MONDAY | We woke up in Italy- basking in the light. We plan to get lost and eat pasta, watch the sunrise, and kiss on street corners. But we also plan to reflect on our marriage so far, revisit our family culture, have hard conversations we saved to have over gelato, and acknowledge people who have impacted our family. This trip is intentional. It's about prayer, reflection, unity, and friendship. We will dream together about the partners, parents, and people we want to be as we step into the next season. Most of all, we're just going to be friends enjoying new places together. We are walking with a camera and a journal, practicing a week of being present and unplugged. See you soon, Texas.
TUESDAY | We started the day early, walking through the ruins at the forum... practically alone. Rome was not awake yet, the sun was creeping over the Arch of Titus, it was quiet, it was magic, and Brian whispered ... “I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life.”
We sat on a bench overlooking the ruins and the city and took out the journal. We had listed out conversations we wanted to have on the trip. The idea was that we would go to historically significant places and add our own historical significance to them through these conversations. This day, we reflected on our marriage starting from our wedding day. We talked through who we were then, and how we've grown. We talked about some big wins, and where we've failed. I asked Brian how I was doing at loving him well, and he asked me the same. The answers humbled us both. We sat a little taller at times, and hung out heads at others. But when we got up to continue walking, there was more life between us- our laughs were louder, our kisses longer, and our steps more in sync. Planned conversations are awkward, but sometimes a little intentionality goes a long way.
SEE REFLECTION QUESTIONS: LOOKING BACK ON YOUR MARRIAGE
WEDNESDAY | I'll start with my favorite moment of this day. In the cathedral, there was a prayer room where we sat in total silence, in awe, praying together for baby as people from all over the world lifted their own prayers around us. My feet were hurting and my body was beyond exhausted, and in that room I thanked God for being a resting place for us all as we are weary and long for a safe place. Wednesday was the day we realized we needed to slow our pace a bit. Our planned 2 hours at the Vatican museum and St Peters Basilica turned into 7 hours and I was fading. We were determined to get to a restaurant Anthony Bourdain had gone to even though I was limping and holding up my belly. But y'all I made it....(our 8th hour of walking) And we quickly found out the place didn't open for another 2 1/2 hours. Brian started to explain how tired he was and how much his legs hurt, to which I replied with my loudest silent glare- you know the one. We found a cafe where we sat and ate cake and drank tea and felt life enter into us again. It was at that table we asked two hard questions: what about me is not worthy of respect, and where do I lack integrity. It was not a light conversation, but it was so good. It brought out things we needed to verbalize and (because we had no place else to go) it forced us to confront some realities about ourselves and how our own laziness impacts our partner. By the time we ate dinner, we were walked out, talked out, starving, and Brian realized I'm very pregnant and may need some of the trip to... I don't know... Rest? And that's exactly where Florence comes in.
THURSDAY | It was date night. We rode the train into Florence, and went straight to our @airbnb balcony ... Breathtaking. The sun went down, and we ventured out into this new city. This night was one I will never forget. We fell in love immediately. It was beautiful, strung with lights, magic around every corner. We were laughing and practically skipping around corners. We kept saying "this is our city".
We had the best meal of our lives in a small restaurant recommended by some locals. We ordered slow and ate slower. We complimented each other and made decisions about how to engage in community after the baby, how long we would be away from church and bible study, how to keep date nights, and how to set the right expectations.
Then, dove into the questions we prepared about how we were doing - today. The scariest of the questions, taking the temperature of our marriage as it is right now.
SEE QUESTIONS FOR TAKING
THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR MARRIAGE
FRIDAY | Friday morning, Brian scheduled a private car to take us through Tuscany to Siena (love him). The night before, we had the best meal of our lives and then talked through our plans for engaging in community after baby and who we would ask to hold us accountable to these decisions. As we walked through narrow streets of Siena, we revisited our conversation. We watched neighbors laugh together, we followed the church bells, and ate chocolate pastries. On the car ride back, we listed out people in our lives who have impacted our marriage. We talked about the gifts and characteristics of our friends, things we long for our baby girl to know and follow. When we got back to Florence, I couldn't help but miss our community. It was this part of the trip that started getting us excited to step forward into parenthood- knowing we aren't alone, knowing we have people, and knowing we will soon get to kiss some sweet tiny cheeks.
SEE QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTING ON YOUR PEOPLE
SATURDAY | We were sad to get on the train back to Rome after falling in love with Florence. Our time on the train was spent on this topic: what do we NOT want our family to be? ... We spend so much time talking about our family culture, but we both wanted to understand why we were willing to work so hard to live out certain values. Basically, what's the alternative? When we got into Rome, I was a walking stereotype- ask me if I cared. I walked with my suitcase and gelato. The city center was bustling as we passed the ruins one more time and planned our last night in the city.
SEE QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTING ON THE DIRECTION
YOU DON'T WANT TO LEAD YOUR FAIMLY
SUNDAY | Our last day in Italy. We'd probably describe it as real. At one point I would have described it as one of the most romantic days of my life... But we also learned a difficult and important lesson. We stayed in a 1700s apartment, where the owners told us the story of going through their first pregnancy (and labor, WOAH) right where we were standing, and all the memories they made in this neighborhood. We walked the neighborhood a few last times and ate some delicious meals... And slowly throughout the night as we entered deeper and deeper conversations, we started to notice that all of those things we left back home- everything hard, everything unresolved, everything we may very well be working on in ourselves until the day we die... It didn't go away just because we got away for a week. They're still there, they still hurt, they still trigger bitterness, they still need tending to. In all truthfulness, we fell asleep tearfully apologizing to one another for the fact that this was how we spent our last night in Italy, and for not tending to these wounds more back home. This trip was magic on so many levels, but I couldn't let the pretty pictures cover reality. The only way to "escape" the difficult parts of marriage is to face them, call them out, talk through them, cry if you need to, and hold each other tight when you want to run away.
Happy stories, sad stories, dramatic, sorrowful, and joyous stories- every story is a love story... and here are some of mine.