The Billy Graham Library

Way back in 2014 Johnny and I went on a two-week trip to Italy. One of the places that we spent time was at St. Peters Basilica. It was a very emotional time for me. To say that it was hard would be an understatement. Seeing so much glorification going to Jesus’ Apostles was so odd to me. All through our time in Europe, I was struck by the amazing art and rich history. But when it came to going to the many chapels, it was difficult for me to see such glorification going to “men” rather to Jesus.

Now, the contrast.

On our plane trip home from our European trip, we had an afternoon layover in Charlotte South Carolina. While at the airport we saw that we were close to The Billy Graham Library…a museum of sorts. Besides having the history of Rev. Graham’s ministry, the grounds also have the actual home that Billy had been raised in. As well there is the grave of his dear wife Ruth.

We decided to take a couple of hours to go and visit the grounds. Learning all about Rev. Graham’s ministry was so interesting to me and seeing his childhood home was very moving. But it was Ruth’s grave that most touched me. There was such a stark contrast to me…from the gravesite of Ruth Graham to those of the Apostles. Her humble gravestone read “End of construction-Thank you for your patience”.  She was buried in a wooden coffin made by the Louisiana State Penitentiary inmates at Angola, lined with blankets from Wal-Mart.

This week Billy passed from his life on earth to his life with Jesus in heaven. Wow! I can imagine the celebration and the reunion in heaven and can only imagine Jesus’ words to him…”Well done, good and faithful servant”.

Rev. Graham is expected to be buried in the same plain wood coffin made by the inmates as was Ruth. He will be buried beside her. Once when Billy was asked who was the greatest Christian he ever knew…his answer…was his wife Ruth.

Over 55 years of ministry, Billy Graham preached the Gospel message to more than 215 million people in over 185 countries around the world.  I heard Billy Graham in person at more than one event earlier in my life. I count myself blessed to have experienced a piece of his marvelous ministry as an evangelist. What a great servant of God!

 

The Billy Graham Library, Charlotte South Carolina.

Replica of the fireplace at the Graham’s home. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” carved in German.

Replica of where Rev. Graham did his broadcasts.

Rev. Graham’s travel bag and passports. The well-worn Bibles that he used to study and preach from.

His influence on leaders was profound.

The powerful message of God’s forgiveness of man’s sin.

The desk he used to study at.

Ruth’s handmade wedding gown.

Homeplace of the Graham family.

The humble gravesite of Ruth Graham.

 

 

 

The Borghese Gallery and Gardens (Rome, Italy)

The morning was a bit wet, yet not cold. We had said good-bye to our travel companions, as they took off earlier than us to visit the Galleria Borghese. Shortly after we arrived by taxi, just in time for our tour to start. The gallery was filled with rooms and rooms of stunning art. My favorite was the carving of Borghese’s wife. We were not allowed to photograph inside of the gallery, so I have added a link of the lovely carving. After the self guided tour, Johnny and I met up with Don and Victoria and visited the lavish garden together. It was so very beautiful! We walked and talked and just relaxed and admired the flowers and gazibo. The rain had subsided and everything was fresh. The time in the gardens brought me a moment of peace during a time that was otherwise quite hectic feeling for me.

Later that evening, we walked through some of the back streets of Rome and then to dinner. Our travel companion Don, was in heaven with his clams and linguine. This was his staple…along with salami! Pictures of both below. (The two pictures that have me in them, were taken by Don Blodger 🙂 Thanks Don!)

 

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Love is in the air!

When we were in Europe there were many signs of love all around. One of the first was at the Trevi Fountains in Rome, Italy. The others were at St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy and at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Those at the Eiffel Tower were actually a proposal of marriage!  (And one of a young couple seated viewing the city from far atop the Eiffel Tower)

Young or a bit older…who cares! It is wonderful how the Lord designed us to find such pleasure in being close. So for all who believe in the art and the beauty of love…here are some examples!

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The Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peters Bascilica…all in a day.

If I even tried to tell you the range of emotions that I experienced while at Vatican City I could not. I am of the Christian faith and did not know quite how to digest all that I saw and experienced the day that we toured the Catholic city. Beautiful and Amazing works of art engulfed me…but so did the crowds. Symbols of faith were everywhere, mostly honoring the Saints. It was truly more than I could take in. Though I will say that by the setting of the sun, and once we were outdoors, I loved the light as I captured the exterior of St. Peters and the unique Swiss guard.

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Burning Calories while in Rome

The day after we arrived in Rome we met up with Johnny and his previous weeks Olive Garden “family” as they were taking their last tour together.  They generously included us in the tour with them, and again later in the evening for their last dinner together as a group. Paulo, the head chef of Olive Garden, spent all week with Johnny’s group and it was a true pleasure for me to be able to meet him that afternoon. Our time together started by Johnny greeting us outside of the Colosseum just before the tour began. Then, as soon as the tour was over we were on our own until dinner later that evening. During our stay in Rome, we did loads of walking as well as metro riding (always being mindful of the ever-present threat of pick-pocketers).  If the truth be known…it did not matter how many calories we ate while there…we burned them off getting to and from everywhere! (Lucky for us from the looks of the tiramisu, which was served after pizza with the O.G. gang)

On a side note…so much of what we saw around many corners were small outdoor dining establishments and petite gardens…charming. I included a picture or two. 🙂

(One of our travel companions, Don Blodger, took the picture of Johnny and I meeting up…thanks Don!)

 

 

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Experiencing Rome…as I pulled my “head out of the sand”.

It has been weeks since our return home from our travels to Europe. Actually, almost two months. The trip left me with more than memories. It left me with a greater understanding of how differently people view life and experience it. You see, forever our dear friends Don and Victoria had dreamed of coming to this rich historical place together. To see and experience every piece of it they could. Yet, the concept to see and experience Italy did not even occur to me more than a few months before we went. Actually, for years, my sister and her family had lived in Italy. (I never visited her when she was there…never did I really even consider it). So I have to admit, my knowledge of Italy consisted of a great deal of ignorance going into it. Never had I dreamed, studied or learned about the country or really even its history. There…I said it. I was very unprepared for what I was about to experience.

Maybe I am one who would just prefer burying my head in the sand and not know of the kinds of horrors that mankind can do to one another. But once in Rome, I could no longer hide. The pagan temples, the Roman Colosseum (where so many cruel deaths occurred for others “entertainment”) and the Roman Forum (Where the pagan ritual of the Vestal Virgins was intensely hard for me…knowing these young women were buried alive if they lost their virginity while in service at the temple) all spoke of pagan rituals and cruelty to humankind. The pain of my new understanding, at times, was almost unbearable for me to deal with.

In spite of this rude awakening, I admired the amazing architecture and I enjoyed the times spent visiting around meal times with my travel companions. Johnny had finally joined Don, Victoria and I, (after already being in Italy the week prior with his work) and I was so glad to be with him after our time apart.

Below are some shots of our time at the Pantheon, the Roman Coliseum and the Roman Forum.

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“Romeo and Juliet”…European Vacation (1 of many to come)

I will say that rather than this being “a trip of a lifetime” for me,  this trip was one of me “dying to self”.  At times during our trip this process was more difficult than others. Now you may say “What? Did I read this right” Yes. For me, this trip was an act of letting go of my personal comforts, securities and desires and accepting this as a trip that Johnny was gifted with, and in essence, I too. In life, sometimes we are given “gifts” that are our dreams coming true and other times our gifts are the furthest from a dream. Having said this, don’t think that there were not some wonderful experiences that I had while in Europe, there were. Read on, below is one of them…

Our adventure begins. Johnny already had been in Italy for a week on a working vacation that he was given through his job. Our friends Don and Victoria were escorting me over and we were to spend the first day there as a threesome before we met up with Johnny. We arrived in Rome greeted by our driver who would pick us up and drop us at our flat where we would stay, overlooking the Trevi Fountain. (You can see our room in one of the pictures below. It is the fifth floor with a balcony, on the top right of the yellow building). We arrived early enough to be able to pick up some groceries from the local market and to have climbed our 5 flights of stairs to our flat a couple of times before settling in for the evening. Mind you, with our room overlooking the famous Trevi Fountain, the stairs were worth it. Shortly after returning from the market where Don, Victoria and I tried to understand the butcher and read food labels, we sat down for a delicious anti-pasta meal. Right about that time, I said to Don “maybe we should text Johnny, to touch base before we meet up with him tomorrow”. You see, my phone was not yet connecting properly oversees, so I had Don text Johnny for me. Now get this…the moment that he texted him, Johnny responded “we are at the Trevi, look out your window”. Yes, Johnny was with his group of 15 at the fountain at the very minute as I suggested that we text to see his whereabouts. We flew to the balcony and looked down…and there I saw my amazing smiling husband. We yelled that I would be right down. I literally ran down 5 flights of stairs into the arms of my husband that I had not seen for a very long week…being given the best hug that I had felt in forever. I will NEVER forget the feeling of that embrace. We did not want to let go. But, sadly, his group was on its way out toward the Spanish Steps and he had to go. We lovingly refer to this incident as our “Romeo and Juliet” moment. It was by far the very best part of our trip. Don captured our embrace with his camera looking straight down from 5 stories above us. I am so very grateful for his picture of a memory that I hope never to forget.

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How did I ever get myself on a plane to Italy?

The journey to Italy and Paris was not one without great contemplation. Many facets made our decision so difficult as to whether or not to go together. You see, my husband Johnny had been awarded a trip to Tuscany Italy for a week with his company. They (along with just about everyone else) were encouraging me to join him after his trip, to tour Italy with him. But that would require paying for my flight and the expenses of the vacation. His job was paying his way there and back, and for his week with them. But that still left many expenses to extend his stay with me joining him.  Not only was the expense more than we could afford, but the planning of the trip was way out of either of our comfort zones. And then there was the part of me flying there on my own. After much prayer and discussion Johnny and I concluded that because of the cost of the trip (yes, the trip of a lifetime) it would not be the responsible thing for us to do. But then, all kinds of provisions came our way!  Friends at church, when they heard of us not “going for it” offered to provide my flight with their frequent flyer miles. As well, they offered to accompany me there and plan the entire trip if we would like to make the Rome/Paris trip as a foursome. Don and Victoria were already dear friends…but what does one say when offered this of gift of friendship? Humbly, we would say yes.  Next, the evenings of sitting around their family room fireplace began. Don and Victoria would research places to stay and cities to see, and then they would get our stamp of approval. We would have dinners or popcorn together. We would pray together. We would sometimes even cry together. Not only did they map out the whole trip, but they found some amazing deals to make the cost of the lodging, food and sights significantly more affordable. Which brings me to the way that was covered. Between selling my old car (that suddenly just died) and selling a diamond from the past, the rest of the trip was paid for.  There was even enough left over for our first few car payments. So, this is the start of our trip…the start of memories being made and Gods provision for a trip that I never would have dreamed would happen. 2014-03-15_0011