That’s what I loved the most, I think. The way this was starting over without telling anyone I had; it was just doing it, but would never be something I would have imagined on my own. It was inevitably the brightest night of my life, but we have to arrive before we begin.
June 23, 4am
I wake up to the silent sound of my own brain running circles in the pavement of my mind, only to remember that not only did I leave my handheld super tiny camera somewhere in the depths of my room but also that I had mismanaged the idea of 11 lbs in a backpack and still had four books in the back pocket.
But if morning taught me anything, it was that time changes things. It changes everything, really.
My whole family drove me to the airport, minus the dog, who would’ve had a heart attack before we could get to Dubuque. She’s scared sick of everything except chicken jerky and drinking out of bird baths. Come to think of it, I remember now that I didn’t say goodbye to her, and I know you’ll say, “she’s a dog” and I would reply, “I know.” Since she didn’t see me leave, maybe she’ll wonder if I’m still there.
We sat at a round table in the airport. I can’t remember the exact words, but I think Peanut Butter Baby was mentioned at least once. And there was a bad joke that was made that led into a partial rendition of “getting to know you, getting to know all about you” which led to the song “whenever I feel afraid, I *insert lyrics here because we all started mumbling* and whistle a happy tune, and no one even knows I’m afraid.”
Sometimes that’s what we forget. In order to fast-track in the right direction we sometimes have to take a path that feels backward.
Chicago to LA, the next flight. The first flight to go in the right direction, still a bit too north, but that would not change for quite some time. The 3:10 on the screen bled into 3:30, 3:55. My five hour layover in LA was shrinking by the second, and I felt my heart begin to cage. I saw others begin that path, too. The family whose flights had been cancelled or missed the past 32 hours, the girl scrambling to be back to work on time. The woman pacing, the man laying on the floor with his hand running through what could’ve been his hair, had he had any.
I subconsciously started begging in no particular direction that the flight would leave with enough time for me to get through. Then I started begging God. And I realized something important.
He is who He says He is. He is kind. He is love. He is healer, restorer. He fixes the broken- and not just us, but everything- and He is ultimately sovereign.
My mind whispered, “please let the cargo door work… please, help me make my flight…” and I felt as though I was dropped in limbo. I had become a child tugging on their parents’s legs, not expecting an answer. I was whining for it instead of celebrating the fact that I knew He could do it.
I was with some friends last fall and we talked about “pre-testimony testimonies.” There are some seasons I forget about them, and those are likely the seasons I need them the most.
How does it work? You tell the story- an impossible story- of what God is going to do. Because He can. Because we put faith in His power. Some of the ones we talked about then included-
“Remember when we thought we’d never fundraise half a million dollars in the first year.” right after the non-profit began.
“Remember when we thought my cancer would never be healed.” right after the diagnosis.
And, me: “remember when I thought I’d never make it to LA.”
I laugh at that last one. It’s so simple. But take a day, any day, and we become so fearful so easily. When I made that my story- in the midst of not knowing what would happen- it opened my heart to a new form of praise, one that thanked God for already doing what I knew He could do. But I also knew this: even if He didn’t, He is still good. Even if He didn’t, His plan was higher.
That’s a hard balance to keep, I get it. But I heard a quote once that I think sums it up well: “if you know His character, you won’t question His motives.”
But the best part was this: I poorly hummed songs in the airport in the middle of a sea of people and I felt completely at ease because I knew that everything out of my control was in His. I saw the screen blink to 4:20, and my heart dropped a fast foot until I took my eyes off the floor and saw the jet bridge open.
I stood a weird sort of sway, somewhere between a dance move and a poor resemblance of the warrior 2 yoga pose.
I stepped onto the plane and I understood: we don’t have to beg God to be who He is. We just have to praise Him for it.
The next flight: 15 hours, and other than two relatively earth-shattering misrepresentations in translation (that the pilot has “lost control” of the plane and also that there was a “fire.” In reality there was fog) and somehow sending text messages at the landing through the airport’s internet service to tell mom and dad “I made it.”
But before the landing, I learned something important. A 15 hour flight that took me through a night, day, and another night to morning is complex in itself. I saw two sunrises and one sunset: time is not always as it seems.
June 25, 6am
And this time thing throws me for a loop more often than not, to be honest. On my final leg, the fourth flight, as my plane’s wheels started to roll, I got cold feet.
I would’ve run. But there was no easy way out anymore… and ultimately, I knew going was worth it.
There are plans that we can’t understand until we make it to the destination. Sometimes we just need to throw away the map and walk out the path until we make it there.
The flight to Chiang Mai was accompanied by a lot of laughter, which I liked a lot. We got a snack box (why didn’t I take a pic of it?!) with pre-packaged pieces of cake, bread, peanuts and a yogurt that tastes more like drinking cream that you shoved a straw into.
And when the pilot announced we were about to land, so I looked out the window. I saw a rainbow, one that stretched from below our plane to above it and back down and over again. I know His promises are true.
We arrived to the campus and wandered down the road to a little open air restaurant and ate minced porch with khao neow, or literally “sticky rice.” It wasn’t much to look at (honestly it looked gross) and it was super spicy, but really good all at the same time. They also have Italian soda everywhere here. Who would’ve guessed?
Today is Sunday morning and by the time you read it, it’ll be at least Saturday night back home, if not the same Sunday morning, as I am approaching night.
And all I can say is thank you God for knowing me, and knowing my heart, and knowing I would love it here. If it weren’t for You, I’d never be here. I’d never even think about being here.
And thank you God for my supporters and my friends and family, because I needed you all, too.
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice in it and be very glad.”