Glorious Rear Guard

Our journey to Costa Rica on Monday started out innocently enough.  A small miracle of our current favorite song played twice on the same radio station in 20 minutes, chorusing the benediction “Let the future begin.”  A laughter-through-tears time of farewell at the airport.  Two uneventful flights sandwiching a leisurely layover in Dallas and some nice crispy grease from Mickey D’s.  We were given a shortcut through the immigration line (may have been the squirrelly kids or the soccer jerseys we wore), hugged our friends Tim and Dena, rejoiced that they had ferried all of our stuff in good condition from Hogar de Vida, met our wonderful Big Sisters from language school, and loaded our baggage into the van rented to drive us to our house.

I was admiring the city lights as we drove down the highway, eagerly tuning into the conversation about something Costa Rican when Matt said it, veiled urgency in his voice:

We don’t have our backpacks.

A quick call to Tim and Dena confirmed it.  They didn’t have them in their vehicle either.  The bags stuffed with all of the things too important to let out of our sight were in fact still sitting on a bench outside of the San Jose airport in the traffic of new arrivals and taxi drivers.  In the relief of long anticipated greetings and hugs, the unsuccessful scramble to find working seat belts in the van for the children, and the busy loading of 50 lb. bags, we had let our guard down and simply forgotten to take a count.  Total rookie mistake.  We had driven around 20 minutes away, and the return trip seemed to last an eternity.  Praying with everything that an overtaxed me could muster, I called down God’s goodness over us, His plan for our time in Costa Rica, His angels over our bags hiding them from the sight of anyone on the prowl for theft.  I knew the odds were impossible.  This was San Jose, where a bag left on the seat of a locked car is an embossed invitation, and even backpacks being worn aren’t impervious.

My mind took inventory of the stakes: our passports, our laptops, the immigration paperwork, our phones, about $2,000 of cash for rent payments, and my wallet topped the list.  I pushed back the nausea and kept praying.  The city lights were an agony passing by in reverse.  Finally we entered the drop zone and saw what we had hoped and prayed for–the most beautiful lineup of colorful backpacks sitting on the bench.  We burst out of the van and collected them like prodigal children, praising God every step.  Searching through the various compartments, we found everything exactly where it was supposed to be.  Relief washed over us, with a cream rinse of exhaustion.

Backlit LarkspurWhat do you do in the wake of a miracle like that, where God has shown Himself so big, where disaster was averted only by His grace? Is there a thank you note magnificent enough?  All we have to give Him is ourselves.  So we open our hearts on a deeper level and lean more fully into this plan He has for our family to walk out His love in Costa Rica.

Bring on the cockroaches.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Isaiah 58:8

The Escalator Escapade

We inched our way through the ribbon maze, checking our watches every minute, praying furiously for our connecting flight to be delayed.  The older two E’s were tired of maneuvering their backpacks and wheeled carry-ons.  Our arms were weary of the same, plus hefting the youngest.  Finally, bags emerged from the x-ray tunnel and shoes were shoved back on feet, just as our flight was scheduled  to pull away from the terminal.

Ready, set, go!  Off to find the gate while Houston flaunted it’s size.  Quick, quick!  We know you are tired, just keep going and we’ll sit for hours once we get there.  You can do it.

Then we came to the escalator.

Normally the anchor duck in our family line, keeping count of the ducklings ahead, I leapt on first.  Elijah and Eliana got on a few steps behind me.  The stairs began to rise.  I held my breath as Elijah’s bag tottered and fell down onto him.  Over-balanced by a stuffed backpack, he fell backwards onto his sister.  She, likewise, toppled over onto her bag, and they all went down in a heap of domino helplessness, arms and legs flailing like a pair of up-ended turtles, all the while being carried rapidly up to the next floor.  Matt bounded up to get feet and luggage wheels back in touch with the stair treads.  My respiration resumed.

Then the worst.

From 20 feet above, I saw Ezekiel, just 3 years old, standing alone and unsure at the bottom, afraid to get on the moving belt.  Stair after stair passed by as I barked panicked encouragement while a traffic jam of strangers looked on behind him.  Get on, Buddy, get on!

Then the angel appeared.

A man gently picked him up and put him on the escalator.  Up he rode, safely delivered into our arms, which were now very glad to carry him.  Laughter and tears had to wait until we reached our gate.  Well, the laughter did, anyway.  Happy tears don’t slow you down much.

Praying hack and slash the whole way, we continued to trot the concourses and finally charged up to our gate, finding it blessedly crammed with people.  Great news, our flight was delayed–a mechanical issue.  They would know more in half an hour.  Relief washed over us.  Fatigue and full bladders chimed in, and we trundled gratefully to the restrooms.  As the adrenaline faded, peaceful thoughts of contentment made way for some wondering: how long would it take to begin the last leg of our journey home?  I looked at Eliana over the soap and warm water, and chuckled out another prayer, “Lord, thank you so much for delaying the flight so we could make it.  Would you please speed things up now that we are here?”

Before we even reached our seats in the waiting area, God’s heartbeat of love for us sounded again.  The loudspeaker announced, “Ladies and gentleman, the mechanical issue has been resolved.  We will now begin boarding. . .”

The 3-E's at the Airport

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:11

Thank heaven for that.