Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Villa Giulia Botanical Gardens and Growth

Sorella Marsh and I in Villa Giulia
The New Companionship
I'd like to introduce you to my new companion: Sorella Stephanie Marsh from Murray, Utah.  I really like her.  Mikesell's new companion is Sorella Jackson from Kanab, Utah.  (I had to tell her of uncle Chris' story of attending the Red Sands Academy of Music in Kanab and majoring in kazoo.  She was impressed!) Already, they've rolled up their sleeves and gotten busy, because when we picked them up at the station on Thursday, they had a referral contact.  Super cool.  Poor Marsh had to unpack and sleep all of Friday. Jet lag is a beast.
Palermo Airport

Sergio's Karaoke Taxi Service
We said goodbye to Sorella Robinson and saw her off to Cagliari - a really interesting morning at that. We missed the last train before her flight and ended up having to hitch a ride from Sergio (the singer) and Susy who had showed up to say goodbye. They bought us cookies and pizza at the airport, and then on our way back home, Sergio played for us "California King" and "Kiss Me," a couple of his fav songs.

The Palermo Airport is nestled between beautiful granite mountains and the sea.
The blue of sea and sky out here is stunning.  That's Monte Pellegrino (Pilgrim's Mountain) in the distance.

Hipster Manfredi
Thursday evening was English Course - it went well.  A couple of families that are showing a lot of potential. We have an Italian hipster in our class named Manfredi who wants to go to Connecticut, of all places.  He played "Clocks" by Coldplay on the piano for us.  Very talented.

Don't Bug Me
Chiara and her daughter were sick all week, so we couldn't meet, but she is still reading the Book of Mormon and says she has lots of questions.

In fact, everyone was falling sick this week.  I had a fever and chills and ended up in bed most of Wednesday, but was back on my feet the next day.  Anziano Kasper was not so lucky.  He's been out of it all week, poor guy.

Villa Giulia (pronounced Vee-ya Julia)
The weather is clearing up and we are seeing the sun and blue, blue skies.  It's reminding me of home.
P-day, we ventured over to the seafront to visit Palermo's most notable formal garden, Villa Giulia.
Opened in 1778 and enlarged in 1866, this geometrically structured oasis was the first public garden in Palermo.  It was named after Giulia d'Avalos, wife of a Spanish Viceroy.

Some cultural arts nuances in the garden are these semi-circular structures known as Neoclassic exedras.  They were built to stage outdoor musical and theatrical performances.

Adjacent to Villa Giulia are the Botanical Gardens created by Ferdinand III in 1785.  The gardens cover roughly 10 acres with paths winding around four distinct areas that hold an array of plants, flowers, and trees (some centuries old) from around the world.
The Ancient Ficus Trees blow my mind
Genio di Palermo (1778) by Ignazio Marabitti
Latin motto of Palermo:
"King's crown, Kingdom's seat, Reigning Head"
Norman declaration that Palermo is the Capital

Enchanted by the park's beauty, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe described the garden as "The most wonderful spot on earth."  I can see why.  Amazing statues of people and symbols in Palermo's past only add to the beauty of this outdoor sanctuary, most of which were created by the great Sicilian sculptor, Ignazio Marabitti.  GORGEOUS.  Take a look.
La Maldicenza by Ignazio Marabitti
Theophrastus (371-287BC) "Father of Botany"

The garden is widely recognized as one of the finest in Europe because of its large variety of exotic plants and flowers including bamboo palms, papaya, cotton, coffee plants, and a large collection of cactus.

Apparently, it's part of the University of Palermo and is one of the oldest centers for botanical studies in the entire Mediterranean region!
Loved loved this place.
This Arabian style structure was being used as a janitor's shed.  Go figure!
Happy Birthday to Me
Had a shake for my birthday today (Feb 24th).  The elders called this morning and sang happy birthday.  Very sweet.  Sorella Waddoups called to wish me happy b-day on behalf of her and President (I heard Pres yell happy birthday in the background).  It was very nice of them.  The ward is throwing a little birthday celebration tonight - I'm looking forward to it.  Thank you to everyone for the dozens and dozens of emails, letters, and good wishes.  I'm feeling the love!

Baptism By Immersion
Sunday we went to another baptism for an 8 year-old.  Nice experience.  As I've thought about baptism by immersion and washing away of sins, I love its many levels of symbolism.

Death of Sin and Resurrection of New Life
The Apostle Paul likened baptism to the death of sin.  The immersion beneath the water is like a burial: a burial of the old body of sin, or, the death and burial of your old life.

But once submerged, do you remain there?  Of course not.  Just as Christ arose from the tomb, you arise in newness of life.

And, because you come forth in newness of life, Jesus gave baptism another symbolism and referred to it as a Re-birth.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee,
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
John 3:5
Now, think of a baby's birth.  Brand new.  Think of what we all came with as babies: new hands, new eyes, mouth, new legs, and feet.  Who gave us these parts?  Did we make them ourselves?  No.  God made everything.  He was the one who made everything new the first time, and He is the One who makes everything new the second.  All we have to do is come unto Christ.  
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Made New
In the process of faith, repentance, and baptism, God remakes our hearts and gives us what we need, again.
     New eyes so we can see by faith
     New mind so we can discern righteously
     New voice for speaking kindness
     New hands for reaching out in service
     New feet for walking a covenant path
     And, most of all, a new heart: a heart cleansed by Christ
We become new creatures.  Don't we need this?  
I mean, we - all of us - have messed up and used our eyes to see impurity, hands to withhold service, our feet to walk wrong paths.  All of us need to be made new again: a re-birth.  The first birth was for earthly life.  This second birth is for eternal life.  But, here's the thing:  with this new life -
     Does it mean we'll never choose wrong again?
     Does it mean that the old nature will never re-surface?
     Or that we will instantly be able to resist all temptation?
No, no, and no.

Growth is a process
Just think of a new baby.  What can a brand new baby do?  Can he walk?  Feed himself?  Can he sing or read or even speak?  No, not yet.  But someday he will.  It takes time to grow.

But, is the parent of that new baby ashamed or embarrassed that the infant can't spell?  Of course not. Parents are proud and full of love for the new child that has entered their family.  They know growth takes time.  So does God.

That's why salvation does not stop with Baptism.  It doesn't end with receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Now that Baptism brings us forth in newness of life, we continue our walk - this time with the Savior.

The Sacrament: Emblems of Renewal
God is often more patient with us than we are with ourselves.
     We assume that if we fall, we aren't born again.
     If we have the old desires then we must not be a new 
If you are anxious about this, just keep going to the Sacrament table every week.  This is where we renew our Baptismal covenants.  Renewing covenants renews blessings.
     •  As we repent (put to death old habits), sins are removed.
     •  As we re-immerse ourselves in His love, we're renewed.
     •  As a member of Christ's family, as we resolve to 
         represent Him well, our worth is revealed.
     •  As we open our heart, the Holy Ghost prompts, inspires,
         and heals.
     •  As we internalize His emblems and remember Him, 
         perspective is restored.
Basically, renewing Baptismal covenants renews you, making you closer to Christ.  More like Christ.  But, this wont happen on just one Sunday.  No way.  Maturing in the gospel is a life-long process of learning and trying and living until it sinks in and changes our nature.  So, I'll see you at the Sacrament table.

Benedizioni e Rinnovando a Tutti (Blessings and Renewing to All),
Sorella Ashley Nef

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