One wedding, honeymoon, 2 receptions and 1500 driving miles under our belts, married one month and my parents’ entire living room is filled with things of mine I’m hoping to take to Italy, which shall from here on be called, "home." The inevitable “leaving behind” is becoming more of a reality.
4pm: Dave calls the airline we are flying with to ask if we can get any kind of break with extra baggage. Are we even allowed to take extra bags? Are there any deals for people that do missions work or have just been married and are moving overseas?
Come to find out-the lady he talked to from the airline is a Christian and is quite interested in what we’re doing in Italy. They talk for a good chunk of time and become friends. She ends the conversation saying, “I really wish I could help you, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do. Tell you what-pray, bring all your bags to the airport and see what happens.”
Dave finally came in [I finally let him in] and talked and prayed with me and we continued packing.
I was filled with fear about moving to Italy, being married, being in fulltime ministry and a missionary.
Why do I say this? To hopefully show how much grander and appreciated God’s mercy was the next day.
He makes a call, then lets us know that we can take all of the baggage for a hefty fee IF each bag is under 50 lbs. But since the second leg of our journey is not with them, the next airline will probably charge us again. He then gets on the phone again to see what those fees will be and he is placed on hold.Dave and I glance at each other knowing that the bags were over 50 lbs when we weighed them last night…and we added a few more things this morning.
It climbs and climbs and stops at fifty. Point zero.
The second bag goes on…50.0
Third bag. Climbs to 51…and then goes down to 50.0.
Our eyes are wide in astonishment. The Lord just sent a little angel to lift our bags up as they went on the scale. Hahaha. Must be! Or something like that! He made the sun stand still. He parted the sea and His kids walked across on DRY ground! Maybe today He has made 60lbs the new 50lbs!
We wait. And pray. 5 minutes pass.
Waiting and praying.
His supervisor and he say something quietly to each other. He looks at us, still on the phone, and says, “Maybe we’ll just waive all the fees.”
We chuckle. Kind of. Really? Wait…
Was he serious? No…he’s still on the phone.
He must be kidding….or…not?
Finally, without ever being taken off of hold, he hangs up the phone, doesn’t look at us, and begins typing away on his computer. We stand and wait.
5 more minutes go by and he is printing off all our luggage tags. He looks at the bags and nods towards the scale.
Glances are exchanged. They all “magically” weighed 50 lbs the first time…will they weigh 50 lbs again?
Alas. Eyes wider and mouths open…
Hahaha!! I am incredulous [not really]!
We are amazed!
The guy puts all the luggage tags on our 6 extra bags and puts them on the belt to take them away.
He looks at us. We look at him.
He asks “Do you guys want to sit together? Your seats are separated.”
Um, yes! That would be great! We hadn’t even realized our seats weren’t together!
He changes our seats so we can be together
[[slightly awkward pause]]
Soooo….Do we pay???? All of us are thinking this.
And then He says, “That’s it! Have a nice flight!”
I was astounded. We were wide eyed. Open mouthed. It wasn’t a matter of, “if.” It was a matter of, “how much?” The Lord just opened heavens gates and paid at least $600 for our bags to get to Italy! And what a bummer it would have been to not sit together! Praise the Lord!
[This is when you begin to have no idea what time it really is…]
We are now about to board for the lengthy leg of the trip. The plane is completely full and again, our seats are not together. We approach the counter to ask if something can be arranged. The lady says because it’s a completely full flight there’s really nothing she can do, but she’ll try and call us up if anything opens.
Dave sits down to wait.
I leave to get a bagel.
When I come back the lines are loooong and I wonder why Dave (who is not fond of long lines) is uncharacteristically still sitting down.
The lady hadn’t called him back up about the seats. I mention concern about my guitar not having a spot with us in the plane and possibly being taken away.
Can we just ask? You never know…
The lines are still growing. Dave asks an attendant near the gate about the guitar. He explains that we want to make sure there is space for it and that we can send it ahead and wait in line, or maybe I could go on and he will be happy to wait in line…
The lady un-clicks the little plastic aisle divider and says with a smile, “Just go on through.”
First class hadn’t even boarded yet! This was crazy!
Both of us, cutting EVERYONE in line, (including the first class, elite and gold class members [haha]), go straight through, with guitar in hand. Praise the Lord! Even if we don’t get to sit next to each other…
We get to the place where they scan our tickets and the machine makes a funny sound.
The mans brow furrows and he looks at some different tickets sitting in front of him. “Ah,” he says and pulls out two tickets, scanning them instead. He hands us the stubs. They changed our seats and we are together now as well!
Wide eyed and open mouthed [again!] we walk into the gateway laughing, Dave singing (quite loudly), “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!” I can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure he did the claps as well.
Morning (still), Frankfurt
When we get to Frankfurt we have a very short time to get from our gate to our next flight. We have to go through customs and get our passports stamped and I am DYING to go to the bathroom. We finally get near our gate and Dave says I have time to use the restroom. Praise the Lord.
But you know how it is, ladies.
I waited in line for at least 10 minutes.
It’s finally my turn and no sooner had I locked the stall door that I hear a [very loud] masculine voice, “DENAE. DENAE, OUR FLIGHT IS LEAVING IMMEDIATELY. ARE YOU THERE?” [The use of periods and not exclamation points is deliberate. I’ll let your imagination do the rest…]
“I’m here! Hold on! I’ll be out super soon!” [These exclamation points are also deliberate. Hahaha…]
“YOU HAVE 30 SECONDS. LITERALLY.”
“YOU LITERALLY HAVE 30 SECONDS.”
I can hear you! Loud and clear! Mama Mia! “At least…” I am thinking to myself, “…all the stalls are closed and no one knows which stall I’m in…and we’re in Germany. So hopefully they can’t understand the English. Mama mia…”
I got out of there as fast as I could (for more than one reason) and ran to the gate where they let us through JUST in time to board the plane.
We made it. Praise the Lord.
[yeah, still morning. Weird, isn’t it?],
We get to Venice and as we exit the airport I am preparing myself to be enveloped by wet heat and devoured by mosquitos. I think I can honestly say these two things were on my top 5, “I’m-super-scared-about-and-don’t-know-how-I-can-possibly-survive-these-things” list.
The sliding glass doors open and I am confused as I am greeted by a strangely cool and refreshing breeze.
And where are the mosquitos, you ask?
I HAVE BEEN WONDERING THE SAME THING!
Before I left AZ, I asked people to pray that the mosquitos just wouldn’t like me anymore. That I wouldn’t be tasty, that they wouldn’t care where I was, that there would be some kind of strange mosquito-killing plague that would take place before I got there.
I don’t know…but in summers past I have counted over 50 bites below my knees alone. Since I’ve been here I’ve had…maybe 12. Altogether. THAT…is an answer to prayer. I am in awe. Seriously.
SO! We exit the airport and I am SO happy Dave decided to bend his ear toward my suggestion to rent a car and not lug 8 bags onto the trains. We load her up and begin the drive to Ferrara.
On our mailbox: welcome home David & Denae Downs!
On the 2nd floor: So happy to have you guys back!
3rd floor: Welcome home Downs Family!
Apartment door: A new chapter begins as you walk through this door. May He always be before you both. Love you guys! –The Gemma’s.
We open the door (which David carries me over), and there is a beautiful little banner Bethany and her husband had made that said, “WELCOME HOME LOVE BIRDS.” The Gemma’s and the sweet ladies from our church here had cleaned our entire apartment from top to bottom, our counter was covered with groceries and household items they’d purchased for us, our bedroom table had flowers, chocolates a picture frame and a card and on our bed was a huge heart made out of pink confetti.
For me, each one of these was as if the Lord Jesus, The One Who I follow and live for, The One I am doing all of this for [although with much fear and trepidation…] put His great big, strong arms around me and whispered with great confidence into my ear and heart, “I love you. I AM with you. I will NEVER leave you. I AM leading you.” This was exactly what I needed for me to have some peace and confidence as I embarked on such a great adventure in which nothing would be familiar and everything would be new, difficult and unknown.
The first 12 or so days were spent jet lagging and getting my body into the Italian time zone. Then, in the 4-5 days before we left for the Missions conference in Austria, we visited some friends from the churches in Montebelluna and Feltre.
Nicola and Tamara
[This will make sense at the end]
The first time I came to Italy for that concert in the piazza [the reason why Dave and I ended up together], I randomly ended up singing “Amazing Grace” for the wedding of a couple [not Christians] Pastor Craig Quam married. They wanted to get married outside and the priest refused to marry them unless they were inside the catholic church so Pastor Craig agreed to perform the wedding. This began a series of events in which this couple and the grooms sister ended up getting saved and recently baptized! They are now all attending the church in Feltre.
During the time of visiting Feltre, I learned that the groom, Nicola, owns a Laundromat in which he places Italian New Testaments. Every week, several of them disappear. This excites and encourages me for several reasons. 1-Nicola is so excited about the Lord, still. He is being used to save his family, one by one. First it was just him, then his wife, now his sister.
We made our way up to Austria on August 17 for the Missions conference [where Dave turned the big 3-0!]. I was blessed to be there, blessed to catch up with some dear old friends, blessed to meet other believers who have given their lives to serve the Lord in the same fashion as I have. I was super encouraged as the Lord reminded me again that He is with me, I shouldn’t be afraid, hasn’t He commanded me? Be strong and of good courage and do not be afraid! To trust in the Lord with all of my heart and acknowledge Him in all my ways and He will direct my path.
[18 people! Ferrara is a place where there are 130,000 people and only a few non-catholic churches. Only ¼ of 1% are ‘protestant/evangelical’ believers…so, 18 people is a LOT!]. A non believing Indian lady and her daughter came and were super excited to be there.Bethany and I did the kids ministry. I tried to distract the youngest ones with play-dough and coloring sheets of Jesus’ disciples [both, things that aren’t common here!] while Bethany taught the lesson in Italian. Usually we have 1-3 kids but on this Sunday there were 8. I was praying during the lesson that the Lord would help Beth’s Italian flow freely and communicate the lesson well to the kids. Without having talked about it, she commented after church, “My Italian was flowing so well today!” The Lord is faithful. :] I wonder what other “insignificant” things we miss out on because we are not praying…?
And now, we have officially been in our house, able to develop some kind of rhythm, for about a week. :]
Once here in Ferrara, the transition [location wise] was so strangely smooth that I know it was due to all the prayers said on my/our behalf. THANK YOU. I cherish and COVET these prayers. PLEASE! DO. NOT. STOP. The Lord kick-started this step of faith with His abundant mercy and favor…and your prayers gifted me with peace and kept me/us from many a challenge that, I expect, may still come my way.
I, and in some cases, “we,” [for as some of you know, Dave has lived in Italy for a solid 8 years. I think he feels more Italian than American many times…] are learning how to reprogram our minds to this city’s way of life.
We live on the medieval wall that encompasses Ferrara and have a GREAT view of the wall and trees, and on the other side of the apartment-the almighty sky [the view is one of my favorite things about living here thus far]. We went on a bike ride on the wall and around town and are learning little by little what is here.
The adjustment to married life and the difficulty therein has been more evident... Communication, understanding, unity, harmony, peace, joy, love…please keep us in your fervent prayers concerning these things.
Our adorable apartment is half set up and all Dave has done is absolutely beautiful. The Lord has gifted him greatly in the use of his hands and all he’s done is amazing. [I post his work on Instagram and Facebook if you are curious!]
Thank you for reading my novel! I aim to make every update hereafter much shorter. The huge changes and this being the first update, I had to divulge much more than normal. Lord bless each one of you!
My prayer for you
Lord, thank You so much for each one of these precious people. Thank You for even giving them a heart to care about us and want to know what’s going on. I pray You would bless each one with the willingness to let You become everything to them. So many of us know this in theory, but when we are tested, we are found to hold many things in higher esteem than You. Teach us in a way that we will be able to live it out-that it is in You, with You-that we are made whole, find true satisfaction and contentment, find life. I pray that You would teach and help us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Bless my family that is reading this now. Bless them with more than they need materially, but please grant them contentment without. Bless them with eyes and outlooks that see beyond the physical and into the eternal. I pray that You would give comfort and encouragement to the disheartened, healing to the sick, and power and life to the spiritually weak. Guide them where You would have them go, show them what You would have them do. Even make them willing, at Your call, to do something that up until this point, they would have considered too extreme. Help us to live with reckless abandon for You, Jesus. Help us to live for heaven…and not so we can grasp on to what this earth has to offer. Draw each one of us closer to You.
I love you, Lord, Amen.