I have so many little parts of our trip that I have considered sharing, but as I sort through each little trinket of a memory and gently cradle them in my thoughts, looking at them from different angles and seeing the deeper stories within, I’ve found that most of them will only ever truly be understood by me.
Things like visiting the natural hot springs in the early evening, and just when we thought we would have to leave because it was getting dark, God provided a full moon to light the water and wooded area for us to be able to stay and enjoy the beauty of His creation.
Things like the barista at the condo knowing each of our drinks for the morning and artistically decorating the top of my cappuccino our last morning in Loro Cuiffenna.
And things like the miracle of not having jet lag and having the absolute best nights’ sleep Every.Single.Night.
But I love sharing the ordinary stories that have extraordinary meaning. The ones like this where people from a completely different culture, a completely different language, and a completely different generation show selflessness and kindness.
We took an extra special overnight trip during our stay in Italy. For those of you who remember my love of French culture and my travel history, you completely understand my excitement when I tell you we went to Nice, France!
A gorgeous, 5 hour trip along the coast was a small price to pay to visit the beach in December. We passed farms and villages, some maintaining the quaint countryside charm, while others fell to ruin by age and the elements. Regardless, our eyes were wide with wonder and awe as we took in our fill of the scenery.
After parking and checking into the tiny French hotel (whose literal name was “small palace”), we headed to the beach. The weather was pleasant and breezy, and when we emerged from the shadows between the buildings, our hearts were still as we gazed on the rocky beach and into the expanse of the waters.
I felt almost at home to be back again in the city that stole my heart almost 12 years ago. I loved being in my element, and I was thrilled to share this with my husband and our close friends.
We made our way to the old town part of Nice, and I grew more excited as we passed some places that I remembered from what seemed a lifetime away. We struggled deciding a place to eat for dinner, but landed on an eclectic restaurant off the beaten path. It was a magnificent evening to say the least.
But the greatest adventure occurred the following day. Our hearts were set on seeing the whole city atop the ruins of an old stone castle. We ventured far and wide, gradually making our way toward our destination. The trouble was that we didn’t actually know where we were going. We stopped along to the way to inquire about directions in our broken French. Our progress was minimal to say the least, and we retrieved our map one more time to ask directions in a park.
To our delight, an old man overhead our desperate attempt to find our way to Castle Hill. He motioned us to follow along as he started our trek across the city. He spoke very little English, but continued to comment along the way with pieces of French I was able to translate.
We walked through Old Nice, made our way to the boardwalk on the beach, and passed old fisherman housing that is now coveted real estate. The man was somewhere around seventy-years-old and more than happy to help us make it to our exact destination. At times when he could have just pointed the rest of the way, he instead took us straight inside and up the elevator to the top. What dedication!
At our goodbye, we expressed our sincerest gratitude in our limited French vocabulary, and he wished us a good day. We were completely awestruck at the perfect timing that this sweet man had entered our lives.
From this very humbling experience, I found God teaching me more about my life as a Christ follower. I thought to myself, “How many people (Americans or otherwise) would actually be willing to take us all the way where we needed to go? Would I be willing to do this same act of kindness for someone else- even someone of a different race, age, or culture?”
I mourned the times that I had opportunity to give of myself to help someone and yet failed to do so. You see, giving is commonly associated with something of monetary value, but the greater challenge for most American Christians is to give of our time, energy, and efforts. We busy ourselves with life that we forget our priorities: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
Love is a verb, an action.
This man literally went the extra mile for us, and we felt that love through his service. How much more should we be following his example to be ready and willing to sacrifice our time and energy to further God’s Kingdom? It is by our actions of love toward people that will be the light and testimony of Christ to the world.
Be encouraged, dear friends, in your efforts of service.
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galations 6:10).
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).