Perhaps you followed my lost suitcase saga on Facebook over the weekend. For those of you who didn’t, it began in Vancouver, BC on Friday morning, after a short night’s sleep. And it provided a refresher lesson on how to give thanks in everything.
Perfect timing—today is Canadian Thanksgiving Day.
I was Iowa-bound to speak at the Oak Street Baptist Church women’s conference. I’d shipped my books ahead, and I packed only a carry-on bag for clothing, toiletries, my iPhone and iPad power cords, and a couple of miscellaneous things too bulky for my computer bag (ie: my teaching Bible). Doing so would save $25 for baggage fees and lessen the chance of a checked bag getting lost. Or so I thought.
Some airlines load passengers according to groups. On this flight, I was in Group 5. That meant my seat was near the rear of the plane. It also meant I’d board last. Not a good sign for carry-on bags. By the time the last group boards, the overhead compartments are often already filled. Friday was no exception.
As I approached the plane’s door, a flight attendant announced that the overhead compartments were full, and remaining carry-on bags must now be checked. Three airline agents appeared to tag and take the five remaining suitcases. All had their own thoughts about how to best get the job done. All were in a rush.
“I’ll tag it for your final destination,” said one.
“Not mine,” I answered. “I’m bound for Burlington, Iowa, but I need to claim my bag in Chicago before I switch flights.”
“No,” said the agent. “I’ll tag it to your final destination.”
“No, please,” I said. “I need to pick it up in Chicago.”
He tagged it to Burlington and assured me that everything would be fine. That’s the last time I saw my suitcase.
Friday afternoon, I spent 4 1/2 hours in Chicago’s O’Hare airport—a massive facility that holds no fond memories for me. (Every time I’ve flown through there in the past, I’ve faced canceled flights due to bad weather. On one occasion, my canceled flight meant catching a bus for a five-hour ride through a blizzard). On this occasion, I spent the afternoon either waiting in line at the airline’s customer service desk, making phone calls trying to find the “right” person who could help me locate my bag, or physically walking from one location to another.
The latter proved physically and emotionally challenging. I’ve still not fully recovered from the leg injuries I suffered earlier this year, and walking long distances can be painful and exhausting, especially if I have to walk quickly.
So there I was—a keynote speaker enroute to a women’s conference where I’d challenge my audience to respond in a godly manner when life takes a detour. In all honesty, the ability to practice what I preach seemed beyond my reach at that point. More than once, I shot arrow prayers heavenward, asking God to help me respond in a way that honored Him. And more than once, He rushed to my rescue.
That didn’t mean He brought my suitcase to me. No, it spent the weekend in O’Hare Airport. But the Lord rushed to my rescue in other ways. Here are the things He did—the things for which I give thanks:
- He sent two Polish airline agents to help locate my suitcase. Can you imagine that? We minister in Poland every summer, and I love the Polish people. My book Moving from Fear to Freedom has been translated into—you guessed it—Polish. I felt like God used them to remind me of His presence in my situation.
- He blessed me through the kindness of Oak Street Baptist’s pastor’s wife—Becky Karas. She picked me up at the Burlington airport and took me immediately to a store where I bought a few necessities. When we approached the checkout, she said, “I want to pay for these.” What a sweetheart!
- He supplied clean clothes to wear at the conference. Interestingly, a fashion show had been scheduled as part of the lunchtime program. The gal in charge of the show heard of my plight and met me at the hotel on Friday night bearing several outfits from which to choose. Thank you, Lynn Louise, for your kindness.
- He gave me an up-to-date anecdote about giving thanks when life takes a detour. There’s nothin’ like fresh material!
- He rescued me from the stress of having to make further phone calls to O’Hare by giving me a husband with a servant’s heart. Gene stayed in contact with the Polish agents so that I could go to bed on Friday night and then focus on Saturday’s ministry.
- He’d prompted me to buy a particular pair of dressy boots the day prior to my flight. I wore those on the plane. Those boots were ideal–good arch support, comfortable for walking long distances. If I’d worn any other foot ware, my feet would have had pain. But these boots worked like magic.
Yes, life takes detours. No, they’re not fun sometimes. Yes, giving thanks in the midst of those detours is vital. Why? Because God commands us to do so. He knows that expressing thanks even when we don’t feel like it helps change our focus from our frustrations to His faithfulness. It somehow lessens our stress, and it gives us a sense of anticipation about what the outcome might be.
After this weekend’s adventure, I’m looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving Day with my family. I’m also looking forward to God’s continued working in my heart as He teaches me more about giving thanks every day of the year, no matter what.
How about you? For what are you thankful for today?