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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

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Entries in Italy (3)


unpacking rome

The view from our Fiat once we got going...

For the enchanting days of our trip, stay tuned. 

Oh, how I was tested on those words about faith and flying. The day we flew to Rome we actually never made it to Rome. We sprinted to the airport in Nashville and sat for three hours because of bad weather in Chicago. We missed our direct flight to Rome and barely made a re-routed flight from Chicago to London. Everything that could go wrong did - well, except we didn’t crash. I am grateful for that. We were harassed by flight attendants. Lied to by American Airlines staff. Sent on a wild goose chase. Flightless in Heathrow in England. Bagless in Rome when we finally did make it. We missed one entire day of our anniversary trip. And we missed the part I was anticipating the most.

A charming Bed and Breakfast awaited us in Tuscany. My friend Erin Tumlin had insisted we stay there. She had visited it when in Italy a few years ago. Le Due Volpi is run by Heidi and Lorenzo Flores. Heidi speaks several languages including English. I called her and she warned us not to attempt the trip at night. A good word. 

I hadn’t cried when my bag never chugged around the carousel. After the reality soaked in that we would not make it to the bed and breakfast, we rented our car and drove into Rome. The finest red wine and homemade ravioli my tongue has ever known staved off the disappointment for a while longer.

I had warned Matt all day of the impending breakdown. One disappointment after another eroded the dam of emotion until nothing stood to hold back a flood of tears.  

The final blow came when we returned to the airport to pick up my bag. Our rental car came with a navigator. Let me include here that the iPhone is the finest navigator made. No GPS can compete with its genius. The “navigator” Hertz gave us kept taking us to the train station. A deluge encircled Rome and hail threatened to pound the tin can we were driving into so much scrap metal. I thought, “I am going to die on the freeway in Rome trying to find the airport. How romantic!”

In a fit of rage and the precursor to the tearful breakdown, I flung the navigator to the backseat hereby rendering it broken as well as useless. When we finally found the airport at 11:00 p.m. Rome time, we had been without sleep for over 24 hours. I am counting the five hour nap on the flight over.

The airport halls swallowed us as we searched for American’s Land of Lost Baggage. We turned back when the area we needed to enter was blocked off. Deflated, we headed back to our tiny rental car. As we pulled out of the parking area, Matt said, “I’m going back in.” He pulled back in and parked. 

“I’m done,” I said. And I was. 

I sat in the car while Matt re-entered the Land of the Lost. The floodgates opened forth and I cried over every disappointment that day. I may have even covered some disappointments from the past 20 years. I realized the ambivalence I had experienced before the trip was supposed to “protect” me from just such disappointments. Yet here I sat sorely disappointed and red-eyed.

“Would the entire trip go this way?” I asked God. “This is what I feared,” I admitted.

I rehearsed the words I had written on the morning of our departure:

Even though I don’t understand and, frankly, will never understand, why God does what He does; I will get on the plane and in faith believe that He is taking me somewhere. And that it is GOOD. And that is the strength and hope I share.

I even regretted writing them. Am I being tested, I wondered. Had I stirred up some demonic plot to make me want to take these words and eat them on a cracker?

In this moment I named my little g god, aka idol - the god who disappoints.

As I sat beneath the lights of the airport and strangers walked by my car, I let the truest part of my soul come out. The Doubts. And I met that idol and named it. And then I said, “That is the lie of Eve.” 

Matt returned from the dark cave of the airport lugging my mammoth bag. My puffy eyes confused him. I attempted an explanation. Mostly, we needed sleep. 

We drove 30 minutes in the wrong direction before I pulled out my iPhone and found us.  We headed for Italy’s autostrada to get a jump on travel the next day. We grabbed our ticket and entered the toll freeway. Just 100 feet into it, we spotted a hotel. The bright lights nearly blinded us in Vegas-like mirage in the desert fashion. Matt wheeled around and headed back out of the Autostrada. The Autostrada in Italy is second to the Vatican in holiness. They think a lot of it. And charge dearly for the privilege to use it.

Matt put in the ticket. “63 Euro” read the digital screen. This equals $100. The computer running the autostrada at 2 a.m. thought we had traveled the entire toll-road in 30 seconds. Matt and the automated voice began a series of arguments. Apparently the digital guy did not understand Matt’s English. Matt put in a 5 Euro bill. The little gate blocking us from SLEEP popped up to allow us to drive through. Then a flash and they took Matt’s photo. We burned rubber through the gate and literally washed up on the curb of the hotel. 

The teenage attendant spoke no English but a little Spanish. In rusty Spanish, we bargained for a lesser rate seeing as it was 2:00 a.m. We literally fell into the bed and did not open one eye before 10 a.m. the next day. 

Really, the next morning brought me a little clarity. I could see the lie I was holding in my right hand. The lie that God holds out on me. He disappoints. He baffles (well, He does do that). He leads me on wild goose chases. And that morning, I confessed my need of a Savior - One Mighty to Save. The God Who Gives Me the Desires of My Heart powerfully convicted me on that morning in the lobby of a Vegas hotel in Rome, Italy.  

And hope rose alongside of the steam of my espresso.


when in Rome qnd Pqris

This will not be q long post because even the keyboard is different here_ in Paris; thqt is! notice thqt the a is q q here! The exclqmqtion mqrk is fqr more qccessible thqn the period.

I will hqve lots of stories soon. For now; Matt is circling. We qre heqded to q picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower.


In chains

While visiting the ruins of the Colosseum and the Roman Palatine, I ducked into St. Peter's jail cell-nothing more than a hole in the ground. After international travel gone awry, I am acutely aware of my reaction to discomfort. To see this space, to stand on the stones; this connects me to the Rock of my faith.