Forgive me. I have to push "pause" and interrupt my second Paris post as there have been some developments in my life and what's going on with me that I need to share. I will come back to my second half of my Paris trip. Admit it. You're dying to know what happened...I'll get there.
As I sit behind my desk in Rome preparing for another fall semester, I am finding it hard to believe that it has been over five years since I first arrived in La Città Eterna. I honestly don't know where five years have gone. There's been so much in between then and now--good, bad, beautiful, and ugly. So much that I'm grateful and full of thanksgiving for; so much that I wish I could go back to and change. So very much has happened. As such, I felt compelled to reread my first "in Rome" post on this blog. I read it and remembered the feeling of anticipation, excitement, fear, and the sweat that was dripping down the side of my face because it was unbearably hot. Looking at the date of the post I was momentarily surprised to realize that I posted that first 'from Rome' blog on August 19, 2009. Ironic.
"Ironic," you ask. "Why is it ironic?" It's ironic because on August 19, 2014, I found out that the Geneva College Board of Trustees voted to close the Semester in Rome program at the end of the 2014-15 academic year because of the challenging environment in higher education and the need to shift resources to other programs.
That's right. The program that I work for in Rome is closing. This means that as of the end of May I'm heading back to the good ol' US of A per sempre. My time in Rome is coming to a close. And that thought, which has been on a continual loop since I found out, is hard to comprehend. I am currently working through many of the same feelings that I experienced in 2009--expectation, sadness, excitement, fear, and yes, even sweat given that I'm back in Rome sans A/C. There's so much churning in my head and heart right now that I can't seem to sort it all out.
Here is what I do know, though: I serve a God who is God. He is faithful and He is loving. He promises that He will never leave me nor forsake me. He promises that He has a future and a hope for me. I know that He will always take care of me regardless of my employment status or geographical location. No matter what my future may or may not bring, I will be just fine. I will be good because God is good. All the time, God is good.
I love Rome. It is such a part of my heart and life. While returning last week was somewhat harder than it has been in recent years, it was also easier. Certainly, it was easier than that first year because I knew what to expect, what was waiting for me, and because I have community here. While I grieve the loss of this city as my home and the adventures that await me with each turn of a corner, it will be leaving the people that I have shared my life with these last five years that will make good-bye that much harder. People like my dear friend Laura who has demonstrated to me time and again what it is to be not only a friend, but also a self-less and encouraging sister in Christ. She has listened to my struggles, my triumphs, and everything in between and through it all has always offered me a listening ear and space in her home if I needed refuge. She, and her husband Jason, always go out of their way to help whenever asked...or even when no help is asked for but needed just the same. People like Lucy who started out first as a colleague, but has become a wonderful friend. She has helped me to navigate life in Rome and has taught me how to speak la bella lingua. She has been an example of grace and strength when I needed reminding. She is such a special person to me and I know that God has placed her in my life for a specific purpose and reason. People like the Sisters who have opened their home to us and have shown me what a life lived to the service of the Kingdom looks like. People like Cathy who always has a warm smile and great hug. People like Remo who owns my favorite pizzeria who always greets me like a long-lost friend. People like Francesca, waiters at other favorite eateries, those who work at frequented gelaterias, the bankers I have gotten to know, our labor consultant, our handsome handyman, those who keep me in coffee at the corner bar, and those I see around my neighborhood. I will miss them because, whether they know it or not, they helped turn a corner of Rome into a home for me. I will miss the people.
And yet, in the midst of all of this, I'm excited to see where God's going to take me next. I'm looking forward to a new professional challenge, a new city, and a new place (all to myself!!!!!!) to call home. I look forward to being closer to home so that I can my niece, and those who come after her, grow up. Practically speaking, I am planning on returning to Arizona in May, unless I already have a new job waiting for me (hint, hint..help a girl out people!). Otherwise, I'll continue job hunting while trying to re-acclimate to life in America.
I have been asked several times by former students if I am angry that the program is ending. And the answer is: no, I'm not angry. I understand. I know why we're closing and I get it. Yes, I'm disappointed that those who'd been planning on coming to Rome can't now, but I am confident that the College sought the Lord before making such a huge decision. Rather than being mad, I am thankful. I am thankful that I have gotten to live in a place like Rome, a city that words cannot accurately describe or contain. I am thankful for those whom I have had the pleasure of working with and living alongside. I am thankful for the students that I have had the tremendous blessing to pour into and do life with. I am thankful for all of the beautiful places I have been to and the incredible things that I have seen and done. That's what I am; I am grateful.
So that's how I want to end my time here in Rome: with a sense of deep and profound thanksgiving for having had the opportunity to live out my dream for as long as I did.
Just wait. The best is yet to come...