It’s good to be back in this space after a long-awaited anniversary trip to Italy. My husband and I haven’t been anywhere exotic since our honeymoon, so it was time. We spent a week in Venice and a couple of days in Florence, soaking up the sights and marveling at God’s goodness to us these past 10 years.
It was a tremendous blessing to have a break from the demands of life, to enjoy time with my husband, and to simply feel like me again. Motherhood is a beautiful gift, but as my fellow moms know, it’s hard. Sometimes we need a little room to close our eyes and catch our breath.
Or eat copious amounts of gelato.
The experience of full body immersion in a foreign culture exhilarated me, but I was also ready to head home to my babies and the comforts of the USA … even so, I feel a bit like Cinderella returning home after the ball, but I hope to hold onto the memory of our time in Venice. This beautiful, dying city brought to life something in me I didn’t even know existed; and while today, I am still jet lagged and once again immersed in the land of diapers and precious cherub faces, I pray that I’m able to find a way to cultivate and care for this new shoot of life growing up in the soil of my soul.
Never have I encountered a city so enchanting and full of mesmerizing dichotomies. Rich in enviable history, Venice now graces the water as a shell of its former self. Where once royalty walked, now pushy men attempt to sell roses to aloof tourists, and small plastic toys made in China light up the night sky. Outside the breathtaking walls of St. Mark’s Basilica, hoards of tourists avail themselves of selfie sticks, smiling widely while pointing to the Bell Tower or a particularly assertive pigeon.
The gracefully crumbling buildings and romantic, eerie canals hold on with all their might to the past, yet even a gondola ride shatters the sense of ancient—I saw more than one gondolier playing on his iPhone while mindlessly repeating facts about Venice, facts that have long since lost their charm to him … but to me, the truth of such facts floated with awe in the humid sea air.
At night, Venice transforms into another city altogether. It’s so quiet. The soothing sound of water gently lapping the canal’s edge can be heard as you meander through the narrow alleyways. The delicate clink of silverware and wine glasses floats above the ancient rooftops, finding its way into open windows. Church bells ring, ominously warning revelers of their indulgence, just as they have for hundreds of years. I wish I had a soundtrack of Venice at night.
I could name a hundred more things that I adored about this city—the breathtakingly beautiful churches, the camaraderie with fellow traveling Americans, and—of course—the food and wine! But perhaps the most amazing part was the mind-boggling connectedness to history afforded by both of these ancient cities.
I am a true history nerd, through and through, and at many points during our trip I thought my little brain might burst. From our quaint terrace, we ate breakfast and gazed at the beautiful palazzo of the infamous Casanova. We lolled past Marco Polo’s apartment on a gondola ride. And we toured the first Synagogues in Venice, situated in the very first ghetto in the world.
In Florence, we had the chance to walk where members of the powerful, domineering Medici family walked. We explored the places they lived and worshipped, and viewed hundreds of priceless, famous pieces of artwork commissioned by this formidable family. Since high school, I’ve had a particular fascination with Catherine de Medici, and walking the streets where she was born and lived her early difficult years sent chills all up and down my spine.
In each church and museum, I felt the past stretching and sitting tall, reaching its way into our present. These priceless works of art and architecture functioned as a conduit—a time machine, if you will—connecting the life and times of persons long ago with all of us today. It boggled my mind to experience the connectedness that a single piece of art can bring about.
This experience set me to thinking about the concept of connectedness and how we are all strung together in time, one generation to the next. And more specifically, how as believers we are connected by something even more awe-inspiring and powerful than a painting or a sculpture: we are connected by the power of the Holy Spirit and the very blood of our Savior. I found myself feeling envious of the legacy of the Medici family and wondered what it would be like to have such a family history … until I focused on the fact that as believers in Christ, we do have an ancient legacy! And one built by something far greater than mere human hands.
The members of these mortal families spent their time and money building a human legacy, one that would illuminate their own power and greatness. So I’ll ask you the same question I’ve had to ask myself: what monuments are you building? With your time, your money, and your talents—what legacy are you crafting? We all have the choice to build grand monuments to ourselves, ones that will crumble and fade with the passing of time … but we also have the opportunity to build a legacy of eternal value.
In the midst of so many people and such beautiful surroundings, I came face to face with how big the world is and how small I am in it. And while the enemy would have you and me believe we are too small and insignificant to make a difference, nothing could be farther from the truth! We’ve each been entrusted with a sphere of influence in the form of our spouses, children, family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Even the grocery store clerk you see once in a while can become part of your network of influence.
Five hundred years from now, we may not have anyone lining up outside a museum and paying good money to see something we’ve created—but the fruits of our labor in the Lord will provide evidence of an eternal legacy of far greater value than anything made by man. In John 13:35, Jesus spoke to His disciples saying:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Through Christ, we can leave a legacy of faith & love, one that will hopefully inspire believers in the next generation to do the same. I know I have been a beneficiary of the prayerful, Godly generations that have gone before me, loving well and bringing glory to God by living faithful lives. It is my prayer to do the same for the next generation of believers, beginning at home with my own two children.
As the high from our trip fades, I pray the lessons learned, inspiration sparked, and perspective gained continue to press upon my heart. And may we all shun that which is temporary, choosing instead to embrace the eternal connectedness we have as followers of Christ and focus on creating a legacy that will endure when all human efforts fade away.