Monday, December 20, 2010

My Very Own Christmas Miracle

Coming home for Christmas break this year was a rather long and arduous process, but also a blessing in ways I would never have expected or planned. It's such an amazing story, I simply have to share some of it with you! So if you have some time, grab a cup of hot cocoa and a few pieces of Christmas fudge and join me as I recount my experience!

It all started a little before 9:00 AM on Friday morning. A friend from college who volunteers in the same Awana program I help with was kind enough to give me a ride to the shuttle, which met at a hotel in Salem (about 15 minutes away from the university I attend). My friend's car fogs up easily, has turn-signals that don't always work, and that particular morning the car had a back tire with low pressure. So, even getting to the hotel (with hardly any time to spare!) was a gift in and of itself. (Don't worry--my friend got some help with the tire when he got back to the school!)

The shuttle ride from Salem to the Portland Airport was a little over an hour, and I had several hours before my scheduled flight, so all was well . . . until I checked in. The lady who helped me was very kind, and said that I could get switched to the earlier flight since I was there early. Which was all well and good, until I looked at the departure time on the ticket as I checked in my bag. The departure time was around 10:30 AM, and it was already after 10:00 AM. I still hadn't even gone through security!

Needless to say, I was completely disoriented, and as soon as I made it through security I rushed to gate E7, running part of the way (think Home Alone). As I arrived at the gate, I could see a bunch of people sitting around, not looking very thrilled. I discovered that the flight was delayed, which I suppose was a good thing for me! It was rather hard to see the positive, though, as the wait time dragged on, and we didn't end up loading onto the plane until close to 2:00 PM. While waiting, I did meet someone who was making the same connection as me when I got to San Francisco. (This becomes an important part of the story, so keep this in mind!)

The flight from Portland to San Francisco was nice. I just love flying and looking out at God's beautiful creation from such a magnificent height! Although I confess that I spent much of that flight napping--but naps are nice, too!

When we landed in San Francisco, I rushed to the gate where my connecting flight (from San Francisco to Arcata/Eureka) was supposed to be. We had arrived about 10 minutes before my connecting flight was supposed to board, which would have been great . . . except the flight was delayed about an hour. Not too bad. Waiting until 5:00 PM was no problem.

And then came the announcement that the flight was delayed until 6:50 PM.

I was bummed. I called my parents and was talking to them, all the while noticing that the acquaintance I had made in Portland was standing nearby. It was nice to see a familiar face, because, believe me--that airport was crowded! The rain, fog, and wind, typical of San Francisco, were causing a long stream of delays.

Anyway, my dad told me I should go get something to eat. So, my new-found friend tagged along with me, and we ended up eating fast food together, talking about our hometown and school, etc. Then we went back to the gate and talked some more while we waited, hearing the continued announcements of our delays: now 7:20 PM, now 7:50 PM, and finally a switch to a different gate.

It was there that the awful news came: our flight was canceled.

I was horrified. I didn't want to stay the night in San Francisco, especially in such a crowded terminal. I stuck by my new friend as we headed towards the long line at customer service. I could be exaggerating, but that line was about as slow as they come. Everyone was dejected. So many flights were canceled, and we all just wanted to get home. I knew I wouldn't actually get sick, but I got that feeling that I wanted to--either that or break down and cry. But I didn't, and finally we got to the front of the line.

All of the flights to my destination were canceled for the night. All of the flights on Saturday to my destination would be stand-by. Nothing was guaranteed until Sunday morning (if then).

There was no way I was staying in San Francisco until Sunday morning.

I knew my parents would come and get me the next day if they had to. But my friend and I had found a nice woman who was willing to let us carpool with her in a rental car back to our hometown. To be honest, I don't think I would have been brave enough to concoct such a scheme on my own. But my friend had done something like it before, and if he was going, then I felt safer.

I think this is where I should tell you one of the absolutely crazy things about that day--when I told my parents my new friend's first name, they asked for his last name excitedly and told me that they had known him when he was just a little boy! His dad had worked with my dad on a project! And to think, I was going to a college in Salem, he was going to one in Portland, and we both ended up on the two exact same flights headed home on the same day. He had even been originally planning to go home on Saturday, but his mom bought him tickets for Friday! It was completely and totally orchestrated by God, and I am just in awe of it all still.

And now back to the carpooling . . .

When we went to rent a car, we met up with two other people heading for Eureka, as well. We decided to rent a minivan and all carpool together. It was risky going with (almost) complete strangers, but I felt it was the best option. And it was.

I'll spare you all the details of that 5 hour ride home in the dark and the rain. Let me just say that I was praying a lot, oftentimes scared to death when I felt we were accelerating, unsure as to whether or not I could trust my life in these strangers' hands.

But then God reminded me--my life was in His hands, not theirs.

And as frightened as I was throughout the ride back, I knew God was right there with me. I was reminded that no matter what the outcome of that ride, God would never leave me. I had to trust in His will.

I arrived safely home--delivered right to my doorstep with no money required of me--at around 3:30 AM Saturday morning. It had been a long, long night, and as soon as I saw my daddy open the door, I fell into his embrace and cried.

There were more details involved in the story, but I'm sure you get the idea that, while it was one of the worst travel days of my life, it was also one of the most amazing ones, as well.

I am reminded of the pastor's sermon at my parents' church yesterday morning. Part of the sermon was about miracles, how often they come about after long periods of suffering and intense pain. And that only makes sense, because the miracle truly shines bright when it comes after such difficult darkness.

It was just one day, and I'm sure I suffered little compared to those who waited in the airport for a day or more, all just hoping to get home. But I consider this journey that I went on--the people that I met and the closeness I felt with God--a miracle.

And now I'm sitting here at my desk, safe and warm in my home, listening to the pounding rain outside. It is just so wonderful to be home with my family!

I know this was a long story, but thank you for taking the time to read it. It is my hope that God will glorify Himself and bless others through this recounting of the gift He gave me in the form of my very own Christmas miracle.

24 comments:

Katy said...

Wow, what an experience, Amber! I'm so sorry you had such a hard time getting home, but hearing about the many small miracles He sent your way was inspiring! Just shows you that God is there, even during the hard times. I hope you have gotten some rest after coming in at 3 in the morning! :-o

~ Katy

Ruth said...

Oh my goodness, what drama Amber! So glad you are safely home with your family, and thankful for God's provision and blessing of protection throughout all of the stress! I love hearing about God "coincidences" like that. I have to tell you, I once was stranded in the Denver airport for 32 hrs, and it was NOT fun...but did make for a good story. :)

Casey said...

My goodness, what a day! You did admirably though and just think what good tension this would be a story someday! *smile* But seriously God was really looking out for you that day, down to the friend your parents even knew. So glad you are safe though, thanks for writing about it. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Amber, I'm sorry your trip home was so stressful, but what a wonderful way for you to see the Lord's hand at work. I hope you enjoy your Christmas celebration with your family.

The romance writer in me wants to know. Do you and your new friend have plans to meet up during the holidays? Even if no sparks were evident, this true life story would be a great setup for a romance novel, don't you think? =)

Ariel said...

Oh my goodness! I almost cried! How amazing; all of it. I'm so glad to hear you are home safe with your family and I have you have a great Christmas and New Years :)

Amber S. said...

Katy,

I'm so glad you were inspired by the story--I'm just amazed at how God orchestrated it all! He is indeed with us, especially during the hard times. :)

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story, and yes, I slept in quite late today, and I'm enjoying just being able to relax. :)

~Amber

P.S. Did your brother make it home safely for Christmas break?

Amber S. said...

Ruth,

Yes, definitely lots of drama! Thank you for your kind words--I am very thankful to be safe at home, as well! :)

And oh, I'm so sorry! How awful to be at any airport for 32 hours! :( But that's great that you can look back on it now and see it as an interesting story to tell. :)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Casey,

It was quite a day, for sure! But I am so grateful that God is always with us, and that He fit all of the details together for the good. :)

Thank you for your kind words, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to share this story with you!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Keli,

It truly was a wonderful way to see God's hand at work! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my story, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, as well!

And as to the second part of you question... I don't know if we'll meet up or not, but my mom and I have talked about sending his family a Christmas card and thanking him for watching out for me. :) He was such a blessing!

I do have to agree that it makes for a great story setup, doesn't it? ;)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Ariel,

Your comment is so sweet! :) It truly is amazing!!! Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, as well! :D

~Amber

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Wow what a day you had! I probably would have cried and had a breakdown right in the airport! Thank God for new friends huh? I'm glad you got home for Christmas!

And Keli, I thought the same exact thing while I was reading this post! I'm such a romantic I guess LOL.

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

XOXO~ Renee

Amber S. said...

Renee,

I really wanted to cry! I was thankful when my daddy opened our door and I could finally cry in his arms.

And yes, thank God for new friends, and for getting home safely! :D

As I was telling my mom again today, I never would have planned for something like this to happen, but looking back on it I'm so glad that it did! And I know what you and Keli mean--it's crazy how it all worked out, and definitely the stuff that stories are made from! ;)

Merry Christmas to you, as well! :D

~Amber

Amanda said...

Oh, Amber! I am so happy you made is home safely, my friend! I was praying for traveling mercies for you, as I'm sure others were, and while the Lord does answer prayer, He doesn't always do it the way we think He will or should. But, praise His wonderful Name that He has ALL things working together for our good- even delays! ;)

And what are the odds of meeting someone in that crowded airport who was kind and willing to help you, and who also happened to be going in the same direction AND your parents even knew him?! I can't get over it! What a sweet and beautiful picture of the providence of God! The Lord obviously wanted you to meet him. Perhaps he needed you as much as you needed him- you shine so beautifully for Christ and maybe he was in need of the light and warmth only you could provide :) We never know who the Lord has set before us to bless and be blessed by, but whoever they might be, they are uniquely ours and brought by God for a reason.

And, I just love what you said here about that sermon on miracles: "how often they come about after long periods of suffering and intense pain. And that only makes sense, because the miracle truly shines bright when it comes after such difficult darkness." That really touched my heart and was something I really needed to hear. Thank you :)

Thank you for sharing your testimony with us- I just LOVE testimonies! They are tangible evidence of the faithfulness of our Saviour and a promise met by His very capable hands, strengthening our walk and deepening our faith for future trials. I suppose we all have our own personal Hebrews 11 "Hall of Faith" for a beautiful remembrance :)

Prayers & Blessings,
Amanda Stanley

PS- My daddy got home safe and sound this morning! Thank you again for your prayers for him, I really appreciate it, my friend :)

Amber S. said...

Amanda,

Thank you so much for your prayers! And I completely agree--this journey home was a reminder that God doesn't always answer our prayers in the way we expect Him to, and He can work delays for our good! :D

God truly provided for me, and I'm also astounded by how He worked it all out that day. So amazing! And thank you for your kind words--I hope the Lord used me to bless my friend and others, although I feel that I was the one who was really blessed! I know I need to work on my attitude, but may He still have used me for good in some way that day. I'm excited that I can at least share some of the story and remind others of God's goodness and His provision! :D

Thank you again for your lovely comment, and I'm so glad the Lord used it to bless you. It is so wonderful to see such evidence of our faith, and to remind each other of how He is working in our lives. :) I definitely consider this experience a "beautiful remembrance," even if it didn't seem very beautiful at the time!

I have to say I love what YOU say here about testimonies: "They are tangible evidence of the faithfulness of our Saviour and a promise met by His very capable hands, strengthening our walk and deepening our faith for future trials." Amen! :D

~Amber

P.S. I'm so glad to hear your dad made it home safely!!! May you all have a wonderful Christmas together!

Michelle said...

Nothing like being home for Christmas.
I'm so glad you made it home safe and sound.

Merry Christmas!

Amber S. said...

Michelle,

I completely agree!!! :) Thank you for your kind comment, and I hope you have a very merry Christmas, as well!

~Amber

Vince said...

Hi Amber:

I think your miracle shows the truth of the saying: “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” You could have stayed at the air port and prayed for a miracle or you could have done what you did and become a partner in making your miracle happen.

I think affirmative believers will see a lot more miracles in their lifetimes.

Merry Christmas!

Vince

Katy said...

Amber,

Yes! Aaron did make it in, safe and sound, on Friday. We got home around 2ish after picking him - and another friend - up at the airport. It's great having him home!

Hope your holiday vacation is going great! :-)

~ Katy

Amber S. said...

Vince,

I think it's true that we have to be active--that we have to see the opportunity when it is presented to us and be willing to take it. Like James 2:20-22 says,

"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?"

And James 2:26 concludes,

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

That is a hard thing to live out for sure! But these verses are an important reminder that our faith should permeate our whole life and be evident in the actions we take.

Sorry that was kind of a bunny trail off of what you were saying! ;)

Anyway, I hope you have a merry Christmas, as well, and thank you for stopping by!

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Katy,

I'm so glad to hear your brother and your friend made it home safely! :) I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas break together!

And thank you for the kind wishes. :) I am definitely enjoying the break here with my family!

Merry Christmas!

~Amber

KC Frantzen said...

Oh Amber,

Like several others, I'm waiting for the sequel!

So glad you (and he & the rest of the gang) made it home safely!

Merry Christmas!

Amber S. said...

KC,

I don't know if there will be any sort of sequel, but, well...God knows! ;) I would have never imagined anything like this to begin with!

Thank you for your sweet words! I am very thankful to be home!

Merry Christmas to you, as well!

~Amber

Kara said...

Wow! That's an amazing story! A miracle indeed. :)

I think it's so fascinating how God works things out. For example, how you would never have made the carpool happen, yet it did. Your new friend being there at the right moment, and here your parents knew him! What an awesome God we serve!

Want to hear my story?

When I was looking for a place to live when I moved here ten years ago, I met with my roommate. Friends had mentioned that she was looking for someone to share rent with her, so I called her up and we talked. I then called my parents to let them know that I had found a potential place and they, of course, asked all kinds of questions. Turns out they knew her, in fact we share relations! We're not actually related, but through marriage her children and I share some first cousins. Prior to all this, I never even knew she existed and God led me right to her! Again, what an awesome God we serve! :)

Amber S. said...

Kara,

I know, right? So completely unexpected and sweet. :) Our God is most definitely an awesome God!

Thank you so much for sharing your story! It's always a blessing to hear how God has worked in each of our lives. :) How fun and wonderful that your parents knew her and you were related through marriage!

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and for sharing your own story of how God blessed you. :)

~Amber