Right away, she would probably tell you this is not the best photo of her. She would tell you how sweaty she is and how she needs a shower. She would comment on her hair and how it does not meet her standards. She would fill you in on her adventure of sleeping at the Minneapolis Airport one full day prior to her flight departing instead of reserving a hotel room to have more spending money on her trip. She would follow-up with a comment about how surreal this moment feels and she could not believe she was actually in Italy. She would describe how she traveled for nearly three days just to take this picture with me.
Lisa and I became friends four to five years ago during a group Bible study at church. Lisa has a memory of a conversation we shared during that time…one of those memories where you know what the other person was wearing, exactly where you both were standing, what items you were holding in your hand…when we talked about dreaming BIG; dreaming beyond what seems reasonable or possible. If you did not already notice, this is one of my most FAVORITE topics in life.
After the study (for the life of us, we cannot remember the focus of the study) was completed, I was looking for a new study to join. As I scrolled through the list of small group Bible study options, none of the topics grabbed my attention but one leader’s name did…Lisa. The topic was not one I was deeply interested in but I knew I liked Lisa and thought it could be a good way to get to know her better, meet new people and be accountable in the Word. From that point on, we became close friends.
Lisa grew up in a small town. I remember when she moved to Eau Claire, WI (~60,000 population), she was not sure how she was going to handle or enjoy “city life”. She loved it. Then, she began to dream even bigger – Phoenix, AZ. As she kept dreaming about the impossible, she found herself making plans. As she dreamed and made plans, she started to make sacrifices like working multiple jobs to get finances secured and save for her future dream. She did not live extravagantly. She did not drive a fancy car. She did not have the latest technology or gadgets. And yet, she never went without.
During her time of sacrifice and saving, I was traveling with the tour company I worked for. I often posted landscape photos of where I was with captions of dreaming big or encouraging others to step out into something new, beyond their comfort zone. I recall one time Lisa said to me, “Tara, God told me that I am going to see the world. And that you are going to show it to me. I am so glad you post photos as often as you do because I feel like I get to go with you!”
As I started dreaming about the current journey I am on, I remembered Lisa’s words and called her. “Maybe this journey is bigger than just me. Remember how God told you I was going to show you the world? What if it is not just through pictures? What if it gets to be real life?” And the dream grew again. We daydreamed. We brainstormed. We planned. We chatted about the “what if’s”. It was not until Lisa clicked on “CHECKOUT” for a plane ticket to/from Rome that it set in as a surreal reality.
On July 1, 2016, Lisa’s dream to move to Phoenix came to pass. On August 29, 2016, Lisa’s dream to visit Italy came to pass. One small town girl who was nervous to move to the “big city” dared to dream beyond what she thought was possible. In just a couple of years with courage and consistency of sacrifice, she found herself moving beyond the “big city” to the metropolis of Phoenix and on to see the world. What a beautiful picture of dreaming bigger in motion. You cannot out dream God; He has bigger dreams for you than you can conjure. Why not dream as big as your mind can stretch so He can expand it even further?
I have been more than blessed in our friendship. God provided a friend who was willing to dream not just with or for me, but alongside me. Our paths happened to run parallel which allowed us to share some of the same struggles, excitement, worries and logistics (like having a joint thrift sale). We had similar time frames; Lisa moved on July 1 while I left on July 11. And here we are – sweaty, tired, messy with smiles as we know another big dream is coming to pass. We get to see a piece of the world, TOGETHER.
Way back in 2015 when I asked Lisa about joining me for a period of time, I asked her where she has always dreamed about going. I told her to not think about it, just answer. I would meet up with her anywhere. One word came, “Italy.” And so began the process of reading and researching. She decided she wanted to see the southern parts of Italy including Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Island of Capri and Sicily. These areas are filled with tourism but not necessarily the first places of interest when Americans think of Italy. On a side note: Lisa had never traveled outside of the United States with the exception of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. This was an entirely new experience. This was a risk outside of her comfort zone. She would tell you how lies and tormenting thoughts tried to infiltrate her mind with fear of the unknown, fear of finances, fear of safety and comments like “who do you think you are to make a journey like this?” But Lisa did not let them cloud her path. She pressed forward, she took risk and jumped in with both feet.
Each location is different than the other. Each place has its own atmosphere and style. We found good food, wonderful coffee and a variety of people – both tourists and locals. Please enjoy the photos of mine and Lisa’s time together in Southern Italy.