I love that scripture. The first time I really internalized it was after my sister, Tiffany, passed away. I remember my mom bringing it up to me. I don’t recall the specifics of our conversation, but I’ve remembered the scripture ever since. I think of it often, now. I’m glad that the first time I really understood it was in connection with Tiff, because it often brings her to my remembrance. I miss her. She was a really fantastic person. If you can get the internet on some kind of cosmic airways in heaven, know that I think about you often little sis.
Well, this post IS being composed somewhere over the Russian seaboard. We made it onto the plane. And let me tell you, it took a bit of a miracle to even catch this flight. Last night as we were flying into Beijing, I said a prayer that we would make our connection and get on the 9:00 pm flight to LAX. I quickly had one of the strongest experiences with the spirit I’ve ever had. I had an overwhelming warmth come to me. I hoped this meant we would somehow miraculously catch our plane, but I was also OK with the possibility that we wouldn’t. All I knew was that either way it would be all right.
Obviously we missed the flight, so I started to look for ways to apply Romans 8:28. Once Parker got over his initial frustration at having to wait another night before we left, he said, “Well, everything happens for a reason.” I reflected on that and replied that in my opinion, that’s not necessarily the case. Some things happen by chance. Some things happen as a result of our or other people’s choices. But what I do know is that “…all things work together for good to them that love God.” I told Parker that at this point we were going to be in Beijing an extra night. There was no changing that. But there could and would be good things that came of it. And there have been many.
We were supposed to be at the airport at 11:00 am for our 2:00 pm flight. We had to finalize our new itinerary, retrieve our luggage from the plane last night (including poor Cali’s wheelchair), recheck the luggage on our new flight, get our boarding passes, clear immigration and security, and, of course, do all of this in Chinese. A bit daunting. We were supposed to catch the 10:40 am shuttle from the hotel. We were later than I wanted to be, but still arrived in the lobby at 10:38. Of course the shuttle was gone. The next shuttle left at 11:20, but I didn’t want to chance that, so we took two taxis. Graci, Taylor and Parker went in one. Cali, Conner and I went in the other. It only took about 10 minutes for us to hook up once we got there (during which I was berating myself under my breath at my stupidity in letting three of my kids get into a Chinese taxi on their own) and so we had saved at least 20 minutes over waiting for the next shuttle. And we needed every one of those minutes!
The taxi driver that took Conner, Cali and me was conversational. He talked to me some and to Cali a lot. He asked many questions. He told us how wonderful Americans were for adopting disabled kids from China. He stopped at one point (pretty much in the middle of an intersection, but who’s keeping track) and pulled out his phone to take my picture. And when we got to the airport he refused to take any money for the ride. It was only 25 RMB, about four bucks. But it was his way of helping our sweet kids and contributing what he could to the effort. It brought tears to my eyes. Honestly, the impact our taxi ride had on that driver alone was enough for me to feel like our layover was worth it.
When I got out of the taxi, we didn’t have a wheelchair for Cali. I carried her two or three hundred yards to the first seat I found in the terminal. [OK. Side note. I have absolutely LOVED carrying Cali everywhere. I am so glad things are so accessible in the states and the she doesn’t need me there and that she is so independent. I would never trade that. But there is something so endearing about carrying my little angel. About helping her when she can’t help herself. I think she has felt closer to me because of it and I know I’ve felt closer to her. Another example of all things working together for good….] Cali and Conner waited there while I located the other kids. Once we were all together, I rushed over to Air China to start what would turn out to be a two-and-a-half-hour ordeal. I went by myself because I didn’t want to upset Graci. Grace has been so good on this trip. She hates interpreting, but she has done SO much of it and done it well. As the trip has gone on it has started to wear on her, and I’ve had to bite my tongue a few times when she let me know how she felt about a request to interpret. Earlier in the morning I had pulled her aside and told her that for the next few hours she might have to interpret quite a bit. I asked her to try not to get upset. That there was no pressure. Anytime she couldn’t do it, all she had to do was say so. Just give it her best shot. She said she would try, but I didn’t want to make her do any more than she had to. So I went over to Air China on my own.
I’ve gotten fairly good at speaking in Chinese. I can communicate a lot of things. I was able to tell the Air China lady that we had missed a flight yesterday and needed to find our luggage and check in for our new flight. The problem is, I can’t understand hardly anything. She went on for about a minute before I gave up. I called Grace over and our adventure began. Grace was wonderful. She tried harder than I’ve ever seen her try. First we were sent to the ticketing desk (took over an hour to get our replacement tickets correctly processed!) then to the lost luggage desk, then to the oversize luggage area. I was starting to see that this was going to be a long ordeal and started to wonder if we’d make it or not. The two of us sprinted to the oversize luggage area where we were told it would be a 40 minute wait! We sprinted back to the lost luggage desk to tell them we couldn’t wait 40 minutes or we’d miss our flight. He said the oversized luggage people were wrong. We sprinted back to oversized luggage and waited about 15 minutes. Finally our luggage, including the wheelchair, showed up. We sprinted with all of our luggage back to the lost luggage area. By this time I had worked up a decent sweat. This was exactly what I had hoped for prior to our 12-hour flight. Lost luggage now checked our bags and printed boarding passes. During all of this craziness, Graci and I were able to spend time together. It was one of the sweetest experiences I’ve ever had with her. We were working together, even running together, for a common goal. She opened up about Chinese and why it’s so hard to interpret. We had a beautiful time. This experience alone would have been worth our missed connection.
Once we finally had our boarding passes and Cali had her wheelchair, we headed to the shuttle for the international departure area and the immigration and security we had to clear there. Just getting to the exiting immigration area took about 15 minutes, and by the time we got the actual security area it was 1:25. Plane leaves at 2:00. Gate E31. (Yes, dear Christi, we did go by gate E32, but we were all in a dead run at that point, so no massage chairs for us!) They moved us to the last line in security. It wasn’t the disabled line. It was the “you look like you’ll be a big hassle and take a lot of time” line. We were behind a family that was, indeed, a big hassle and took a lot of time. We didn’t all get through security until about 1:40. We ran to the gate and were there as the last passengers were boarding. Whew! We made it. BUT…our tickets (I’m not making this up) were all middle seats with no two together! This means Conner would have to sit between two strangers. Conner is an amazing, sweet, wonderful, talented, thoughtful, good, easy kid in many ways. But suffice it to say he has a bit to learn about social boundaries. He takes the old AT&T marketing line, “reach out and touch someone” to the extreme. Not to mention that if someone just handed him a meal tray, it might get a bit messy with no one to help him prepare it. The gate agent looked at me like I was crazy. “The flight is very full. You will not be able to sit together.” “But look at us! We have to have at least a couple of seats together!” “Go talk to the flight attendants on the plane.”
In the end, being the last ones on probably helped our cause. As I carried Cali in and Parker led Conner, all eyes were on us. The purser was quickly able to find a couple of people who traded seats with us and we ended up all in a group with Conner and Cali right next to me. People are so good. I’ve had a conversation with one lady on the flight who was in tears as she learned about our family.
Many lives have been blessed as a result of our missing that flight. I am humbled by the way the Lord can take a single event and make it work together for good in the lives of many. I’ve seen this many times in my life and I’m grateful any time I’m a part of it.
Conner (as well as everyone else) has done great so far on the flight. We’re just about halfway at this point. It’s getting late in China and it’s an early Saturday morning in Utah. Looking forward to some awesome jetlag over the next few days. Oh well, all things work together for good…well, you get the point!
PS. We are now officially in our Puzzle Them Home home. Conner is tucked into the bed that's been waiting for him for 8 months. As we said family prayer tonight and Conner was there with us, it felt complete. He belongs.