Italia and Characteria

I’ve returned from Italy!  In 7 days I traveled with several others to 4 different places: Rome, Siena, CINQUE TERRE, and Venice.  If the caps aren’t enough to hint at my favorite, I don’t know what is.  Here’s a shout out to Wheaton College’s Arena Theater Set Crew tradition–time for Highs and Lows.  A high of the trip: the hike in Cinque Terre from the 5th rock city to the 4th.  Low: Alex and I both falling ill on the last day.  High: Buying an Italian outfit in Rome.  Boots included!  Low: Having to travel on 4 different trains in one day.  High: Cappacinos, red wine, and pasta/pizza everyday.  Low: My stomach growling in hatred toward my highly acidic diet.

I’m already fiendishly trying to calculate when I can go back.

Now, I think it’s high time I mention a sliver of what’s been on the brain.  I’ve set up camp for a while in the vast topic of character work.  I’ve been reading After You Believe by N.T. Wright, on how Christians should live after making the crucial decision to follow Christ.  Also, I’m devouring Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung’s Glittering Vices (my one literary companion in Italy) a thorough examination of how the Seven Deadly Sins play out in our contemporary world and how we can remedy them.  It may appear basic, but I think it’s key to be thoughtful about our character and then take action to perfect it.  In regards to my character, I’ve been a passive onlooker for far too long.  Wright stresses that if we can learn to be faithful in the little things, then we can learn to be faithful in the big things.  That our day-to-day habits are finely intertwined with the deep roots of our soul.  There are thousands of pathways that have formed in our brains because of certain habits.  So it takes great effort to change those habits and create new pathways in the brain, but it is possible.  Possible and hard work.  One day, before the semester break, I had been assigned to do laundry.  And it’s recommended that after you finish all the washing, drying, and folding, to iron if there are things to be ironed.  Well, on this particular day, there were things to be ironed and I had 25 minutes left before lunch.  I thought to myself, “Surely it won’t be worth it to start ironing now.  There isn’t much time left, and I’d only get a few things done.  You know what?  I’ll just grab a little Dietrich Bonfoeffer and read down here in the laundry room.  It’s not a big deal.”  But, fortunately, this character stuff came to mind.  It IS a big deal.  I barely did it, but I put the Dietrich away, went upstairs and ironed 2 tablecloths.  It seems almost silly now, but it was hard to do it.  And not to do it begrudgingly, but to be present and thankful for my time at L’Abri as I did it.  There are definitely struggles I have with sloth and pride.  To be able to name it is a key step.  But to fight against it is even harder, I’ve found.  I want to actively do that hard work.  I want to fight for virtuous character in all areas of my life, big and small.

An N.T. Wright quote: “…the effort to replace the bad thoughts with good ones, and to concentrate on what [we] have to do.  That is…”character”.  It doesn’t come by accident.  It comes through the self-discipline required to do anything in life really well– to learn a musical instrument, to mend a tractor, to give a lecture, to run an orphanage.  Or, indeed, to live as a wise human being.  Again and again, when you’re working hard at a difficult or complex task, the mind will try to jump away, to focus instead on something easier or more enticing.  And again and again, if you’re going to get the job done, you have to force your mind back onto the job and away from the distraction.  And the mental muscles you require if you’re going to do that have to be trained, just  as much as your physical muscles do when you’re working up for sustained and strenuous exercise.”

My time at L’Abri is over halfway done now, and with that fact comes looking ahead toward the future.  What’s next?  I could use prayer as God and I try to sort that out.  A job will definitely be necessary as funds are currently running pretty low.  But what and where that will be are the big questions.

I’ll end with a lil’ list I’ve been developing.

L’Abri Loves:

-cowbells jangling 24/7.

-sleepy faces, eyes downcast at 8am breakfast.

-looking on the day’s list and seeing, “Laundry: Lisbeth.”  Laundry is by far my favorite job (sans the ironing).

-candles at mealtimes.

-only having one dresser of my possessions.  it’s manageable.

-playing charades in the lounge after dinner.

-crowdedness in the kitchen with 5 people washing dishes

-muesli. delish.  I love it so much that I want to call myself muesli.

-leaving studytime with an ache for more.

-going to a meal or a meeting, looking for a seat, and finding that Alex saved me a seat right next to him.

-sandwich days at Chalet Bourdenette. Mmm…meat plate, cheese plate, mayo/mustard in tubes, and bread just out of the oven.  Oh, and a plate of chocolate and a bowl of apples that came from the trees in the garden.

-a repeat–receiving letters of preciousness.

-wooing one of the various outdoor cats that roam L’Abri property.  It’s especially satisfying when I can get them to purr.


5 thoughts on “Italia and Characteria

  1. Dear Muesli, =)
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading of your recent adventures and learnings. I am so happy you were able to travel to those 4 beautiful cities! Of those four wondrous places, I have been to Rome and Venice and can easily relate to how wonderful your time there was. I hope to experience CINQUE TERRE in the future =) I hope you had some gelato too! Did you get to see the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain in Roma? The Colosseum took my breath away and the Trevi was a memorable spot to throw a coin! I hope to return there one day with my love and also to sit on the Spanish steps since I have yet to do that.
    So glad you could go with Alex and share that with him and other friends! I miss you and love you!

    Ciao Bella!

  2. Aw Rach! That’s so awesome that you’ve gotten to experience those places too and that we can now share that together! You HAVE to go to Cinque Terre, and I’d love to join you on that trip, by the way. Italy, with YOU would be even more amazing I’m sure. I did get to see the Colosseum…we had a great tour! I also loved going to St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museum. More stories later for sure. Love you my girlie. xo

  3. Dear Muesli (thanks, Rachel for giving me that salutation),
    I am having some muesli right now in your honor…went to Stop and Shop and low and behold they had it. I first looked at Trader Joe’s but no muesli there. 😦
    When you come home you’ll have to let us know if it’s the real deal…bring the L’Abri recipe just in case.

    Thanks so much for sharing about your Italian itinerary–I am remembering the movie Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and am glad it didn’t end the way that movie did!!

    God is doing great things in your life and it sounds like the community environment, and Alex especially, are also adding to your personal and spiritual growth. Enjoy it all! Can’t wait to see and hear more!!

    Love you SO much, Marmie/mom

  4. I miss Europe. Can I come visit, PLEASE?! Stupid school, keeping me here. To bad there aren’t any conferences statistical in the Switzerland area to give me a reason.

    I love hearing your updates on your life, and I can *totally* relate to the Wright quote. It happens to me all the time when I’m working on some new research problem and I think “Hey, maybe I’ll just check how Lisbeth’s doing for just a second” (*cough* like now *cough*). It’s not that the distraction itself is bad, but the discipline is hard to come by. I pray that you will continue to strive to overcome this, and that I will also. Here’s to struggling to develop our characters, thru God’s strength!

    Love you lots, girlie!

    P.S. I also love muesli. Reminds me of France.
    P.P.S. I now definitely want to go to Italy to visit.

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