I’ve been to Rome.  It’s a beautiful city full of culture, history, and graffiti.  I suppose that’s what you get with an older city; the beauty, the history, and the marks of many lives well lived with feast and famine, death and life, sorrow and joy all within its boundaries.  On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to go to Paris.  My husband has been there and has promised that we will go to Paris together someday.  He assures me that we will love it because of the history, the romance, and of course, the fantastic wine and pastries they are known to produce. I’ve envisioned our vacation; a castle stay overlooking a beautiful vineyard, midnight strolls down cobblestone roads, chocolate pastries in the morning, champagne in the evenings, ahhhh Paris, the city of love.   He also tells me that although Paris is beautiful and full of culture and history, it too has an ugly side produced from centuries of lives well lived within its walls, death and life, feast and famine, sorrow and joys; just like Rome.  

I recently submitted a first draft copy of a manuscript I’ve been working on for over eight years to a few friends for some honest feedback.  The story begins with my pregnancy with Luke and it has evolved into a story of healings.  A healing for Luke, a healing for my late husband, and a healing for myself – none obviously holding with the traditional limited view of healing that our frail human minds often think of.  At the end of the story I give my perspective on what it’s like being a mother of a special needs child.  
                It’s like saving your whole life for a dream trip to Paris.  You’re so excited, you buy the ticket, you plan all of your activities and excursions, you map out the best hotels and places to eat and finally the day arrives.  You check in, board the plane, sit on the plane for hours on end and then the plane finally lands but there’s been a huge mistake!  Instead of landing in Paris, you land in Rome! What do you do?  You planned for Paris, Paris is your dream, Paris is where you had your heart set on going.  You don’t know anything about Rome or what to do in Rome or where to stay or eat in Rome but you decide to, in spite of your disappointment, make the best of a bad situation and begin your vacation in Rome.  After a few days you realize that Rome is not Paris but Rome has a beauty all of its own. Sights, sounds and traditions that make it lovely and magical and it’s a spectacular vacation in its own right.  It’s the same with the special children that God gives us here on earth.  At first the news brings devastation because it’s not Paris, it’s not the “normal” healthy child that everyone wants and what it seems like everyone else is blessed with, it’s different than what we plan for in our lives, but in the end we realize that Rome and these kids can be just as beautiful and fulfilling as Paris or a normal child.  It’s all on the same continent; just in different cities.  
I’ve been thinking about this analogy lately and how it can apply to so many situations in life.  As a little girl I dreamed of the perfect nuclear family.   I would meet prince charming and marry him and we would live in our dream house with the white picket fence and raise chickens and lots of babies.  I was completely and totally on track with that plan until 2004 with the news that I was carrying a very special baby, Luke, and then again in 2007 when my late husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and passed away three years later. I planned for Rome because Rome seemed to be so perfect and beautiful and so full of promise.  I planned and planned and planned and God sent me straight on a plane for Barcelona.  I am now in a blended family with 7 children of which none is a mixture of mine and my husband’s gene pool. I sold my dream house with the picket fence and never looked back. I’ve found, in the process, that although I planned my whole life for Rome, the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect job, and the perfect picket fence, that Rome was just not meant to be my forever.  It was a short term vacation, filled with feasting and famine, death and life, sorrow and joy. Rome had loads of beauty but it had its fair share of graffiti as well.   Now I’m in an unknown city, the city of Barcelona, and as I walk through it my heart is enraptured by the beauty and the newness that I see and as I get past the cleaned up tourist areas I’m surprised to discover that Barcelona has some graffiti as well. It is also a life of stretching; pain and growth, sorrow and joy.  Barcelona just has graffiti in a different language, a blended family language, a new marriage language, a grief language; but the graffiti is there nonetheless for the growth, stretching, and joy of becoming more and more Christ like.  I think we all find ourselves yearning for our Romes, our childhood fantasies, the days before divorce or death or suffering and when our immaturities ruled our hearts and minds.  But we don’t grow in immaturity, we don’t become more and more like Him in our immaturity, we need to get down in the graffiti of it all and trust that He will send us to whichever city he sees fit for our lives in whatever particular situation we are in. 
“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” Ephesians 4:13
Someday, hopefully soon, I’ll get to truly experience Paris, Rome, or Barcelona but in the meantime I’ll enjoy my own little life of romance, love, and graffiti right here in my own backyard.   
Just keep livin!!
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