Thursday, April 22, 2010

Standby's & Detours

In the shower this morning I was thinking about one of my favorite scriptures. It's probably one of my most quoted scriptures. God has ministered to me with it time and time again, and I in turn have shared it lots of times with others.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but when dreams come true, there is life and joy."

Proverbs 13:12

This morning as I thought of it, I started thinking about the different times I have found myself stuck waiting in an airport. Two times in particular really jumped out to me.

I was remembering the first time I ever traveled alone on an airplane. I believe in was in October 2003. I flew to Washington to participate in a ministry conference/ training. I got there safely enough and in a relatively uncomplicated manner and had a nice weekend. But by the end of the weekend I was tired and ready to go home and see my precious little family. Neal had been playing Mr. Mom all weekend to our three children and I just wanted to get home and give them all a big hug.

Things were pretty crazy here in California while I was away. It was fire season, something people outside of California may not even know about but El Nino had brought lots of rain the previous winter and spring and the hot summer had dried up all the grass that had grown and turned it to seriously dry brush. When I left for Washington the fires had begun, some fool purposely or carelessly causing a the start of a fire. By the time I was ready to head home, California was completely ablaze. Fires were burning from Sacramento to San Diego, and when I tried to come home, I couldn't. Every airport within 50 miles of home was shut down due to bad visibility or threat of fire.

I was over a thousand miles from home, and I was stuck. I felt very alone. There were a couple other ladies from the conference there for a little while, but contrary to popular belief, I am pretty shy, especially when I am stuck outside my comfort zone. I ended up settling in and having a wonderful conversation with a precious woman for a while, but eventually her plane left, she was flying east not south, and her route had not been rudely interrupted by the California flames like mine had.

It was a long and inconvenient day. I spent nearly nine hours in that airport just waiting. They would put me on standby flight after flight, and every flight seemed to be canceled, indefinitely detained. It was a long day. I was tired, I missed my family. Post-9/11 security measures made for complications traveling throughout the airport. I had been chosen twice "randomly" for the more extensive security checks, being half strip searched just to walk to the gate (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but I was overwhelmed.) I was hungry and hadn't prepared for the long hours of waiting. I didn't know what to do with myself honestly. I was in quite a predicament, and none of it my own doing, but it didn't change that fact I was stuck there, and I only knew one thing, where I wanted to be. I wanted to be home, back where I belonged.

Getting home never went the way I expected. I had planned to fly in locally to the airport just 20 minutes from our home. Instead, I ended up flying into Palm Springs some 90 miles away from where I live. I wanted to at least be on California soil, I wanted to make progress towards my intended destination, and that was the only open door. John Wayne, Ontario, LAX, even Long Beach and Burbank all remained closed for even days later. My dad met me in Palm Springs and we had to maneuver to home from there. The same fires that closed the skies closed lots of the roads as well. It wasn't the way I wanted to get home, it wasn't easy at all, but I was never so happy to hug my kids and kiss my husband as I was late that night.

I was stuck in a another "Standby" during that season as well. We were in the thick of being "stuck" in Ethan's adoption. Much like that day in the airport, visibility kept us grounded and far from meeting our destination. Ethan was 2 1/2 by then, and we still hadn't been able to finalize his adoption. We'd been deterred from the very beginning of that trip, complication after complication, and when we finally thought we were on our journey home, this same season is when everything seemed to go up in flames. A birth father who hadn't been heard of in 2 1/2 years showed up and wanted to take our son away. We found ourselves in a very difficult predicament, and not at all our doing, but it didn't change the fact that we were stuck, and there was nothing we could do but wait. We didn't know anything more than we wanted to arrive home at our "final destination."

Like my flight in to 90 miles from home, the way we arrived at the destination our finalized adoption wasn't what we had planned either. But when we got there, it didn't really matter the unplanned road we had taken. All that mattered was we got there. And unlike my time stuck in the Seattle airport, where I sat wondering how I was going to get home, when we waited in Ethan's adoption, we knew exactly on Whom we were waiting. And what we learned during that season, is God is just as interested in the journey as He is the destination, if not more.

Our "standby" ended up being not hours like my time in the airport, and not months like you might imagine, but years, 3 years and 4 months. The Israelites wandered in their wilderness for 40 years, and we wandered in ours for 40 months. And there were so many times where we just had to wait, or we had to go in a way, a direction that we didn't really understand. But when we got there we were just glad to be there, and I kissed my husband and hugged my family, and it felt so good to be home.

We learned a lot about "waiting on God" in those years. It was a lesson we were not unfamiliar with, we had waited on Him for 10 years to fulfill another promise to us in Victoria's birth. But the urgency in this standby made it more difficult. There was a real threat of loss to our family. Waiting on Him was often such a difficult challenge, one obstacle after another coming upon us, pushing us back. We would get weary, we were overwhelmed. But we did our best to keep our eyes fixed, we continually committed to trust the Lord, and we waited, we followed, and we walked that season through until the end. We came through it stronger, with a greater faith, and a truer understanding of Who our God was.

But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

I think of another travel experience we had. When Neal's mother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in 2007, our family was devastated. The loss of my mother-in-law was so hard for us all, it still is. She had just come through a battle with cancer and everything seemed so promising, that when we got the call that her heart had stopped suddenly and she was gone, we could hardly take it in. All we could do was plan and prepare to go back to Virginia as quickly as possible to help lay her to rest.

We headed there within 36 hours, we wanted to get back to help and Neal needed to be with his brothers and sister. We booked a late night flight out and packed up our family of five and headed east. We had booked a straight shot with one short layover and expected to be Norfolk by early the next morning. When we got to LAX we discovered our flight had been canceled. We explained that we could not wait another day to travel and needed to find another way to get there as quickly a possible. So instead of a flight to DC and then down to Norfolk, we were now scheduled to fly from LAX to San Francisco where we would have just a 20 minute layover to catch a flight to Chicago, then after a four hour layover there we would fly to Richmond and then drive ourselves to Norfolk.We were a bundle of emotions, especially Neal, for obvious emotions and we were just doing all we could to function at a reasonable level. Ethan and Victoria were 6 & 5 respectively, and were not exactly seasoned travelers. Neal was heartbroken and overwhelmed, so Jake and I did our best to manage the little kids and I did my best to take care of Neal. The focus was not only the destination, but the deadline, to be able to get there to see Neal's mom's body before she was cremated. It was important to Neal to see her one last time to say goodbye. He needed to see her to make it real, and we only had a short window of time to get there.

When we arrived in San Francisco we were actually late, our 20 minute layover only had 15 minutes in it. The distance between our arrival and next departure gates was long. I asked the flight attendant to help us be able to get off quickly to make our next flight. The ticket agent at LAX had had the forethought to pre-check us in and we already had our boarding passes. It was just about getting from one gate to the next, and getting there quickly. The five of us were literally running from our gate, not even knowing exactly where were headed. We just followed the logical route of running down the numbers. As we ran with all our might a man suddenly stepped out in front of us and asked us where we were going. Irritated we told him the gate number we were headed to and he informed us we were in fact going the wrong way. We needed to make an unexpected left turn there where we stood. If we had kept running in the logical direction, we would have missed our flight, but this man stepped out of nowhere and corrected us to the right direction. We literally ran into the gate of the next leg of our flight and the doors shut behind us. The "obstacle" this gentleman presented himself as, was actually our direction on the right path. We knew God was helping us. He knew how much we needed to get to our destination in a timely manner, and He made sure He'd help us along the way.

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“ This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left.

Isaiah 30:21

The rest of that trip to Virginia went relatively well. We arrived tired and emotional, but we got through and spent a few days with Neal's family. It was later when we finally had to head home that things got difficult again. We had to leave directly from Neal's mom's funeral. It was a long way from Norfolk in the northern part of Virginia that she was laid to rest. We spent that day making the three hour drive up to attend the funeral, and then the hour and a half drive back to Richmond to head to the airport to head home.

I will forever wish I had made a simple phone call to confirm our flight that day, but I didn't and when we got to the Richmond airport we turned our car in and headed into the terminal to check our baggage. It was then that we discovered that our flight home had been canceled too. And unlike our trip there, this tiny airport offered no alternatives better than come back tomorrow.

Emotionally exhausted, torn, and discouraged. It was too long and too far to go back to the family. The thought of spending all night in the tiny airport that would be closed for the night with 3 kids, two of them relatively little was more than we could even imagine. We decided we would have to get a room for the night. A kind gentleman at the car rental agency helped us find a local hotel. We had to be back at 4 am so none of the shuttle services were an option, and there weren't any hotels close enough we could walk to with all our luggage, so we got another car and headed to a hotel that was willing to offer us a reasonable rate. It actually turned out to be a blessing to just have some down time. We walked from the hotel to get a pizza and some cold drinks and just spent quiet time together the five of us. Since Neal's mom's passing, we had been going at warp speed, barely an opportunity to grieve. Although we really wanted to be home, we found a point of rest in our journey.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul...

Psalm 23:2-3a

All of these journeys remind me so much of the journey of faith, My Walk of Faith. The travel is often seasonal and uncertain. At times, things come that we cannot anticipate, and they detour our travels. We have a plan and an intention, but life happens beyond our control, and we have to wait, we have to surrender to it. Other times the journey is overwhelming. There is pain and loss, there is grief. We can't even look all the way ahead to our destinations, we just want the strength to gt through the next step. There are times too that the route takes us places that we never foresaw. We can be disoriented, and are prone to getting lost going to fast in the wrong direction, but if we keep our eyes open and watching we will see the signs, the obstacles in our paths, and realize they have been placed there for our benefit.

All of these are times of hope deferred, and they are times where we are stretched, often painfully. We come to the place where we realize we don't have all the answers. We reach the point where we have to choose to surrender to our own shortcomings or we can rail and fight against things we cannot change, only to exhaust ourselves further.

When I look back to times of "standby" and "detours" in my life, it is only with the benefit of time and distance that I can see the good things God brought out of them. Never in the midst of them was it easy to wait, to rest, to trust.

We may never know in those times the answers to questions like "When?" "What?" or "Why?" But we do know the most important answer. We know Who. And when we know Who we can know peace in it's truest sense. When we walk in obedience and faith to the Lord, we can have faith that He ill redeem to the Standby's and the Detours. We know His purpose is right and His plan is good.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD,
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Waiting in hope is hard. But can you imagine what it is to be one of those who has no hope. I know in Whom I hope, in Whom I trust. And so I want to encourage you, if you find yourself on standby, or off on a detour you never anticipated, do not look at your circumstance and let it overwhelm you. Rather look to the One who holds your life and your journey in His hands. In a lot of ways I find myself on standby right now in this season of life. Not in the frighteneing way I was when we were fighting for Ethan, or even in the heavy hearted way when we waited on God to fulfill His promise that was our daughter Victoria, but sort of in a "limbo" sense of the word. Unlike other waiting periods in my life I don't even know what my own destination is. I am just believing that God has something up ahead, and I am waiting for Him to lead me into it. I don't know what His thoughts and plan for me, but I do know they are for a good future, and an eternal hope. I cannot look ahead to where I am going, but I can fully focus on the One I know will lead me there, and lead me through it.

"Be still, and know that I am God.."
Psalm 46:10a

I can wait through the standby's and follow Him on the detours in confidence because I know He is good. I know even in the hard times, He is with me, and for me. To lose that faith, to lost that hope is to forget the very nature of my God. Hope deferred may indeed make the heart sick, but whren dreams come true, there is life and joy. Real life, abundant life, and an eternal joy that cannot be taken from me - ever.

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11

I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Timothy 1:12-14

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