Well, the train ended up traveling in the opposite direction of our destination. We had that familiar feeling that we were in for an adventure. Over the hills and rivers, past towns, through tunnels and out of Tuscany. The train whizzed through several stations rarely stopping, barely slowing down. We soon realized we were on the fast train to Rome.
When the train came to a stop at an unknown city we hopped off the train, Josh carried all the bags, I was a little unsteady- more than six months pregnant with our fifth baby. It was 2005, Josh and I were in our late twenties. This trip to Italy was our last chance to use our free tickets to travel, just the two of us, before the baby came.
Josh had a way of communicating with the Italians, that always seemed to enrich our experience. He would mix broken Spanish with a few words he knew in Italian, and throw in some English words and a lot of laughter and animation. From his conversation with a man at a bus station he determined the way to the walled village. So boarded a bus with dozens of school children. Some of the children spoke a little English. We showed them the map, they laughed at us.
But at least we were moving in the general direction that we hoped we were going... until the bus changed directions and we had that familiar feeling that we were in for an adventure. Over the hills and rivers, past towns, through forests and farm land. The bus made frequent stops until all of the school children had been dropped off. We pondered our maps and guide books but we were clueless, and I was starting to worry. The sun was beginning to set, and the chill of the Autumn wind was in the air, storm clouds began to gather in the west. We were lost in a beautiful place, but the idea of a late night walk across a rickety a narrow bridge, six months pregnant, over a ravine was sounding a little less romantic, but at least my hero was still by my side.
Josh laughed, I cried, then I started laughing too. We made our way down the tree lined cobblestone street. When we came around the bend we lifted our eyes to an ancient castle that rose above the trees into the purple sky. Just then drops of rain began to fall, but still the sun was shining through the rain.
A far off crash of thunder sent us running hand in hand to the shelter of the castle. We were royally wet as we climbed the great stone steps and passed through the iron gates. In amazement we stared around the court yard. It didn't matter that we were lost. It didn't matter that we were wet. It didn't matter that we didn't know where we would stay the night.
We found shelter together in a castle. The rain slowed to a drizzle as we climbed the winding spiral staircase to the turret high above.
We were speechless as we looked upon the view below. The setting sun cast it's rays over the waters of a great lake to our west. The lake was surrounded with sparkling villages, towns and fortresses. We felt as if we had been whisked into another world, into another time. Surrounding the castle was a village of built of stone, we watched as old man navigated the narrow cobblestone walkways on his bicycle. The streets were like a maze that wound through the quiet village. The barking of a dog broke the silence. The glow of the village grew brighter as the sun sank lower casting a deep golden light. Then the rain stopped and we watched the village come alive. People moved about and the church bells rang out from the east.
“Sarah!” Josh's voice was full of awe, “Come with me but don't look at the sky until I say.” He took my hand a led me, running to the northern catwalk of the castle. “Okay look!” A cross, on the church's steeple rose into the eastern sky, all aglow underneath the arch of a brilliant rainbow.
And once again it didn't matter that we were lost and wet. That very morning we had prayed a simple prayer for the Lord to be with us, and lead us, and bless us. And He did. I was in my husband’s arms as we looked to the rainbow and the cross, we began to realize that God had directed our adventure all along the way, just to bring us to a beautiful place. As we looked out over the beauty of this magical land our hearts were telling us to gather up the family and move to Italy. It was a dream that seemed impossible, but eight years later, after doubling the size of our family, selling everything, starting a business that was location independent - we did exactly that.
So next time we can't understand our way, we ought to remember that He may have a better destination in mind. After all, this wasn't the first time an unexpected chain of events landed me in a castle.