From Milano to Firenze to Roma; there isn’t a location that didn’t take our breath away. The spires of the Duomo in Milano rose up around us and I immediately envisioned a time where every single detail of architecture reflected the greatest story ever told. (I also discovered a great appreciation for the years spent learning Italian)
I cried at the Last Supper and I sat in the apron of the Pantheon in Roma, eating gnocchi and beef carpaccio with the best husband ever and our two closest friends. By this day, our anxiousness was flowing for the following day – our friends would stand before God and declare their love for one another. In the Eternal City we rode around with photographers and videographers in tow as two people we love celebrated their union. People stopped for us, took pictures of us and called out to us as we rambled amidst monuments of Caesar, Napoleon, Mussolini, and Michelangelo. We climbed 150 steps of the Santa Maria Ara Coeli Basilica, stood on the stage/altar of a building built in the 1200’s, we prayed, we blessed and we celebrated. At one time around 200 strangers entered the church, silently and respectfully watching the service as the four of us stood below rows of chandeliers and ancient paintings grinning. They cheered as we left the building and in more than 4 languages we heard congratulations and happy wishes to the couple. It was surreal.
Then the next day we split and two went to begin a honeymoon – first Venice then the Maldives and we, me and the best husband ever, slipped off to Paris via Switzerland celebrating 10 years of marriage (in August) and 20 years together (in March). The night we rode…an adventure we will never forget. The arrival in Paris, dreary, rainy and gray should have made the day a bust…but its Paris and even in the rain, even in the gray it glows. Everything there is beautiful, from architecture to people to food. Both countries so different, so special; Italy embraced us while Paris pulled us in, cloaking us in pinks and crisp lines. We enjoyed every day. Even though frustrations arose and sometimes the schedules allowed for so little sleep that we began to fall every time we got in a car it was worth it.
It ended as it began, all mixed up and crazy. Long lines at Charles de Gaulle, again flights missed in JFK on the way home and the route changed, but worn out and tired we landed safely in BHAM, completely altered by so many things we saw and loved so far and different from home.
We never expected to be in Europe this year. We are grateful that we had the opportunity and that seeing the world actually brought us to cherish so much in our hearts. We know that the children God has for us may come from any part of the US and/or the rest of the world. We know that these travels on the surface seem to just be vacation beauties…but there were many moments that grounded us and in particular there was a moment, in London at Heathrow airport where a young girl with strawberry blonde hair and fair skin held the hand of her brother, a young boy with tight dark curls and cocoa skin; looked up at her mother a copper headed woman and began to ask if she could show her “new brother” the dog scarf on the rack beside them that my heart skipped a beat. The mother saw me watching and I smiled. She told her daughter yes and as we both stood at the counter to purchase our wares she sighed and said in the loveliest accent “He just came to us. She is in love with him. We adopted her at birth, you see and he, well he comes from a place that was horrible…” she stopped and teared up. I simply said. “Your children are beautiful.” The softest smile and the nicest thank you were whispered as the associate stepped up to ask which of us was next. I breathed in, held the tears at bay and let the moment wash over me. I pray that no matter what, no matter where we journey to in the world, that people who see our family in the future, the words they whisper are the ones the Holy Spirit gave me in that moment. I could have just nodded, I could have just smiled or pressed her for more information, but the words slipped like water and the transformation on her face reminded me that love is such a powerful thing, because God loved me, I got to share some love with her. The beauty of that family will remain with me forever.
Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me
On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains
In death, in life, I’m confident and
Covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there’s nothing than can
Separate my heart from Your great love.
-Jesus Culture “One Thing Remains”