Saturday, March 01, 2014

Testimony of God's Grace

As we waited around at Travis, I grew more and more discouraged.  I was feeling very fragile emotionally anyway, and I was just so tired of being in limbo, checking the terminal facebook status all the time.  The only remote possibility that was there was a flight with a Sunday morning showtime of 11:20, but it only had 19 tentative seats.  I knew the chance of us getting on that was extremely slim, and I was just so discouraged.  Bob and I talked about what to do.  We decided that if Bob could get any seats on that flight, then he would take whatever kids he had seats for, and I would take the rest home commercially.  So he called Southwest and got great fares for Monday--on a flight leaving at 6:00 AM, he reserved 7 seats at between $225 and $234 (plus Drew would be a lap baby).  Then he got 3 more seats on a 12:00 flight for a little more, but still the average for 10 seats was about $250, an incredible deal!

But I was incredibly stressed about the logistics.  For one, I would have to get to the Oakland airport with whatever kids at 4:00 in the morning, all by myself, and turn in the rental car (and we weren't even sure we could turn in the van there--I might have needed to change to a minivan or something and drop that off instead).  Nathan and I spent some time figuring out how to divide the kids, depending on how many seats Bob could get.  We decided that Drew would always be with me, and the Nathan and Micah would be the first to go with Bob, since it would be really hard for me to deal with both big carseats.  Caleb would be the big boy always with me, and then we would divide up the girls, Jonathan, and Luke.  It was tricky, and I felt like it was one of those lifeboat-type problems, even though I knew it wasn't (thank you, pregnancy hormones).  I was a teary mess, anyway.

My friend Janet from our church in Ohio had posted  a "Jesus Calling" devotional on Saturday, and it was so encouraging to me.  I had to keep re-reading it!  It said:

February 15

Come to Me with all your weaknesses: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Rest in the comfort of My Presence, remembering that nothing is impossible with Me.

Pry your mind away from your problems so you can focus your attention on Me. Recall that I am able to do immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine. Instead of trying to direct Me to do this and that, seek to attune yourself to what I am already doing.

When anxiety attempts to wedge its way into your thoughts, remind yourself that I am your Shepherd. The bottom line is that I am taking care of you; therefore, you needn’t be afraid of anything. Rather than trying to maintain control over your life, abandon yourself to My will. Though this may feel frightening—even dangerous, the safest place to be is in My will.

“For nothing is impossible with God.”
—Luke 1:37

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
—Ephesians 3:20–21

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
—Psalm 23:1–4

We packed up Sunday morning and headed over to the terminal at 10:30.  The good news was that they had released 34 firm seats, but that still wasn't *that* many.  There is a computer monitor that show everyone who has marked themselves present, along with their category (we are category 6, the lowest priority), and for the category 6 people, it is in order of signup date, because people who signed up earlier get precedence.  So at a glance I could see that there were 27 people in front of us, and I was so sad.  I walked back over to our suitcases so I could finish separating out what we needed (another logistical hurdle for me).  I was definitely teary-eyed and feeling very low.  I was so sad because I knew Micah wouldn't understand why I wasn't going through security and getting on the airplane with him, and I didn't think I could deal with seeing him get really upset.

As the time for the roll call got closer, I decided to walk back over to the computer monitor to see how many more people had signed in and were ahead of us, so I could have a better idea of how many people would be with me.  As I walked up, there were another few retirees watching the screen and talking--about us, I realized.  They were surprised that a cat. 6 person would be needing 11 seats; usually the big families were active duty (cat. 3).  I told them that only the last 2 kids were born when he was retired, LOL.  So we started talking, and I said we were hoping to get back to Dover, where our van was, but that it wasn't looking very likely (as I tried not to cry . . .).  One man said, "Oh, I think you'll be fine!"  I was so surprised, since there were clearly so many people ahead of us.  He said, "You have to look at where they are trying to go, too . . ."  As it happens, there was a roll call for a flight to Hickam, Yakota, and Okinawa (both in Japan) only 20 minutes after our roll call, so people marked present for that flight were also on the board--but their destination was not US, it was JPN or HI.  Oh my goodness.  I about fell over.  There was a small inkling of hope!  In fact, the man and his wife were also trying to go to the east coast--but they had decided to try for a small flight to McGuire (the base in NJ) which only was releasing 10 seats, that had a roll call about 40 minute after ours.  So even they weren't competing with us!

The kids were playing back in the family room area, so I went back there.  Bob and Nathan went to the roll call--where our names were indeed called.  I am actually tearing up just thinking back about it!  I can't describe the sense of relief that I wouldn't have to deal with Micah crying, or getting a different rental car, or getting over to the Oakland airport, or any of the numerous other things I had been so worried about.  Honestly, getting on that flight will definitely rank in my mind as one of the primary moments for me of seeing God's grace work directly in my life when I felt so tired and overwhelmed.  I was just filled with praise and thanksgiving!!

But getting on the manifest is not *quite* the same as actually getting onto the airplane.  We went through security, and Nathan even said, "We've never been this far and had anything happen to not actually get on the airplane, right?"  We were waiting for the plane to land, and they told us to be ready for the passengers already on the plane to come into where we were to wait, while the plane refueled or whatever.  By this time, it was the middle of the afternoon, so Drew especially was very tired and ready for a nap.  We kept feeding people whatever they could find to eat--snacks from their backpacks, left-over lunch meat and other stuff from our fridge in the TLF, etc.--in an effort to stave off temper tantrums.  Finally they announced that the plane was actually going to land at Travis 2 hours later than they expected (so around 4:00, not 2:00).  We were puzzled as to why this would be a new announcement--wouldn't they have already known??  Why don't the airplane communicate with the terminals?  If we had still been out in the main part of the terminal, the kids could have played in the family room, and I could have put Drew down for a nap in the crib room.  Oh well--I tried to focus on how incredibly grateful I was that we were all together!

Eventually the plane did land.  They bussed the passengers over to the terminal, had them get out--and then had them turn right back around and get back on the bus!  In one of those full-circle moments, we were pleased to see our friends from Charleston who had driven up to try for the original McGuire flight, and who did get out on the first Dover flight, the one where the seats released went down from 53 to 19!  We got on a bus as well, and we headed over to the aircraft, another C-17, like our first flight.

They didn't have families board first, so we were scrambling for seats.  Nathan, Anna, and Luke ended up sitting together, Caleb and I were together on the other side of the plane, and towards the back Bob had Jonathan, Grace, Faith, Micah and Drew.
After take-off, we could all move around like before, so it didn't matter at all that our seats were all spread out.
There was a large contingent of active-duty passengers, and they all brought aero-beds, which they plugged in to the outlets in the wall and blew up.  Then they promptly fell fast asleep, where they remained for the duration of the flight, which was 6 hours.  You can see the edge of them in the left of the picture.
Micah was awake for awhile, but he eventually gave up and fell asleep.
Drew fell asleep while we were still waiting to take-off--but then I was very disappointed to look over before we had even reached cruising altitude to see that he had woken up again! He was pretty happy for the flight though.  I guess it was a power nap.  I cut the ear plugs in half again, so they were only about 1/4 the original size.  This worked better because they weren't a long, so they didn't stick out as far, but by the end of the flight, he still was able to get them out at will.  Oh well.
We landed around 1:00 eastern time.  We stepped off the plane into the 28 degree weather, and our friend from Charleston said, "This isn't Hawaii anymore!"  I said, "It isn't even Travis!"  Brrr!!  We got our luggage, and Bob and Nathan hiked over to long-term parking to get the big van.  I was so relieved that it started! 

In a poor decision, we started driving back home immediately.  We should have definitely just stayed one more night in the Dover TLF, since Monday was a holiday!  But we were just running on autopilot by that point,  and we just wanted to get home.  Bob was a total machine, driving back the 2 1/2 hours.  We pulled in at 4:00 AM, totally and completely exhausted.  We came inside and fell in bed!  We all slept until noon on Monday.  But it was so good to be home!!

1 comment:

Christina Walton said...

Wow! I never flew Space A -- as a kid or a spouse. What an adventure! You are made of sterner stuff than I! Glad you got home without too much trouble. (Although, we did get stuck in Dallas for 5 days once when a thunderstorm cancelled our connecting flight, and that was flying American.)