One's destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.-Henry Miller
I'm going to share a story about one of the worst flights of my life during Thanksgiving break back in November 2011. At that point in time I was about three weeks away from achieving one of my ultimate goals in life--a college degree. However, November 25th, 2011 marked the start of my continued hard-fought journey to graduation. The events of that day showed me that there was huge opposition against me and only God could get me through those following three weeks.
The day started off normally as far as departure days go. I wasn't leaving until the afternoon so I still had some time to do a few last favorite things at home. I slept in a little, had breakfast and spent time with my kitty, Tigger. Like usual, though, I didn't have 100% of my things packed. I rushed around in the late morning and early afternoon trying to pack, clean and set aside several things I wanted my family to take with them in the car when they drove to Jacksonville in December. Slight problem: As I was doing all of these tasks, I was starting to feel the beginnings of some usual monthly cramps. :/
The rest of this post is not graphic and disgusting (well, it is a little bit), but please continue reading :)
I had to drop something off at a friend's house before I left but in hindsight that should not have been a top priority. Before I left for Ohio, I had checked in and printed my boarding passes 24 hours ahead of time and I prepared my bags a week prior to my trip. I was ready for anything that came my way. The opposite was true for the way back. During lunch with my mom, the cramps were getting slightly irritating so I took some 24K (an amazing energy that actually relieves headaches, cramps and more! :). It seemed to have done the trick while I ran the errand and then later headed for the airport. Then, about fifteen minutes from the airport, I felt things take a turn for the worse. With about forty five minutes before the plane departed, the stress was settling in. I tried drinking some water and focused on talking to my mom while she drove, but it only helped minimally. We made it to the airport shortly after my condition had started to worsen. We both thought that as soon as I was checked in, had passed through security and was at my gate, my body would start to calm down. Naturally, that would have happened had I not almost boarded at the very last second.
I went as quickly as I could to the check-in counter for United Airlines with my small wheeled bag and medium-sized shoulder bag. The man quickly checked me in and printed my tickets but told me that I had exactly enough time to go through security and get to my gate--with absolutely no stops. He also precisely explained where my gate was located in order for me to arrive there before the doors shut. I went through security in record time (a PR for me by the way-haha) and was so short on time that I had to just slip my shoes on my feet, without re-tying the laces, and run to the gate with all of my stuff. Here's a step-by-step rundown of how the cramps went from annoying to almost crippling in less than 10 minutes: Running to the gate = tired and hot, talking to annoyed people at the gate and the stewardess on the plane = irritable and abrupt, and last but not least, trying to cool off and calm down in a back row seat in a corner while wearing jeans, a scarf and sweater = almost hot flashes. Ugh.
Anyway, long story short, I was assigned the last seat in row 17 at the window seat which turned out to be the last and most claustrophobic place I had wanted to be. I was the last one boarding but at least I knew my seat assignment...however, I was not aware that it was the very last row. The stewardess asked me, "Is 17A alright?" (NO, I thought firmly). "Yes, it's fine," I replied. My original seat, 17B, was stolen by some guy who wanted to sit by his family in the row next to mine. It would have been perfectly alright had I not been feeling under the weather, but on that day it was not fine. Still, I fully understood that I had to continue to comply with the airline's policies even though I wasn't feeling so hot (when in reality I was burning up :P). Nevertheless, seat 17B was not the seat I was truly assigned and I was not meant to see my first aerial view of Chicago from that window either. The cramps were hurting so bad that I actually threw up before the plane even took off. I had expressed to the stewardess beforehand, as she passed by my seat a couple times, that I was not feeling well. She went to get me some water for the initial taxiing but by the time she returned, it was too late. I had the dry heaves in between the times I talked to her but those quickly gave way to the real thing. On a slightly optimistic note, at that moment I could cross off: "Used an airline barf bag on a plane," off my list, but that thought came much later. I know that I definitely made my neighbor very uncomfortable and grossed out but there was nothing I could honestly do. The stewardess ironically came back with the water bottle but she was too late. She asked me, since we had not taken off yet, if I was able to travel today and I said "Yes, I have to get to my destination." It was imperative.
I survived the take-off but I just wanted to dig myself a hole and hide from everyone on that plane. I somehow managed to talk the stewardess into letting me go into the lavatory (at my own risk mind you) and spent half the flight in there. Physically things got a bit worse in there but after taking advantage of a little time to myself I calmed down and turned things around--and was praying and pleading with God the whole time as well. The flight took 20 minutes less time than usual to get to Chicago which overjoyed me. Yet, the best news or rather sights were to come as I summoned up my courage and stepped out of the lavatory. A mere ten to fifteen minutes before we landed.
I stepped out of the lavatory almost at the same time the stewardess went to the back of the plane to check on me. I started to move back to my seat but she instead directed me to the front of economy class and seated me in row 3 at the window. She was also very kind enough to grab my belongings and stick the bag in front of an empty seat. When she returned to my row she handed me another barf bag which I think slightly freaked out the man who was sitting next me. :P
About five minutes later we started our descent into Chicagoland. With it came the most out of this world view of downtown proper and the Chicago skyline. After all that I had been through on that flight, God brought me to my destination: seat 3D on a United flight to Chicago. What it took to get there paled in comparison to the view out my window. I hadn't been to Chicago since I was nine and I definitely hadn't seen the skyline from the air. It was absolutely incredible to have a front row seat to one of the biggest and most unique cities in the country. I loved seeing the bridges all in a row starting from downtown and stretching out to connect to the rest of the city. I kept my eyes glued to the window for as long as I could, enchanted with what God had blessed me.
I recounted this story (albeit in less detail) to my friend Kara after she picked me up from the airport in Jacksonville later that night. Something she said got me thinking about how to apply this experience to my current situation. She said something like this: "You enjoyed what you saw but you didn't like how you had to get there to see it."
Sometimes the worst storms in life produce some of the most amazing blessings that we could ever imagine. As I was boarding that plane I did not think things would improve at all during my flight; I only pictured them getting worse. I could also apply this situation to my road to road to graduation. I could have given up so many times during my last semester but I didn't. I chose to keep fighting because I knew the reward would far outweigh the roadblocks I faced along the way. Little did I know that, in both situations, God had something else in store. He takes us through the fire in order to refine our character, carefully crafting us into the person He created us to be. He also takes us through the harshest storms in order to better appreciate the good weather in our lives.
Embrace the mountaintops and end-of-the-rainbow blessings, but always keep the journey in the forefront of your mind. If you constantly forget the pain of the journey, the next storm you face will threaten to drain you of both your strength and faith. The storms of life will always come, this we can be certain, but how you face them is always up to you. Write the lessons you learned on the inside of your eyelids as well as the Word of God and as you go through the valley--no matter how long it may last--God will faithfully bring you back to the top of the mountain once again.
Have you found this to be true in your own life? How has God shown himself to be faithful recently?