I scanned my digital boarding pass as I boarded the plane and then powered down my phone and tucked it into my purse. I picked a window seat right behind the exit row and as soon as I could, I popped open my computer and paid for the painfully slow internet service. I paced myself and rationed the computer power, wrapping up work right before landing. Mac had 4% battery life and I had closer to zero.
As we were getting ready to exit I fumbled through my bag for my phone and couldn’t find it, which wasn’t unusual in my huge and unorganized purse.
I stepped off the plane and stopped at Starbucks in the terminal to grab a drink. Still no phone, so I pulled out a gift card someone had given me. While they were making my drink I got serious about looking and confirmed that it was, indeed, missing.
I should have taken the time to verify it wasn’t in there and then looked around my seat.
I walked back to the gate and talked to a gate agent who was already trying to track down another customer’s wallet. While she and I talked the other flyer proceeded to dump her purse out on the floor as she cursed and talked to herself in an elevated voice, loud enough for everyone to hear. The gate agent said something about her being intoxicated and then disappeared behind a locked door onto the jet bridge.
A few minutes later she emerged empty-handed. I asked if she might be willing to go look again and she asked me to check, “Find my iphone” to see if it was on the plane. I opened my computer and within seconds it was dead.
I should have packed the computer charger in my purse.
She told me to go get my bags and pull the charger and then, if I could confirm the phone was pinging at the airport, she said I could go to baggage services and ask if they would send someone to look again. “This plane takes off early tomorrow morning,” she said. I knew what that meant…if I didn’t track down my phone that night, there was a good chance I wouldn’t see it again.
Long story short, I ended up at the baggage claim office and by this time it was getting late. They called over to the terminal and informed me that the cleaning crew was moving down the line, plane by plane, and that mine would be one of the last. They offered that I could leave and they would reach out if it was found, but I just had a sense I should stay at the airport and wait it out.
One hour passed. Then two. I sat through the late-night bustle of customers looking for golf clubs, oversized bags and describing the contents of their suitcases as the agents filled out online claim tickets. I approached the counter just after midnight to ask for an update. “They found it,” the agent told me. I was giddy with excitement but my exhaustion had kicked in so I was somewhat subdued in my response. “It should be here within the hour.” The airport train only runs every half hour after midnight and who knows what else caused the delay. But I was happy it was en route.
I should have stayed at the gate.
Someone brought the phone over around 1 a.m. and I set off for my shuttle bus. During my hours-long stay at the airport I asked God to help me understand what was happening. “What’s going on?” I wondered. He immediately spoke something to my heart and I waited patiently as the hours passed, not fully understanding the greater purpose behind the evening’s events but trusting that God would redeem the time.
As I look back through my journal entries on my journey to healing, I realize that the greatest lesson I learned was to give out of my need. When I was hurting the most, God gave me opportunities to interact with people who were facing even greater pain and more difficult circumstances. He would lift my head and show me their broken hearts and I understood that He was asking me to do something to show and share His love in a practical way. The only way I knew how to do that was to share meals, write cards, pray, listen and encourage. Very basic but extremely important things that helped shift my focus from myself to someone else.
When we retreat inside ourselves there is no room for others. God taught me how to deal with my pain while being aware of the pain around me. It was a beautiful balance of facing and dealing with my own heart issues while learning to be acutely aware of the plights of my fellow humans. This was the theme over and over and over.
That night as the shuttle bus made its rounds I found myself alone as it emptied everyone at their cars. The doors opened at my stop and I reached into my pocket. My mom had given me $100 before the trip and I knew what I was supposed to do with it. “This is for you,” I said. “And I know it’s specifically for you because I should have left the airport four hours ago. I lost my phone and had to track it down so I believe it’s no coincidence that I ended up on your bus.”
I put the folded bill in his hand and made my way toward my car. I loaded my bags and started to drive off but noticed he was walking toward me. I rolled down my window. “Thank you,” he said as he reached out his hand toward mine. I took both of my hands and put his between them. His hand was warm and his eyes even warmer. I was deeply touched by his gratitude and sincere appreciation. “I’m guessing you really needed this,” I said. He shook his head as his hand gripped mine tighter. “Did you need it for your family?” I asked. He nodded more emphatically. It was now my turn to squeeze his hand tight. “May God bless you,” I said. “God bless you, God bless you,” he said back. I slowly drove away and rolled up my window as I watched him walk back toward the bus.
I wouldn’t change anything about that night.
Life doesn’t always go as we plan. On that night at the airport I felt God in the midst of a slight inconvenience. In contrast, this week I have watched a childhood friend walk through unimagineable pain as she has experienced God in the midst of unthinkable tragedy. Last week her 12 year-old daughter was hit by a truck walking to school and after emergency surgery and a battery of tests, she was declared brain dead on Friday afternoon. My mom and I had plans to visit the family that day and we ended up at the hospital within an hour of the news. My heart was broken in a hundred pieces for this precious family. I’ve had a difficult time sleeping this week as the heaviness of the situation has hit me hard.
The road ahead for them is long and it won’t be easy, yet I have been astounded by how my friend, Denise, has responded. Her love for God and trust in Him has truly blown me away as she has walked with faith and love and a desire to tell her daughter’s story of life. Her daughter, Jenna, loved Jesus with all her heart and lived her life honoring and loving Him. She had a close relationship with her Savior in her very young life, and this is what people need to know about her.
Please pray for Denise and her family as they prepare for the service on Saturday and for life without their precious girl. And if you are hurting, allow God to lift your head to show you the needs of those around you, and then take that next step to reach out with His love.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.