The Path to a Palace…Finding Joy in the Journey (Part 2)

Once upon a time, I went to Bavaria. Here's my story...(Continued from part 1)

Chapter Five – A Quest Fit for a Queen

The next day at 6AM, I wake up with this crazy amount of energy. Which is unheard of for me! I typically am not fully functioning until well after 10AM and a cup (or two) of caffeine. (Side note: every time I go abroad this happens…I’m realizing it’s because of the time change. In America, I am a night owl and am often wide awake with creativity from 10PM-2AM. 6AM in Füssen=11PM back home...I guess I need to move abroad if I ever want to be a natural morning person.) The hotel front desk guy for the win a third time! He gives me a free shuttle voucher to Schwangau — the village below the hill that the castle dwells upon.

The air is crisp, but I can tell it's going to be a beautiful day. I have my blue comfy sweater on with running leggings. It's 7AM when I get dropped off. There are so many horses and carriages, and I feel like I should be wearing glass slippers instead of my Nikes. (Side note: I was definitely coveting the couples heading to the castle in carriages. Adorable.)

After I get my ticket to tour Neuschwanstein, I start walking. The sun is peeking through the pines and the winding road is guiding me. Every now and then, there are scenic look-outs, showcasing pockets of green pastures.

I finally make it to the castle. And reality feels like royalty. I sit and I stare, admiring the glory of the arrival and all I went through to get here. It's one of those heaven-like days…an absence of bruises, with an abundance of beauty.

Tomorrow, I have a 6AM train to start my travels back to America. When I have that early of a wake up, I don't sleep much the night before because I get anxiety that I'll snooze through my alarm. (Anybody else out there set four alarms for peace of mind?! Raise your hand if ya feel me!) Thankfully, I only have to take two trains instead of three ​this time​ to get back to Munich.

Chapter Six – Bye Bye Bavaria (if I ever make it home...)

As predicted, I only sleep for about thirty minutes. I eat an apple, figuring I'll save my appetite for the astronomical amount of food you're fed on long-haul flights. Front desk guy must’ve capped out at third time’s a charm…because it takes more than twenty minutes before anybody shows up to check me out of the hotel. Thus causing me to sprint to the train station.

Navigating the trains are easier this time. I'm less anxious and I feel confident after having made it to Neuschwanstein all by myself. (With help from a few friendly strangers.) But MUC international is busier than normal…eerily so.

This time, I am flying MUC to ORD to BNA. No DC. (For those of you who are like, “Huh?” at my speaking in airport code, that’s Munich to Chicago to Nashville.)​​

"Newark is oversold," the ticketing agent tells me. She scrunches her face with doubt. "They're going to have to reroute those passengers through Chicago, so I'm not sure you'll get on…" (Remember, I'm flying standby as an airline ​

​employee. I don’t have a guaranteed seat assignment.)

Nerves cause my heart to pick up pace. I have to get back to pack for moving…and the flight looked wide open as of earlier.

Taking my standby boarding pass along with my chances, I take the escalator up to go stand in line to get through security. And it's backed up farther than I’ve ever seen security backed up. It's madness. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it stretches as far as Füssen.

Suddenly, announcements come on overhead. But they’re all in German. (Of course.) With no clue what’s being said, I begin to observe facial expressions to read the room. Which I almost wish I didn’t do…practically every face went from having the look of normal airport angst to being pummeled with panic. What did that announcement say?!

Having observed my facial expression of confusion, a couple nearby asks me what’s wrong in their Swedish accents. With zero visibility of where the line begins or ends, I tell them I am trying to make it back to America and have no idea what’s going on. They translate the announcements, telling me an unauthorized person is in the gate area and Munich Airport is evacuating everybody. (Right then, the announcements in English come on. Haha. But hey, if it weren’t for my impatient look of panic, I wouldn’t have made friends with this sweet couple.)

The words unauthorized passenger and evacuate cause my heart rate to skyrocket. And honestly, my first thought is that I’m about to be part of a terrorist attack. ​

Morning recap:

1. I only ate an apple for breakfast. At 5:30AM. It's now 10AM.

2. Back home, it is 3AM…which means it’s highly unlikely anybody is awake to calm my fears.

I force myself back into focus. Back into remembering this is my trip with God. Surely He is awake, right?

I mentally start a dialogue with God in the same manner I’d been doing throughout this entire journey…telling Him I’m starving and freaking out about getting home. Absolutely not joking…less than thirty seconds after I pray, Lufthansa Airlines appears with a snack cart. They’re passing out snacks to every single passenger in the lobby area. And with the buzz of my iPhone, my dad’s name appears on the screen…responding to a text I'd sent, saying he is up extra early to work overtime.

WOW. Why can't all prayers be answered so rapidly???

Exact opposite of rapid is how the rest of the morning goes. I wait and wait and wait…and wait. All while watching the flight board. One by one, flights are canceling. But all the flights to America keep delaying. The same announcement plays over and over like a bad song. I'm shocked I don’t have it memorized in German by now.

​Three hours later, a different announcement comes on. My Swedish friends left because their flight canceled…so I watch everybody's facial expressions again. This time, they’re celebratory! At snail’s pace (which seems fast right now), the security line begins to move. But when I make it to the person who scans boarding passes before actually going through security, my boarding pass won’t work. With a frown, he tells me to go back to the lobby and get a new boarding pass. I turn around to face the sea of people behind me and turn back around, pleading with him to let me through. Right then, a group of other standbys join me, all having the same issue. Thank. You. Jesus.

I sink into a seat, finding relief as I make it back to the gates. (I spent more than four hours standing in that line!) My phew-like moment quickly shifts into a flu-like moment when I hear the agent in the gate adjacent announcing the cancellation of the Newark flight. ($#%&!!!) Extremely exhausted, I feel wholeheartedly hopeless that I’ll get home today. Like the earlier agent said, those Newark passengers will surely get transferred to the Chicago plane.

"Paging Melissa Miller."​​

What? What???

I nervously walk up to the counter, fully expecting the gate agent for Chicago to tell me there isn’t any room.

"Here you go," the agent hands me a boarding pass…and it's another first class one.

"Oh, my God. I could hug you…”

The agent laughs. And I take the boarding pass without asking questions.

At this point, I need human companionship. And I see a man get paged (another standby) for his boarding pass. A

group of us are taken down a very long jet bridge to wait for a shuttle bus. (Yes, a shuttle bus. This day is filled with one irregular operation after the next.)

During the wait for the shuttle, I keep asking the other standby passenger questions. (Definitely didn’t abide by that whole "don’t talk to strangers" rule…for any of this trip.) I find out his wife is one of the flight attendants on our plane. And then he shares with me that the reason the Newark passengers didn't get transferred over to our aircraft is because there wasn’t enough time to move all of their international luggage. More than another hour later, we are shuttled across the tarmac to our big, beautiful plane. (FINALLY!!!)

The standby man (whose name is Doug) and I find out we are seated right next to each other. His wife instantly brings us champagne before take off. (MUCH NEEDED!!!) And in this moment, I learn that he's a pastor. And then I learn that his daughter lives in a suburb of Nashville called Hendersonville. And then I learn that she goes to the same church as me!!! (WHAT?!)

To highlight how wild this is, let me reiterate: on this solo trip to Munich, I asked God to meet me in all of my steps…to take this trip with me. And now I'm on a plane from Munich to Chicago, strategically seated next to a pastor whose daughter goes to Cross Point Church. Only the Great One can write this kind of story into existence.

It was one of the best flights ever. And one of the best trips ever. Filled with divine appointments.

Chapter Seven – Kingdom Minded

In this broken world, anything magic is almost always served with a messy side dish.

You see, nothing about my trip to Germany was close to perfect. The logistics were disastrously turbulent (ironically not on the plane), both getting to the castle and going home. But each way, I made it. Through ripped contacts, a foreign language, a bruised knee, a broken charger, pizza sauce on my shirt, and a rainstorm – I found the castle. And through hunger, sleeplessness, major delays, fear, confusion, exhaustion, lack of faith, and a lot of strangers turned into friends – I made it home.

Getting to green pastures doesn’t come without struggle…but the treasures you find along the way give purpose to the pain...and are sometimes so great that you forget the pain altogether. (Like me with my bruised kneecap.)​​​

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© Melissa Miller