Hoping for Italy

Tuscany

I heard of the trip years before, three or four maybe, when I had gifted my husband, the writer-in-residence of the relationship, with a class studying narrative non-fiction. He’s written poems and lyrics, a screenplay, a book, an inspiring blog, sermons to change your life, and short stories that earned him English Department Scholar for his graduating class at Whitworth. He’d been to 6 continents by his late twenties and has plans to visit Alaska and Greenland as final frontiers, until the next destination calls. A writer and traveler, perceptive and proactive, I’ve loved him and wanted to live the adventures of life with him from our first encounter.

But that is him, and much as I could talk on and on about the great things he’s done and how wonderful he is, this is about my adventures though, lest I fall habitually into my most accustomed role as supporter and encourager of all that is around me, and not so much what is within.

It feels crazy to think of taking this trip at this time. My baby daughter broke her arm this week after bracing herself from a fall. We were up multiple nights caring for her in her pain, in the ER and as she transitioned to life with a cast. My husband’s busy season of work begins next week. I have so many end-of-the-year-events for my kids that I am having trouble keeping track. We are still living amongst boxes and unpacked bags in our new home. What kind of wife and mom am I to leave my family at such a time? Let alone the expense! As a church, and as a family, we are currently in a season of seeking to live more simply in order to raise money for wells to bring water to people in need in Africa. We will not draw from that donation, but still I struggle with Christian guilt around things like this. (Luckily I am married to my pastor who understands grace and celebration of life far better than I and continues to bless me with reminders)

We live a full, FULL, life with our 7 year, 5 year and 17 month old children, careers, ministries, volunteer work and activities. I am a binge and purge sleeper, rare that I get myself to bed at a decent hour, but relish it when I can luxuriate in it. What mom with any passion in addition to motherhood does get regular sleep? It is at night when all the ideas of my days that go untapped unleash. I get a few paragraphs into a blog, (but rarely have time or bravery to edit and post), pen a journal entry to one of my children capturing an epiphany of their personality, significant moment from their day or a prayer for their life, or daze out over a few hundred e-mails I must deal with at some point, so why not now? feeling that fleeting wink of a high like I have actually checked something of off my ever long to-do list. Life as a mom makes the hours in the margins bulge.

May I make myself perfectly clear though, I adore my life as a mom. I embraced motherhood like I did swimming, diving confidently, deep and excitedly into waters that felt more like home to my immersed body than dry land ever had. I have relished it, found purpose for my in life in it, and in seasons, have sought to maintain my identity as an individual with interests before and beyond early it. It is easy for these pieces of myself to feel lost, like all those little mismatched socks in the ever-bearing pile of laundry. The demands of mothering are constant, require more of me than I sometimes have to give and are wrought with rewards beyond measure.

Following my recent miscarriage (two and half years after the devastation of our stillborn son) Scott secretly inquired to see if there was still room in the writing class to Montalcino, coming to the realization that recent circumstances in our lives, including the miscarriage, could make the trip a possibility. I felt a call to write a few years ago and have sought to follow that as time and life circumstances have allowed. One of those pursuits was a writing class this fall in Seattle where I had learned of the Italy class and had kept the flyer for the trip on my bulletin board ever since, even brought it with us on our recent move to our new home. Scott and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, a whole week exploring the Tuscany and had particularly enjoyed the small hill town of Montalcino known for their Brunello red wine, the most reputable in the country. I remember reading in Anne Lamott’s book Operating Instructions about her life as a new mom that she had been a food critic at the time. How wonderful, I thought, to eat amazing food and be able to write about it. I thank God for every meal and have had experiences with food like that felt divine. I held hope that one day it would all come together to go and learn how to form gratitude for delicious food into inspired words. One day, when I was not pregnant or nursing. One day when we had a little extra money set aside. One day when we could use some airline miles for tickets and the kids could be cared for while Scott worked and I could leave my work and obligations for a bit and, and, and…one day.

There was one spot left, this would be one day. This is why I love my husband. Not because he is regularly so extravagant (he is typically wisely frugal) but because he believes in pursuing life experiences. He makes things happen.

When I met Scott at a Young Life fundraising event we were both nervous young college students speaking to a room full of respectable donors about our love for God and our love for kids and our dedication to ministry. We were each immediately smitten in hearing the other’s passion and priorities. I was volunteering at various stations throughout the evening and when Scott coincidentally kept showing up in the vicinity I gradually realized this was on purpose and gained the courage to notice and respond. Our first conversation is etched in my mind. A piece of that was discovering he was studying American travel literature and after graduation planned to travel to every state in the lower 48 states of the U.S. and write a book about it. He spoke with such assurance, humility and purpose that I knew he meant it; rare for a young college graduate, or anyone I’d ever met for that matter, to have such a vision and follow it. I knew him for 3 life bonding months before he left. Much as my heart ached to see him go, I knew he must in order to be the man he was created to be, and the man I would always adore.

In addition to securing my place in the class, Scott booked airline tickets scraping together some hidden air miles and made arrangements for the care of our kids; things I needed to come together well in order to feel any peace about going. He kept telling me it was so important for our kids to see me follow my dreams, to offset the mom-guilt he knows plagues me whenever I feel like I am being self-indulgent, much as I agreed with him. I preach self-care, but still it is hard to feel worthy of such an experience. It was also very scary to think of being apart from my family when life so recently reminded me once again how unpredictable our days can be; both a motivator to pursue my passions while I can and to never leave the vicinity of my loved ones.

So I am off to Italy, to follow a dream and a call, learn a new craft, relish some time of creativity and solitude, and meet new friends from all over the country. I will ache for the voices and hundreds of moments of physical contact I have with my husband and little ones who hug and climb and cling and fall and need me throughout the day, as I need them.

This is how we live – longing for togetherness and connection even as we seek to live out our unique purposes and passions as individuals. The beauty of it all is how we dance, in and out of sync, sometimes solo and adrift moving to the rhythms we alone perceive and sometimes in embrace aware of the joy and shelter we share in and create as we move. We sing and we cheer and we smile and we delight when we gather in our living room with music turned loud passing baby and big kids up and down and around for swings and for dips and stealing a kiss or a twirl, remind each other of why we seek so purposefully to capture and cherish this beautiful life we have been given.


2 responses to “Hoping for Italy

  • little bird

    So happy you have arrived at “that moment” to which you are able to “let in” Italy, but most importantly to recognize yourself at a time which your passion of family leaves little time for self discovery. Nice to see you have let God’s light shine through you to lead forth a new path. Enjoy it, relish it and share it!

  • Nana

    So glad you made it Heather!

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