Not writing here doesn't mean I'm not writing. In fact, it may mean I'm being a more honest writer, because I write where no one can see but my Lord. Living honest before the world without appearing melodramatic, overly spiritual, or [insert negative, yet unintended trait here] is difficult, if not impossible. I cannot control others' opinions and perceptions of me. Perhaps that's an even greater reason to be honest. Those who need to hear will hear, and those who will criticize will not be convinced to change.
Well, rabbit trail aside....
It's quiet on the levy as the sun rises above the paper trees, planted straight and unwavering. Bright yellow sun mixes with the deep green of the rice fields. My eyes can't drink in for too long before returning to the gravel path rife with round, wet obstacles. All I hear are my feet dropping lightly one after the other as I run to the next stand of trees, the Breme bell tower rising above it like a single candle on a forested cake. I can't even hear the half past seven bells out this far.
I keep running.
I needed this morning to myself, for my soul to be still even if my feet were not, to pray thanks for grace bringing me to Italy; to pray for grace to keep me here.
Europe. The place I had always wanted to go, and the one place I thought I never would. Because more broken places needed the sold-out more. Because over four and a half years fibromyalgia had stolen my body from me and with it my ability to dance and so what gifts did I have that could be used in Europe anymore?
And yet, somehow, the persecutor who stole my gift to Europe was exactly what landed me here. Here, running on this levy between Italian rice fields outside of a broken Italian village, bells still ringing the ritual of a dead faith.
Driving through the countryside to get here seemed strangely familiar. Somehow these rice fields mirroring the sky also mirrored the fields of Cambodia and the red roads of Africa. Somehow the quaint villages brought rushing memories of Solwezi, and ramshackle suburbs of Siem Reap. In Cambodia villages build shrines to Buddha to keep away the spirits of evil, but here the church bells chime every half hour in vain trying to keep the world on God's time.
Handfuls of believers meet here and there in Europe singing praise and reading Scripture above the din of ringing bells and chanted prayers. Muslim immigrants flood the continent, but the church is small for such a task and weak for such a challenge. Every village has an annual celebration of its patron saint, but those same saints fail to comfort the mourning, heal the sick, and bring prosperity to the village. And the youngest generation doesn't even believe in "that stuff" anymore.
So what gift did I bring for Europe on this first visit here? Christ, and His presence in me.
I'll bring it again and again if He lets me. I'll bring it and plant it here, plant myself here and my family here, our love for one another new bells ringing the life rhythm of true faith.
If He lets me.
I pray for it as I run, the sun rising higher. As I approach the stand of paper trees and run through to the other side I lose sight of the bell tower, not quite eight o'clock yet. Let me be the bell tower they see, Lord, and Your Word the regular beauty they hear.