My Trip To France…Thus Far

Real Italian Pizza!

Real Italian Pizza!



I awoke that morning many times much before my alarm was set to sound.  My mind was racing with excitement, fear, peace.  I had a readiness for the trip ahead yet at the same time was numb with the unknown.  What was I thinking to plan such a long trip to a foreign country alone? Have I lost my mind?  At the very same time my logical voice fought every decision I’ve made in the last few weeks to go. I also heard a voice whispering, “It’s Me. Come.”  That still small voice I long to hear; I love to hear!  Yet “the voice of reason” inside me fears too often.

Finally I decided to roll out of bed and start this adventure before me.  But I will not be alone.  I will travel this journey with the very lover of my soul.  God is my travel companion.  So, at 3:15 am, I stepped into the shower and thus started the first day to the rest of my life.

Three and half years ago I stood along side my husband’s grave.  He had been killed by a drunk driver as he stepped off our tour bus.  I stood with the rose in hand as everyone watched and waited for me to release the flower for the final time.  The ground was soggy and I remember in the distance the song ‘Homesick’ by Mercy Me played from a car stereo.  “I can’t!” my mind screamed, but no one heard.  “I cannot let go.”  Another voice inside me said, “But Shannan you’ve been so strong up to this point.  Don’t break now.”

The conversation played back and forth, back and forth, in my mind.  “But, but this is final.  Once I drop this single red rose, I give them permission to lower him away from me.  My sweet Wa.  They will take him away.  They all will go home and live their lives.  As they should.  But where will I go?  My home is lying before me.”  From ashes to ashes and dust to dust, they say.

Over the following few weeks many emails and letters poured in.  To be honest, it was all such a blur I only remember a few of them.  It was several months later that Manuel and Mariya contacted me: “Come to France.  Rest and write your book. It will just cost your airfare, Shannan.”  Warren told me two weeks before he died to start writing my book.  How did they know?  Warren and I had lost contact with Manuel a year prior, until he sent us the wedding pictures of he and his beautiful new bride.  Why would he mention me writing?

I had to tuck this offer away for a time.  All the legal battles for the next three years consumed my mind and my energy.  I think it took a solid year before I could read a sentence and retain what I had just looked at.  My mind was always so far away.  Yet on this day, I find myself sitting in JFK airport, awaiting my connecting flight to Nice, France.  I will arrive at 8:20 tomorrow morning and be greeted by my French taxi driver, Florent.  He will carry me onto my destination: Cannes, France.

It’s been an interesting day of travel.  I got to the baggage counter this morning, praying for favor with man, and I got it.  I noticed the scale read 53lbs.  The limit is 50lbs or they are to charge you an extra $99.00.  The wonderful man behind the counter said very softly, “You need to loose a few pounds on your way back.”  Usually that would not be a welcomed statement to that of the female gender, but it was music to my ears.  I breezed right through security all the while walking in a haze of emotions.  I dealt with thoughts like:  I’m crazy!  Then, why not go?  After all, you had life all figured out and perfectly, safely planned and look what happen.  Let go of your false control.

As I sat waiting for my first flight, I could hear a man weeping.  He was on the phone and apparently was too late to get to where he was going.  He wore a long black robe with a large cross on a long rope and a small round black hat that fit snug on his head.  I don’t know what nationality he was, but I wanted so desperately to hand him a tissue and apologize for his pain.  Why didn’t I?  There’s one regret I already have.  I did pray.

The flight to JFK was full of turbulence, but for the most part it was uneventful.  I sat next to a fellow Tennessean who was on his way to India to see his parents.  Seeing as I have a new love for the Indian cuisine, I thought I should flirt a bit.  But I refrained, Ha!  I read an exert from Max Lucado’s newest Book, “Fearless-Imagine Your Life Without Fear,” and was made aware of my need to stay in control, even to the point that I tightly I gripped the armrest of the airplane during take off and landing.  Since this is an adventure, I decided I would let go.  Literally.  As we made our final decent, I refused to grab hold.  The plane rockedI held my hands in front of me.  We sped up. We slowed down.  We bounced.  The pilot hit the brake and my hands remained outstretched.  I’m sure I looked funny and the expression on my face gave away the internal struggle, but moment by precious moment I made the choice to let go.  My question now to the Lord, What else am I to surrender?  Dear God, give me strength and courage as You reveal Your plan.

Round and round I went in Terminal 2 at New York’s JFK, or was it Terminal 3?  The sign said gates B20-30, but they also said there’s no gate B26.  Back across the airport I went for the third time.  So what if I didn’t get to run that week.  I made up for it then!  It’s a good thing my layover was 6 hours because I needed it just to find my gate.  I asked three Delta employees and still I searched.  Finally, the not so friendly security person told me, like I should know, “No, No, you don’t look at that!”  Meaning where my ticket says “Terminal 3.”  She then proceeded to tell me, “Terminal 2 and 3 are the same thing.  Just go back to the other side of the terminal to Gate 26.”  I sure hoped she was right.

I finally sat down and watched a lady walk by picking her nose and depositing her apparent treasure into her pocket.  I giggled.  A few moments later, a not so old man made his way by.  He had a full beard and long hair, all fuzzy.  So imagine this fuzzy middle-aged man with cowboy boots and jeans and then two very long curly whiskers.  Yep!  Sticking out of all the fuzz is two, one on each side of his face, heavily waxed stringy whiskers that looked as if they were once curled around.  At the very least it was a poor attempt to have them curled.

I have two more hours to go.  Once I step foot on that big bird I’m laying this life down and stepping into the great unknown.  Unknown to me, but definitely not unknown to the One who walks every step with me.  The questions flood my mind again, “Are you out of your mind?”  I might be, but what do I have to lose at this point?  The one question I will have to answer as it comes is, how will I handle the screaming silence?

And off I go…Yikes!


Wednesday 9/16/2009

The nine hour flight to Nice, France was uneventful with the exception that I got no sleep in that tiny little seat.  Florent, the taxi driver, picked me up at 8:30am from the airport and took me on quite the nerve racking adventure.  We traveled main highways to very narrow back streets.  Round and round the sharply bending little streets we went for 35 minutes to finally come to the Hotel Alexandria in Cannes.  I sure did my best not to grip the arm rest of the cab but failed horribly for good reason.  Florent is a sweet, soft spoken french man who thankfully knew these roads very well.

My friend Manuel greeted me at the door, then showed me to my room so I could freshen up from the long journey here.  After taking a few moments, I ventured down the winding stairwell to meet him in the dinning area.  Not long after the quick tour of my new home for the next 16 days, Mariya and Alexander, his wife and young son joined us.  We talked for a little while, then I was off to nap.

That evening Mariya, Alexander and I walked the marina and a good portion of Cannes.  It was beautiful, peaceful and frightening all at the same time.  I ate a late dinner with my friends to catch up on life today, sent a quick email to let everyone know of my safe arrival and off to bed I went.  We made plans to travel to Italy the next day and eat real Italian pizza! (See photo’s & video on my Facebook page).


Thursday 9/17/2009

In one full day here I was in three different countries!  France, Italy and Monaco!  WOW!  I even have proof I ate half a pizza!  I’m paying for it today but hey, it was ITALY!  I do have to admit that the crust is very thin with Italian pizzas, but I did have a light layer of cheese on it.  I would prefer more veggies because there were only a few to decorate it, and I mean a few.  So, really I had thin bread that was lightly cheesed.  The atmosphere, the air, the olive trees all around…WOW!  Did I say, “WOW” already?  The Italian people are so full of life.  For you girls who may be wondering, the Italian men do have very nice hair when they are young.  We walked through the old city of Sanremo.  I felt like I was in a TV movie.  Manuel kept asking me, “How are you Shannan?  What are you feeling?”  All I could answer was, “It doesn’t feel like I’m really here.”  Maybe it will truly hit me once back home.  The one thing I know for certain, I am where I am suppose to be at this very moment.  I am at rest.  Though, I have a deep awareness that there’s much more to this trip than site seeing.  What is He, God, whispering to my heart?  I do hear Him calling.  I believe today He simply wants me to enjoy His lovely and exciting creation.

The food here is so much more tasty.  I think they actually let their food ripen on it’s own.  The olive oil taste so different.  I am spoiled!  They serve an olive oil with hot peppers soaked in it…YUMM!  Oh I must try to duplicate this when I get home.  Only now I will have to invest in the very expense oil… from Italy…as if I need to become even more high maintenance.



Today was thunderstorms so I spent the entire day in my room reading.  The silence was a challenge but well worth it.  I’m having very direct conversations with God.  I am missing home but know He is in this time here.  At least I can finally find sleep.  Last night I cried myself to sleep with missing Warren.  I always enjoyed having my best friend beside me to share life with.  I asked God to hold me while I slept and He did.

I will write more tomorrow….


9/19/2009 – This was the day I wrote, “Cocoon To Flight.”

9/24/2009 – I have been writing some very personal thoughts, but I will share soon.  More to come.

1 Comment

  1. Mary Bartolo said,

    09/24/2009 at 11:50

    Wow, you write very artfully Sha! I am impressed. I felt like I was on this journey with you and I could totally relate to your feelings. Being able to see the pictures and clips on Facebook really helped to flesh everything out. I could feel your excitement as it was palpable. I sensed the bittersweetness of this new phase of life. Each step is a constant reminder of the dramatic changes you’ve endured, at the same time catapulting you into the unknown with curiousity and trepidation. As God continues to unfold this road beneath your weary feet, remember that HE orders your steps! Remember that HE walks with you!

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