Following my Heart to Italy


Every year around this time, I hear the chocolate chatter and sweetheart talk fluttering around me, but I don’t usually pay much attention to it. 

I find it ironic that on Valentine’s Day I finally get around to making a New Year’s resolution. It happens to be the same every year. I stubbornly spurn this daylong February celebration of love.

Still single when friends my age are celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries and sending their children off to college, I sometimes resent pages of my story that didn't turn out as I had hoped.



I’ve learned that yearning and hoping is just too dangerous so I happily refuse to set my heart on anything and I keep my heart’s desires carefully locked up. 

In spite of my efforts to protect myself, the realization has dawned on me that when the door to my heart is closed tight, my life is very small. 

It might be safe, but it's very small.

But those very circumstances of dashed hopes, unmet expectations, and the long days of waiting are what give me the opportunity to experience God in a way that others may not, whose lives are happily humming along.

I’m beginning to understand that God wants me to experience things with my heart. He has disrupted my life with people, places and adventures to open my heart, wake it up and revive it, even if those intruders are risky or unlikely or flat-out farfetched.



After spending last year searching the pages of my Bible but finding more questions than answers, in the early days of January I brought my hopes and dreams to God and asked if he would show me something new. 

I wondered if he would show me new insight about where I’m going, or maybe there was a new way of looking at where I’ve been. 

I poured out my heart to God and I asked him what my heart needed. I asked him to show me something new about who he is — to me. 

And I asked him if he would renew the pages of my story that make me want to lose heart.

I didn’t expect the answer that came.



Over the holidays I registered for an online course called Becoming: The Unfolding of You, hosted by Jeanne Oliver, an artist I discovered along the way of my blogging journey. 

More than 5,000 women signed up to be inspired by the stories of women in this series who listen for the ways God speaks to their hearts. 

Last week as I cleaned papers out of my desk, I clicked on Laura McCollough’s story. She’s an artist in southern California who hosts creative retreats through France and Italy. 

She said she had planned to launch a faith aspect with her art retreat in 2016, but she felt like God didn’t want her to wait and she should do it this year. 



So this was the year she was combining faith with art on her retreat in July to Lake Como, Italy, and she couldn’t wait to see who God nudged to come along. 

My head jerked up at her words and my heart skipped a beat. 

I wasn’t even sure why I was interested. 

I’m not an artist and I was dreaming of a return trip to Paris, not Italy. 

But all weekend I couldn’t get the trip out of my mind so I emailed Laura. Her warm and welcoming words in reply to my questions, along with my prayers confirmed it. This trip was for me. 

I’m following my heart to Italy this summer. 



My heart is set on living out this new faith adventure, making art and experiencing Italy, the land of my heritage. 

I grew up eating pasta and listening to the stories of my father’s Italian family, always seasoned liberally with drama. 

Since my dad’s mother died when he was young, the family folklore was that his mother was the quiet, completely reasonable one, compared to her slightly crazy sisters. 



I was always a little afraid of his boisterous aunts since my mother had once witnessed them yell and slap each other after arguing, then in the next breath calmly continue their conversation as if nothing had happened at all. 

Since my mother is not Italian, I feel certain I have only half the tendencies toward the dramatic that I could have inherited {although if you ask my sister, she may say I have a little more}. 

But that's who I am.



I’m going to see if I can recognize myself among the Italians I meet this summer. I want to listen to their stories and look into their eyes. 

And I wonder if I could learn just enough Italian to send you a word of the day from my heart to yours.

Just in case I had any doubts that this trip was for me, I’m also spending two days in Milan, which just happens to be the fashion capital of the world. 

Ciao bella Italia! My heart can’t wait to meet you.




I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart and with Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Come on over and pour yourself a cup of coffee while you read more inspiring blog posts!







Comments

  1. This trip sounds like an amazing experience. I can't wait to follow you to Italy through your blog. (Or on my walking FaceTime tour!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bree,
      Yes, I will have you safely tucked in my travel bag -- via FaceTime -- and yes I am working on liking FaceTime more! :)

      Delete
    2. By the time Italy gets here, you'll have your "Bree in a Bag" safely secured to a selfie stick ready to show me all the sights!! :)

      Delete
    3. I want to say NEVER to a selfie stick but so many times I have had to eat my words, I am reluctant to say so! However, Bree in a Bag is oh-so-hilarious! LOVE it!!!

      Delete
  2. How exciting! This sounds like a truly amazing trip, I am so happy to see you following your heart to such a wonderful place! I cannot wait to hear about these adventures! You are always trying something new and exciting, it's inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brittany,
      Hopefully there will be lots of pasta involved too, on this adventure! :)

      Delete
  3. Oh that sounds divine! There are blessings in married life, but there are also many blessings in single life. I'd say this trip is one of them! I pray that you enjoy every moment as you are filled with the mystery of God's awesome ways!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenni,
      Your words are so true and I the them to heart! Thanks for your encouragement!

      Delete
  4. How wonderful and exciting!!! Wow! Can't wait to read all about your trip. God is a God of pleasant surprises isn't He?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alecia,
      He is! Just when I think there isn't more to know, there's a new side of him to discover and it's truly amazing! Thanks so much for stopping by, friend!

      Delete
  5. Thanks for inviting us on the journey with you, Valerie. I just love stopping by along the way ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Linda -- so grateful for your encouragement!

      Delete
  6. Wow - how exciting and wonderful! :) Encouraging to me to hear how God heard your heart and met you there! I am looking forward to "going" to Italy through your blog and seeing it through your beautiful eyes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susie,
      Thank you for always encouraging my heart with YOUR beautiful words, friend! Love having you cheering me on! :)

      Delete
  7. My name is Janine new to your blog.
    Wow! you doing what I have been looking for and wanting to do. I am not so brave yet to try doing things by my self.
    It sounds amazing. I follow Stephanie on and off and amazed that I missed this. Enjoy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome Janine! Thanks so much for dropping by and I hope you consider doing the retreat. I can't wait to meet Laura, Stephanie and Jeanne -- they are all amazing artists! So grateful for your encouragement!

      Delete
  8. Valerie,
    I had chills on my arms and a smile on my face reading this! God is SO interesting sometimes! I think you will LOVE Itally! I dream of going there actually...maybe one day I can learn from your adventure and make the trek! I love art too so I SO look forward to hearing more of your journey! Love, love, love this! Jennifer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenn,
      Oh you said -- God is so interesting -- I just love that! He's way beyond our imaginations! Me making art? I can't wait to try it! So so grateful friend, for your company on this journey! :)

      Delete
  9. Valerie--
    We're neighbors on Bonnie Gray's linkup today. This is inspiring. Yesterday, I was rejected by Poetry magazine. A magazine I have been dreaming would say yes. And if I'm honest, I've been dreaming a magazine that publishes in print, has a wider audience, and pays would say yes. It seems ridiculous to me admitting it to someone I don't. This happened a day after I poured my heart to God. Another magazine wrote back last night, but I'm not sure I can handle another "no." Last night when I cried to God about it, I said I wanted to give up dreaming. But, he just keeps whispering: I withhold no good thing. And he didn't withhold Italy from you. :)

    I'm sorry this comment is a mess.

    ReplyDelete
  10. These words of yours were very powerful, "But those very circumstances of dashed hopes, unmet expectations, and the long days of waiting are what give me the opportunity to experience God in a way that others may not, whose lives are happily humming along." I agree wholeheartedly. My struggle is different from yours, but I am learning that God often works through our heartache, not in spite of it, to draw us closer to Himself. Sometimes the most difficult circumstances are the greatest blessings.
    Enjoy your adventure,
    Kamea
    (I am newly sharing my story of healing from childhood abuse at incrementalhealing.wordpress.com
    I would love it if you'd stop by and share your thoughts)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kamea,
      Thanks for stopping by and yes, so many times our most difficult days bring us closer to him!

      Delete
  11. Valerie-
    We're neighbors on Bonnie Gray's linkup today. This is encouraging. Yesterday, I was rejected from Poetry magazine. After months of waiting and hoping maybe a yes.
    it's been a dream to be included along with other poets who are sharing their work with a larger audience. Outside of smaller journals, If I'm honest, I would like to get paid too, even though I know it's much more difficult for a poet than others who write poetry/novels. After the rejection, another magazine emailed about a contest I entered. I don't want to read it. I already spent most of night crying despite his whisper: I withhold no good thing. This happens a day or so, after telling God I'd like to hear back. I didn't expect to hear back from this second until May, maybe April. I also don't want to cry anymore.

    But he didn't withhold Italy from you. That's an amazing opportunity and shows me God answers prayers, even if we're tired of dashed hopes. I pray he loves you in brand new ways on this trip. And captivates you with his art :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rejection is not an easy thing! It's difficult to find what God has for us in disappointing circumstances but often if we wait and trust him, we'll see what he has for us. Praying for you!

      Delete
  12. Ah, Valerie! A retreat in Italy! Please pack me in your bag and take me along! I look forward to reading your stories and insights! I'm your neighbor today at Beloved Brews! SO excited when I saw you next to me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ellen,
      I'm taking reservations for those who want to go along with me, packed in my bag (haha)! Loved being your neighbor at Bonnie's place too and always enjoy your perspective on things!

      Delete
  13. I am smiling so big for you right now! That will be amazing, and I am glad you stayed patient. I can't wait to see your pictures and hear how it goes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sarah! It's going to be an adventure!

      Delete
  14. This is so exciting. I would follow you straight to Italy :). I can't wait to see the pictures you post on this blog.

    Kay of Pure & Complex
    www.purecomplex.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kay,
      I will! Your travel posts inspire me, friend! :)

      Delete
  15. I'm so excited for you, this will be the trip of a lifetime.. If I could get away I'd join you. It's just my sort of escape.. art and all those wonderful people! I'm envious:) xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barb,
      Thank you so much -- I love it when you visit my corner of the internet! I hope you saw your cake I baked in the last post -- love your art and beauty that you share with us!

      Delete
  16. You're gonna love it! And it's my belief that we're all artists in one form or another and what more beautiful place to let that unfold. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dianne,
      Love that thought that we are all artists -- I guess I'll find out! 😊 welcome to the blog family old friend!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading -- I love to hear your comments! To leave a comment, you can choose an ID in the "comment as" box or just choose anonymous. Choose your ID first, write your comment in the box and hit publish. Your comment will be visible just as soon as I can post it!

Popular Posts

Contact Details

I'd love to hear from you! Contact me at valerie@gracewithsilk.com or use the contact box at the bottom of the sidebar.