Italy Adventures: Choose Joy and Enjoy the Journey

Ciao from Italy! I’m so thankful to be here, visiting some settings in my next novel, exploring this beautiful country with my colleague, and working remotely.

However, lest you think the writer’s life and remote work life are purely magical (and oftentimes, they are), keep reading. Here’s what this trip has taught me so far.

#1: You can’t plan for everything.

Perhaps you’re wondering, Wasn’t Kristen going to blog while she’s traveling abroad? The answer is that yes, I was.

However, when I turned on my laptop in Orvieto, I discovered that it would not charge. My colleague and I tried everything from reinstalling battery drivers and various other online suggestions with no success.

Here I thought I had everything I needed! I had an adapter, and my colleague had one too, and yet for some reason, my charging cord was not compatible with European power.

I don’t like feeling helpless to solve my problems, but there wasn’t much I could do about the situation. So, as my brother says: improvise, adapt, and overcome!

#2: You can’t control or fix everything.

I had two choices when this hard reality hit. I could be miserable for the rest of the trip, or I could make the best of the situation. Though the frustration was real, my friend, I chose the latter. As a result, I’ve been waking up at five o’clock in the morning each day to grade, so that I can use my friend’s laptop when she doesn’t have to work. Is it ideal? Of course not. But I’m able to still grade, help my students, and do my job. (However, I sadly have not had much time for my lovely blog.)

The privilege of working remotely means sacrificing whatever is needed, in this case sleep, to make a work-around possible. But the reward is worth it! After putting in those early hours, my friend and I get to spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon adventuring before she logs in for her own job.

Maria and me at the Duomo (cathedral) in Orvieto (Photo cred: Maria Constantine, thepotentialofyouth.com)

#3: You can choose to live in the moment.

The planner in me is dying to know if my laptop will work fine once I return home or what repair work will be needed, but again, I choose not to worry. Philippians 4:6-7 has been a go-to for me on this trip:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

God’s peace goes with me, regardless if I haven’t slept much, am under-caffeinated, and don’t know how I’m going to solve some of my circumstantial challenges. However, I can enjoy the gift of this moment and this incredible opportunity, choosing not to let inconveniences steal the beauty of this adventure.

Exploring the streets of Orvieto, we found these fun metal horses, designed for the young and young at heart. (Photo cred: Maria Constantine)

#4: You can both prepare and be spontaneous.

When Maria and I were in Orvieto, we planned one day at a time. Of course, we had some ideas ahead of time of where we could go and what we could do, but the key to working remotely and adventuring is not to try to do everything. You do have to sleep sometime, although the extent of that sleep is clearly debatable.

As it was, we decided to visit Civita di Bagnoregio, nicknamed “the Dying Town” because it looks like an elevated island in the middle of a mountainous region. As a result, its inhabitants have to carefully guard against erosion.

But oh, the place is stunning! It’s like a city on a hill, and yes, it is a short trek to get there but so worth it. This spontaneous day-trip might just be my favorite yet.

(Photo cred: Maria Constantine)

#5: Take time for gratitude moments.

Even in the “ugly” moments of travel and working remotely, we can still find something to be grateful for. For starters, I’m grateful to be traveling with someone who’s willing to share her laptop when she’s not using it. I’m grateful for the kind lady who helped us get a taxi when we literally lost our car and the friendly construction workers who helped us get back to the road we were supposed to be on.

The moral is this: Anything worthwhile is going to be both wonderful and likely challenging. Whether we’re home or abroad, we get to choose our attitudes even if we can’t choose our circumstances.

Choose joy, my friends. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Ciao!

Kristen

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Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

The Lincoln Memorial and a Mother’s Day Tribute

Of all the monuments and memorials in the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial might be the most famous. (By National Mall, I don’t mean a shopping plaza with a food court. It’s the name of the national park lined with many of D.C.’s monuments.)

Engraved on either side of Lincoln’s statue are both his Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address. The lesser well-known of the two is his inaugural address, which focuses on the Civil War conflict that had been tearing the nation apart during his presidency.

I want to share with you an excerpt that reveals our sixteenth president’s faith and humility.

Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease … Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.

Lincoln acknowledged that good men on both side of the fight believed their cause to be just and prayed to the same God. You see, although slavery was a point of division (and certainly needed to end), it was not the only reason for the war. In fact, not all Southerns were fighting for slavery, nor were all Northerners fighting against it. There were other factors at stake that jeopardized the interests of both North and South. As a result, good people disagreed.

Regardless, Lincoln recognized that God would accomplish “his own purposes” through the conflict, and he desired to see the Union unified once more. In his last speech, he revealed his desire to reunite the nation and do all things necessary “to restoring the proper practical relations between these [seceded] States and the Union.” Unfortunately, his assassination six days after Lee surrendered at Appomattox served to further divide the already war-torn country.

A Tribute to Mothers

The Lincoln Memorial represents the contribution this man made to our country, but it provides only a glimpse into who Lincoln was.

Before becoming president, he experienced some tough failures. In fact, he tended to have nearly as many setbacks as he did successes.

Why didn’t he quit? His character and perseverance doubtless did him credit, but something Lincoln said about his mother suggests the impact she made on his life, the impact any praying mother can have on her child. He is quoted as saying:

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. – Abraham Lincoln

If you have (or had) a mother who prayed for you, you are truly blessed. Even if you don’t, you personally have the opportunity to have a relationship with God and talk with Him in prayer.

The Bible specifically tell us we should “pray for one another,” and that doing so makes a difference (James 5:16). You never know the impact you might have on someone’s life.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I want to wish all the mothers a wonderful Mother’s Day and say a special thank you to my own beautiful mom who so very faithfully prays for me.

Parting thought: Lincoln recognized the influence his mother’s prayers had on his life. What impact has someone’s prayer made on yours? Are you praying for others the way you should? 

~ Kristen

 

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The Lincoln Memorial and a Mother’s Day Tribute – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)