“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (Message)
The yellow warmth blanketed my shoulders as I listened to foreign words blow my way through the salty sea breeze as I strolled next to the shore of the Bay of Naples.
A little piece of heaven as the adventures in Italy launched for me; let the fun begin!
As I lingered down the beach, soaking in the majestic scene, God reminded me of the call He placed on my heart before my travels to Italy. It was the call to seek a way to pursue His passion of purpose for others during my visit. Relationships.
What would God’s purpose look like? How would this southern-girl make a difference in a foreign land? How would lives link together?
As I strolled on the shore, a dog was playing ball with his owner. He came running up to me, wanting to have some fun with this strange American lady. I looked into the eyes of an Italian young lady, the owner of the dog. The connection-smile blossomed, opening up and releasing the aroma of beauty. She nodded and her dog and I played an international game of fetch. A simple smile and nod was a moment shared between two strangers. Differences didn’t stifle the fun. As I exited the beach, waving hands and "Chao-Chao" were exchanged. My heart danced, knowing my first relationship was made with eye-contact and a smile.
I walked into a coffee shop, which In Italy are called Bars. I turned and the Italian manager was standing next to me. I looked him in the eyes, connection-smile happened. He showed me some of his favorite pastries. We exchanged small talk…broken Italian and broken English...more connection-smiles occurred. He called me darling and off I went. The seams of my heart were busting with holy happiness.
Danny and I walked into a bar in Rome (remember, these are coffee houses), my eyes met an older Italian gentleman, the connection-smile was immediate…beautiful and easy. His eyes spoke volumes…words are not sufficient to describe the joy twinkling in his eyes. His serving spirit overflowed on Danny and me. His smile, as he served us, was wide and proud. This old Italian gentleman touched my soul, he doesn't know it but he stole a little piece of me...a little piece of my heart. He shone the love and example of how to freely give of himself… a simple connection-smile linked our worlds together.
I can share story after story of God's goodness and relationships built all due to the connection-smile during our adventures across Italy.
Invited to a private viewing room of the most famous hand-crafted Presepe figurines in the world (nativity terracotta figures).
Walked with a Naples man to the best pizzeria in town after the connection-smiled made. Boy, was he right. Una Delizia.
Meeting two artists on a beach on the Amalfi Coast. Eye-to-eye contact and the connection-smile happened. An amazing casual conversation took place.
A generous gift of local bottle of wine from a restaurant owner as we paid the bill.
Given a bottle of Lemoncello to take back to the states by one of our tour guides.
I do not write about these events, saying look at me. Oh no. If you really know me you know I am painfully shy and uncomfortable in uncertain circumstances. The connections were poured on us by Him: Christ-connections. Not my doing, not Danny’s doing. With the obedient yes and allowing His longing to pursue His purpose of blessings through Danny and me the connection-smile sprinkled holy love and grew the relationships formed in Italy.
Relationships, through the connection-smile, was the true gift from the greatest Gift-giver on our Italian adventure.
Relationships, He desires us to long for this. What can possibly be more important? God-given relationships are the best form of a gift from Him. Without relationships, life is not balanced. We are not complete.
The connection-smile can link the world if we allow it, if we are obedient, if we remove the coat of coziness and slip on the passion of pursuit to love others despite differences: His perfect God-loving passion for others. We are His vessels. There is nothing more important here on earth than being godly-vessels shining the love of Christ on relationships…with the connection-smile. It is universal. No matter the country, the language or the color of skin…we all have the ability to connect with a smile.
The connection-smile intertwines heartstrings of people to form meaningful relationships, even if it is just for a moment.
Go out today… shine His light and love with a smile. Connect.