I’ve become somewhat of a hybrid. Born and raised in New Jersey, I graduated from Fairfield University in Connecticut at age 21. Three months later, Denny and I married and left for Italy and we’ve lived in Southern Europe ever since. So the two decades of my most formative years were spent in the United States, while the last thirty-one have been lived out in Italy and Portugal.
This has made for a uniquely curious blend of character, lifestyle and perspective.
Growing up, I never considered myself an “average American” nor did I aspire toward the stereotypical dream of having a career, a spouse, a couple of children, a nice house with a white picket fence, two cars and an overall sense of stability that would carry me through life. I loved learning and adventure, pursued uniqueness, admired creative expression, had no particular attraction to the acquisition of material things, and enjoyed identifying and reaching out to the underdog, the broken, the alienated.
With the passage of time, I have had the privilege of living an increasingly simple life. Of learning to find immense value in the little things. As the years have gone by, and Denny and I have continued to follow the pathways and shifts that God has led us in, I have been challenged over and over again to open my hands (as I spoke of in my last post) and let go of all that I might be tempted to covet as my own.
But even simplicity can become an idol. I can begin to glory in all that I have so willingly laid aside; to find my very identity in the most minimal of practices and pleasures. Wonderful meals, leisurely prepared with wholesome ingredients and enjoyed with a tableful of loved ones or newly acquired friends. Quiet mornings spent in communion with God and with my husband, receiving direction and planning for what lies ahead. Motorhome and caravan living, with the freedom to travel and live almost anywhere at the drop of a hat. Warm Portuguese winters and hot summers with the ocean and beaches at our fingertips, barely a need for a coat or extensive heating systems.
This bounty that has become part of God’s rich blessings and treasures in our Southern European life can itself become our “American dream”. We can begin to feel that this is our due; it’s our piece of the pie. It belongs to us.
Yet over the past few weeks, God has been leading me down a path of deeper surrender. It may not be the most well-traveled path, but I choose to follow because it’s my Beloved who beckons to me.
And while I understand that surrender does not necessarily mean walking away from these cherished aspects of my life, I don’t ever want them to become more important to me than my God Himself. Than walking in a beautiful relationship of love, and of obedience to Him. I know His plans for me are good, and I can trust that, most assuredly, wherever He may lead me, “goodness and loving kindness will follow me, every day of my life” (Psalm 23:6). So I cling to Him alone, my Rock, my Stability.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.