Sorry there is no light and happy way to put that. It sucked. Bad. When it left, I felt torn to shreds. Uprooted. Lost. Unsteady. I was so happy to see it go.
As I sat in a coffee shop with one of my friends, trying to smile through the leftover pain of 2016, my friend asked:
“Alexis, what is one thing you’ve always wanted to do? One thing that you’ve always put off because you felt too scared to do it?”
“Italy.” A small bit of the joy and excitement that I’d lost waved over me.
Friend: “Then you’re going to Italy.”
My friend and decided to be accountability partners for big things we were supposed to do this year. She’d check on my Italy process (passport, flight, etc) and I’d check on her prayers for the cities process.
Now, when I promised to do this, in the back of my mind I thought: “There’s no way I’m going to Italy this year. It’s expensive, it’s not practical, it’s extravagant. I don’t NEED to go to Italy. I WANT to go to Italy, but I don’t really need to. It’s not going anywhere.”
In the middle of my talking myself out of going, God spoke up.
God: You should go to Italy.
Me: Um, why? Shouldn’t I be saving money for practical things?
God: I want you to do something for you that you love. You love Italy. You’ve wanted to go since you were 12 years old; you even pretended to be Italian just to feel connected to the country. You were supposed to go after your mother died but didn’t. You’ve put it off for years. You’ve put yourself last for even longer than that, especially last year. I want you to do something for you, just special for you. Get your passport and go to Italy.
So I turned one of the large open walls in my kitchen into a giant vision board. I covered it in verses to map out my promises of the year. In the middle of that, I placed a big map of Europe, and highlighted Italy. I bought a giant calendar of Italian cities. I sat down and worked out a budget for a two week trip. I did my taxes super early and received a NICE tax return; which God made me promise to use for my trip.
Once I knew I had the funds and was 100 % sure I could go, I filled out my passport application and got my passport photos…
Then life happened.
I was thrown back into health issues that I thought were resolved. Weeks earlier I was preparing for going to the passport office and purchasing my plane tickets. Now I was meeting with surgeons to have a section of my lung removed. Possible cancer they said. I’d miss two to three weeks of work as I recovered from the surgery.
God: You’re still going to Italy.
While I am relaxing at a friends place on medical leave, I finally work up the courage to purchase my tickets. Despite not knowing how long it will take my disability insurance to kick in so that I have income, I select my dates in September. Feeling a bit nauseous and excited at the same time, I click “purchase”. God congratulates me on trusting him and then states:
God: “Now that you’ve purchased your tickets, things are going to happen that are going to make you question what you just did. You’ll feel afraid but I want you to trust me.”
Me: “Not liking that statement, but okay. I trust you.”
I was diagnosed with cancer the next day.
God: You’re still going to Italy.
So here I am, with Stage 4 thyroid papillary cancer (very treatable and not terminal) planning a trip to Italy. And totally at peace with the cancer diagnosis, the extra surgeries and treatment. It makes no sense and I can only attribute that to God. I have asked questions about affording the medical bills this treatment will bring, and God says, “You’re still going to Italy. Trust me.” And I am. And it’s weird. Because usually I am super anxious about this kinda stuff and right now…I’m simply not. I’m just trusting and taking things one day at a time.
That’s not to say that there hasn’t been moments of sadness and some anger. At one point, when the darts of the enemy kept coming, I reminded God of the word he had for me: restore.
Me: “God, I don’t feel restored. Honestly, I feel like things are being ripped apart.”
God reminded me that sometimes before something is made new, the old has to be destroyed and yes, it will hurt. He then showed me an image of a forest, trees cut down, ground and stumps blackened by the fire. It looked as if all was lost. Then, He showed me a vibrant green shoot coming out of the ground. Despite the wasteland around it, that shoot was growing vibrantly.
“That’s you.” God said.
So I don’t know how much more of the forest God plans on clearing in my life. I know there will be more painful things, but I all I can do is lay down and trust God. I can’t fix it. I can’t control it. I just have to trust that God will take care of me. He’s done amazing so far; the love I’ve received from my church family has been amazing. It’s actually made this whole mess fun because I get to see and experience His love for me through others, and who doesn’t love that? Nothing has been required of me; I just get to receive love. It’s a pretty sweet deal. The only things He’s asked me to do is to love myself, trust and obey Him and plan this trip to Italy.
So finally, after years of putting it off, this blog will finally be used as it was intended…telling about the solo adventures of this peach in Italy. I’m going September 9th through the 23rd. I start in Rome.
Here are the cities on my “must see” list: Rome (obviously), Pisa, Venice, Naples and Pompeii. I’ll be there for two weeks, and if I get a little bit of time in each of these cities, I’ll be a happy peach. I’m still working out where to start,whether to go hostel, hotel or Airbnb and how long to stay in each city. Pisa, Pompeii and Venice can be done in a day. Rome is downright overwhelming. But I have time to figure it all out and am tapping into my Type A personality to get some planning done. It’s exciting and exhausting but can’t wait to see what I come up with.
I’ll try to update my travel plans as they get more solid. If you have any tips for cities that I should see feel free to comment. Thanks for reading and even bigger thanks if you decide to keep me in your prayers. This year may be rough, but I am hopeful and looking forward to what’s ahead.