The reports from the San Francisco crash put a sobering spin on our travel. But throughout the insanity of the trip, I never once worried about our physical safety flying. I’m sure the thought must have been somewhere, but it was sequestered, and with all the other overwhelming emotions, I’m so very thankful for that.
While we were grateful to even be able to get on the plane, I began to feel a new spiral of fear. One with a different trajectory, one that I couldn’t nail down. Fear from the enemy of our soul is confounding and often defies explanation.
Getting onto the international flight from Chicago pulled up a black mucky mess of anxiety, but this was actually it, we were going to land in Ukraine and jump straight into our commission.
We rode a transport van so far from the terminal that we almost crossed the border into the Czech Republic, and boarded a puddle jumper for the 2 hr flight. It was by far, for me, the most physically uncomfortable leg of the trip.
Kathleen and I sat toward the back of the plane. Gage hadn’t been seated with me on any flight, yet another saga, and it didn’t cross my mind to ask about switching him. I’m sure it was just as well given my overwhelming anxiety at this point.
Germany was the first foreign country I’ve “visited” with the exception of a four hour cruise excursion in Mexico which I think hardly counts. I on overload and felt close to imploding. At this point from the time we first arrived in Indy, it had been close to 48 hours.
We had been reduced physically to the intelligence quotient of lint and the flight was hot and turbulent. I process life from an introverted bent and was starving for a few minutes to reflect. I popped in my ear buds and set my Ukrainian Chill playlist on shuffle.
I couldn’t form a prayer that sounded prayerly, so I informed God that I was at the end of my ability to cope and let him know that I had an entire 10 days of New and Challenging in front of me and I wasn’t sure what he was going to do about that, but I was outta ideas.
Sometime during the dozing and zoning, Hosanna by Paul Baloche, shuffled around and hearing, no, experiencing that song, I felt God move deeply in my soul and felt some relief. I was reminded of the ways that God confirmed our decision to apply for this trip.
Shortly after we’d submitted the initial application form, my daughter was invited to a friend’s home. I’d met the girl’s mother before, but didn’t know much about her aside from the fact that she came here from another country 13 years ago.
She invited me in and fed me the most delightful meal. I learned that she was from Georgia and had family in Ukraine. That she hadn’t been back there in 8 years. I shared about our trip and left realizing that meeting her was a confirmation that Gage and I were on the right track.
Later that night I happened upon 2 TV specials, one about Ukrainian orphans and the other about Russian drivers (there are hilarious videos on the web). During the next couple of months, each time I felt fear start to suffocate my enthusiasm, I remembered that day with my new friend.
The confidence of the moment with Him, while listening to that song, enabled me to keep it together. I’m completely invested in the Truth that we are part of a bigger picture. In the Truth in these words.
When we see You,
we find strength to face the day,
in Your Presence
all our fears are washed away
When we look for God, we see Him. And when we see Him? The most difficult experiences in life are doable.
My confidence in this promise was called into action as we started to land. I felt very sick and started to see the gray walls close in, I was sure that passing out was in my immediate future. I flagged down the worlds nicest stewardess.
I have to share quickly about the flight to Frankfurt when my son had a rather unfortunate incident with a peevish steward. I’m pretty sure Gage wore out his welcome the third time he *rang* for trash removal, as the steward completely ignored him. The young military personnel in the same row took up for Gage by whistling at the attendant. Not amused, the steward went on a tirade stating emphatically “Do not whistle at me, I am not a dog, I Am NOT a DOG!” This memory is a close second to That Time at Dulles.
So, the stewardess got me a wet cloth and some coke and after a rough landing, I sat on the plane until it was empty. She knew I was a mess and grabbed my carry-on bag and escorted me off the plane. I’d like to think that she was being extra kind to me, but I’m pretty sure she just didn’t want to clean up any puke.
I met up with our group and saw that Gage was really struggling at this point also. I knew I needed to get over myself so I folded up my own mess of jumbled emotions and put on my mama dress. He looked completely bewildered and at this point I wondered what on earth I had gotten us into. I actually wondered if it was too late to catch a quick flight back home. (I must get over myself at some point).
As soon as we got off the plane, it was so clear that we weren’t in Kansas any more. We walked into the stark austere terminal and went to passport control. As we approached the roped area they were beginning to herd us into lines. I have a vivid mental picture of that line and the of intimidating attendants in the booths.
Gage and I were near the back of our group. The room was oriented landscape and was more like a wide hallway. I happened to look over my shoulder just before we were to present our passports and saw the most incredible moment unfold before me.
Just a few feet away, behind the roped area where we were standing was my new friend and her children! My friend that lived just three miles from my house. The one that God used to confirm to me that I was supposed to be taking this trip in the first place. The one who’s children’s ages mirror my own. The one who hadn’t been home in 8 years. The one who just happened to be in the same airport, at the same time, while coming in from an entirely different country. The one who I would have missed had our travel gone as scheduled.
I’m sure I looked a fool, but I was squealing and hugging and smiling and so very happy. I mean for real, when you’ve just heard a song that says, when you see me you find strength to face the day, all but announced to God that you’re out, and then within the hour stumble across a friend and her family 5,087 miles away from home? You’re gonna get a little worked up too, admit it.
I remembered later that she had mentioned a possible trip to visit her sister and parents in Kiev over the summer, but I hadn’t known the dates she was traveling. She had come through Poland after spending a couple of weeks in Florida and was staying in Kiev for about 3 weeks.
We were able to talk for a couple of minutes and snap a quick picture after clearing passport control. The adrenaline rush was incredible and it helped propel me through the frenzy of stepping into the crowd outside the airport. We loaded a bus for the two hour drive to Zhytomyr and a fresh calm waved over my soul. I was ready.
After a logistical nightmare, I had seen the most intricate work of art unfold in the inconceivable moment that I saw my friend. And I had heard the Creator of my soul speak directly into it saying “when you see Me you find strength to face the day.”
I’ll be back next week with more about our experiences with the children. Thank you again for hanging in there for this long post.
If you have any questions about our experiences, you can place them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them in future posts.
The introduction to the series is here.
The first post here.
The second post here.
More details on Ukraine are here.