Our first full day in Rome we went to the Vatican. This was my third time going through. I love all the artwork there. I feel like it was at the Vatican that I really understood the importance of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I recall seeing artwork after artwork of Christ. His face was stern, his eyes firm, and there was never a smile to be found. The artwork was beautiful but I found it always brought feelings of guilt, fear, and shame to the surface. It was motivating people to follow Christ, but for all the wrong reasons. He was a God they feared, not in a good way, but in a resentful way. Then I recall thinking about all the artwork we have of Christ since the Restoration. They are light, he is happy, and they inspire hope. We see that Christ is not a mean and damning judge, but a loving, kind, and merciful God. He wants to save all of us. He wants to be there for all of us. He performed the Atonement because of that deep and everlasting love. He didn't want to motivate us with fear or shame or guilt. Rather He wanted to motivate us with love... His love. His all perfect sacrifice on our behalf because of the love He has for each one of us. Our Savior loves us despite what we have or haven't done. His love will always be there. He will always be there. The Restoration of the Gospel helps us to see that love. It helps us to understand that God gives us commandments because He wants us to be happy! He doesn't look for ways to bring us down, but rather gives us ways to bring us higher. I have found over the past couple of years, that obedience to God's commandments are what bring us happiness. They allow us to experience true joy. Everything the Lord asks us to do is beneficial to us. He asks us to do things so that we can grow closer to Him and feel more of His love. He is completely unselfish. He is always looking for ways to help us. I am SOO grateful for a perfectly loving and kind Savior who died for me and rose again, so that I too may live forever with Him. He performed the Atonement, gave us the Gospel which spells out exactly what we need to do, and then gives us inspiration through the Holy Ghost which allows us to know the truth of ALL things! We have been blessed with so much! We know exactly what the Lord expects, and He is right there with us to help us find the way home. He will never leave us alone!
After the Vatican, I found myself wandering the streets with my friend. We decided to go exploring. We didn't have a map and honestly we didn't really want one. We wanted to just walk and see where we ended up. We found a beautiful bridge that we stopped and took pictures of. There was a violinist playing lovely music as we sat and enjoyed the ambiance. It was so relaxing and peaceful. Italy really is such a romantic place. I wish every couple could make their way to Italy and take time to enjoy one another's company... be reminded of why they fell in love to begin with. For me, someone who currently is not in love, it is a reminder of what I one day want to have. It is a reminder of what is to come and it gives me hope for the future. My soul is happy in Italy!
After enjoying the bridge, we went exploring again. We wandered through streets of colorful buildings, cobblestone roads lined with little family owned restaurants, and mopeds galore. No matter where I looked there was something beautiful begging to be photographed. We saw children with their parents, men going to and from work, and women shopping. We found ourselves in places that were fully populated by locals. We were, what appeared to be, the only tourists around. It was lovely! After awhile we found ourselves wandering into a familiar Piazza to me. It was Piazza Navona. I love this specific Piazza because of all the beautiful art work that is set out amongst the people. The square is lined with gorgeous places to eat. There is a beautiful fountain in the middle with sculptures that inspire the human heart. I took many photos there as well. I found myself making eye contact with a man from across the way. I found him quite attractive and my eyes kept going back to him. I would smile and look away. He asked if we wanted to eat at his restaurant. I think I smiled, shook my head, and looked away. I wanted him to talk to me more. After a few minutes he came up to me and asked what I was looking for. I smiled and told him we were looking for the way back to the Vatican. He started to laugh and pointed us in the right direction. I asked if I could get a photo with him even though he was working. He said of course! I gave my camera to my friend, he put his arm around me and pulled me closer to him. I thought that was it, but then he kissed my forehead. I was surprised and I really enjoyed it. He then kissed my cheek and then we found ourselves kissing in front of his restaurant at Piazza Navona. It wasn't really a lustful kiss, if that makes sense. Honestly, it was perfect. I have often found myself dreaming of beautiful ways that I could be kissed. (confession haha) As someone that loves romance novels and romance movies, I find that I day dream of this often. I could not have dreamt of a more beautiful way to be kissed. It was completely unexpected, and absolutely perfect. He wanted to know if I wanted to meet him later that evening when he was done with work and I politely declined. I guess in my mind, that memory was perfect, and I didn't want to do anything to taint it. I wanted it to end with the kiss. A memory I could hold onto forever. I am SO grateful that my friend was there and took photos of it. Honestly, Ive never taken photos of myself kissing someone before and I don't know what the odds are of ever getting a first kiss, unexpected kiss, on camera ever again. When I think of Rome now I will always think of that gorgeous Italian man who taught me the importance of enjoying a kiss rather than rushing through it. I guess most men I have dated have not enjoyed the little things and I realized I want to find a man that does. Oh Italy... I am in love with everything about you. I could easily see myself living in Italy one day.
I got home from Italy on Monday. Yesterday when I went to the orphanage I was a little under the weather. I find myself joking that I am allergic to Iasi, Romania. Although I am only half joking. I have really bad allergies here. I don't recall the last time my allergies were so bad. So I went to see my kids and I was trying to be peppy. I was honestly exhausted. The cute little nurse in my room was so sweet. She put one of my kids in a crib where the front railing folded over. That way I could sit on the bed with her. She then grabbed a pillow and told me to lay down. I was able to cuddle with Baby D for over an hour and an half. Baby D is 3 years old. She was so excited that I was cuddling with her. She had a huge grin and she kept turning her head up to look at me. It made me so happy! I realized that most of these children don't get the opportunity to cuddle with someone and especially not for that long. It made my heart sad to think about it. The cute little nurse brought me oranges and wafers. Honestly, this lady is so Christ-like! I wish I could communicate with her better. She doesn't speak English and clearly I do not speak Romanian. I've never wished I could speak Romanian so much as I did in that moment. I tried to tell her how grateful I was. I hope she could understand. She literally is an angel!
Today I was sitting by Baby C at the orphanage. He is such a happy and loving boy. He gets SOO excited every time I see him. I said a prayer with him and asked that there be angels surrounding him and that Baby C would know they were there. He lit up. His smile was so big. It made my heart happy. I told baby C that I am going to name my son after him. I told him that every time I say my sons name I will think of him and what a happy and loving boy he is. I told him how perfect he is and that he will live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again. I made him promise me that one day in heaven we would play hide and go seek in the clouds. I told him that I was so excited for the day when he would be made whole again and he would be my little buddy! We will be able to dance and run and play. It made me so excited. It gives me even more reason to try my best.
Baby S was sick today. I could tell he didn't feel well. I pulled my chair up to his crib and I rubbed his forehead. He stuck his hand out of the crib and reached for me. I held his little hand in mine for a long time. He smiled at me with his beautiful brown eyes. I kept telling him how much I love him. He loves hearing how much he is loved. There is a special place in my heart for Baby S. I realized today just how precious these children are to God. They are literally His. I cannot wait for the day when Christ comes again and I get to see them in their glory. It makes me really teary when I think about it. I am so blessed to get to spend my time with them!
I feel so blessed to be here. To be learning so much about myself, about God, about the culture, and about love. I think that love is such a powerful tool for good. Love breaks through barriers that otherwise are indestructible. Love softens even the toughest souls. Love is the answer to life's problems. The expression of love is a gift of the Atonement. To feel love is to know the Savior.
"I can think of no more Christ-like service than to hold a motherless child in one’s arms or to take a fatherless boy by the hand." -Elder Russell M Nelson