Julie’s story started Wednesday. Click here to read part 1.
We arrived at our Posta, the Italian boarding house for married military couples while we awaited our belongings. Prior to coming, we sold Jason’s truck and my beloved Nissan Sentra; we bought one SUV as we planned to start our family soon. A couple days after landing, I still felt air-sick; my sense of smell was heightened to the strong Italian cleaning supplies used in the Posta. I was sad; my world was unfamiliar, sterile and utterly overwhelming. I had never been out of North America before, and 99.99% of the time I was state-side; I had visited Canada once or twice, but you did not need a passport or a language translation guide to survive there.
That first week in Italy was the week we saw a positive home pregnancy test, telling us we were going to be parents! Such exciting news, and I had nobody really to share it with. With the idea of a baby in our near future, I longed for family closeness. We had figured out how to call home to Jason’s parents, my brother, and then my dad and his wife. We could not talk long, and it just felt like we were on a different planet. Our new time zone was one of the biggest challenges when calling home AND when adjusting to our new marriage, our new “home”, Jason’s new job, a new language, and this baby growing inside my stomach.
Sometime between that first week in Italy and getting our apartment, I met an angel named Dolly. She worked at our Posta; Dolly married an American military man and was happy to be living in her home country. Dolly was a light in my days while staying at the Posta; she was friendly and eager to provide helpful hints about living in Italy. Though I was closed up like a double-wrapped gift when I met her, Dolly helped me by accepting me for who I was, a struggling new wife who was teetering on a bout with depression.
Interviewing Italian landlords was interesting, especially when we knew little of the language. For as fast as some Italians talked, our little translation book seemed nothing more than a tourist effort. Many of the apartments in our price range were not warm or inviting; apparently Italians did not like carpet or anything but white paint. When we met Senior Crosilla and his son, we knew we had found the two-bedroom flat we would call home here in Italy. These men were kind and very sensitive to the fact we were expecting a baby. Senior Crosilla did not speak English but his son did, which greatly reduced my anxiety in the ability to understand the intricacies of renting on the Italian economy.
I recall my first wake up in this apartment; Jason had been picked up for work, as our car had not made it across the Atlantic Ocean yet. I got up, got dressed, ate something starchy for breakfast because I was not immune to morning sickness, and simply felt blank. There was nothing on the walls, and my breath seemed to echo in the emptiness. All our belongings were still in transit; the Airforce provided some temporary items any household would need to function. I felt so alone and useless. I found a broom and began sweeping the tile floor in the living room. I thought to myself: I wonder how much time people spend cleaning their homes because I need something else to fill my day; there is no question in my mind I will not survive here if I cannot work.
The day of my interview with the Aviano Base Human Resource Department, I dressed business-casual; clothes were beginning to strain over my baby bump. I carried with me my leather portfolio full of documents that proved I had a life before this. The woman was nice, but not nearly spunky or encouraging enough for my liking. The woman said the assistant job would include filing and some other duties for $7.00 per hour. That was it; she had no further suggestions and no advice for a new Airforce spouse who recently left her career. Trying to conceal my insulted ego, I left and went immediately home to check the Aviano Base childcare rates. There was no point in entertaining work outside the home here in Italy, as we would not make a profit.
For my post graduate school life until age 34, I had been a successful career woman. My identity vanished seemingly in an instant. Even though I had moved a lot in my life, this transplant to a mountainous region of Italy with its tightly narrowed streets and long afternoon siestas left me feeling powerless.
That first year in Italy was the absolute worst. I felt in some ways I had been stripped of any privileges I once freely enjoyed. There were no convenience stores, or Target or Kohl’s in Italy. The closest Walmart was rumored to be in Germany. Just a guess, but I doubted Germany was a day-trip. Of course, we were two and a half people on one income, so I assumed I would not be shopping much. Jason and I would now share a car, which was the practical, family-planning decision. I was excited and thankful to be a mom, but I was so conflicted about going forward with our life when we were nowhere near Jason’s parents and had nobody but ourselves to share it with. Jason seemed to enjoy his job, but I sure was a mess.
Unfortunately, Jason had married someone who had spent most of her life alone. I was independent at a young age, taking care of a dysfunctional household in which parents were not emotionally available. Many losses in my life including my mom who died when I was 21 contributed to low-level depression; arriving in Italy amplified that gut-wrenching loneliness that so closely travels with loss. I like to imagine how our Great God was watching me from above, wondering who he could place in my path in Italy that would lead me to Him. Surely, Dolly was God-given in my path. The love she showed me and my family was God-inspired.
Throughout my pregnancy, I made another friend in the neighborhood, also an Airforce spouse. We walked and talked together, which provided some sense of normalcy for my womanly girlfriend needs. Family and friends back home were excited for our baby boy to arrive and sent us baby things via the United States Postal service. Receiving packages in Italy gave me something to look forward to, but in my life I had attended several baby showers, some more extravagant than others. Being pregnant with our first child and being isolated in an Italian neighborhood made me wish for a large family gathering to celebrate our baby. Looking back, God put two things in place for this mom whose eyes were forever peeking out of the darkness. Jason’s women friends in the squadron and the couple of friends I had made threw me a baby shower. How incredibly kind! I recall a military mom who gave us a wrapped a gift and then gave me a huge bag of baby boy clothes. If it weren’t for that bag, Braedon would have had nothing to fit his little less-than-six pound self because she had put some premie size outfits in there. Last but certainly not least, Jason’s mom and dad booked a trip to Italy so they would arrive a couple days after our boy was born. God granted me a family visit I longed for, even though I did not know Him or the power of prayer.
As I look back, I trust that God orchestrated my regular OB doctor to wander into the hospital the day Braedon was born. I was one week overdue and not progressing as the doctor-on-call thought I should. Several attempts to break my water and beeps on the machine monitoring my baby’s heart were increasing my anxiety by the second. My regular doctor walked by the room in his street clothes and saw me; he wandered in and casually asked what was I doing there? I trusted this doctor (we will call him Dr. Don). Dr. Don’s wide, welcoming smile turned into a furrowed brow and squinty eyes when he checked the machine monitoring Braedon’s heart. All I remember is Dr. Don’s calm voice saying “Julie, we are going to take you in for a C-section.” Things moved so quickly that for many years I assumed my husband was in the operating room when Braedon was born. Dr. Don had identified the need to act quickly as Braedon’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction; I was fully sedated when they performed the surgery, and my husband was most definitely not in the room. My first memory of our first-born is waking up on the recovery table and seeing Jason behind me holding our baby boy. In my view, they were upside down. As my eyes gained focus, I wanted to sit up and turn around to welcome both loves into my arms. That pesky stomach surgery humbled my actions, and I lay in wait while Jason introduced me to our tiny, but healthy, baby boy.
So, both our children get to tell the story that they were born in Italy. We spent a total of 3 years there, and we decided the military lifestyle was not going to work for our family. Military life is a struggle in so many ways; it challenges our hopes and expectations of how marriage and family compare to those living a civilian life. It is characterized by a constant coming and going that tugs on your heart. It strains the very thread that binds a husband and wife. I can look back on that time and learn so much.
In fact, it is with the utmost faith that I proclaim God sent me several angels during my 3 years and two pregnancies in Italy. God knew at that season in my life, I needed extra support. Though I did not turn to His light and come to know Jesus, the seeds that were planted in my life along the way were watered there. As I look back, I am so thankful for the blessings that it brings me to tears.
God gave us beautiful friendships that have stood the test of time and distance. He gave us two precious, smart, loving souls: our boys Braedon and Jackson. God protected Jason as he served our country and through his deployment in Afghanistan. Jason’s and my marriage experienced trials while in Italy and more trials with the adjustment of returning home and separating from the military in 2007. After coming to Christ in my 40’s, my husband and I renewed our vows at our church last summer with God and our family as our witnesses. We cherish both weddings, as the first one in Biloxi represented Hope in things to come. Sweetly, the second one represented the Love which had grown in each of us for God and for each other, eleven years later.
Be blessed if you know God, his son Jesus and the Counselor who lives in your heart, The Holy Spirit. The truth of His love and his forgiveness prevails over every lie the Enemy can conjure. Should you ever feel like you are losing hope, look up to Him who is the beginning and the end. Our God is with us always no matter where Life takes you.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (from NLT Study Bible 2008)
Julie Dibble is a woman who lived most of her life without God. Coming to Christ in her 40’s has been humbling, healing and holy. She is thankful God blessed her with family: Jason, her husband who serves as a patrol officer; Braedon, age 11, the amazing reader, writer and thinker and Jackson, age 9, whose love of sports has earned him the nickname “Action Jackson”. Julie has been a stay-at-home mom for the past four years. After a transformative experience in the fall of 2014, she was led to become a Christian speaker and author. She has a passion for truth; her mission is to empower Faith as the best choice in a difficult world. “Let Love and Be a Light” is Julie’s wisdom for loving like Jesus on a daily basis.
With a master’s in counseling, Julie brings clinical significance to her ministry. Currently, Julie’s ministry includes all non-believers, spouses of emergency responders/military service providers; all those who struggle with depression; and all women who just need a Faith-lift.
Residing in Central PA, Julie is available anywhere in Pennsylvania and its neighboring states for speaking engagements. You may find her on http://www.facebook.com/ Julie Ann Dibble or http://www.twitter.com/@ julie_dibble. Any questions? Please contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.