My Overpriced Coffee Date with a Dead Renaissance Scholar (AKA: Just Another Day in Basel, Switzerland)

I was one of those weird children who was obsessed things no one else bothers to know ever even existed. 

By the time I was in high school, I knew more about dead medieval scholars than most adults twice my age. And I had a bit of a literary crush who was, shall we say, twice rendered unavailable:  

First, he had been dead almost five hundred years by the time I was born.  

And second, even had he managed to beat Ponce de Leon to the Fountian of Youth, he was a dedicated monk of the Catholic Church.  

Yeah, talk about love from a distance. 

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Desiderius Erasmus was born in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1469. But he managed to expire all the way over in Switzerland in 1536. Which means he lay at rest just a few hours’ bus ride south from me when I was staying in Karlsruhe, Germany, on the French and Swiss borders at New Year 2018.  

You might not be familiar with the name Erasmus. He was a great humanist and scholar of the Northern Renaissance, which doesn’t get quite as much press as its Southern counterpart in Italy. I guess the Italian were just flashier. Or better at 16th century marketing? Either way, when we think “Renaissance” we think Da Vinci and friends, not Erasmus.  

To be a “humanist” in Erasmus’ day was not necessarily to believe man is the center of the world, as is often claimed today. Back then, being a humanist meant being interested in the humanities—comprising subjects like languages, literatures, and philosophies.  He was also outspoken in his beliefs that the Catholic Church definitely needed reform. And although he did not feel kindly toward the Protestant Reformation or the Anabaptists—the spiritual lineage in which I was brought up almost five hundred years later—his work did indeed inform it. 

Especially a little book called In Praise of Folly, which criticized the abuses of the Catholic Church through sharp and witty satire. 

That’s where I got on the Erasmus train. Somehow, at age 16, I got ahold of Erasmus’s In Praise of Folly and read it. And loved it. It was amazing to laugh behind my hands at the sardonic humor of someone who had lived so many centuries before me. That book made an impact on me.  

You might say Erasmus and I, well, had a moment.  

We bonded.  

And so it happened that on a damp, cold winter’s day in early January 2018, I decided to renew that bond, though it had been many years now since Erasmus and I had our moment.

Somehow I found out that though Dutch by birth, Erasmus had chanced to expire in Basel, Switzerland, which was south of my current location in Karlsruhe, Germany. So right after the new year I boarded FlixBus—that beloved cheap transportation of college students all over Europe—and took the three-hour ride south in search of his grave. 

I fell in love with Basel at first sight. Sure, early January wasn’t the most flattering time to visit this city, through which the Rhine river continues to wind after exiting Catholic southern Germany. But still there was something charming about brightly-colored houses all shuttered up against the cold. And the warmth of the light streaming from the open shops made all the difference. 

Every shop window felt like a welcoming pair of arms ready to enfold me in a warm embrace.

The price of goods was less welcoming, I have to admit. When I arrived at the train station (where the bus debarked), I desperately needed a cup of coffee and a doughnut. But the privilege of such a small treat, which would have cost just a couple euros back in Germany, cost more than the equivalent of USD $10 in Swiss Francs.  

Well, for a girl traveling on a budget that was like my biggest expenditure in at least a week other than groceries. But I bit the bullet and enjoyed every minute of it.  

At least I can say I had a snack in one of the world’s most expensive cities.  

On my way to the Basel cathedral to pay my respects to Erasmus, I got sidetracked by the Basel Town Hall. This marvel of Swiss architecture boasted a riot of color and design more intense than anything I had seen outside of my travels in Nepal.

It almost didn’t look European, it was so … undignified. And yet the sight of it delighted me. A feast for the eyes. And proof once again that you never know what sort of surprises you’ll encounter. 

I took time to wander all around the enclosed inner courtyard, where scenes of justice from Swiss history played out in colorful murals and frescoes. The Christmas tree was a nice touch, too. 

Well, all this took some time—and then I remembered why I had actually come: to pay respects to my childhood literary crush, who was (supposedly) lying at rest beneath the floor of Basel Cathedral.

Leaving the city center, I wound my way out toward the bluffs above the Rhine River. At some points the path was so steep I wasn’t quite sure I could climb the rain-slackened cobblestones in my low-tread boots. But I managed to make it up.  

Finally, around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, I sighted my destination: the amazing Basel Cathedral. (Also known as Basel Minster.) It turns out this remarkable building is also the resting place of quite a few other notable medieval people—mostly patrons who gave for the cathedral’s construction.

Fun fact: The structure itself took almost 500 years to build, with a *minor setback* in the 1300s when the structure was almost completely leveled by an earthquake. Can you imagine building something which you never get to see completed in your lifetime?

Coming from such an instant-gratification age, I am not sure how anyone back then had the patience for these multi-century construction projects.  

The inside of Basel Minster was just as awe-inspiring as the outside. It was as if I could  feel those generations of laborers, toiling in summer heat and winter’s chill, their murmurs punctuated by the chink chink of chisels and the moan of the pulleys as each stone block was pulled up and set into place. Everywhere in Europe the old church walls resonate with all the lives lived inside them. Even, of course, as modern church attendance continues to dwindle in all these countries. 

The sanctuary of Basel Minster was so huge, it took me almost an hour (or more than an hour?) to wind my way through it, squinting at the gravestones. The diffuse dimness of afternoon clouds, pregnant with rain, was the only real light in the place.   

And there were so many gravestones. So, so many.  

Yet none of them seemed to be Erasmus. 

For more than an hour I searched for my literary beloved, but to no avail. I wondered if I had misread about his burial in Basel Cathedral—or if perhaps the author of the article had been misinformed as well. Plus the clock was ticking. My FlixBus home to Karlsruhe would be leaving in about two hours. And I still had to walk back through the old town all the way to the train station. 

Finally, I chanced to find a map of all the graves. Turns out dear Erasmus was hiding behind a pillar—in a not-so-fancy grave as many of the others, like the one in the photo above! 

I back-tracked to a modest side-sanctuary set off a bit from the grandeur of the main nave. And sure enough, that’s where I found him.  

Eighteen years after I first “met” Erasmus in the pages of Moriae Ecomium, we finally met face-to-face, 5000 miles away. Talk about a long-distance romance! 

That winter I spent in Europe was one of the roughest of my life: full of uncertainty, lack of direction and a lot of grief. But there were up moments. Like that day in Basel, Switzerland, where I found my dear Erasmus at last.

Books matter. Even when centuries pass from the time they were written. Standing there in Basel Minster, I felt like not a single year had passed at all, and that Erasmus and I were just old friends who had catching up to do.

I caught up with him, for once. And I’m glad I did. Though another five hundred years may pass before we see each other again …

Where the Map Ends, God Is There

Sometimes I wake up in the Arabian Desert, 7,000 miles from the home I once knew, and I don’t really know how I got here. 

Knowing is a tricky thing. On the one hand, it gives you a sense of certainty: to look at the map of your life and chart every point along the way. “This is how I got from here to there.”

On the other hand, knowing anything at all reminds you of how much you still don’t know. Especially when the points on your map seem to keep wandering off the edges, where there’s no landmark in sight. “Well, I got to here, but then the path disappeared, and somehow I wound up reappearing again over there.”

This blog is a chronicle of wandering off those edges.

There’s so much I still don’t know about how I landed in the United Arab Emirates in 2018. But a few things I do remember. I can see them, vaguely in the distance, back on the comforting white square of a life I used to inhabit, more commonly known as “the map.”

I know it all started when my husband of seven years walked in the door one April morning and said the four words I had feared all of my life: “I want a divorce.” It started when, a month later, I said “goodbye” to the home I loved and dragged my remaining possessions and two terrified cats six streets over to a one-room apartment. It started when the gavel slammed and the judge handed me divorce papers just six months after that. 

It started when I built—and destroyed—a business. It started when I sold everything I had left, dumped the rest in the trash and put just enough to survive in a suitcase and left to travel. It started when I showed up in Charlotte, North Carolina, for no particular reason. It started when I roamed over Europe last winter with barely enough money for food and train tickets.

It started when I went back to the U.S., sobbed my way over 2/3 of it while driving a postage stamp-sized Fiat, and almost died in a Nebraska blizzard. Which was not *quite* as bad as trying out a few post-divorce relationships and learning how much emotional healing I actually had left to do.

Yes, there were a lot of starts in the last two and a half years. A lot of starts, and not many finishes. 

Yet somehow, the Arabian Desert does feel like the end of a road. (For now.)

In less than two weeks, it will be two years from the day that judge in Milwaukee County slammed the gavel and signed those divorce papers. Honestly, I don’t even remember the woman I was back then. Mostly because I lost her in some bizarre cycle of operating system upgrades so rapid, most tech startups would be put to shame.

And then there was the whole “moving to the Middle East” idea … Yeah, that idea. I can blame it on God because it was His idea. I can also blame it on my bizarre idea to try out a Christian online dating site — which was intended to surface men in a 200 square mile radius of my house, and somehow landed me in a relationship with a guy from Dubai. 

And no, that relationship did not work out. Note to self: I’d never recommend online dating across continents or crash-landing in the Gulf without a plan.

Or maybe that was the plan. Just not mine.

Yeah, it’s just a thing that happens, I guess. Sometimes you just wake up in a new desert, with a new job and a new church and new friends and a new status as an “expat.” And you don’t know how you got there. Except that you do. And it’s a lot to process all at once. 

So maybe the point isn’t to “process”—to track the journey on the map, point by point—but rather simply to accept that you’ve gone off the edges. Because where the map ends is where most of life happens, anyway. 

God is much bigger than the map itself. Bigger even than its border or the empty space on all four sides.

He knew about the man who was going to hit the “eject button” on a fledgling marriage and the house that would be sold, the apartment that was too small for one woman and two rambunctious cats. He knew that the woman didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to expand to a twelve-person business as rapidly as she did. And that selling everything was a much better plan—even if it looked insane at the time. 

God knew that unexpected Christmas checks would buy groceries and train tickets in Europe. He knew most of Germany would be closed in December—so the woman would be forced to sit with her grief and really let it go, instead of drowning it in endless museum visits and Christmas markets. He knew her Fiat would make it through two mountain ranges, a blizzard and a hail storm without a scrap of damage, and be sold on a Thursday in August for no particular reason except that He said to sell it. That day. Without delay.

And when all was said and done, when that woman got on that last plane in Chicago, He knew what would be waiting for her in the United Arab Emirates: a whole new life. 

It’s a good thing He didn’t tell the hardworking housewife-entrepreneur-artist of 2.5 years ago (AKA… me!), that she was actually destined for a life abroad. Okay well, actually, He had told her that years ago. But she had bailed on the plan. Several times, in fact. She had re-charted the map to make it, well, safer.

And then … somehow … despite her best efforts, she ended up going where the map ends, anyway. Because where the map ends, is where she was always meant to be all along.

Where the map ends, God is there. 

I’m learning here in the Arabian desert that where God is, is always the best place to be. Even if you’re not entirely sure what happens next. Or why the signs are in Arabic and a plane ticket to your old country is really, really expensive.

If God is with you, the rest is just details anyway.

Knowing would spoil the adventure.

Creative Flow #4

“Stained Glass Life: Always Leave One Panel Open” — Watercolor by Lisa England Feb 2019

I consider myself a stained-glass window. And this is how I live my life. Closing no doors and covering no windows; I am the multi-colored glass with light filtering through me, in many different shades. Allowing light to shed and fall into many many hues. My job is not to direct anything, but only to filter into many colors. My answer is destiny and my guide is joy. And there you have me.”  C. JoyBell C.

Where Souls Cry: Walking the Berlin Wall

My entire life, I’ve heard about the Berlin Wall.

I was just six years old when it fell. Before 1989, it was something the newscaster spoke about on my mom’s radio programs. After 1989, it was something everyone looked back on. I vaguely remember my parents reading voraciously about the circumstances around this historic event which led to the reunification of Germany. 

Twenty-eight years later, I got a chance to see and touch it for myself. 

On a blustery day in December I bundled up myself and leashed Sam the dog—the Aussie shepherd I was pet sitting, who already had a bundle of fur to keep him warm. It took us about twenty minutes to walk to the Wall Memorial from Sam’s owners’ flat.

Later, I found another Wall guard tower right in our neighborhood an learned the Wall ran almost literally under the flat itself. But I didn’t know that yet. So I took Sam for a walk in the park where parts of the Wall are now preserved for posterity, along with gravestones and various sculptural pieces. Nearby also stood the Wall Memorial Museum, a chapel dedicated to the memory of victims, and other sites of interest.  

I’m glad I took Sam with me. I cannot now imagine having done the Wall Memorial without his gentle, steady canine presence.  

Mostly because for the first time in my life, I could hear the spirits screaming.  

Let’s face it: the ground of Berlin is soaked in blood. 

It’s not just the blood of Jews. It’s also the blood of Germans trying to cross from East to West. The blood of the Roma people who were slaughtered en masse, and other nationalities too. I told someone later that Berlin, to me, seemed like a giant collection of “apology monuments”—places now dedicated to memorial, for atrocities committed against some internal group who had once found shelter on that ground.  

The Berlin Wall Memorial just happens to be the most famous.  

I found it particularly moving to walk past the names and photos of individuals killed while trying to cross the Wall. As I viewed each face, I wondered, “Whose son is that? Whose sister? Did their families ever know what happened to them, or did they simply leave—and never return?” 

The atmosphere in the park was appropriately subdued. People walked from place to place, murmuring to one another. Taking discrete photos that seemed less voyeuristic and more commemorative. Over it all, a weak European winter sun shone down, its diffuse light softening the harsh contraption of concrete-and-wire that was all now left of the wall. 

I think perhaps the most bearable part of the whole experience was the chapel.  

Somehow, in the middle of a space where the spirits of the dead still cry out for full justice, that place was a refuge. I could not take Sam inside, so we only stood at the threshold. But even as we stood there I drank in the serenity of that faith-designated ground.  

In the middle of despair and chaos, the church represented hope and peace.  

In the middle of loss, the church represented eternal rest. 

In the middle of pain, the church was a balm for the soul.  

Though what happened in Germany during those terrible years cannot be altered, the future still remains to be written. It would have been easy for me to avoid the Wall Memorial altogether during my time in Berlin. But I’m glad I went. The chance to pay my respects. To understand more of what happened and gain greater perspective. The opportunity to hear those souls crying out from the ground and know that spiritual warfare is real. 

Sometimes the most uncomfortable places are the most important ones for us to visit.  

Just … take a big, empathic Aussie Shepherd with you if you can.  

I promise, it makes all the difference. 

The Water Is Within: Why Everything You’re Looking for, You Already Have

“If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The high-rises of Dubai Marina (my neighborhood), as reflected in the Arabian Gulf

Have you ever looked really hard for something you were sure must be available, only to give up your search? Perhaps it was a last-minute Christmas gift when all the racks are picked over. Or the perfect dress you needed—but couldn’t find—for an upcoming gala. Nothing’s worse than a search undertaken under pressure. The clock is ticking. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, it will soon be too late.

Life can feel like that sometimes. I don’t know about you, but I am often in a frantic search for purpose, significance, creative inspiration and (yes, let’s be honest) more money. I’m keeping my eyes peeled everywhere I go for that one “magic thing” I want. My search for a marriage partner was like this for many years. Can you relate?

It’s like keeping your eyes peeled for an oasis on a torturous trek through the desert.

If only we can find that thing “out there,” we’ll survive the heat.

Or so we think.

Lately I’ve come to realize more than ever that the search for all of this is never outside of ourselves. It’s always within. The next book, the next course, the next man, even the next gathering at church—all these are good things that can become our own personal definition of a mirage because they won’t slake the thirst we feel.

What if you’re wasting your time wandering around like that, looking for something you’re never going to find outside yourself? If you are a believer, God has already provided everything you need to feel significant, purposeful, loved, creative and financially free. And what if, as a believer in Jesus, you already have all that inside you through the Holy Spirit?

It would be a shame to keep searching for the mirage, growing fainter by the moment, when you’ve got a freely-flowing fountain deep within (Psalm 36:8-9).

And yet, that’s what we do with God. We forget the Holy Spirit is always with us, ready to guide us into all truth, if we’ll just ask (John 16:13). It’s so much easier, after all, to focus on what’s in front of our faces. And if we’re being honest, searching for the answer is addictive in itself.

You can be so hooked on searching that deep down, you’ll do anything to keep yourself from really, truly finding. So what if you bought one less course, went on one less date and cancelled, yes, even that church bowling event—just so you could spend time drinking at the well that is already within you?

In my own search to assuage the pain inside and make sense of the chaos of my life, the running only stopped when I decided to stand still.

The less I did to solve my problems, the more God presented the solutions I needed.

The less I chased people or opportunities, the more God put the right ones in front of me.

The more time I spent with God, the better my experiences became in the outside world, and the more creative I began to feel.

When my inside “woke up” to the reality of the authority, power and provision God had already planted deep within me by His Spirit, my outer world began to take care of itself.

This was most evident in my search for love following my divorce, which was really a three-year journey to heal my own love wounds from childhood through adulthood, and become a clean channel, able to receive the full flow of God’s love to me and give it back to others. (Still a work in progress, but I’m happy to say I’ve come a very long way!)

In this journey, I was convinced once I had successfully created another union with healthier patterns than the last one, I would arrive at the oasis. As a girlfriend, fiancée or wife again, I would have a chance to rewrite my story and change the future for myself, my new husband and my eventual children.

But you know what?

None of those efforts worked out.

No matter how much I changed myself, refined my thoughts and behaviors or stepped outside my comfort zone to embrace healing … all of which was amazing and helpful, by the way … I still didn’t get the results I was looking for.

Then one day, I realized: there was nothing to fix. Jesus took the penalty for all my mistakes on the cross. And He would carry the wounds from my childhood if I asked, so I didn’t have to anymore. I was already loved unconditionally, accepted fully in the beloved; I just wasn’t living my life as a loved, accepted woman (Ephesians 1:6).

And the real reason none of those relationships (including my marriage, I believe) lasted?

Because God loved me so much, He did whatever it took to bring me to the point where I was dependent on Him for love, and not on another human being. Even if it meant allowing the dissolution of relationships I had cherished—even ones that are supposed to last a lifetime.

What felt like pain was really the most amazing form of “tough love” designed to bring me into greater levels of life. The day I recognized my true worth, and the level of love and acceptance God already has for me, was the day I found my freedom from the past and finally stepped beyond the limits of my own need for companionship. My three-year journey to learn how to love culminated in the reality that I was loved already. There was nothing to find, improve or create (Psalm 136:26).

Would I still love to be in an amazing partnership? Absolutely. I still pray and believe for this outcome in my future. But I don’t “need” to be in a relationship to slake the thirst inside, or to heal my past love wounds.

I am God’s amazing daughter, and I walk right now in more radical love, acceptance and provision than any human could deliver me. And I always will, from now until the end of time.

I’m not waiting for the oasis to show up on the horizon.

The fountain lies within.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Expressing my spiritual journey through cut, color and length

I’m in a struggle with my hair right now. The kind of struggle only a prophet goes through, I suppose, as she’s figuring out how to walk out her spiritual journey in her dress and hair choices.

I do believe as a daughter of God, I’m supposed to be distinctive. He loves me, He has chosen me out for a special purpose, and I ought to light up every room I walk into with His grace, joy and yes, even beauty.

In the past, when I was mired in the worst of my trauma and pain, I wanted to hide in the corner and not be noticed. And I dressed to make sure that happened. Deep inside I wanted to stand out and light up the room, but I was terrified of the power of God inside of me, and of my own radiance. It took a few years of sorting through that to really heal those fears, but I’m happy to say that I have. Now, I want to stand up and stand out—and I’m becoming bolder in my fashion choices.

But there’s the matter of my hair.

Current hair, after several months of growth

As some of you may know, in July of 2017, God told me that “Everything you want will come out of Nothing.” This began a systematic season of shedding and loss in my like that took me down to a suitcase and led me to wander the world as a vagabond for awhile. (You can read about it here.) In the process I kept letting more and more and more things go from my life, until basically only one thing remained: my hair and hairstyle I’d had for several years.

Back in April 2018, God told me to let my hair go, too, as a final symbol of letting go fully of my old life and identity. So I did, in the middle of a Nebraska snowstorm, no less, which I have detailed elsewhere on this blog if you want to read the story. I kept it shaved the entire summer. And then, once I had arrived in Dubai and gotten my job, I felt like He was saying to grow my hair out again—mostly because the season of “Nothing” was over and the season of “Everything” was now at hand.

You might say that hair, for me, has always been a barometer of where I was at in my life. Years ago I wore a cut that looked more like a boy’s, because secretly I had serious issues with being feminine. Subconsciously, I wanted to be a boy, so I wore hair like a boy’s and clothes and hats, too, that were inspired by men’s fashion.

The boy years ….

In more recent years since my divorce and the first time the Holy Spirit spoke to me in 2016, I’ve been on a journey to re-embrace my feminine identity and really own who I am as a woman. And part of that journey is making peace with my hair.

Did I mention I hate my hair? It’s plentiful but very fine, meaning it has no volume, none of the beautiful fullness and thickness other women’s hair has. So yeah, it pretty much just “lays there” when I grow it out. It’s also super oily—which means I do a lot of washing of it.

At one point I bleached it and dyed it purple. And while this wasn’t ideal for my hair’s health, it did help with the grease problem …

Wow, that really was purple!

Keeping that frustrating part of my body shaved off entirely was pretty much a dream come true for me. I loved my buzz cut, and by all accounts from the compliments I got, it loved me back. But this is a new season. This is not the season of Nothing. It’s the season of Everything according God—and having a shaved head, I suppose is not a symbol of Everything. Having really long hair is.

So, as of November I began growing my hair out. It’s entering that awkward stage now, from which it will not emerge for, like, maybe years?

Part of me has an urge every day to run to the nearest beauty parlor and ask them to shave it off again, because I don’t have my electric razor anymore!

But I’m not sure that’s what I’m supposed to do.

The big shave, April 2018

Hair, clothing and makeup are all symbols of how we see ourselves and who we think we are. What is my hair supposed to say about myself in this new season of abundance?

I’m not entirely sure, but one thing I do know …. it’s not my decision to make entirely. I am God’s mouthpiece, and therefore everything about me belongs to Him. He’s the one who gets to decide what I look like and how I present myself to the world.

I do know that I’m supposed to embrace an even more radical Bohemian style of dress. And it is true that most Bohemian fashion is traditionally associated with long flowing hair: something I haven’t had since I was like 13 years old.

I was a bald beauty on my first day in the UAE!

Funny about that—when I think back to my childhood ideal, I wanted to have really long, flowing hair “down to my butt,” as my mom always said. As a very young girl, I embraced the deep, archetypally feminine persona as my destiny. But I lost that mojo later when my femininity was attacked, through traumas I experienced as a young woman.

Cutting my hair short was the beginning of my de-association with the feminine—a rift it took me another 20 years to begin healing. Not that every woman needs to express her femininity with long hair. I’m not saying that. But I do believe our childhood desires are a key to who we really are. And for me, long hair had been an ideal I wanted to reach.

So am I really sure what I’m supposed to do with my hair now? Not entirely.

But I have an uncomfortable suspicion I’ll be growing it out.

There’s always an electric razor if I get fed up …

Dreams Are Overrated but Who Admits It?

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Dreams. We all have them. Desires and plans and goals. But for as many dreams as we can create for ourselves, it’s funny how rarely reality matches them. Or maybe I’m the only woman on the planet who feels that way?

If I had my dream right now, I would be the supportive wife of a godly Christian husband, probably working in ministry somewhere an raising 3.25 joyful children (because statisticians seem to enjoy splitting that last one about as much as Solomon would). I would be a published author by now and a veteran of the speaking circuit, signing books while I nurse my babies and sign three new contracts a week in my private creative consulting agency.

If I had my way over the situation, I would not be living out of a suitcase and traveling house to house in glitzy Dubai, trolling job boards daily and trotting off to Oman each month to renew my tourist visa while I wait for a job to open.

But that is my current reality. And it’s also the adventure I’m chronicling on this blog.

But that’s where a little perspective shift can go a long way toward fixing our dream-induced malaise.

Because what if the dreams we’re so hyped up about now are actually getting in the way of the ones God wants to give us?

Whenever I get stuck on how much I still don’t have, I find myself in need of a serious perspective shift. If we’re being technical, I am actually not really without a home, a job, possessions or a country. It’s just that what I DO have is not exactly visible to the naked eye. Mostly because everything I have comes from God.

God is my secure and certain dwelling. Serving Him is my Number One Job. Knowing Him is my most important treasure. And He says I belong to His country, which is (according to Hebrews 11) not of this world. But it took me a long time, and the loss of everything I had, to realize these comforting facts.

It also required me prying both of my tight little fists off the dreams I had for my life.

Think about it: how often are our dreams based on an infinitesimal understand of the possible realities God could bring about?

We have barely scratched the surface on who we are, what makes us “tick,” and what it would take for us to feel truly fulfilled in our purpose. Yet we cling to the belief that we know the answers to these questions. As a result, we often resist what God wants to bring into our lives because deep inside we do not believe He could possibly know us better than we know ourselves.

Do I still hope for the husband, the children (hopefully all in one piece, thank you), the home, and the sense of deep belonging in a Christian family unit? Absolutely.

But am I also constantly amazed how God knows me so much better than I could know myself? Am I shocked almost daily at the surprises He has planned for me that I could never have known to even want?

Absolutely.

This is why the concept of getting clear on our desires and goals—while valuable—isn’t really a fool-proof guide to our purpose.

I don’t want my dreams anymore if they keep me from receiving the amazing plans God has for me. And remaining in that place of surrender is the safest and fastest way I know to see miracles come about.

I’ll take miracles over my pre-planned ideas, thank you very much. My desires may be predictable, but God is always full of surprises.

There’s no greater dream than to receive exactly what He has planned.

That’s why, right before I went to Dubai, I started praying the Surrender Prayer of Betty Scott Stam for the first time in many years.

I’ll warn you, this powerful prayer can be a dangerous one. After all, if you tell God you’ll give up all your own desires and hopes … He just might take you up on it!

There are several different versions of this prayer floating around on the internet. I borrowed mine from this fellow blogger.

The prayer goes like this:

“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Your will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to You to be Yours forever. Fill me and seal me with Your Holy Spirit. Use me as You want, send me where You want, work out Your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”

You see what I mean about how dangerous that is? But Jesus DID say that in order to find our lives, we must lose them. Recognizing that your own desires may be given by God—but might also be a stumblingblock to receiving our greatest joy and purpose—is the most effective way I know to let go of them.

Dreams are great. Plans are useful. But only God can bring the Impossible to life, in us and for us.

What more beautiful dream could there be, than seeing that?

How Can I Hear the Voice of God?

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 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.“
– John 14:26

There’s a lot of talk in our culture about people who hear voices. It’s one of those topics that’s mostly a joke … until it’s not.

Let’s face it: most of us know “someone like that.” Someone whose carton is a few eggs short. The one who does crazy (or even morally wrong) things, then says to us, “The Voices told me to.” The one everybody avoids at the family reunion. The one whom everybody cringes at when they pop up in Messenger. The one whose mug shot we see in the local paper.

It’s not super popular to be a person who hears voices. Which is why people get weirded out when you say you hear The Voice on a daily basis.

The Voice of God, that is.

There’s a lot of difference between a voice and The Voice.

I believe that not everyone who hears “The Voice” in their head is crazy or deluded. God says in His word the Bible that He speaks personally and individually to anyone who has chosen a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus. This voice is less an actual audible sound and more a deep prompting rising up from somewhere within. And it’s quiet. In fact, the Bible calls it the “still, small voice.”

People tell me all the time, “Lisa, I’m a follower of Jesus, but God doesn’t speak to me like He speaks to you.”

I’m here today to call that a lie, and the sooner you stop believing it, the faster you’ll start hearing from God, too. Because the problem isn’t that God isn’t speaking.

It could be that you’re so afraid of the “crazy person” designation—and the attendant potential ostracism—that you’re blocking The Voice from coming to you at all.

It could also be that you’re not quiet enough to hear Him.

Shhhhh… God is speaking!

Getting quiet enough to hear the Voice of God is not merely the province of gurus on mountaintops, or a saintly nun tucked away in a cloister. It’s a process of coming face to face with all the noise inside us: all the unaddressed trauma, and fear, and anxiety that keeps us running for our lives day to day. It’s the to-do list. It’s the pile of bills to pay. It’s all the voices that haunt our sleep at night, replaying angry cut-downs spoken by people who were supposed to love us … and left instead.

As long as you run from all that internal clutter, instead of running to it, admitting it and allowing Jesus to heal it, you’ll never really be able to heard God the way He desires you to hear Him.

Because you can’t hear Him and your fear at the same time. You can’t listen well to His plan while also trying to calculate your own next move.

The Devil loves to keep us running in place, always looking backward.

Anything to distract us from the still, small voice.

Run straight into the mess, not from it

So you want to hear from God? Radically? Like, the kind of hearing that has Him telling you not only what to do next with your life, but also what to eat for breakfast and which route to take on your drive to work? Then it’s time to stop hiding from all the mess inside.

For me, this process began two years ago when I went through an unexpected (and undesired) divorce. It was only as my life unraveled that I began to fully understand how my decisions and my lifestyle had been driven by my fears rather than my faith, by my insistence on listening to false voices who told me I was Not Enough, rather than the voice of God who said, “I am Enough for you.”

It took God pushing me literally flat on my face to finally see the truth. In July of 2016 He sent me a wham-bammy of an emotional experience that dropped my whole body into what I like to call a “six-day heart attack.” I was running three hours a day for no reason, not able to breath, unable to eat, dealing with 9000 lb weight on my chest and surges of internal energy I could not control.

On the sixth day, I smashed my face into the rug on the terrazzo floor of my apartment and begged Him to make it stop, or take my life.

In that moment, the pressure dropped, the world got still and I heard the Voice of God for the first time. His inaugural observation?

You do not know how to receive love.

The truth hurts, but it also heals

Um, wow. Yes. I knew immediately that this was true. I could not explain where this crystalline insight had come from, except that it was completely intelligible and somehow had come from complete silence. And it was completely true.

It all flashed through my mind: the struggles I had had growing up, my endless battle with perfectionism, man after man in my life who didn’t see me as “worthy” romantically (including my soon-to-be ex-husband), my battles with intimacy that left me feeling like less of a woman, all the fear and anxiety I lived with on a daily basis, my endless feeling of isolation.

All of that … because I was unable to receive love?

It was a crushing blow, and the beginning of real healing. Because from that day forward, I began to hear God’s Voice more strongly. Sometimes He told me things about myself or others. Sometimes He asked me to do something simple—like eat oatmeal for breakfast, or turn right and take a back way instead of turning left for the more obvious route.

At first I thought I was crazy. But as time went by, I realized that He wanted to be involved in every aspect of my life. Not just the big things. But the small things too. I simply had to do the one thing that seems harder for human beings than any other.

Listen.

Like, really, truly listen.

It’s your turn. Are you ready?

People ask me all the time now, “How can I heard the Voice of God, too?” Well, assuming you already have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ—the only way you can hear Him on this level—I cannot guarantee for you when and how you will begin to hear that voice. All I can tell you to do is to begin to pray. To seek His face and ask Him for His favor.

You will also have to begin cleaning out the emotional clutter that works like supernatural distraction for your eyes and supernatural cotton in your ears. That looks like actually dealing with:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Insecurity
  • Anxiety
  • Silence
  • Lust
  • Isolation
  • Addictions
  • Experiences of rejection
  • Past abuse experiences

You see, most of us never really deal with the emotions around these things. We simply stuff them down—like I did with anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and feelings of failure and isolation. Talk to a trusted friend or mentor who can help you process through experiences that may be very tender. Don’t try to do it alone.

But the point is … let that stuff out. You might need to scream. Cry. Pound a pillow. Let yourself sit in a corner and shake like you never have before. Speak what happened to you, even if you have never allowed yourself to utter it aloud to anyone.

In short, you have to let yourself fall apart, so real emotional healing can begin.

Dare to become a beautiful mess

In our culture, we’re so afraid of these experiences. We do anything to avoid feeling pain, and when we do, we try to drown it out with exercise, work, or any other busy-ness that will keep us running to the next thing. Which is, by the way, precisely why we can’t hear God the way we want to. When emotions get lodged inside our physical body, they create barriers to our spiritual sensitivity and freedom. It’s like our whole being is “numbed out” trying to deal with what we were never meant to carry around inside.

I’m not saying by doing this your life will be perfect overnight. Or that you’ll suddenly hear The Voice fifteen times per day. But if you stick with prayerful practices of emotional clearing, you will be amazed at the luscious empty space inside that begins to form when you finally let go of all the pain you are hanging onto, and let God take it.

You’ll also find that you are suddenly able to be quiet and listen. Because it’s everything undealt-with inside of you that is keeping you from sitting still and really hearing the Holy Spirit.

The choice to hear God is yours

The Devil would love for you to remain in emotional bondage so that you miss out on the still, small Voice of God.

Don’t give in. You know now what’s up. He can speak to you just as He speaks to me, comforting me, guiding me, showing me each step on the road ahead—whether it’s my next big move, or my breakfast menu.

Rise up. Tell all that emotional clutter that it will no longer have you and keep you in bondage. Ask Jesus to break those chains. Pray. Praise. Speak with someone who also loves God who is qualified to help you get free.

And then get quiet.

Really quiet.

Because the Voice of God may be a whisper, but when He hits your life, trust me. Even the oldest, strongest foundations will shake.

_

Got a question, or a comment? Send me a message here:

How Everything Began with Nothing


IMG_0258 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form and void, and darkness
was over the face of the deep.
G
enesis 1:1 (ESV)

Walking up Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee, you wouldn’t immediately call it a great place for meditation. Especially not at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday—when suit-clad office workers come streaming out of the buildings, scrambling for the car keys that will whisk them off into another lazy weekend.

The tallest buildings in this small-big Midwest city line that street. One end of Wisconsin Avenue stretches all the way past Marquette University and out to the suburbs. The other, which was the direction I happened to be heading, dead-ends in the white wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum, spread against ribbons of Lake Michigan blue.

No, Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee is not at all a good place to meditate on a gorgeous day. But it’s where I happened to find myself, pairing my even footsteps with my uneven heartbeat that Friday afternoon. My headphones were in. The worship music was blaring. I had just come from a routine trip to the local bank and now, on my seemingly routine trip home, I found all sorts of reasons to “meditate.” Which was, at that time, really just my shorthand for asking of God how long, exactly, until He sent me everything I wanted.

At that point in life, I felt I had some decent reasons to demand something good.

The year of 2016 had been brutal but transformative for me: an unforeseen divorce, business highs and lows, the carving of a new life from the rubble of the old. I had faced each challenge head on. Brave (with a few lip quivers) Uncomplaining (well, mostly). My body was bruised from repeated falls from grace, and my fingers bled from clawing my way back. But claw I did, fighting every day through that crazy year to create a different future for myself.

By early 2017 I had moved into a brand new apartment I actually liked with a sliver of a Lake Michigan view. I had built my freelance marketing business up to a bona fide small agency with twelve contractors. I had new clothes to hang on a body I actually felt good in, had just bought my first-ever designer purse and driven home a new-to-me Fiat that represented the first car I had not relied on a man to buy on my behalf. I had even just gotten my dream couch: one of those delicate antique settees with scrolling mahogany woodwork. (I considered this my personal down payment to myself on settling in to an altered existence where I had finally achieved some semblance of peace and prosperity.)

Yet something was missing. Well, actually somethings, to be precise.

Money was flowing in, but thanks to all the contractors it took to actually do the jobs I got, my bank accounts always looked anemic. The business had grown, yes, but I was now chained to a desk twelve hours a day selling projects and managing what I had sold. I had finally begun to rediscover the artistry that went into hiding after my ex-husband broke my heart.

Yet even there my progress was fitful at best: the one-off pieces of art that sputtered from pen and paintbrush were a shadow of the complex projects I had once finished regularly. I had even gotten a new handle on body love, health and exercise—things that had plagued me from childhood—but the stress from the divorce and its fallout had taken a toll on my health. Chronic digestive issues and fatigue seemed to eat up every little physical gain I made.

And then there was the matter of my love life. I had done a ton of work on myself post-divorce: really delving in to where I was blocking love from my life, not just romantically but from friends and family too. I had made a lot of changes. I had learned to be really present with the people I love. And yet, I found myself burning from the heels of two broken dating relationships, both of which had started out with great potential.

Oh yes—that sultry, blue-skied Friday in July might not have been the most opportune moment to tell God all of my troubles. But while I dodged the suit-clad on their rush for the suburbs, tell Him I did.

The strange thing was, in my heart of hearts this time, I knew He would answer.

Leaving the bank, I wound my way up Wisconsin Avenue, past the twelve-story, rust-red Railway Exchange Building, Victorian architecture at its ornate finest. On the tenth floor, less than a year prior, my ex-husband and I had sat in separate rooms while his lawyer gave mine an ultimatum: accept the paltry settlement he was offering—far beneath the amount stipulated by Wisconsin law—or face an ugly divorce trial that would wipe out what little I had left. The memory still burned in my conscious as I stepped quickly past the door. Less painful for the resources in question than for the agony of realizing my tender college sweetheart had become my stone-faced enemy.

Beyond that was Amalinda, a red-and-gold painted lintel the only announcement that the city’s finest Spanish and Portuguese food might be found within. Here, in the midst of my divorce, I had sat the previous July with a dear friend. We had talked until midnight over the dessert of the day. Dating soon followed. Being seen and heard for the first time in my life, I fell for him. And I fell hard. But by September, we were parting ways in deep anger and disappointment. Just the thought of eating another dessert there still left a bitter taste in my mouth.

The memories flew by me with each passing buildings, each of them more painful than the last. There was the Pfister Hotel, where I had spent the day roaming with my most recent boyfriend, a gifted professional photographer. We had broken up just one month prior. And then there was a cramped little Starbucks, where one of my best business mentors had encouraged me to up-level my freelance business into an agency. In my heart, I blamed him for the overwork and constant stress that had been mine since adopting his recommendation.

Further beyond that soared the tallest building in Milwaukee, the U.S. Bank Building, though soon not to be the tallest anymore, its rigid white bones were knit together with glass. I ignored the twirl of the revolving doors as I passed them, trying to ignore, as well, all the times I had tried to get inside the upper eschelons of that building, seeking any toe-hold for my business in the endless climb for entrepreneurial success. All I had gotten was after fall. More blood. And more bruises.

“When is it all going to show up, God?” By now I was asking the question out loud, not caring in the least which fleeing office worker chanced to overhear. “I’ve been asking You for so long. Doing all the things You have told me too, as far as know. But did I miss something? Am I not obeying you in some way?” The tears came now, unbidden. “What am I missing here, on the path to everything?”

At the moment I let these words escape, I was still traversing the U.S Bank Plaza. Just then, I happened to glance up to the left. I was startled to see a series of limos, lined up bumper to bumper at the curb. The nearest one’s license plate read THINK 1.

Seriously? Did I just really see that?

“Okay, God.” I took a deep breath. “I’ll think.”

So I thought.

Nothing came to mind.

I glanced at the next limo’s license plate. It read THINK 2.

“No really, God. I’m thinking. I promise. Okay?”

Still, nothing came to mind.

THINK 3.

“Seriously, God. This isn’t funny. I’m thinking, okay? Thinking thinking thinking! Do you see me over here thinking? You can hear my thoughts. I know You can!”

God was mercifully silent in that moment, relegating Himself to satisfaction of a visual joke. No matter how hard I thought, I came up with Nothing. And yet, though I kept walking, I could guess by now where this was going. Limo after limo, each had the same license plate with the same minor adjustment:

THINK 4. THINK 5. THINK 6. THINK 7.

Seven limos, altogether. Seven calls to think.

Seven is the number of perfection in the Bible, I knew. But I wasn’t perfect; that much, the last year had taught me. Now, as if I any doubt left, my feet hurt and the rising stress in my gut was making short work of my lunch. I could feel another of the endless digestive attacks coming on. Suddenly, all I wanted was to be home, stretched on that antique couch with a blanket pulled over my head.

“I’m not perfect, alright?” I shouted to the Heavens. “You should know this by now! And I cannot figure out what you are saying! If you’re going to answer me, You’re going to have to just say it Yourself, God. Just say it!”

I shouted this last sentence so loud, even the most frazzled commuters paused to stare.

Leaving the limos in the wake of this last plea, I rounded the bend in the street. To my right, the orange arms of the Apostrophe Statue spread over Spaight Plaza, punctuating the wings of the Calatrava-designed Art Museum behind. Just a few nights prior, I had gone to this park in the cool darkness of an early July night. I had kicked off my shoes, rushed the grass and danced with manic ecstasy to the tunes in my earbuds. The same tunes that, now, mocked the warm tears streaming down my face.

Ahead was the corner of Prospect and Mason. This, to me, was the end of Wisconsin Avenue, the place where it turned sharply east into Prospect, while Mason stretched to the east, to the east toward War Memorial Plaza, overlooking the Lake, and to the west toward the jagged glass column that would one day become the Northwestern Mutual Building.

In the shadow of this monstrosity, the soon-to-be tallest building in the city, I stopped to cross the street. The no-walk signal flashed. I held myself at the corner, all the pent-up anger and sadness burning inside. Finally, a walk sign. Relief! I stepped into the street. But as I did, a rattle-trap car pulled up at the intersection in front of me. It was so unremarkable that I hardly noticed it, save for the fact that it was a jalopy in every sense of the word.

I had had enough with license plates for one day, thank you very much. But sometimes God causes us to look where we don’t want to, if for no other reason than to remind us that He is still in control of all things, even the trajectory our gaze.

The car was a broken-down wreck, yes: a peeling blue Buick so beat up, its very presence on the road was clearly an exercise in faith. It grumbled and growled at me as I passed it. I made it a point not to look the driver in the eye; to this day, I still don’t know if it was a man or woman. But there was one thing I could not help noticing: a license plate so unmistakably clear, this time, that I stared in spite of myself.

EXNIHLO.

That was the license plate, yes. Due to letter restrictions, the Latin phrase had been shortened, but my mind immediately filled in the details.

Ex NihiloOut of nothing.

I knew that phrase, oh yes.As a good little Bible college girl years ago, with one of those good little theological educations, I knew the phrase Ex Nihilo. Though it never appears in the Bible, it is often used by theologians when debating the origins of life. Some say when God created the world “In the beginning,” as it says in Genesis 1, this means creatio ex materia—creation out of something that already existed. (A few versus in the chapter appear to suggest there was water or some type of matter already present in the world at the creation.) But other theologians say no, it was creatio ex nihilo—an artistic act that called up everything we see around us out of absolute and complete Nothing.

My purpose here is not to convince you of one or the other theological takes on Genesis 1. But if you’re curious, yes, I do come from the lineage of the Ex Nihilo. God knew this when He sent a beat-up Buick with a crazy license plate my way. And when I saw that license plate, I knew that God had decided to answer my prayer.

Before my foot even hit the opposite curb, I heard His still, small voice thunder in my spirit.

Everything you want will come out of Nothing.

I paused on the opposite curb. This was my answer; I knew it even before the voice of God had coiled again into its majestic silence. I glanced back. The light changed; EXNIHLO was rattling its way on up Prospect Avenue, spewing black clouds as it went. I had never seen that car before, and I have never seen it since. Sometimes I wonder if it really existed at all—or whether it might be some sort of joke, a cosmic illusion conjured up by God’s considerable humor and powered by angels for the sheer purpose of putting me on notice.

My prayers had been heard. The season was shifting.

Everything you want will come out of Nothing.

Had I been more perceptive at point in my life, or perhaps more receptive, I would have seen immediately that “nothing” had already been my portion for some time now. From the first day my ex-husband announced his desire for a fast, surgically-precise divorce, everything in my life had been receding like the slow ebb of a tide. But I had fought the tide. This was the supreme lack of perception that, at this point in my life, had kept me from seeing the truth so long that on July 21st, 2017, I actually had to ask for it. For every inch of bare sand in my life that the ebbing wave had exposed, I had scooped that same water into a jar and splashed it back over the sand, trying to keep it all wet. Now, even the jar itself would soon be swept away.

But I was neither that perceptive nor that receptive back then. Instead, I took comfort in the explanation, though I did not really understand it. My stomach settled. My feet softened. I had no idea what this directive meant, but it didn’t really matter. I walked the last four home, utterly content with what I had heard from the Most High

As miraculous as this experience had been, there was an ominous edge to it. What I did not understand on that boiling-hot Friday of July 21, 2017, was that my attempts to grab hold of everything were not just premature to my personal process. They were in direct violation of how God actually enacts transformation. He cannot bring us everything He seeks until He wrests from our grasp everything else that keeps our hands balled into a fist.

The visitations of THINK and EXNIHLO—and His subsequent pronouncement—were the only warning He would give me that the hour of complete Emptying was now at hand.

There would be no art without destruction. No progress without regression. No making of anything without the unmaking all that had come before.

That day, God said to me,“Everything you want will come out of Nothing.” And I am here to testify: He always makes good on His words.

This is the story of how I lost and gained it all.

When God Speaks Through Tuscan Stones

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“He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
– Luke 19:40

My traveling season began on an unnaturally cold Tuesday night in a stone villa in Northern Tuscany.

Oh sure, I was already traveling. Coming 5,000 miles to Italy does count as travel. But I had not yet committed to the itinerant lifestyle that was about to become my portion.

I had not slept well since arriving in Italy, but I was determined that that night would be different. So I read several chapters in Dan Reid’s huge manual on Chinese medicine. That should put me to sleep, I thought as I finally extinguished the bedside lamp and reclined into the thick, drafty darkness of the villa’s ancient embrace.

No such luck on the sleeping. Around 1 or 2 AM, I awakened to what was nearly an audible voice in the room. I can’t tell you if it was a man’s or a woman’s, high or low, or what kind of accent it had. I can only tell you that the words were so clear, so insistent, I will never forget them as long as I love:

“Take no money. Take no luggage. And go into whatever house will receive you.”

I switched on the light frantically, searching the shadows of the room for some intruder. But there was none. Only my suitcase and its contents, a mini-circus of trip hazards strewn about the floor.

Immediately I knew this had been a word from God.

Since the first word from God I heard back in July 2016, I had become familiar with those small ideas bubbling up from some deep place within, the voice that was not audible, and yet there. But sometimes, the voice became louder. At critical moments, for example. Or when I wasn’t paying attention.

Apparently this was a moment I was to take note of.

So I did whatever I did at times when a thought like this struck with forceful clarity. I got out my phone and began to type in the phrase:

Take no money. Take no luggage. And go into whatever house will receive you. 

For one thing, I knew this was a paraphrase of a passage straight out of the Bible. You can find it in Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3-4. Jesus sent out His twelve disciples on a mission of healing and proclaiming God’s kingdom, and He gave them very specific instructions about how they were to travel. These were now the same instructions He had given me.

After noting down the passages, I felt led to just type out whatever came to mind, as I contemplated what I had just heard from the Spirit of God. Writing this post after the fact, I realize that everything I heard was deeply prophetic. That “word from God” in my phone has sustained me through more than a year of traveling since.

It was also not until a year later that I realized I had received this word on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is traditionally a time when God wipes the slate clean, metes out judgment and begins His new work for the year. This was, apparently, my commission for the Hebrew year 5778.

But of course I did not understand that at the time. I only understood that I was freezing to death in a part of Italy that should be sweltering at that time of year. And I was more than a bit freaked out by what I had just heard.

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Here are a few excerpts from the stream of consciousness in my phone. Keep in mind, this whole adventure began because I had been asking God for Everything. And He had told me that Everything I wanted would come out of Nothing.

“You have to let me give you everything. As in EVERY THING. Not as in “some things you insist on calling ‘everything.'”

I realized that had created a very small box that I filled with the few things I thought I wanted and labeled it “everything” when in reality the world was a much larger place with much more in it than I had even bothered to acknowledge or ask for.

Part of this happened because of how limited my perspective really was on the possible things I could do, have and/or achieve in one lifetime. I had written world travel off my list in part because I believed I would have needed a bottomless pocketbook or at least a much larger marriage settlement to make such a lifestyle possible. And because I secretly also believed it would be “irresponsible” to expect to have my needs provided without a job.

Really, if we get right down to it, I wanted a job to secure me social acceptability–of the “you can categorize me and label me as a decent person because you understand easily how I contribute to society” variety–and to rationalize the cash flow to my own ego that wants to be darn sure it earns its keep fair and square.

“’Every thing’ is defined as the whole world. I want to give you the whole world as yours … not just one piece of it. I want you to have many countries and many languages, not just one country and one language. I want you to have many homes everywhere, not just one little apartment in one American state.””

“I want you to have ALL the love from the friends you will make and the people you will help around the world, and in particular to experience the TWO loves that will never leave you–Mine first, and then your own. Isn’t that a whole lot more of everything than you have been asking for, Lisa Maria?”

“Your provision will follow your purpose. Take no scrip for your journey … The way you traveled to Charlotte is exactly how you will travel the world. You cannot get on a plane always knowing where all the money is going to come from. Where’s the fun in that?”

“Wherever you go IS YOURS. For that moment I put you there, and for no longer. Home is where I am in you, and as I go with you, your home will be wherever you go.”

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Somehow, after this I tossed down the phone, exhausted, and managed to fall fast asleep. But the impact of that word would stay with me for over a year.

I returned to the U.S. a few weeks later and sold what was left of my possessions. Then I hit the road again, this time in earnest. Little did I know that word would take me, penniless and possession-less, through five different countries and over 2/3 of the U.S. before landing me at last in the sand-and-concrete jungle of Dubai. And every time thereafter, for about the next 365 days, whenever I asked God if we could finally hang up the suitcase, He would tell me, “Just keep moving.”

Everything I will tell you about after this follows from what happened in that Tuscan villa.

If only those old stone walls could talk!