"Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself where she places her young--near Your altars, LORD of Hosts, my King and my God. How happy are those who reside in Your house, who praise you continually." Psalm 84:3-4
As I was hugging Geri Fuehring goodbye before I left for Italy she said to me, "Your home is where God is anyways, so you'll be fine." Our God is eternal. He is King over every nation. He is omnipresent. As I walk through Rome, travel to the beach in Naples, and ride with friends up the mountains in Tuscany, I try to let that sink in. Wherever I am, so is He. I want to become more and more intentionally aware that I reside in His presence--I want to be one to praise Him continually. Never-ending fellowship; being delighted in and delighting in Jesus, the Creator of everything. I am feeling at home in Italy because I am learning what it is to be at home in Jesus. "Learning" is not in italics because I love italics (though I do), but rather to emphasize the fact that I've got a long way to go.
Here is a little taste of the last days we had in Rome, a couple thoughts on my time on the beach in Naples, and the beginning of our "week" in Tuscany (we just arrived here hours ago).
On Thursday we had class in the morning (I am loving the class I am taking on 1&2 Corinthians) and then we went outside the old city walls to St. Paul's Basilica. It is highly likely that St. Paul is buried here. After he was killed, he was indeed buried in this area thus the high likely hood that the tomb they now say is his actually is. There were doors covered with depictions of scenes from Paul's life as well as a statue of Paul, Luke (his friend!), and Peter holding the keys to heaven.
This is the giant central nave of St. Paul's. I love the picture of Jesus over the arch.
After St. Paul's we went to Santa Sabina which is an original basilica from the 5th century AD. That means it was standing in the 400s and is still standing now. It also means that any church Augustine taught in would have looked like this. That is thrilling to an Augustine "groupie" like me. Below are Lauren and I in Santa Sabina. I laughed so hard when I looked at this picture, because in the left half of the picture stands a foreshadowing of the future Lauren and me--still traveling together like little tourist friends do!
Some day I will do an entire blog post on the thing we saw next: the keyhole of Rome. Such deep significance to me--way too much to get into now, especially since the dinner bell will be ringing any minute now.
After seeing the keyhole of Rome some of us went to go see some catacombs before they closed. Unfortunately we just missed the closing time but we got to walk on the Appian Way! Paul walked this road to come into Rome as recorded in Acts 28. As deep my joy about being on the very road Paul walked, my joy about Johnny creeping in the back is almost as deep. Almost.
As if Thursday wasn't already beautiful enough, Dr. Litfin wanted to bring us all to the Trevi Fountain at night.
It was stunning.
Above is the Dome of St. Peters Basilica and below is the picture from inside. Absolutely beautiful. St. Peters basilica is the location where Peter was buried and is the biggest church in the world.
A bunch of the members of our group, not including me, are playing a freezing game. In this picture, Jin was frozen and until she was rescued by someone touching her arm they dressed her up.
The moments standing in front of St. Peter's basilica were some of the most profound for me so far on this trip. To the right and left of the church are long rows of tall columns. The pictures that I saw in the Christianity and Western Culture powerpoint came to life as a stood and looked around. I asked Lauren to take a picture for me. Then Johnny and Dustin came and made the picture 100 times better.
My stomach turns a little bit with joy over this picture. Joy in having Lauren as a friend. Joy in traveling Europe with her. Joy in having seen the Vatican City ending with St. Peter's basilica.
Walking around Rome with Lauren and Jin. Jin is one of the most hilarious and adorable people I know.
Below: This is Christina, our tour guide for the week we were in Rome. She helped us get around everywhere and is one of the most beautiful, kind people I know. This picture signifies so much for me. No art, ruins, castles, or catacombs anywhere in the world will ever be as beautiful as the people of the world. May we never miss the beauty in loving people.
The Pantheon. Temple built for pagan God's and given to the church in 609 AD.
This is ONE picture of a wall in the Catacombs that we saw on Saturday before taking a bus to the beach in Naples. If I had to pick one actual favorite moment in Italy so far it would be a moment in these catacombs. A moment where I was so overwhelmed with the reality and beauty of who Jesus is that I could hardly breathe. A moment where thankfulness for the foundation that the early church fathers gave us almost brought me to my knees.
My stunning friend Jin. She has had so many good quotes on this trip so far.
A monastery built on top of a mountain on our way to naples. I secretly wish I could live a day as a 5th century monk. This ride, though beautiful, was difficult, for I never wanted to leave Rome. Someday, I will have to return.
Sunday we went to church in the basement of the hotel and spent the day on the beach. Every morning, these little men rode in wagons behind their horses.
Monday we toured Pompeii and then walked around the beautiful Naples. Pompeii was incredibly fascinating. There were so many interesting things to see while walking around this Roman city. It was so well preserved by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Our tour guild, Alesandro, was so fun!
Naples with Lauren.
And today (Tuesday, June 5) we arrived in the ever beautiful Tuscany. The villa that we are staying at, Casa Cares, is incredible. I can't wait to be here. To learn here. To listen here. And to be at home in Jesus here, for the next 5 days.
As always, more blog posts to follow. Much love from Europe! Ciao!