The following post was actually written a few years ago, but I couldn’t think of anyone other than my wife’s grandma–her nona–who has lived a life more personally inspiring to me. I’m posting this again because, while nonni doesn’t suffer from any afflictions other than extreme old age (she’s now 102!), there’s a show on the A&E Network, Born This Way, which chronicles the lives of folks with Down Syndrome. They face life one day at a time like the rest of us, yet often with more joy de vivre than those of us the world terms “normal.” Why is that? How are they able to overcome when starting with the deck seemingly stacked against them? Watch Born This Way every Tuesday night on A&E to find hope, encouragement, and inspiration.

 

I can think of no living woman stronger than my wife’s grandmother. We call her “Nonni.”

Nonni was born in a poor Sicilian village in the early part of the last century. She was part of a large family, and learned early the value of hard work. Being one of the younger children, she also learned early the sadness of loss: an older sibling was killed in South America (where he had emigrated), and her own father apparently died when she was about ten. Nevertheless, she pressed on, helped her mother provide for the family.

As hard as things were in America during the Great Depression, imagine living, and marrying, in what were arguably third-world conditions during that time. Yet that’s what Nonni did. She met and married her husband, kept animals, and I believe farmed on another’s land, in the middle 1930s.

Somewhere in the midst of that, they started their family. And sometime during that period, Nonni left Catholicism for the Italian Pentecostal church. One did not do that at that time. Though I don’t know with certainty, she may have been labelled apostate–everyone knew there was only one true church (not a slam against our dear Catholic brothers and sisters–it was just the culture of the day). Even her own husband kicked her out of their house.

But she, with love and grace, eventually won him over.

They had another child. And sometime not long after, her husband was conscripted into Il Duce’s army. She did what she had to to provide for their children–including being a wet-nurse for others’ babies. She grew food, made pasta, made clothing, and made do with whatever she was able to make (combined with whatever meager soldier’s salary her husband was able to send home–if any at all).

She went long periods of not knowing whether her husband was still living, or not, but all the while praying for his safety. (While I can conceptualize, I can’t really quite imagine the privations she, and millions of other Europeans, endured during World War II).

Eventually, the war ended, Il Duce was deposed, and Nonni’s husband returned to her. They had another child. They had twins who didn’t survive long after birth.

At nearly forty, she had her first hospital birth–via c-section–of their last child.

When she was forty-one, Nonni and her family sold all their earthly possessions, and headed to America. Initially, she was told that not all of them would be allowed to go. She didn’t accept this answer, instead prayed to God that He would make a way. And He did.

But can you imagine leaving behind all you knew–your culture, your friends–for a strange land where you didn’t even speak the language? Can you imagine reinventing yourself in your forties?

Nonni did it. And through hard work, sacrifice, and faith, did it, and prospered.

In the fullness of time, she saw her children apply that same grit, and faith, and make their way in the United States. Grandchildren, and eventually great-grandchildren, were born.

But it hasn’t all been wine and roses; no, she has seen innumerable friends and family members pass on from here to the hereafter. She has buried a husband, and two of her children. Yet her faith remains strong.

You see, it is because of her faith that I am here to write this today. Because she, at some time in the thirties, “found Jesus,” and told her family about Him, that I heard from her granddaughter. And believed. And subsequently married that granddaughter. Yes, God could have raised up someone else to tell me the “Good News,” but He didn’t–He started with a poor Sicilian woman in a place not many in the world have heard of.

Because of Him, Nonni is my spiritual ancestor. I will be forever grateful for her. I also owe her a word of thanks for the svelte figure I’m rockin’ these days–because she taught my wife how to cook! 😉

Though Nonni is now old and frail in body, she is sharp of mind and undiminished in spirit. And still tells all who will listen about Jesus, and what He has done for her.

Nonni: a stronger woman who can find?

Who has been a “Nonni” in your life?

Who inspires you?

Born This Way

randomlychad  —  July 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

Folks, Born This Way is show on A&E showing the real life joys and trials of living with Down Syndrome. Please watch the trailer for the current season:



 New York NY — After a meeting of hundreds of Evangelical leaders, who were lead in a rousing chorus of SNAP!’s huge ’90’s hit, The Power, by the mega-popular Chris Tomlin, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, jr. stopped, along with his wife, Becki, for a photo op with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
 
 Falwell indicated that in addition to endorsing Trump, and in a surprising reversal of decades of school policy, that Playboy would now be official campus magazine of Liberty University. Reporters asked, “Isn’t that pornography?” To which Falwell replied, “No, it’s much more artful than that smut rag, Hustler, put out by that despicable Flynt guy. Now that’s pornography. Besides which, Mr. Hefner is a classy guy.”
 
 Falwell went on to say that if Playboy was good enough for Trump, it was good enough for him, and the thousands of students at Liberty. “Besides which,” he said, “as is the trend among all the best megachurches, this will really appeal to guys, and should bolster our male attendance roster.”
 
 It was later announced, in a reversal of Playboy’s new, non-nude format, that Mrs. Falwell would be posing for a pictorial spread. “What can I say,” Falwell asked? “College kids love MILFs.”
 
 This special edition would first be exclusively available at the campus bookstore at Liberty, and then in adult shops churches everywhere.

Have you ever wondered why–in stories, books, films–there’s a protagonist and an antagonist? A good guy and a bad guy? Beyond the mere fact that without conflict there isn’t much story, there’s something deeper going on. The stories we love the most, of the heroes vanquishing the villains, reflect a deeper truth: that the story we’re living in (life) has an antagonist called the devil. And like characters in stories, we endure conflict either to achieve the good we seek, or because of the evil in the world. We are also in conflict with ourselves, with our own nature. But God has provided both the ultimate triumph over evil and the sin which lives within us; this happened upon the cross of Christ, when He said, “it is finished.” Although this is true, evil endures in our world until the consolation of history. If history were a play, this is the third act. But make no mistake: the King shall return to set all things right.

It is up to us to decide which way we shall go, who’s team (if you will) we’ll join. In the meantime, because we have received His help, how can we not be about God’s business, be helping others?

Following is an article from Grace Hill Media on the reality of evil:

Evil has been with us, and in our entertainment, since the dawn of time. First plays, now movies and TV shows, always have to have a bad guy – a corrupt cop, a supervillain bent on world domination, a violent criminal or murderer. In earlier, some would say simpler, times, the dark character in entertainment was clearly one audiences were meant to root against. It was easy, or at least easier, to know our heroes from our villains.

 

Today, though, it can be a little tougher. Far beyond the reluctant anti-hero, some of the characters we’re supposed to find admirable have qualities that just a generation ago would have firmly planted them in the bad-guy camp. From a sexy devil with charm and a heart (Fox’s hit series LUCIFER), to all variety of films (the TWILIGHT series) and TV shows (pretty much anything on The CW), characters who used to headline horror films – vampires, zombies, werewolves, witches – are now the stars we’re supposed to want to emulate.

 

That’s why it’s refreshing when a film like THE CONJURING 2, in theaters nationwide Friday, comes out. Like the first film, a big hit that took in $318 million at the U.S. box office alone, the sequel vividly portrays the nature of evil – as something destructive and ugly and to be defeated, not embraced. The “bad guy” in this case isn’t a guy – or gal – at all, but a demonic spirit that torments a British family and must be overcome by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, reprising their roles from the original film).

 

The Warrens make sure the Hodgson family, the targets of the supernatural entity, understand it is a malevolent force out to destroy them. As a statement from the real Ed Warren stated at the end of the first film, the new one makes very clear that: “Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”

 

A film like THE CONJURING 2, with its forthright depiction of spiritual evil, is a great opportunity to talk with friends about the true nature of the dark forces that inhabit our world. Here are a few questions to get that conversation going:

 

  • Do you believe in good and evil? In the spiritual realm? In the human realm?
  • If you do believe in evil, what do you believe is the source of it?
  • If you do believe in evil, how do you think it can be defeated?
  • What do you think about the trend in entertainment to make heroes out of characters that have traditionally been villainous?
  • Do you plan on seeing THE CONJURING 2? Why or why not?

If you’ve been following along this week, the blog has been dedicated to publicizing the upcoming film, The Conjuring2, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. I’ve done this for a number of reasons; first, because I’m a fan of the 2013 original. Second, because it’s a rare film that can scare the pants off without descending into a morass of gore, language, and nudity. Yes, that’s right; unlike Friday the 13th, or It Follows, there is no onscreen sex here. Third, the screenwriters–Chad and Carey Hayes–are believers. Fourth, and truly the biggest reason, is that although evil is depicted as formidable, it is nowhere glorified. Fifth, if we are believers ourselves, we absolutely hold to the fact that there is a real, unseen world which intersects with ours (“God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”). Moreover, the Bible itself tells us that the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” And that, friends, is exactly what one sees in a Conjuring movie: the mighty power of God overcoming the spiritual forces of wickedness.

So just to sum up: evil is depicted as real, formidable, but not all powerful. It is not glorified, or presented as something desirable. In the end, as all such battles between God and evil must, God wins. And when He wins we win.

The first movie ended this way:

conjuring-quote

That, in my book, is a bold way to end a Hollywood movie in the 21st century.

But you didn’t come here to read my musings on horror films, faith, or the ongoing battle between good and evil; no, today you came for the swag. 😉 I did say I was giving away a Conjuring2 prize pack. So, in partnership with Grace Hill Media and Warner Brothers, I offer you the following:

Conjuring2 Giveaway

In the prize pack are:

2 reusable plastic cups

a leather bound journal

2 t-shirts

and a pair of tickets to see the film

a Rafflecopter giveaway