Week 11

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

48 hours before traveling, I drove an hour north of where I live in Central Florida to get a very particular type of covid test that would be accepted for travel. If the test was negative, the results had to be uploaded to a website in India. Quite an ordeal doing that.

Since I never sleep in, I did not set an alarm the night before leaving for India. I had plans to get up somewhere between four and 4:30 AM. I awakened at two and realized that I was desperately tired. I grabbed an alarm and set it for about two hours later and that was what awakened me. The past couple of weeks have been busy. The details that need to be taken care of before a journey like this vary in importance and difficulty.

Don’t feel sorry for me. Some of the most time-consuming activities were last-minute visits with friends. Friends are a good problem to have; wouldn’t you agree? I suffered though each of these visits, with joy for the moment and the memories they send with me.

Because I had done most of my packing and handled many details that need my attention before travel, I was able to go to church the night before – Wednesday. Still, when I came home I had an incomplete “to do” list. I was very concerned about several of the things and truly did not know how I would get them done before I left. Because this opportunity to travel came up almost suddenly, my preparations to leave had to be competed in a shorter amount of time. 

As I mentioned, I got up at four and knew that I needed to be ready before 7 AM. Four o’clock rolled around quickly and within an hour I realised that I should have just gotten up at 2. At this point though, I step into a mode to do the most important, then lock my door and go when the time comes. At the moment of recognition that my list and time do not reconcile, I said an “on the go prayer.” One pressing matter was my tax papers; I was missing one that I absolutely knew I had seen.  Miraculously, I walked right to some papers that I had scanned, not tax papers, and it was there in the midst. I quickly put them all into an envelope and addressed it to Dr. Vallier, our help for many years. I would not have to file an extension. The rest of the information he needs is on my computer or in the clouds. Accessing it is a breeze if the internet is working, which incidentally, it has not been for almost 24 hours. Almost funny; not quite.

I planned to have my luggage in the car when Lois arrived to take me to meet up with the Werners. While I finished dressing she took the bags to the car and we hoisted them up together. As we drove, we discussed last minute things. My mind was racing; it never gets easier leaving a child on the other side of the world. When we arrived at the Werners, she put an envelope in my hand. A bit later, I went back to my car to get something and to have a moment of stillness. I opened her letter and it nearly finished me. I was leaving Lois, Joshua, Malachi and Joash. But the note was funny and thoughtful too. She enclosed a “twenty” to pay for my coffee as I journeyed. I did not know it then but that was the funniest part of all.

India’s in-laws (and my long-time friends) quickly loaded the luggage into their big truck while India and Zachary loaded their children into their van, necessary because it contains 4 car seats! After tearful good-byes, I grieved over saying good-bye to Lois, then my heart broke entirely watching Lois and India say good-bye to each other. You know how you can literally feel your heart swelling?

We were to fly out of Tampa, and on to Atlanta, where we were scheduled to fly to Paris, then Bangalore, then Mangalore.  I have flown hundreds of flights in my life and I never missed one because of a traffic accident – until Thursday. India and Becky, her mother-in-law chatted with the airline. The airline was informed but making no concessions. I know there had to have been others in this massive traffic pile-up. We arrived and rushed to the ticket counter hoping they’d hold the plane. Didn’t happen. That airline had no other flights that would get us to Atlanta in time to begin the international leg of our journey. What do you do? You find out which airline can get you there and you bite the proverbial bullet and you buy tickets there on the spot. God allowed this problem into our life.

All flights had more passengers than we might have expected. Buying 7 tickets 2 hours before a flight leaves leaves little likelihood that sitting together would happen. There we were, at the gate, the last to board and the agent trying to get us together. Little ones cannot sit without an adult they are traveling with. 

In Atlanta, we needed to get our luggage and check it in to Bangalore, where we would clear customs. In Atlanta this meant moving to another terminal on a shuttle, a bus, that was outside. Trollies rent for 9 dollars each and we all agreed that we were not going to do that – it would take 2 – to get to the bus, several hundred yards away. We each did what we could to get all the luggage to the bus, breathing a sigh as we made our way to the international terminal. 

I was looking forward to buying a delicious, fresh cup of strong, rich coffee before boarding in Atlanta. In an American airport! Can you believe it? I could not buy it. Apparently the coffee shops closed at 4. In America, in an airport where many others were craving a coffee at 4 in the afternoon. As I searched for one place open, I did notice that if I wanted a cocktail, there were numerous options. I carried an empty thermos onto the plane. This was my one rant; do forgive.

By the time the flight left the United States, we’d been traveling all day, over 10 hours. Throughout the trip we heard messaging of the stringent pandemic rules. We were warned of the possibility that no food would be available onboard, even for either of the overseas flights. With four little ones, this is not a risk to take! You must pack food for flights in 2021.

We arrived in Bangalore as scheduled. We were all feeling effects of fatigue. More covid tests and paperwork were required there for all of us. How would 4 tired children tolerate this? So, we hurried up and stood in line, got our tests, filled out the paperwork and paid for those tests. As we progressed through immigration, we showed standard documents as well as additional needed to verify our health status.  No bathrooms available until this process was completed… almost 2 hours later. We ended up being the last to go through from our plane. I wondered if our luggage would still be there for us.

Bathroom stop, then out the door until our final flight.

This was a rugged journey. It is undoubtedly good that we all traveled together. I had an obligation in my home church beginning the 17th of March. I was open to traveling two weeks later, but my pastor released me from this responsibility, thinking that given world-wide conditions, it would be best for all of us to stick together, to take care of each other. I am comfortable traveling alone, but he was right. It was a good decision for us to travel together. 

This decision was the beginning of many other blessings. This short essay tells of the genuine rigours of travel in this season. All of us have met with fresh challenges, but as children of God, we are never alone. Faith allows us, truly ordains us to live with POSITIVITY! Here are some things I did not tell you:

  1. We all tested negative for covid and SARS. Zachary uploaded the documents as required. My blessing in this was that I have a very capable son-in-law that worked through this tricky process and got the job done – correctly! When he finished, he emailed me my file and I printed it! Easy! I was able to do other things Tuesday evening while he did this, including getting some sleep while he worked into the night.
  2. We missed a flight, but we were not in the accident. We left for the airport later than we planned, not enough later to make up for the time the accident caused us to lose though. I thought how calm we all felt. We tried to make it but had a deep sense of God’s involvement in our every move. We missed that flight for a reason and He will take care of the tickets.
  3. Oh! The tickets! The lady at the counter told us they would be about $550 per person – 7 tickets! – we knew we had to fly so as we were authorising her to begin the sale, she meekly told us that if we bought them online, they would cost much less. We rallied the little ones and found a place to sit and go online. There tickets were $248 apiece. Clearly, another prayer answered, that airport staff was kind to us.
  4. I was not able to spend my $20 on coffee, including the anticipated treat of a latté and croissant in Paris. The coffee on the flights was unusually good, and when I say unusually I mean exactly that. I rarely drink coffee on planes. Horrible is not a strong word for coffee on planes. The flights did offer food in varying quality, but it definitely supplemented the things we carried. 
  5. Last minute visits with friends…. Well; it is wonderful thing to have friends. Well worth leaving a few things undone for! One friend I was not able to hook up with left me the kindest note on my door. Everyone should have at least one friend like this. 
  6. There have been times, like when my children were little, that I did not make the last service at church before a trip. I had so much to do. God gave the grace and strength to drag my tired self to church on Wednesday, less than 12 hours prior to traveling. There I found blessing in each person. They pray for me; I have little doubt that this is why I found my end of year tax document; this is why many of life’s potential disasters become evident blessings, evident not always to others but always to me. That still, small voice tells me prayers have been answered, that I am loved. Moving forward is easier; it is good.
  7. For the most part, people were wonderful. Airlines and airports were required to make strict announcements, but in today’s vernacular, I’d say everyone was quite chill. General fatigue was not worsened by stress of cranky employees. Much to be thankful for.
  8. The covid test in the USA was $150 and the one in India, about $12. Yes; that’s a blessing. 
  9. The four little people traveling with me did great on this journey; I call them my “grands” because they truly are. One of them knows they are in trouble with me, however. On at least 2 different occasions, one of them poked me repeatedly, questioning me: “Lala, are you sleeping? Lala, are you awake?”  As we have settled in here, I told this one that I would be entering their room when they are sound asleep and poking them and asking them if they were sleeping until they awakened. We all laugh about my threat – NOW. I do not think any of them think I will do this.
  10. After the arduous process of traveling abroad, we headed to the baggage claim area. What a beautiful sight to see our luggage standing together, seemingly guarded by airport officials. We had been in the airport at least 90 minutes by this time. That none were opened and all were there is cause for celebration! 
  11. After clearing customs and immigration in Bangalore, we have an entire night before our final flight. A hotel might have been a reasonable option, but we heard of a possibility of an 8-hour detention while test results were being done. We did not have to do that; praise God! We exited the airport to a lovely and new addition just outside the airport, a village of sorts, full of restaurants, cafés, and other little shops. The landscaping and layout are very well done and it is a pleasant atmosphere. Among the eating spots are typical Indian fare, but also include a Starbucks, a Krispy Cream, a Subway and a Buffalo Wild Wings. I did not come all this way to eat American food, but India and I enjoyed fabulous coffees under the stars with perfectly comfortable temperatures. The children were able to run around a bit before returning to the airport for the last flight. 
  12. It is a short flight; you are no longer up until the descent begins. I was sound asleep before take-off which is my usual norm, a cat nap before arrival. The flight attendant wakened me for food – yes, on a 35 minute flight – and I told her I did not want it. She argued with me!  She left it sitting there; she told me it was special ordered. What? Okay, I did not want to be ungrateful and I did not know what she was talking about, so I opened it to find 3 pieces of paneer, a fresh cheese. I really love this stuff, so I ate it and sampled the coffee she handed me… it was cold coffee in a bottle or should I say, sugar water with coffee flavoring? Not a fan.
  13. As Zachary got our bags from the final trip, the children had had it with travel. We all did. Sophie was fussing and Thaddeus was falling asleep – standing up!  I helped him toward the exit and told him who would be there to pick him up and carry him if he could just go a few more steps. He remembered Avinash and willingly went into his arms. 
  14. This morning I started to the kitchen to get a second cup of coffee and heard singing. The first morning in India and the Werners were doing devotions with the children. Another blessing to this grandmother’s heart. I was not a perfect mother, but I had part in raising children that have their own faith and are passing it on to their children by living consistent lives. Peace that the world does not understand; I am greatly blessed.
  15. Oh! And I still have the $20 bill. Maybe on the return trip?

And so we are here, all covid tested and negative. We are regaining strength, which is really quite positive! We have not been told in any official way to quarantine since we have been here. We are getting a feeling for what we need to do. Zachary, India and I were chatting today, during one of the few times we were all awake together, that we feel like there are so many things we could be doing, but we just don’t have the mental strength to do it. And that is jet lag.

Being positive-minded helps keep your life in perspective. As a child of God, spending time with other of His children, we share this realisation and it is a marvellous thing. I began the Book of Acts a couple of days ago and how appropriate that is to my life now. I marvel at the timing of truth added to my life. It is there for the taking and continues to freely give. 

The Words of Life help us to live a life of positivity because of their supernatural influence, written before the foundations of the World. How can I not marvel? If God be for us, who can be against us?  And that is enough if supported by faith.

And I close with words spoken by Gamaliel about the apostles.And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”  Acts 5:38, 39

CRUMPETS: I have 2 for you today. Late this afternoon India was trying to eat some very spicy takeout during the time the three of us were chatting. She finally just set it down. Sophie kinda’ sneaks in, and if you want to see a baby move fast … she grabbed the spoon and shoveled in a bite of her mother’s food, before we could warn her. Her expression was priceless as it shifted from delight in being able to swipe her mother’s food to the realisation that it was “picy.”  For those of you not around little ones, that means spicy! She drank water and settled. Water helps a mouth on fire, but if you eat something spicy, try yogurt or another dairy food, or at the very least bread or rice. That neutralises the peppers more effectively. The last thing you want to use is a drink of cola.  This story does contain a lesson, or two.

Secondly, the book that India and Zachary were using for devotions. I suggest it with my highest recommendation and all-together not just for children. It is written at my reading level for this type of book. I am not overly scientific but I understand that God is the ultimate Creator/Scientist. I will learn from this book while I am here, because it is written beautifully and simply. It will add to my knowledge and perhaps strengthen my faith. This is a book that should be in every home.

The 10 Minute Bible Journey, but Dave Mason, forward by Ken Ham