November 28, 2017

A long-awaited gift

On this day, eleven years ago, my sweet and wonderful Ella Grace was born. A long-awaited child that I didn't know if I would ever have.

She was a beautiful and longed-for, ten pounds of perfection. She didn't cry at birth, just looked around the room in curiosity, which is still so much her personality to this day.

A few months earlier, Matt and I attended my cousins wedding and saw that one of the flower girls was named Ella Grace. We both liked the name a lot and Matt declared that would be the name of our baby. I wasn't totally ready to commit that day, but I soon knew if we had a baby girl, her name would be Ella Grace. (Agreeing on a name is difficult!) 

I had an easy pregnancy with no problems at all, and shortly after midnight on November 27th, 2006 (her exact due date), my water broke. We went to the hospital and sure enough, I was in labor, or so I thought. The problem? My body was not yet ready to have a baby, at all. I was 0% effaced and 0% dilated, but since there was now a risk of infection due to my water breaking, they would not send me home and she needed to be delivered within twenty-four hours.

 Matt and I walked the halls and did everything we could to progress the labor, to no avail. Finally,  I was given medication to induce the labor, but it was still slow going.  After a long and excruciating thirty-two hour labor, I finally gave birth to a beautiful, pink baby girl with thick black hair at 9:05, the next morning.

Ella Grace would be her name. I didn't know the Lord at the time, but He was there protecting and loving me, regardless. After a three-year battle with infertility and a previous miscarriage, this beautiful baby was the most perfect gift. 

Although we chose her name in what we though was a random way (reading it out of a wedding announcement) I can now see the hand print of God. Ella means 'beautiful' and Grace means 'gift from God'-- or altogether, "a beautiful gift from God'. I'm humbled and tearful just thinking  that even when I didn't acknowledge Him, he loved me still.

I also believe the Lord made Ella ten pounds at birth to save her life. I did not produce even one drop of breast milk, which was not discovered until about a week later. The only reason the doctors had me supplement her with formula was due to her size. If she hadn't been ten pounds, she would not have been getting any milk, and I wouldn't have known any better. 

Dear Lord- Thank you for knowing what is best for me and for giving me what I need. Thank you for relentlessly pursuing me, even when I thought I didn't need you. Thank you for my beautiful gift, Ella Grace, and help me build my relationship with her. I pray that she knows how special and wonderful she truly is-- because she is YOURS! 

 "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."- James 1:17
Daughter of the King

November 26, 2017

The vibrant island of Burano, Italy

Burano, Italy is a tiny little island just a short ferry ride from Venice. The adorable colorful houses combined with gorgeous weather, made the perfect destination for a ladies day out. (Matt joined us for the first half of our recent European adventure, but after his departure, the girls and I spent an additional week with my sister Pam in the small Italian village she calls home.)

Burano is located in the Venice lagoon, and like Venice, is actually made up of small islands connected by canals and bridges.

But first, getting there would require a 90 minute train ride back to Venice.

And coffee, don't forget the coffee!

We arrived in Venice fairly early, and the streets were so quiet. Such a different experience from our previous visit, where it was wall-to-wall tourists.

And so much more enjoyable!

We were able to discover, all over again, the undeniable charm of Venice.

But no time to dawdle, we were on a mission to find the correct water bus station to take us to Burano for the day.

While buying our tickets, I was amused to see that the "junior" price was from ages six to twenty-nine years old. Pam had mentioned that it was quite normal for men to live with their parents well in to their thirties in Italy, and that there are many discounted rates for grown "adult/children". I had to see it to believe it!

On the water bus, I was on the lookout for a twenty-nine-year-old junior, hangin' with mom and dad for the day, but no luck.

After a train ride, a ferry ride, and lots of walking, we arrived.

But the first order of business was to find some lunch.

We found a perfectly picturesque café, with patio dining, our dreams fulfilled!

The girls both ordered an Italian classic, any guesses?

As for me, I discovered that as unbelievable as it sounds, pizza and pasta fatigue is a real thing! Also, finding non-Italian food in Italy wasn't the easiest task either, but since this little island was completely catered to tourists, I found some grilled chicken and french fries, prepared to perfection. Exactly what my taste buds needed. Score! 

Now to explore this adorable town.

The main drag was full of souvenir shops and restaurants.

Burano is actually famous for lace-making, and there were lots of gorgeous lace products available for purchase.

There almost aren't even words to describe Burano's utter charm.

The houses were all painted different colors, each more vibrant than the next.

Why are our houses so dull? I think we could all use a little more color in our lives!

We talked at length about which color we would choose to paint our imaginary house, and this bubblegum pink may have been the winner. 

But the royal blue was a close second.

But, in reality, its not that simple. If you are among the 2,300 lucky residents of Burano and wish to paint your house, you must send a letter to the government and they will tell you which colors you may choose, in order to protect the original design of the island.

The bright colors were first utilized so that fishermen could spot their houses, and have a sense of direction, through the sometimes heavy Venetian fog. 

Another legend is that the colors served as a bright marker for those returning after a long night of drinking, enabling them to find their homes. Ha! Regardless of the reason, Burano had us completely captivated.

Most of the homes had a colorful drape over the door, as well. Mostly for privacy from the onslaught of tourists, I'm sure, but it added to the decorative appeal.

I do think Italy has more than one 'leaning tower', though. The bell tower on this church was downright scary!

What is the saying about airing your dirty laundry? Dirty undies, no less!

Apparently, when getting married in Italy, it is customary to decorate lamp posts throughout the town with pictures, flowers and ribbons. We must've been a day late to crash the wedding, but we still enjoyed the pictures, which were different on each post, and confetti still lined streets.

Also, the decorated bridge,

and venue? Father's house? We couldn't tell what this building was, but it had a great balcony from which to appear as a newlywed couple. Think Romeo and Juliette!

And maybe they sailed off into the sunset, under the bridge. Romance at its finest! I'm sad we couldn't have at least spied on the wedding. Better luck next time.

Wedding dreams aside, it was time for our daily gelato.

Once again, the gelato did not even come close to our favorite shop in Florence. Not to mention a very tiny scoop size at that. Oh well, we forced it down anyway.

This might have been my favorite moment of the day though. Sitting by the canal and letting the glorious Italian sunshine seep deeply into my bones,

right next to the ambulanza.

Words cannot express how much I loved this little island, pigeons included! An absolutely perfect day in every way.

But, alas, it was time to head back to the ferry and Venice.

Along the way, we also passed the island of Murano, which is famous for all things made from blown glass. A definite stop for next time.

Just as in Rome, Venice also had public water fountains scattered about, so we got a quick refill for the road.

While making our way back to the train station, we ended up in a lovely, and deserted, area of Venice.

Very unusual, indeed!

We happened upon a beautiful grapevine growing right across the alley.

Complete with grapes, even!

Such a beautiful and unexpected surprise.

With one more (sunny!) Grand Canal selfie, it was time to time to bid Venice arrivederci, until we meet again.

So it was back on the train with a final look at the Adriatic Sea, before journeying north.

Up next, we conclude our amazing European adventure with an up close look at everyday life in a small Italian town. 

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