When You're All Over the Map

I’m a miserable map-reader. 

I suppose that’s why there’s Siri. 

But she’s not always helpful to me and I get annoyed with her. 

Just the other day when I asked her to take me home, she scolded me in a cheeky tone saying, “Valerie, I don’t know where home is.”  

{I thought Siri should already know where I live since she spends a lot of time with me at home, but she impertinently pointed out that I hadn't entered my home address in my phone settings.}

So when I was in Rome, I kept my phone use to a minimum and instead relied on my mother’s navigational expertise.

Now she is a master map-reader. 

My mother has logged years of navigating our family vacations, studying the map in the front seat of the car. She'd advise my dad on the best routes to take, as every summer while I was growing up we wound our way south from Pittsburgh to the beaches of Florida.

So if she’s with me on a trip I don't worry about looking at a map, confident she'll get us where we need to go.

But Rome’s streets were all Greek to her. 

We’d optimistically head toward one of Rome’s neighborhoods and before we knew it, we were curving around an ancient building or ducking down an alley or looking up a steep flight of steps. 

We wondered where in the world were we?

We'd walk another block looking for landmarks only to be met with the name of a street {often abbreviated} we couldn’t seem to locate on our map. 

By the end of the trip my mother was so rattled by the apparent loss of her navigational skills that she was reluctant to venture out.

Which resulted in the night we opted for take-out at Pasta Chef in our neighborhood  -- rated #1 on Trip Advisor -- and dined on antipasto salad and lasagna in the dining room of our apartment, as I'd imagine the Romans must do. 

{Which also proves that losing your way is sometimes rather delicious.}

Frequently we were surprised as we headed out, armed with maps and cameras, sure we were walking toward the Forum only to find ourselves confronted with the Colosseum instead.

We were constantly asking how'd we end up here?

But mostly we were mystified and thought maybe our difficulties with navigating Rome were because official signage for tourists is non-existent.

But unofficial signage  -- in the form of graffiti -- is abundant and was quite useful in helping us find the famous Trevi Fountain. 

After walking for 45 minutes, we spotted the words Trevi with an arrow, sprayed in red paint on the side of a building.

{At least one past traveler was thinking of his fellow tourists and was kind enough to paint -- and point --the way.}

And it's possible we were a bit exasperating to our fellow tour-group-goers, who brushed off our worrisome questions when we asked for directions to the Spanish Steps.

Oh it's easy to find, they told us {all of them Rome-returners}, just follow the crowds.

Surely everyone in Rome couldn't be headed to the Spanish Steps, could they? 

But when we finally reached the famous set of 135 steps, maybe they were right, for it seemed as if half the world were there, basking in the sun.

Ironically, the entire time we were in Rome, we had what we needed.


Several of them. 

In brilliant color, detailing the neighborhoods of Rome, and we still couldn’t find our way.

And yet, isn't that what we often want for our lives?

We want directions mapped out for us. Exact instructions for life's major choices.

We want to know the plans God has for us, what work we should do, who we should marry, where we should live. 

We ask God for clarity for difficult decisions. We pray for a big bright spotlight to show us the way we should go. 

But we rarely get those things. Instead he gives us his presence.

He promises to go with us, wherever it is that we happen to go.

Maybe instead of trying to map out our course and look so doggedly for signs, we might take a look backwards. And notice how far God has already brought us.

We might realize that we've navigated obstacles and pushed through confusion and persevered despite a thousand questions.

We might see that we've ended up in a tight spot, encountered a dead end, retraced our steps and recharted our course.

Maybe finding our way isn't part of the journey. 

It is the journey.

And could it be how we find our way to God? 

In the Vatican's Gallery of Maps, I gazed at vivid frescoes of Italy painted on the walls during the sixteenth century. 

It was startling to see how accurate the map-makers were as they depicted mountains and land and sea long before Siri or satellites. 

As I made my way through the long corridor of symbols and coordinates and arrows, trying to make sense of the maps, I didn't realize that just ahead was what I had long been waiting for.

The map room is a prelude to the Sistine Chapel. 

It's the last stop on the long journey through the halls of the Vatican to reach the historic, magnificent art of Michelangelo painted on the chapel's ceiling.

Maybe we don't realize just how close we are.

To finding God’s will; working out his purposes; living the life he created us to live.

Maybe we're already there.

So with this trip to Rome, my mother has declared herself retired from map-reading and told me to use Siri instead.

But I'm not so sure I agree with her.

Her map-reading skills took us all the way to St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. 

Which is, after all {when you take a look at the map}, quite a long way from Pittsburgh.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart.


  1. This was so perfectly timed for me and...LOVE this pics! Found you at Holly's Link Up!

    1. Thanks so much for reading and sharing my adventure!

  2. Valerie,
    Your pictures are breath-taking and your words inspiring! Your mom is as beautiful as you are. Thanks for sharing so much wisdom in this post. It's freeing truth. Praying God blesses you today and continues to guide you in the way you should go :)
    Love ya!
    ~Sherry Stahl

    1. Hi Sherry,
      Your sweet words are much appreciated! I think there's much we miss when we study the map too long and lose sight of the scenery along the way! xo

  3. Maybe finding our way isn't part of the journey. It is the journey.
    You have found the secret do many times we forget. We all want directions for everything in our life because it gives us confident we can get where ever we are going. Yet even without map direction you found exactly what God wanted you to see by mostly following the crowd. I thought about the crowd that followed Jesus, some found Him as the Savior that day, some went away just as lost as they came. Loved your pictures, loved the analogies your words brought to my mind. Lovely post.

    1. Betty,
      Thank you so much for dropping by here today and I'm so grateful for your very kind words!

  4. Replies
    1. Appreciate your words of encouragement, friend, always! xo

  5. My husband still wants to carry a paper atlas with us when we go on trips. :) He likes to be able to see the big picture all at once instead of line by line directions on how to get somewhere. Lots of spiritual wisdom in that! Glad you and your mother had such a wonderful trip! Amazing pictures.

    1. Lisa,
      I agree with your husband -- I need to see the whole picture of where I'm going, not just the directions as I go! But I"m guessing carrying an atlas around can get rather cumbersome! :)

  6. You've captured the beauty of those ancient, winding streets, Valerie. I'm sure I'd much rather walk them then try to navigate them in a car. I'm fascinated seeing those ancient monuments peeking out at the end of the roads. It's like time has stood still, ancient and contemporary merge in a startling way.

    I know you're going to continue to share all that you've gleaned during this most recent jaunt. I'm so grateful to be along for the ride ... and to learn from your wisdom.

    1. Hi Linda,
      You described it perfectly -- ancient and contemporary meet on the streets of Rome! That was my favorite part of Rome, though, walking through the winding streets and stopping short at some crumbling magnificent architecture in front of you. Thanks so much for always appreciating my travel photos and coming along with me! xo

  7. What an adventure you and your mom had, Valerie. Tell her I'm sure she is more reliable than Siri is and much more personable. I love all your photos, especially the intricate details of the paintings. Oh, how I wish sometimes God would give a big, visible sign to show me the way to go. Thank you for your encouragement that He gives us something better - His presence. I need to remember that! Love and hugs to you!

    1. Trudy,
      A few times I turned out to be right while we navigated streets and that NEVER happens! I have the worst time reversing directions, too, so I think map-reading is really an undervalued skill! :) And yes, I wish God would shine a big light on me, too, but somehow I think it's much more rewarding to search and wait, don't you? :) Love to you!

  8. Valerie,
    I love peeking over your shoulder and enjoying your photos and your keen spiritual insights. It's so true that the main point of the journey is to take it WITH God but so often I get distracted and want a precise location to head toward instead of enjoying my present in His Presence :-) So happy you got to enjoy Rome with your mom. xoxo

    1. Hi Dolly,
      Thanks for journeying along with me virtually! Love it when you stop by here! :) xo

  9. Hi Valerie- :) I can relate so well to this in that I am absolutely horrible at reading maps and finding my way- I get lost int the mall that I have been going to since the junior high- lol! I am not sure what it is but I just didn’t get that "find your way” gene! I also want God so badly to just tell me what to do or where to go etc. but like you have said He usually doesn’t do it that way. I love what you said about Him giving us His presence. I think thats it he want relationship more than results and destinations. I think He is our destination - like you have said. Anyway just love your thoughts and beautiful pictures. Your mom is beautiful and looks like you! So fun to see! Thanks so much. As always enjoyed my visit here tonight - with love and Hugs

    1. Hi Susie,
      You too? We are both directionally challenged! I'm with you -- I get lost in the mall too -- I try hard to memorize landmarks so I can recognize my way on the way back! Thanks for the sweet words about my photos and my mother :) and love to you too! xo

  10. Such beauty in this Valerie, on many levels. Even the relationship of you and your mom. It inspires me be the mom my daughter's would travel to Rome with, or other adventures! Thanks for sharing a piece of Rome with us. Yes, I like maps too, and even the paper ones to see the big picture, but God just gives me glimpses many times. It can be frustrating, yet the journey is so much more relaxing when I finally surrender to His route, and then enjoy the present.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      A mother/daughter trip to Rome would be so fun for you! Enjoying what's in front of us takes some effort without letting our minds wander to what's behind or ahead but I'm practicing - and working on it! xo

  11. Dear Valerie,
    I can so identify with your Mom! I was always the navigator for all of our trips, starting in my teenage years with my parents. So when the fibro-fog began interfering with my sense of direction, I realized just how much I had always depended on knowing ahead of time exactly where I was headed. Both in the spiritual sense and in the physical sense, I felt uneasy when that "knowing" became unclear. But your words here:

    "Maybe we don't realize just how close we are.
    To finding God’s will; working out his purposes; living the life he created us to live.
    Maybe we're already there"

    brought such a comfort to my heart! God is the true navigator! Thank you for your beautiful way of bringing your stories into the heart of God's Story! Blessings to you! xo

    1. Hi Bettie,
      Your words resonate with the physical and spiritual sense of moving forward even when we aren't sure of the way and even when we lose our sense of direction mid-stream! Both have startling parallels, don't they? So much wisdom in your words! xo

  12. Valerie- thank you for this! I'm one of those people who wants a neon sign or burning bush..I want the obvious, but miss a lot of the small guideposts.
    I think I'm on the wrong path if I encounter obstacles, why should I think I would be excluded from them when Jesus encountered them too.
    I need to just trust Him period. He will lead me where He needs me!

    1. Hi Julie,
      Me too! I always want to know for sure, for certain -- no doubts -- but I don't think that's possible and it's called trusting -- I'm with you! :) xo

  13. I had to smile at your headline, Valerie ... with 12- and 15-year-old daughters in the house, "all over the map" has a slightly more emotional flavor around here! :-) Seriously, I loved reading more about your time in Rome and found myself nodding along with your thoughts about exact directions for life and the gift of God's presence. So beautiful, and so true. Hugs, friend!

    1. Hi Lois,
      A teen and a pre-teen must make your life such an adventure! :) But I'm sure oh-so-wonderful too! xo

  14. Aww...your Mom is so pretty and looks so sweet...just like you! So thankful you were able to share the adventure together. I'm sure you made many precious memories that will warm your heart in years to come. Thank you for sharing your amazing photos and stories. I just love coming here. God bless you, sweet friend. :)

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks for your always kind words -- they are so encouraging! :)

  15. Hi Valerie!
    I haven't been over here in awhile and my inbox is proof of how busy life is. I love the pictures of your trip and I can't wait to go back to read about it more. I just wanted to come over and say hi.

    1. Hi Kristina,
      So good to see you here -- hope you are doing well -- thinking about you! :) xo

  16. As my lack of commenting shows I am surely all over the map here... sick husband, dead car, wicked workload at work, weekend trip to visit family... and Yes I often ask how did I get here?? But I wanted to pop over and give my long overdue hello and thanks for the lovely pictures and thoughts... Life is not a clear cut path--even with the best of maps and GPS technology! Sometimes we just have to look up and trust wholeheartedly and know He will lead us in His timing right to where we're supposed to be. Your church pictures really drive that home for me... I can only imagine how wonderful it was in person!! Hope you are having a lovely Spring break Valerie! And Happy Easter to you friend! ♥

    1. Hi Heather,
      Thanks for popping over -- it sounds as if you've been swamped lately and hoping you get it all sorted out soon! Happy Easter to you too, friend! xo


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