Travel Travails, Part 1

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us. —Philippians 3:13,14 NLT

It was a trip like no other. Three flights, three delays. It took seventeen hours to get from Johnstown, Pa., to Manitou Springs, Colo., where I would spend five days with my fiction writing class, learning from the masters. But I had to get there first.

Knowing how fickle western Pennsylvania weather could be in March, although I really thought winter would be well on its way by then, and knowing how unpredictable the airline flight schedules are, I booked my trip in early January for Tuesday, March 19, allowing myself an entire day for travel. I was to leave Johnstown at 6:30 a.m. (Eastern Time) and arrive in Colorado Springs 12:20 p.m. (Mountain Time). The first meeting wasn’t until 6 p.m. Wednesday, giving me time to rest from the trip and stroll the streets of the delightful little town at the base of Pikes Peak.

That was the plan.

Since when do plans go according to plan?

Especially when it comes to airline schedules.

Especially when it comes to weather—in March no less.

Sunday morning before the trip I checked the forecast: A snowstorm was in the offing for the next day. “God, how can you do this to me?” I groaned. “I’ve prayed for good travel weather for two months!”

So I packed and headed for my son’s house in Johnstown a day early to beat the storm. Tuesday morning he dropped me off at the airport, where I waited five hours for the ice to melt off the runway. Because I missed the connecting flight from DC to Denver, the airlines put me on a later flight, which was held up because – get this – a bathroom door on the plane was broken and we couldn’t take off until it was fixed.

“It’s going to be tight,” I texted my husband, referring to the connecting flight in Denver to Colorado Springs. 

It was. When I got to Denver, I ran to the gate where I was sure everyone had already boarded. I’d made it! They started boarding within five minutes. But the walk from the terminal to the actual gate where the plane waited was long. I was feeling the effects of the extended travel day and the anxiety that comes with it. When I snapped my seat belt on, I sighed with relief. 

Too soon. The captain emerged from the cockpit. We had to deplane. Our broken aircraft had to be replaced. An hour later, I made the long trek back to the gate, my briefcase getting heavier by the second. But it was the wrong gate. I retraced my steps, muttering loudly and regretting my “a time to laugh” t-shirt.

We landed in Colorado Springs a little before 9 p.m., and a not-so-cheap taxi ferried me to my hotel, where I arrived, worse for the wear, nine hours after I was supposed to. A porter relieved me of my luggage and showed me to my room. I stepped in – and gasped in delight: The room came with a gas fireplace, spa tub (which I used that night), king-size bed (which I’d have all to myself), and heated toilet seat! 

It was a rough trip, but the destination was worth all the hassle.

Just like life—the journey is filled with delays, hassles, heavy burdens, missed connections, disappointments, and frustrations. Your itinerary is in another’s hands. 

But, oh, what’s waiting for you on the other side! 

When my steps begin to falter and my attitude gets sour, Lord, remind me of my final stop. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Revelation 21:1–22:5.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Picnics on the Hill

Picnics on the hill were not only reserved for holiday weekends, but for any time the need was felt to get together, which was frequently. And they were open not only to the Benson clan, headed up by Grandpa Oscar and Grandma Henrietta, but also to friends from the little country church we attended and anyone else they took a shine to—which was just about everyone they met. 
There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you….When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. —John 14:2 NLT

 “It doesn’t get any better than this. This is what heaven’s going to be like.”

I’ve never forgotten those words uttered by our friend Sam while we were sitting around a campfire on Benson Hill. That was back in our camping days, when the kids were still with us and family vacations were spent at campgrounds and holiday weekends with the crew on the hilltop outside Punxsutawney. With three kids, we couldn’t afford anything else.

Not that camping on the hill translated “poor.” It was a rich experience in every way. 

Picnics on the hill were not only reserved for holiday weekends, but for any time the need was felt to get together, which was frequently. And they were open not only to the Benson clan, headed up by Grandpa Oscar and Grandma Henrietta, but also to friends from the little country church we attended and anyone else they took a shine to—which was just about everyone they met. 

The kids played night games—“Capture the Flag” in the dark. And there was always a pot of coffee on the fire and food on the table, a weekend-long covered dish picnic. 

We looked forward to the legendary cowboy breakfast, compliments of the many hands that prepared it—scrambled eggs, fried potatoes with onions and peppers, bacon, ham, and toast, all cooked over an open fire. Auntie Kay was famous for her sticky buns—cinnamon rolls slathered with a thick ooze of sweet, sticky icing. Back then we didn’t worry about fat grams and cholesterol and anything else that would eventually kill you. We just enjoyed eating and being together.

Occasionally the Backwoods, a local men’s quartet, would fill the air and our souls with Southern Gospel music. 

One year, in response to the growing number of folks who showed up for picnics on the hill, Sam and Steve, another friend from church, built a three-bay outhouse Sam named “The Steven F. White Memorial Toilets” (after Steve), which he painted across the top.

I never had to worry about my kids. There were plenty of moms who patched up skinned knees, put ice on sprained joints, and kissed boos-boos.

Grandma and Grandpa are gone now, and the kids are raising kids of their own. Echoes of laughter and singing no longer ring across the hilltop outside Punxsy. The creaks and groans of aging have caught up with just about all of us.

If I could relive any time of my life, it would be picnics on the hill. We were surrounded by family and friends who loved Jesus and us. Like-minded folks who knew, believed, and lived the Bible, who practiced that old-time religion the world might label “politically incorrect” but never really goes out of vogue. 

Ask a hundred people what heaven will be like, and you’ll get a hundred different answers. No dust. No cleaning. All the chocolate I can eat and no worries about gaining weight (I’ll have a new body!) No aches. No pain. No tears. No sadness. No conflict. Only love, joy, peace and rest forever. Whatever we enjoy most in life is what we associate with heaven, whether golf, fishing, family, friends—or picnics on the hill.

What does the Bible say about Heaven? After all, that’s what really matters—what God says about it.

That it’s His home, unimaginably beautiful, and open to all whose names are inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27). I know my name is there. And I’m looking forward to an eternal picnic on the hill of all hills.

You were right, Sam. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Dear God, thank You for blessing us with picnics on the hill and people who fill our lives with their love—in this world and the next. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Revelation 21 and 22.
 
From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.