A Team Effort

My recent trip to the States was a team effort to say the least. Two of the star players were my older sister and my very dear family-friend, Michelle Ule who wrote the blog post below. Between rides to the airports, taking me to see my grandparents, hosting an open house, orchestrating gatherings with friends and family, offering needed advice and listening ears, and perhaps most of all, the freedom to come and go as needed without any guilt, they both enabled me to make the most of the time I had. Thank you to you both from the bottom of my heart.

A Few More Thank You’s:

A major shout-out is due to my pastor’s wife who loaned me her van to use for almost the entirety of my trip. To my mom, who hosted a gathering at her home and did brilliantly in keeping the secret of my surprise visit from my step-dad… and for rescuing me from the flood waters of Oakland! To those who reached out to me, your initiative was a far greater blessing than words can say. Thank you to all who despite the busyness of the holiday season and the fact most of you didn’t know in advance I would be home for a visit, you went through great lengths to make room in your busy schedules to spend time with me. Thank you also to all who were praying for this visit home and for safety while traveling.

While in the States, things like my monthly e-updates and blog posts  were virtually impossible to keep up with, not to mention checking and responding to e-mails (sorry to the many of you who I am only now getting back to some weeks later!). During my visit, I had mentioned to Michelle that I was behind on getting a blog post up so she thoughtfully wrote one for me! Here’s what she wrote:


I’m a friend of Hillary’s writing this post on December 17, 2016, two days before Hillary finishes her nearly six week furlough and returns to Sicily.

I’m writing for two reasons:

  1. So Hillary can spend this day with the people she loves, saying goodbye and enjoying them before she returns to the people she loves where she’ll say “ciao.”
  2. To give those of us greeting loved ones like Hillary an idea of what it’s like to help when they’re home for such a short break.

I’m focusing on the second point because I imagine everyone can understand the first.


Hillary will tell the story of how she happened to come to California during this period, but I’ll explain how we helped facilitate her surprise.

The only people who knew she was coming home were her mother (with whom she coordinated several surprises), her dentist (who nearly blew the surprise with an ill-timed appointment reminder) and my family (who were asked to pick her up at the airport).

I did pull a little surprise of my own at the airport when, after greeting Hillary, I called for her sister to come out of hiding.

The shock on Hillary’s face was well worth the joke.

Of course I hadn’t called her sister!

I just thought our friend needed a jolt of what her family would be going through in the next few days. (What can I say? We Sicilians are jokers!)

Letting Go

My son and I talked with Hillary all the way home from the airport. We put her to bed at our house and the next morning I drove her over to her father’s house.

The surprise reunion was precious.

Her father missed her very much. He would tell a story, stop, stare and then throw his arms around his daughter and say: “You’re really here!”


Hillary had family joys, church responsibilities and lots of talking to do.

She met with friends for nearly every meal, spoke at a variety of gatherings, traveled all over northern California to see relatives and ran pretty much nonstop.

We hosted her a couple nights when her dad needed her room at his house, and we had an open house.

While we chatted from time to time, I left her to do the Father’s business.

Hillary belongs to her family—blood relatives, church friends, supporters and former co-workers.

She saw them all in a blur of coffees, lunches, dinners, coffees again, and lots and lots of conversations.

Or, as she likes to describe them, sacred intersections.

It was fun to hear the stories, but we focused on aiding Hillary in doing what God sent her back to California to do. She needed the freedom to not feel guilty for not spending time with us.

I saw her frequently anyway—hiking with another friend, at our open house for her, perhaps attending her niece’s Nutcracker performance tonight.

What does she need?

I tried to focus on what Hillary needed to accomplish for herself during this furlough.

It’s been a blur of people and activities as she fills up her emotional and spiritual well prior to returning to Sicily.

While she’s loved seeing everyone, Hillary has been frustrated by her inability to “go deep” in so many conversations. There simply wasn’t enough time.

I’ve helped her with some minor issues—how to best to exchange dollars for euros, what does she need to purchase here before returning to Sicily and so forth.

Since the 17th of the month is my prayer day for her, we prayed together on November 17 and will do so today. It’s the least I can do since, as Oswald Chambers says, “prayer is the greater work.”

The future

For all those who didn’t feel they got enough of Hillary, all I can say is, “have you tried Skype or Facetime?”

Hillary’s need for touching base and talking with the people she loves doesn’t end when she returns to Sicily.

We’ll be Skyping or Facetiming in the future. We’ll share emails and prayer requests and read her blog.

Nearly six weeks of furlough will never be enough time to make up for two years of life overseas, but there is much good in a visit.

We’ve seen her in the flesh, hugged, talked, and shared meals, car rides and stories. God is good and it is enough—until we gather together in eternity and the stories never end of God’s glory.

Except, as always, we didn’t take enough photos . . .


New York Times best-selling author Michelle Ule writes inspirational and historical fiction and is currently researching and writing a biography of Mrs. Oswald Chambers. To learn more about Michelle, check out her blog, here.





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