Though in our 25 years here in Italy we’ve seen that God keeps his promises, it’s not always easy. When unable to attend funerals of parents and grandparents, the needed closure takes years longer. Until we finally meet new grandchildren, at age 2 or 3, our empty arms ache. We’ve missed many milestones in our children’s’ lives, from graduations to first dates, and from marriage engagements to the births of their children. Yet God is faithful, and keeps his promises!
Jesus told him: You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or land for me and for the good news will be rewarded. In this world they will be given a hundred times as many houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and pieces of land, though they will also be mistreated. And in the world to come, they will have eternal life. — Mark 10:29-30
With overflowing hearts, we celebrated 25 years here this month but, in this life anyway, joy is often mixed with sorrow. Tiny, beautiful Alvera arrived in our son’s home (his 5th), and my mom’s been dealing with scary eyesight issues. The ocean between us, that swells and fades with the tide, in my mind becomes even more immense at such times.
“So,” you enquire, “why do you do it? What makes you stay?”
The Lord’s promise in Mark 10. No, not the lands and houses. If we cared about those, we would never have come in the first place! But the others…so many faces that flash before our eyes. Those who have become as a mother and father to us. Those we regard as our children. For the love of them, we stay. And for the love of the many who have not yet joined ‘the family’. For them we stay, and that makes it worth it all!
And that’s why, though at times our hearts are heavy (we are but only human) ours is a tale of rejoicing! A tale of good tidings, for we have a good and loving Father, who does far beyond what we could ever think or imagine!
In this last chapter of A Tale of Two Houses, I’d like to share with you the incredible story of our summer home! One home for folks like us seems almost ludicrous…but two?
Until my father-in-law’s death, we often visited Mario’s hometown, which we call Beyond Forgotten. Our children loved that village, which was like one giant playground to them. But in some ways, I dreaded the visits, because Papà never cleaned, and it was always our job to ‘tidy up’. In other words, we loved him, and knowing he needed us, I quenched the tears and rolled up my shirtsleeves!
But after his death, in 2000, we stayed away, purposefully. Our move here was hard on my husband’s poor family. Mario left a great job in the accounting department of one of NYC’s major banks. A dream job, a nice home, a dog, and 2 cars in the garage. Oops, I exaggerate. Our rental home had no garage, the dog was a cat, and the one car was so old it thirstily drank down every fluid ever known to cars! But still, you get the picture.
Learning we would live in a tent, with no steady job, they felt certain we were after Papà’s money and property. What else could they expect from crazy religious fanatics, like us?
Maybe staying away convinced them that we really don’t care about stuff. Or perhaps, because they’re now older (12-20 years older than Mario), and realize they won’t make many more trips to Italy, they hated to think of the old place being abandoned.
Whatever the case, while visiting them two years ago, Mario’s older sister begged us to look after the house and use it. “Not everyone has a rent-free home to use,” she said, “and you’re Papà’s heir, too, just like us!” I almost laughed out loud, and thought to myself, as we would say here in Italy, “Aha! So you’ve discovered hot water!” Under Italian law, property always passes down to all the children.
We really didn’t want the place. The burden of another property to keep up, and all the expenses involved. But since she seemed so heart-broken over it, and to accept her white flag, we agreed, making it clear that we had no funds for the needed repairs.
We’ve never had much, but we’ve always tried to place it all in the Lord’s hands. And what great things the Lord does when we do that! Mario’s siblings are paying for the work, and left funds to tend to bills and such! Sometimes, when I look back on our life, I tend to think I’m reading a fairy tale, but it’s a fairy tale come true!
So for the last couple years we’ve made trips to Beyond Forgotten, working almost non-stop. But the old place is shaping up with a new roof and interior paint. And best of all, we’ll have water, because now they’re installing an inside water tank. In the deep south, it rarely rains in the dry subtropical summers, and the water gets shut off for most of the day. But with our new tank, which fills when the water’s on, and careful usage, we’ll have water all the time, and not just an hour per day (or two hours in good years)!
With trying to stretch the money as far as possible, I don’t know how far we’ll get with necessary replacements of some doors and windows, and the like. But it will be an amazing adventure to see how the Lord does it all, and how he uses this place to bring others into the family!