we get lost and can’t explain to our Italian friends where we are trying to go?
Thoughts like this never enter young peoples minds. They just go and enjoy the ride.
After my doctor told me last week that unless I gave up certain foods that I would certainly find myself having a heart attack or stroke, I thanked him for giving me something else to worry about. Now, instead of walking the streets of Florence with a gelato in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other, I will now be afraid to eat anything other than a piece of dry crusty bread or a sliced tomato. Gelato? Forget it, the closest thing I will get now to that is a frozen slice of banana. Young folks, listen to me….steal, beg or borrow and go travel before you spend your nights preceding the trips, practicing getting out of small cars without looking like you will be bent over for ever. Guido and I are already practicing each evening how to say in Italian, “where is the closest emergency room?” We have sewed pockets in our shirts for extra Tums and ID cards in case one of us looses our memory while we are gone and get separated in the crowds.
Just this morning, when I was tempted to stop at Chick Fila to buy a new Key Lime pie flavored shake, Guido looked over at me and says, and I quote, “No, remember what the Dr said and I can tell you right now, if you have a stroke, I will put your make up on you so heavily that you will look like Tammy Fae Baker. I will not keep your face shaved, or your hair done like you like. Also,you will be laying there with a unibrow. So let that be an incentive for you to enjoy those bags of lettuce we just bought at Trader Joes.” Bless his heart, God love him….he is so caring.
Yes, in a couple of weeks, we will be seniors on the run, praying that we will return 3 months later with memories which will prove that oldies can go, grow and explore new places even loaded down with heavy suitcases, purses filled with meds and snacks that would make my doctor proud.
Trust me, I’m not leaving Italy before having coconut gelato, pizza or limoncello….even if I end up with Tammy Fae makeup being applied to my face!

Tomato Basil Vegetable Soup

We are hooked on the Tomato Basil Soup from Walmart. I know what you are thinking, but it tastes just like the tomato soup from Le Madelines. Seriously, it is just delicious. So for the 3rd week in a row, we have bought it to have with grilled cheese sandwiches.

As of Tuesday, after going back for my lab results, my Dr seems to think that I need to stay away from butter. After delivering this news to me, he picked me up from the floor and brought me back to reality by throwing cold water on my face, I informed him that that was just not possible. I informed him that I wrote a blog that was rooted in butter and that I didn’t know who I was without butter. After all, I have “Butter is my Life” T-shirt’s, Butter Is Better kitchen towels, Butter is My Bestie pot holders, well, you get the picture. So when he told me I could write about it, but I couldn’t eat it, I went into shock. Leaving his office on Tues with a RX for Ztevia and a printed sheet with all the plant based foods I was now suppose to begin eating, I sat in the car and just stared up to the Heaven….please Lord Jesus, just come now before I hear “Trudy, you put down that chicken fried steak and back away from the butter dish. You will now shop on the tofu aisle and kale will be your best friend.”

I knew that eventually this day would probably come, but was hoping not before I had lost my memory and didn’t know that I wasn’t eating chocolate every day or unable to buy butter by the 5 lb tubs. Well, it is here and we are trying to use up all the “animal” based foods we had just bought before shopping for “plant” based foods. Since we had about a cup of the tomato basil soup (which I might add is laden with cream and oh so good), I decided to use it for a base for our veggie soup tonight. Having to admit that it turned out really delicious I thought I would pass it on to you just in case you are trying to not eat so much meat. We are having this soup tonight with a side salad and then going on-line to order our new “Kale Kuties” shirts, which we will be wearing while roaming the tofu and fresh veggie markets. Yes, this is the new US…..of course the Dr Couldn’t tell me this upon coming back from Italy, he loved delivering this news to me two weeks before heading overseas.

Personally, I think he was just jealous that we were headed to Italy and he wasn’t.

2 cups of your fav brand of tomato basil soup

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrots

1 large sweet potato or russet potato, chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped cabbage

1 small zucchini, sliced

1 cup fresh green beans

Seasonings:

Garlic, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, all to your liking.

Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Serve with

Salad and hot butter garlic bread that is lathered in butter, oops, NO….that was the old me…just throw some boring ole saltines out on the table and get the butter out of the fridge to dip the cracker….oh shoot, there I go again…put the butter back.

Sorry, old habits are so hard to break.

2 cups of your favorite

Orlando Magic

Spring is in the air in Orlando and the sun is shinning. We have loved our time here more than I ever imagined. Because we have had time to go and explore so many wonderful places, I thought I would post several different places that you might love, other than Mickey&Minnieville.
Because some of our kids live here, plus we are staying at a friends’ condo here in downtown Orlando, we have been so privileged to find local places that have simply won our hearts.
Besides the gorgeous lakes that seem to be around every corner, the people we have met and the wonderful restaurants, we have simply fallen in love with Orlando. In times past of visiting here, we always thought of Orlando as one of those places that could never seem like “home”. But our opinions have changed. Orlando is simply put, “magical”. No wonder Mickey and Minnie love it.
It will be hard to leave. We are thankful for the hospitality of CC, our sweet friend who invited us into her home here and put up with us for 2 months. She also has a home in The Villages where she also invited us for a weekend. We have been so blessed to share meals and worship services and made some sweet new memories with our kids here.
We have seen alligators, fairy hair, (which yes, I had put in my hair), walks around beautiful moss filled trees and views that we woke up to outside our windows of lakes and gorgeous buildings which outline downtown Orlando.
When you visit Orlando, get off the beaten path and walk around Winter Park. Sit in the park and people watch, then head across the street to one of their many wonderful restaurants. Be sure to stop in for a chocolate chunk coconut gelato at Penbrooks Chcocolate shop.
For the best Turkish/middle eastern food, make a rsvp at Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine. Best hummus you can ever find, plus the most wonderful puffy pita bread.
Hop on the train across the street for a ride.

If you love wildlife, head over to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. It is free and you can see so many beautiful birds and alligators just resting in the marsh and along the edges of the lake, You drive through on a road that allows you to see so much nature.

On Saturday mornings, the Farmers Markets of Winter Garden and Winter Park cannot be beat! They are fabulous! From kettle corn to jewelry to fabulous fresh fruit!

The restaurants which we have fallen in love with here are:
Breakfast/lunch The Coop in Winter Park
Hamburgers That One Stop Burger, Ocoee
Sonny’s Barbecue, several locations
Great Appetizers & lunch/dinner RuSTeak in Ocoee
Awesome Beef/pastrami Sandwiches Beefy King in Downtown Orlando
Italian Bella Italian in Winter Garden
German Food Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford
Seafood JB’s Fish Camp where you sit outside and sometimes see manatees and great view of the coastal inland.
in New Smyrna Beach or Norwoods Tree House! You actually eat up in a tree house.
For Great Deli Sandwiches and the Best Chocolate Chip Banana Cake head to
TooJay’s. There are several of them so choose the one closest to your hotel.

If you have time be sure to spend time in Sanford and DeLand. Beautiful small towns about an hour away from Orlando and many antique stores and small family owned restaurants that will truly make you want to go back. In fact, we are headed back to Hollerbachs in Sanford this Sat with our kids to have more amazing Spatzle with gravy and Schnitzel. We love this place and their Honey Bee Almond Cake is out of this world. You will be too full to eat it then but treat yourself and take a slice to go.

For Beaches, head to New Smyrna. They have a wonderful beaches with free parking and a boardwalk which gives you easy access to sit and enjoy the sunshine and beautiful Atlantic ocean. This beach is a little less touristy so you don’t have as many crowds. I love this one because there are as many older ladies with hail damage on their legs as I have and cover ups that cover them up from neck to knees, just like me.
One of the most beautiful walks we took was around Lake Eola in downtown Orlando. The fountain in the middle of the lake was simply gorgeous and the tree lined lake makes for a most relaxing walk. Treat yourself to this beautiful part of town. Lots of restaurants close by also.

If you need a mall, choose the Millenia Mall. It is just gorgeous and so easy to get to. Exit 78 off the 4 takes you to an area that has every type of restaurant you could want. Even a very nice Dollar Tree and Target are here.

For Sunday services there are so many wonderful churches. If a choir and orchestra are something that is important to you, head to First Bapt Orlando 8:30 Sunday Service. Amazing preaching also.
We visited First Presbyterian downtown Orlando and was so very blessed with beautiful music and preaching.

First Bapt Winter Garden is where our kids belong and we have been several times with them. We love the pastor and the people are so friendly. The music is a little more contemporary but very spirit led and awesome praise band.
So there you have it. Will add to this list in the next couple of weeks as we end our time here before heading over to Italy for our 3 month adventure. But wanted to go ahead in case some of you were planning your summer here in Orlando. It will be so very hard to leave, but are so thankful for the time we have been here and the new memories which are going with us.

Lemon-Green Bean Pasta

This week I saw this recipe on FB and decided that I had to try it. We cooked it Friday evening and it was delicious. No meet, yet, it was so good that we didn’t even miss the meatballs! Quick and easy, you might even have everything in the house that is needed to make it. We have decided next time to add some fresh spinach along with the green beans but you will love this wonderful meatless Italian dish.

1 box angel hair or spaghetti
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tables olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped purple onion
5 tables unsalted butter
4 teas lemon zest
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teas Italian Seasoning
1/2 teas crushed red pepper
2 cups fresh green beans (I bought the bag of fresh green beans that you can cook in microwave in the bag and cooked them for 3 min in microwave before adding to the skillet.
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 teas lemon juice

Cook pasta according to directions on box, set aside saving about 1/2 cup pasta water.
Add olive oil and butter to skillet and stir until butter is melted. Saute onion, garlic and green beans in the oil/butter mixture until onion is clear. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Add the crushed red pepper and Italian seasoning and cook until green beans are tender (remember I cooked them first in the microwave to save on time). When these vegetables are done, add the pasta to the green bean mixture along with the pasta water, lemon juice and zest to mixture. Add the Parmesan cheese to the mixture before serving. Serve with garlic bread and Tomato-Mozzarella salad!

Update on Debbie

Debbie Stuart is being used by God to minister to the women of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX. Because she is being allowed to put the video’s on the Church’s Facebook page, please go to Green Acres Baptist Church Facebook page to watch Life Together videos and other teaching videos.

YOU WILL BE SO BLESSED! Thank you so much. Trudy

Mountains & Valleys

Last week, we enjoyed so much going to church with our kids who live here. Because I was fighting the flu, and didn’t know it, we drove on to church with me laying down in the seat with my feet on the dash of the car. If you read my previous blog, you will know that I was actually not just feeling weak from giving blood the day before, but was already experiencing flu symptoms. Randy kept asking me if I was sure I didn’t want to head to Urgent care but I told him to just drive in the direction of the church and I would let him know by the time we arrived if I needed to go to the doctor or if I was able to go to church. Thinking that surely the effects of donating blood would simply go away, I choose to drag myself into church. After all, getting to sing and hear God’s Word taught “should” energize me and help me forget how bad I felt. So in we go, all the while hoping that I would be able to stand to sing.
The preacher began to talk to us about living our Christian lives and how we seem to think that if we do everything “right” we would have more mountaintop experiences. As I sat there and listened to him speak, it became evident that he had a word that I needed to hear. The scripture reading was from Luke 4:30-44
“Once when he was in the synagogue a man possessed by a demon began shouting at Jesus, “go away, why are you bothering us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know you are are–the Holy One sent from God.”
The pastor brought up an interesting point that I had never thought about before. This man, who was possessed, was sitting right there in the pew, listening to Jesus preach. Were the other’s so use to this man being there every week that they never paid attention to him? Did they just think he was just a little weird? Did the others there that day think that he was just like they were? All scripture tells us is that there he was, sitting in church, listening but yet unwilling to surrender. The pastor began to talk about us as Christians, we think that the more “mountaintop experiences” we have, the holier we are. But is that what Christ is calling us to? Nothing more than people who live for those mountaintop experiences? No, we need the times in the valleys when we are reminded that Christ should be our hope, our peace and the one we strive to grow into His likeness. Mountaintops give us times when we experience times of refreshing and experiencing God’s faithfulness. We know that the prize of our salvation awaits us for all eternity. BUT..it is those times in the valleys which grows our faith and allows us to serve others while they are going through the storms and valleys of life. We are called to serve. We are not called to live on the mountaintops. We must come to the point in our lives as Christians that we seek out those who are struggling and come along beside them to show Christ’s love, compassion and giver of eternal life.
He ended the sermon with this thought:
Am I a friend to Jesus or a demon in the pew? Am I sitting here week after week, listening to Jesus Words, but not allowing Him to use me or surrender to what He has for me?
This week I have had more time than usual since I was quarantined for 3 days to think about that? Am I living for just those those wonderful mountain top times, not wanting to surrender to the valley times so that His light will shine thought me to others? Or am I sitting there, like a devil in the pew week after week?
Thank you Pastor Grosshans for a great reminder that God didn’t promise us a life of no valleys, but He did promise us that He would go with us through them.
The Christian life does have some mountaintop experiences. But we cannot stay there and just glance down to those in the valleys. We have to be down here with others, serving, loving and praying that God’s glory will be evident from our hearts to theirs.