There’s something incredibly encouraging about writing on a train. The perpetual movement pulls words out like gravity, giving birth to new ideas. Moving so smooth and fast that your train of thought (see what I did there) becomes endless and uninterrupted. Traveling through valleys, tunnels, mountains and bridges, the scenery changes vastly in a matter of moments, like a glorious picture book of God’s majestic work. There’s a stability here - close to the ground unlike the floating feeling that comes from a plane. It feels more organic than driving, because you have no control over the navigation, thus able to completely let your body give into forward thinking and forward movement. I really dig it.
I’m currently traveling from Barcelona, Spain to Paris, France and I’ve got 6 hours to create something you’ll read in 6 minutes, give or take. Although this trip was a surprise to me, I imagine it was eons in the making. It's crazy how our footsteps are predetermined by God before our consciousness can conceive them. This grand gesture by my husband to provide a trip of a lifetime is a circumstance that brings me great joy! I’m not deserving of such a feat. In fact, the trip is an example of God's Grace even when we fall short. The last few days I’ve been looking at the world and Michael through a new lens. I think back to silly fights and quarrels we’ve had even centered around travel (in 2013 we traveled to New Orleans and stayed mad at each other for 2 days straight, no clue why). Glancing in the rearview mirror, those issues seem obsolete. There’s so much love and respect that comes from growing in a marriage, but you have to actively stay invested in your spouse to reap the fruit of that labor. The sheer juxtaposition between our first international trip and now is mind blowing. Our first time out of the country was on our honeymoon, another trip planned solely by Mike, to Jamaica. Just like all new brides I was about 20 pounds lighter (ha!) and entered into my union with a veil of blind optimism and wild expectations of how it was actually going to be. You could find me metaphorically screaming affirmations from the roof tops like - "Love is all you need!" and "I'll never go to bed mad!" Life quickly began to demolish the idealistic walls I'd built up for good reason. Fact: there is no perfect marriage. It is hard and it takes daily tending (just like growing a garden).
Would you believe I was upset at first about this trip? I’m a planner and by this virtue it is very hard for me to relinquish control. I have friends that turn 30 this year too, and my initial plan was to go somewhere tropical as a group. When Mike told me his plan I got all up in arms -"But what about all my frien --"👋🏾 I'll accept your virtual slap here. lol I learned so much about myself, my husband and my marriage during our time of wanderlust - here's what God revealed.
#Message: Just as God loves the church, so does a man love his wife. Remember what I said about God requiring one-on-one time with us? Our spouses require this special exclusivity as well. Mike so eloquently in the middle of my tantrum reminded me "when all the friends flake (no offense homies, but you know how we do with trips), you will cry to me that you didn't go anywhere or do anything for your birthday. WE are not worried about THEM, let's do US instead." Good Lord! I melted into the floor with those words and there was nothing left to do but pack!
#Message: We were uncomfortable at first adjusting to a new culture. For starters there was a 6 hour time difference. Did you know in Brussels you must pay to use the restroom in places, even if you're dining there? We sent postcards to loved ones but were surprised to learn that you couldn't mail a postcard with a stamp from Barcelona, out of Paris (who knew?). In Paris we learned that when walking into a cafe', you should speak first, instead of waiting for the barista to acknowledge you; you are rude if you come into their space without speaking because everyone is regarded as equals. We navigated through new and exciting social cues that made our trip both educational and enjoyable. Marriage is a lot like this; two people coming together, former family values and customs fall away to make room for a new "normal". We may have grown up one way, believing in this or that, but when we form a new family, over the years you sort through what stays and what begins a new. You decide what things you can both live with and what won't fit into your new shared experience.
#Message: Not out of fear, but out of safety we created our own boundaries. In Barcelona, the language barrier made it such that we had to literally rely on each other to get around. We could stammer our way through a little Spanish, but we didn't realize that many inhabitants spoke Catalan. We had to make sure the lines of communication were clear between us first, before trying together to get our points across in a language we barely knew. We were warned about pickpockets and areas to stay away from. This was equally important to maintain a safe trip and protect our identity. I'm learning that boundaries in a marriage are REAL and you have to keep it protected by beginning and ending all things between you two - all joys, fights, conflicts, struggles; God is the source, and the two of you are the plug.
The 3 strands that cradle a union is you, your spouse and God. There is only enough room in a marriage for those 3 fibers. At it's very essence, being halfway across the world helped me visualize this concept as we were only able to bring carry-on sized luggage. Because we visited 5 countries in 9 days we had to be minimalist and mindful of any unnecessary baggage. God wants for us to let go of the unnecessary baggage that keeps our unions from flourishing. Like luggage - "check" the egos, "check" the attitudes and all the excessive conflicts you keep bundled up. Learning to move with LESS makes you rely on God and each other MORE. Walking through the streets of Paris I held Mike's hand tight as we disappeared into the crowd. I could not remember a time I'd healed onto him more closely. But he is my safe place, my haven and holding tight to him I cannot fail. The physical representation of navigating foreign land was a gentle reminder to hold him tightly, always.
Thank you Lord for placing the spirit of travel into my husband’s heart. His thirst for adventure is admirable. Michael, seeing the world with you is humbling - an equally happy and hard trek between familiar and unfamiliar terrain. This too, is the meaning of our marriage.
To be continued...