In May of 2003, on a business trip to Italy, my husband and I took a break from entertaining clients and walked along the Ligurian sea where Christopher Columbus had learned to sail as a boy. The elegant beauty of Santa Margherita lulled us into silence as we ambled along, lost in our own thoughts. We had been married sixteen years, had two beautiful children, and a cozy home on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
From the outside, our lives were idyllic, but on the inside we were painfully disconnected and confused. Neither one of us could figure out why we were so miserable, but we both agreed that we were tired of trying. I knew that our days were numbered since I had quietly hired a lawyer prior to our trip. What I did not know was that a mere five minutes in the future Tim would utter the phrase that would change our lives forever. He stopped, asked me to move my empty gaze from the blue of the sea to the blue of his tear filled eyes and said, “I could live here.”
These four simple words began an unexpected, heart wrenching, two day conversation that ultimately ended with our signatures on a year’s lease to an apartment in Genoa-Nervi and Tim’s resignation from his job. We made an unexpected decision to sell our house and move our two children, ages 11 and 15, to Italy. It was irrational, ridiculous, reckless and the best decision of our lives. It was a year of adventure and profound transformation that saved our marriage and our family.
It was also the year I learned to trust God. Oh, we had been friends for ages. I had been aware of His graces since childhood, had devoted a lifetime of Sundays to services and good works. I had listened to so many sermons I could have stood up and given one myself, but I only trusted Him on my terms. My prayers went something like this:
Please find below a list of the things I have decided to do in your good name. Please help me.
ps. Thanks for all of my blessings. You rock~
And then, when things wouldn’t quite work according to plan, they would sound like this.
My ideas seem to have become lead balloons. Can you breathe a little magic in my direction? How do I fix the following debacles…
ps. I do a lot for you, you could at least send me a miracle or two. I won’t tell anyone.
I could not see, in my shortsightedness, that I was placing myself in the control tower. Though my schemes and projects were noble, they were mine, not God’s. I was asking Him to help me, rather than the other way around. I tried to control all outcomes to suit my own visions. When I found myself lost and unable to navigate the very life I had painstakingly constructed according to every Happily Ever After myth I had ever read, I became very disillusioned. Choosing the option of divorce was the most painful thing I had ever considered. I didn’t really want that but didn’t see any other way of solving our problems.
Then God stepped in with a flourish and slapped me across the face with the preposterous idea of moving to Italy with the very man I was trying to leave. Something only He could present as a logical option in the moment. He even found a school for our children and led us to a stunning apartment just the right size.
When I stood, that fateful moment, on the terrace of that apartment, with my face to the setting sun, I looked to the sky and said, “Okay. Clearly you want me to do this. I surrender.”
And from the heavens I heard one word rumble all the way to the horizon “Finally!”, though it may have just been thunder.
Thus began the magnificent adventure that taught me to trust God with my heart and soul. That taught me that real faith includes risk, and climbing into the present moment with fear and unknowing. When we put our plans for aside, God presented His plans for us… and oh, what a difference that has made.
Letting go of shoulds, musts and unending to-do checklists and adopting an attitude of “let’s see where God takes us” allowed for the rebirth of enchantment and delight, two important elements that feed one’s soul and allow for God’s work as He sees fit. It granted us the emotional and spiritual space to reconnect with each other and build a family culture that we continue to treasure. It taught us to live in the present and love that which is right in front of us, leaving the future to him.
A life of true surrender is a life of adventure. One that I will continue to embrace in all of its beautiful ambiguity. I invite you to consider it as well~