Late one evening, ten years ago, on a crowded street in Barcelona, Spain, my husband was robbed. What a welcome to Europe that was as my extended family of 20 gathered for a reunion cruise! The next day we were scheduled to leave the port terminal. Every travel guidebook warns of this likelihood. Skimming over the paragraphs warning of pickpockets turned out to be a mistake. Behind the bench where Bill and my brother-in-law were sitting, firecrackers were ignited. While everyone was temporarily distracted, one of the culprits picked off the backpack whose handle had been momentarily released. During the next few seconds the perpetrator escaped tossing off our pack to a couple of his compadres darting down Barcelona’s famous Ramblas Street.
The remainder of that first night in Spain was spent at the police station filling out useless forms and finally rummaging through garbage cans hoping to find the backpack discarded after its contents were looted. No money or credit cards were in the pack; however, BOTH of our passports were, along with a few personal items. Passports were required to board the ship the next day, to get off the boat and enter the other countries visited. No small deal! After a sleepless night we went to the American consulate which of course was closed on Saturdays. Our faces were stuck between the iron bars of the massive fence that surrounded the building when a man dressed to play tennis walked out. Long story short, he had pity on us. The next two hours he delayed his game, did background checks, stapled the horrible pictures which we had taken at a local kiosk (think Americas Most Wanted) and then stamped and embossed all of that numerous times on embassy stationery in an attempt to make it look official. This letter of identity tied us over for the next week. He was right, “Spaniards love embossed stamps.” After the cruise, we spent our last day in Spain at the Consulate with 40, yes, 40 other American members of our new fraternity who had been robbed the previous weekend in Spain. We all needed a temporary passport so we could get out of Spain and back to the USA. Our fraternity included the 17 year old high school senior from Dallas and an 85 year old grandmother who had been pick pocketed at McDonald’s. The perfect idea for the last day of vacation it was not, but the stories are ones I will never forget.
This August, ten years later, we still had three months left on those passports we received after we returned from our adventure in Spain. An opportunity to visit friends in Europe had arisen and we had planned well. It felt good to be organized with only four days remaining before flight time. After talking with a friend we realized that we had overlooked an important fact. Many countries are now requiring passports to be valid for six months beyond travel dates. We only had three months! Sure, I had read this somewhere but it got stuck in the back of my brain. This news set into motion a crazy 24 hour escapade. Phone calls confirmed our findings, but also revealed there were no appointments available in the American passport office in Washington, DC. The kind lady on the phone suggested that we try driving the three hours to D.C., then throw ourselves at the mercy of the people at the door. This news was some encouragement as we made the early evening trip to CVS for new passport pictures. After several attempts the young man gave us the pictures and said, ” I hope this works.”
Getting up at 4AM allowed us to get to the passport doors in DC right as they opened. Outside the young lady hemmed and hawed about letting us through without an appointment. Finally, she said that since we had driven over 120 miles she would let us come in, but gave us a look to tell us to never let this happen again! Another long story made short, we waited in our seats, went in and out of lines and heard stories of woe of those who had been turned down at airports for violation of the new six month after travel regulation. Many were not happy campers because they were not getting the results they hoped. We finally cleared and were asked to come back by 3:30PM to get our new passports before the whole operation closed down at 4:00PM. Taking no chances we came back at 2:00 and found a seat to wait. At 3:30 Bill was called to the desk to hear his picture was not acceptable. There was a small glare on his eyeglasses. Yikes! What are we to do? The lady at the desk could not give out this kind of commercial information, but nodded her head to the left as if there might be an answer right outside the building. She also included that we needed to run like the dickens. Next door, a book store had conveniently set up a small photo area. The price of this picture was three times that of CVS but there was no time to rethink or argue. The passport picture was taken and we slipped in under the wire. There were a few other snags, but we felt elated because we had the new passports.
Passports are a deal breaker or maker when entering another country. There is no negotiating. A passport not only gives you entry, but it allows you to experience all that the country has to offer. It clears the way for you to hopefully enjoy or take care of the important matters in that country. Either permission to enter is given or rejection causes you to leave. We often take this privilege for granted, but it is necessary and valuable.
The passport incidents relate to an important matter in my own life. Passports are not only needed for international travel, but also are needed in our hearts, minds and soul. Those might be called spiritual or emotional passports. Thoughts, emotions, considerations of all kinds crowd our hearts and minds. Often there are matters that I muddle through trying to understand, problems that seem impossible to solve, and people that completely confuse me. This confusion takes up valuable emotional and spiritual real estate in my mind. Sometimes I visualize the dendrites and synapses in my brain working overtime and taking up too much unclaimed territory in my heart and life.
I need a new passport to find my way through confusion and muddled thoughts, through pain, sadness, anxiety, stress. I increasingly believe that God wants to give me that path which has purpose and yields His peace. This passport also allows entry into what is important and gives direction as to where my energy should be focused. This passport of faith assures me that He is big enough to take care of what concerns me and care of those I love. Carrying this passport allows me to “see” that He is in control and doesn’t need me in the driver’s seat.
The benefits of a passport of faith are life changing. It allows me to enjoy this moment, this hour, this day. The passport is also a protection. It provides courage and encouragement which confusion robs. It provides the strength and confidence to move forward. The muddled thoughts I cannot sort out are not disturbing to Him; rather, my lack of faith does that. Renewed faith is giving me renewed focus and some peace in the storms of life.
A United States passport provides for me and protects me as a citizen of this country. Still, there are situations that are totally out of the control of any government. God’s passport of faith is guaranteed that no matter what happens, it will show me “the path that leads to life.”Hopefully, if I am around for another ten years, I won’t face the same obstacles renewing my USA passport. Meanwhile I am going to enjoy the fact that the one the Lord has given me needs no stamp and has no expiration date!
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)
One thought on “A New Passport”
What a journey. It is so good that God has all this planned in advance and met your needs! HE is always faithful, even when we are not! Thank you for sharing this nail biting experience. 😊❤️🙌🏻