Last Sunday when I was at the airport getting ready to fly to Dodge City there was a paper jam in the printer that produced the boarding passes. Two other passengers and I stood waiting for our paperwork and the friendly ticket agent commented on the chilly 42 degree morning and asked if any of us were flying somewhere warm. We all said yes. The guy on my right said he was going to Cancun and the lady on my left said Maya Riviera. I told them not to tackle me for my ticket but announced proudly that I was going to Dodge City and it was going to be sunny and 85. It was good for a morning giggle. I was excited about the trip and I was expecting to have a great time but it was the unexpected stuff that made it such a wonderful trip!
God is so full of surprises and there were some dandies waiting for me. My first surprise came on the flight from Denver to Dodge. Only 5 of the 8 plane seats were occupied which was a little like flying first class or on a private jet. I was feeling a little disappointed that we hadn’t made it to an amusement park over the summer but I was surprised by a roller coaster like ride that was the longest and most expensive thrill ride I’ve ever enjoyed. I thanked God for thrills followed by peaceful safety. I was met at the airport by a friend I hadn’t seen in over 25 years and I was surprised at how easily we picked up as if we had just seen each other last month. It was also a privilege to meet his wife who seemed more like a long time childhood friend than a brand new one. I thanked God for the gift of good friends and a restaurant that doesn’t kick you out or charge you rent even if you stay for 5 hours.
The teachers that filled the seats on Monday were a true delight. I was overwhelmed by their warm friendliness and their amazing positive attitude. They laughed easy, thought hard, prayed sincerely and genuinely seemed to care for each other. The children of the Diocese of Dodge City are very lucky to be served by such a group of dedicated faithful teachers. I was impressed by the number of them who had dedicated 30 to 40 years of their life teaching. That was a surprise that inspired and impressed me! I met people who had fought fierce battles with faith and optimism, people who persevered through tough stuff like children with afflictions and disabilities, parents of children who had made bad choices and a mamma of babies who came 25 years apart but who were accepted and cherished as one of God’s greatest blessings. The room just glowed with the glory of the human spirit at its finest! They were beautiful people and although I showed up that morning intending to share God’s blessing with them…they were the ones who shared it with me!
I had coffee with a friend who is a mother of three little ones and as I listened to her talk about her wee ones and the daily demands of trying to balance ministry, mothering and life, it surprised me that I was so quickly transported back to those days of mothering my own three. It was so long ago for me but listening to her made it seem like it was just yesterday. I thanked God for the warmth of great memories. It was a familiar and heartfelt conversation of faith and vocation and mostly love. I thanked God for young, loving, faithful mothers who are selfless enough to say yes to life even though it’s really hard work.
I was surprised by mountains, plains, dust storms and western Kansas wind so strong it nearly blew the hair off my head. I was in awe of 300,000 acre farms and feed lots and processing plants that handled hundreds of thousands of animals a month; the sheer size of things, including the tumbleweeds was a surprise to me. I was delightfully surprised by the kindness of the gentleman who generously offered to pick me up and take me to the airport early Tuesday morning. It was a wonderful visit and he was so thoughtful he brought a bottle of water along for me in case I got thirsty along my journey home. As three of us prepared to board the 8 passenger plane back to Denver I was surprised by the most thorough TSA bag inspection I’d ever experienced. They investigated everything right down to the shampoo and lotion in my suitcase. My shoes went through the x-ray machine three times. I was beginning to feel a little intimidated by their questions and curiosity but as soon as I was deemed safe by the agents, the small room of passengers and the two TSA agents enjoyed friendly conversation. During the conversation I mentioned that I wished I had been able to see a tumbleweed up close instead of just whizzing by the windshield. Without hesitation, the same TSA agent who had so carefully investigated my shampoo dashed out the door and retrieved a tumbleweed that was stuck in the fence and brought it into the airport and handed it to me for close inspection. That was a big surprise and one that left the whole group of us in laughter. I thanked God for people who were serious when they needed to be and fun when they could be.
The final surprise came as I got off the shuttle bus in Grand Rapids that took me to the satellite parking lot. As I walked toward my car I saw a gentleman get out of his van with a scan gun. He smiled and said, “Is this your car lady?” I nodded and he smiled again and said, “It’s your lucky day, I was just about to scan your plate and charge you for another full day parking fee but since you’re here I’ll just pass on by.” I thanked God for being the first one off the shuttle bus and for an extra ten dollars in my pocket. It was a great trip but all the unexpected little things turned great into amazing. As I drove home I wondered how many times I’d missed the surprised He had blessed me with because I was too busy or worried to notice. I think I’ll pay closer attention from now on!
A Seed To Plant: Spend the next few days on a surprise hunt. Slow down and see how many little surprise blessings God sends your way. We’d love to hear about them if you’re willing to share!
Blessings on your day!