Unfortunately, I have spent a lot of time being afraid. As I sit here, I’m in a new place. An unfamiliar place….and the doors DO NOT LOCK where I am staying. So it’s like I’m camping out in the open, alone. Well, I’m in a house, but it feels like that to me. Even in the states, I have a big dog, lock all my doors twice, have a weapon in my nightstand, lock my bedroom door AND use a heavy metal doorstop on my bedroom door. Crazy, I know. Always have. People here in Italy have little fear. They act like it’s no big deal to have no locks. They look at me like I’m crazy. I always thought of myself having that sense of peace, but I’m not sure I do as often as I’d like to think.
And that leads me to follow up on my last post about my past. This will not be fun to read, so fair warning. You see, fear goes back a long way for me. Although I’m not sure I knew it at the time. It has always been a companion, maybe. It may have all started back in 1975 when our house caught on fire in Louisiana. We had just built a new house and I was just shy of being 2 years old. My dad had been drinking earlier that day and had been fighting with my mom about something; probably that. Long story short, there was an explosion after dinner. A spark from the AC unit landed in a bucket of glue that my dad was using to lay some flooring down. He tried to run but tripped up on that bucket of glue and ended up with 3rd degree burns over 90% of his body. My sister got me out of the house (she was 9) and my mom pulled my dad out. Thankfully I have no memory of that day. My dad “lived” for about a month after that at Brooke’s Burn Center in San Antonio, but later died 10 days before I turned 2 years old. We lost EVERYTHING. My mom had no plan B. I’m not much older now than when my mom lived through that, and I can tell you I’m not sure how she went on another day. Well, in some ways, I do. That fire forever changed our lives. I can only simplify this story, as there is enough to write a book. Seriously. But my mom was never the same after that. Who could be?
So, the years after that were so many years of sadness. My mom suffered from severe depression and tried to sooth that with alcohol and painkillers. There were numerous times she tried to commit suicide. I saw her with slit wrists. I found her after taking a bottle of sleeping pills and then having to get her stomach pumped (several times). I saw her date men that were abusive to her. Physically and mentally. I saw her cry EVERY year on her and my dad’s anniversary, his birthday, the day our house caught on fire, the day he died, EVERY holiday. She spent most of her life in pain and as I type this, makes me cry. It makes me so sad for her that no one was able to help her back then. She drank a lot and I remember spending many nights as a child at the local VFW or American Legion and then having to go to school the next day. Sometimes my sister would even have to drive us home way before she even had a license. But I don’t want to paint my mom as this awful person. She just had a really hard life and no support, really. And she tried the best she knew how to take care of me and my sister. She would clean houses and mow yards to buy me things. You know, I’m not even sure as a teenager that I once told her thank you. I was so hurt by all the other stuff she did. We were ALL so broken and lost and didn’t know how to find/have peace. During all of this time growing up, I was raised by my single mom and for most of my life we lived in Low Rental Housing on Wolf Street in Killeen, Texas. I go back now and it is literally like the movie The Blind Side. I’m not sure many I went to school with knew that about me or knew I lived in low rental housing, if so, I never knew. You see, I thought ALL of this was normal at the time. I never knew my life could be different. Until my DECA teacher in high school dropped me off after an event one day. I asked to be dropped off last and when he saw where I lived, he said nothing that day, but pulled me aside after class the next school day and told me “You know you are meant for more than this. And you can do more with your life.” That’s all he said, but as I mentioned in my last post, that was all I needed. It was life changing as crazy as it sounds.
During this difficult time in my teenage years, I am sure I had a dream from God. He assured me everything would be okay. He was clearly standing at the foot of my bed one night after me and my mom had been fighting when I woke up from a bad dream. Funny thing is, I didn’t even go to church. Or read the bible. Or know exactly who Jesus and God were. But I KNEW. I can vividly remember it even now about 30 years later.
So what does this all have to do with fear up until this point? Fear will tell you there is no future. That people can’t change. Fear will lie and tell you that you aren’t worthy of more. It will try and convince you that you’re not enough. Fear will make you constantly compare your life with others. Fear will tell you that every bad thing that’s happened was caused by God. That is SUCH A LIE!! I have so much more to share about this journey I’m on with God with you guys!! I can tell you though, that even when I didn’t know Him, looking back now, He was ALWAYS shining His light on me. Directing my steps. Protecting me, especially from things I thought I wanted. Providing for me and my daughter, as I was a single parent for most of her life. I can assure anyone reading this that as broken and messed up you THINK you may be, He loves you. He is waiting on you and will continue to do so. I know this as sure as I know that the sun rises in the mornings. And I also know the joy that comes from knowing Him.
This is only the start of this journey with God. I have many more valleys in this life that ultimately led me to Him years later, so more on that next time. It really is the foundation that gave me the courage to do what I’m doing. I’m sure He’s been waiting long before now for me to jump, but he just waited. He often waits and prepares us for the journey He has planned. Sometimes, as in this case for me, you just have to jump not knowing the outcome. That scares me to death. I gotta be honest. But again, fear is a liar. I know I was called here to Italy for a reason and I am coming to terms with the fact that there is not a timeline to the destination. Yes, I’m here in Italy. But I don’t know the next step until the next day. I may not get the answer I’m hoping for while I am here but I am okay with that. I keep expecting to have this ah-ha moment but it may not come. I do know though, that He is growing me. My goodness have I grown in 3 weeks. I am so far out of my comfort zone. I literally have to google EVERYTHING. Nothing here is familiar to me. But He has opened my eyes to notice the beauty in so many things. Kindness in people. Beauty in old things. How calming nature is. How you can be happy with so much less. On that note, I have to mention something from today before wrapping this post up. I am staying at an old Tuscan farm- way out from any town. Full of animals and gardens. And the people here work hard. They have a very simple life but they have that light in them that I’ve heard about and seen, just not often enough. They have this joy about them. The owner is so generous and even brought me fresh eggs from his chickens for breakfast tomorrow. They invited me to dinner at their house for a home cooked meal. They have little but still give. God has reminded me to be selfless. To be even more generous. He will always supply our needs. Phil 4:19
With that, be encouraged. Be brave. God makes beauty from the ashes. And as I head to bed, I can know that fear is a liar!!! Stay tuned for updates on my 3rd week here in Italy. It's been a fun one!!
“Kindness is a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in this world.” I read this quote a couple of days ago and it is true. Kindness. It’s free and oh so powerful.
I arrived here in Italy 16 days ago, which in itself seems unbelievable. It’s hard to believe I have been here already for over 2 weeks. Since my last post, I have been all over the hills of Tuscany, including San Gimignano, Pistoia and Florence and I have met THE most friendly and kind people. I could go on and on about the kindness from my new friends Mila, Tommaso, Cindy and Frank, Vane and Giorgio. In the last week, I have been invited and taken to dinner twice, been invited to go horseback riding Sunday, met a couple from Switzerland at Mercato Centrale in Florence and had the best conversation and afterwards, they bought me dessert. Tommaso invited me over to see his villa where he is doing renovations and expecting to open it up for visitors in late April. It was hands down I place I could dream of living! Last night, Giorgio, an owner of one of the airbnb’s, invited me into town to give me a tour of the city and he gave me a lot of insight into the history of the buildings and city. He then took me to dinner and wouldn’t let me pay, saying that “Men in Italy never let a woman pay for dinner!” It was the nicest dinner I have had yet. One thing I didn’t mention earlier was that Giorgio’s wife gave me her boots to go hiking in yesterday morning. All I brought with me was my Nike’s, a pair of sandals and some casual shoes. When she saw my Nikes, she said I had to have proper shoes to hike in. We actually wore the same size! She is letting me keep them while I am here so I have good shoes to go hiking in. This is the kindness I have experienced almost every day I’ve been here. And for that I have been so grateful. For a moment I was even a little bit sad at one point, thinking, “Why aren’t people more like this back home?” And then I felt that nudge. It can start with me. When was the last time I brought a new person breakfast? Have I ever offered someone new to the city my time to show them around? So the takeaway for me is, if you want to see more kindness, be THAT person. If it makes me feel good and welcomed, then I can help someone feel that way, too. It doesn’t take much. (As I am typing this on this amazing patio overlooking the countryside, Giorgio pops his head out of one of the windows and says, “I’m making a coffee, would you like one?” – THIS y’all. I love it!!)
A few things I have learned this past week: The history here is never ending. I could be here a lifetime and still not know half of the history here. It’s quite amazing. For instance, I took a picture of an old church here in the countryside and later found out that it was built in 998. Yes, you read that right. Over 1,000 years ago! And it’s still standing and in decent shape! I also learned how they go about hunting wild boar in the hills here. The hunters form long lines on each side of the hills during early winter and they basically walk in towards each other until they trap all of these wild boar and then they start shooting them. It’s very well organized and Giorgio says you can hear them and see them in the hillside when it takes place. Gruesome I know for some of you reading this, but wild boar is a huge part of their diet here. And I have to say, it’s delicious! Secondly, I am really drawn to this simple life. Much more simple than what I was living. This has surprised me! I have been shocked at how easy it really is to live out of a suitcase. I have missed the comfort of my own bed at times, or a coffee in the morning while watching HGTV on the weekends, but for the most part not having many possessions has been pretty nice actually. I hope to quickly find work when I get back back to the states, but I want to live a much simpler life when I return. I am a pretty frugal person anyways and hope to just continue to simplify my life and house- wherever that turns out to be. And lastly, I thought I knew how to just be still. It takes much more effort than I thought and I have really struggled with not having a schedule; a routine. I have found myself missing work at times. I think it’s because work defines so much of our lives. Our lives tend to revolve around work and a work schedule. Now that I am not working, I feel like I am constantly trying to understand what value I bring to anything. I’m also struggling with not being plugged into a church yet, although that is coming when I get to Milan and then when I am helping with our Missions team in Naples. But for now, I’ve been watching services online and searching for places to attend that I can get to easily. I loved my Saturday morning time I served on the prayer team. I loved my Sunday mornings with friends at church followed by brunch. And I miss First Wednesdays. But one thing I know for sure is that I was called to get OUT of my comfort zone. It’s not about what I want, but what others need and what God thinks I can help with. So, I’ll continue to keep seeking guidance and appreciate every single moment I am here. It’s been the experience of a lifetime and I am so grateful I made the JUMP!
I will make an effort to post more often and I still am trying to clean up my blog so that I can post more pictures here. So stay tuned. Also, several have asked about my past and what led me to this point in my life and I hope to share that on the next post. I will leave a little something to chew on. I thank Mr. Torres back at Ellison High School for speaking life over me. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was the person that gave me hope for a better future than what I was living. Having seen where I lived (in low rental housing) and having known a little about my home life, he forever changed my life by saying to me, “You know you are meant for more than this. And you can do more with your life.” That’s all he said and that’s all I apparently needed to hear. It became the wind in my wings and set me on a path to work hard and get out of the situation I was in. Words of advice until next time: You are capable of changing your life. Of doing more and becoming better. You can change your family tree and not accept things the way they are. Know that. I am living proof. My hope is that if you are in a dark place, whatever that may be, I hope you can see the light and feel me cheering you on. Dream big and go after the life you want!
Well, it’s been 1 FULL week since I landed in Rome. The last week has been beyond my expectations. Over the last 7 days, I have been in Rome, Florence, Siena, Caserta, Santa Maria Capua Vetere and Pelago to name a few places. And they all have been beautiful and very different. I can say, as I sit here tonight in Tuscany, that I feel most at home here, outside of Florence. I can see why so many great writings and so much great art originated here. You can’t help but feel inspired. I have a peace that I can not put into words. Tonight, I had dinner outside on my patio and just to hear the birds and feel the breeze and watch the sunset, well, it brought me back to being a kid. Feeling free and noticing all the things I loved about being outside when I was younger. I guess that is what I loved about training and running a marathon. Running had me outside and I felt free. I really miss those days. More than I realized being at home in Birmingham. There is something about nature that just brings down my blood pressure.
A few people have asked what I am doing here. Truth is, I’m not really sure yet. I know I was called to Italy for something, but I am honestly praying that God directs me and reveals that to me while I am here. I do have a mission trip in Naples next month and I feel a tug towards Hillsong church in Milan, but other than that I feel like, so far, that I just need to be still. And listen. And relax. God has really put on my heart that I have been so focused on things that were/are not as important as I placed them in my life. So I think there is something He is trying to teach me as well. Patience. Trust. Just the gift of slowing down. I lived by a calendar before and I was always planning the next day. The next week. The next month. And that’s been a hard thing to adjust to here. I have zero control of anything really. And as I sit here tonight and watch the sunset, I realize that God has so much more for us than living a stressed out, self absorbed life. And I have also learned that we really need WAY less than we think we do. Having been living out of a suitcase for a week, I have realized a couple of things. He always provides. Example: I had a neighbor where I have been staying the last week that has brought bread and croissants to me- EVERY morning. Never knocked. Just silently left them hanging on my door in a bag. The few groceries I bought at the local store somehow lasted me the entire week. The other thing is that when you feel lonely (and are in a new place), He often brings someone your way. I met a lady named Mila who is a Chemist here and works to make sure food is chemical and pesticide free here in Italy. A complete stranger in a foreign country and she invited to pick me up and drive us to dinner. AND I ACCEPTED. It was a great night and our hour long dinner turned into THREE and she was a gift to me that night. A God wink. And we are going horse back riding next week! I also met a pastor and his wife and got invited to spend Easter with them. And it was nice. God is doing some great things in Italy. I can see it with the young people. So story is, be open to meeting new people. People different than you. That has been a real blessing this past week.
I feel like I could write a book. Seriously. This already has shown me that I can do more than I think I can. I can be brave and try new things. I can be still and be just fine. Before I left Birmingham, I told my daughter that I felt like in some way this move/journey would be healing for me and it may just be proving to be that. I didn’t know I really needed to be healed of anything, but I have cried several times since I got here. Maybe because I can’t believe He picked me to to this. Maybe because growing up the way I did, I never in a MILLION years thought I’d have an opportunity like this. Maybe because I feel like I don’t deserve it. Maybe because I feel I’m not ready. But He has quickly helped me to shut it down! You see, the enemy will fill you with LIES. He will make you second guess everything. But I am choosing to believe in the God’s word. I knew going into this that I would have tough days. And I have. But I will continue to move forward. To cherish each day and to be grateful.
So that’s all I have for today. More to come. I have an epic sunset to watch tonight and that’s taking the next time slot in my current schedule. Thanks for taking the time to read my story. I plan to share a little of my past with you later this week, so stay tuned. Also feel free to check out couragetojump on Instagram. I’ll be posting most of my pictures there!
Hey, everyone! I'm Angie and I hope you enjoy my blog about how and why a single woman in her 40's decided to drop everything she was doing and follow her God sized dream to Italy. I may be scared to death but I am FULL of faith as God gives me the COURAGE TO JUMP!