Step back a couple days to Monday June 24. I'm sitting in the airport composing a blog, eager with excitement... Here's how it started.
"Flashback October 2008....
...first time i left my kid behind for a "trip" overseas. (I say 'kid' because she was the only one I had at the time... funny to think about that, because I can't even remember what that was like anymore...) In this picture I was just seeing her again for the first time in a couple weeks. Here we are, 5 years later, and I'm super excited to be taking her along for her very first trip.
And so far, before leaving the airport, she's only asked 4,192,736.3 questions.
My brain is tired."
Little did I know that at that point, it was far from the state of tired that it was going to reach...
Before you go any further, just like the past two days I experienced, this is VERY long. And I probably sound like I'm complaining a bit from time to time, but I want you to know in the midst of not liking what was going on, I felt the hand of God on us the entire time, and knew He was among us, knitting together every detail. I can say without hesitation He was completely sovereign in this. But if you wanna know the details of what kept us from our trip, I invite you to keep reading... there's a great story at the end you don't wanna miss anyway... ;)
That sweet little excited face up there, (and Reese's face too of course...) ;) never made it to our desired destination. Instead it made it to Chicago O'Hare Airport, home of the friendliest and most helpful airline employees that anyone could find in the world. (insert thick sarcasm here)
We didn't make it to the precious church awaiting us in Gori, Georgia. We didn't make it to the sweet Douglas family and their 5 kiddos. We didn't see Warsaw, Poland like we had planned to do during our 9 hour layover.
Instead we saw a bunch of this...
Just to put you right into the story I should let you know the first (and possibly only way so far) that we can now say that, in hindsight, we could see and understand God's hand in all of this, started with the first... well the only... flight we made it on. The first leg of our trip found our team of 16 taking two planes to Chicago, first 9 of us leaving at about 545pm, then the other 7 of us around 640pm. Before we left TSC at 3:00 we already knew that the 640 flight was delayed and would prevent 7 of us from reaching Chicago in time to make the connecting flight to Poland. And so began the phone calls to airlines and travel agents...
To make this long part shorter, God did an amazing thing and worked it out that all 7 of us were put on standby and were miraculously able to take that first flight (which, did I mention was itself delayed and didn't take off until 8pm) all together. After it was all said and done, we quickly realized how blessed we were that he allowed us all to stay together.
So we land in Chicago about 940. Frantically checking flight schedules we learned that our flight to Poland had been delayed as well. Whew... Until we were informed that there was no gate for us to pull into so we couldn't get off the plane. Uh-oh. Oh wait, our flight to Poland has been delayed yet again. Whew.
Oh wait, we are going to have to sit on this runway for. an. hour. before someone finally gets us inside that airport.
Hour goes by. We are all finally of the plane and had been told on the phone by American Airlines to book it to talk to someone at the Polish Airlines desk, that even if we had to rebook, we would have to do so through them. Quick, 16 people, leave terminal 3 to find the trams that will take us to the International terminal 5.
Wait 15 minutes for tram. Run some more to terminal 5.
International terminal is nearly empty. :(
One lady is left at Polish Airlines desk. "I'm sorry, that flight has just left. Please go back to terminal 3, AA will have to rebook your flight."
are. you. kidding. me.
back to tram. wait some more. run some more.
(are you tired yet?)
arrive at AA counter. very helpful, warm, fuzzy, loving supervisor says... why yes, i do see that I have about 6-8 people at the ticket counters, but they're tired and ready to go home so I will not let them help you. i will however, put you on cots here in the airport and let you talk to someone again at 330 am when we re-open if you'd like.
so there you have it. I wish this were the part of the story where it totally takes a turn for the better and everything works out. but it didn't. we booked hotels (thank you, hotwire) and were shuttled to our rooms for the night. my sweet husband was on the phone with airlines all night. no really, all night. with a heavy heart he woke me at 330... "baby, i've talked with every airline that could possibly fly us somewhere in Europe that would get us to Georgia. i can't believe i'm saying this, but i don't think there's any way we're going to make it. I'm gonna go wake up a few of the guys and talk to them about it."
He did, and at 5am he and Jason Darby were shuttled 30 min back to the airport to spend about 3 hours with a ticketing agent, and were told that they could possibly get us all there, if some people went through Germany, some through France, some through Jordan, and the list went on to about 3-4 other countries... and it would probably take about 45 hours and a few flights in between before we all made it back together.
that is of course, if everything works like it should.
I know this is getting long. I wish I could say it was nearly over...
they made the very tough decision that in the interest of everyone's safety, and not getting lost or stranded amidst several countries in Europe, that we would rent cars and return home.
so about 830-9am or so i hear a tap on the door. it's superman, coming to, after over 24 hours, finally catch a little sleep. he also learned while at the airport that polish airlines had our luggage, and since their next flight didn't leave until 550 that night, they wouldn't open until 2pm.
breakfast, a meeting to break the news to the team that we would be trying to reschedule in a month, and lunch commenced, then we were on our way back to O'Hare to retreive our luggage. We were informed by the same agent that had spoken to us the night before that she felt there was a good chance if we waited a couple more hours, we might make standby and get there just a day late after all. Trying hard not to get our hopes up, we decided to wait and see if indeed the Lord would open the door. But since I'm here in my bed typing right now, you have probably figured that we did not. Luggage was finally retrieved, and by 7pm we were headed home.
I should include, though, a very big highlight of this two day fiasco...
Monday morning while getting ready to leave, Reagan and I were discussing the possibility of sightseeing in Warsaw during our layover, and I had the thought of four of us making the "O-H-I-O" like any good Buckeye would do in a foreign place. Then it ocurred to me... "reagan, we have GOT to trick Andy Willett (Michigan fan extraordinaire) into being the 'I' in that picture!" So it was decided...
Waiting at the ticketing counter to either get on a plane or get our bags back, I decided it was now or never. Four of us were at the counter, Reagan, me, Chad Whittenburg, and Andy. So I filled Chad in on what we needed him to do. He said it was a tough thing to participate in being an SEC man himself, but he decided to take one for the team. Sam Smith gladly took my phone to snap the shot. I said to the three of them... "here, let's get a shot of the deliberators here at the counter" and when I gave the cue, reagan, myself, and chad put our arms in the air...
by the time he realized what was going on, he tried to run, but it was too late... 16 voices began filling that terminal with crazy laughter. I couldn't believe we did it. I might just frame this shot of the four of us and put it in my office. right next to pictures of my kids, showing one of the proudest moments of. my. life.
In fact, in light of every circumstance that we were faced with over the past two days, everyone of the 16 people on our team of adults and teenagers (and reese) :) handled themselves remarkably well. I was so impressed by their attitudes, their respect for and trust in reagan as team leader, and their ability to keep pushing through no matter what.
We know God's hand was on us, from tangible ways like keeping us together when we were supposed to have been separated (which would have ensued even more chaos.) And in other ways where we can't see and have NO idea why he didn't let us get there, we've had to trust that there is a reason that we very well may NEVER know this side of heaven. We know we did everything in our power to get there, so at the end of the day we can say with confidence that HE very firmly closed the door this week and just did not let us through it.
The scripture that kept ringing in my ears over these two days was Proverbs 16:9... "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." So we are going to try to make plans again... hopefully in a month, we'll see... in the end, I'm finding a really big security in seeing just how big my God is. At any moment he could've calmed the weather and gotten us where we needed to be at the time we needed to be there. But He didn't. And while some people might question Him, (and understandably so) I'm finding peace in just saying 'ok', and in seeing the ways instead, that He chose to show us just how large and in charge He is. Thank you, Lord, for graciously allowing me to see your hand on my life over the past two days. In your hand is exactly where I want to be.