Italy

So I am back from Italy. IT. WAS. AWESOME!

I saw so many awesome things; met a TON of cool people and the food…OMG the food.

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And, the best part…this trip was a fast and a major test on trust.

Let me explain.

Oh, FYI, I am going to bounce around in this quite a bit. Sorry, not sorry. But bear with me…

Every September my church does a fast.  We fast for different things: our promises, salvation for the lost, our nation, etc.  We were to pick a pleasure and a food.  So I ask God, “Okay, it’s September. What am I fasting this time? Is it sweets? A meal? Caffeine? Social media? Routine? (This one is tough for me; I am a serious lover of my routines)”.  As I am going through all of the things I could possibly fast, God interrupts me:

God: Italy is your fast.

Me: Are you sure?  Because this sure feels like cheating…

God: Trust me; this is your fast.

Me: You mean I can eat all the pizza, pasta and gelato I want?

God: I’d like you to practice some restraint and not go nuts, but yes you may eat those things.

Me: SWEET!!! Best. Fast. Ever!!!!!

So this trip is a fast. Great! I honestly thought :”Oh man I really lucked out this September; I get to explore a country on my own, eat awesome food and meet new people. Not really giving anything up at all…

Or so I thought.

God took away all comforts of the familiar, the known and the routine (which I LOVE) for me on this trip. It was just Him and I. I haven’t had time like that with God since I moved away for college when I was 18.  When I landed in Rome, there was no one to pick me up, no one to guide me as to where to go. I had to depend on God, for everything.

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And for that reason, I could have NO FEAR.

Before this trip happened, God did a TON of uprooting this year. Tons. Anything, anyone fear related had to go. It didn’t matter if it was close family or friends…it was gone. And it hurt. I couldn’t understand why it had to be that way and so sudden. I wanted to fix things, try to repair the broken things and confront the fears but God said to yield..and it was gone. Originally I thought it was because of the cancer diagnoses, and I needed solid people and things around me but I was wrong. It was for this trip. I could have no fear doing this trip. None.

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You see, when I am afraid, I can’t hear. I can’t hear God, any voice of reason or logic.  I can’t see.  All I hear are voices of doubt and panic and they are louder than my Father’s voice. Everything within me goes into self protect mode, I push God out of the way and I lean on my own strength. It’s dangerous enough doing that here at home, but even MORE dangerous operating like that in a foreign land. So I couldn’t have fear influencing me in any area of my life, no matter who it came from or where. It had to go.

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The only time I felt fear on this trip was on the plane to Rome. When you are flying, American Airlines has this screen where you can pull up a map to see how close you are to your destination. I usually love looking at that little map, but when I saw that my plane was closer to France than New York, I slightly panicked.

airplane

” Oh snap! America is really far away!”

In that moment I wanted to reach out my arms and grasp for the tiny bit of America I could see left on that map. It finally felt real to me that I would be on my own, just me and whatever belongings I had in my suitcase and back pack for TWO WEEKS. The thought started to form in my head:

“I am al…”

God: “You are not alone.

 

So when I land in Rome, it is pouring. When it storms in Rome, it storms. The thunder is literally shaking the train station, there are people everywhere, everything is in Italian and I am thinking…”What on earth have I gotten myself into?”

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My first stop in Rome was to be  ICF Rome, a Christian church that was 45 minutes from the train station if I walked. Since it was storming like crazy, I had to use the bus. My original plan was to get to their 9:45 service for bible study, stay for the 11am church service, grab lunch then head back to the train station for my train to Padova at 4pm.

Yeah, that plan didn’t happen.

It took a while for me to figure out how to get euros, then how to get bus tickets, then how to figure out which bus to take and then find where the buses were to get to the actual church. By the time I got on a bus, 9:45 had come and gone, but hey! I found the correct bus.

One of the biggest differences between Italy and America is signage. Street signs aren’t really a thing over there. Sometimes a street name is carved into a building, or written on a wall. So when you are going somewhere you REALLY have to know where you are going and what you are looking for or else you get lost, fast.

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I did not want to get lost, because I REALLY wanted to make the church service because: A) it was storming like crazy outside and I really didn’t want to sight see in this weather. B) The church would be dry and warm unlike me, who was now soaking wet with a very battered umbrella. C) I really wanted to go to church because this was the whole reason for this stop and I didn’t want to wait in the train station until 4pm so I was pretty determined to make church happen.

So as I am on the bus contemplating all this and trying to figure out the bus stop from the directions I was given, God speaks up:

God:  “You should ask for help.”

So I turn around and smile politely at the lady behind me. “Parla inglese?”

She smiles nervously, pinches her fingers together and says “A little” I then try to explain where I am going and what I am trying find and we spend the next five or so minutes trying to communicate. She decides that it would be best to find an English speaker for me. She turns to the lady behind her, asks in Italian if she speaks English and thank God…she does! Even cooler, she’s going to the same church I am going to!  How cool is God?

So I got to church. The service was great, I met really nice people who helped me get back to the train station and I had some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted.

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That’s pretty much how this trip went. God led me along everywhere and provided everything.  He was my pilot. He guided and I followed. When I needed to speak up and ask for help, he provided help through anyone I met. When I needed to follow Him and just learn how to read a map…I learned how to read a map. (I disobeyed  in Verona and tried to do things my own…and ended up with an unwanted shadow for three hours. Lesson learned.)

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And the best thing: other than that brief moment on the plane…I felt no fear on this trip. None. It was awesome to do this without fear. I knew with everything in me that He would take care of me and I could just lean on Him. It was so freeing, and since I had that peace; I had a blast.

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There are so many more stories to share but this is getting long. But I’ll leave you guys with this: I am  determined to no longer let fear control  my life in any way at all anymore. Fear is stupid  if it is holding you back from what God has called you to do. Heck, even if you don’t believe in God, fear should never be the reason for not doing something you want to do EVER.

Fear is the enemy’s way of stealing your joy and robbing what God has for you. Christian or not, the devil doesn’t discriminate.  He hates all of us, he loves to steal and he uses fear (among other things) to steal from us. And it is so not okay. So if you feel fear and you want to do something, do it afraid. God will be there. And if you mess up (and this is a perfectionist talking) that’s okay, because God restores.

So that was my  fast/trip. It was God’s way to restore in me something I managed to forget along the way: God’s got my back, I can trust him and with Him I have no reason to fear..

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.”

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To Be Someone

(I finally unpacked all my books, and decided to spend the afternoon reading. I picked up a book, and then this happens. God said “write” So I did. Enjoy.)

It’s just a book.

A book.

A book my sisters dog chewed up on the edges that I couldn’t throw away because I loved it so much.

Thanks, Sammi
Sammi always went after things we loved. For my sister, it was her shoes. For me, my books. Thanks Sammi!

A book that has me unglued and sends a flood of memories. I picked up,

To Be Someone

and got really into the first few chapters, when I realized the last time I read this book:

My mom was alive, I was a week from moving from Sacramento to Fresno for grad school and I was excited FREAKING OUT.

I was so scared and uncertain of my future. Why Fresno? Why did I just leave my job that I was crazy good at to move to a city I’d never dreamed of living in? Also, counseling? REALLY? And finally, college students? I’m supposed to manage a bunch of college students? I’m able to plan groups for 100 psych patients but watch over 600 COLLEGE STUDENTS?! Am I INSANE?! I hate confrontation and to manage people…what on earth was I thinking?!

On top of all this, my mom was still dealing with the after effects of cancer treatment, and here I was, leaving.

Was this really the best time to leave? REALLY?

I remember bawling in my room, my dog Roxci standing by the door watching me cautiously as I sat on my bed. I wanted to get up and tell my mom she was right: Fresno was scary, that I was just going to stay, complete my degree at Sacramento State and turn down the Resident Director job in Fresno.

Yet God had opened every single door imaginable to get me to leave…and I knew I had to go. I’d never had doors open that easily before. EVER. I sat on my bed holding,

To Be Someone

knowing that if I shut this door my life would change drastically. If I gave into my fears now, I’d make a serious mistake. If I let the idea of comfort and the “known” keep me back, I’d have a lot of regrets.

I took a deep breath, wiped my tears and returned to my book. Roxci hopped on my bed after a while, convinced that I no longer had my running shoes on.

It’s amazing what things you are able to recall from something as simple as picking up an old chewed up book. And for the record, despite all that has happened, I am so glad I left.

I remember buying the book,

To Be Someone

on a whim while browsing the discount section at Borders one afternoon. It was 7 bucks, had a girl on the cover with headphones on her ears (practically me everyday) and after a skim of the back cover, I had to buy it. I remember the anticipation and joy of getting home just so I could dive into my new adventure. I loved and still love books. Especially the feel and smell of a brand new book, someone should bottle this and sell it.

Without giving too much away (it’s a great read and wouldn’t want to spoil it in case you decide to pick it up) the story circles around a friendship (Helena and Sam) that was ended by cancer and how the main character, Helena, tries to move on. She makes plans, she goes a little crazy, and she almost gives up.

When I bought this, I had no idea cancer would be the subject of the book. I remember reading

To Be Someone

and facing my own fears about losing my mother.  What would it be like to possibly live on without her? Would I go nuts too? Would I give up?

A month after I moved to Fresno, my mom got the all clear from her doctors that the cancer was gone. I was excited and so relieved. I wouldn’t have to experience the pain of losing someone you loved. I wouldn’t be Helena. My mom, my best friend, my Sam, would be fine. She’d watch me walk at my graduation, she’d walk me down the aisle… she’d be here.

That was my plan.

Clearly plans change, and the unexpected happens. Life takes you down roads you wish you’d never have to go.

As I look down at this book

To Be Someone

I think of the road my life has taken these past seven years. As my road changed unexpectedly, sometimes I would run in fear and often in the wrong direction. It’s amazing how fast you can run when you are scared and when the unknown is way too scary in your mind to face. You remember the cracks and ditches that loss has left in your road and you do everything in your power to avoid getting any more.

After a while, you get tired of running away. You realize that you can’t control everything; roads warp and change with time. You can only avoid so much and you have to start trusting that one who created your road will always be there, no matter how many cracks and ditches form. He’ll fill them.

You learn to walk down your road despite fear and pain, and that I’ve learned, is called courage.

cour·age
ˈkərij/
noun
the ability to do something that frightens one.
“she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”

strength in the face of pain or grief.
“she fought her illness with great courage”

synonyms: bravery, courageousness, pluck, pluckiness, valor, fearlessness, intrepidity, nerve, daring, audacity, boldness, grit, true grit, hardihood, heroism, gallantry; informal: guts, spunk, moxie*, cojones, balls.

*I’ve always loved the word moxie. I want to be a woman with moxie. Tons of it.” 

This past year or so I’ve worked to be someone that holds these traits. To be someone that sees the Jordan ahead of me and can step out into the river knowing that the water will stop. To be someone that feels this:

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but remember this:

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so that I do this:

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To leap and enjoy the unknown. To do it afraid. To be someone, with moxie.

I’m getting there.

FEAR

I saw After Earth a few weeks ago and actually loved it.

Surprisingly Good.
Surprisingly Good.

I’m usually hesitant when it comes to M Night Shyamalan’s movies (I still haven’t forgiven you for “The Happening”. Plants?! REALLY?!), but it was a free movie ticket from work. I really, really enjoyed it. There were several amazing moments from that movie, but the quote below is one that stuck with me:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”  Will Smith in After Earth 2013

I love that quote. It applies to so much that is going on in my life at the moment. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. Fear of having control. Fear of losing control. Fear of practically everything I can’t see coming. I tell people that I am spontaneous and love to do things without much thought…LIES! I am those things, but I usually have a planned safety net, ripcord for my parachute in case I jump into something really stupid. I always have a plan A, B, C…you get the point.

Like I'd really jump into something without one of these. I may be crazy, but not THAT crazy.
Like I’d really jump into something without one of these. I may be crazy, but not THAT crazy.

But now, things are coming and I honestly can’t see the outcome. I can’t make a plan A, B or C to evade what’s coming without messing up other things. I’m following God’s plan.  It’s a good thing, but it’s caused a lot of anxiety because I am giving up control. My fear issues have become so strong that it had me on my knees at my home church. I was up at the alter, trying to stand, but found myself on the ground literally shaking from it. I felt so paralyzed.  So badly I wanted to cast my fears on Him. So badly I wanted to release my control and hand over everything. Instead, all I managed to squeak out in prayer: “I’m scared.”

God answered right away:

God:  I know you are scared. I need you to breathe. That’s it, deep breath in; deep breath out.

Me: I’m freaking out. I can’t breathe.

God: I know you are. Keep breathing.  Remember, you can be scared, but you have to keep moving despite the fear.

Me: I can’t do this.

God: Yes you can. You can do this. Trust me and let go.

Me: God, I can’t…

God: Do you trust me?

Me: Yes.

God: Let go.

After that conversation, all I could do was be still. You guys, you have no idea how hard it is for me to just be still. My mind races constantly. In that moment, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think.  I could barely sing. I was just still.

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I was pretty wiped about from that encounter, as well as the epic dance fest at my friends wedding the previous night. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and sleeping. I felt like I was hit by a semi truck.

I talked to God later on that day, informing Him that I do not want to be scared anymore. I refuse to be ruled by  fear. From that conversation, God instructed me to read Hinds Feet on High Places again. It’s an allegory that follows the character Much Afraid, as she makes her way from the Valley of Humiliation to the High Places. Great story. Right now, I really feel like Much Afraid, and God has informed me that I can no longer remain that way.

You can check out this book here.
You can check out this book here.

On Saturday,  I listed out my fears in my journal and laid them before the Lord. There are so many, and almost all of them are things that are coming in the future.  These fears pop in my head on a daily basis and when they do, God reminds me:

“Hey! What did I tell you about worrying about things that have yet to come? Let me handle it. Focus on today.”

Oh boy, I am trying. All I can do is really try.

My best friend and I hung out on Sunday to make God boxes. It was a great chance to just hang out, talk about our lives and be creative.  We will be using these for our prayers, fears, troubles, wishes, hopes, and dreams. Once they go into that box, they are God’s. This is what I ended up with:

You can find out more about God Boxes here.
You can find out more about God Boxes here.

I am ending this with a prayer request. I have a job interview coming up  with the VA home in July that ultimately sends me home. I’ve been praying for this interview since September and well, it’s finally here. It will be right before my vacation, which adds a whole bunch of complications (in my mind anyway), but it is what God has planned. It’s funny that God put it there, because He knew the dates would make me nervous. And He was right! This is the biggest step in my faith/ trust walk with Him and I am going to keep moving.

Thank you all for reading, praying and commenting whenever I post.  Your words are always encouraging to me. I love you all…seriously.