It is early evening in Wilmore, Kentucky. My suitcase is packed full of Christmas gifts from friends and family, my stomach is full of amazing food, my eyes are full of tears saying goodbye to my mother, and I am headed to the airport. Christmas is over and it is time to return to my current home in Los Angeles. My father loads my suitcase into the car, and I get an alert on my phone: my plane has been delayed an hour and half, which will cause me to miss my connection to LA. In spite of the delay, I go to the airport to figure out a different route or a different flight that will get me back in time for work the following morning.
My arrival at the airport and discussion with the ticket counter attendant do nothing to alleviate my fear of missing my flight. The next three hours are filled with ups and downs. Ticket Associate #1 tells me there is nothing she can do, and my best bet is to get on my delayed flight and try to make whatever connection they can get me there. I find an available ticket online, and go tell Ticket Associate #2 about my discovery. She manages to book me on a later flight, and I feel like everything will work out swimmingly. However, my delayed departure time got closer and closer and there was no aircraft in site. In the meanwhile, there is a man, Frederick, yelling that he sees our flight as not arriving for an additional three hours. He claims he’s been at the airport an entire day and refuses to call his ailing mother and father (74 and 82, respectively) to come pick him up just because the airlines can’t get their act together. People all begin grumbling; everyone has a different sob story. And at that moment, our flight is cancelled. For two solid hours, I had three different gate agents looking for a ticket home. Repeatedly there was nothing for three days, but somehow, just as I was ready to give up, the gate agent found a ticket for the next morning. It required driving to a different airport and a six-hour layover, but it was the only option that would get me home in the next 24 hours.
So, my sister drove me 2 hours north at 4AM catch the first plane out to Chicago. Then I had the privilege of standing in line for an hour to check my bag with the grumpiest humans on the planet. There was a pregnant woman yelling every time a check-in kiosk was open, people crying, everyone yelling out their flights' boarding times (even though they were all essentially the same). From there, the security line was full of first time travelers who didn't know to take their shoes and belts off or their laptops out of their bags. But I passed through silently and semi-quickly, so that I could run (like a crazy person) to my gate where the plane had a technical issue and we'd been delayed. Once boarded, I looked around for Seat 13F. Only there were no Fs on this aircraft. I had been booked on the correct flight number, but the incorrect aircraft. Fortunately, the flight attendant told me to pick a seat and hope the plane wasn't full. Luck was on my side for the first time in 24 hours and I was allowed to stay on the aircraft. When we landed at our destination, there was no record of our flight and no gate for us to pull into. So we sat—for an hour—hoping someone would acknowledge the fact we were real and needed to get off of this plane before the screaming children drove us all mad!
Eventually we did get off the plane, and after several others mishaps, I was able to get home to Los Angeles. It was a tiresome journey, surrounded by people who had had their plans altered, cancelled, and changed again. Which got me thinking… Why do our plans consistently go awry? On this specific day, an ice storm prohibited my plane from taking off, which had a ripple effect of rebooking flights and encountering people with ill-fated travel plans. But is there good that can come from disrupted plans? Could there be something greater we are supposed to learn?
Now I don’t think God plans for us to miss work, sleep on an airport bench, or spend $25 on a day’s worth of overpriced airplane food. I don’t think it is God’s fault that we experience anxiety, discomfort, or fatigue; but I do believe that God can use any circumstance for good. Whether you believe in a God or the Universe or even just coincidence and karma, it is clear when surrounded by strangers traveling that there are interactions, meetings, and inspired conversations. I'm not here to get all crazy conspiracy theorist and claim that maybe an ice storm in the northern part of our country prevented a major terrorist attack (or maybe I am...) But what if the delays led to soulmates meeting, relationships flourishing, business deals closing, or more family time? And perhaps, none of that happened and this is just one of those "life happens" things. However, my hope is that for every setback, there is a redemptive element. For example, once I finally made it onto my last plane, the caterers loaded the incorrect amount of food, so we had to wait for them to correct their mistake. In this time, I saw the airline load six others bags. Six more people are getting home with their luggage because of a catering mistake. And this may be small to some, but a blessing to others. What this horrible traveling experience taught me is that even if you have no idea what is happening and no idea why, there can be goodness in spite of it all. People can be good. People can connect. Unexpected joys and blessings can occur even if the timing is not what you had planned or anticipated.
By Grace has been one of the most rewarding, terrifying and overwhelming experiences of my life. Almost every time I had a brilliant plan it was foiled by miscommunication, mistakes on my part, errors in our product, unreal expectations, lack of knowledge, or a thousand other things completely out of our control. By there has been such goodness that has come from our failures. We've met more people, developed new product, expanded our plans, and learned to trust God in the disarray. I'm learning to believe that there is a plan, even if it's not your plan. And that a little snow storm is not going to stop me from achieving my dreams; perhaps the snow is just a reminder that I have to learn a few more lessons or talk to a few strangers before I'm ready to dream bigger and accomplish more.
Until next time,