by Cara Putman
While writing Shadowed by Grace, I fell in love with Italy and the Italian people. My research included published diaries and other first person accounts of what it was like to live in Italy before and during the war. While the key characters weren’t Italian, it was important to understand what it was like to be Italian during that war.
I spent hours researching, studying photos, googling cities and key locations like the Vatican. I tried to imagine what it would be like to actually see these places myself. I began to tell my husband I wanted to visit Italy—specifically Tuscany—for our 20th anniversary trip because I longed to see for myself all of the places I’d visited in my mind and transposed onto the page in Shadowed by Grace.
Then something miraculous happened.
My boss asked me if I would like to lead a study abroad in Italy this summer. He made the “mistake” of asking this in front of my oldest, who immediately answered “YES!” Her all-time favorite book series is Lisa Bergren’s River of Time, which is set in Siena during Medieval times.
The moment he asked in her hearing, it was a done deal in her mind. We would spend our summer in Siena.
I knew just how many roadblocks existed between here and there. I needed a certain number of students. My husband needed to be able to take the vacation time. The other kids needed to get on board with having their summers disrupted. The list of hurdles seemed endless, but one by one we cleared them.
My jaw dropped and my hands lifted as I watched God create a way for a dream of my heart and my daughter’s heart to come true.
We returned from four weeks in Tuscany in the middle of July. Our family spent four weeks living the slow-downed, exercise-heavy life of those who embrace the Italian lifestyle. While I’d teach, they’d relax at the pool overlooking the Tuscan vineyards. Then we’d explore each nook and cranny of this amazing walled city. We explored Florence and Pisa with my students. We wandered the Vatican Museum for an entire day. We saw almost all of the locations I wrote about in Shadowed by Grace.
More than that, we spent four weeks reconnecting as a family. The evenings were filled with reading books together (my oldest logged 24 books in four weeks and re-read Lisa’s series while sitting on the Campo). We played games and colored together. We walked and we walked and we walked…together.
We reconnected and discovered what makes us a family. A unit separate from all other units in the world.
This crazy, fast-paced life we live doesn’t always give us the freedom and ability to do what we did this summer. To check out and step back. To remember the grace and goodness of God. To know His favor and experience His love in tangible ways.
And I pray He will answer similar dreams in your heart in a way that reconnects you to others but more important to Him.
Cara Putman is the award-winning author of more than 20 novels. You can learn more about her and her books, including her next novel Beyond Justice, at http://caraputman.com. She loves connecting with her readers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
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